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Gates Oust Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan; U.S. Soldier in Iraq Kills Five Comrades at Stress Clinic; Gas Prices on the Rise; Obama Pushing Ahead With Health Care Plan; Trading With Cuba?

Aired May 12, 2009 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, welcome back again to AMERICAN MORNING. It is 7:00 on the nose here in New York on this Tuesday, May 12. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, I'm John Roberts.

A lot to cover this morning. And here are the big stories that will be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

Right now, a new American strategy for the war in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates replacing the top commander there, saying the U.S. military can and must do better in Afghanistan.

And a chilly reminder this morning of the psychological toll of war. An American soldier accused of shooting and killing five of his fellow troops in Iraq. It happened at a clinic aimed at preventing these acts of violence. The military promising a thorough investigation. Reaction from the Pentagon just ahead.

And on the agenda at the White House, more talk about your health care. President Obama sitting down with top business executives to discuss skyrocketing costs. Now that health care industry leaders are pledging to cut costs by $2 trillion over the next decade, we're talking live with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

But we begin with developing news and an abrupt change of command in Afghanistan.

The top U.S. commander there fired as thousands more American troops roll in. Then Secretary Robert Gates says he wants a new leader to carry out the president's new strategy so he gave General David McKiernan his marching orders.

And this morning, the new man in charge, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, a former Green Beret who Gates says will bring a fresh approach to the conflict.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon.

Pretty unusual, Barbara, for a commander to be changed out as quickly as General McKiernan was.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It is unusual, John. And one of the things that Secretary Gates did not talk about yesterday was that he was the man that picked McKiernan in the first place.


STARR (voice-over): A grim-faced Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced he was firing General David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, but struggled to explain his reasons.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: First of all, I would say nothing went wrong and there was nothing specific.

STARR: Gates says he wanted to see a new commander in a war going badly. Some criticized McKiernan for pressing too hard for more combat power. But when we talked to him last November, he made clear Afghanistan needed more attention.

GEN. DAVID MCKIERNAN, FORMER U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: This is more than just a matter of bringing additional military capabilities to Afghanistan, although we desperately need additional military capabilities. It's also about ultimately a political solution.

STARR: But still, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says he told Gates, McKiernan had to go.

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I thought there was a need for new leadership.

STARR: The new leadership? Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, a senior official on Mullen's staff with vast experience in counterinsurgency warfare, which many say is urgently needed in Afghanistan. McChrystal commanded covert military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He led the group that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt has known McChrystal for decades.

BRIG. GEN. MARKET KIMMITT (RET.), EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS COMPANY: I believe that Stan was selected for the job because of his fundamental leadership competence, whether it's in counterinsurgery or special forces.

STARR: McChrystal's challenge is the new counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan which means winning the hearts and minds of the people while killing off the growing Taliban threat once and for all.


STARR: And so, John, now the bottom line, this is now President Obama's commander in the war and it is President Obama's war, win or lose. A lot of people will tell you this very abrupt change really reflects the anxiety here at the Pentagon about just how badly the war is going -- John.

ROBERTS: So, was this change initiated by the secretary of defense or was this General Petraeus going to Gates and saying this is the guy I want? STARR: Oh, well, very interesting you ask that. By all accounts, it was General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who for the last several weeks apparently had been thinking about all of this.

A couple of weeks ago, they told General McKiernan where the thinking was going. They, in fact, had started a new sort of private group inside the Pentagon here to look at what to do now in the war. The man heading that group was Stan McChrystal -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Barbara Starr for us this morning with the latest from the Pentagon. Barbara, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Well, developing story this morning. Five U.S. troops murdered in Iraq. It's tragic news by any measure, but it's magnified by the fact that the person accused of shooting them is a fellow U.S. soldier.

He's now in military custody. And as the military says, it happened at a clinic designed to help soldiers cope with military stress at Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

CNN's Chris Lawrence now with more.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, we now learned that the soldier had been treated at the very same clinic where he opened fire on other Americans.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Five American soldiers shot and killed at Camp Liberty, not by insurgents, but one of their own. A defense official says an American soldier had been a patient at the same treatment center he walked into Monday. The soldier brought a loaded gun into the clinic and started shooting at troops working there and others receiving treatment for stress.

GATES: Such a tragic loss of life at the hands of our own forces is a cause for great and urgent concern.

LAWRENCE: In Iraq, U.S. soldiers are required to carry their weapons on base but with the magazine removed and they're not supposed to take them into medical treatment rooms.

