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Swine Flu Prompts EU Warning against Travel to U.S., Mexico; NYC School Closed after 8 Swine Flue Cases Found; GM Slashing 21,000 Jobs; Inspector: Banks used TARP Money to Keep Lending; Airlines Waive Cancellation Fee for Travel to Mexico
Aired April 27, 2009 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALINA CHO, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. We're just crossing the top of the hour, Monday, April 27th. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Alina Cho -- Kiran Chetry has the morning off -- along with my good friend, John Roberts.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.
CHO: A lot of people waking up this morning with these basic questions about swine flu: How do I get it? How do I know if I have it? What are the symptoms?
ROBERTS: A lot of questions this morning. We got the experts to help answer those questions. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Mexico City. We will be going to him live in just a couple of minutes.
Here is what's on this morning's agenda. Stories that will be covering for you in the next 15 minutes here in the Most News in the Morning.
More than 100 people now dead in Mexico from the swine flu. Here in America health officials have declared a public health emergency with 20 confirmed cases including eight in New York City. U.S. airlines are waiving fees for passengers who want to change their plans to fly to Mexico. Continental, American, United, Delta and U.S. Airways all allowing travelers to adjust reservations to Mexico because of the Swine Flu outbreak without incurring a penalty fee.
The swine flu outbreak has Asian investors jittering today. Markets in Japan, Hong Kong and Korea, all losing ground overnight. Investors there remembering how the SARS outbreak of 2003 battered their economy.
And kicking of our developing story this hour, a deadly new flu has now jumped an ocean. Health officials in Spain are confirming the first case of swine flu outside North America this morning. Swine flu is now suspected in more than 100 deaths in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak. There are now 20 confirmed cases here at home in five states.
The EU warning against nonessential travel to both Mexico and the United States.
Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, the acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said he disagrees with the warning to stay away from the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDROULLA VASSILIOU, EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER TO HEALTH: Because they should avoid traveling to Mexico or USA, unless it is very urgent for them. Otherwise, they should avoid traveling.
ROBERTS: The health commissioner is warning against travel -- the EU health commissioner warning against travel to the United States. That could have a huge economic impact.
Is that the right warning to send at this time?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I don't think that's warranted. At this point, we've identified 20 cases of swine influenza in this country. Thankfully, all of those people have recovered, only one of those people has required hospitalization. We are looking very hard for cases of swine flu. I expect we're going to find some. And we'll find some of the increasing severity in more of the mild cases.
At this point, I would not put a travel restriction or a recommendation against coming to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: I guess there's some disagreement there between Dr. Besser and the EU commissioner.
CHO: And the EU, yes. But so far, no real travel restrictions to Mexico, and probably not a good idea to go there right now. At least until we know that we're in the clear. But, nonetheless, a lot of people waking up this morning with a lot of questions -- a lot of basic questions, you know. And we want to tell you everything you need to know about the swine flu, including potential symptoms to be on the lookout for.
Really, seasonal flu symptoms, basic ones that you should watch out for: fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting in some cases. Of course, you should go to your doctor right away if you see any of these symptoms.
Also, you're probably wondering how exactly does someone catch swine flu? Well, it spreads the same way that the seasonal flu spreads from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. And that's what's got a lot of people concerned.
Sometimes, people can actually become infected by touching something with a flu virus on it, and then touching their mouth or nose. Some are also wondering, is it safe to eat pork? The World Health Organization says so far there is no evidence swine flu is transmitted through food.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. KEIJI FUKUDA, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WHO: Right now, we have no evidence to suggest that people are getting exposed or getting infected from exposure to pork or to pigs. And so, right now, we have zero evidence to suspect that exposure to meat leads to infections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Well, CNN has reporters standing by in every corner of the globe for you this morning, from New Zealand to New York. We'll be checking in with them throughout this hour.
CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, of course, as always live at ground zero of this outbreak, Mexico City, looking for answers to a medical mystery this morning.
What have you found so far, Doc?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is sort of a ground zero here, first of all. This is the largest public hospital here in Mexico City. Some of the earliest cases were brought here.
There are some interesting things that are starting to emerge in our investigation. First of all, doctors here believed -- ambulance is going in right beside me.
Now we've had patients coming in throughout the morning here. A lot of crowds were gathering here yesterday, and in the earlier part of the day today, patients coming in here. Families concerned about this.
We are starting to learn that this most likely originated on a pig farm. At least according to the mayor who I spoke to yesterday, as well as several doctors. There are no pig farms in Mexico City. So patient zero, is how we refer to the first patient, most likely came from a city outside Mexico City, came here, got sick and may have started to infect people.
Between the time someone is exposed and the time they start to get sick, what's happening is the virus is starting to reproduce in the body, and that typically takes about three days, John. So you could think about that. You could be walking around having no idea that you're carrying the swine flu around, and inadvertently, be affecting people as well. And that's how these things start, that's how this thing spread. That's what we're trying to get to the bottom of -- John.
