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AMERICAN MORNING

President Bush Fails to Convince NATO Members to Invite Ukraine and Georgia in the Organization; Can Indoor Tanning Keep You Glowing and Healthy?; Dangers in the Cockpit

Aired April 3, 2008 - 08:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And last week, you had an appearance with Mitt Romney, one of you former competitors. Any talk of Mitt Romney as a possible vice presidential contender for you -- vice presidential partner for you?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I know what you mean. Yes.

As I mentioned going to the process, but the fact is that we really have look back and we don't want to violate anyone's privacy that has happened in the past, so we'll be moving forward with the process. But Governor Mitt Romney is a fine man. He earned himself a large place in our Republican Party. And I'm please to have him campaign with me at my side. He's a fine man.

CHETRY: All right. Well, Senator John McCain, glad that you joined us this morning. And you're welcome back anytime.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Just to turn at the top of the hour now. One moment he is flying through the skies. The next, he is in trouble. Out of gas, without a runway in sight. The split second decision facing one student pilot. Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Once again, welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. 8:00 here on East Coast.

ROBERTS: Yes. It's good to have you with us today. We begin with breaking news in the airline industry. ATA Airlines is discontinuing all flights and filing for bankruptcy. The statement on its Web site.

The Indianapolis based carrier said it became impossible to continue operations after losing the big military charter contract. ATA has 2200 employees and virtually, all of them will be told today their jobs are gone. Bad news in the airline industry. This follows Aloha Airlines closing its doors as well. One of the oldest air carriers in the United States.

We're also hearing from two FAA insiders today who say that the FAA allowed Southwest Airlines to fly plane that should have been grounded. In an interview with CNN's Drew Griffin, the inspectors say FAA supervisors ignored their findings that Southwest was flying planes that were not properly inspected. The whistleblowers will testify at a congressional hearing on air safety. Southwest Airlines CEO will also appear at the hearing.

And also due today, more problems that the Federal Aviation Administration allegedly knew about for years but ignored. Shattered windshields and smoke filled cockpits forcing emergency landings and putting lives in danger.

A group of pilots tell CNN special investigations unit that inspectors are being pressured to "go easy" on the airlines even after something like this happens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: My entire windscreen was shattered like a spider web. Donned our smoke goggles and oxygen masks for fear that the second pane on the window was going to fail between the airspeed and the force on the wind screen. I probably would have gotten a face full of glass and then we would have had catastrophic depressurization of the airplane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: The National Transportation Safety Board says it has happened at least ten times since 2004. Four times on American Airlines 757s. Now, the FAA has responded by proposing something called an Airworthiness Directive to inspect cockpit dangers.

And more flight delays and cancellation for United Airlines passenger. United grounded its entire fleet of Boeing 777s for urgent safety inspections that included the White House press plane which is in Romania with the president for the NATOR Summit there.

Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, a sobering assessment on the United States economy and where we could be headed next. Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, back on Capitol Hill today telling Congress that Americans should brace for more job losses and the possibility of a recession.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Recession is possible but a recession is a technical term defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research depending on data which will be available quite a while from now. So I'm not yet ready to say whether or not the U.S. economy will face such a situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Bernanke will answer questions today about the Fed's $30 billion rescue of investment bank Bear Stearns. And also ahead today, a possible deal to ease the housing crisis helping homeowners facing foreclosure and city struggling from the mortgage meltdown. These are multibillion dollar questions that Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke -- Chairman Ben Bernanke will be answering. And lawmakers will also be grilling him over that deal that was brokered by Bear Stearns. On Wednesday, the Fed chief acknowledged that the economy could shrink this year. I feel like I just said that. But maybe I didn't. Ali Velshi (INAUDIBLE).

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You can't say it enough. And you know what the irony is.

CHETRY: Yes?

VELSHI: You can say it and I can say it. Our viewers say it. Americans say it. The CNN Opinion Research Poll indicates that the economy is issue no.1 to Americans. And that most of you think that we are in a recession. But Ben Bernanke, the chief economist in the country, really won't say it.

He sort of hinted in that little clip we showed you that he thinks recession is a possibility, but he is not prepared to say it is going to happen. He kind of thinks that between -- and this is in fed speak, he was probably clearer yesterday than he has been in many times before.

But in Fed speak, he sort of says that the stimulus package and these interest rate cuts that we have been getting are going to help the economy. Now, the way you measured the economy is through GDP, Gross Domestic Product. It's the biggest measure of everything that we produce in the country. Here's why Ben Bernanke thinks that we may not get into a recession, or if we do, we may come out of it in the second half of the year. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNANKE: It now appears likely that real Gross Domestic Product will not grow much, if at all over the first half of 2008 and could even contract slightly. We expect economic activity to strengthen in the second half of the year. In part, as to result of stimulative monetary and fiscal policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Stimulative monetary and fiscal policies. Love it when he speaks like that. That stimulative monetary policy is the one they reduce interest rates. Stimulative economic fiscal policy is this stimulus checks that they are sending out. Even the cameraman got bored with that one if you notice. He panned off of Ben Bernanke at the end of that.

