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Congressional Hearings on Conditions at Walter Reed; Vying for Votes; Atlanta Bus Crash
Aired March 5, 2007 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: You are with CNN. You're informed.
Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm T.J. Holmes, sitting in today for Tony Harris.
Developments coming in to the NEWSROOM on this Monday, March 5th.
Her is what we have on the rundown.
COLLINS: Happening now, Army outpatient care under the microscope. Congress questioning generals and soldiers about conditions at Walter Reed.
HOLMES: From foe to friend? North Korea and the U.S. sit down for one-on-one talks today. Could American aid be far behind?
COLLINS: And it's an illness that's often misdiagnosed. Living with Celiac Disease in the NEWSROOM.
Army generals facing major questions this hour. What went wrong at the Army's premier hospital? Right now, live pictures.
You see members of Congress are at Army Walter Reed Medical Center, holding a hearing. The focus, reports of substandard conditions for America's wounded warriors.
CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is following today's hearings.
Barbara, I've been trying to listen in myself, but it's a little difficult to do. Tell us what has happened so far this morning.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, this is an extraordinary hearing this morning at Walter Reed. This is the first panel. We have two very badly injured soldiers, the wife of another soldier testifying on behalf of her husband.
What Americans are seeing here, Heidi, is the side of coming home from war that is not about parades, that is not about music videos. The very painful side of trying to get the medical care that these troops need.
Let's play for you just two comments that were made by these wounded troops. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STAFF. SGT. JOHN DANIEL SHANNON, U.S. ARMY: The system can't be trusted. And soldiers get less than they deserve from a system seemingly design to run -- and run, to cut the costs associated with fighting this war. The truly sad thing is that surviving veterans from every war we've ever fought can tell the same basic story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPEC. JEREMY DUNCAN, U.S. ARMY: The conditions in the room in my mind were just -- it was unforgivable for anybody to live -- it wasn't fit for anybody to live in a room like that. I know most soldiers have -- they're just coming out of recovery. You have weaker immune systems. The black mold can do damage to people and the holes in the walls. I wouldn't live there even if I had to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: Heidi, firsthand accounts from the soldiers at Walter Reed about the outpatient conditions that they were facing, the deplorable housing conditions for some of them, and their great frustration and pain in trying to get this post-op outpatient care that they needed.
Now, to be clear, not every soldier faced this kind of frustration. There are many cases where soldiers moved through the system, went on, went back home, went back on to active duty. But for way too many troops, Heidi, this has been a very painful, very frustrating experience. And now, of course, later today we will hear from the top generals, who will try and explain how all of this happened without anybody seemingly noticing -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Barbara, I have so many questions for you, but I know we need to keep it on focus here.
What does BRAC have to do with all this, the Base Realignment and Closure list? Is that something that affects or affected the situation here?
STARR: Well, some people are saying it does. Walt Reed Army Hospital is slated to close in the months ahead under the base closure system. There is a contention out there that once it was slated for closing, that things fell into disrepair, that many of the permanent staff left, that it was all handed over to contractors.
STARR: There haven't internal memos warning about all of this. But Army officials say that they did get enough staff finally on board.
But the fact that this hospital was slated for closure, certainly I don't think anyone believes that that's a viable excuse for less than top-quality care for America's wounded troops. It still is a question that begs an answer -- how could these people have been living in an outpatient system, not on the hospital wards, not during that trauma care period, but once they became outpatient, once they were going for their medical appointments, for their rehabilitation, for their evaluations, how could America's most badly wounded troops be living in rooms with mold on the walls?
COLLINS: Interesting, though I'm not -- right.
STARR: Those are questions that still have to be answered.
COLLINS: Absolutely, no question about it.
A couple of other things here. Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley -- of course the Army's surgeon general -- his status at this point today is what?
STARR: Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley, as we speak, remains the surgeon general of the Army. He is scheduled to testify at this hearing on the next panel. But make no mistake, Heidi. General Kiley is now the man in the crosshairs by all accounts.
General Kiley was the commander at Walter Reed up until late last year when -- before he was promoted to surgeon general. He was in command at Walter Reed when many of these problems emerged.
His replacement, General George Weightman, who had only been on the job several months, already has been fired. The secretary of the Army, the civilian head, Francis Harvey, already fired. Hard to see, frankly, how General Kiley will be able to keep the support and be able to stay in his current job.
