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Fight for Control of Key Afghanistan City; Health Care Debate Continues in Town Hall Meetings; Fed, Economists Suggest Recession is Ending; Right-Wing Militias Growing; Banks Returning Foreclosed Property, Liabilities to Former Owners; Two Doctors Face Off on IVF Treatments; Poster Protest at Town Hall Meeting
Aired August 13, 2009 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. We're crossing the top of the hour now. It's 7:00 Eastern. And thanks for joining us on this Thursday. It's the 13th of August. I'm John Roberts.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry.
There's a lot on the agenda this morning. These are the top stories we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.
First, marines are in a battle right now in southern Afghanistan to take a Taliban stronghold before next week's presidential election in that country. And it could be a long hard fight against insurgents who are dug in and vowing to disrupt the vote.
CNN's Barbara Starr is monitoring developments for us. She'll joins us live from the Pentagon in a moment.
ROBERTS: Senators, members of Congress and the president, all taking the health care debate to the people in town hall meetings across the country. We're taking a look at all sides and giving you real facts about reform proposals. Plus why one key Republican is also feeling the heat over health care.
CHETRY: And back from the brink -- the Federal Reserve saying the economy is, quote, "leveling out" following the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
It's the closest to an official pronouncement of the end of the recession so far, but it also comes with the word of caution that most Americans are not feeling like it's significantly better right now.
Coming up, we'll have Jeffrey Sachs, a noted economist, to explain for us.
We begin the hour, though, with Afghanistan and a dangerous fight under way right now. U.S. marines are on the ground trying to take a key city that's really an important part of a summer strategy that could help turn the war.
Barbara Starr is working at the Pentagon this morning. As we've been talking about, this comes as a crucial time for Afghanistan ahead of their presidential election. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: One week from today, Afghanistan's scheduled to hold that presidential election. And that means the U.S. Marines are stepping up the action right now.
STARR (voice-over): Up close with Marines on the front line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to get out here.
STARR: Part of operation Eastern Resolve Two, the third major push this summer into the dangerous and lucrative center of Afghanistan's drug trade -- 400 U.S. marines and 100 Afghan troops jumped Taliban lines in helicopters to take the town of Dahaneh in Helmand province, the first time U.S. troops have entered the strategic city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dahaneh is one of the key towns in the area. All of the smaller towns are economically dependent on Dahaneh. For example, this is where the bazaar is.
STARR: The marines took part of the 21,000 extra troops President Obama ordered up earlier this year. Their immediate mission, break the Taliban's hold on the city and free residents to vote in next week's election.
STARR: The Taliban called for the boycott and threatened to ruin the election, which the U.S. concedes is a challenge.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, SPECIAL U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN: Holding an election in a wartime situation is always difficult. But a government needs legitimacy. And this election was called for you should the constitution.
STARR: In Dahaneh, commanders predict a few more days of intense fighting before the town is secured.
STARR: So, for the U.S. Marines in the fight right now, that means several more days of combat in 120-degree weather and still turning up their heat on the Taliban - Kiran.
CHETRY: Yes, big challenges ahead for sure. Barbara Starr for us this morning from the Pentagon. Thanks.
ROBERTS: The White House is trying to stay on message with the make-or-break push on health care reform. But the president and the Democrats are not the only ones feeling the heat.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley who is working on a compromise with those across the aisle is getting an earful in town hall after town hall across the state of Iowa.
Let's bring in our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. She is live in west Des Moines, Iowa this morning. So what are we hearing there at those town halls, Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, we are hearing many, many things, really across the board, people for it, people against it, people confused by it. It's interesting, because when I talked to Senator Grassley he said he has not seen this kind of passion since 1989, two decades ago.
It's probably not coincidental that that passion was aroused by catastrophic health care that Congress was trying to sell to senior citizens. You are seeing that same kind of passion now out here in Iowa.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA: If it's OK with you, I'll get started.
CROWLEY: Winterset, Iowa, Senator Chuck Grassley holds his 72nd town hall meeting this year, and what a year.
GRASSLEY: We're here at a time when I sense people are scared for our country.
CROWLEY: The stimulus plan, bailouts, government spending, and now health care. Grassley has been getting two, sometimes three times the crowds he's had in previous years, many people, so many hands in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do my children go to get their insurance if they don't want government health care?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you going to change the insurance so that the small businesses can compete?
CROWLEY: So many cross currents.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to know what are you doing to the insurance companies that are putting everything in their pocket and laughing at everybody else.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Simple math even for this southern Iowa redneck shows that we can do -- we can cover the people who want coverage with a private policy cheaper, like one-third, for what the government is proposing.
CROWLEY: It's a tricky journey home for the senator. He is ranking Republican on the Finance Committee and part of a smaller group, Republicans and Democrats, trying to come to some sort of moderation, piecing together a compromised health care bill.
