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AMERICAN MORNING

A Wall of Winter Weather Jams Air Traffic across the Country; Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a War of Words; Hormone Replacement Therapy Could Make Breast Cancer Detection More Difficult

Aired February 26, 2008 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Waiting list. A wall of winter weather jams air traffic across the country.

Poll position. One week away from Texas and Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to go in to that convention divided.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Live from the state that could decide it all. The most politics in the morning, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And welcome. Glad you're with us. It is 8:00 here on the East Coast. If you're flying out on any of the airports today, especially in Atlanta, in Chicago, New York.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And unfortunately, if you are flying out of those airports, you're not flying.

CHETRY: No. You're waiting or you're canceled.

ROBERTS: Bring a lot of patience with you if you go to the airport because extreme weather moving across the country right now. Snow, freezing temperatures, high winds from the Midwest to the Northeast. Hundreds of flights canceled at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

Now down South, the tornado was on the ground a few minutes ago in Montgomery County, Alabama. And there's bad weather moving in to the Atlanta area. They had a ground stop at Hartsfield Airport just a little while ago. And extreme flight delays wracking up down there.

Our Jacqui Jeras is tracking the extreme weather down there in Atlanta. Rob Marciano on the storm front in Chicago. And let's start with Rob.

And it looks like the snow is picked up a little bit more, Rob, than it was about half an hour ago.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It doesn't seem like they want to go away and the place have gotten smaller. So, the temperature has gotten certainly a little bit colder. Here's the Chicago River frozen over for the most part. You know, less than a month, they're going to dye that poppy green as St. Patrick's Day arrives.

This has been pretty wet snow here in Chicago. Very, very packable. Kind of slushy on the streets. So, hasn't been that much of an issue. But here along Michigan Avenue, Fifth Avenue, if you will, of Chicago, traffic is moving along pretty good. You got anywhere from 4 to 6 inches of snow during the overnight period. The winter storm warning has been shifted off to the east. So that's where the brunt of the bad weather is going to be.

Traffic, as you can see, moving pretty decent amount. They've seen almost twice as much snow as they'd normally see for Chicago this winter season. So they're definitely storm-weary. O'Hare, as you can imagine, is just going to not be good today. Neither is Atlanta with rough weather moving through there. So, travel at two big airports, two big hubs, are going to be affected as is New York.

I'm sure Jacqui Jeras will be talking more about that. She's got her hands full back at the CNN's severe weather center in Atlanta.

John and Kiran, back up to you.

ROBERTS: All right, Rob, thanks very much. Things moving there on Michigan Avenue good, but not so much a little northwest out there at O'Hare.

CHETRY: That's right. Well, Rob's out in it. And Jacqui Jeras is tracking it for us. She's at the weather update desk this morning. Looking at the flight delays and looking at where this extreme weather is headed next.

Hey, Jacqui.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: News this morning in the race for president, which is one week to go until the primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island. CNN has just confirmed that former Democratic candidate Senator Chris Dodd is going to endorse Barack Obama for the nomination today in Ohio. Dodd is also a super delegate.

We're also watching new polls out this morning. The latest CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll has Barack Obama taking the lead from Hillary Clinton in the state of Texas. Obama gaining two points since last week. Clinton losing four points. Just outside the margin of error there with that.

And according to our poll of polls, an average of three separate polls, Clinton is leading Obama 49 percent to 39 percent in Ohio.

On the Republican side, some blunt talk this morning from the "Straight Talk Express." Senator John McCain says his chances of winning the White House this November will depend on the success of U.S. policy in Iraq. McCain tried to clarify remarks that he made last month when he suggested that U.S. troops might be in Iraq for 100 years. A remark that Democrats have pounced on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the way, that reminds me of this 100-year thing. I was asked at a town hall meeting back in Fort (ph), how long would we have a presence in Iraq? My friends, the war will be over soon. The war, for all intents and purposes, although the insurgency will go on for years and years and years. But it will be handled by the Iraqis, not by us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: CNN's Dana Bash is following the McCain campaign and she joins us this morning from Cleveland.

So his talk of 100 years and also this idea of, if I can't convince people that the Iraq war is winnable, I lose. How significant of a challenge is this going to be for him to overcome?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a big challenge. It's really interesting because on the one hand, John McCain and his campaign, thinks that his stance and his position on national security, even the war, is his biggest asset running against the Democrats.

But on the other hand, as you just heard in this town hall yesterday, John McCain was asked just a general question about Iraq from a voter about progress there. And he took the time to explain and clarify a remark that Democrats have been using over and over again, that we could be in Iraq for 100 years. He made the point, as you just heard, that he means that it just like South Korea or other countries around the world where the U.S. has a presence.