In 2003, an Army sergeant threw grenades into tents at a U.S. base in Kuwait. But these shootings are rare and this is the worst case of soldier-on-soldier violence since the Iraq war started.

MULLEN: It does speak to me, though, about the need for us to redouble our efforts and concern in terms of dealing with the stress.

LAWRENCE: Soldiers deployed from Iraq describe living in a near constant state of anxiety.

SGT. RYAN GALLUCCI (RET.), AMVETS: You run into an improvised explosive devices, you can be ambushed. Anything can happen at any time.

LAWRENCE: Retired Sergeant Ryan Gallucci suffered from post- traumatic stress disorder and now works for a veterans group. Gallucci noticed his behavior changing towards the end of his tour.

GALLUCCI: There was something I wasn't very, very candid about it or very public about. And there's certainly a stigma that surrounds in the military.


LAWRENCE: But it's one that the Pentagon is trying to change. Officials are also taking a closer look at how multiple deployments affect soldiers, especially in recent years when they've had very little time between combat missions. Secretary Gates says troops may start getting more time at home later this year -- John, Kiran.

CHETRY: Chris Lawrence for us, thanks.

Now, this tragedy is also refocusing attention on military efforts to help soldiers and those serving deal with mental stress. Last night on "AC 360," Anderson talked to a combat vet who knows the conditions on the ground.


PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: They're facing a tremendously tough work environment, threats from the enemy and repeated tours. You know, we were talking in a break, a member of our staff was just deployed for his fourth call-up. He's a Marine Corps reservist.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": I mean -- that's, you know, a reservist being called up four times. It's never -- I mean that's interesting. It's unprecedented.

RIECKHOFF: The pace is absolutely unprecedented.

COOPER: They haven't even been able to really study the full effects of this kind of stuff.

RIECKHOFF: That's right. I mean, there was a good study by the RAND Corporation that puts the figures at about, you know, one in four folks coming back with some kind of stress-related mental health injury.

But these folks are going back over and over again. Each time you redeploy, you're more likely to have a mental health injury. We've got a critical shortage of mental health care workers. Just not enough psychologists, psychiatrists in theater and when they come home. So these things pile up, and you've got over 600,000 folks who've been to a theater more than once.


CHETRY: Paul Rieckhoff now runs the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He's going to be joining us live coming up in about 20 minutes right here on AMERICAN MORNING to talk more about solutions to this.

ROBERTS: This morning, Rush Limbaugh standing up for former Vice President Dick Cheney. The radio talk show following up on the vice president's Sunday talk show appearance where he took aim at Colin Powell, Democrats, and the White House.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you get rid of enhanced interrogation techniques, for example, or deter a surveillance program, you reduce the intelligence flow to the intelligence community upon which we base those policies that were so successful.

Well, if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh, I think. I think, my take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican.



RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: Dick Cheney is one lone voice in the Republican Party.

What motivates Dick Cheney? He's not hot for interns. He has all the money he needs. He's not a torture freak. He doesn't want to run for political office. Dick Cheney is motivated by love for his country.


ROBERTS: Well, not everyone was rushing to former Vice President Cheney's side. In fact, everyone who called into our show hotline, including Republicans, were critical of Mr. Cheney's remarks.


CALLER (via telephone): As a moderate Republican, I'm getting sick and tired of every time I turned on my news shows, I am seeing that loud mouth Dick Cheney spouting off about something. Please stop reporting on Dick Cheney and stop giving him air time.

CALLER (via telephone): I don't know why we have to look at Cheney on the television anymore. I am sick of seeing him, hearing from him, and I wish he would go away.

CALLER (via telephone): Those comments by our former vice president are part of the reason why I will not belong to the Republican Party. They no longer represent my views as an American citizen.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: And we want to hear from more of you on this or any story. Call our show hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 877-MY-AMFIX. That's 877-692-6349.

CHETRY: Time now to check some of the other stories new this morning.

Published reports this morning say that freed American journalist Roxana Saberi had a copy of a classified Iranian document with her when she was arrested. The report said that her lawyer calls it the key piece of evidence that Iranian officials had against her. Saberi's father tells CNN that his s daughter is doing well but will not talk to the media before leaving Iran.

Just two weeks after the botched White House photo-op panicked New Yorkers in Lower Manhattan, the U.S. Navy did almost the same thing, just not as low. A Navy reconnaissance plane was set to fly up and down the Hudson River yesterday. But shortly before the flight, the FAA got wind of the military mission and cancelled it.