It might be that there are more questions about the economy today. But Ben Bernanke will be with the heads of JP Morgan and Bear Stearns answering hopefully some very specific questions about how the Fed manage to come to that deal where they would back the sale of Bear Stearns and JP Morgan for $10 a share, and whether or not the Fed can do something that effective with respect to people who have been in trouble with their mortgages. ROBERTS: He doesn't quite speak full green spannies (ph), but he comes very close on occasion.

VELSHI: Much easier. With green spannies (ph), you have to consult such an experts over what he said. Here, I can sort of parch through it myself.

ROBERTS: Ali, thanks.

VELSHI: All right.

CHETRY: Well, keep it right here to learn more about issue no.1," the economy. A lot of developments going on today. In just two hours, we are going to be checking back in with the Hill. And Ali Velshi, as well as Gerri Willis, and the entire CNN money Team. "ISSUE #1," they go on at noon Eastern right here on CNN.

They had been talking about money so much and no one has got a voice anymore.

VELSHI: That's right.

CHETRY: Poor Gerri. She needs some hot tea.

ROBERTS: A lot of people want to hear about it. A highly-rated program and Ali is home in there. Good stuff.

CHETRY: Good job.

VELSHI: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, we're going to talk with the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Chris Dodd. Senator Chris Dodd joining us at 8:30 Eastern Time. Just about 25 minutes from now. Hope you'll stick around for that.

ROBERTS: Meantime, mixed results for President Bush overnight at the NATO Summit in Bucharest. The Summit is now on its second day there in Romania. President Bush failed overnight to convince NATO members to invite Ukraine and Georgia into the organization.

Russia who is not a member is opposed to having NATO members on its border. Still, the U.S. will continue a push to open up membership before President Bush leaves office.

NATO leaders did agree to invite Croatia and Albania. It's the first NATO expansion in six years. Macedonia got turned down though.

And the president did get one victory. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is pledging about 700 more troops to help in Afghanistan's dangerous eastern region. That will allow U.S. troops to move south. Canadian soldiers there had threatened to pull out if they didn't receive more allied help.

Meantime, new fighting this morning in Iraq. The U.S. military says it launched an air strike on a house in Basra. Iraqi police say six civilians were killed. But U.S. officials say only one person was killed and that person was a militant.

This morning Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki is calling Iraq's offensive against militants in the area a success. And in the northern part of the country, a suicide bomber killed at least seven people at an Iraqi army check point in Mosul.

Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, the "Most Politics in the Morning." And presumptive GOP nominee, John McCain, the target of Hillary Clinton's newest 3 a.m. TV ad where it implies that she's more prepared to handle an economic crisis than McCain.

Just a few minutes ago, I asked Senator McCain to respond. He said that he thinks big government is not necessarily the answer. Let's hear what he also said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I know economics very well, certainly better than Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. So let's clear that up. Obviously, we've got to restrain spending. Obviously, we need to give middle income Americans more tax cuts rather than less.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Barack Obama is off the campaign today. He's actually enjoying a day at home in Chicago. But if he gets to the oval office, Obama says that he would like to offer a job to Al Gore. Campaigning in Pennsylvania yesterday, Obama was asked if he would bring Gore into his cabinet to work on global warming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Al Gore will be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem. He is somebody that I talk to on a regular basis. I'm already consulting with him in terms of these issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Obama has also talked about asking Bill Clinton to join his administration raising the possibility of reuniting, perhaps, vice president and former president in a new oval office.

Also, word from California that Bill Clinton is not very happy with another former member of his administration, Bill Richardson. "San Francisco Chronicle" reporting that Mr. Clinton, quote, "exploded" when asked about Richardson endorsing Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton. Red-faced and pointing his finger, the former president said Richardson swore five times to his face that he would never do that.

According to some reports, Hillary Clinton lobbied for Richardson's endorsement, insisting that Obama could not win the general election. And Richardson says he was very close to endorsing Clinton then changed his mind when the campaign got ugly. A spokesman says Richardson never made any promises. The governor, Richardson, also says the Clintons should get over it.

ROBERTS: The pros and cons of a fake bake. Can indoor tanning keep you glowing and healthy? A new ad campaign that says, hey, it's not all bad.

And the son of Martin Luther King, Jr. He is calling on the presidential candidates to carry out his father's legacy. We'll find out what he's asking when we talk to him live on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: This week, CNN is focusing on unraveling the mystery of autism. Actress Jenny McCarthy got emotional last night on "LARRY KING LIVE.". Her five-year-old son, Evan, has autism and she blames the vaccines he was given. She confronted her pediatrician about it last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNY MCCARTHY, ACTRESS, SON WITH AUTISM: But the increase is ridiculous, you guys. Look it, it's plain and simple. It's [BLEEP].