That just a couple of hours before on his bus, John, he said to reporters that if he can't convince the Americans, U.S. voters, that things are doing better in Iraq, he says he will lose. He immediately took that back, but the reality is -- I talked to him just a few hours after that, the reality is, he understands how tied he is to the ground in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I think that clearly my fortunes have a lot to do with what's happening in Iraq and I'm proud of that because Senator Clinton and Senator Obama said that we could not succeed militarily. We have. They said we could not succeed politically. We have. I think the American people will recognize that and we will continue to succeed in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, anytime you talk to John McCain about why he thinks he came back from the political dead over the summer, he will say that because he is so tied to the military strategy in Iraq, the surge, that when things started going better there, he started doing better in the polls and, obviously, winning election contests.

But you know, John, he understands his campaign. They understand that winning among Republican primary voters as somebody who is pro- war is quite different and making that case to the general electorate. And that's why you're starting to see a John McCain trying to shift and trying to figure out how to do that but also trying to combat against the Democrats.

He also said a couple of times yesterday and I'm sure we're going to hear it again today in Ohio when he campaigns here, that reminding people that Democrats did not think the surge was going to work and now he's saying that he thinks that they have some explaining to do.

ROBERTS: Yes and anecdotally with a little up tick in the violence there in Iraq, may find that case even more difficult to make in the coming days and weeks.

Dana Bash for us this morning in Cleveland. Dana, thanks -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, it's a place where radios and televisions must be registered with the government. But today, people in North Korea had a live show from the New York Philharmonic. Our national anthem played in Pyongyang. The orchestra performing just a few hours ago in North Korea's capital, playing both the U.S. and the North Korean national anthems.

It is the largest cultural group to ever perform in the country from the United States. And our Alina Cho is in inside North Korea on a very personal mission as well. More of her story coming up in our next half hour.

Meanwhile, Veronica De La Cruz is here with some other stories, new this morning for us.

Hi, Veronica.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning to you and good morning to you, John. Good morning to all of you out there.

The Senate is expected to vote today on a proposal to cut war funding and order troops home within 120 days. That vote is expected to be rejected again. Democratic lawmakers promised to keep pushing it.

In the meantime, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the troop build- up in Iraq is permanent. She made the comment after a recent Pentagon projection showed about 8,000 more troops than expected will stay in Iraq this summer. Top commanders say that number could fall if security improves.

Well, the Marine Corps is asking the Pentagon to investigate allegations that blast-resistant trucks aren't being sent to the frontlines in Iraq quick enough. One critic accusing the Marines of mismanagement, saying the delay has led to hundreds of combat deaths. According to an internal report, cost was a driving factor in the decision to turn down an urgent request from battlefield commanders for MRAPs three years ago.

And new numbers out this morning show the nation's home foreclosure crisis is getting worse. The number of homes in foreclosure jumped 57 percent in January. That's according to lender network RealtyTrac. 233,000 homes got at least one notice last month about overdue payments.

Our Gerri Willis has the solutions being considered in Congress. That's coming up.

The Noah's Ark for seeds, a frozen garden of Eden. The Doomsday Vault. Whatever you want to call it. Scientists say it could save the planet and we're getting a first-hand look at it today. The huge vault is buried under earth and ice in one of the northernmost spots in the world in Norway and soon to be locked up inside, millions and millions of seeds. The vault will serve as a backup to the food supply in case of a global disaster.

And the Oscars failed to be ratings gold. Preliminary numbers show Sunday night's broadcast averaged just 32 million viewers. That is the lowest ever. And it nearly 21 percent dive from last year's ceremony hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.

Experts say much of the blame may rest with this year's contenders, which consisted of films with mostly dark themes and limited appeal.

I'm going to send it back to John and Kiran.

And John, you're saying that you couldn't even see "No Country for Old Men," right? You're trying to find it in the theater and you couldn't even find it.

ROBERTS: There were no theaters in Northern Virginia that were showing it.

DE LA CRUZ: But Kiran is going to do a reenactment, so you're in luck.

CHETRY: That was my (INAUDIBLE) 6:00, I'm getting tired. I don't know. It was all gusto at 6:00. I'm not sure if I'm going to reenact the whole thing long.

ROBERTS: Can you do "There Will Be Blood"?

CHETRY: A bit longer, yes.

DE LA CRUZ: I was going to see "Juno," but I'll take that one back.

CHETRY: (INAUDIBLE), I can be part to that one.

Veronica, thanks.

There is a new concern this morning for women about hormone replacement therapy. A new study showing that hormone replacement therapy may actually make it more difficult for doctors to detect breast cancer. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at our medical update desk in Atlanta with more on why this is.

Hi, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning.

You know, when hormone replacement therapy came out, Kiran, it made perfect sense. A woman's hormone levels go down as they get older. So simply replace them. But now, as most people know, I think, that it met with some problems. In fact, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of breast cancer, increased risk of stroke. Now you might add another thing to the list as well. It increases your chances of having an abnormal mammogram.