We are told that General Kiley will testify he wants to stay on. He wants to be part of the solution, he will say, but he clearly was in command when these problems developed. How he plans to stay in command remains something that will emerge over the next several hours -- Heidi.
COLLINS: CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr.
Barbara, we'll be watching this with you. Thanks so much.
HOLMES: Well, they're not the only ones talking about Walter Reed today. The vice president also making some comments.
Dick Cheney is actually delivering some comments to the joint opening session of the VFW national conference that they have, a national legislative conference that's happening in D.C., expected to talk about the war on terrorism. But he opened by making some comments and remarks about the issues at Walter Reed.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Closer to home, there's serious concern about conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in Washington. Secretary Bob Gates and the Defense Department have moved quickly to ensure that our injured soldiers are taken care of.
The secretary has formed an independent review group to investigate the situation and identify the necessary steps to make sure it never happens again. President Bush has made our administration's priority very clear to the Congress and to the country -- there will be no excuses, only action. And the federal bureaucracy will not slow that action down. We're going to fix the problems at Walter Reed, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: You hear the vice president there promising action to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The conference happening in D.C., promising that the bureaucracy, you just heard there, is not going to stop that action. So, a lot happening, a lot of talk, at least today in Washington, D.C., about the issues at Walter Reed.
Now let's head back to Wall Street and check out the numbers right now.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
COLLINS: Courting the African-American vote -- a full-court press by the top two Democratic presidential hopefuls.
We get the story now from CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, part of the best political team on television.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Competing for the attention and votes of African-Americans, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spoke at churches within shouting distance of each other, each laying claim to the legacy that was Selma.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is the gift that keeps on giving. Today it is giving senator Obama the chance to run for president of the United States. And by its logic and spirit it is giving the same chance to Governor Bill Richardson, a Hispanic, and yes, it is giving me that chance, too.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't tell me I'm not coming home when I come to Selma, Alabama. I'm here because somebody marched for our freedom. I'm here because y'all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders...
CROWLEY: This was two high-profile competitors, united by a cause giving roughly the same message.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All the good speaking has been done by Hillary and Senator Obama today.
CROWLEY: Make that three high-profile people. Former President Bill Clinton, often referred to in the African-American community as the first black president, came along, too. Another sign of how fierce the competition is for the black vote.
Consider John Lewis, who was beaten in the original march from Selma in '65. Sunday he was in church with Barack Obama and then walked holding hands with Hillary Clinton. Ask him who he'll support.
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA; Well, it's a very difficult position to be in, but it's a good position to be in. We have choices.
CROWLEY: Obama, Clinton, Clinton and Lewis walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge Sunday where 42 years ago marchers were stopped with dogs, and horses and police batons. This time only the cameras got in the way.
COLLINS: CNN's Candy Crowley, part of the best political team on television.
And if you want to hear more of the Selma speeches made by senators Obama and Clinton, just be sure to log on to CNN.com.
HOLMES: And new developments this morning in that disturbing case out of Michigan where a woman was killed and also dismembered. And now the sheriff there says Stephen Grant has confessed to killing his wife, Tara Lynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF MARK HACKEL, MACOMB COUNTY, MICHIGAN: I think he understood there was a lot of mounting pressure. He understood that the investigators and the law enforcement were not letting up on this issue. And I think it led him to realizing, you know, I've got to get this off my chest, because, you know, I have to make some admissions or at least let you know exactly what took place. And he did just that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: A human torso was found Saturday in the family's garage. Grant was then captured the next day about 250 miles from his home. He has been hospitalized for hypothermia and possible frostbite. The sheriff expects Grant to be released from the hospital later today and possibly face arraignment tomorrow.
COLLINS: Looking for clues in a very tragic accident. Today, investigators focusing on a highway interchange here in Atlanta, while in the aftermath of Friday's deadly bus crash, a close-knit community in Ohio tries to make sense of the losses.
Our Soledad O'Brien has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Bluffton University baseball players and their parents returning home on Sunday from Atlanta, where four teammates perished in a bus crash on Friday. John Betts lost his son, David, a sophomore. He came home to Ohio wearing David's Bluffton baseball cap.
JOHN BETTS, SON DIED IN BUS CRASH: He died doing what he loved and who he enjoyed being with. And I think that's a very important part for us as a family, to know that he was very, very happy in the last moments and seconds of his life.