UNIDENTIFIED PEDIATRICIAN: No, it's not.

MCCARTHY: Yes, it is.

UNIDENTIFIED PEDIATRICIAN: Excuse me.

MCCARTHY: But too many shots too soon.

UNIDENTIFIED PEDIATRICIAN: Let's bring it down just a notch here for a second, OK? When we look at autism, 75 percent of kids with autism, there's demonstrated change that the child has in the first year of life before they get to this period when they're getting the measles, mumps, German measles vaccine.

MCCARTHY: Give my son the measles. I'll take that way over autism any day.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED PEDIATRICIAN: That is not the option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: McCarthy also says that a gluten-free diet as well as vitamins have helped her son. And she is urging the medical community to recognize that a healthy diet can help ease the symptoms of autism.

Certainly, an interesting hour of "LARRY KING." You can watch a replay online. Head to CNN.com/video.

ROBERTS: Tremendously emotional issue. CHETRY: And for the first time as we talked about it, the federal government acknowledging at least in some way that perhaps there was a correlation with the story of little Hannah that Sanjay Gupta has been following as well.

ROBERTS: Right. Where the vaccine itself may not have caused the autism but may have served as a trigger for an underlying condition that did. So, obviously we're going to hear a lot more about this.

Meantime, 15 minutes after the hour. Listen to this one. Get a tan. Your body will thank you. That's from a new ad from the Indoor Tanning Association. It says that tanning is getting a bad rap. Well, is it? CNN's medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is at the medical update desk.

They are touting the health benefits of indoor tanning. Could it really be true?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the tanning industry says that it is, John. They say we have all been duped. We've been tricked into thinking that tanning beds are bad. And they say that tanning beds, in fact, are terrific for you. They even have some TV ads, here it is, that claim this. And then, they've also done some TV ads that say that all this stuff about tanning beds and melanoma is pure hype and that it is time to rethink tanning.

However, as you can imagine, dermatologists say this is a bunch of baloney. They say that the numbers from various studies are very clear. They say that women who use tanning beds are 55 percent more likely to develop malignant melanoma.

And the American Academy of Dermatology, they have their own ads that they're putting in newspapers. And these ads say that tanning beds are for losers, as you can read there. If you know how to read text speak. I guess everyone does now. And they say that the rays from tanning beds are 15 times stronger than the sun. They say being in the sun and being in tanning beds, two very different things.

John?

ROBERTS: As a person who's lost a couple of little pieces of my nose to basal cell carcinoma, as you know, I'm very cognizant of this whole thing and the arguments on both sides. But if the tanning bed industry says that their indoor tanning machines will give you Vitamin D, and they are proclaiming that there is a Vitamin D deficiency in this country. And certainly, sun's rays or UV rays in this indoor tanning salons will give you needed Vitamin D.

So, what do the dermatologists have to say about that?

COHEN: Right. That's absolutely true. But sun -- UV rays, whether through sun or tanning beds will indeed help your body produce Vitamin D.

But what the dermatologists say is, look, you don't need to roast in a tanning bed to get Vitamin D. Spend 10-15 minutes in the sun exposing your arms or your face or your back or your legs, just 10-15 minutes twice a week without sunscreen. That will do it. You don't need to roast in a tanning bed. And of course, people also get Vitamin D through foods like milk and cereal and tuna fish.

ROBERTS: It's interesting there, though, that we see on that graphic. You know, 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen.

COHEN: Right.

ROBERTS: So, you do need to go out without sunscreen once in a while.

COHEN: Right. If you have sunscreen on absolutely every single minute of every single day, some doctors would say, that's a mistake. But we're talking about 10 or 15 minutes. That's really not very long.

ROBERTS: Kiran is asking if you can get it through your windows in a car or does that block out the UV rays?

COHEN: You know what, I think it depends on what kind of windows. There are some windows that may treat the sun or I think that depends. I think you're probably better off just being out there.

ROBERTS: Yes. Well then that stretch limousine that she travels around (INAUDIBLE) this is a little too dark for her to get.

CHETRY: That's right.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks very much. Elizabeth Cohen for us this morning. And the controversy continues.

CHETRY: But on your motorcycle, you're getting your rays.

ROBERTS: Yes. Well, I always try to wear sunscreen on the motorcycle too. So, if you're out in the sun a lot.

CHETRY: All right. Well, still ahead, keeping the dream alive. Four years after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, his son joins us live to talk about his father's legacy. And how the candidates that are now vying for president can fight on and fight poverty.

Also, tales of horror in the sky and accusations the FAA is doing little to fix it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: My entire windscreen was shattered like a spider web.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Why pilots say the FAA ignored obvious flight flaws, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, today marks 40 years since the death of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. And now King's son wants the presidential candidates to carry on his father's legacy of fighting poverty by creating a cabinet level position. Joining me now from Washington, Martin Luther King III, president and COE of Realizing the Dream Inc.

Great to have you with us this morning. Thanks for being here.

