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Storm's Aftermath; Blog Nation; 'Paging Dr. Gupta'

Aired January 24, 2005 - 8:29   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: It looks pretty from here, doesn't it? Try 11 degrees outside, about zero with the wind chill. Later Liberty on a chilly...

HEMMER: And she's cold, too, as a matter of fact. That's why she's wearing a cape.

Welcome back, everybody. 8:30 here in New York. The snow has stopped falling, but the Northeast blizzard still causing all kinds of trouble, especially for the commuters today trying to get to work.

Chad Myers across the river in New Jersey. We're catching a train that's proving to be quite tricky. We'll get to Chad in a moment here, and also the forecast for the whole country in a moment as well.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, the river of blogs that flows through cyberspace. A few years back, of course, the word "blog" didn't even exist. Now millions of Americans can't go a single day without them.

We're going to talk to the man who wrote the book on blogs and ask him about how they're changing the world. Also, we'll get some of the best sites to read.

HEMMER: Also, Carol Costello back with us here checking the headlines this morning.

Good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Good morning to all of you.

"Now in the News," in Iraq, the political headquarters of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi coming under fire less than a week before the national elections. Iraqi officials say at least a dozen people were wounded in a suicide car blast outside of Allawi's Baghdad office. A militant group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claiming responsibility for that attack.

In the meantime, al-Zarqawi is apparently denouncing the upcoming Iraqi elections as "a big American lie." The condemnation appears in another audiotape purportedly from al-Zarqawi. It also shows what appears to show the killing of an Egyptian hostage. The tape is the second one released in three days. Neither tape has been verified. Ukraine's new president Viktor Yushchenko in Moscow today, meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Yushchenko was sworn in yesterday as president of the Ukraine, almost a month after winning a repeat election. Yushchenko had lost the original election back in November, but results were nullified amidst allegations of fraud.

And outgoing U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is getting ready to bid farewell. Ashcroft is expected to make his final remarks to Justice Department staffers this afternoon. A Senate judiciary panel is scheduled to debate President Bush's choice to replace Ashcroft, and that would be the nominee, Alberto Gonzalez.

That will happen Wednesday.

Do you wonder if John Ashcroft is going to sing? Because you remember he sang that song?

O'BRIEN: Lord, let's hope not is all I can say.

HEMMER: He has a good voice. They have the quartet in the Senate. Or had.

COSTELLO: Exactly. Had, right.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, maybe not. Thank you, Carol. Appreciate it.


O'BRIEN: People throughout the Northeast are venturing out into a commuter nightmare this morning, the aftermath of the weekend's massive winter storm. Chad Myers live for us in Hoboken, New Jersey, where they're expecting some mass transit delays. We're going to get with him in just a few moments.

Let's see if we can check in with Rob Marciano first, though. He, of course, is at the CNN Center. He'll give us a look at the weather now and ahead this morning.

Hey, Rob. Good morning again.


O'BRIEN: It is warmer than it was yesterday. So we'll take what we can get.

All right, Rob. Thanks a lot.

We were telling you about the commuter nightmare for some folks who are trying to make their way into New York City this morning. Chad Myers is in Hoboken for us, where he's seeing it firsthand.

Hey, Chad. Good morning again.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Soledad. Really, some commuters now adding an hour to their day each way today in very cold temperatures. Some of the trains that should go all the way into Penn Station are not. The New Jersey transit trains are stopping here in Hoboken. Then you have to walk a couple of blocks to get on the path train to get downtown. Some of the Amtrak trains are slow today, and many of them are not running, or are running on a limited schedule.

16.2 degrees right now. And over here, there's a guy delivering beer. I don't think he's going to have to worry about that truck getting too warm. He's trying to get it on the dolly right now.

It is going to be a cold day all across the Northeast. If you're in Omaha, Nebraska, and you're saying to yourself, "What's this mass transit problem? I'll just get in my car and drive," well, you just can't do that here.

Here comes -- here comes our beer guy. I'm pretty sure -- pretty sure that's not going to get warm this afternoon.

It is going to be cold all the way here. But everybody here in this town and all the way through Boston taking mass transit. And if it's slow, or if there aren't enough trains, it's like there not being enough planes. Everybody is going to be slow at some point today.

Soledad, back to you.

O'BRIEN: All right, Chad. Thanks -- Bill.

HEMMER: Less than a week now before the Iraqis go to the polls. And insurgents continue to wage a campaign of violence there. That is one of our many topics this morning.