Well, the summer driving season getting closer and closer, the price of gas inching higher. So how much can you expect to pay on your way into work today?

Christine Romans will be here "Minding Your Business."

It's 11 minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: And good morning New York City, where at the moment, it's sunny and 50 degrees. It's going to be, you know, kind of cool today. It's also going to cloud over.

We might get some afternoon showers. A high about 68 or so. What happened to those beautiful temperatures in the 80s we had a couple of weeks ago? I know. We haven't seen those for a while.

Thirteen and a half minutes after the hour. Let's fast forward through the stories that will be making news later on today.

President Obama turning his attention to the war in Iraq. This afternoon at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, he and Vice President Biden will meet with General Ray Odierno and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill. Afterwards, the president and the vice president will meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

In just a few hours, we're going to learn whether Florida Governor Charlie Crist plans to run for another term or instead turns his attention to the Senate in 2010. Crist is expected to make an e- mail announcement. His interest in a Senate has been rumored since Florida's Mel Martinez announced that he was going to retire next year.

And this morning at 9:45 Eastern, the crackdown on credit cards. A group of Democratic senators will discuss a bill restricting sudden jumps in interest rates and late fees which I know makes all of you extraordinarily mad. The bill which was passed by the House last week is expected to pass the Senate this week.

CHETRY: Do it again. Must be crazy.

ROBERTS: That's how I feel when I get, you know, a bump in my credit card interest rate.


ROBERTS: Or a fee, or something like that.

ROMANS: ... There are those who point out, it's not our money to begin with.

CHETRY: Yes. Christine and I -- well, you'll clobber us if we say...

ROMANS: If you paid it off in full every month, you wouldn't have late fees.

ROBERTS: Who's going to clobber you?


ROBERTS: That's what I'll do.

CHETRY: Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business" for us this morning. And, of course, as we get closer and closer to summer, gas prices are going up.

ROMANS: Have you noticed how they're going up?


ROMANS: I get a lot of -- I get a lot of e-mail about this. Because remember with last year that prices started to go up and then they spiked above $4, and it really -- it really hurt people right in the pocket. And you've seen gas prices up now 14 days in a row. A steady climb here, up 20 cents, almost 10 percent higher in just a very short amount of time.

Is demand for gasoline up? No. Are people driving more? No. Why are gas prices going up? Because the price of oil is going up, because people are anticipating the economy is eventually going to get better. And so, it's not about supply and demand, it's about money. And that's why it's going up.

Can they --are they going to continue to go up? The government is expecting maybe $2.30 is the peak for gas this summer. You're not likely to see $3.00. You're certainly not likely to see $4.00.

I talked to a lot of people yesterday. They said calm down. We're probably throwing many bubbles. We're probably seeing most of it right now.

ROBERTS: What are we going to see next year, though, when the economy does recover?

ROMANS: I know. Well, you can probably see gas prices higher.

ROBERTS: That's the scary part of it.

ROMANS: That's right.

Which brings me to "Romans' Numeral."


ROMANS: This is this new thing we're starting every day. We're going to try to take a number, have a little bit of fun with it. A clever way, a number that's driving the day in the number story.

And that number is today $777 million -- has to do with gas prices. Care to guess, John or Kiran?

CHETRY: How much it costs to fill up a Hummer?



ROMANS: It is...

ROBERTS: The amount of money that the Navy spends every day floating around.

ROMANS: It's the amount of money that Americans spend every day on gas in April; $777 million is what we spent per day in April.

ROBERTS: Per day?

CHETRY: Per day?

ROMANS: Per day.


ROMANS: But think of this, a year ago it was almost $1.4 billion. So you feel that pain now. You're complaining about your gas prices, folks, but a year ago, it was a lot worse.

So you still have the equivalent of a little bit of a tax cut compared to last year on the gas prices -- $777 million.

Now the number for the next hour is going to be 46. I'm dying to know -- 46 cents on the dollar is what it is. So if you can come up with what that is,, you can twitter you or twitter me. Twitter any of your ideas, folks, and what do you think 46 cents on the dollar. That's the next one "Romans' Numeral."

ROBERTS: All right. Looking forward to it. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: OK. ROBERTS: President Obama looking to the health care industry to help fix the health care industry. But already some lawmakers are asking will it really work? Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joins us live, coming up next.