Some of his constituents urge to press on, but the core of his base is concerned Grassley will bend too much on the way to compromise. So bouncing from town hall meeting 72, 73, 74, and 75, Grassley, up for re-election next year starts with what he won't agree to. GRASSLEY: I'm not going to do anything to nationalize health insurance -- or, I mean, nationalize health care in America. I don't intend to do anything to allow government bureaucrats to get between you and your doctor.
CROWLEY: The senator pushes back against people he says want him to sit at his desk with his feet up. He's at the center of the Senate negotiations, he says, to keep the Senate from giving away the store.
GRASSLEY: And you know, the old saying -- if you're not at the table, you're the menu.
CROWLEY: It doesn't seem, however, that things are going so well at that table. Despite the August recess Senator Grassley said in a couple of the town hall meetings that he will not walk away from the table, but he may be shoved away from it by the things that Democrats want that he simply can't agree to.
In fact, at one of these times, John, the senator said he wasn't altogether sure that when they came back from the Senate recess that Democrats wouldn't just go it alone - John.
ROBERTS: Was there any single theme that emerged as a focus of criticism there? We hear about costs. We hear about public insurance program, we hear about denial of service. Was there any one thing in particular that rose to the surface?
CROWLEY: As far as the critics are concerned, all of that fits under one big umbrella, and that is big government, because what we heard was not just health care. It was certainly primarily health care questions that the senator got over four town hall meetings.
But he was also hearing about property rights and the stimulus package. So a very real feeling from critics and those who are looking (INAUDIBLE) this particular health care bill Obama-style is, listen, the government seems to be into everything. Bailouts, taking over or at least helping out the auto industry -- that big stimulus plan.
So there's this general feel that the government is getting too involved in the private lives.
ROBERTS: And is it your stance, Candy, that that small splice of bipartisanship on health care in the Senate there might may be coming to a close?
CROWLEY: It's as pessimistic as I've heard Senator Grassley be about the small meetings.
And that seems to center around, and not surprisingly given the criticism, the idea that our public insurance that people or businesses can buy into, something he said he just simply won't agree to.
ROBERTS: Candy Crowley for us this morning. Candy, thanks so much. It's always great to see you.
Coming up on the most news in the morning, allegations of race and the health care debate. Maxine Johnson was pulled out for having a poster at a town hall held by Missouri Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill. But there's another side to that story. We'll talk to Johnson and ask her what happened.
That's at 7:40 Eastern right here on the most news in the morning about half an hour from now.
CHETRY: And other stories we're following this morning -- former Vice President Dick Cheney discussing his years in office and appears ready to tell all in his memoir. "The Washington Post" is reporting that Cheney says President Bush stopped taking his advice in the second term and that the statute of limitations has expired on many of his secrets.
Cheney's book is due out in 2011.
ROBERTS: Plus, gasoline prices are creeping up on us. AAA reports the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded now $2.65 a gallon, up a fifth of a penny. The highest prices is way out west in Hawaii, the cheapest in South Carolina.
CHETRY: You know the old saying, if it seems too good to be true. on Wednesday morning, Best Buy accidentally posted a 52-inch Samsung plasma HDTV on its Web site for $9.99.
Of course that was not the right price. Many people tried to get in on it, though. Best Buy fixed the goof in a few hours. They listed the real price of a TV, which was then $1,800. Best Buy saying we're sorry, and they added that they could not honor the wrong price, so they refunded the $10 plus shipping, etc., back to the customers who had already ordered it. Many people had already ordered multiple TVs.
ROBERTS: Well, you know, sometimes the price is the price. But there's a little -- there's language on their Web site that says prices may be incorrect and we're not bound to honor the price that we show here on the Web site.
CHETRY: But what a deal it would have been.
ROBERTS: What a deal, yes. Sometimes they do have those blowout promotions, like 30 cent a gallon gasoline and things like that, but not in this case.
So is the recession over? Well, a lot of economists think that it might be. Jeff Sachs from Columbia University joining us in a couple of minutes to give his assessment of where the economy is and where it's headed.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Stocks rallied yesterday after the Federal Reserve said the U.S. economy is leveling out. So are we out of the recession. The majority of economists surveyed by "The Wall Street Journal" say yes, we are. But, of course, we're still dealing with unemployment, 9.4 percent. That's almost twice what it was two years ago.
So how does the news that perhaps we're out of the woods help you? Joining me now to help answer some of these questions is Jeffrey Sachs. He's the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special advisor to the U.N. secretary general.
Jeff, great to have you back. Thanks for being with us.
JEFFREY SACHS, DIRECTOR, EARTH INSTITUTE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Thanks a lot for having me here.
CHETRY: So you know when the Fed speak, especially when they say "economic activity is leveling out," and you have the economists saying that the recession is over, there's reason to hope, especially given what we've been dealing with for the past several months.
But are we out of the woods yet?
SACHS: We're in the woods still, unfortunately, but we're heading out now because we're reaching the bottom of what was a steep fall. Thre was panic. That's subsiding. The panic sense in the financial markets really has pretty gone away. There was the housing bubble. That's subsiding.
But we don't have much growth. We're still just at the bottom, and it's going to be a long, slow climb. The White House itself says we're going to have more than 10 percent unemployment rate. I think that's very likely.