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, PRESIDENT AND CEO, REALIZING THE DREAM INC: Thank you for the opportunity.

CHETRY: You talk about the importance of the creation of this so-called Poverty Czar. What would be the biggest issue that the person in this position would need to tackle?

KING: Well, the biggest issue overall is just addressing poverty as a whole. 40 years ago, my father and his team were focused on poor people's campaign to say that we deserve the right as Americans to the right to guaranteed to annual income. Today, we call that a living wage.

Clearly, we've not achieved that status, and unless -- and I believe and I challenge all of the presidential candidates to decide, are we going to make this very serious and make a cabinet level position. Certainly, if we can spend $30 billion to bail out a corporate entity like a Bear Stearns, then we can find resources dedicated to helping Americans in relationship to eradicating poverty.

CHETRY: Hey, you wrote a letter supporting John Edwards back in January saying that he almost single handedly made poverty an issue in this election. Do any of the other remaining candidates in your opinion do the same?

KING: You said have any of the candidates done the same?

CHETRY: Have they made poverty an issue, brought it to the forefront to your satisfaction?

KING: Well, certainly, on the Democratic side I believe the candidates have talked about poverty. But the way that Senator Edwards was doing it, that was one of his primary planks. Again, that is why we are calling on those presidential candidates that are in the race to decide and make a commitment in the first 100 days to develop a cabinet level position.

That way we understand, we are taking this very serious. If we do not do that, I think we're going to continue to see the fact that 36 million and the number will grow. This is a tough economy. Unfortunately, the numbers are growing instead of being reduced.

But the goal in my judgment and what we are calling for is for these candidates to say we are very serious. When you say you're going to find a way to create a cabinet level position, to me that says you are serious. We have the ability to do most anything. We just have not identified the will.

CHETRY: You know, U.S. poverty remains at just over 12 percent. Now that is the same as it was back in 1968 when your father was speaking out against poverty. What do you think it's going to take to solve the problem?

KING: I think basically what it takes and what I found is Americans want to work to help each other. When we roll up our sleeves, there is nothing that we cannot do. As I say, when we looked at what happened with the tsunami, Americans rolled up their sleeves. When we looked at what happened with Katrina, America rolled up their sleeves.

But when it goes off the front pages of newspapers and not on the front of your broadcast, then we have to go back to what we do. But I say that when you have a cabinet level position that is focused specifically on this issue, he or she, whomever the president may be, who appoints that person, that person will be responsible for galvanizing this team, raising that banner, pulling together business leaders, religious leaders, community leaders and all the elected officials to address poverty in America once and for all.

CHETRY: You know, we've seen the link between education and poverty. And the importance of education in bringing yourself out of it. And yesterday, we actually had a report out about students in America's 50 largest cities, showing this big disparity between inner cities versus the suburbs right nearby. Showing that in some cases kids have about a 50/50 chance if they live in some of the biggest inner cities of graduating.

And one of the big issues that this group was talking about is this lack of emphasis on education and the lack of support that is taking place in the home. How does that play into trying to get people to understand the importance of education and how it can bring you out of poverty?

KING: Well, clearly, education is one of the primary keys. When we look at our entire system of education, it seems to me that we've got to recommit ourselves. And I'm talking about primary and secondary, not necessarily colleges and universities. We have some of the finest colleges and universities in the world.

But as it relates to primary and secondary education, we've got to find ways to under gird, to bring in new technology, to provide books in some areas and provide better teachers. And that means we've got to find a way to pay our teachers as opposed to acting like they are not that important. They are some of the most important people in our nation.

CHETRY: Well, Martin Luther King III, thanks so much for joining us. It is great to talk to you this morning.

KING: Thank you for the opportunity.

ROBERTS: Coming up now to 28 minutes after the hour. Dangers inside the cockpit. Serious allegations against the FAA that it ignored safety hazards that could kill you, from shattered windshields to suffocating smoke. Why pilots say the feds look the other way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Oh and we were complaining about..

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Look at that.

CHETRY: New York City and Boston this morning.

ROBERTS: Charleston, South Carolina. My goodness.

CHETRY: It's a little dreary out there.

ROBERTS: You can't even make anything. You know, you think if you want to pick a beauty shot in the morning, you pick something you can actually see, but...

CHETRY: Maybe this is just to make everyone else feel better, that you're not there today.

ROBERTS: I guess so. You know, those of us in the northeast are going to be dealing with a little more wind and temperatures sort of in the low 50s. That's what it's like in Charleston, South Carolina today. Rain, 52 degrees, thunderstorms all day today and a high of 62. So, if you've got even a sliver of sunshine you should feel very fortunate this morning.

CHETRY: Exactly. Beautiful shot.

ROBERTS: My goodness.