And why did a plane fall from the sky? A hearing begins today on the Buffalo plane crash that killed 50 people. Reports are already pinning blame on the pilot. We take a look at the training that he didn't receive that could have helped save that flight.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

President Obama is pushing ahead with his health care plan, talking with business leaders later on today. He's also looking to the health care industry to help shed $2 trillion in costs over the next ten years. And the president says the time to act is now.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't continue down the same dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years. The costs are out of control, and that reform is not a luxury that can be postponed but a necessity that cannot wait.


ROBERTS: Joining me now to talk more about the plan is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She's in Washington.

Governor, it's great to see you this morning.

Let me ask you though. Everything seems great on the surface here with the health care industry saying that they're going do their best to save a whole bunch of money but the promises are vague. None of the savings are guaranteed. None of the proposals are enforceable. So what do you really have here?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, U.S. SECRETARY OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: Well, first, you had a breakthrough moment yesterday, John, with the industry leaders in the room committing to work not only to immediately start to lower costs, but to work with the president on health reform. Dial back to the early '90s, and representatives of those same groups were already on the airwaves battling the notions that we've had health reform in America.

So coming together in a voluntary fashion, agreeing that they need to be part of the solution this time, they need to work with the president to frankly make sure that all Americans have high quality, lower cost care because we can't sustain what we have right now. It's unacceptable and unaffordable.

ROBERTS: Yes. Certainly, there are huge problems with health care in this country, everything from cost to coverage.


ROBERTS: But, you know, when you look at and you contrast between what was happening in 1993 when the Clinton administration was trying to write new health care legislation in secret, behind closed doors, and now where you've got the health care industry coming inside the White House there with a seat at the table, do you think that that will yield more results than back in the 1990s?

SEBELIUS: Well, President Obama had said from the outset he wants this to be a process that's very engaged. He started with a health summit with Republicans and Democrats from Congress, with industry leaders and providers, with union leaders and other stakeholders at the table.

I think this is another step forward bringing the leaders of the health industry to the table, but also they voluntarily making a commitment to work immediately to start reduced cost. Americans who have health coverage that they like and want will be able to keep it. But no one can keep affording to pay more and more every year for the kind of health care costs that we are seeing in America. So this is a big moment.

Today, the president meets with business leaders who have been providing health coverage to their employees because they know having a healthier workforce makes a healthier America. But also, they want to put more emphasis behind prevention and wellness. These are innovative strategies that are under way right now in America and those ideas should inform Congress as we begin to see the health reform legislation be written.

ROBERTS: So, again, on the surface, all of this looks really good. But there are some people who are skeptical of this. Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning economist, is one who thinks -- is the health care industry a bit like a Trojan horse? They're now inside the walls of the White House.

They do not like your plans for universal health care. As you mentioned, Congress is going to start to write that bill in the coming weeks or months. Could this just be the health care industry looking to leverage its cozy relationship with the White House to oppose that health care legislation that's going to be coming down the pike?

SEBELIUS: Well, I'm hoping that they are sincere about what they say inside the room and outside the room. And what they committed to yesterday was a voluntary pledge so not only to reduce costs starting right away but also to work with the president.

I think it's a very different dynamic. I think that health care leaders understand that the current path of paying more every year, getting worse health results doesn't work, that the American people are demanding changes.

It started with the election of this president. And he made it very clear that this is his number one priority. He intends to push forward on health reform, and I think they've figured out that they'd rather be at the table than be outside the fence. So we need their tools, their expertise to drive a new system.

ROBERTS: And looking down the road that the cost of health care reform estimated between $1.2 trillion, $1.5 trillion, the president has funded about half of that. Where's the rest of the money going to come from? And, well, there's some critics who've suggested be a recipe particularly in these troubled economic times where we're running deficits of $1.8 trillion, will it be a recipe to bankrupt the nation?

SEBELIUS: Well, I think just the opposite is the case as does the president. You can't fix the economy without fixing health care.

Individual families, business owners, government agencies understand that the current health trajectory, the costs rising dramatically every year ahead of any other prices can't be sustained. So, we want to make sure that all Americans who have coverage they like keep the coverage.

Choice is an essential component. But we're paying too much and getting too little for the millions of Americans who are either underinsured or totally uninsured who come to the doors of emergency rooms and get the least effective, most expensive care. That fix in and of itself will save dollars and save lives.

ROBERTS: We'll see. We'll be watching all of these proposals very closely. But you said before, no question, something's got to be done.