CHETRY: In terms to that, what does it mean to the average person when the Fed says and when noted economists that are studying all this say it looks like we're out of the woods, yet people are at home saying, I don't have a job, my neighbor doesn't have a job, my house is not worth anywhere near what I bought it for, so when am I going to feel better?
SACHS: What the economists mean is they sense that there was some chance -- I think they exaggerated by the way -- that we were going to go into a Great Depression. We're not going to have a Great Depression. And so that's the sense of relief that we're hitting the bottom.
Some sectors, because they've been pumped up, like banking, profits are propped up again, and they're going to take mega-bonuses -- grossly unfair, in my opinion. So they feel exuberant again.
But for the rest of us, it's going to be a long, slow process. And there are many tensions in the economy still. We have this massive budget deficit that's going to have to be attended to.
So there are many problems that are going to have to be worked out. It's not going to feel good for quite a while. But the panic I think we can put aside. We're not just going in to collapse.
CHETRY: You just called it "grossly unfair." Perhaps you can explain to people -- we were told six, eight months ago, you know, banks are on the brink, the whole financial system is in danger of collapsing.
The government pumps billions to propping up the banks and the banking sector. And now they're on easy street again, it seems, and people are sitting at home saying, wait, my local plants have shut down, manufacturing jobs are gone. We're in trouble.
How does this work?
SACHS: It's unbelievable. Even in the year that these banks were losing tons of money and it costs all the rest of us pension money by the trillions, these banks continue to take billions of profits and individual bankers taking home more than $1 million each.
There was a terrific report by the New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who documented through subpoenas and other evidence exactly what these bonuses were in the massive loss year of 2008 -- $33 billion in bonuses taken home by the top bankers in nine banks that caused so much trouble.
I'm waiting for Washington finally to get serious and say we can't live in a society so unfair where these bankers walk away with billions and billions in loss-making years. Then we bail them out, and then they say, well, that's our money too. We'll take that, thank you.
If we don't get some sense of responsibility from our financial system, if Washington doesn't impose some sense of responsibility, I think the anger will rise and this will also frustrate what all of us hope for, which is a recovery we really can believe in.
CHETRY: Right. And speaking of that, we -- private analysts are saying that we added, or they think that we added about at least one percentage point to economic growth in the second quarter, meaning that was the impact that the billions in stimulus money had. How significant is that?
SACHS: I think the main reason we reached the bottom is that the panic subsided. The Federal Reserve did pump in a lot of money. That is not the stimulus from the Treasury.
CHETRY: Did the stimulus work too?
SACHS: I think the stimulus had a very slight effect, not a big effect, because we're seeing in Europe where there was no such stimulus that Germany and France, for example, actually grew in second quarter this year without any kind of stimulus package.
So I don't think one could argue that the stimulus was the key to this. My own view is that the end of the panic is the key, that the aggressive action that the Fed took in lowering interest rates, making sure that liquidity was maintained, that the banking sector didn't collapse, was really the essence. And the deflating of the housing bubble played its role.
But I think that the worries about the budget deficit going forward are real and they're going to have to be attended to.
CHETRY: All right, well, it's great to talk to you, Jeff. As always, you have some great insight. Thanks for being with us this morning.
SACHS: Thanks a lot. Great to be with you.
ROBERTS: So, 7 million women in this country are suffering from some form of infertility. And with people waiting later in life to have children, more and more are turning to in-vitro fertilization or assisted reproductive technologies to have a child.
But is there too much of it going on in this country? Are doctors too quick to turn to IVF? Well, a new book suggests yes. We'll have both sides of that debate coming up in just a few minutes time right here on the most news in the morning.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
Militias have been behind some of the bloodiest homegrown terror attacks and standoffs in American history. Now armed with plenty of firepower and a mistrust of government, a brand new report shows right wing militias across the country are regrouping and growing.
Our Brian Todd is breaking down the threat from our Washington bureau this morning.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Kiran.
In the 1990s, they were blamed for espousing the ideology put into practice by the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Now a new report claims anti-government militias inside the United States are making a comeback.
TODD: A posting on YouTube, attributed to the Ohio militia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen people -- things are bad. Things are real bad. It's going to get a lot worse. So basically the people need to wake up, start buying some of these -- see.
TODD: The video is an example of how militias are making a comeback according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: We're in a very worrying moment, in my view. We're seeing kind of a perfect storm of factors that favors the continued growth of this movement. We're talking about nonwhite immigration, a black president, an economy that is in very dire straits. TODD: A Homeland Security assessment in April said recent arrests indicate the emergence of small, well-armed extremist groups in some rural areas. How dangerous are they?
JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It's a number of groups almost far too numerous to mention, and regrettably so. But some of them indeed want to do what happened in Oklahoma City, that is, commit violent acts within the homeland.
TODD: The government intelligence assessment said lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right wing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.
A leader of a Michigan militia told us members of established militia groups like his, which do training on firearms and first aid, shouldn't be lumped in with violent extremists who talk about mounting attacks.