CHETRY: Well, new this morning, hits and misses for President Bush at the NATO Summit overnight in Bucharest, Romania. The President was unable to persuade fellow NATO members to allow the Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance. NATO leaders though did agree to invite Croatia and Albania. And the president praised that move.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: NATO's embrace of these new members has made Europe stronger, safer and freer. These countries have made our alliance more relevant to the dangers we confront in the new century. In Bucharest, we are inviting more nations to join us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: The President did get some other successes as well. French President Nicolas Sarkozy promising to send 700 more troops to Afghanistan. He also talked about the possibility of his nation joining NATO again saying that there was a decision to be made on that hopefully by the end of the year. And Czech Republic officials agreed to allow radar tracking site in their country.

Also, today, we have new information from a CNN reporter in Zimbabwe. Sources close to President Robert Mugabe say that he will submit to a runoff election. He opposition claims Mugabe lost the presidential election that was held five days ago. The government though not releasing the results. Diplomatic sources are confirming that Mugabe may be trying to delay a runoff and that could lead to chaos in a country already in a decade-long recession and suffering the world's highest inflation rate.

Efforts under way this morning to rescue, to secure rather the release of a cruise ship. It's packed with British passengers. It's been impounded in Madera, an island off the coast of Portugal. The "Van Gogh" was on the last leg of a round the world voyage on Tuesday when police prevented that liner from leaving because of a legal dispute. The ship's owner says it hopes to have the 450 passengers back in England by Sunday.

ROBERTS: Breaking news this morning from the airline industry, ATA Airlines is discontinuing all flights and filing for bankruptcy. In a statement on its Web site, the Indianapolis-based carrier said it became impossible to continue operations after losing a big military charter contract. ATA has got 2,200 employees, virtually all will be told today that their jobs are gone.

Gasoline prices hit another record high overnight. AAA says the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded $3.28 a gallon now. That's up 0.2 cents yesterday, more than 58 cents higher than it was a year ago.

The Labor Department reporting just now new unemployment claims for the month of March, 407,000. That is the highest level since mid September of 2005. When we talk about the idea of a recession setting in here in the United States, a lot is going to be dependent on jobs, and what the job market is like. The Labor Department saying 407,000 new unemployment claims for the month of March. Gerri Willis is with us. That obviously can't be very good?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: No, it's bad news obviously. That is the wrong trend line for the economy as you see it.

ROBERTS: We also want to talk about the plan that's underway right now in Congress to try to bail out people who have bad mortgages, bail out the housing industry. Senator Chris Dodd is expected to join us. Senator, if you are in your office and you are watching CNN, you are supposed to be at our camera right now. So, please get there as quickly as possible.

But, first of all, Gerri here to talk about the plan that has been hammered out in the Senate in the last few days here. They are expecting to take it to the floor very soon. What have they come up with here?

WILLIS: Lots of compromises here. And maybe more good things for business than you would expect. Of course, two big things here. Standard deductions for property owners. That's a new thing. That's a $1,000 per couple, $500 for individuals. The FHA would back loans of $550,000 and less. That's a big difference but you have to put down $3.5 percent compared to 3 percent right now. I want you to hear what Senator Harry Reid had to say last night about this bill. We don't have that right now. Harry Reid though putting together this bill. Obviously, Democrats and Republicans coming together. I'll go over a couple of...

ROBERTS: But he said it was robust, right? But there are a lot of people who disagree with that saying, wait a minute, this isn't robust because it helps out the industry too much and doesn't do enough to help out people who are, you know, suffering from this mortgage crisis, facing foreclosure.

WILLIS: And the question is, robust for whom, right? Absolutely. I understand you have Chris Dodd.

ROBERTS: We do. You know, we do have Chris Dodd. He's a -- but go ahead and talk.

WILLIS: Well, just to fill out what the Senate was doing here. Obviously, $4 billion in block grants. We talked about that. This would allow communities to refurbish foreclosed properties. $7,000 tax credit to people who actually buy foreclosed properties. A bond authority that would help communities get over this problem with foreclosed properties. And I said at the beginning $6 billion in tax breaks for home owners or for home builders, that is. These are the folks who are obviously are in the crosshairs, but that is very, very controversial. John.

ROBERTS: So, Chris Dodd is still getting ready. So, it's OK with you to chat a little bit. Let's bring in Kiran as well because she's interested in all of these stuff.

WILLIS: All right. I think the big question here is -- how is this going to go forward? Dodd, of course, has said that he thinks there should be something like $400 billion made available for the FHA to back some of these loans, very controversial obviously. There are so many moving pieces in this. The conversation is not done yet.

ROBERTS: And the White House ringing in too today, particularly on this idea of tax breaks for buying -- tax credits for buying homes that are in foreclosure and also money to states to buy some of these foreclosed homes, saying, hey, it's all well and good that you get some of these foreclosed homes off the market, but at the same time other people out there who are trying to sell their homes, are you going to drive the value of those houses down as well?

WILLIS: Well, I think banks are already doing that. I mean, if you see what's going on in the marketplace, they are dumping properties on the market and that is bringing a lot of values down.