This was a study that came out of the Archives of Internal Medicine, looking specifically at what happens if you're taking this hormone replacement therapy for more than five years. One in 10 women had an abnormal mammogram. That was an increase of about 50 percent. But I think more importantly, about one in 25 subsequently had an unnecessary biopsy. That was a biopsy that came back with a normal result. And maybe the woman didn't necessarily need that biopsy.

What seems to be happening here, Kiran, if you take these hormones, it interferes with breast tissue. Sometimes it makes the breast tissue more dense and makes it harder to determine whether or not, in fact, there's an abnormality that leads to the abnormal mammogram, leads to the biopsy, and leads to lots of concern and anxiety on the part of the woman. So this is another black mark, if you will, against hormone replacement therapy -- Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. We hear about increased risk for heart disease as well as things like stroke, blood clots, and many other problems. And yet, there also are plus sides to this including the prevention of osteoporosis among other things. How does a woman weigh whether or not hormone replacement therapy is right for her?

GUPTA: Well, you know, this has been one of the most interesting stories to cover, I think as a journalist. Because there are some of the positives, as you mention. One of them being osteoporosis. But I think, also just warding off what can be some of the awful symptoms of menopause. The hot flashes, the night sweats. Those are terrible things that women have to endure and hormone replacement therapy can help stave off some of those things.

I think a lot of doctors say, look, there is a risk to it. We know that there's a risk to it but there's also this potential benefit. Each woman has to sort of determine how bad are these symptoms. And if they're awful enough to take the smallest doses for the shortest amount of time to try to ward off some of those symptoms. I should also point out, Kiran, as we've been reporting on this for five years now since that original study came out in 2002, there are other alternatives as well that may work for some women. Non- traditional sort of medicinal things in the realm of herbal or alternative therapies which a lot of women have told me as I talked to them about it, work for them. So you may want to talk to your doctor about those options as well.

CHETRY: When you're on hormone replacement therapy, it also gauge whether or not, your body has been at more risk for some of these things and maybe stop it if that's the case?

GUPTA: Yes. You know, I think that's right. When you are on it and also, maybe even before you are on it, in the sense that if you have a strong family history of breast cancer or of heart disease, you are probably going to be at increased risk. Blood clots, as you mention, a good one to mention as well. If you are smoking, for example, you don't want to take these things. And again, we're talking about the combination hormone replacement therapy. Not estrogen alone, which is sometimes given after women have surgery, for example.

CHETRY: Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: Thanks, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Forty-two minutes after the hour.

Let's broaden out from where Sanjay is there in Atlanta. Show you some live pictures outside. The weather is terrible in the Atlanta area right now. A lot of rain going through. Thunderstorms and all that. And another ground stop at the airport in Atlanta. Here's a look at the radar. Actually, as we see rain and -- moving through the Carolinas and up into Virginia and Washington and you can see it there along the great lakes. Some snow skirting along the southern part of Lake Erie.

And there's what's going on in Atlanta right now. You can see those warning boxes for severe thunderstorms. We also had reports of a tornado on the ground in neighboring Alabama. It's going to go on for a little while longer.

If you are stuck there at the airport -- Hartsfield, one of the busiest airports in the country, it's going to take a while before this clears out. So grab yourself a cup of coffee or something else and get yourself a whole whack of patience because it will take a little while for things to get back to normal there. And again, because of the snow in Chicago, things are in a little bit of trouble there at O'Hare Airport. Lots of people will be delayed getting from here to there today.

NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a war of words over it. Up next, why NAFTA is the biggest campaign issue in the all-important Ohio primary.

And the home foreclosure rate is skyrocketing. The controversial plan in the Senate could help homeowners in trouble. Our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis will be along with details ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most politics in the morning. Just one week away now to those big primaries in Texas and Ohio. Both Democratic candidates are campaigning in Ohio today with the economy and jobs, the top issues for voters there.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins me now live from Cleveland.

Candy, NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, all the talk on the trail there. Let's listen to what the candidates had to say about that yesterday and we'll chat about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a record of criticizing NAFTA.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We thought it was a bad idea, because it didn't provide enough protections for labor and environment.

CLINTON: I will revise and reform NAFTA and every single trade agreement that we have in America.

OBAMA: One million jobs have been lost because of NAFTA, including 50,000 jobs here in Ohio.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Lots of talk about it there in Ohio. Candy, how is it playing there and is it expected to dominate tonight's debate?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I certainly think it will be a major factor in tonight's debate because, A, it is a main topic of conversation here in Ohio and it certainly has been on the campaign trail. There's been a lot of back and forth as you know.

