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A Recover Reality: Schools in New Orleans; Hollywood Green? Movie Makers and Greenhouse Gas; New Technology to Find Missing People
Aired March 1, 2007 - 07:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Extreme weather. Suspected tornadoes touch down in the Plains. Snow and ice are snarling traffic out West. It's all on the move right now. Chad's watching it for us.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Reading, writing and reality. New Orleans schools still struggling after Hurricane Katrina. President Bush is in town again. Will he help?
S. O'BRIEN: And Hollywood's dirty secret. When it comes to the environment, it seems Tinseltown is green with hypocrisy.
We're live this morning from New Orleans, from New York and Atlanta on this AMERICAN MORNING.
M. O'BRIEN: Good morning to you, Thursday, March 1st. It is -- AMERICAN MORNING is the program.
I'm Miles O'Brien.
S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien.
Thanks for being with us.
Let's talk about the weather, shall we? That's the top story.
M. O'BRIEN: Yes, March coming in like a lion. Tornadoes touching down in Kansas City overnight. A threat of severe weather is bearing down across Arkansas and Missouri as we speak. Radar showing intense storms brewing. Severe weather alerts are up all over the place.
People in parts of Kansas and Missouri waking up to twister and hail damage already this morning. Heavy rain, flash flooding, trees down. A stretch of Interstate 35 through Kansas City closed down this morning.
The storm is on the move. A very dynamic situation.
Chad Myers is tracking it for us.
M. O'BRIEN: This morning John McCain is publicly admitting the obvious, that he will make a run for the Oval Office. And in keeping with the new world order of candidate announcements, the Arizona senator spilled the beans last night on "Letterman".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Are you running or are you going to announce that you're running?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The last time we were on this program, I'm sure you remember everything very clearly that we say.
MCCAIN: But you asked me if I would come back on this show if I was going to announce.
LETTERMAN: Right. Yes.
MCCAIN: I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States.
LETTERMAN: Oh, boy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
M. O'BRIEN: But wait, there's more. The formal announcement will come early next month. It happens again and again, you know. Once the undisputed GOP front-runner, McCain is now trailing in the polls behind former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
S. O'BRIEN: President Bush is going to the Gulf Coast today. It's his first trip there in six months. He's going to visit a charter school in New Orleans. A relative success story there. Coming back from the storm is still a struggle for most of the schools across that city.
CNN's Sean Callebs is live for us from Mary Bethune Elementary School in New Orleans this morning.
Hey, Sean. Good morning.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
No matter how long I live here, I still stumble across areas that haven't been touched since the storm hit. And it's very sobering. This elementary school is one such area.
You can see the damage done by the hurricane. Also, damage done by vandals, who ripped pipes out of the ceiling, then cut the copper wiring out of those pipes to get money.
But the damage here is very extensive. You can see, it's going to cost more than a million dollars to get this place up and running again. School supplies still left right where they were just days before the hurricane. And more than half of the public schools here remain closed a year and a half after the hurricane.
Despite all this, there are some positive things going on here.
CALLEBS: Every day, Cornell Carney walks through the metal detector before going to class. This is part of student life at O. Perry Walker High school in New Orleans.
CORNELL CARNEY, STUDENT: It's the best school that I've ever been in.
CALLEBS: O. Perry Walker is one of the rare post-Katrina success stories.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As citizens in this country, they have been entitled to quality, free, public education. Not just free education, quality education.
CALLEBS: But O. Perry Walker still has its problems.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To see this place like this, you know, is really disheartening.
CALLEBS: The auditorium is still flooded an din obvious need of repair. The school is one of 56 city schools that have reopened since the storm.
This, too, is the face of New Orleans schools, Mary Bethune Elementary, one of 65 schools still closed. It's hoped it will reopen in the fall.
New Orleans has told FEMA it will take $418 million to repair and renovate damaged schools. But officials say FEMA has only provided $13 million for the work so far.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're really beginning to panic, quite frankly, about how we'll continue to operate and continue to open schools and repair schools at the rate that we're going with getting reimbursed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has something to do with...
CALLEBS: And for a school system still in tatters, panic is not what anyone needs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Schools are making a turn for the better. Everybody is trying to not go back to the pre-Katrina way. Everybody is trying to advance from the pre-Katrina.
