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AMERICAN MORNING

'Kamber & May'; 'Paging Dr. Gupta'

Aired December 15, 2004 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. It is our third and final day of coverage here in Japan. It's been a great week so far. We hope to have another great 90 minutes here before we close things out.
In a few moments, looking at one of the toughest problem force America in Japan, what to do about the U.S. military presence on the tiny island of Okinawa. Many people there are furious with the U.S. military. We'll find out why in a moment here. Atika Shubert, our correspondent in Japan has that story in a moment.

First Soledad is with us, back in New York City, as always.

How are you doing, Soledad? Good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Bill. I'm well, thank you, thank you very much.

Also this morning, another big story, the big flu vaccine shortage. It seem all of a sudden, though, there's is more than enough to go around. Is that a good sign, or does it mean that Americans, in fact, have waited too late to get a shot now? Sanjay's going to talk about it with us this morning.

Before that, though, let's get another check of the headlines this morning.

Kelly Wallace sitting in for us. Hello.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, thanks so much, Soledad. Good morning again, everyone.

Now in the news, a developing story we are following out of Greece. The prime minister of that country putting off his departure for a European Union summit to focus on the ongoing hostage crisis near Athens. At least 19 passengers are still being held on a commuter bus. The hijackers, believed to be Albanian, are demanding a driver take them to the airport and then be flown to Russia, according to police.

News about the Pentagon now, it is investigating numerous allegations of Iraqi prisoner abuse apart from Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The abuse claims revealed in documents newly released by the U.S. Navy. The files describes allegations of abuse, including mock executions, and the use of electric shock on a prisoner.

The White House still looking to fill the homeland security post. Sources telling CNN, Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman has turned down an offer for the position. The Connecticut senator, and former candidate for vice president, apparently also rejected another offer from the White House to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

And continuing with news about the Bush administration, coming up around 1:30 p.m. today Eastern Time, President Bush expected to stop by a two-day conference aimed at boosting his economic proposals. The administration staging the forum to promote plans to expand tax cuts, partially privatize Social Security and cap lawsuit damage awards.

Quick check of the headlines, get you caught up.

Back to you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Kelly, thank you very much.

In the past, the Medal of Freedom has been awarded to patrons of peace, including the pope, and Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks. Well, yesterday President Bush awarded the highest civilian honor to three men central to his offensive in Iraq. Joining us from Washington from Washington weigh in on this and other political news as well, Democratic strategist Victor Kamber and former RNC communications director Cliff May.

Good morning, gentlemen.

Cliff, we're going to begin with you this morning. When you look at the three guys who were given this incredibly prestigious award, George Tenet, Paul Bremer, who we spoke to a little bit earlier this morning, and General Tommy franks, some people have said might be too soon in the process for them to get this award, considering things are not quite resolved in Iraq. And others, like Senator Jack Reed, said this, "I don't think history is going to be as kind to these gentleman as the president was today."

So, Cliff, the question to you what do you think of Senator Reed's comment. Was he right?

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMM. DIR: Well, it's hard to say what history is going to show. I think with regard to General Tommy Franks, he's a soldier's soldier, he devised a brilliant battle plan to bring down Saddam Hussein. I think he absolutely deserved it.

In terms of Paul Bremer, he worked very hard. He risked his life, maybe on that basis. So I'm not sure his regency will be looked upon by history as being all that successful.

And as for George Tenet, I think he's a good man, but with all due respect, it's like giving a medal to the admiral in charge of the Pacific at the time of Pearl Harbor.

O'BRIEN: Vic, what do you think? Do you agree with the comment about George Tenet and Paul Bremer, and Tommy Franks as well.

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, let me say, first of all, I believe the president of the United States, this is one of the perks he has the right to do, and we can criticize the president for a lot of things. I'm less concerned about criticizing him over some medals that he gave. I will be very concerned about appointments like Supreme Court, cabinet and so forth.

Having said that, I totally, I associate myself, to some extent, with Cliff's remarks. Tenet, as seven years as head of the CIA, I don't think this country was prepared the way it should have been with intelligence information when 9/11 happened and during this war with Iraq, and to honor him at this point while Iraq is still certainly not a secure nation and not under the -- in a peaceful situation, I think is a mistake.

You know, if bush wanted to honor, Colin Powell would have been a terrific person to receive the medal for his present service and his past service. It would have covered the same thing. This is a P.R. ploy by the president to keep attention on Iraq. Wrong people, wrong time. But I think it's the president's perks to do it.

O'BRIEN: And you know Colin Powell did get a Medal of Freedom.

KAMBER: No, I didn't.

O'BRIEN: So that would be his second.

KAMBER: Give him a second one.

O'BRIEN: I want to know, that you said you associate myself with Cliff remarks. I think you're struggling to say you agree with him. It's interesting.