SEBELIUS: That's right.

ROBERTS: Kathleen Sebelius, the new secretary of Health and Human Services, good to see you this morning. Appreciate you coming in.

SEBELIUS: Nice to see you, John. Thanks for having me.


CHETRY: Well, a developing story this morning. A U.S. soldier in military custody accused of killing five fellow soldiers. It comes at a time when military suicides are at record levels. So is the military doing enough to address the psychological stress of war especially with unprecedented multiple deployments? We'll ask someone who's been there.

Also, why did a plane just fall from the sky? A hearing begins today on a Buffalo plane crash that killed 50 people back in February. There are now some serious questions about pilot training.

It's 26 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour now and checking our top stories. Pope Benedict XVI is in the Holy Land this morning. The pope prayed and placed a written message in Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, the holiest site for Jews around the world. He also visited the Dome of the Rock becoming the first Pope to see the shrine which is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Firefighters in Southern California are racing to snuffed out flames still burning in Santa Barbara. Winds picked up again last night after foggy, cool and humid weather gave firefighters an edge yesterday. Officials said the fires now about 80 percent under control, but it's damaged or completely burned down about 80 homes and other buildings since it started a week ago.

Vitamin supplements may be short circuiting your body, according to a new study out of Germany. Researchers say that antioxidants like vitamin C and E after a workout may actually block the body's natural ability to prevent things like aging and Type II diabetes. It's the exact opposite of the current school of thought, but doctors say it's only one study and a small piece of the puzzle.

A chilling and tragic story coming from Iraq this morning. The U.S. military says the soldier shot and killed five of his fellow troops at a military stress clinic. This comes at a time when suicides are at record levels and rising in the military ranks. And every tour of duty is adding to the trauma that many of us will never know or experience and many of them will never be able to forget.

Paul Rieckhoff served in Iraq and now runs the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

RIECKHOFF: My pleasure.

CHETRY: You have soldiers, these combat soldiers and even those in the supporting roles who basically live with the daily threat of death on a constant basis in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are separated. They are cut off from their families so it's hard to imagine that you wouldn't be suffering from some sort of prolonged stress or anxiety. But how common is it? How wide spread?

RIECKHOFF: Well, this type of violence is extremely rare. There are only about four or five of these since the war began. So I think that's important to put that in context to begin with. But everybody over there is experiencing stress. According to best research, about one in four, one in five will have post-traumatic stress disorder, or some other kind of severe mental health injury.

But a lot of folks are getting help. They're trying to deal with the stigma. But this type of incident just really shatters the family. It shatters the unit. It's really got to last for a long time, unfortunately.

CHETRY: Are there going to be any changes or are you recommending any types of changes to the way that mental illness or even screening for it is addressed? Meaning, trying to figure out some way to take that stigma away that there is a collective, you know, assessment that takes place that I'm singling you out of your unit.

RIECKHOFF: Yes, we called for mandatory mental health screenings across the board. Screen everybody with a qualified mental health professional so you can remove that stigma. Everybody goes through, everybody gets checked. Just like you get your body checked, just like you get your weapons checked, you get your mind checked.

We also need more mental health care experts. There's a real shortage of psychologists at the V.A. and at the Department of Defense. So we need the president, Gates, Admiral Mullen, everybody to address that critical that shortage so they can help us catch folks, so they don't fall through the cracks.

CHETRY: The larger question, also, is what is the long-term plan in dealing with these multiple deployments? I mean, as we said, yes, we are drawing down from Iraq, but we're adding in Afghanistan. Remember, never seen a time when the personnel are not stretched as thin as they are. Are there any answers to trying to figure out an alternative to four and five-time deployment?

RIECKHOFF: We need to. This pace is really unsustainable. It's not only damaging to our troops but to their families as well who go for these repeated deployments. You just don't deploy a soldier, you deploy their entire family. Over 600,000 people have been to Iraq or Afghanistan more than once. So it's a tremendous toll on them.

We got to find a way to increase what's called dwell time, the amount of time they have back home. Drawing down in Iraq will help. Increasing the size of the military will also help. But definitely, needs to be more done to relieve that stress and give them more time at home and to relieve that really heavy burden that they're facing.

CHETRY: Another question is, I mean, just you know, that fear of leaving your family in tough economic -- I'm sure s compounded by what we're going through with this recession. What about just some practical things in assisting families who are either facing foreclosure, fearing foreclosure or wondering how they support their family when their loved ones are away?