CALLEBS: The district is thrilled the president is coming here, but really they wish the president would come and see images like this, because this is still going on. The school board, school officials, say they need this federal money to start flowing in. They say they are not being alarmists by using the term "crisis". They say unless this money continues to come, Soledad, they're going to reach the point that they can no longer do repairs and renovations, and people are moving back every month.
So soon, perhaps soon, there's going to be a time when there's no place else to put public school students.
S. O'BRIEN: It could come very soon.
Sean Callebs for us this morning.
Thank you, Sean.
One of the folks -- one of the young men you saw in Sean's piece is Cornell Carney. He's part of our "Children of the Storm" series. There he is using the camera I gave him.
Good work, Cornell.
We've asked some kids from New Orleans to videotape their lives and their experiences ever since Hurricane Katrina struck. And we're going to show you some of their work in our next episode.
It's a week from tomorrow. It's called "Children of the Storm." And it airs on Friday, March 9th, right here on AMERICAN MORNING.
M. O'BRIEN: We're watching severe weather moving through the heartland as we speak. Chad will give us the latest in just a moment.
Plus, Hollywood's dirty little secret. A lot of talk about defending the environment, but it's far from the whole story. We'll peel back the curtain a little bit.
Plus, big brother is watching. A way to track you as you are making tracks.
You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.
S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
We're watching a lot of severe weather for you this morning. A reported tornado on the ground in West Plains, Missouri. That's east of Springfield. And the tornado watch box, as you can see, really west of St. Louis, Missouri.
We're going to update you, try to track down the damage that may have happened there this morning.
Also, more stock trouble to tell you about in Shanghai. The Chinese exchange down nearly 3 percent overnight. Remember, the tumble that we saw on Wall Street was in part due to that in Shanghai.
We've got that story straight ahead, too -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Former vice president and now documentary star Al Gore still basking in his Oscar glory this morning while defending allegations he's a global warming hypocrite. In fact, some critics would say the entire movie industry is not walking the green mile.
CNN's David Mattingly with more.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With the glow of the Hollywood spotlight still warm, one inconvenient truth behind Al Gore's celebrated documentary could be a greenhouse gas problem that hits strangely close to home.
MARY NICHOLS, UCLA INST. OF THE ENVIRONMENT: I think a lot of people were shocked when they realized that, because in Los Angeles, of course, we are very dependent on and very attuned to the motion picture industry. But at the same time, we don't think of them as a heavy polluter.
MATTINGLY: It seems unlikely for an industry without smokestacks, but the people who make your favorite films and TV shows are one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gasses in the Los Angeles area. Last year, the UCLA Institute of the Environment determined the industry leaves a Godzilla-sized footprint in the atmosphere, tons of greenhouse gasses comparable to L.A.'s aerospace industry.
(on camera): This is the same industry that always seems to be at the forefront of environmental causes. Studios crank out big- budget films with earth-friendly themes all the time. It's no secret in Hollywood that green sells. The question is, is Hollywood buying it?
MARSHALL HERSKOVITZ, PRESIDENT, PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA: The reality is that a big movie production uses lots and lots of trucks and vans and trailers and generators and lights, and that's how we make the movies that the entire world loves. We are not going to just throw that out.
MATTINGLY: Marshall Herskovitz is president of the Producers Guild of America. He says some solutions they're looking at include more energy-efficient studios and using biodiesel to power generators. That emits less CO2.
The producer of "The Day after Tomorrow," a disaster flick about the perils of a greenhouse future, went so far as to plant trees and spend hundreds of thousands to mitigate their carbon output. But few have followed that example.
GARY PETERSEN, ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT: It's a hit and miss. They are just learning how to do some of this stuff.
MATTINGLY: Gary Petersen used to work with studios to create recycling programs and reduce the industry's massive demand for raw materials. In the 21st century, the new cleanup targets carbon emissions.
PETERSEN: Three years ago they would have said, "Go away." A lot of them would have said, "Go away. I've I got to get this thing out on time." But now they understand. They're understanding more. The education is coming across.
MATTINGLY: Education from a variety of sources. Sometimes from the stars themselves.
Daryl Hannah is a board member of the Environmental Media Association.
(on camera): You go to the producers and say here is a way you could make this production greener.