Down in D.C., Democratic consultant Victor Kamber is back with us here.

Vic, good morning to you.

VICTOR KAMBER, : Good morning.

HEMMER: Also, in New York City, Mark Simone of WABC radio is with us as well. Mark's sitting in for Cliff May.

Mark, good morning to you as well. And let's start with the new guy, huh? A week from today, what's the headline out of Iraq on these elections, Mark?

MARK SIMONE, WABC RADIO: Well, obviously, it will be a little chaotic. It won't go that smoothly. And you've got to expect some kind of violence somewhere. But most of the country is pretty secure.

And 80 percent of the people say they'll turn out and vote in the most recent survey. So that's a staggering statistic. That 80 percent turnout is almost double what we have, making those...

HEMMER: Well, Vic, what do you think will be the headline a week from today?

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Low turnout, Bush claims victory, mixed results.

SIMONE: Well, you know, part of the problem is Democrats are so busy looking for things to complain about that they're missing some of the great milestones in history. We've liberated 25 million people in that country. That's quite a feat.

HEMMER: Let's move to topic number two then: Democrats and Condoleezza Rice. Victor, start us off. What do Democrats get out of delaying her confirmation vote?

KAMBER: I don't think it's a delay. I think what George Bush has to understand is he's not king. It's not George monarch the first, George the first. It's advise and consent.

He's nominated someone. We're in a war. We're in a very controversial war.

She was an architect of that process. Democrats have every right to question her and are questioning her.

I assume she will be confirmed. She's a bright woman. But she played a role, and the Democrats are asking questions, tough questions which she's trying to answer.

HEMMER: Mark, do Democrats, do they make a fair point on this?

SIMONE: No, absolutely not, because you've just said and every Democrat has said she's definitely going to get confirmed. And they admit that she should be. And they did question her, and quite bitterly at times. So what's the reason for the delay?

KAMBER: There's more questioning.

SIMONE: More attention to their bitter, negative questions. And their accusations.


KAMBER: No, there's just more questioning. Nine hours on Tuesday of debate, which is the proper process that will take place. And they're entitled to that, the same way Republicans were. This is advise and consent. This is not coronation time.

SIMONE: Well, you're entitled to ask her how the policy came about, but to accuse her of lying is ridiculous.

KAMBER: No one accused her of lying. She took that umbrage from Barbara Boxer. Barbara Boxer did not say, "You lied." Barbara Boxer asked her questions.

SIMONE: Well, let's remember, Barbara Boxer made some false statements. She claimed 25 percent of the those killed were from California. That's not true. She said they voted based on WMD. That's not true. If you read the resolution, it listed a number of reasons to go to war.

KAMBER: You can accuse Barbara Boxer of lying. She did not accuse Condoleezza Rice of lying.

HEMMER: Let's talk about Social Security and who is lying where, or who is stretching the truth here. Olympia Snowe, Republican senator, over the weekend questioned the reform the White House wants to put forward. The White House seems to be drafting a strategy where it's invoking Bill Clinton's name in terms of saying that Social Security needs repair and it needs repair fast. Where is this argument going, Victor?

KAMBER: Well, once again, Social Security probably does need some repair. But we have greater problems facing the country today than Social Security.

Health care in the country is in crisis, real crisis. Medicare and Medicaid are going to -- are going to be broke 10 to 12 years before we even deal with the Social Security problem.

Let's deal with Social Security, but let's put it in perspective. I think Congressman Thompson -- Thomas and Olympia Snowe suggested yesterday that it does need to be studied, it does need to be looked at. And there's a big picture. Let's look at everything, but it's not a crisis.

HEMMER: Studied or overhauled, Mark? What do you think?

SIMONE: Well, you're right, it's not a crisis. And Clinton did talk about it. But I think the thing is you want to deal with it when it's a problem and not wait till it is a crisis. And, you know, Roosevelt originally thought about putting health care with Social Security, but even he decided they were separate issues.

HEMMER: Something tells me we're going to back to this issue again and again and again. Thank you, gentlemen.

Victor, how's your arm, by the way? Is it a wrist or shoulder? What is it?

KAMBER: Getting better. It's a broken wrist. And I've got to tell you, Republicans do have a heart, because while I was bleeding profusely at the national airport, four Republican women in mink coats all took care of me.


HEMMER: In mink coats.

SIMONE: That's Republican health care for you.

KAMBER: In mink coats.