O'BRIEN: Three of David's teammates died, too -- freshmen Cody Holp and Scott Harmon and sophomore Tyler Williams. The bus driver and his wife, Jerome and Jean Niemeyer, were also killed.
Crash investigators believe the driver mistook an exit ramp for the regular HOV lane on I-75. The charter bus apparently failed to stop at the top of the ramp, careening across the intersection before plunging on to the interstate below. Twenty-nine passengers were injured in the crash. Several remain in Atlanta hospitals, including the team's coach, James Grandey.
JIM GRANDEY, FATHER OF BLUFFTON BASEBALL COACH: About all he remembers, he remembers sitting -- what he called was on the median. It might have been the berm of the road, up against some concrete looking at the bus on its side and thinking, my goodness, we must have fallen off.
O'BRIEN: Federal investigators are now looking closely at this highway interchange that has seen more than 80 accidents in the past decade.
KITTY HIGGINS, NTSB: I personally believe that we should be talking to the state of Georgia to see whether there is any sort of interim steps, not necessarily a recommendation coming from us, but is there something that the state of Georgia could do to recognize that it shouldn't be business as usual at that intersection?
O'BRIEN: Soledad O'Brien, CNN, reporting.
HOLMES: Wounded in war, forgotten in treatment? Congress tackling the troubles at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. You're looking at a live shot of hearings that are under way right now in D.C.
We are covering it here in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: And when food hurts. Living with Celiac Disease, why some foods make so many so sick.
It's all coming up in the NEWSROOM.
HOLMES: And more scenes of carnage in the streets of Baghdad. A suicide bomber takes aim at a book market.
Those details coming up.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And just when you thought winter had loosened its grip, I have wind-chills in Maine coming up tomorrow 56 degrees below zero. It's going to be cold in New York City, too.
The forecast coming up.
HOLMES: A grief-stricken Alabama town saying farewell to loved ones. Funerals being held today for some of the eight students who were killed last week in a tornado.
Also, the town of Americus in Georgia also battered by the same storm. Two people died there. Disaster recovery centers are being set up in both Enterprise, as well as Americus.
COLLINS: Chad Myers is standing by now to give us more of the weather picture.
COLLINS: Coming up next now, when food hurts. Living with Celiac Disease, why some foods make so many so sick. And they may not even know about it.
We'll tell you all about it coming up next.
COLLINS: A common ailment, but even more commonly misdiagnosed -- Celiac Disease. An estimated three million Americans have it. I'm one of them. But most who have Celiac Disease don't know what's causing their suffering.
The problem? It's what we eat.
CNN Medical Correspondent Judy Fortin explains now why certain foods can make so many so sick.
JUDY FORTIN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Gluten-free pancakes may not sound very appetizing, but 8-year-old Smith Brookhart (ph) loves them. Good thing, because Smith (ph) and his mother have Celiac Disease. They can't tolerate anything with a gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
VIRGINIA BROOKHART, CELIAC PATIENT: At first it was overwhelming and almost paralyzing in the kitchen.
FORTIN: Only eating habits changed quickly for Virginia when she learned from her doctor that Celiac is a digestive disease that damages the small intestines and interferes with absorption of nutrients.
DR. CYNTHIA RUDERT, CELIAC DISEASE FOUNDATION: Celiac is not an allergy. It's not a food intolerance. It's an autoimmune disease.
FORTIN: Gastroenterologist Cynthia Rudert says Celiac patients often go undiagnosed for years.
RUDERT: They languish under other misdiagnoses -- commonly irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon.
FORTIN: Celia runs in families and is initially detected through a blood test. There is no cure, and the only treatment is to avoid gluten.
RUDERT: Gluten is in breads, cereals, soups, sauces, pizza, and even medication.
FORTIN: For Virginia, that means a lifetime of scrutinizing labels.
BROOKHART: The blessing is that it's a diet change.
COLLINS: Judy Fortin is joining us now in the NEWSROOM this morning.
Great piece. And what's interesting about this, when I was diagnosed, I was diagnosed first, and I was able to follow my son really closely and I knew what to look for. And then he was diagnosed. But that's not really what happened with this family.
FORTIN: Not at all. In fact, the mom, Virginia, told me that she was diagnosed after her son was diagnosed.
She had rashes on both of her arms that she suspected something was wrong for a couple of years. But her son had problems for about three months. He had chronic upset stomach which was leading to malnutrition.