LEE MIRACLE MICHIGAN MILITIA: That's something we're not going to tolerate. We're not going to let any innocent Americans get hurt.
TODD: He described their ideology as pro-freedom and pro- constitution, not anti-government.
POTOK: I don't mean to suggest that all of these people out there with these kinds of ideas are killers. I think that's absolutely, clearly not true. but does this movement produce people that engage in criminal actions and sometimes really terrifying ones? I think that's unquestionable.
TODD: Several high-profile criminal suspects have been linked to racist or right-wing ideology recently. The alleged shooter of three Pittsburgh police officers killed in April, a man charged with killing a Kansas abortion doctor in May, and the alleged gunman at the holocaust museum in Washington in June.
The election of the first African-American president is serving as an extremist recruiting tool according to the Department of Homeland Security. Law enforcement sources tell CNN while Barack Obama had a significant number of threats during his campaign, since his swearing in, it's not been much different from previous presidents.
Still, a former Secret Service agent tells us...
WILLIAM PICKLE, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: I think the historical nature of this presidency is certainly something the Secret Service and the whole country is aware of.
TODD: Neither of these two reports mentioned left-wing extremists. But a January Homeland Security Department report focused on cyberattacks by left-wing groups, and law enforcement has charged environmental extremists who have committed arson attacks. John and Kiran, back to you.
ROBERTS: Brian Todd for us this morning. Brian, thanks so much.
CHETRY: Still ahead, first your bank forecloses on your home. then to add insult to injury you find out you're on the hook for even more cash.
It's a new phenomenon that seems to be taking hold. Alina Cho joins us to explain.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.
The soft housing market giving rise to a new national trend -- foreclosed properties being returned to their owners.
CHETRY: But it's not an act of corporate kindness. It's actually a new phenomenon that's taking hold that's putting homeowners who thought they were out back on the hook. CNN's Alina Cho has one couple story. It's an AM original. Good morning.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. It's far from corporate kindness, guys. Good morning. Good morning everybody.
You know, this frankly surprised a lot of us around here. People whose homes have gone into foreclosure are finding out months, even years later that the very banks that seized their homes are now walking away from them.
It's leaving the homeowner confused, and, worse, stuck with thousands of dollars of bills.
CHO (voice-over): When Dellian and Valerie Sharp found out the bank was taking possession of their home after they defaulted on their mortgage, they thought it was the worst day of their lives. They were wrong.
DELLIAN SHARP, HOMEOWNER: We could spend 45 days in jail over this housing issue.
CHO (on camera): Does that seem ridiculous to you?
SHARP: It does to me, because it's like, we don't own the house.
CHO (voice-over): They do own it. In November of 2006, a judge agreed the Sharps' home was the bank's property and should be sold at auction. The couple moved out.
But a year later, they learned Bank of America never followed through on the foreclosure. In a statement, B of A told CNN the bank has not foreclosed on the property, and the customer still holds the title. The Sharps are shocked, and the practice is perfectly legal.
JOSIAH MADAR, NYU FURMAN CENTER FOR REAL ESTATE AND URBAN POLICY: A number of the foreclosed properties have little value left in them by the time they're reaching the end of the foreclosure process. And if it's going to be more expensive to follow the foreclosure all the way through and take the property, they just won't do it.
CHO: It's happening in cities across America, banks walking away from so-called toxic titles.
The Sharps are facing thousands of fines from the city of Buffalo, New York for property violations and unpaid taxes. That's on top of the thousands they've already paid in court fees.
Daniel Benning works as a housing court mediator. He calls the vacant homes vulnerable targets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are attractive to persons of criminal intent.
CHO (on camera): Because they're empty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're empty. The bank refuses to allow anyone to move in. But they refuse to do anything to the property, as you can see. And it affects not only this property but the properties next to them.
CHO: The City of Buffalo even filed a lawsuit, alleging 37 banks that walked away from foreclosed homes are responsible for the city's loss in property tax revenue and an increase in police and fire costs.
As for the Sharps...
D. SHARP: When you look and you find that something that you thought was gone and is still there, OK, now it's, what's next?
CHO (on camera): Well, what is next?
D. SHARP: We have no idea.
VALERIE SHARP, HOMEOWNER: No idea.
D. SHARP: We have no idea.
CHO: Just incredible. We do know their next court date is September 29.
Now, as I mentioned, this is happening in cities across America. But the hardest-hit places, Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Flint, Michigan, Buffalo, Cleveland, Ohio, places that have with older housing stock with declining value.
So, the banks essentially don't think it's worth their while to pay all the legal and administrative costs that come with foreclosing on a home. But guys, imagine going through the grief of losing your home...
ROBERTS: Yes, and finding you still own it and are getting tagged for all the expenses.
CHO: That's right. And these are people who have lost their jobs like the Sharps, you know. So, they didn't have the money to pay the mortgage. Now they're being hit with thousands of dollars in fines.
CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: So, are any of these cities, you know, on a city-by-city level trying to address the issue?
ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does, as you mentioned, city by city, state by state, county by county. In Cleveland, Ohio, where this is happening a lot. One judge there is actually allowing homeowners to use the money they pay in fines to fix up their homes so that they can either move back in or possibly sell their home. But what's incredible, guys, is that most of these people, like the Sharps, are being hit with thousands of dollars of property violation fines, like for vacancy and for arson in their cases. They weren't even inside their homes.
And then if the city orders the home demolished, the homeowner is on the hook. And in case, you guys don't think that this affects you, think about it. You have an eyesore in your neighborhood.
ROBERTS: Oh, yes. It drags down the price of all of the homes in the area.
CHO: It drags down the price of all the homes in the area.
ROBERTS: Maybe shining the light on this will help get something done.
CHO: Well, we hope so.
ROBERTS: Good story. Thanks, Alina.
CHETRY: Well, wildfire burning near California Santa Cruz mountains forcing hundreds from their homes. There's a look at the flame there. It started last night. It has been moving very quickly. It already burned 2,000 acres. Here's some live pictures this morning, courtesy of our KGO, our affiliate out there.
Firefighters said they still don't know what started it. The mandatory evacuations started being ordered last night.
And former staffer for Bill Clinton Betsy Wright is denying felony charges that she tried to smuggle a knife, a box cutter, tweezers with sharpened edges and 48 tattoo needles into an Arkansas death row prison. The Associated Press reports state police found the knife and the needles inside of a Doritos bag. Wright, a vocal opponent of the death penalty, visits death row often, reportedly told prison guards that she found the bag in a vending machine. Wright was chief of staff for former President Clinton when he was the governor of Arkansas.
Down in lower Manhattan, the Freedom Towers starting to take shape at the World Trade Center site. Crews have put in a 70-ton steel column. It's the largest so far in place. Three more are scheduled to go up later today. The columns take the skeleton several stories above street level. The Freedom Tower is set to be finished in 2013.
ROBERTS: All over the world, just-released numbers show that first-time mothers are getting older in America. But every year over age 30, a woman's chance of getting pregnant declines. More than 7 million American women now are dealing with some sort of infertility. And many are turning to the laboratory to assisted reproduction commonly called IVF.
That's how Nadya Sulaiman became the now-infamous octomom. And many critics got all over her for doing it. Now in a controversial new book, "Making Babies: Proven Three-Month Program for Maximum Fertility," Dr. Sami David said too many women are getting pushed toward IVF.
On the other side of this debate, Dr. Jamie Grifo, a reproductive endocrinologist and program director at New York University Fertility Center. Doctors, good to see you both this morning. Let's go to you first Dr. David. You claim in your book that 50 percent of IVF procedures are unnecessary. Where's the evidence for that?
DR. SAMI DAVID: Well, the evidence - first off the book is written with my co-author Jill Blakeway, a wonderful acupuncturist. 40 percent of infertility is male related. So I ask myself why is it that IVF doctors are pushing the drugs on the women when in fact the man is the one that should be evaluated.
So many couples are being herded in to IVF when perhaps there are much easier cause - much more treatable causes for their infertility instead of giving them high dose of drugs with the risk of drugs, with the risks of preterm delivery, with the risk to the baby. There are easier ways, better ways, and in this economy, a lot cheaper ways of having a baby other than having to resort to in vitro.
ROBERTS: And Dr. Grifo, you heard what Dr. David said, there are too many people being pushed toward infertility and are women being given drugs when it is actually the man who should be being treated here?
DR. JAMIE GRIFO, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, NYU FERTILITY CENTER: Well, we're not pushing patients in to in vitro fertilization. That's the last resort treatment, not the first resort treatment. And we do diagnose patients. We do treat specific problems that we find.
And it is true, 40 percent is male factor. And those men are worked up and treatable problems are corrected and then the appropriate treatment is given, and it's based on data, and it's based on evidence. And when simple things fail, then IVF becomes the last resort and it's also the most effective treatment. ROBERTS: OK. Let's break this down into a few categories here. First of all, a starting line - if a 35-year-old woman walked into your respective offices having trouble getting pregnant, how would they be treated? And how would they be treated differently? Dr. David, you want to start?
DAVID: It all depends on whether they've seen other doctors before me. All right. The important thing is to go over a complete - totally complete history. Find out about the woman's habits, her hobbies. The husband - does he take tub baths? Does he put a laptop computer on his lap? A lot of these little questions are not raised at the time of interview with the IVF doctors.
A good history should take at least one hour. You need to know everything about the woman and the man. Then you run the appropriate tests. Cultures on the cervix, hormone tests on the woman. Examining a man very critically. Let's look at his sperm shapes, not just counts. Is there an infection in the man. Are the tubes OK? Are the uterus OK? You really must be absolutely complete. This is where a doctor is meant to be.
ROBERTS: Is that different from what you do?
GRIFO: No, it's exactly what most of us do. And that's how you treat patients - you make a diagnosis and then you give specific treatment. The problem is most of the infertility that we treat is age related decline in fertility. And our treatments are aimed at increasing the odds of getting someone pregnant. And it turns out that IVF for many patients is the most effective treatment. And that's why we often resort to IVF when simpler, less invasive, less expensive treatments don't succeed.