HEMMER: Thanks, guys. See you later. Here's Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Traveling along the information super highway, more and more Americanizes are entering the blogosphere. 120 million U.S. adults use the Internet, seven percent have created blogs, 27 percent have read them. But 62 percent still don't know what the word means.

Our next guest has written the book on Internet blogging. The title of his book, of course, is "Blog."

Hugh Hewitt joins us this morning.

Nice to see you. Who -- the blogs run the gamut from political to general social commentary, to personal stories. It's shortened for web log, hence blog. Who is reading the blogs?

HUGH HEWITT, AUTHOR, "BLOG": Everyone. And depending on the sector that they're in, they segment down. Two weeks ago, the vice chairman of General Motors started a blog so he could talk to the design community and car enthusiasts. Last week, the vice president of Boeing for marketing started a blog, "Randy's Place," so he could talk to the airline industry.

O'BRIEN: But they really started the sort of personal diaries. When you hear that General Motors, the head guy, is staring a blog, I mean, don't you get the sense that that's much more maybe a commercial venture?

HEWITT: No, I don't. Actually, it's because there's seven million blogs. They're all over the lot. But what they want is direct participation without intermediaries with their customers and with their enthusiasts.

They don't want to go through you anymore. They want to talk directly to the people who -- who may be blocking the future for them in the car design world.

And the political bloggers have been there for four years. We were the first ones to get there. But now business is rushing.

Front page of "The New York Times" today is about the lack of advertising space on the Internet because they're coming back. The dot-com bust is over, evidently. Blogs are going to make that happen as well.

O'BRIEN: Do people read blogs because they don't want to hear from the mainstream media, or because they want more information, or because they don't trust the mainstream media?

HEWITT: Bloggers are cyber sherpas. We're guides. There's so much information today. Everything is available, everything is free. And we pick and choose.

When you go to a "Talking Points Memo" on the left, he'll tell Democrats and lefties what they should be reading. When you come to or Powerline, we'll line things up. If you want to know what's going on in Baghdad today, Mabil Gazette (ph) is there. He's a soldier blogging from Baghdad. If you want to know about the war on terror, you read The Belmont Club. And there's theology blogs, there's business blogs.

We are actually translating too much information into manageable amounts of units. And it's going -- it has already changed business.

O'BRIEN: It's manageable, but is it accurate? Because, at the end of the day, it's someone's personal diary. And who knows who the person is necessarily who's actually blogging, right?

HEWITT: Well, I've been a broadcast journalists for 15 years. I've worked in print and television and radio. And the blogosphere is by far the most accurate and the most objective in terms of accountability. Because the moment you make a mistake, you get jumped on by your colleagues and your adversaries in the blogosphere. Dan Rather got brought down by bloggers.

O'BRIEN: I was going to ask you about that.

HEWITT: Yes. Powerline found it. A number of us jumped on to the story, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and others.

O'BRIEN: Outside of that glaring example that we all know about, where else do you think that blogs have played an important role in keeping the media honest?

HEWITT: Oh, Trent Lott is no longer the majority leader of the Senate because blogs picked up a story -- Joshua Micahl Marshall did and the people at the corner at "National Review," that the mainstream media had not seen, his remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday party.

Howell Raines is no longer the editor at "The New York Times" largely because Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus, a blogger in New York and one on the West Coast, helped drive the story in Romenesko, which is kind of a neo-blog over at Pointer Institute (ph).

And then the most recent one this summer, John Kerry did not answer when the bloggers lifted the Swift Boat Vets up and proved that he had made up that stuff about being in Cambodia on Christmas Eve in 1968. Over and over again.

Just this weekend, Tim Blair, an Australian blogger, a very good blogger, took a "Washington Post" piece that was completely silly -- and the term is fist -- destroyed it, deconstructed it, proved that it was all spin. When Barbara Boxer made her inane comments last week at the Condoleezza Rice hearings, bloggers posted them, dissected them before the news had even put it on the air.

So we're much faster, we're much more reliable, we're much more accurate.

O'BRIEN: Hugh Hewitt, your blog is

HEWITT: That's right. O'BRIEN: Nice to talk to you. Thanks very much.

HEWITT: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Let's get right back to Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, thanks.

A developing story out of Baghdad. Iraqi authorities out of the office of Ayad Allawi now reporting that they've arrested an al Qaeda figure described as an al Qaeda figure in Baghdad who is allegedly behind 75 percent of the car bombings in Baghdad. A story just developing at this time. CNN has confirmed that.