DARYL HANNAH, ACTRESS: Yes, exactly.
MATTINGLY: What do they say to you when you do that?
HANNAH: Well, you k now, in many cases, it's stuff that will actually save them money.
MATTINGLY (voice over): And that is the green where all change is possible. It's also good P.R. Any screenwriter will tell you, in Hollywood the bad guy never wins.
David Mattingly, CNN, Los Angeles.
S. O'BRIEN: It's coming up on quarter past the hour. Let's get right to Chad Myers because we're watching some very dangerous storm conditions.
S. O'BRIEN: A triple blessing for a father who lost so much in the tsunami. It's a girl, and a girl, and another girl.
Brand-new daughters of Darma Ali (ph). He's a police officer in Banda Aceh in Indonesia. You might remember this guy's story. He lost his wife and three daughters in the tsunami three years ago. In fact, one of his little girls was actually torn right out of his arms when the waves hit.
Well, since then, he's remarried and he became a father again. His wife had triplets. That's his wife right there with the girls. You can expect, he says, he is overjoyed.
M. O'BRIEN: Wow what a conclusion to a tragedy there.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes.
M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, smart shoes. A look at how GPS technology is used to keep your kids safe.
And big complains from McDonald's customers. We'll let the Big Mac out of the bag, so to speak.
Straight ahead, more AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.
M. O'BRIEN: The most news in the morning right here on CNN.
President Bush heads to New Orleans today for an education push. His 14th trip to the Gulf Coast since Katrina hit about 18 months ago.
And the federal government giving states a break today, easing up on a deadline to toughen security and standardize driver's licenses nationwide -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Did you know that on average more than 2,000 children are reported missing every day in America? Now, it might be impossible to track all of them down, but what if their shoes could help?
AMERICAN MORNING'S Alina Cho has a look at that.
Good morning, Alina.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Soledad. Good morning to you.
You know, we hear about those missing children, and who could forget the missing hikers on Mount Hood? Well, now there's a new sneaker that could help find you using the same technology we use in our cars. It sounds futuristic, but it's here and it will soon be on the market.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "ENEMY OF THE STATE": We lost audio. It's gone. But we have his tracer. We can still follow him.
CHO (voice over): In "Enemy of the State," the bad guys tracked Will Smith's character through a device in his shoe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "ENEMY OF THE STATE": It's a beacon transmitter.
CHO: In real life, engineer and shoe designer Isaac Daniel came up with the idea to put a global positioning system, or GPS, in shoes. He thought of it after his then 8-year-old son went missing. His son was found. And an idea was born.
ISAAC DANIEL, GPS SHOE INVENTOR: You don't forget your wallet. You don't forget your purse (ph). You would never leave home without wearing shoes.
CHO: Daniel later realized others besides children could benefit -- Alzheimer's patients, law enforcement, even the military. Company executives say outdoorsmen like the hikers who went missing on Mt. Hood two months ago could have been saved by wearing these shoes.
DAVID SANDERSON, PRESIDENT, FELE FOOTWEAR: Peace of mind? What is that worth. It's hard to quantify that.
CHO: A panic button activates the GPS, sending a signal to a satellite which then beams the wearer's location to a monitoring center.
DANIEL: So this person is right here on 5th Street.
CHO: The company then contacts loved ones, or 911 if there's an emergency.
We tested them out. First stop, the American Airlines arena. Quickly, we ran into problems.
(on camera): Well, let me double check, but I think the shoe's on.
He's looking for a satellite? The shoe is on. It's on. It's definitely on.
I mean, I hate to say this, but shouldn't this be working?
(voice over): Daniel told us the shoes weren't fully charged. So we tested a second pair. This time we head to the News Cafe on Ocean Drive and 8th Street.
(on camera): I see the sign behind me. You are correct.
(voice over): Not perfect technology, but getting there.
SANDERSON: It's sort of bringing 2050 to today's reality.
CHO: Well, they're still working out the kinks.
Now, the shoes are not cheap. They cost about $340 a pair and...
S. O'BRIEN: Wow.
CHO: Yes, that's expensive.
S. O'BRIEN: That's really not cheap.
CHO: No, it's not cheap. They'll be available starting next month. And the company is also working on a children's version which will be available in the fall.