Once he was diagnosed and they went on this gluten-free diet, everything turned out to be OK for them. In fact, he's thriving and doing very well now thanks to this new diet.
COLLINS: Very good to hear, although, I've got to tell you, even when I go to restaurants and sometimes the supermarkets and I say, you know, I have this disease, gluten, they look at me like I have three heads.
Remind us once again what gluten is, because sometimes we're eating things we don't even know that it's in there.
FORTIN: And it can be a real challenge for people to find the right diet.
Essentially, gluten is in wheat, rye, and barley. So common things like pizza, bread. Also you'd find it in pasta as well. But things you wouldn't think of, like soy sauce, beer, licorice and hard candies, things like nutritional supplements. The doctor mentioned some medications, even communion wafers.
So you really have to reeducate yourself, Heidi. Find out where to find gluten, what it's in. It's in binders, in cold cuts and things like that. And make sure you stay away from it.
COLLINS: Yes, no question about it. It can lead to some pretty serious complications if you don't follow that diet very, very strictly.
Judy, thank you so very much for doing that.
FORTIN: You're welcome.
COLLINS: Appreciate it.
Also want to let everybody know we had a terrific event up in New York this weekend with the organization that I am involved with, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. We had the gluten-free cooking spree, T.J. Look at this.
HOLMES: All right.
COLLINS: We had seven celebrity chefs that got together, squared off to make the greatest gluten-free creation that they could. So they were given all the ingredients.
HOLMES: Sounds delicious.
COLLINS: Then they had to choose the main meat ingredient, either chicken or talapia, I believe.
COLLINS: And they came together and they were judged. There were three judges. We had "Food & Wine" magazine. We had one of the physicians who started the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, Dr. Peter Green. He's been on our show before. And then we had this great 5-year-old kid that I know -- Riley (ph), I think his name is.
HOLMES: Oh, you know him, huh?
COLLINS: Yes, he's my son. But, you know, it's interesting because so many kids have it, like in Judy's piece, it's hard. You know, you've got to find foods that they will eat because there are all of these protein issues when the body can't absorb nutrition. It becomes a real problem, obviously.
HOLMES: And like you said, people look at you like you have three heads sometimes.
COLLINS: Oh, yes.
HOLMES: But when you say gluten-free meal, it doesn't sound that delicious at first. But still, it's just...
COLLINS: Oh, no. You should have seen the stuff they made. Gorgeous.
HOLMES: ... it's good stuff. It's good stuff.
COLLINS: Also want to let everyone know about this, the Web site for the National foundation for Celiac Awareness. Here you can get more information -- www.celiaccentral.org.
So check that out, everybody.
Also, to get your "Daily Dose" of health news online, just log on to our Web site. You'll find the latest medical news, a health library, and information on diet and fitness. That address, cnn.com/health.
HOLMES: And we also want to update you about a story we've been keeping an eye on out of Miami Beach, where there was a suspicious package found at the Cuban Hebrew Congressional Temple there in Miami Beach.
You're seeing video that we got in here from the bomb squad that had to be called in. This whole thing was called in because of a cardboard box that you see right there outside of this temple.
It seemed to be suspicious. And what we're seeing the video of here is the bomb squad actually took x-rays and found that the box did contain some metal.
So they did have to check it out. But what we found now is that it appears that the box had some catering supplies in it.
There was actually a pretty big event there at the temple over the weekend. And it was a catered event, so maybe this was left over and whatnot.
Don't know if the all-clear has been given, but we're told now that the box did contain some catering supplies, so maybe not a threat. But still, it needed to be checked out. We're keeping an eye on that story.
Also keeping an eye on this North Korea -- U.S. diplomats just hours away now from meeting one on one, face to face. What's at stake? We'll talk about that here in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Army generals in the hot seat this hour. Members of Congress want to know what went wrong at the nation's premier Army hospital. A House committee holding a hearing right now at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Live pictures there. At issue -- reports of substandard conditions at the facility, rundown rooms, mold and even rats. These are the outpatient facilities, to be clear. Lawmakers heard first from wounded soldiers today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPEC. JEREMY DUNCAN, U.S. ARMY: The conditions in the room, in my mind, were just -- it was unforgivable for anybody to live -- it wasn't fit for anybody to live in the room like that. I know most soldiers have -- they're just coming out of recovery. You have weaker immune systems. The black mold can do damage to people and holes in the walls -- I wouldn't live there even if I had to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: That specialist talking about Building 18. The top commander over Walter Reed was fired last week over the controversy, Major General George Weightman. And on Friday, Army Secretary Francis Harvey also resigned.