ROBERTS: So what Dr. Grifo is doing is the same as what you're doing yet there is IVF as a next procedure. Are you really, I mean, that much at odds with each other?
DAVID: We're not at odds with each other at all. I do send patients in vitro but only after everything has been tried and tested. On the reverse, though, what I'm finding in my own practice, I find as many IVF failures coming to me or to Jill Blakeway who become pregnant, especially these women who are deemed hopeless. (INAUDIBLE)
ROBERTS: OK. A lot more issues related to this that I want to talk about. We got to take a quick break. We'll be back again with Dr. Sami David and Dr. Jamie Grifo right after this. Stay with us. Thirty-seven minutes now after the hour.
ROBERTS: We're back with our two doctors and two different views in making babies in the laboratory. The IVF debate, Dr. Sami David and Dr. Jamie Grifo return with us now.
So let's talk about this idea is this still in some ways a big experiment? You talk about the effects of drugs use in IVF, Dr. David, in your book. And you say, some studies show an increase in cancer risks from fertility drugs, however a Danish study, over the course of decades followed 54,000 women found no increase in incidents of ovarian cancer because of use of fertility drugs?
DAVID: There is another study, John, I think '08. When 19,000 people were evaluated. And there was a slight increase. This is not to scare people away from IVF, a slight increase in ovarian cancer, but more importantly, an increase in other types of ovarian tumors that are not cancerous or perhaps pre cancerous called borderline tumors of the ovary. This is not to scare people away from IVF at all but if there is an easier, less expensive way, a more natural way to achieving a pregnancy in this economy and with our concerns, why are we doing aggressive therapy.
ROBERTS: One of our producers here at AMERICAN MORNING had breast cancer, and also had IVF. When she read Dr. David's book she got concerned that whew, would she be at higher risk because for recurrence of breast cancer because of all these drugs that she took?
GRIFO: Well, there's not one study that has documented that. and the problem with all the studies looking at ovarian cancer is it's always been known before fertility treatments that the group of infertile women had a higher risk of ovarian cancer to begin with. So when you compare that population to the normal average population, these population studies are fraught with problems in terms of analysis.
So studies that are only good are the ones that will follow the patient in time and two big studies have done that and found no difference in these patients. So the worry about these drugs is really limited and if there are risks, they're very small if at all.
ROBERTS: Another big issue too is how old is too old? And Dr. David, you are talking in your book about discrimination against women who are older. Because, you know, you look at the hormonal panel when a person comes in for IVF and if certain hormones are above a certain level, they're not particularly a good candidate for it. Yet at the same time, you say that predominantly, it's older women who are pushed to IVF. So it's kind of like you're trying to argue it both ways here?
DAVID: Well, I think what I'm seeing in my practice and Jill Blakeway as well is patients have been given a hopeless chance. You're 45 years old, you're 43 years old, even a 32-year-old if FSH is high is being turned away by IVF doctors saying your eggs are too old. You have to give that person a chance to achieve a pregnancy. I'm just, you know, I'm sorry for these patients.
GRIFO: That may be your experience. But that's not how we practice. We tell the patients what their chances are based on some of these parameters. A 32-year-old with high FSH doesn't have a...
ROBERTS: FSH being follicle-stimulating hormone.
GRIFO: Follicle-stimulating hormone, which is a marker for ovarian reserve and good egg quality. If that value is elevated, your chances are lower. And if we don't tell patients these facts, then we're not being good doctors either. We don't discard them and tell them their case is hopeless. I've never told a patient that her case is hopeless. There's always hope.
What we have to do is help them navigate the complex series of choices that they must make in treatments. And that's what our job is and our goal is as practitioners, educate patients and help them make good decisions. And when you do that, they make good decisions.
ROBERTS: The other big issue here is science versus luck. How much is luck? How much is science? You write in your book, "I have helped many patients become pregnant who have failed in vitro attempts. There's a huge population of women who have failed in vitro and may still be able to conceive without in vitro or fertility drugs." What do you know, Dr. David, that IVF specialists like Dr. Grifo have missed.
DAVID: For example, a lot of the doctors gave the importance of infections in the husband's semen, for example. And in all the cases...
GRIFO: We check. We have semen analysis. We do a culture.
DAVID: Virtually every case I've seen that come to me failed IVF. There maybe a mild bacteria in the semen. And this is not what they're looking for. Week after week, Jill Blakeway and I will see patients who have not succeeded with IVF who succeeded in easier, less expensive ways.
ROBERTS: Sometimes you refer to IVF and sometimes IVF doctors will refer back to you. It's a little circle. How much of this, Dr. Grifo, is luck versus science?