ROBERTS: Sanjay, you probably heard, too, just a moment ago, the EU health commissioner warning against people -- you know, warning against non-essential travel to Mexico, but she included in there the United States.
Dr. Richard Besser, the head of the CDC, said he doesn't think that that warning, at least related to the United States, is warranted.
What do you think? Should there be travel restrictions -- suggested travel restrictions at least to the United States at this point?
GUPTA: Well, I think it's going to be a lot of, you know, sort of common sense. I think that, for the most part, you can see even around the hospital area, people are trying to exercise caution here. But there is no panic per se.
They say if you're coming within six feet of somebody to wear a mask. If you're sick, stay home. But I think the travel restrictions, I mean, we were able to fly to Mexico, as you know, yesterday -- an area where there are far more cases and deaths here. So, it's hard to say. I don't sort of know how they decide travel restrictions, specifically, but there weren't any here.
Now, they did give us a piece of paper, John, as we were departing the plane. And it's had -- it had a checklist. If you have the following things, and it lists all of the things that we've been talking about in terms of symptoms. If we have those, when we are trying to leave here, they may not let us leave. They may ask us to see a doctor instead and get treated. So, I think this is an evolving situation, similar to the way it was with SARS, and we reported on that, and the avian flu as well.
ROBERTS: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, for us live from Mexico City.
Doc, it's great to have you there this morning. And we'll check back with you a little bit later on.
Dr. Gupta, by the way, is going to be on Twitter all morning long from Mexico City, answering your questions about swine flu and how to protect yourself. Just follow us at twitter.com/amfix. That's twitter.com/amfix. And send in your questions and concerns. You can also e-mail us at cnn.com/amfix or call our show hotline at 1-877-my- amfix.
CHO: Sure. We're getting a lot of calls.
ROBERTS: Oh yes.
CHO: Classes in a New York City Catholic high school, meanwhile, are canceled today and tomorrow after the CDC confirmed eight kids do have swine flu. Cleaning crews scrubbed down the building over the weekend, as America's biggest city tries to stop an outbreak.
Our Jason Carroll is live for us this morning in Queens, New York.
Jason, I'm sure, we're looking at a lot of concerned parents this morning.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Many concerned people here in the city. We're actually here at the health department here in Manhattan. We are expecting an update from the mayor later on today. So far, health officials say that we've just seen minor cases here in the city. New York's governor coming out with a statement trying to ease concerns. Basically saying he does not see any more danger ahead.
CARROLL (voice-over): After days of speculation and worry, health officials confirmed what many had feared.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Today, we can tell you that, as we anticipated, the CDC has confirmed the diagnosis of swine flu in children whose samples we sent them.
CARROLL: Governor David Paterson put New York State on high alert, and mobilized resources to deal with any future outbreaks. New York City health officials tested eight of the more than 100 students from St. Francis Preparatory School who exhibited flu-like symptoms this past week. All eight tests coming back positive for swine flu. Some of the students from the school just returned from a spring break trip to Mexico.
Officials were quick to point out none of the sick appeared to have a serious case of the virus.
BLOOMBERG: Every case of illness we have reviewed, and we've spoken with 130 families has been mild and many of the students are already improving.
CARROLL: Officials expect the number of confirmed swine flu cases to rise as testing continues on the students. As a precaution, the school's administration has chosen to sanitize the entire school and remain closed for the next two days.
BROTHER LEONARD CONWAY, QUEENS, NEW YORK: Now, that they're talking swine flu, we wouldn't want to spread it any further and having kids in small room areas like classrooms could spread it.
CARROLL: New York's mayor said some of the six students family members have come down with flu-like symptoms as well, but also said they have no evidence of swine flu spreading beyond this cluster and tamp down fears of a city-wide outbreak.
BLOOMBERG: The city's Public Health Syndromic Surveillance System, which captures and analyzes 60,000 data points a day has not shown evidence of a city-wide increase in flu-like illness.
CARROLL: There are several other suspected cases in the city as well. Six children at a day care center in the Bronx were tested. Five of those tests came back negative. One of those tests came back undetermined, but health officials believe that test will come back negative as well.
In addition to that, two families in Manhattan thought perhaps their children had the virus. They were tested. Those tests came back negative -- Alina.
CHO: And important to point out that those were all mild cases, too. Jason Carroll live for us in Queens, New York.
Jason, thank you.
ROBERTS: We are following all of the latest developments in this deadly swine flu outbreak this morning.
Some doctors are saying it looks like the beginning of a pandemic. What does that mean for you? We're breaking down the facts and giving you the information that you need to know this morning.
And the economic impact of the health crisis. Who's feeling the swine flu fallout in the wallet already? We'll tell you.
It's 10 1/2 minutes after the hour.
CHO: Thirteen minutes after the hour.
Let's fast forward now the stories that will be making news later today.
A manhunt under way for a business professor at the University of Georgia. Police say he shot and killed his wife and two others over the weekend. Local, regional and national alerts have been issued for the suspect.