ROBERTS: All right. Apparently Senator Dodd is ready, willing and able to go with us this morning. So, let's introduce him. He. of course, leads the Senate Banking Committee. Ben Bernanke is going to be up there today to answer tough questions about that controversial Bear Stearns investment deal and at the same time that the Senate is trying to get this mortgage bailout deal going as well. So, Senator Dodd, welcome to the program. Thanks for being with us. Let me start off by asking you, first of all, Ben Bernanke yesterday wouldn't go all the way to say we're in a recession now, that we said one is possible in the first six months of this year. Where do you think, where do you come down on that?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, CHAIRMAN, SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE: Well, I think we are in a recession. I think we've been in one for a while. So, I appreciate the chairman of the Federal Reserve bears a different responsibility in the sense and the language he uses. I don't know of anyone that doesn't believe we're in a recession. We are there, and clearly every indicator that I know of that indicates that's where we are. If you use traditional classic definition of a recession, we certainly have been through a couple of quarters of negative growth in my view. So, I think we are there.

ROBERTS: He was asked about this Bear Stearns rescue up on the Hill yesterday. Let's listen to what he said. And then I'll ask you for your opinion of his comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: We did not bail out Bear Stearns. We did what we did because we felt it was necessary to preserve the integrity and viability of the American financial system which is in turn is critical for the health of the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Senator Dodd, he is resisting the notion that it was a bailout. What do you say?

DODD: Well, I don't disagree with the chairman. I think it's very careful language he used here. Given the alternative of Bear Stearns declaring bankruptcy on the night of March 16th, that's Sunday evening and the implications of that, and this is not hyperbole, John. But you could have had a literally a global meltdown in several other major investment banks. There could have been a race to the exits on Monday morning. So, I think what the Fed and the Treasury did was the right thing. I have questions about it. The question of what did we get for the $30 billion of taxpayer money that was part of this arrangement here?

And that's a major question. What do we get back for it? Maybe we won't have to worry about it. Maybe it will be a profit-making operation. But I'm concerned about how were the valuation of assets that Bear Stearns made at those 96 hours. So, there are very legitimate questions here. But on the bottom line of whether or not they did the right thing, given the choices they had, I think most of us who looked and who agree that given the choice, they made the right choice.

ROBERTS: As you were running to the camera there, Senator, Gerri Willis and I were talking about the mortgage plan that you and Senator Shelby have agreed to bring to the floor here. And I want to get you to talk a little bit about that. There are complaints that this helps the home building industry far more than it helps people who are facing foreclosure. And there are some estimate that 8,000 people a day are facing foreclosure. What do you say to those criticisms?

DODD: I have been using those numbers. I'm the one who came up with the numbers. About 8,000 a day. I've got -- my state ranks eighth in the country. This is a first step, John. This is where there was virtual unanimity between Democrats and Republicans on some things. I have a lot of these things I wanted to add to those package that I could not get the Republicans to agree to. They, I suspect wanted to bring some things that I wouldn't agree to. These were the items on which we could agree. We'll begin the morning to debate amendments to these ideas where there is some disagreement, including the bankruptcy provisions and others. But it's a major first step.

It's the first time in a year, John, that Democrats and Republicans have been able to come together on the housing issue, on major issues. FHA modernization is not insignificant. That could have a huge impact on people trying to refinance their homes. Mortgage revenue bonds could make a huge difference for housing authorities. Community development block grant money going back to states to revitalize foreclosed homes could make a huge difference. Counseling money is already making a difference. An additional $100 million a year can help groups like Acorn and others bridge that gap between lenders and borrowers. There are a lot of other things in this package that are very, very helpful to that homeowner out there. A lot more needs to be done but this is a great, great beginning in my view.

ROBERTS: Dean Baker who is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research said this about the bill that you crafted with Senator Shelby. "It's a bipartisan effort not to help the right people." That fair or unfair?

DODD: A little unfair. I mean, look, it's, again it's where consensus could develop. And I couldn't write the bill. Between the two of us the other night, we tried to come together on the items in which there's agreement. And then today, we debate the items in which there is disagreement. And so, it's a beginning and when you can get agreement on seven or eight major items, including the ones that I've mentioned here. That is a major step in the right direction. And it's been a long year trying to get anything done. A month ago we couldn't debate the issue. There was not even enough votes to allow us to move to a housing proposal. This is a vast difference from where we were a month ago. The difference is members of Congress went home. They went home for two weeks and listened to their constituents. And their constituents are angry. They are angry that Congress seems to be doing nothing about this issue. This is a major first step in the right direction.

ROBERTS: The White House is ringing on this today, saying that this idea of a tax credit for people to buy foreclosed homes, the initial figure was 15,000, it's now down to 7,000. Now, and also money to the states to buy foreclosed homes is going to drive down the overall market. So people who are trying to sell their homes are going to get less value out of it because you're offering tax breaks to people to buy these foreclosed homes. What do you say?