RIECKHOFF: We actually just recently launched a public service announcement campaign focusing on just that. It's called It's got resources for families, ways to connect with the V.A. and with other community-based nonprofits. And it's also a place where we can look for the warning signs of traumatic brain injury, for post-traumatic stress disorder and other types of issues that folks may face coming home.

CHETRY: Right. And as you pointed out, this incident, while tragic, is very, very rare. But are there any warning signs that people need to be more aware of about the possibility for violence within units or violence within the military against others? RIECKHOFF: Well, I think you're going to see a step up in the screening. You're going to have probably some sort of a stand down when suicide numbers were released earlier this year which were really historic. There was a stand down of units across the board. They did mandatory suicide training. They increased the number of mental health care workers, they did more outreach. I think you'll see that same sort of decompression period, hopefully come up after this incident.

CHETRY: The answers aren't easy and we all know that and as we said in the beginning, this is something that most of us are lucky enough never to have to deal with and we really should think twice for the people that do go through it voluntarily...

RIECKHOFF: Yes, that's right.

CHETRY: ... to keep us safe.

Paul Rieckhoff, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you.

CHETRY: And if you are a veteran or you know one that needs help, you can log on to the It is a social website for veterans launched by Paul's group, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

ROBERTS: Well, he's one of the most popular republican governors in the country. So will Florida's Charlie Crist stay in Tallahassee or is he setting his sights on Capitol Hill.

And the industry promising to do its part to overhaul healthcare by slashing costs. But could cutting $2 trillion over 10 years affect your quality of health care? We're "Paging Dr. Gupta" this morning.

Thirty-four and a half minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Good morning, Tampa! Take a look at the weather this morning. It's going to be a beautiful, beautiful day. Hot, though. 77 degrees and clear right now. Going up to a high of 91 this afternoon. Mostly sunny. But, of course, always in Florida this time of year, chance of those thunderstorms.

Well, time to check the political ticker for this Tuesday. Republican sources tell CNN that Florida Governor Charlie Crist will run for the Senate in 2010. Crist is considered a moderate republican who supported President Obama's stimulus plan. He's popular with voters in Florida but a recent poll found most would rather that he seek re-election as governor. We expect an official announcement via e-mail sometime in the next 90 minutes.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sounding the alarm on his state's budget crisis, warning that in the coming fiscal year California's deficit could hit $15.4 billion. That's nearly double previous estimates. He also warns the crisis will get even worse if voters reject a handful of budget measures in the ballot next Tuesday.

And lawmakers in the Senate hatching out the details of a bill aimed at lowering credit card payments for those who need it the most. Under the proposed compromise, if you're paying more in interest because you've fallen behind in your payments, your rates could go back to the older, lower ones but only if the payments are made on time for six months.

Well, it appears to be a start in overhauling our nation's health care system. The health care industry pledges to reduce costs by $2 trillion over the coming 10 years. The president says reforming health care and cutting costs is absolutely vital.


OBAMA: Half of all personal bankruptcies stem from medical expenses. And too many Americans are skipping that checkup they know they should get or going without that prescription that would make them feel better or finding some other way to scrimp and save on their health care expenses.


ROBERTS: But how to cut costs without altering quality? There's the rub. We're "Paging Dr. Gupta," CNN's chief medical correspondent. He's in Atlanta this morning.

Sanjay, are you inevitably going to cut the quality of care if you cut costs? Or ,is there enough waste in the system that you can trim the fat and still maintain quality?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of different areas where they can focus on costs overall.

And you know when you talk about health care reform, John, you sort of separate the access and then cost. Everyone's talking about cost this morning after the president's remarks. There's some specific broad brush strokes here, John, but not a lot of details here.

We try to distill it down in terms of what they're talking about. And you obviously just talked to the health secretary as well about some of these things. But overall, if you sort of break it down, you know, changing incentives for doctors and hospitals.

For example, they get paid for every time a patient is readmitted to the hospital. If, instead, the incentive was to keep the patient out of the hospital, that might cut costs. Controlling costs on all levels including pharma, including individual costs, including health insurance costs, mainly creating this culture of prevention. This is something that the president has talked about, trying to keep people from getting sick in the first place, and then health IT.

John, you're in New York, but if you travel to Washington, should your medical records be there in Washington so you don't have to get some of the same tests, go through some of the same exams, all that sort of stuff, that might cut costs overall without sacrificing quality?