Fliers from Barack Obama going into mailboxes across Ohio accusing her of being supportive of NAFTA, noting that her husband sort of was presiding, obviously in the White House when NAFTA was passed. So it's a huge issue here simply because, as you saw, Barack Obama talking about and Hillary Clinton talking about. They believe they have lost a lot of jobs because of NAFTA.

ROBERTS: You know, the lead story in "The New York Times" today was a poll that showed that Barack Obama has dramatically broadened his appeal over Hillary Clinton. The majority of Democrats in this poll want to see him as the nominee. He's seen as more electable. Hillary Clinton, though, was still viewed as more prepared.

Is that what she needs to key on over the next week if she hopes to win in Texas and Ohio?

CROWLEY: It certainly what she has been keying on. They really think in the Clinton campaign a couple of things. They do believe that when all is said and done, voters, particularly those 12 to 13 percent we see that are undecided here in Ohio, others in Texas obviously. They believe that in the end, those voters will look and say what we need is a steady hand at the helm and she's the most experienced.

The problem is that that really has been a part of her repertoire ever since Iowa. And, obviously, there have been a lot of times when it didn't work. They also believe that the economy, the economy, the economy. So she's sort of dually focused at this point saying the economy is bad. Here are all the things that are wrong: foreclosures, job protection, pensions, all of that. And, by the way, I'm the one with the experience to have some plans to help ease these problems.

ROBERTS: In "Newsweek" magazine, Jonathan Alter has an article in which he says the only hope for Hillary is that Obama trips up so badly that he disqualifies himself in the next week. Is she going to try for a forced error tonight in this debate?

CROWLEY: I think they have been trying for a forced error. And I think they tried that in the debate last week. They were hoping for that. Obviously, we have seen lots of campaigns turn on a dime when one of the candidates made a major mistake.

The problem has been at least as far as Obama is concerned, that there has not been that kind of major mistake. It is not seen that way by his supporters. So, obviously, she's going to have to be somewhat aggressive tonight. But we have that same problem that you and I have discussed, John, over time. That too aggressive tends to work against her.

And yet, as the one that really needs to perform well in Ohio and Texas and the other states, she needs to do something to kind of chip away at that support, which has been growing over this past sort of 11-0 record that he's accumulated.

ROBERTS: Only one week to go until contests that many people believe could be for all the marbles here on the Democratic side of things. Candy Crowley for us this morning in Cleveland. Candy, thanks -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Possibly thinking about switching religions? We're going to tell you about a large number of Americans who change the religion that they grew up in and why.

Also, saving homeowners from foreclosures. Gerri Willis has details of a plan that could end up helping you reduce your mortgage debt. It's your "Financial Security Watch," ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: There's a report out this morning showing that the number of home foreclosure filings last month jumped yet again. 57 percent in fact from just one year ago. Today, the Senate will be debating the best solution. CNN's personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, is in Atlanta with your "Financial Security Watch."

Gerri, a round of applause, though, first of all. A big day for Gerri, because it's the launch of your new book "Home Rich," out in stores today. Congratulations.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Thank you for that, Kiran. Yes, I'm very excited about it. We're doing a lot with the book. You know, the book is really a guide to thinking of your home as an investment. How to manage it as an investment and make sure you get the best value out of it possible.

CHETRY: That's a very hard thing for people that are dealing with these foreclosures. As we said, it jumped 57 percent from a year ago. What is the Senate trying to do today?

WILLIS: Well, there's going to be a lot of conversation today about a bill that's -- was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Now, this bill would include 200 million for pre-foreclosure counseling. It would allow local housing agencies to refinance shaking loans. They would essentially issue tax-exempt bonds that investors would then buy and it would help stabilize the market.

But the most controversial measure in this whole thing is a bankruptcy provision that would allow bankruptcy judges to reduce mortgage debt. Essentially do what they call cramming down some of these mortgage loans and allowing homeowners to have some of their loans forgiven. It is, of course, very controversial.

CHETRY: Mortgage bankers are against this and they're saying that it could mean a jump in interest rates if this went through.

WILLIS: Yes. They are saying a jump as much as 1.5 percent for all mortgage borrowers. Now, there are a lot of people out there who say, wait, wait, don't throw the baby out with the bath water. That's way too much. That doesn't make a lot of sense.

But in reality, they say it could change the dynamics of the mortgage market because they wouldn't be in control of their loan products in the marketplace.

CHETRY: You know, that's the interesting thing because this also happened before part of another bill. And this bill is largely popular except for that provision. So is there any rethinking of maybe getting something passed that would help out in avoiding this little controversial part of it?