DODD: I don't think so at all. And in fact, the last thing you need in a local community is boarded up properties. Every time, John, you have one foreclosure in a 1/8th square mile, which is traditionally a city block. The value of any other home even though they are current in their mortgage obligations decline by at least 1 percent immediately, crime rates go up by 2 percent immediately. So, the issue here is not just the foreclosed property but what happens?

What's the domino effect? And the domino effect is to bring values down. For the first time since the Great Depression, I believe, we are watching values of homes actually be less than the debt they have on them. We need to reverse that, if we can. But it isn't just the foreclosed properties. Because other properties are suffering as well.

ROBERTS: Any I want to ask you one quick political question before you go. Howard Dean said the other day, he wants to see this nominating process over by the 1st of July. Hillary Clinton saying I'll take it all the way to the convention if necessary. You are an Obama supporter, when do you think it should end?

DODD: Well, listen, it will end when the candidates decide they can't go any further than this. The last thing you want to be doing is lecturing candidates about getting out of the race that usually keeps them in it. But the fact of the matter is that the national leadership of our party, at some point, he has got too to say game over. Otherwise you will go to the convention highly divided. And let me tell you what will happen. If you go to a convention highly divided, with eight weeks to go before national election, barring some other extraneous circumstances, you will lose the national election. So, this matter has to be resolved in my view at some point before we get there. I'm confident it will be, by the way.

ROBERTS: Senator Chris Dodd, thank you for being with us this morning. Appreciate it, sir. Good luck today.

DODD: Thanks very much, John.

ROBERTS: All right. See you again soon.

And be sure to keep it right here on CNN for coverage of America's "Number One Issue, the economy." Ali Velshi, Gerri Willis and the CNN money team will have in depth coverage of issue number one, today and tomorrow, noon Eastern, right here on CNN.

CHETRY: And it's Thursday, and so that means it's time for Dr. Gupta's mailbag. We are paging him. He's going to answer some of your medical questions, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, Rob Marciano at the CNN Weather Center, tracking extreme weather for us today. And a flood threat in the Midwest today. Hi, Rob. ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Kiran. Yes, same spot the we saw the past couple of weeks. These folks just can't keep it regular. We're seeing flash flood watches and warnings posted for a good chunk of the Midwest. I saw all the flooding the past couple of days. Just issued now, Ozark and Oregon counties, just south and east of Springfield, just to name a few. This stretches off towards the Ohio River Valley as well. So, you know the drill here. The same weather pattern has not broken down. Heavy rain expected over the next couple of days. Pulses rolling around a pretty strong jet steam and a bull's eye across right across the mid south, and mid Mississippi Valley there at 3 to 6 inches possible. Already seeing some across the Tennessee Valley. Actually getting to areas that could use the rain, east of Nashville but towards Little Rock, we're seeing some severe weather or breakouts and some severe thunderstorm just rolling through Little Rock right now. And then Dallas later on today, Kiran, will be the hot spot for potentially seeing some strong thunderstorms that could have not only hail but gusty winds and maybe some tornadoes. Back up to you.

CHETRY: All right. We'll be watching throughout the morning. Thanks, Rob.

MARCIANO: You got it.

ROBERTS: 47 minutes after the hour. CNN NEWSROOM just minute away now. Tony Harris at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. Hey, John, good morning to you.

Good morning, everyone. Your safety in the skies in question. In the NEWSROOM for you this morning, two whistle blowers live before Congress this morning. They will testify the FAA new southwest skirted safety checks but look the other way, new poll numbers with the Democrats, the gap narrows in Pennsylvania. He is outstanding in his class, all right. A 70-year-old man becomes a first grader, he finally learns to read and as Rob mentioned just a moment ago. A new flood threat for the Midwest today. We follow it in the NEWSROOM, just minutes away. Top of the hour on CNN. John, back to you.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to it, Tony. We'll see you soon. Coming up, your question and answer. We're paging our Dr. Gupta to open up the mailbag, next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Time now to open up our mailbag. Every Thursday Dr. Sanjay Gupta dips into this mailbag to answer your questions.

ROBERTS: And Sanjay joins us now from Atlanta. Let's dive right in that mailbag, Sanjay. Our first question comes to us from Jack in Connecticut who writes, "Last week you did a segment talking about how calcium build up in the arteries is a strong predictor of heart disease. But what I'm curious about is what actually causes the calcium to build up in the first place.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good question, Jack. We probably didn't talk about that enough. Here's something to keep in mind. Calcium in the arteries are sort of, what a lot of people call atherosclerosis or hardening the arteries. Calcium is hard which is why it makes the arteries hard. What happens is you start to deposit a little plaque in your blood vessels. The blood flow slows down around there and the calcium that is normally in your blood gets deposited in that plaque and it makes it harder. So, they have a lot of calcium, it means the plaque has been there over time. Ways to cut down on that, basic supply here, Jack, cut down on smoking, better eating habits, trying to get some exercise. Control your blood pressure as well. All those things seem to make a difference.