Again, a lot of this is theoretical. And some of this has been tried before, John. So people are cautiously optimistic. John. ROBERTS: Certainly we're getting no shortage of comments to our AM Fix hotline on all of this. Let's listen to what Christine from New Jersey had to say about it.


CALLER: I spend one paycheck a month, and I only get paid every two weeks for medical care, not even dental for my family. It's insane and something needs to be done.


ROBERTS: All right. So who is responsible ultimately for the spiraling costs of health care? Everybody points fingers in so many different directions.

GUPTA: Yes. And there's a lot of different people responsible. And costs are going up with everything. The problem with health care cost is they're going up out of proportion overall as compared to other costs.

But if you take a look at the amount of money on average that people spend on health care now as compared to, you know, several years ago, 20 years ago. It used to be seven percent of your income, now closer to 17 percent of income.

If you look at the institutional, you know, hospitals and overall health care providers, we have become a disease management society, putting out diseases, putting out fires after they occur as opposed to keeping them from occurring in the first place. Pharmaceutical costs have gone up.

And also our individual lifestyle is somewhat to blame as we talked a lot on your program, John, obesity in this country is among the highest in the world and it's associated with just about every chronic disease that you can imagine. So there's a lot of places to place blame.

But Christine makes a good point. And she's paying half her salary, half her paycheck on health care costs is just far too much.

ROBERTS: Well, this nation has been at this for about 100 years now since the Roosevelt administration, the first one. We'll see if something gets done...

GUPTA: That's right.

ROBERTS: ... this time around. Sanjay, thanks so much.

And Sanjay is on Twitter this morning, by the way, taking your questions about health care. Join the conversations at -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, are we ready to start trading with Cuba? There are some major cities already taking steps to be first. We're going to tell you why they are trying to make the move fast and we're going to be there live.

It's 42 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: And welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Forty-five minutes past the hour right now. There's a look at the nation's capital this morning. Good morning, D.C.. Partly cloudy right now, 48, a little bit later it's going to be sunny and 70.

Jacqui Jeras keeping track of all the weather for us.


ROBERTS: Well there was a national championship in dominant fashion and made the president look like a professor of bracketology in the process. Yesterday at the White House, the North Carolina Tar Heels met the man who picked them to go all the way.


OBAMA: Congratulations on bringing Carolina its fifth national championship. And more importantly, thanks for salvaging my bracket and vindicating me before the entire nation.


ROBERTS: As you know, the president had the inside track. He did get to play a little pickup game with them when he was a candidate last spring.


ROBERTS: There you go.

CHETRY: They knew their bracket.

ROBERTS: He knew something about them.

CHETRY: As the rules loosen on travel to Cuba, another potential step in the thaw of relations. Which cities want to open their ports to trade. We're live and one of them coming up.

And was pilot error to blame in the Buffalo plane crash that killed 50 people. The captain flunked flight tests over and over again. Did he get the right training?

It's 48 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Well, new this morning, it really added up. Didn't it? Airlines took in a record $1.1 billion in baggage fees last year, according to "Bloomberg News." That's more than double their total from 2007 as more and more airlines try to pass off the cost of record fuel prices to you. But you'll notice the price of fuel has gone back down, the baggage charges are still there, though. What is going on? American led the way, by the way, taking in $278 million alone.

How is this for lost luggage? Authorities at LAX in Los Angeles say that the engine of a Japan Airlines 747 sucked in one of those huge metal baggage carts as it was leaving the gate, 245 passengers on board at the time. They left the plane after the pilot announced there was a problem with engine number 1. Everyone is OK.

CHETRY: You see, that could mean so many things, you know? Wow.

ROBERTS: Definitely.

A hearing begins today to find out why a flight from Newark to Buffalo, New York just fell out of the sky killing all 49 passengers on board and one inside the house. The NTSB has already hinted that the pilot was not ready to prevent the crash.

CNN's Allan Chernoff takes a look at why he may not have been able to save the doomed flight.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, it appears the pilot was not trained as fully as he could have been, even though his training did meet FAA standards.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): When Flight 3407 was about to stall, an emergency system called a stick pusher activated to push the aircraft's control column forward. Yet the pilot, Marvin Renslow had never been trained in a flight stimulator to respond to a stick pusher emergency, only in the classroom. An experience gap that may have been a factor in the pilot's failure to save the aircraft.

DOUG MOSS, STALL RECOVERY EXPERT: I think that's a significant problem. You can study it academically all you want to, but you really need to develop the proficiency, the skill, the muscle memory required.