It was about a half-hour ago when we talked with a leading general in Baghdad. He told us here at AMERICAN MORNING within the last week 50 percent of the attacks had been decreased leading up to the election. So this story, again, breaking out of Baghdad. When we get more, we'll get it to you.

Again, confirming now through CNN Iraqi authorities say they have arrested an al Qaeda figure who is allegedly behind 75 percent of the car bombings taking place in Iraq's capital city. More on this as we get it.

Let's get a break here. In a moment, remember the flu vaccine shortage? Well, there's more vaccine and a new range of people who should get it. Sanjay talks about that.

Also, one of the most powerful women in business going to have her wings clipped. What happens next? Andy has that.

And Donald Trump owns the casino. But that's not why he should not take this bet. Jack has that after this.


HEMMER: Where there was once a shortage, there is now a surplus. And we're paging the good doctor on that this morning. For the latest on the flu shot situation, Sanjay's back at the CNN Center.

Good morning, Sanjay.


Yes, you know, call it good public health, call it, in part, good luck. You're absolutely right about that. There is now a surplus of the flu vaccine in many places around the country.

Remember those long lines? It was back in October, early October, when Chiron, that corporation, called the CDC and said listen, none of the flu vaccine they made would be available.

There were long lines. People were going to Canada for their flu vaccine. One person even died waiting in line. But this year -- a couple of things happened, though, Bill.

First of all, there was a prioritization of the flu vaccine which we all heard about. Second of all, it just hasn't been that bad a flu season.

Take a look at the map there. Widespread flu activity indicated in the orange. Only about five to 10 states around the country actually reporting that widespread flu activity.

Now, having said that, Bill, it's always an important caveat, we've talked to lots of public health officials about this. Typically, the worst part of the flu season is going to be February. That's next month. And there is still time and now availability of the flu shot. So people still being encouraged to get it -- Bill.

HEMMER: We have about a week before February comes this way. Who should get a vaccination now, then, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, they've lifted some of the restrictions. You remember, they were giving very specific categories of those who should get the flu shots before. Now they've added two more categories to it, people over the age of 50, all adults over the age of 50, and also household contacts of high-risk groups. Those two categories being added widespread.

That's in addition to these categories: again, children age 6 to 23 months, people with chronic medical conditions, women who will be pregnant during flu season, and health care workers.

Having said that, Bill, two things. One is that there are 17 states now around the country, and you can find out that list by calling the State Health Association board. You can find 17 states that now have no restrictions on the flu vaccine, and there's about three million more doses still coming. So we should be in pretty good shape -- Bill.

HEMMER: You mentioned it's been mild so far. We hope it stays that way. What happened in Colorado last week, though?

GUPTA: Yes. You know, and Colorado is a specific state with a specific example. Forty people were hospitalized just last week in Colorado with the flu. It sounds like a lot, and it is a lot, but it's important to remember, last year, throughout flood season about 12,000 cases of hospitalizations due to flu were reported in Colorado.

The flu can be complicated. It is difficult to predict. The flu vaccine can be complicated as well. It's difficult to make sometimes.

I think we're getting a little bit lucky so far this year. Keeping our fingers crossed for February -- Bill.

HEMMER: Well, let's stay lucky, huh? All right. Thank you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you.

HEMMER: Talk to you later -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, a little mistake is costing one company big time. Andy Serwer's up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You're a patient man.

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

CAFFERTY: Hewlett-Packard may be changing some of its CEO's responsibilities. And a major marketing malfunction. One of these dreadful direct order mail companies that intrudes on all our lives stepped right on their situation the other day. And I'm so happy to hear this story.

Andy Serwer is here "Minding Your Business."


Yes, indeed. Let's talk about the markets, first of all.

Stocks stunk up the joint. I don't think there's any other way to put it. Well, there is, but that's the way I decided to put it.

The Dow was down last week, the Nasdaq was down last week, the S&P was down last week. Higher oil prices to blame. OPEC cutting back on production.

And, by the way, January 30, obviously the day of the Iraqi elections, that's the next day OPEC meets as well. Probably going to cut back on production again. So we'll be watching that.

Two stories out this morning about CEO Carly Fiorina of Hewlett- Packard questioning her tenure. First of all, a story in "Fortune" magazine, where I work, by Carol Loomis (ph), my colleague.

Basically taking apart the merger with Compaq and saying it was a colossal blunder. Also, in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning, reports that the board of this company is considering removing some responsibilities from the CEO and giving them over to other executives. So she is definitely in the crosshairs these days.