HOLMES: U.S. and North Korean diplomats meeting today in New York. Their goal is normalizing relations after North Korea agreed last month to begin shutting down its nuclear program.
For the latest now on the State Department -- or from the State Department, we go to correspondent Zain Verjee. She's in Washington now live to tell us about those talks.
Hello to you, Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Hey, T.J..
Well, the State Department says, don't expect any breakthroughs. These talks are just the beginning, they say, an initial session to set up the rules of the process. These talks, though, still very significant. They're one-on-ones. They'll be the highest level talks on U.S. soil since 2000. The U.S.'s top negotiator Christopher Hill will meet with North Korea's vice prime minister, Kim Kye Gwan, a little later today, as you said.
North Korea basically wants normal relations with the U.S. They see that as essentially vital to guarantee their security and their own survival. They also want some sanctions lifted.
For its part, the U.S. wants North Korea to end its nuclear program. Now the whole deal is a step-by-step sort of process, action for action -- you do something, I do something. That's the approach. And both sides want guarantees that the other is going to deliver on its promises.
Just a little bit about the deal, T.J. It was made back in February on the 13th, when North Korea agreed to close down its main nuclear reactor, Yongbyon, in 60 days, and would allow inspectors to come back in to monitor and verify things.
And in return, North Korea gets something like $300 million in aid, as well as the prospects of other benefits, and normalizing relations with the U.S., which is what this meeting is about.
HOLMES: And you know, Zain, that sounds great, normalizing relations. Wouldn't that be great if everybody could get along? But I mean, still, what are possibly some of the pitfalls? And how could this just -- forgive me -- but blow up in the U.S.'s face here?
VERJEE: Well, experts that we've talked to said that you've got to be really cautious when you're dealing with North Korea because a lot of things can go wrong. First thing, there's very little trust on either side. Many think that North Korea may just be happy to string all this out really for a while but not give up much, and just wait until there's a new president. There's also not much trust on the U.S. side either.
The other issue, T.J., that's not actually part of these talks, that's the financial sanctions issued. They were imposed by the U.S. Washington basically accuses North Korea of counterfeiting and money laundering, and $24 million in North Korean accounts were frozen at a bank in Macaw, and the North Koreans have been absolutely furious about this. What they've said is that that's an indication that U.S. policy toward them is hostile. And what they've done then is they've made lifting these sanctions a really key demand, and they want to see what the U.S. can deliver on it.
And one other thing, T.J., there are questions, too, about a North Korean uranium-enrichment program, and the U.S. wants answers to that, too. So far, they haven't gotten them.
HOLMES: All right, answers, everybody's looking for them, and you're finding a lot of answers for us. Zain Verjee for us in Washington. Thank you so much.
COLLINS: Another suicide car bombing shatters lives in central Baghdad. More than two dozen deaths reported in today's blast at a book market. The area includes a mix of Sunni and Shiite-owned shops. It was the largest bombing in the capital in three days.
Also in Baghdad, a series of deadly attacks on Shiite pilgrims. Right now they are easy targets for insurgents. Thousands of Shiite pilgrims have set out on foot for the holy city of Karbala for a major religious observance.
HOLMES: Seven-thousand Iraqis are being allowed in this country this year, but even that, say some Iraqi-Americans, not enough.
CNN's Sumi Das has the story.
SUMI DAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Last August, Mahmood Suleiman, an Iraqi-born American citizen, made a bittersweet journey to Jordan. In the wake of the Iraq war, his family members back in Iraq scattered, many of them fled to Amman. Suleiman says that as refugees, they are unable to attend public schools, work, or access medical care. And to survive, they've resorted to selling their cars and jewelry.
MAHMOOD SULEIMAN, IRAQI-AMERICAN: I kept thinking about the children more than anyone else, personally, because these are the ones that we should try to line up the future for them, and they have no hope. They have nothing. DAS: Hoping to bring his wife's sister to America, Suleiman went to the American Embassy in Amman. He left with this letter...
SULEIMAN: It reads clearly that it's darn near impossible to issue a non-immigrant visa to Iraqis. They have to prove that they have no intention of remaining in the country.