And Soledad, the inventor of the shoe is Isaac Daniel, and they're called Isaac Daniels. He said, you know, initially he thought about children wearing these so that they could be found, but then he thought, you know, this could really apply to anybody. You know, hikers, the military.
S. O'BRIEN: Anybody you want to track down.
CHO: Right, exactly, you want to track down.
But here they are.
S. O'BRIEN: All right.
CHO: There they are. This is the second pair. So these worked.
S. O'BRIEN: OK.
CHO: This is the panic button here that they call -- this activates it. And when you push it, you're supposed to hold it down for about six seconds there. And then hopefully...
S. O'BRIEN: Four, five, six.
CHO: Yes. Well -- oh, boy. Hold on. One, two, three, four, five. All right. Then you turn -- oh, they're not charged. Look at that.
Anyway, this is the antenna.
S. O'BRIEN: OK. So what's -- that's just the antenna. So let's say it did charge.
CHO: This is not fully charged. This would light up. It would have a red button and a green button. That shows that it's on.
S. O'BRIEN: And then this is what?
CHO: That's the charger. I mean, so...
S. O'BRIEN: So you have to plug them in every night?
CHO: I think so. Every night, they say, you know, just to be safe. Obviously, we didn't charge them. But you press it in and you plug it in right here, just like a Blackberry or a cell phone. And they say it works.
Now, you know, we tested it out twice, and it worked once. It didn't work the other time. You know, so...
S. O'BRIEN: But theoretically it's a good idea, because...
CHO: Yes, theoretically it is. And, you know, it's one of those things where you say, why didn't they think of this sooner? But it's here. And it will be available next month.
S. O'BRIEN: All right. Alina, thank you.
S. O'BRIEN: Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Well, first it was Prince Charles who made it clear he is no Burger King in waiting. Now we hear some mere commoners are not so pleased with McDonald's there. Maybe not loving it.
About 24 minutes past the hour. Andrew Ross Sorkin "Minding Your Business" for Ali Velshi this morning.
Good morning, Andrew.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
I would sing a new slogan, but I will avoid that.
M. O'BRIEN: Let's not. Let's not.
SORKIN: You know, customers of McDonald's apparently this year not as happy as they were last year. Twenty in every 100,000 are saying, "I'm not loving it."
I actually think that's probably not so bad.
M. O'BRIEN: That doesn't seem like a lot of people.
SORKIN: I think the airline business must get -- must get a lot worse. But the biggest complaint, the wrong item in the bag or not in the bag at all. And then the second biggest complaint, rude or unprofessional service.
So, I don't know. I usually have a good experience at McDonald's. Or haven't had a bad one lately, at least.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, it's interesting. You know, of course Prince Charles' criticism was that the food is not so good, it's not good for you. That's not a criticism you hear, is it?
SORKIN: Nobody is complaining about the food. I should tell you, by the way, the places that are getting the best rating, Hawaii. So if you can make a trip over there, people seem to be loving it there.
Not so much in Philadelphia and in Baltimore, apparently. But McDonald's, one of the things they're going to be introducing soon, and maybe it will help with their customer service, they're going to be introducing lattes and cappuccinos, trying to compete with Starbucks on the hope that perhaps a caffeinated customer is perhaps a happier customer.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, they had that hot coffee lawsuit. I'm sure they've been a little tentative on this whole notion of...
SORKIN: Well, you know, you keep the latte a little cooler.
M. O'BRIEN: Cooler lattes. I wonder if it will -- it will probably be a cheaper price than Starbucks.
SORKIN: Cheaper price -- two bucks -- two bucks, versus $3 plus at Starbucks, at least. So...
M. O'BRIEN: Yes. You know what this brings out though? When you have a huge franchise operation like this, service is going to be all over the map, isn't it?
SORKIN: Service is always going to be all over the map. I should also say that McDonald's declined to comment, but that 20 -- it's 20 of 100,000 for company-operated stores, 12 for every 100,000 for franchises.
M. O'BRIEN: Interesting.
SORKIN: Which, by the way, is actually not so bad.
M. O'BRIEN: So the franchises do better because the ownership is closer to the operation.
SORKIN: Right. Perhaps.
M. O'BRIEN: Interesting. There's a lesson there, I suppose.
SORKIN: I will sing next time.
M. O'BRIEN: All right. That would be great.
Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Stay tuned for that.