KAMBER: I do. You know, it's close to the holidays. I want to be generous.

MAY: He barely associates with me in any sense,.

O'BRIEN: Barely get it out.

Let's talk about Sinclair Broadcasting, they are planning -- and, Vic, I'll throw this one at you again -- maybe a broadcast, because they think that's what's aired is too partisan. One, do you think that's fair? Do you think it will work?

KAMBER: Well, I think, frankly, I'm critical of the liberals for not going far enough. All they're going to do is a protest. I would like to see them lift the licensing of Sinclair Broadcasting, or call for a boycott and see how effective they are. I mean, the airwaves are not a private company; the airwaves are public. You have to get licensing to be there, and I think you have to be neutral. If it's determined that Sinclair stepped over the bounds, and I think Sinclair clearly did in the case of that movie on the swift boats, I think that there should be a question about their ability to broadcast within the American airwaves, and I would go after their license.

O'BRIEN: Cliff, lifting the license. MAY: Look, first of all, I don't think it's at all clear that Sinclair stepped over any bounds. They were covering the news they saw it. Secondly, if liberals started to get angry at Sinclair and tried to lift their license, let me tell you, there are a lot of conservatives out there that are angry at a lot of the mainstream media, from CBS and Dan Rather to "The New York Times" over their coverage. That's all we need to start a war over the airwaves and over the media. I just think it's going to divide us more, and it's a big mistake for it to begin.

KAMBER: We have been divided. For years, it's been a claim that the media has a liberal bias. Let's bring an end to this. I mean, the airwaves are not own the by private companies; they are owned by the American public. And if there is a bias, let's get the bias out.

MAY: Well, the problem is that there has been bias, and it's very difficult to have a neutral and disinterested media. That has been kind of the motto, but it has not been achieved to a great extent, except of course on this show, Soledad and Bill.

O'BRIEN: Well, thank you. I associate myself with those remarks. We are out of time. We're going to leave it at that. As Always, nice to see you guys, Cliff May, Victor Kamber, joining us this morning.

Time to send it back to Bill Hemmer in Tokyo.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad, thanks, looking at some headlines here in Tokyo tonight, amazing number of English-language newspapers here. We've chosen two tonight. We're going to pick out two articles to show our viewers back at home.

This is the "Daily Yomiuri," which essentially means buy and read. Article here about North Korea. The United States urging Japan to go patient with North Korea when it comes to economic sanctions.

Here is the story, essentially, back in 1977, a 13-year-old Japanese woman was kidnapped. The North Koreans say she died in custody. The Japanese want proof. Recently they sent back human remains that they said was this Japanese woman. But after DNA testing was finished, the Japanese concluded it was not the remains of her. And therefore it continues to be a very hot issue throughout the country here. It's the top headline today.

Also "The Japan Times," well-read throughout the ex-pat community here in Tokyo. Bottom of the fold, you'll see the big story out of New York City, Bernard Kerik, and an article suggesting his relationship with Rudy Giuliani is quite close, and they're picking up that story here as well in Tokyo.

One story not on the front page today, but us not far from it on most days is the presence of the U.S. military on the island of Okinawa. It is one of the most strategic places for U.S. forces in Japan but thousands of residents and officials in Okinawa want the U.S. military to ship out for good.

Atika Shubert was there, and she's back to tell what she has found out and joins me here this morning.

Good evening to you.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bill.

Well, as you know, from speaking with Prime Minister Koizumi, U.S.-Japan relations are at an all-time high, but this is one of the main point of contention, what to do with the thousands of American military personnel on Okinawa. Residents want them out. So what we did s we went to Okinawa, and spoke to people on both sides of the issue, and here's what we found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Okinawa's location on the southern tip of Japan gives it beautiful beaches, and also makes it an ideal strategic base for more than 35,000 U.S. military personnel, from Marines to Air Force.

(on camera): Okinawa's strategic location makes it an ideal base for U.S. forces, but these islands make up less than 1 percent of Japan's total land mass, and yet host more than 75 percent of U.S. forces in Japan. That's why Okinawans want the rest of the country to shoulder more of the burden.

(voice-over): Tensions flared in 1995 when three U.S. servicemen gang-raped a 12-year-old girl here. In 2001, another rape case involving an Air Force sergeant. All four were convicted and sentenced to jail in Japan.

And this year, a Marine helicopter crashed into a school, no deaths or serious injuries, but it did scare residents, triggering protests by more than 30,000 demanding the troops leave.

The mayor runs a Web site that monitors base activities 24 hours. He says drawing down the troops in Okinawa is long overdue.

"The people of Okinawa are faced with a great burden," the mayor said. "I demand that both the Japanese and the U.S. government return the base to the people without constructing another one in Okinawa."