ROBERT CAREY, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: I recently returned from Jordan. And it's estimated that one million to 1.2 million refugees have fled from Iraq to Jordan. And a similar number to Syria. And then large populations as well in Egypt and Lebanon and Turkey, as well. So the numbers are upwards of two million.
DAS: Robert Carey works for the International Rescue Committee which assists refugees. He applauds the new U.S. plan to admit 7,000 Iraqi refugees in the next year but says it's not enough. Suleiman agrees.
SULEIMAN: I think it's a shameful thing to think about 7,000 when the invasion of Iraq was the cause of the problem, the cause of creating this massive refugee problem.
DAS: Not everyone is putting out the welcome mat. An article in "The Arizona Republic" reporting that an influx of Iraqis was likely in Arizona drew decidedly, "Not in my back yard" responses online. One reader wrote, "I don't want them here. They will always hate America no matter what."
Another, "What horrors have these people seen and experienced? Do you want them to be walking time bombs that might explode on you, your wife or your child?"
Carey says refugees entering the U.S. are thoroughly screened.
CAREY: They go through numerous security checks, background checks, detailed family histories are compiled. So I think there are certainly mechanisms in place.
DAS: With so many Iraqi refugees suffering, Suleiman says, from a humanitarian perspective, everyone has an obligation to do all they can.
Sumi Das, CNN, Menlo Park, California.
COLLINS: A child's death from a simple toothache.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE; We must learn from this appalling failure of our broken health care system and we must fix it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: A lawmakers vow, a mother's anguish -- the story coming up in the NEWSROOM.
HOLMES: A tornado barrelling down on a small Georgia town, a father concerned about his daughter. The daughter was at ground zero for that storm.
CNN's Allan Chernoff pick up the story from there.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICUS, GEORGIA: It could have been the worst day of Tony Morris' life.
His daughter, Jaime, was working Thursday night, selling apparel at Cato Fashions, a store that is now mostly rubble. Tony had planned to pick Jaime up at closing time to bring her home.
As the storm rapidly approached, 18-year-old Jaime called her dad and told him it was too dangerous to drive. She would take cover at the shop.
TONY MORRIS, FATHER OF TORNADO SURVIVOR: She called me and said not to come. She said, just wait.
CHERNOFF: The tornado passed quickly, doing no damage to the Morris home.
TONY MORRIS: About 10 minutes or so later, she still hadn't called, so I thought I'd try to call her. And tried to call her. No answer.
CHERNOFF: So, Tony drove to the strip mall and found this.
TONY MORRIS: When I saw the devastation, I was just crushed. I knew she was dead. I just - everything was destroyed, and there was no way that anybody could live through that.
CHERNOFF: Police and firemen were already on the scene searching for the nearby supermarket.
JAIME MORRIS, TORNADO SURVIVOR: We were over here.
CHERNOFF: Jaime and her manager took cover here in the bathroom in the back of the store - a decision that saved their lives.
JAIME MORRIS: We were right here kneeling down on the floor, and we were praying. We had our heads covered.
As soon as we got in here, I just said, "We've got to pray."
And so, we started praying. And Vicki (ph) joined in with me, and we were praying - praying, I guess, loud enough that we couldn't hear what was happening with the storm, because we never heard it, just never heard it.
CHERNOFF: You didn't hear the wind?
JAIME MORRIS: No. Never heard it.
CHERNOFF: On the other side of the wall, the tornado had trashed Cato Fashions into a mangled pile of roofing, insulation, pipes and ruined clothing.
Jaime and her manager remained in the back, too fearful to leave.
JAIME MORRIS: Then we could hear people start talking to us and starting yelling, "Are you OK?"
And we had been yelling for a long time, "We're in here! We're all right!"
CHERNOFF: A search team went to the back and found the spot where Jaime was waiting was virtually untouched. Tony, a minister, believes now more than ever before in miracles.
TONY MORRIS: I didn't know that she was really safe until they actually came walking around the building. And I saw her over there with them then.
CHERNOFF: Biggest relief of your life.
TONY MORRIS: Oh, it was awesome. It was awesome.
We got a big hug, and just really, really proud to see them good - without a scratch. That was the biggest miracle. They didn't even have a scratch on their heads.
CHERNOFF: The Morris family, grateful and amazed to be reunited.
So, you look at your store here. I mean, what do you think?