WILLIS: Well, let's be clear. It's popular with some people. Some people who are in this situation would love to see this bill go through, right? I think they see it as a positive. But there is a big conversation about how to come to terms with this. Maybe they can find some kind of common ground here. We'll be watching this today and reporting to you on it. It's a very interesting topic. CHETRY: Yes. It really is, Jerry. So thanks for looking out for us regarding this. And congratulations once again on your new book, " Home Rich: Increasing the Value of the Biggest Investment of Your Life," which for many people, most of us is our home.

Also, stick around for Gerri's "Financial Security Watch Special." It's today and everyday this week, noon Easter. Gerri is going to be taking your calls, also answering e-mails, and a whole lot more. That's at noon Eastern here on CNN.

ROBERTS: Almost half of people in Americans say they have changed religions. Would you? Coming up next, we're going to find out where they're going and why?

And want to know if you'll get sick in the future? Try genetic testing. Can you trust them? We're paging our Dr. Gupta, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Wow. A shot this morning from Washington, D.C. and that's got to be steam rising up there this morning?

ROBERTS: Either that or the whole place is on fire.

CHETRY: Yes, either that or do not pan down. Let's just keep the wishful thinking alive this morning at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. Now, we're kidding. Yes, a shot -- it's always like that in the morning. Some of that warm mist burns off a little bit. 43 degrees right now. The nation's capital may be one of the bright spots if you're flying today. Because there's trouble in Atlanta and there is trouble in Chicago and there is trouble in New York City.

ROBERTS: I don't know if there are any bright spots from the Mississippi on eastward. It's just terrible on out there today. Severe weather in the Midwest and across parts of the south, moving into the northeast as well. 4 to 6 inches of snow on the ground in the Chicago area.

The storm system causing lots of delays for travelers at O'Hare and other airports. A ground stop was issued earlier this hour at Cleveland's airport. A second ground stop has just been reported at Atlanta's airport. There's rain and thunderstorms this morning. We've also had reports of a tornado touching down in Alabama.

Rob Marciano is watching a lot of this extreme weather on the ground in Chicago along Michigan Avenue for us. What's it like there, Rob?

MARCIANO: Still snowing, John. We've been looking for this to lighten up a little bit and it really hasn't done that. The place is kind of a little small. It's gotten a little bit colder. Along the streets here on Michigan Avenue, traffic is moving just fine because it's -- the asphalt obviously a little bit warmer here in the city.

But across northern Illinois and Indiana, we've seen anywhere from four to seven inches of snow. That's certainly been enough to cancel some flights out of O'Hare last night in preparation for this storm. And already, flights are on average over an hour delayed. But you mentioned, we've got problems at Atlanta as well.

Here in Chicago, we've seen almost twice as much snow as they normally would see. So, these folks are definitely, definitely storm weary. The winter storm warning has shifted off to the east. Quick check on the radar there. You can see where the storm is heading. It's going to roll up the Ohio River Valley. One other reason that Cleveland is having problems there. I suspect New York Airports will be having problems later on tonight and tomorrow. Although mostly would just be rain and wind for them.

And as you mentioned, the southeast just getting hammered with heavy, heavy rain right now. Ground stops being reported at the Atlanta airport. And the radar showing that pretty good chunk of moisture there now. And it may be awhile before they get traffic rolling in and out of that airport later on this morning.

So just another day here of doing some travel here across the U.S. in wintertime. A lot of folks in this part of the country certainly can't wait for spring -- John.

ROBERTS: Absolutely, Rob. Can't come soon enough. And as you were mentioning earlier now, just about a month until they have to dye the weather green. If they don't get some better weather, they'll have to paint it.

To the campaign trail now. No firm answer today about who sent around a photograph of Barack Obama wearing traditional African clothing during a trip to Kenya in 2006. The photo was posted online with claims that it was being circulated by Clinton staffers. The Clinton campaign says it didn't know about the photograph and didn't authorize its release. Obama has been fighting false rumors that he is a Muslim. Obama says he is a Christian and has never been a Muslim.

And he has watched the two leading Democratic candidates tear each other apart. But earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean weighed in on the race for his party's nomination and said he's not worried about the back and forth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: We've got 20 million people, John, voting, we've been in 40 states. We think this is -- I think this is a great primary campaign. I really do. We want to make sure that the voters pick the right person. I'm sure they will. I have no idea who that is going to be. But I am not worried about this yet at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Dean said he also said he thinks that the party will be united before the Democratic national convention. At least that's what he's hoping. That's going to be held in late August. And now, let's send it over to Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, we've been talking this morning and it's been our "Quick Vote" question about a fascinating study out showing how millions of Americans are changing their religions, possibly abandoning the religion they grew up with, switching to another faith and in some cases dropping religion altogether.

The Pew study found nearly half of all Americans have changed religions, shifting to another denomination or no longer identifying themselves with any religion. Protestantism once dominant in America now makes up about half of all Americans' religion. And the Catholic Church experiencing a big loss among native-born Americans but Catholic immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere growing in number.