Attorney General Eric Holder will be talking torture in London today. England is the first of several stops Holder will make on a European tour to talk about terrorism, drugs and cybercrime. Holder said on Sunday he is close to making decisions on what to do with initial group of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Vice President Joe Biden will be in Chicago today talking about how the recovery act is creating jobs. At 11:15 a.m. Eastern, he'll visit Serious Materials Chicago, a factory that was able to rehire 250 employees, thanks to the recovery act spending.
And IBM expected to announce sometime today that a computer program will be able to compete with humans on America's favorite quiz show, "Jeopardy."
I'm not exactly sure how this works. Stay with me on this, John.
For nearly two years, IBM scientists have been apparently working on a highly advanced question-answering system, code-named Watson.
Why do we need people anymore?
ROBERTS: Until a computer can win "American Idol," I don't want to know. All right.
CHO: That's right.
ROBERTS: Or "Dancing With the Stars." Let's see that happen.
CHO: Oh, boy.
ROBERTS: But right now the world is hoping for the best, but planning for the worst as the deadly swine flu spreads across borders and now oceans. There are now 20 confirmed cases of swine flu here in the United States, including eight students in Queens, New York.
Michael Osterholm is the director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. He joins me now from Minneapolis this morning.
So, Mike, what's your take on all of this? Is this a killer virus -- the killer virus that we've all been fearing for decades? Is this just a threat? Is this, you know, 1976, when we had a small contained outbreak or is this 1918, where 20 million people died worldwide?
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY: And the answer is yes, yes and yes. Part of the problem we have today, John, is that none of us know what the next weeks or months will look like.
It's very possible this virus could fizzle out in the next weeks and go away and never come back again. It's possible this virus could fizzle out like it did in 1918 in March and April of that year, but come back with a vengeance in August, September, October.
Or this could be just the opening punch of a pandemic boxing match and we're in the early stages. This is why it's a very uncertain time because we just don't know which of those outcomes it's going to be.
ROBERTS: You say that watching this virus spread is like watching a hurricane develop. That's an interesting analogy. How do you make that analogy?
OSTERHOLM: First of all, the major stumbling block for an animal influenza virus becoming a human influenza virus is, is it able to be transmitted by humans to humans. That's what the HVN1 in Asia has not been able to do successfully yet, and fortunately, has kept that from becoming the next pandemic strain.
ROBERTS: And just for people at home who don't know what HVN1 is, that's the bird flu virus.
OSTERHOLM: Yes, exactly, the bird flu virus in Asia. And so what's happened here is that this virus, in a very short period of time, has been transmitted around the world. We can't say it's highly, highly efficient in transmitting from person-to-person, but it's efficient enough, that is, you've been reporting all of these cases are showing up around the world.
What that means is that every time it passes through another human, it has a chance to even gain more in the way of killing or causing disease, as well as the possibility that it could become less likely to. And that's the part we just don't know what's going to happen with it. ROBERTS: Yes , does it burn itself out or does it become more virulent? Hey, the World Health Organization is convening again tomorrow to come up with a determination as to whether or not this looks like or represents a global pandemic. Where do you think we are in terms of that declaration?
OSTERHOLM: I don't know what the declaration is. I must tell you, I've been personally very disappointed in WHO's response over the past several days. They have a series of phases that basically are just science-based answers. Is this virus a novel influenza virus? Is it transmitting from people to people? And, is it transmitting in various parts of the world? And it's clear that this has already happened.
OSTERHOLM: For the WHO to come out and make a declaration tomorrow that, in fact, yes, this is now transmitting around the world seems very late. So, we hope that they actually use credible science to start making some of their determinations.
ROBERTS: Mike, you say that this is a huge wake-up call for the United States. Do you believe that the American government is prepared to handle an outbreak, an epidemic, potentially a pandemic of flu? Is the world ready, for that matter?
OSTERHOLM: Well, this is really an answer that could take us all day to address because there are so many parts to it. I think that what has happened in terms of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the work that they've done over recent years, and particularly in the last several days, has been outstanding. I have to tell you, I've been very impressed with the CDC's response.
I think the issue, though, of how prepared are we from a vaccine standpoint, we have a long ways to do. We need much more work on vaccines. The worldwide capacity to make vaccines right now, John, is about 450 million doses of influenza virus per year for the world.
OSTERHOLM: That's far short of 6.5 billion people. It will take us four or five months to get the first doses out. So, we're really hurting there. We need people like Tony Fauci and others at the NIH to really be able to jump on this and move a vaccine. We need to do a lot of business preparedness.
Frankly, today, we live in a global just-in-time economy, where anything that puts even a piece of gravel in the gears of the global supply chains brings us to a screeching halt. And businesses are very ill-prepared. So I think this is a wake-up call because pandemic influenza is going to occur. If it's not this one, it's going to be another one.
ROBERTS: Yes. Mike, it's always great to check in with you. Thanks very much for that.
Michael Osterholm is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy there in Minnesota.
Mike is a great guy. Got all kinds of terrific information.
CHO: He has a wealth of knowledge.