That is unlikely. Even in the proposed realignment of U.S. forces around the world, Okinawa remains a critical launchpad.

LT. GEN ROBERT BLACKMAN, U.S. FORCES JAPAN: Clearly, we need to keep in mind the burden that the Okinawan people bear as a result of our presence here and to continue to try to explain in real terms to the Okinawans the value to peace and stability, not only in Japan but in the entire Western Pacific region of our presence.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SHUBERT: Now, there's a lot of history here. American forces have been in Okinawa since after World War II. But what we found is that both sides of the issue, people on both sides are actually very sympathetic to one another and they say there must be a solution that will put not too much of a strain on the Okinawan people -- Bill.

HEMMER: There are bases in other parts of Japan. There's one right here near Tokyo. If the U.S. wanted to move, could it do it quickly without sacrificing a sense of security in this country? And could they do it in a way where they could find the space to reestablish, like they do with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Okinawa?

SHUBERT: Well, there's certainly other places that they could put the some of the Okinawa bases at. I mean, this is what the Okinawans want. They keep saying why don't other parts of Japan take on more of the burden? The problem is will the residents in the other parts actually want to host U.S. military forces? It doesn't look like that's too much of the case. Some of those proposals have gone through and residents have balked, so at the moment, it looks like they're there to stay at Okinawa, but we'll have to see if maybe that will change in the upcoming realignment.

HEMMER: Nice to see you. And thanks for being such a great hostess for us here...

SHUBERT: Thank you for coming, Bill.

HEMMER: ... in Tokyo. You got it, Atika. Back to Soledad now in New York.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill, thanks. The FBI investigating a package that could shed light on a series of serial killings dating back to 1974. The package contains materials which appear to be tied to the BTK killings, including what may be the driver's license of one of the killer's victims. BTK stands for bind, torture, kill. The package was found in a Wichita park, and the man who found it says he didn't know what he recovered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know what it was. It was wrapped in rubber bands. So I just held on to it, and brought it on into the house, and I sit there on the table and looked at it for a while. Then I took the scissors and clipped around the trash bag. As we examined it a little more, we seen the driver's license and stuff inside of it and decided to call somebody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The BTK killer is linked to eight unsolved murders from 1974 to 1986.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HEMMER: In a moment here from Tokyo, we're hearing more that some places have too much flu vaccine. Sanjay joins us in a moment, telling us why this is the right time to get a flu shot.

CNN'S parent company, Time Warner, ready to write a huge check. Live to the stock exchange to find out if that's big enough to shake up the market today.

And my exclusive interview with the Japanese prime minister. We cover a wide range of topics, including how to deal with the nuclear threat from North Korea and the prime minister's special relationship with President Bush. Live in Tokyo again, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: We are "Paging Dr. Gupta" this morning about this season's flu shot shortage. Wait a minute, what flu shot shortage? After months of hearing, in fact, about a lack of vaccine, it now appears some states can't even give the stuff away. Sanjay's at the CNN Center with details. Is this true?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I just report the news here, Soledad. Listen, you and I talked about the flu shortage for quite some time -- the flu shot shortage. But, in fact, in the midst of all of this flu shot shortage news, it appears that some states are actually left with some unused vaccines still. Seems hard to believe, in fact. You remember all those long lines, people waiting for their flu shots. One person even died waiting.

The requirements for those who were going to get a flu shot were pretty clear by the CDC. They wanted to give the flu shot to those children age six to 23 months, adults 65 years and older, people with chronic medical conditions, women who'd become pregnant during the flu season and health care workers.

But as supply has increased, Soledad, which it has somewhat, the demand has gone down. Very interesting sort of social statement about supply and demand with regards to the flu shot. Two states now, Colorado and California, at least two states actually relaxing their flu shot rules, so more and more people can get the flu shot, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So then, why are all these people not getting the flu shot? Do they think they're not going to get the flu, do they think they're far enough into the year that maybe the flu season has passed? What do you think it is?

GUPTA: Yes, I think there's a couple reasons. One is I think that it's just standard psychology. Once there's more of something available, people want it less. Just a very strange reverse economic thing, you'll have to ask Andy about that. Also though, after Thanksgiving, people do tend to pay less attention to the flu. People are more concerned about shopping, getting ready for the holidays. That's traditionally, statistically been true.

And also I think that the latest information is that this flu season has been relatively mild, especially as compared to last year and years previous. You can see there on the map, there's only a couple of states that are showing regional activity, New York and Alaska. There are some states so far in the country that have shown no activity at all. Just to give a sake of reference, Soledad, a year ago, flu season was at its peak. We haven't gotten there yet. It may be a pretty mild season, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So, if it's a mild season, that's very good news. Is it too late to go ahead and bother to get a flu shot? I mean, have we kind of missed the window?