So, here to help us take a look at the study, Bruce Feiler. He is the author of best selling books "Walking the Bible" and "Abraham." He is also the host of "Walking the Bible" on PBS.

Bruce, thanks for being with us this morning.

BRUCE FEILER, RELIGION SCHOLAR: Nice to be with you again, Kiran.

CHETRY: You had a chance to see this study. Pew did a study a few years back as well about religion. But this one looks specifically at the United States and the role of religion. What do you make of the fact that there is a significant number, nearly 50 percent, of people who have changed their religion they grew up with?

FEILER: I think basically there are three wows in the study. And I think wow number one is, as you said, that almost half of Americans have changed their religion. And what that means and what's important about it is that religion is no longer something that's kind of passed down through the genes so that the religion of our parents is no longer just the religion that children are adopting. It's no longer where we grew up or the family and the religion that we are familiar with.

And what that means is that institutions are having to adapt and in effect, become more market-oriented. The same way that political parties are appealing to consumers and broadcast networks and laundry detergent. Religion is entering that realm where it has to market itself. It's either adapt or die.

CHETRY: It is interesting because when you talk about switching religions, does it also include switching within the same denomination? Stay Protestant but maybe you just change ...

FEILER: Yes, it's about 28 percent of people who change faiths entirely. And if you count denominational switches within Protestantism, it goes to nearly half.

CHETRY: How large of a role does interfaith marriage play in decisions people make about their religion? FEILER: To me, I think that's the other big wow being missed in a lot of coverage. Almost one-third of Americans are married to someone of a different faith. And if you count within denominations of Protestantism, it's almost 40 percent.

So, four in 10 married Americans are married to someone of a different denomination. And if you consider that a quarter of Americans are no longer affiliated, that means basically, starting in teenage years, half of Americans are sitting down to dinner every night and having an interfaith dialogue.

And if you think of what are the big questions in the world today? The rise of India, the rise of China, dealing with different religions in the Middle East. Can we all get along. American -- the dinner table conversation every night in America has in effect become a laboratory of learning to kind of struggle with coexistence dialogue and getting along with people who are different.

CHETRY: Finding just more than tolerance but in some cases choosing to change faiths because of your partner.

FEILER: Accommodation. Just kind of learning to get along.

CHETRY: That is interesting. The other interesting thing. Pew did this study a while back as well as that religion is more important to Americans than most other people living in wealthy nations. When you take a look at breakdown, six in 10 Americans say that religion plays a very important role in their life. You don't find that in Europe or other places. Why is the U.S. different?

FEILER: I think that -- basically, it's not surprising that the Middle East and the United States are the two places where religion is most dominant and those two parts of the world are in conflict in relationship with one other. I think it has to do with the fact that there have not been state religions in America, state religions. The government is supporting religion. Your religion comes with your nationality.

American religion from the beginning because of the separation of the church and the state has forced American religion to compete, to market itself, to adapt to what the consumer, what the believers, what the people in the pews or pickup trucks really, really want. That's why religion is so powerful in America because it responds to the needs of the believers.

And as people change, the religions are forced to change. And I think it's harder for religion but ultimately it's more successful if the consumers of religion, I think, what's going is we just can't accept what our tradition gives us anymore or our parents. Right?

We talk back to our politicians. We talk back to our and journalists and guest what, we're now talking back to our religious leaders. People are rolling up their sleeves and kind of making their own faith. It's harder but ultimately it's fulfilling.

So, I think it's harder for both believers and religious institutions but ultimately, the marriage between the two is more successful which is why religion continues to be a much more potent force in the United States than much of the developing world.

CHETRY: Bruce Feiler, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

FEILER: My pleasure.

CHETRY: Right now, we want to look at the "Quick Vote" question. America's leap of faith. Here's what you are saying this morning. When we asked the question, have you made a change? 14 percent of you saying yes. Have you kept the faith that you grew up with? 26 percent of you saying yes to that. 60 percent of our viewers this morning saying that they have walked away from religion. Cast your vote to cnn.com/am. We'll continue to tally your votes throughout the morning -- John.

ROBERTS: After a historic concert in North Korea this morning, our Alina Cho shares her personal stories of the impact that the Korean War had on her family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): My 90-year-old grandmother says food was scarce. She starved so her children could eat. It is only the second time I have ever seen my Dad cry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: We'll have more of Alina's touching story coming up.

And genetic testing. Companies say it can predict what diseases you may inherit. But could insurance companies drop you based on the results? We're paging our Dr. Sanjay Gupta, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Forty-three minutes after the hour.

And this just in to CNN. A new read on the economy shows that inflation shot up one percent in January according to the Labor Department. That's twice what was expected and certain to catch the attention of the Federal Reserve. The producer price index showed prices rising at the wholesale level at the fastest pace in more than 16 years boosted by increases in food, energy and medicine.