ROBERTS: He lives, eats and breathes this stuff every day. So, he's a good guy to check in with -- we should check in with him, too, as well throughout the week.
CHO: That's right.
Something we want to pass along to you. Just in to CNN within the past hour. The EU warning against travel to the U.S. and Mexico. A look at the potential massive economic impact of this disease. We're already seeing it.
And he's known as our hip, cool, commander-in-chief, but does that help President Obama or hurt him?
Nineteen minutes after the hour.
CHO: We have this just in to CNN. General Motors cutting 21,000 jobs. Part of the company's restructuring plan. And later this morning, the automaker is also expected to announce several factory closings and, sadly, the death of its Pontiac brand.
ROBERTS: Oh, there goes the Trans Am. Better buy one now.
ROBERTS: The swine flu forcing some changes in the airline industry this morning. Our Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business."
But such a huge economic hit from all of this, right? Just at a time when we needed it the least.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. I mean, a time in the global economy and economic system are already weak. You throw in something like this, and clearly, that slows global travel. It can hit global trade. We've already seen talk of some countries pulling back on their imports.
Pork, for example, even though the WHO has reported that there is no risk of spreading this disease from pork. But you will see countries start to do things that will slowdown the global economy, including the EU, John.
You were speaking earlier today with someone from the CDC, Mr. Besser, who said, look, there should not be a travel warning from the EU to the United States at this point because there are only 20 cases in the U.S. and they are rather mild.
And the CDC, I will point out, does not have a travel warning to Mexico at this time. It does not. So still the free flow of air travel here. But the airline carriers are doing something in case you need to change your travel plans, or want to postpone your travel plans.
They are waving some of the fees that they charge for travel. If you're going to Mexico, American Airlines, Continental, Delta, United, U.S. Airways, have various dates. United and U.S. Airways will cancel those fees until the end of this month. The rest of the carriers until may be the beginning of May.
So any of those airline change fees, you don't have to worry about those if you want to change your travel or postpone your travel at this time. But Alina, as you were pointing out earlier, all of those fees are dollars.
ROMANS: And at a time when the global economy is already shrinking, a lot of the people I talked to this morning are already concerned about what this could mean.
ROBERTS: There's one more quick question on the airline front. So they will only allow you to change or postpone your ticket? They won't actually give you a refund if you say, "Look, I can't make it. I don't want to go."
ROMANS: As far as I can see right now, there are no refunds.
ROMANS: This is just to waive some of these changed fees. But pharmaceutical stocks up very sharply overseas, as you can imagine. Why any company with some kind of a flu vaccine in the works, those stocks are doing very well. But the air travel stocks, a lot of other stocks are all falling this morning.
CHO: (INAUDIBLE) are taking a big hit this morning.
ROMANS: That's right. That's right.
CHO: Christine, thank you.
Billions of bailout bucks, fraud investigations already under way. We're talking to the top cop in charge of following your money. Busting the bad guys who misuse it.
Twenty-four minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. America's banks got $700 billion of your taxpayer money to stay afloat. But there's plenty of worry, the first half of those payouts, $350 billion disappeared.
Did the banks really just line their pockets?
Neil Barofsky is the special inspector general overseeing your bailout bucks, and we're fortunate enough to have him in the studio this morning.
It's great to see you, Neil.
NEIL BAROFSKY, SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL, TARP: Thank you. It's great to be here.
ROBERTS: So there's a widespread belief among the public that their $350 billion of TARP taxpayer money just kind of evaporated into the ether.
BAROFSKY: Well, it didn't evaporate into the ether. But I think part of that concern is based on the fact that the Treasury and the United States government hasn't required the financial institutions to report back on how they are using the TARP funds. It's a recommendation we've been making since back in December. So, I think that fuels a lot of the frustration.
ROBERTS: So, so far you have launched 20 investigations, six audits of people who used TARP funds.
What are you finding so far?
BAROFSKY: Well, one of the things we've done based on that, my early concern that you addressed is what happened to the money is we sent out a survey asking every one of the TARP recipients, how did you use the money.
Again, it's something we want the Treasury to do. They wouldn't, so we did it ourselves. And we're still analyzing those results, but what we're seeing is that they used the money in many different ways.
ROBERTS: And? How did they use it? I mean, who got paid? Where did the money go?
BAROFSKY: Totally across the board. Some of them kept the money as a cushion for future losses. They basically just put it in the bank and saved it. Other invested it in securities. Others increased lending. A lot of them, though, basically didn't decrease lending.
In other words, they said, if we hadn't gotten this TARP money, we would have to cut lending significantly, and we cut it less or didn't decrease as a result.
ROBERTS: One of the targets of your investigation is AIG and this whole bonus thing. And you're looking at AIG, but you're also looking at the federal government. You know? Sort of the, you know, who knew what, where, when, why and how, in terms of these bonuses.
Did you think that the government has come clean about what they knew? Because there are suggestions that this was on the radar screen long before it suddenly became this issue of outrage in Washington.