CHETRY: Well, this one's from Elizabeth who is from Lawrence, Massachusetts has this question. "My cousin is a Marine that fought in Iraq, just recently he was told that he has an injury that caused his brain to actually rattle around his head. What is the name of this condition and can you tell me more about it.

GUPTA: Well, Elizabeth, first of all, I'm sorry to hear about your loved one there. It's hard to know for sure what happened without looking at his medical records. But it sounds like what you are describing is known as a traumatic brain injury. The way that people think about this in the world of neurosurgery is you think about the brain sort of as a fluid medium within a fluid medium. So, take a look at this animation here, I put this together for you.

When there's an injury you sort of see the head sort of being rocked back and forth. But if you peer deep inside this is what is happening to the brain. It is moved within the skull, and is pushing against the front of the skull, the back of the skull and the side as well. That can cause all sorts of symptoms, sometimes difficulty with memory, sometimes difficulty with strength. Cognitive therapy is often needed to try to recover from that.

ROBERTS: And Sanjay, the next question comes from Sandra in Philadelphia who writes "I'm 35 years old and just had a miscarriage. What can I do to take better of myself to prevent miscarrying again. Is there anything you can do?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's a good question. Not really in terms of specifically preventing a miscarriage. They probably happen more often than we think. Most times it is not due to the genetics of the parents like a lot of people think. It's just the development of the fetus hasn't gone perfectly and the miscarriage occurs. Having said that before pregnancy there are lots of things that a woman should do. I'm sure Kiran knows this very well but about four months they say before pregnancy, you really start to control diet, think about prenatal vitamins, start taking better care of your health, try to make the conditions as favorable as possible for a pregnancy.

If you have multiple miscarriages, you may want and need to have the uterus specifically looked at, also your immune system. A woman might be anemic and that might lead to miscarriages. The good news is and we researched this as well, 60 percent to 70 percent of women who even have multiple miscarriages go on at some point to have a successful pregnancy. CHETRY: That is wonderful news. You know, Sanjay, we also have some sad news though following up on a story that you did last week about baby Annabelle.

GUPTA: Yes, you know. We did the story about baby Annabelle about how she was one of the people to have a relatively new heart procedure for something known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. And we had been following her along for so long. And she was doing wonderfully well, but unfortunately she died. She had a sudden death episode, and that was on March 27th. And her funeral was just a few days ago. She had a rare heart defect. And she was one of the first people to undergo this procedure.

If without the procedure, she would have certainly died. This offered her a little bit of hope. And as the family has told us, as well offer some hope, I think, for a lot of children out there who may need this procedure in the future still but we're thinking about Annabelle and her family today.

ROBERTS: Oh, what a total shame. Sanjay, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Thanks, guys.

And by the way, you can e-mail your question to Dr. Gupta, head to CNN.com/am. Sanjay will do his best to answer them every Thursday right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: Right now, a quick look at what CNN NEWSROOM is working on for the top of the hour.

HARRIS: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM. Two whistleblowers in front of Congress today. They say the FAA looked the other way on airline safety inspection.

For the second time in a week, a low-cost airline shuts down.

NATO rejects membership for Georgia and Ukraine.

A wrong-way truck driver, did he intentionally target oncoming traffic?

And meet a 70-year-old first grader. NEWSROOM just minutes away at the top of the hour on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Final check of this morning "Quick Vote" question. We asked who do you think the FAA is looking out for? 88 percent of you say the airlines and 12 percent say they are looking out for you. But we are asking this question, of course, because up on Capitol Hill today, big hearings involving the FAA. FAA whistleblowers, inspections of aircraft, all that kind of thing.

CHETRY: Yes and some problems that many say were overlooked and people looked the other way for quite some time. We also have some e- mails, you guys weighed in today. John from North Carolina saying, "Does the FAA favor the airline over the passenger. Are you kidding? Our government/president favors corporations over the good of the American citizen. It runs across the board in every sector."

ROBERTS: Sydney of Ohio says "this is a no-win in my book. Today, the FAA is perfect as the day we say "beam me up," but I think their record indicates that they are doing a good job."

CHETRY: Also a former safety inspector with the FAA writes to us as well saying "I believe it is about time the news media caught up with the FAA. Most managers prefer not to rock the boat nor stand up for what is right. When an inspector does, they try to silence them or fire them. I am retired from the FAA. I was a safety inspector.

So, to all of you who voted and wrote in today, thanks so much.

ROBERTS: And of course, we are going to be hearing from those FAA whistleblowers. The people who say the FAA inspectors were cutting Southwest Airlines a break. So, very controversial topic we'll be watching for you today.

Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you gain tomorrow.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris starts now.

HARRIS: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris. Heidi continues maternity leave. Watch events come into the NEWSROOM live on Thursday, April 3rd. Here's what's on the rundown.

Two whistleblowers telling Congress the FAA is skimping on your safety. Stunning testimony live this morning.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxantshop.com

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