CHERNOFF: Colgan Air said, "We stand by our FAA-certified crew training programs which meet or exceed the regulatory requirements for all major airlines and include training on emergency situations."

The FAA concedes its requirements aren't exact enough to demand stick pusher training in a flight simulator.

MOSS: The FAA generally trains to a standard of routine line operations with only a minimal tolerance for deviation outside the norm. They don't focus at all on the edges of the envelope which if they were to do that would be costly, but I think it would improve the overall competency of airline pilots.

CHERNOFF: Veteran pilots tell CNN today's cost-conscious regional airlines need to provide more training because many of their pilots are far less experienced than those at the major airlines. The Regional Airline Association counters that the Buffalo tragedy notwithstanding its flights are safer than ever.

ROGER COHEN, PRESIDENT, REGIONAL AIRLINE ASSOCIATION: The training standards for regional airlines, mainline airlines, network airlines, low-cost airlines, all identical under the exact same protocols, all approved in the exact same category by the Federal Aviation Administration.


CHERNOFF: Pilot training will be among the issues to be discussed at the National Transportation Safety Board hearing, also Captain Renslow's history. Colgan Air says it is true that Captain Renslow failed five pilot exams but, ultimately, he did pass his tests and receive full accreditation to fly the Q400 aircraft -- John, Kiran.

CHETRY: Allan Chernoff for us this morning. Thank so much.

Still ahead, a U.S. soldier accused of killing his comrades at a counseling center in Iraq. The tragic incident demonstrating the extremely harmful effects of stress of war. We're going to look at how soldiers struggle on the front lines and the home front.

And the first travel restrictions to Cuba are eased but is trade going to be next? Cuban connection. We're going to see which cities want to open up their ports to trade. It may surprise you.

Fifty-four minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: One of our old-time favorites here on this show. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

If Mobile, Alabama, gets its way it could make history. Mobile wants to be one of the first cities to open up a port to trade to Cuba and it isn't the only city looking ahead like this.

Jim Acosta is in Tampa for us this morning. What do you say to people who say hold on, you're getting way ahead of yourselves, embargo still in place?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Kiran.

You know, ever since we traveled down to Cuba a week ago and we've been doing these stories about Cuba on AMERICAN MORNING, you know, there's a buzz about Cuba. People have been asking me the question what is the deal with Cuba? Can I travel to Cuba? Are we trading with Cuba? The answer is no, not really, and -- because the embargo is still in place.

But down here in Tampa and up in Mobile, Alabama, and other cities here in the U.S., officials are dusting off their old Cuban game plans trying to figure out exactly what they should be doing to get ready just in case things were to start changing with the U.S. relationship with Cuba. We went on a tour of the port here in Tampa, Florida, yesterday with one of the port commissioners here in Tampa. They are talking about this very thing here on the Gulf Coast. And let's just call it what it was. It was a yacht that we were out on yesterday with a port commissioner here in Tampa, Carl Lindell.

And he has raised the issue and they've been talking about this here in Tampa, establishing some kind of trading ties with Cuba. Obviously, the embargo is in place. And so they can't really do much in terms of actually shipping goods to Cuba, but they are preparing, just in case.

And what this commissioner told us, Carl Lindell, given the battered economy here in Florida and the fact that Cuba is 300 nautical miles from Tampa, he is putting two and two together and saying now is the time.


CARL LINDELL, COMMISSIONER, TAMPA PORT AUTHORITY: Originally, it was out - cattle out of this port, but then the embargo came in '62 and things changed and we know what happened since. The doors have been closed for both of us. It hasn't helped Cuba, it hasn't helped America. Now it's time to take a fresh look at this.


ACOSTA: And what Mr. Lindell is talking about here is the history of this port here in Tampa, used to trade with Cuba all the time up until Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959 and then the embargo in 1962. And so what a lot of officials here are doing here in Tampa is going back to the future.

And Kiran, there is big money at stake in all of this. There was a Florida State University study that was done on this just a few years ago that said that $1.7 billion just in agricultural trade is at stake when it comes to trade with Cuba, Kiran.

And we'll have more on this tomorrow here on AMERICAN MORNING. We're going to be looking into this further, taking a tour of the trade business here in Tampa and we'll have more on this tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: It is certainly a fascinating story with a lot of potential. Let's put it that way.

All right, Jim Acosta, great to see you this morning. Thanks.