Well, a landmark concert this morning. The New York Philharmonic played in North Korea. The hours and 45 minute concert was the first ever performance by a U.S. orchestra in North Korea.

The troop was also a special one for our Alina Cho whose family was torn apart during the Korean War more than 50 years ago. Alina filed this report from inside North Korea earlier this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) A. CHO: This concert by the New York Philharmonic has really been historic on so many different levels. The first time an American orchestra has been invited to play here. The largest American delegation to come to North Korea since the end of the Korean War. That conflict ended in 1953 with so many tens of thousands of Korean families torn apart, including my own.

Looking at my parents today, you would never know how much they've suffered. They are survivors of the Korean War.

JAI CHO, ALINA'S FATHER: All of this wasn't here at that time.

A. CHO: Much of their story I'm hearing and seeing for the first time. There are people I am meeting for the first time, too. Like this man, who my father says taught him how to farm during the war to help feed the family. My dad was just 13.

J. CHO: How are we going to survive and having enough food to eat. Having enough firewood to, you know, to warm the house.

A. CHO: After the North Korean Army invaded Seoul in 1950, my dad's family fled the city and walked here to the countryside. It took them four days. My 90-year-old grandmother says food was scarce. She starved so her children could eat. It is only the second time I have ever seen my dad cry. Today, it looks totally different.

KIM CHO, ALINA'S MOTHER: It was totally different.

A. CHO: My mom was only seven when the war broke out. She remembers hearing North Korean soldiers marching outside her home. Her family was afraid, especially for her older sister because those soldiers were kidnapping girls in their teens. But only the healthy ones. So my mom's sister deliberately starved herself.

K. CHO: She was thin and sick.

A. CHO: She and the rest of my mom's family survived, but the fate of two of my dad's uncles, to this day, is still unknown. They disappeared during the war. No one is quite sure if they were kidnapped or defected because they were never seen again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hopefully you can find them. Hopefully, a miracle happens.

A. CHO: Which brings me here to North Korea. Being here in Pyongyang has been an extraordinary experience for me personally. I know I have relatives here in North Korea somewhere. That's why every time I look at somebody, I can't help wondering, could I be related to them. I always can't help thinking, if things had been just a little bit different, I could be living here, too.

The North Korean government says there's just not enough time. This time to find the lost uncles. My government guide, Mr. Jang told me he has sadness for the separated Korean families.

It's sad, isn't it? JANG: I'll do my best.

A. CHO: He said if I come back, maybe I'll have better luck then. When I came here to North Korea, I never in my mind believed I'd actually get to meet my dad's two uncles. But in my heart I still held out hope. So in that sense it's been a particularly sad moment for me personally. But remember the story of my family is a classic Korean story. So many families torn apart, the two Koreas still technically at war.

Alina Cho, CNN, Pyongyang.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Amazing personal journey for Alina. We're tracking all of it on cnn.com/am as well. And we're going to get her thoughts tomorrow and throughout the week as well.

Well, CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away. And Heidi Collins is at the CNN center with a look at what's ahead.

Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Kiran.

Ohio showdown in the NEWSROOM today. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton face off tonight ahead of the state's crucial presidential primary. I talk Ohio politics with our guest today.

And winter storms strike from the Great Lakes to the northeast. Look for big slowdowns at major airports today.

And here's a news slash. Grocery prices are surging. The fastest clip since the early 1990s. Don't get eaten alive. Our guest with the supermarket survival strategy. We all could probably use that.

Breaking news when it happens as well. NEWSROOM at the top of the hour right here on CNN -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, Heidi.

ROBERTS: Patients wanting to know if they'll get sick in the future can get gene testing now. But how sure can you be about the results? We're paging our Dr. Sanjay Gupta, coming up right after the break

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Nine minutes to the top of the hour.

Just in to CNN, it's happening in a place, a name that we haven't heard for an awfully long time. Banja Luca in Bosnia Herzegovina. This is about 150 miles west of Belgrade in Serbia and 90 miles northwest of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia Herzegovina. And there are protests that are taking place in the streets today protesting Kosovo independence. And they are taking out their anger, at least trying to, on the United States.

These are protesters outside of the U.S. consulate there. You can see police hiding behind riot shields there as these protesters are throwing rocks and other projectiles. Police firing tear gas trying to keep them away from the U.S. consulate. So far, nothing has happened here in Banja Luca to the degree that that it did in Belgrade, in Serbia last week.