Coming up, the hepatitis scare in Hollywood. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will tell us how folks can protect themselves against the virus.
Plus, we'll meet a woman who has a friend in a very high place.
There she is.
Hi, Ethel (ph).
But two meetings with President Bush later, still no progress on her Katrina catastrophe behind her.
Good to see you there.
But she still doesn't blame her friend, Mr. Bush.
She'll explain in a moment.
Stay with us, Ethel (ph).
And you, too, out there.
We'll be back with more.
M. O'BRIEN: Weather alert. Extreme storms slamming the country. Snow out West. A tornado in the heartland. A lot more problems on tap for today.
We'll keep you updated.
S. O'BRIEN: School trip. President Bush is back in New Orleans today. He's talking education. But will he help the countless schools that are still struggling after Hurricane Katrina?
M. O'BRIEN: And a P.R. nightmare. A chef to the stars puts some of those stars at risk for hepatis.
We'll tell you what is happening now on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Good morning to you, Thursday, March 1st.
I'm Miles O'Brien.
S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien.
Thanks for being with us.
M. O'BRIEN: Today President Bush is making his 14th trip to the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina hit nearly a year and a half ago. When he visited back in April, nearly a year ago, the president made the first of two visits with Ethel Williams. Outside her damaged home he said he had a plan to help Katrina victims like her. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got a strategy to help the good folks down here rebuild. Part of it has to do with funding. Part of it has to do with housing. And a lot of it has to do with encouraging volunteers from around the United States to come down and help people like Ms. Williams.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
M. O'BRIEN: Now was then; this is now. What's going on in Ethel's home? Joining us from New Orleans, in the Upper Ninth Ward, is Ethel Williams. That's her house behind her.
Ethel, as I understand it, not much work has been done. I know some volunteers came by not long after you saw the president and helped gut your home. But at this point, I hear the city is ready to condemn your property. What can you tell us about that?
ETHEL WILLIAMS, HOME DESTROYED BY KATRINA: Yes, I came over on the 21st to look at it, and that's the first thing I saw was this yellow slip pasted on my door saying that the city was going to take it, because they give me 30 days because of a (INAUDIBLE) house, the windows out, and all that -- the doors won't close, and so they feel they should take it. That's the only thing I have is the house.
M. O'BRIEN: And this is a house you lived in for years and years. It's to be just devastating news to hear that. You still haven't gotten...
WILLIAMS: It is.
M. O'BRIEN: I know you don't blame the president. You've been going after the money from the Road Home Project, which is administered by the governor's office in Louisiana. Have you just run into a brick wall? What are they telling you? .
WILLIAMS: They're telling me in two weeks I'll hear something, and two weeks turn into a month, and a month and it's never there.
M. O'BRIEN: So you are getting the bureaucratic red tape runaround, aren't you? We have a statement here...
WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.
M. O'BRIEN: We've got a statement here from somebody who's with this Road Home Project, which is a $7.5 billion project, supposedly to help people like you. Gentry Brann is the name, says this -- she says, "We will assist Ms. Williams with finding assistance in the New Orleans area to help her with the parish and city guidelines that threaten to condemn her home."
They say they're going to assist you, but they haven't come through. What do you think is going on?
WILLIAMS: I don't know what's going on because governor is supposed to have the money, supposed to have been had it. I don't know why she won't turn it aloose. And that's the way people can come back home and come back home and be in their homes, and they'll have a place to live when they come back. And also the schools. They told the people that the schools was ready. All the people come rushing back in -- no schools are ready. Teachers fired. They still haven't gotten it straightened out.
M. O'BRIEN: I know you're not going to see the president today. But if you had a chance to talk to your friend, the president, today, what would you tell him?
WILLIAMS: I would tell him he couldn't have his meal because the house is not ready.
M. O'BRIEN: Oh, you promised him a meal?
WILLIAMS: Yes. When the house gets finished, I'm supposed to fix him a dinner. But it's been almost two years.
M. O'BRIEN: Are you -- I'm sure it's been tough. You live 30 minutes away, you'd love to cook up some red beans in that house I'm sure by now. Have you thought about just giving up on the whole thing, selling the house, walking away and moving on?
WILLIAMS: No, I can't do that. I have to have a place to live. What am I going to do? I have to try to get it fixed.