BAROFSKY: We're going to answer that question in our audit that we have pending. And that's exactly -- those questions are what we're going to address. We're speaking to the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, AIG. We're gathering documents. And we're going to put together a comprehensive audit report that lays it out -- lays it all out.
ROBERTS: You're also taking a look as well at the mortgage bailout plan, and also that -- what do they call it? The Public Private Investment Program For Legacy Assets. Wow!
BAROFSKY: It's a mouthful.
ROBERTS: Where do they come up with these titles? Legacy assets otherwise known as toxic assets?
ROBERTS: These crappy papers that are on the books, that are bringing everybody down.
You write in a recent report, quote, "Aspects of PPIP make it inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse, including significant issues relating to conflicts of interest facing fund managers, collusion between participants, and vulnerabilities to money laundering."
Is this whole thing a recipe for taxpayers getting burned, Neil?
BAROFSKY: It can be. If the right protections are not put in place, I think we could lose hundreds of billions of dollars to fraud. That's the usual burned rate on for fraud in the government program. And if the right protections aren't there, those things that you list, these programs are vulnerable.
I think there can be protections. The Treasury has to be very proactive. Look at our recommendations and put the right protections in. Otherwise, we could be looking at really catastrophic losses.
ROBERTS: Well, it sounds like you're prepared to hold their feet to the fire. Unfortunately, you won't be between them. You'll be sort of after the bank. But still good to have you around looking in to all of this.
BAROFSKY: Well, we're doing our best to get out in front. And I think that's the key thing. Before the final structure, these programs are put into place. There's an opportunity to make sure they better protect the taxpayer. And we're going to keep pushing and pushing until that gets done. ROBERTS: Neil, it's great to have you come in this morning. And we hope to get you back again, very frequently.
BAROFSKY: It was my pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.
ROBERTS: All right. Thanks -- Alina.
CHO: How to better protect the taxpayer? That's news we can use.
CHO: John, thank you.
It's 30 minutes after the hour.
Here's a look at the top stories this morning we are breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.
The U.S. has confirmed 20 cases of swine flu across five states -- New York, California, Kansas, Texas and Ohio. Spain has also confirmed the first overseas case.
The European Union's health commissioner is urging Europeans to postpone all non-essential travel to the U.S. and Mexico. But earlier here on AMERICAN MORNING, the acting director of the CDC says, quote, "I don't think that's warranted."
Taliban militants have suspended talks with local government leaders in northwestern Pakistan. A spokesman for the groups says it's because military strikes against militants in the area. Pakistan's military confirms the strikes are ongoing.
And coast guard forces from Yemen taken back hijacked oil tanker from you guess it, Somali pirates. Their ship was seized by pirates on Sunday. Yemen says its forces killed two pirates and arrested 11 others.
Back to our top story this morning. Real fears of a global swine flu outbreak. The federal government has declared a public health emergency. Though U.S. officials are quick to point out that's more of a precautionary measure to free up money and medication. Not a time to panic. This morning, we're telling you everything you need to know about the swine flu, including potential symptoms to be on the lookout here.
Here is a checklist. Take a look. Fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting. Of course, you should see your doctor right away if you exhibit any of these symptoms. And the swine flu outbreak is a bit alarming. It brings up a lot of new questions about isolation and quarantine.
Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now with more on that. And Elizabeth, you know, a lot of people are wondering, listen, we talk about quarantine. It sounds like it's a good idea but can you really force people to comply with this?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me tell you a little bit about what is happening in Texas right now. In Texas, there are two confirmed cases of swine flu, both are students at a high school near San Antonio. What the Texas department of health has done, they haven't required that these two students stay at home which would be called isolation. They've suggested it. They've recommended it.
And so these two families have been -- it's not just the sick kids but also their families have been told, you don't have to stay in your house all the time. You can go out in the yard, you can drive in your car, but we don't want you mingling with other people because you might get them sick. That would be for a relative short period of time.
Seven days, starting with day one will be the onset of symptoms. Now, could they required it? Could the state department of health say you have to stay home? Sure, they could. It's hardly ever done. And the reason is in order to justify an order like that, you have to have a major public health threat. And these illnesses have been so mild, it would be hard to justify that.
Now, getting back to Texas for a minute. At that school district near San Antonio, at first, they just closed down the high school. Now, they have canceled classes to the entire school district and they are telling everyone in that community, you know what? Don't gather in large groups. Cancel any public gatherings that you have planned. It's just not worth it. There's a risk of possibly spreading disease.
CHO: Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, thank you. You know, one thing that I think we need to point out is that 500,000 people die each year of the common flu. Thirty-six thousand in the U.S., but certainly, you know with this new strain that is transmitted person-to-person, you know, it's a cause for alarm.
ROBERTS: You see the potential is there. The potential hasn't been realized just yet, but the potential is there. Let's get you some context, perspective on all of these. Only two swine flu deaths have been recorded in this country since 1976. We got more on that for you here in an AM Extra.