GUPTA: No, you know, you haven't missed the window. And that's an important point. There's a lot of people talking about this still, especially those people who are at high risk should probably still get the flu vaccine. There's an ad you're going to start seeing on television. Let's take a look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: These people just got a shot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: While you may not expect this reaction...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks.

ANNOUNCER: it makes perfect sense because it was a flu shot, and they're the people who need it most.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: The elderly, toddlers, pregnant women and others at risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: The CDC hasn't changed their guidelines yet, but they may relax the rules in terms of who can get a flu shot. Not too late. In fact, if you called your doctor's office a few weeks ago to say you wanted your flu shot and told none was available, try calling again. You may be surprised at how those flue vaccines are coming up in the numbers -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Excellent advice. You know, I usually get a flu shot, but this year, I had to forgo it, so maybe I'll try to get a flu shot, too.

All right, Sanjay, thanks, as always.

Still to come this morning, CNN's parent company, Time Warner, agrees to pay some big money to Uncle Sam. We'll explain why, up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Maybe some major news involving your parent company, plus news of a major telecom merger.

Andy Serwer had to leave the broadcast early this morning. He has a meeting with his parole officer.

Allan Chernoff is at the New York Stock Exchange "Minding Your Business."

Hi, Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Jack.

Certainly looks like we've got more merger mania going on in the telecom industry. We have a combination this morning between Sprint and Nextel, a $35 billion deal. This would become the third largest wireless carrier after Cingular and also Verizon. Remember, Cingular combined with AT&T Wireless just a few weeks ago.

So, Jack, you know, one big company is created, and then another. That's how these corporate executives think. They feel we've got to be a big guy to compete here.

CAFFERTY: Now, I have a problem understanding the logic to this. The news is apparently that our parent company is willing to part company with $500 million, and everybody thinks that's good news. What is going on with that?

CHERNOFF: Well, it certainly been a drag on Time Warner's stock. These are accounting issues back at AOL before the merger between Time Warner and AOL took place. But the report in "The New York Times" this mourning is that Time Warner is going to pay $500 million to $600 million to resolve these issues with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department. It clearly has been a problem for Time Warner's stock. And people on Wall Street are thinking, pay the money, get it over with, let's move on. And so that's the thinking. And in fact, this morning, Time Warner stock in pre-market trading is up nearly 2 percent.

CAFFERTY: Wow, so it is good news. All right, thanks, Allan. Good to see you.

Allan Chernoff, "Minding Your Business," in for Andy Serwer, who actually is not meeting with his parole officer, he's attending some function I think at the school for one of his kids.

O'BRIEN: We didn't think he was meeting with his parole officer.

CAFFERTY: You didn't believe that.

O'BRIEN: Not even for a second.

CAFFERTY: Wednesday, time for "The Cafferty File," things people say, starting with this, "Bennington College is not a clothing- optional campus. And we don't believe in a clothing-optional society." Robert Graves, Bennington's dean of students on why he opposes a campus tradition where the students walk around naked. In this weather, they are stupid. Can you imagine being out in this weather? Where is Bennington College?

O'BRIEN: Vermont.

CAFFERTY: Vermont.

O'BRIEN: Cold.

O'BRIEN: Yes, these kids are not qualified to be in college you if are dumb enough to go out with your clothes off in this weather.

Or this one, "I base my look on the town tramp. She had bright red lips and wore short skirts. I thought she was the prettiest thing." That would be country star and one of my favorite people of all time, Dolly Parton.

Or this, "I thought about working for the government just for a little while so I could get one." Ellen Degeneres on trying to get a flu shot.

"The great thing about Catherine Zeta-Jones is there's this great beauty and elegance, but at the same time, she will drink you or anyone else under the table," Brad Pitt on the off-screen talents of his "Ocean's 12" costar.

"If you put her in a T-shirt or put her in a bustier, she is sexy in both. She's got double D's. You can't cover those suckers up," Joe Simpson, Jessica Simpson's father and manager and former Baptist minister. I'm going to take a shower.

O'BRIEN: Eww, icky.

CAFFERTY: He actually said that.

O'BRIEN: I believe he said it.

CAFFERTY: Father, manager and moron.

O'BRIEN: And minister.

CAFFERTY: And minister.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Jack.

Let's head back to Bill in Tokyo -- Bill.

HEMMER: Just all the above there, huh, Jack? Got them all covered.

In a moment here, today's top stories, including my exclusive interview with the prime minister here in Japan. Junichiro Koizumi explains why he was willing to defy nearly 80 percent of his own people to support the war in Iraq. Japanese troops are staying there. He will tell us why as we continue in Tokyo right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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