M. O'BRIEN: Are you frustrated and angry? Are you sad? What's it like living in New Orleans right now for you?
WILLIAMS: Well, it's not happy. I have a place to live, but it's not mine, you know, and that makes a difference.
M. O'BRIEN: I should say.
WILLIAMS: Ethel Williams, we hope you get the help you deserve. And keep us posted on your efforts, will you? And we'll keep our viewers posted on your progress.
Thanks for being with us.
M. O'BRIEN: Soledad?
S. O'BRIEN: Such a shame. There's so many people in the same exact circumstance.
M. O'BRIEN: Just one story.
S. O'BRIEN: You get the runaround when you don't have anything.
M. O'BRIEN: Just wants to go home and cook some red beans.
S. O'BRIEN: That is such a shame.
M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, a PR nightmare for Wolfgang Puck's catering business. Find out how that Hollywood hepatitis scare could impact the famous chef?
And we're keeping you up to date on this morning's extreme weather. Twisters doing heavy damage in the Midwest. It's happening as we speak. Chad Myers knows where the troublespots are, so stay with us for that.
Plus, it is Thursday. You know what that normally means, right crew? That means?
M. O'BRIEN: But what is it today?
M. O'BRIEN: That's right. Graham-cam. Graham Flanagan (ph), our production assistant extraordinaire, who upstages me bigtime in the movie department, he is our local movie maven, will be here to bask in the glory of all his correct predictions for Oscar night. So if you have any questions about movies you've seen, movies you'd like to go to, the Oscars in general, send them to us now at milescam@CNN.com. The place to watch Graham-cam today is at CNN.com/pipeline, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.
Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.
S. O'BRIEN: A Hepatitis-A scare is spreading in Hollywood. People who attended a party that launched "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit issue are a dozen other special events, and now being urged to get hep-a shots immediately. That's after an employee for celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck was diagnosed with hepatitis-a.
CNN's Brooke Anderson reports on what it could mean for the chef to the stars.
BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice over): People in Hollywood are still talking about the "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit issue party two weeks ago. The guest of honor? "SI" cover girl Beyonce.
Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck catered the invitation-only event. But the buzz isn't about the cover or the food. It's about hepatitis.
It turns out one of Puck's employees is suffering from Hepatitis A. Health officials urged anyone who attended that party and ate the food to get vaccinated.
Beyonce spent her time at the party signing autographs, and according to her publicist, didn't eat the food.
DR. JONATHAN FIELDING, L.A. COUNTY DEPT. OF PUBLIC HEALTH: There were 13 total of events, and the guest list, if you add them all up, total about 3,500 people. Fewer than that actually came, and I'm sure a smaller number actually ate the food.
ANDERSON: Though it declined CNN's request for an interview, Wolfgang Puck Catering issued this statement: "We will continue to work with the health department to bring a speedy and thorough resolution to this investigation."
(on camera): But is it enough? In a town where reputation is everything, even an isolated incident could end up a P.R. nightmare for Wolfgang Puck's high profile catering business.
HOWARD BRAGMAN, HOLLYWOOD PUBLICIST: If you watched the Academy Awards and the pre-show, you saw him everywhere. He has many, many relationships with the media, which is a good thing and a bad thing.
ANDERSON (voice over): Wolfgang Puck has been a fixture in the Hollywood party scene for more than two decades and has famously catered the Governors Ball at the Oscars for nearly as long. The announcement about the catering employee's illness doesn't seem to have slowed down Puck's business, at least for now. Brooke Anderson, CNN, Hollywood.
S. O'BRIEN: So what exactly is hepatitis-a? What are the symptoms? How is it spread? For all that, we turn to Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's got some answers for us.
Hey, Sanjay. Good morning.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
Yes, you have several different hepatitis viruses, the viruses that cause hepatitis. If you had to pick one -- nobody wants this -- but if you had to pick one, hepatitis-a is the best one to get, because it's the least problematic in terms of your overall long-term health. There are some symptoms to be aware of if someone has the signs of hepatitis -- fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, jaundice. Soledad, that's when your eyes may turn yellow. Your skin gets a little bit of yellowish hue as well. Those are somewhat vague symptoms. The way to really know whether or not you have hepatitis is to actually get a blood test.