The CDC says from January 2005 until January of this year, 12 human cases of swine flu have been detected in the United States. None of those were fatal. In 1988, a 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin died from swine flu. And in 1976, and this is a historic benchmark that a lot of people point to, an outbreak hit Fort Dix, New Jersey, killing one person and sickening more than 200. So as you can see, it hasn't been that much of a problem here, but then everybody also looks back to 1918.
CHO: That's right.
ROBERTS: When what is believed to be a combination bird and swine flu killed 20 million people. CHO: Well, I think around the world, officials are taking this very seriously, whether this turns out to be a pandemic or an illness of pandemic propositions or not. I mean, the World Health Organization activating what they call a shock room to deal with this potential health crisis. So this is something that we have to watch for -
ROBERTS: In this country, at this moment, no reason for people to be alarmed, just you know, prudently cautious in things that you do.
CHO: And general hygiene really important. Always but particularly in this case. You know.
Coming up, our hip, cool commander in chief. We're going to see how an expert says the president manages to make it look so easy, but is that necessarily a good thing?
And tornadoes touch down in Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Are more than on the way? Rob Marciano tracking the severe weather right now. Thirty-five minutes after the hour.
CHO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
He sits courtside in all black posts video on YouTube, he goes on Leno, and he fought for the right to carry his BlackBerry. But does that all make President Obama hip? And does it help the president politically?
John Leland, reporter for "The New York Times," he wrote the book "Hip, the History." So, you call President Obama the first hip president and you write -- I want to put this up on the screen -- "He's white and he's black. He's an elitist and he's regular folk. He's not pinned down to a perspective." There we have it, right there. So why is hip being -- why is being hip important? Why is it noteworthy?
JOHN LELAND, AUTHOR "HIP, THE HISTORY": Well, he is the first president and certainly to make this question relevant: Is this guy hip or not? He looks good courtside, as you say. He looks good in all black. But in my book, "Hip, the History," I talk about where this idea of hip comes from and it seems to come from these western African words hippy or hippie, to see or to open your eyes.
CHO: How is he different from all the others?
LELAND: Because as I said, he's got his eyes open in ways the others don't. He has an awareness from different parts of American culture that we haven't seen from presidents before.
CHO: All right. So, you know, it's one thing to be hip ,and it's another thing to be effective and powerful, right? So, how does this translate or does it into good public policy or effectiveness?
LELAND: Hipness should never drive our public policy. Hip won't get us out of this bank problems. It won't raise your kids. There's a lot of things that hipness cannot do but it can rally some public support.
CHO: I was going to say, I mean, it does -- in terms of public perception, it could change things for him, right? And that could rally support for public policy down the line? Would it not?
LELAND: We get behind the hip guys. We like the nerd a little less.
CHO: I do want to talk a little bit about this. Because I believe it was your newspaper, that a few months back, did a piece about the president being out and about in Washington, he and the first lady going to restaurants, sitting courtside at a Wizards game. I have to say, I start to wonder to myself, you know, is there a danger in -- there you see him courtside.
Is there a danger in having a president who is too accessible? I mean, you look at Ronald Reagan. He didn't take his jacket off in the Oval Office. I mean, is there a danger in that? I mean, he is still the president of the United States.
LELAND: Did we get comfortable when we see him without his Superman outfit? Perhaps. But I think we're in a more casual time than that now.
CHO: All right. John Leland, author of "Hip, the History" and a correspondent for "The New York Times." John thank you, as always.
LELAND: Thanks very much.
CHO: Wednesday marks President Obama's 100th day in office. Keep it here on CNN. Join us at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN as the best political team on TV analyzes his job performance. Then at 8:00, President Obama will hold a live news conference.
Listen, because we also want to know how you think he has done so far. We want to you grade the president and make your voice heard on cnn.com/reportcard. John.
ROBERTS: The Taliban backs away from the negotiating table and ending talks with the Pakistani government. What caused the breakdown? We're live on the ground in Islamabad just ahead.
And don't forget, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, on twitter all morning long from Mexico City taking your questions about swine flu and how to protect yourself. He'll answer some of them live coming up in about 15 minutes time. Go to AMFix on Twitter to get yours in on time. It's 41 minutes after the hour.
(MUSIC PLAYING) ROBERTS: And welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Let's fast forward to stories that are going to be making news later on today. At 9:00 a.m. Eastern, President Obama attends the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, where he is expected to address the swine flu outbreak.
We are keeping an eye on news reports out of South Korea today. Kim Jong-il may be grooming his third son to be his successor. South Korea Yonhap news agency reporting that Kim Jong-un has been assigned to the country's National Defense Commission. That could be indicative of a greater role for him in the future.
And today marks the first day that same-sex couples in the state of Iowa will be able to get legally married. The Iowa Supreme Court reached the decision allowing gay marriage last month.
All right. Got a lot of extreme weather across the country to tell you about today. Our Rob Marciano in the weather center in Atlanta, tracking it all. Some pretty wild stuff yesterday you got some amazing pictures of, Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, John, the storm trackers were out yesterday and Saturday as well. A total of 20 reports of tornadoes. Here you can see the funnel touching down here. This is just outside of Leavenworth, Kansas. And you now, this sort of scenario, our affiliates out of Oklahoma City there are some of the best in the business and they put their choppers out there and track them down.