But the police there are obviously taking a very proactive role to try to keep these protesters -- 10,000 in the streets today but the small break away group going for the U.S. consulate there today. We'll keeping watching this story. We expect to see some video again. Banja Luca, Bosnia Herzegovina, which of course was the scene, all of that troubles in the Balkan Wars back in the early 1990s -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, DNA testing lets you find out if you're susceptible to certain diseases even before you show any signs or symptoms. But should patients be relying on these tests to make important decisions.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Atlanta right now. And the reason we're asking about this is there has been some focus put on the fact there are people who get these DNA tests. And then they're afraid that they'll be discriminated against. They don't want to release these conditions they find out about to their doctors or health insurers.

GUPTA: Yes, it's an interesting, fascinating subject. A sort of really meeting science and ethics and legal as well. There's a couple of questions I think you need to ask yourself before participating in one of these genetic tests.

One is do you really want to know? Also can you do anything about it? Kiran, we put together some of the best tips, I think, as you sort of think about genetic testing overall. Take a look at some of them.

First of all, things to keep in mind, a positive result doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get the disease. Important to keep in mind. It may tell you have a low likelihood, you have a high likelihood but it's not going to tell you for sure.

Also, genes are only part of the puzzle. We talked about this all the time on AMERICAN MORNING. While you may be predisposed to heart disease, for example, it doesn't mean you're going to get it. If you eat bad food, if you smoke, maybe so. Also, it doesn't tell you the severity of the disease. You may get cystic fibrosis. But may be a mild variant of it as opposed to a serious variant of it.

Again, there can be some good things about this. For example, there are breast cancer genes, Kiran. We've done pieces on this for AMERICAN MORNING. A woman who has breast cancer genes may get mammograms more diligently. They get them earlier in life and may be able to catch a tumor earlier. That's obviously the goal. But as you can see, there are some pros and some cons -- Kiran. CHETRY: And there is more than 40 states that say you can't use genetic information for health insurance but "The New York Times" article was quite interesting. People who found out about genetic diseases like lung diseases, they wanted that to be almost off the books if you will. They didn't want their insurance companies to know about it because they were fearful that they would drop them.

GUPTA: Exactly. And that is a concern. I mean, there are legal issues with that. There's also employer discrimination, which may be a possibility as well. Just how safe are these records of genetic testing. And do they become a part of your permanent accessible medical record if, for example, you share this with your doctor.

A couple of things. You know, first of all, every child born today in America gets some sort of genetic test. You may not know that but it's for something known as phenylketunuria. This is a metabolic disease that doctors want to test for it very early in life so that they may be able to treat and possibly stave off some of the worst aspects of that disease.

So you know that already occurs. We're also starting to see a lot of over-the-counter genetic tests. Kiran, these are fascinating. Actually almost spit in a little cup and you send it in.

And it gives you back a bunch of diseases you may or may not be at risk for. I'm actually going to do it myself and report back to you exactly how well this works and how effective it is. But these things are available now. This is something we used to talk about in the hypothetical. But it's out there today.

CHETRY: Wow. Very interesting. Somehow science gets ahead of us when we need to make these types of decisions in our everyday lives. Thanks a lot, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CHETRY: We want to bring in CNN AMERICAN MORNING legal analyst Sunny Hostin as well. We talk more about laws protecting people from their medical histories and possibly things like DNA and genetic information being used against them?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure but laws in place that protect people from discrimination, from genetic discrimination. Kiran, HIPAA was passed in 1996 so that's been around a long time. And that prohibits health insurers from excluding people due to past or present medical problems. And that includes genetic testing.

Also genetic information under HIPAA without a diagnosis does consider a pre-existing condition. So, I think that is fine. Also as you see on the screen, there are 40 states -- more than 40 states really that prohibit insurers from discriminating based on genetic information.

And so I think there is a lot of protection there and really isn't something for folks to worry about. And in fact, actually in the Senate, this hasn't passed yet but it passed the House last year, the Genetic Non-discrimination Information Act. And that really is going to prohibit insurers from using this genetic info to deny benefits or more importantly to raise premium. HIPAA doesn't do that right now.

CHETRY: And in fact, the story we were covering with the woman yesterday is that she said they looked for sort of -- after she had gotten cancer, that they had sort of looked for anything they could possibly find in her history to call that a pre-existing condition, to get rid of her. She won a $9 million judgment.

HOSTIN: She sure did. And Sanjay was right, if your doctor knows about this, this does become part of your medical records. And insurers are allowed to ask for that information. One thing I would caution our viewers, bottom line, don't lie to your insurance company. If you know that you have heart disease, tell your insurance company because if you get a new insurance company and they don't know about it and you lied, they will release you from your health insurance.

CHETRY: All right. Sunny Hostin, thanks a lot.

HOSTIN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: A final check of this morning's "Quick Vote" question straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: A final check of this morning's "Quick Vote" question. We are asking about America's leap of faith. 15 percent of you say, you have made a change in your religion.

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