Now the concern here and the concern with any food handler, if they do develops hepatitis-a, is that it can be very contagious, so you want to make sure that you actually -- those people report to the health officials, which they did here, and then they specifically are concerned about how that virus may transmit itself in contagious a way to people who may have eaten food.
Some of the bigger concerns are poor hygiene, just, frankly, someone who's not washing their hands while preparing especially raw food. If there's contaminated food or water, or if you have close contact with an infected person, those are ways to get the hepatitis-a infection. Again, you may not know it for sure, though, unless you have some symptoms and you get that blood test -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: How likely is it, Sanjay, that all these guests at this very fancy party and then some of the other parties, if the chef had hepatitis-a, how likely is it that he could transmit through the food to the people who are eating it?
GUPTA: It's considered a low likelihood. We asked the same question to health people out in Los Angeles about how likely it would be. They say low likelihood.
But here's sort of the way that they would approach it. If someone had raw food, uncooked food that had been handled specifically by this person who had a hepatitis-a infection, they may recommend that the people who ate the food actually get what are called immunal globulin shots, shots that actually sort of boost the immune system, help fight the virus before it can ever take hold. But again, very low likelihood -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: And it's completely treatable? I mean, if you have hepatitis-a, like this chef, for example -- he's being treated now, I understand -- what's happening and what potentially could they do to make him better?
GUPTA: Well, you know, there isn't a specific treatment. There isn't a specific anti-a virus treatment. You know, you can give the immunal globulin, which can help boost the immune system to help fight it off, but there's not like an antibiotic that you have for bacteria. There's not a specific one for hepatitis-a. So typically it runs its course. And the good news is, again, while you may feel miserable for a few days, once it runs its course you feel better, and you might even, you know, be inoculated, if you will, sort of immunized against getting future hepatitis-A infections as well. But no specific treatment. If you're concerned, you get the immunal globulin shot.
Kids now, as you probably know, Soledad, can get the vaccine as well, that gives them longer protection.
S. O'BRIEN: Sanjay Gupta, as always, excellent advice for us. Thanks, Sanjay -- Miles..
GUPTA: Thank you.
M. O'BRIEN: We are watching a really wild batch of weather that is hurdling through the middle section of the nation. Take a look at some live pictures now. This is coming from our affiliate KETV. This is tower-cam from Omaha, Nebraska as we speak. Right now, in Omaha, temperature is about 30 degrees. Heavy snow and fog, as you see there right now. The wind is at about 26 miles an hour.
S. O'BRIEN: "CNN NEWSROOM," in fact, is just a couple of minutes away. And Heidi Collins is at the CNN Center. She's got a look at what they've got ahead.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And, Soledad, we are going to be following that very story, of course the weather. And Chad's going to be working with us, too, because a late winter storm targeting the South today is in the headlines. Thunderstorms, heavy downpours and a strong risk of tornadoes, as you've just heard from Chad. On the northern side of the system blizzard conditions. We are tracking the storms in the NEWSROOM with updates every 15 minutes and special alerts to let you know the second that they hit.
Also San Francisco rattled by a column in a newspaper geared to the Asian community. The title -- "Why I Hate Blacks."
And Harry Potter losing his trademark glasses, and that's not all. He's losing his clothes, too. The boy wizard getting incredible reviews for his grown-up role on the London stage. Interesting play he's in.
Join Tony Harris and me in the NEWSROOM. We're coming up at the top of the hour right here on CNN -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Heidi, thanks. We sure will. Coming up this morning on AMERICAN MORNING, the new season of "Dancing With the Stars" hasn't even started yet, and already there's a casualty. We'll tell but the star who had a little change in tune.
Plus, Paris Hilton could be headed to jail. I wonder if that would keep her out of the headlines or not. We're going tell you why police say she's in some seriously big trouble.
That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in a moment.
S. O'BRIEN: Here's a quick look at what "CNN NEWSROOM" is working on for the top of the hour.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: See these stories in the "CNN NEWSROOM": Another big winter storm taking shape this morning. Severe storms and heavy rain in the South. Blizzard conditions across Minnesota and Wisconsin.
President Bush flying to the Gulf Coast right now. His first trip to the hurricane zone in half a year focusing on schools. You're in the NEWSROOM, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.
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