GRIFO: Well, everyone has a baseline pregnancy rate. When you look at a couple, there's a chance that they'll get pregnant. Some patients it's a very low chance. And sometimes there are treatment independent pregnancies that occur. After failing IVF, there have been patients who get pregnant. It's just a fact. But it's not the most likely event that you see as a doctor. So we're trying to help patients get their best chance. As they get lower, their chances get lower. And if you ignore them and you don't treat them, then you really ruin your chances of being successful.
ROBERTS: Great discussion this morning. Gentlemen, it's great to be with you, Dr. Sami David, Dr. Jamie Grifo. Appreciate you coming in.
GRIFO: Thanks for having us.
CHETRY: All right. Well, right now, we're going to be talking about the health care town hall meetings that have been taking place all over the country. We've seen scuffles, we've seen shouting matches. But one in particular, Senator Claire McCaskill's town hall things got really ugly. A woman was ejected, was pulled out of the town hall meeting. She brought a sign into the meeting. And somebody ripped it out of her hand.
Her name is Maxine Johnson. She's going to be joining us live next to talk about what happened.
CHETRY: 48 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the most news in the morning.
Now, you've probably seen video of Senator Claire McCaskill's town hall meeting. She faced an angry crowd at a health care town hall that she held outside of St. Louis. Well, something happened in the crowd there that has a lot of people talking as well.
A woman well known in local politics was able to get a poster inside of the meeting. They said signs and posters were going to be banned, not by Senator McCaskill but by the facility itself. So, here's the video of what happened next that's making the rounds on YouTube.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: (INAUDIBLE) as a provider. So I'm doing it here in September. I hope you guys watch it and pay attention to it on the (INAUDIBLE).
The government has a million database. They don't talk to each other and we do a pretty good job I think of protecting your privacy but we don't do a very good job of communicating with each other. We kept it -- hey, hey, hey!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: All right. So you saw what happened there. A woman was sitting there. She had a rolled-up poster on the chair in front of her. She says that a local reporter wanted to see what the poster was. And that's when the man ripped it out of her hand. He was arrested and held on suspicion of misdemeanor assault. And the woman who had the sign, it was a picture of Rosa Parks, actually was also removed. Her name is Maxine Johnson. And she joins us live with her side of the story this morning.
Maxine, thanks for being with us.
MAXINE JOHNSON, CO-CHAIR, CONCERNED RESTORATION NEIGHBORHOOD COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION: Thank you.
CHETRY: All right. We saw what happened. Give us some context - what was going on with at that meeting and what happened when things took a turn there?
JOHNSON: We walked on the door. I was on the line for about an hour. (INAUDIBLE) from Missouri. He walked in the side door. We didn't see any sign posted and the security guard said have your purse checked. We had the posters opened in front of our bodies and they were to pass at two other security officers. They checked our purses, and they saw the posters open wide on our bodies and they told us going into the gymnasium. You walk down the middle aisle and sit down on the floor, and then all of a sudden the crowd start saying hey put up your signs, put up your posters, put up your signs.
And I was just curious because I knew it was a Rosa Parks sign, the highway we just got off of was called Rosa Parks, and I couldn't understand the connection between the Rosa Parks sign and the hearing. It was no relation. And finally, I just told the senator yes, ma'am, senator, we will comply and I sat down in my seat, rolled the sign up, and a reporter asked to take a picture and the gentleman to my right in the bleachers suddenly leaped from the bleachers, ran to me.
And it happened so quickly my daughter said he twist my arm, pushed me on to her, snatched the sign out of my hand and as he walked away I realized that he crumbling up my sign. And before I knew it, I leaped out of my seat to go retrieve my sign. And I snatched it from him and said don't you take my sign. And before I knew it, I had four or five officers on me and one on him.
I said, wait a minute, he took my sign. And these four other officers began to drag me away, and I began to say I'm going to press charges. I began to say Obama, Obama. We went to the meeting purposely to support the voice of the people in our neighborhoods, which is predominantly all black and some Caucasian, to make sure those people will get health coverage. Many of them do not have.
JOHNSON: We went to support Senator McCaskill and to support President Obama. We were there to support them. And I have never experienced anything like this in my entire life. I was insulted that the fact that they were all on me and this young man who basically walked out the door and they were dragging me out the door.
CHETRY: Tell me - let me just stop you there. As we understand it, this man was arrested, and he was actually charged with misdemeanor assault in this situation. We spent all morning trying to contact him and we have not been able to. But you said you thought that there was a racial element to this. Explain that.
JOHNSON: Well, they looked at me and said can't you read? Can't you read? As we looked around the room, there were several people in the room that had other signs. There was a person that had a sign that says "Nigger, Obama." Obama's like Hitler. And you know, my point is, there were signs that were not allowed, why did the officers allow this in the room? And then we complied and there were other people with signs, they were not black.
There was about 3,000 people, about 30 African Americans and then I asked another and I said, what was the problem it was Rosa Parks, a historical figure. Why was it such a threat? A woman says it wasn't Rosa Parks. You were the threat, you are a black woman. (INAUDIBLE) the people who took our report, they say, ma'am, we cannot guarantee your protection. You must leave this town. We cannot protect you. You don't know these people. They're nasty. It was clearly racial.