So there was some damage with some of these storms. Luckily, no fatalities. Where is the threat today? Severe storms expected to pop across parts of Texas and we're already seeing that this morning and they will rocket up towards Missouri and southern parts of Illinois and east of there, will be another warm day.
Already, we have a tornado watch that's in effect for parts of central Texas. Pretty good line of storms right now moving through Dallas and because of that, we have a ground stop in effect for DFW. So be aware of that if you're doing some traveling across parts of Texas today, especially American. Ground stop in effect for the next couple of hours. I think that we're going to continue to see that.
Some snow across parts of Denver. Meanwhile, record heat across the northeast. Temps yesterday in the lower 90s and some spots will hit 90 again today, especially in D.C. John, back over to you.
ROBERTS: Rob, you know, you talk about the tornadoes following them by helicopter. Remember the pictures last year from the helicopter that tornado peeling the roof off that hog farm?
MARCIANO: Yes, that was some of the most dramatic stuff. Hopefully, you know we don't try to overextend ourselves this year when trying to get some of that video.
ROBERTS: Yes. All right. Rob Marciano for us this morning. Rob, thanks so much. Alina. MARCIANO: You got it.
CHO: Hey guys, stick around for this. A dramatic finish on the final lap of Sunday's NASCAR race. Take a look at this. Driver Carl Edwards had the finish line in sight when that happened. His car slammed right into a fence, sending debris into the grandstand. Eight fans were injured, too. The track's medical doctor says none of the injuries, though, was life-threatening. You just got to get another look at it, don't you?
To the delight of the crowd. Edwards actually climbed out of his mangled car and he ran across the finish line. Obviously, he didn't win the race. Oh, wow! From inside the car.
ROBERTS: Some of those onboard cameras capturing all the action. You know, people talk about flying cars and whether they're possible? There it is. It's possible.
CHO: Yes, but obviously heavily fortified and thank goodness for that, right? I mean, always...
ROBERTS: It's amazing they lose that down force and they become airborne.
CHO: Yes, they do, right into a fence.
CHO: Sadly, we've seen it before. But great that he walked away from it.
Coming up, the Taliban walks away from the negotiating table. Why it's snubbing the Pakistani government. And what that could mean to the U.S.-led war on terrorism. We're live on the ground from the Pakistani capital. That's next.
And how to protect yourself from swine flu. Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Twitter all morning long, taking your questions. He is on the ground in Mexico City and he's going to answer some of those questions live on the air. Not too late to get your questions in. Just follow us on twitter.com/amfix. Forty-seven minutes after the hour.
CHO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
We're following a developing story right now. The Taliban's peace deal with Pakistan off this morning. Pakistan's president says the country's nuclear weapons are safe, but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff just now saying to CNN, the U.S. is very alarmed by this morning's development.
Our Ivan Watson on the ground in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad this morning. Ivan, good morning to you. IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Alina. Well, there are some deadly clashes taking place on the border with Afghanistan on Pakistani territory, a district called the Lower Dir. The Pakistani military attacked Taliban militants there, Alina, with ground forces backed by artillery and attack helicopters.
The Pakistani military claims to have killed more than 40 militants since Sunday there. I just spoke with the Taliban spokesman. He denies that. He says that the Taliban fighters have killed at least 10 Pakistani security forces. The civilian toll of this battle is starting to mount. We have more than 1,000 civilians, mostly women and children, fleeing that area, according to local aid workers.
Now this is coming after a cease-fire agreement signed between the Pakistani government and the Taliban last week. We're seeing that deteriorate right now with the Taliban making a number of aggressive moves, seizing territory over the course of the last week and now Pakistani military apparently responding.
This coming after really the U.S. government sounded the alarm, Alina, saying they couldn't believe how fast the situation was deteriorating here. They were really worried that the government wasn't mounting a real response to the Taliban threat, which came within 60 miles of the Pakistani capital in this direction over these mountains here.
The Pakistani government has responded. A number of statements coming from generals, from the president of the country saying, don't worry, the nuclear arsenal we have is in safe hands. Alina?
CHO: Obviously, a fast-developing story. Ivan Watson watching at all for us live from Islamabad. Ivan, thank you.
ROBERTS: Global concern over the outbreak of swine flu this morning and we know you have a lot of questions about protecting yourself and your family. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the thick of things. He is live in Mexico City for us this morning and he is answering your questions coming up next. It's 52 minutes after the hour.
CHO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
Top videos right now on cnn.com. Most popular, have you heard of a bull in a china shop? How about inside a supermarket? Take a look at this. This bull wandered in from a livestock market in Ireland. It caused a little chaos before heading right back outside. Didn't have to show him the door.
Also a soccer game without anybody in the stands. It happened in Mexico City at the largest soccer stadium in Latin America. Look at that picture. Authorities there banned gatherings of large crowds due to the swine flu outbreak. It's like it's a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it. It actually happened.