And finally, as Jack mentioned, a Web site catalog company that really just blew it. There's no other way to put this. And they are paying a heavy toll. They have suspended operations.

A company called Eziba that makes -- this is particularly interesting to Jack -- hand-crafted items from foreign artisans is what they make at this company. And what they did is they sent out a bunch of catalogs in September and October and waited for the phones to ring. They didn't at all.

A computer glitch directed all the catalogs to the least likely shoppers. OK? CAFFERTY: Good.

SERWER: "The New York Times" reports this story. So, you know, hand-crafted items by foreign artisans I think maybe went to your house.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I got it.

SERWER: And Jack went -- he certainly didn't pick up the phone.


CAFFERTY: I've got so much stuff like that, I have no room for any more in my house.

SERWER: I can just see all those things all over. The little macrame things, right?

CAFFERTY: I mean, that's -- nobody wants this stuff. You go to the mailbox, you get piles of these books about stuff you're never going to buy. And good, they sent it to the wrong people.

SERWER: Stubbed their toe, to put it politely.


O'BRIEN: I think he helped some of these underdeveloped countries actually pay for the women who are using...

SERWER: Oh, that is -- now you've changed his mind, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Don't you feel badly?

CAFFERTY: Absolutely not. Why should I feel badly?

O'BRIEN: Because, you know, it all trickles down on these women who make these handy crafts.

CAFFERTY: I mean, if I want to donate to charity, I can make choices about who I want to donate to.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely can.

CAFFERTY: I don't need some company sending me catalogs.

SERWER: Peruvian hats and things like that. That doesn't -- Guatemala knitting or -- no?


SERWER: All right.

CAFFERTY: Nothing. On to "The File." I'm glad they failed in Christmastime, and maybe they won't do it again.

O'BRIEN: Oh, no. That's terrible. Go ahead -- sorry. CAFFERTY: A 63-year-old Ukrainian man has not gone to sleep for 20 years. True. Doctors have tried everything. They can't make this man go to sleep.

Theodore Nesterchuck (ph) is an insurance broker. Says he used to read boring scientific journals, hoping that would put him to sleep. No luck.

Doctors finally concluded there is nothing medically wrong with Nesterchuck (ph). He just can't sleep. There is hope, though. Doctors say videotapes of the Fox News Channel could do the trick for him.

HEMMER: As a matter of fact...

SERWER: Yes, they will.

CAFFERTY: Start placing bets on Trump's latest marriage. Trump married this model, Melania Knauss, on Saturday in Palm Beach. And now a gaming company,, is releasing odds on the Donald and bride number three filing for divorce by the end of the year.

The company says the odds of Trump telling Melania "You're fired" by December 31 are 4 to 1. The likelihood of the new couple staying married is only 1 in 6.

And a particularly poignant Carson memory came from the writer of this letter. "My favorite Carson moment, I met him in Marina Del Rey March 16, 2002. I was a cashier at West Marine" -- which is like a grocery star store -- "and a coworker of mine who knew how star struck I am ran up and said, 'Johnny Carson is in shoes.'"

I thought this yet another hoax, but still I had to go check it out. And to my disbelief, there he was. I went running up to him. I said, 'My name is Marisa and I love you.' He shyly said 'Thank you' and began asking me questions about myself in his famous interview style."

"He really was the nicest most humble man. I asked him to take a picture with me, and he joked, 'Well, do you want me to take it with my shoes on or off?' And I shrieked I didn't care as long as we took the picture."

"And I have a great picture. Here it is, with Johnny Carson holding one shoe in his hand." The best part is when I was busy at the cash register. I had about 10 people in line and I heard 'Good- bye, Marisa.'"

I turn around. There's Johnny Carson waving good-bye to me at the door. I hadn't even seen him walk by. What a wonderful man to make a little cashier's day. He was truly a class act."

HEMMER: Very cool.

O'BRIEN: That's a great story.

SERWER: That's a great one. Yes.

CAFFERTY: Not bad, right?

O'BRIEN: Yes. That's a great story.

CAFFERTY: Probably the only picture anybody's got of Johnny Carson holding one of his shoes in his hand.

HEMMER: Well done.

Top stories in a moment.

Also, we'll get back to the Johnny Carson story, too. Different from any other host of a TV talk show. Comedian Robert Klein explains how one night on "Carson" could make an entire career.

Back after this.



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