CHETRY: Let me let you listen to something a little bit later after that happened last night. Senator McCaskill was on with Anderson Cooper and he asked her that same question as well. Did she think there was a racial element to what went down at her town hall? So let's listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCASKILL: I'm not sure that it would be accurate to make that about race. The disagreement yesterday was more because somebody broke the rules and brought in a sign when nobody else was allowed to bring in a sign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: So what is your reaction to what the senator says?
JOHNSON: When I heard that I could not believe it because if you go to YouTube.com and you go to the reference of this town hall meeting, in the very back, there was a gentleman with a yellow sign that says don't tread on me, I have my right to exercise the First Amendment. The police approached him and then they walked away. And you know, it was clearly black because if I was white with a sign, it was either black against Obama because the black president, or black because of who I am.
You know, we were clearly the minority. If I was a white person, this would not have happened. In respect to Senator Claire McCaskill, she's not black. She doesn't know the struggle that black have to (INAUDIBLE) my neighbor with a sign, they don't attack me.
CHETRY: And I also want to make sure that we have time to get to the actual issue of health care reform, as well. Because you said it was very important for you to be at this meeting. You do community organizing, you say you see so many people that don't have health insurance. Your personal situation is that you do have health insurance, right? Your husband's worked for nearly two decades for a company. You guys have good, private insurance.
But why did you feel so strongly that you wanted to come out in favor of health care reform and the president's proposals?
JOHNSON: You know, I was fighting for eminent domain, getting involved with the neighborhood. I'm not going to do it, and I tell you if I'm going to represent Concerned Citizens Restoration Neighborhood Community group, any situation that takes place in that community, I am to be their voice.
I asked my board men to go with me. They said why are we going to this meeting? I said because we're here for the people. There are people here who do not have insurance, we need to let them know we support this reform. Any reform is better than zero, if no insurance, anything is better than nothing.
I was able to go to the emergency room yesterday to have my arm checked out. I can go to any emergency room, I don't have to call anybody to say. Can I get permission to go here or there...
JOHNSON: I just walk in the door and get service for my six children and my husband. Well, everyone doesn't have that. And I'm not selfish, it's not about me. If I can be a voice to save somebody from something they're going through, I'm going to do that even though I have a degree in psychology. There's no biggie.
CHETRY: And Maxine, I want to ask you, why has it gotten so ugly? What is your opinion about why these town hall meetings have in many cases turned into shouting matches, have turned into scuffles? What is it about this issue that has made people so angry?
JOHNSON: You know what? As I watch the video coverage on the TV and the Internet. I really think that people are still upset that we have an African-American president. Because there was one lady that came out to testify, a Caucasian lady, she sound so afraid. When I drove up here with my Obama sign, people bum rushed the car, and you Obama lover. You Obama lover. She had to sit in the police car to make a report, crying vehemently because she was afraid.
You know, this is America. We should be able to have the freedom to voice our opinion. If I walked into a town hall meeting with a Rosa Parks sign, a historical person, no one should be allowed to jump out the bleachers, jump on me and attack me because I have a sign of a historical character.
CHETRY: Al right, and we are...
JOHNSON: We still have some issues in America and that's clearly obvious.
CHETRY: Right. And this man was arrested, though, for what happened for misdemeanor assault. So we'll keep on that. Maxine, it was great to have you on though and having you give your opinion about what went down. Thanks for joining us.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
ROBERTS: So you're the host of a crime television show and you're looking for ratings. What's the best way to boost your ratings? Hire people to kill people? Well, that's the charge that's going on right now in Brazil. We got that story coming right up.
Four minutes now to the top of the hour.
ROBERTS: Talk about dying for ratings. A popular television show host in Brazil is under investigation. Police say he set up murders to generate news and get ratings for his show. But he says he's being set up. Rosemary Church has this bizarre story for us this morning. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A popular TV crime show, the host denounces criminals while his crew gets to the crime scene first capturing dramatic footage like this dead drug trafficker. But now police say the host had a news gathering edge.
THOMAZ AUGUSTO VASONCELOS, POLICE INTELLIGENCE CHIEF (through translator): In truth, he went as far as creating facts and ordering that crimes be committed to generate news for the program.
CHURCH: Murder for ratings say police who were investigating TV host Wallace Souza who is also a state lawmaker. They suspect he commissioned at least five murders. And not just to boost his audience, they say he's also a drug trafficker who was eliminating his rivals. Souza denies all criminal allegations.
FRANCISCO BALIEIRO, SOUZA'S DEFENSE LAWYER (through translator): In all, the investigations made by the public ministry and the police so far they have not been able to present any proof of any kind.
CHURCH: Souza says his political opponents and drug dealers are setting him up. He says he gets good footage because his crews have good sources and listen to the police scanners. He remains free because he has legislative immunity while officials keep investigating. The show itself which had been very popular in Amazona state has been off the air since late last year. Rosemary Church, CNN, Atlanta.
ROBERTS: Wow. What a way to get ratings. Yes. Don't worry. We're not going to try that here.