JAIME MORRIS: I think I need a job!
It's amazing. It's really amazing. I can't believe that we survived this.
CHERNOFF: Allan Chernoff, CNN, Americus, Georgia.
COLLINS: About 15 minutes from now, "YOUR WORLD TODAY" will be coming up, and this lovely lady, Hala Gorani, will be anchoring that show. Hi, Hala.
HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Heidi and T.J.
Yes, indeed, at the top of the hour, hope you can join us. We'll have the latest from Iraq. We'll take you on a patrol in Sadr City.
Our Jennifer Eccleston just got back from a short imbed with U.S. forces. We've bring you the latest on that. Also, we're going to be talking about yet another inquest into the death of Princess Diana in the U.K. Ten years on, why are authorities still looking into this? And what will this latest investigation reveal?
Also -- we'll take you to China. It may be a communist country, but you wouldn't know it by watching the bling dynasty as they've been called they're in China, a new generation of super-wealthy, super- blingy entrepreneurs.
Also speaking of China, we'll introduce you to the Chinese Oprah. A new talk show queen with a potential audience that would have any U.S. network star dreaming.
More than a billion people live in China. Can you imagine the ratings for a successful show in China?
COLLINS: Wow. And you know what, the set looks almost exactly the same as Oprah's.
GORANI: Yes, the set does, indeed. Well, we'll have her profile. It's really very interesting.
COLLINS: Oh, yes.
GORANI: Yes. And that talk show format, which really was devised in the U.S., clearly very successful at the other end of the world.
COLLINS: And culturally very different for this country.
All right, Hala, we'll be watching. Thanks so much.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange. We saw it play out last week -- Asia sells off, Wall Street opens lower. But then the script changes. I'll have the midday Wall Street report next.
You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.
COLLINS: A medical dilemma for America's poor. A young Maryland boy dies after suffering a simple toothache.
CNN's Gary Nurenberg has the story.
GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On February 24th, Alyce Driver got a call from her hospitalized 12-year-old son, Deamonte.
ALYCE DRIVER, MOTHER: His last words to me was, "Mom, make sure you pray before you go to bed."
NURENBERG: Deamonte died hours later. His mother says a victim of a system that makes it difficult for the indigent to get dental care. Infection in an untreated tooth had spread to his brain.
MICHAEL CANNON, CATO INST.: The bureaucracy involved in treating Medicaid patients is so extreme that a lot of doctors just decide not to treat any Medicaid patients at all.
NURENBERG: All you've got to say is what kind of insurance you've got. Nope, we don't take that. Simple as that.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: We must learn from this appalling failure of our broken health care system, and we must fix it.
NURENBERG: Within days of Deamonte's death, Congress was considering legislation providing $40 million in dental services to the poor. The state legislature in Annapolis is also considering additional funding to make dental care more accessible to indigent children.
DR. RAY RAWSON, DENTIST: It's an epidemic disease, and it is preventable. And we know how to prevent it if we can just get those kids in the office.
NURENBERG: Ray Rawson says states that have trimmed Medicaid red tape see more dentists accepting the insurance and more patients using it.
LAURIE NORRIS, PUBIC JUSTICE CENTER: This was not necessary and it can be fixed.
NURENBERG: Lawyer Laurie Norris of Maryland's Public Justice Center hopes Deamonte's death leads to more dental hygiene programs in schools, more pediatricians doing dental screening and more efficient government programs to provide dental care to the poor.
Deamonte's mother says simply...
DRIVER: No one else should have to go through this.
NURENBERG: Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Catonsville, Maryland.
HOLMES: Concerns about the care of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. Questions from Congress. That's ahead.
COLLINS: Hi. How are you?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. How are you? COLLINS: We are going to continue the discussions of course on your program as well.
LEMON: Absolutely. Here's what's coming up on our program: Nukes in North Korea as the United States begins talks today. A documentary makers gives a rare look inside the most secretive nation on Earth.
Lisa Ling of the National Geographic Channel shows us the cult- like worship North Koreans show for their leader.
And strong emotions and serious accusations about conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital. You'll hear the stories from their families at 1:00 p.m. right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: All right, Don Lemon, thanks so much. We will be watching, of course.
CNN NEWSROOM does continue just one hour from now.
HOLMES: "YOUR WORLD TODAY" is coming up next, news happening across the globe and here at home.
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