Take a look at how President Obama is doing on the true-false scale with the PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter. Checking some of the president's statements and look at how he is doing in his first 100 days.
ROBERTS: I love the bull in the supermarket. How they are defending with the shopping cart?
CHO: Good luck.
ROBERTS: Well, it's by far the hottest topic on Twitter right now: concerns about swine flu. There are now 20 confirmed cases in the United States. The deadly virus now popping up overseas. One confirmed case being reported in Spain.
Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta's been taking your questions on Twitter all morning long for a special edition of "Dr. Gupta's Mailbag." He joins us live from the center of the outbreak in Mexico City.
We got a question comes to us over Twitter. This question, "I heard that you can't contract swine flu from eating pork. Is that true? If so, why? Does cooking or curing pork destroy the virus?" Sanjay?
GUPTA: It is true. You cannot catch it from eating the pork. And it is true that cooking it to a certain temperature, around 160 degrees, also inactivates most of the pathogens in the pork as well.
Also keep in mind, this is mainly an airborne thing or something that lives on inanimate objects, so people touch the virus, then they touch their mouth, they touch their nose, they touch their eyes. That seems to be the most common mode of transmission, John.
CHO: Sanjay, it's Alina here. Another question that we have we haven't gotten to, actually, which is an important question, also on Twitter. "If a person has had the flu shot this year, is he or she protected? Does this person have a better chance of getting it, or would it just be a milder case?" Thank you. That's from John Martin in Rome, New York. So, what's the answer, Doc?
GUPTA: Well, it doesn't appear that the flu shot really offers much in the way of protection, although it may offer some, and here's why. This particular virus seems to be a combination of several different strains: two strains of swine flu, one strain of bird flu and one strain of human flu. It's the human flu that that flu shot may protect slightly against. So, you're protecting against a part of the virus, if that makes any sense.
But it's a very good idea to get your flu shot, for sure. Always think about that. But in terms of protecting for swine flu, it's not going to be enough.
ROBERTS: We've got another question comes to us via Twitter this morning, Sanjay. And this is a question, of course, everybody is wanting to know the answer to. "Could this strain get out of control and mutate into something similar to the 1918 pandemic?" He called it an epidemic, but it was a pandemic.
GUPTA: Well, when you look at pandemics, they have several different qualities. They're usually a virus or some sort of pathogen the world has never has seen before, they cause a lot of death and they're sustainable in populations. We know that this is a new virus.
It is very hard to figure out just how deadly this is yet. We know that over 100 people have died here in Mexico, but we don't know out of how many people who got sick. There are about 1,300 people who had serious illness, but there may be thousands more who had mild illness who never went to the hospital. So, it's hard to tell how lethal this is.
So, you know, on one hand, in 1918, you didn't have global air travel. Nowadays, you do. So, this virus can move around the world a lot faster. But right now, it doesn't seem like it's as lethal. You know, it's just early in this whole process to be able to tell.
CHO: Sanjay, one question that we haven't gotten to, but I think it's important, is that I think we should point out most of the people who died from swine flu in Mexico were in the prime of their lives, really, and this usually hits infants or the elderly. Was does that say to you as a doctor?
GUPTA: This is interesting. And the same thing happened in sort of a nonintuitive way when we were talking about SARS and when we were talking about avian flu. Think about it like this. Typically, you think of someone who has a weakened immune system, who's going to be most adversely affected by an infection. Their immune system simply can't fight it.
But in these cases, it's the immune system itself that reacts robustly, and it's the immune system in that reaction to the virus that is causing death in these patients. So, the virus starts that cascade, but all that fluid builds up in the lungs, and all those inflammatory cells throughout the body, that's what's causing the problem. We saw the same thing with SARS and with avian flu as well.
Which is why, exactly as you said, Alina, 20s and 30s and 40s, this hospital behind me, they say that's been the bulk of their patients with regard to swine flu.
ROBERTS: You know, Sanjay, everybody knows that you're the sort of doctor that gets out there in the thick of things whenever something happens around the world, any kind of public health emergency or disaster. And you're there in Mexico City, and a lot of people at home might be thinking, why the heck would Doc Gupta want to go to a place where there's disease outbreak. What are you doing to protect yourself?
GUPTA: Well, we are trying to -- you know, we're clearly being very cautious here. We're not taking any chances. These masks can be helpful. But, you know, this is going to sound simple, but simply washing our hands. This is a virus that lives on keyboards, lives on money. We don't shake hands with people. That's the way it's probably being spread, and that's what we're trying to avoid.
But this is where it started, John. If we figure out what happened here, we may figure out what happened in the rest of the world.
ROBERTS: All right. Sanjay Gupta there, looking it all up for us, trying to trace the origins of all of this. And he's going to be there all day, by the way, here on CNN, so make sure that you stay tuned.
That's going to wrap it for us. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here again, bright and early tomorrow.
CHO: Right now, CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins.