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Air Traffic Controller, Boss Disciplined after Collision Investigation; Obama Heads to Montana for Health Care Town Hall Meeting; Philadelphia Eagles Sign Michael Vick; Taliban Fighting to Last a Few Years; Young Journalist Interviews Obama; Testing the H1N1 Vaccine on Kids

Aired August 14, 2009 - 06:59   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And we're coming up to the top of the hour. It's a minute before 7:00 here on the East Coast. It's Friday. It's the 14th of August. Thanks for joining us on the Most News in the Morning. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. We have a lot going on this morning. Here are the stories we're breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

Disaster caught on tape. There's brand new home video showing for the first time the midair collision of the small plane and the sightseeing helicopter over New York's Hudson River. That crash killed nine people. You'll see the pictures, plus new questions about two air traffic controllers on duty that day.

ROBERTS: Pointed questions and heated tempers. That's what could greet President Obama as he steps back into the health care debate heading to a town hall meeting in Montana. Hundreds of protesters is expected to be there waiting. Our White House correspondent Ed Henry already in big sky this morning talking to locals ahead of the president's trip.

CHETRY: And Michael Vick is back in the game. The ex-Falcons' quarterback and ex-con signing a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Alina Cho is going to be joining us with reaction from Philly fans and the animal rights crowd.

We begin the hour, though, with major developments in the deadly midair crash over New York's Hudson River. And for the first time, we're seeing the actual moment, those two aircraft collided. The tragic collision caught on video by an Italian tourist. It was obtained by NBC News. And a warning for you that some of you may find this difficult to watch, but here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!


CHETRY: Nine people died in that crash. And when you slowed down the footage, you can see the plane appears to be attempting there to turn and climb at the last second. Still, though, clipping the helicopter with its right wing. This morning nearly a week after the crash, the FAA is taking a close look at two air traffic controllers on duty that day as well. Susan Candiotti has been working the story and she joins us now with more details on that as well.

Hi, Susan.


You know, whenever there's a crash, the NTSB talks with anyone who played any kind of a role in that crash. And that's when the NTSB found out that two air traffic controllers weren't doing what they were supposed to be doing that day. One wasn't even in the building, and the other was on the phone.


CANDIOTTI: As investigators study this amateur video to find out what led to that terrifying midair crash over the Hudson, there's more stunning information.

An air traffic controller who was handling the Piper airplane was on the phone with his girlfriend at the time of the crash according to a source with knowledge of the investigation, what the FAA in a statement calls, quote, "inappropriate conversations."

And there is more. The FAA says the air traffic controller supervisor was not in the building at the time as required.

JUSTIN GREENE, AVIATION ATTORNEY: They're put in the tower to do a job. If they're not doing the job, people can die. And in this case, apparently, they weren't doing the job.

CANDIOTTI: Our source says the air traffic controller had already cleared the plane for takeoff from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey before talking with his girlfriend. The NTSB says the plane had been handed off electronically to the next tower down the line in Newark. And then the plane disappeared from radar.

The FAA calls the calls the conduct of the controller and his boss "unacceptable," but says, quote, "We have no reason to believe at this time that these actions contributed to the accident."

GREENE: We have someone missing in action. We have someone else who's not doing their job. So the negligence is there. The only question is whether that negligence had a role in this accident. The FAA is already saying maybe it didn't.

But the FAA stands to lose millions and millions of dollars, or the taxpayers do, if the FAA is wrong.

CANDIOTTI: The FAA says the two employees are now on administrative leave. The investigation is not over. Ultimately, the two could be fired.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CANDIOTTI: And the National Air Traffic Controllers Association supports the investigation but asked that no one rushes to judgment.

So Kiran, again, while the FAA says it has no direct impact on what happened that day, at the least, it appears to be some very bad behave on the part of employees who really should know better.

CHETRY: And also, this was a situation that happened. But it calls into question -- the job of these people is to make sure we are all safe in the skies. And so it's scary to think about someone may not be taking that so seriously.

CANDIOTTI: Exactly. And so, obviously, the NTSB, the FAA, they'll both are going to be taking a close look at this.

CHETRY: Meantime, the pictures were astounding as well, obtained from the home video.

Susan Candiotti for us this morning, thanks.

They were obtained from the home video. Susan Candiotti for us this morning, thanks.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama lands in Montana in just a few hours and we are expecting hundreds of health care protesters to be there waiting for him. Lawmakers are seeing more hot tempers and more pointed questions in town hall after town hall in the health care debate. And now it could be the president's turn to take some heat.

Why, you say. Well, because he's skipping over Montana's Democratic stronghold in Butte and holding his town hall in a conservative suburb outside of Bozeman, Montana.

Ed Henry up early for us live in Big Sky this morning. This one should be interesting, Ed.


It's almost like the president is back on the campaign trail. He did this a lot, was very aggressive last year about coming to the Mountain West, going to not just Democratic strongholds. He did pretty well, winning states like Colorado and New Mexico, came close here in Montana.

But people here on the ground are telling me they're very concerned about government spending and they want to put the brakes on this health reform effort.


HENRY: Spend a day in the tiny town of Livingston, Montana, and you quickly see why the president's health care push is facing big problems in Big Sky Country -- even from those he's trying to help. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got two kids. And then my husband is the only one working.

HENRY: Sonja McDonald is uninsured so she gets discounted dental work at the local clinic. She voted for the president and agrees there needs to be reform but is worried about the details.

SONJA MCDONALD, HOUSEWIFE: I believe that there is a health care crisis, I really do. Do I believe that the government needs to be more involved? No, because I think whenever they get their fingers in the pot, it just kind of turns black.

HENRY: A common sentiment here where a second Obama voter told us government is too big.

DAVID LEWIS, PUBLISHER, "THE MONTANA PIONEER": We've just spent so much money on the stimulus and the TARP. Then we're going to add another huge entitlement in the form of the public option.

HENRY: The movie, "A River Runs Through It" was filmed near here, so people love their fly fishing, all part of the rugged individualism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the west is all about independence, and do it my way, and I don't need anybody to tell me what and how to do. And I think when government gets too involved in our lives, there is some discomfort.

HENRY: But they're comfortable with the federal government at that local clinic known as the Community Health Partners. Taxpayers pick up 50 percent of the $4 million annual budget.

DR. MARK SCHULEIN, FAMILY PHYSICIAN: We're able to provide health care to someone who walks through the door regardless of their ability to pay.

HENRY: Which brings us back to Sonya McDonald who wants more of these clinics around the country, even when we told her the feds pick up much of the tab.

MCDONALD: The government being involved is fine, it's just when they try and overstep. When they try to stay, no, this is what needs to be done.


HENRY: So, that's the challenge, pardon me, for the president. He's got to try to convince people -- look, the federal government already has a role in health care. And it can be helpful, with a clinic like that here in Montana, or with Medicare, a very popular program for the elderly.

But a top White House aide they told me they realize this is a very tough sell right especially after the string of bailouts. People are really fed up with the size of government.

The president, though, is determined to keep pushing forward, not just the town hall here in Montana but another one in Colorado. And John, I've got my hat. I've got to be ready for the locals.

ROBERTS: Ed, you make that look good, Ed. I certainly couldn't do that.

Listen, the other day, even in fiercely independent New Hampshire, the president had a fairly friendly crowd at the town hall. Are we expecting pretty much the same thing here, or could there be some naysayers in the audience?

HENRY: I think there could be naysayers. I talked to somebody who stayed up all night. There was a lottery online, then you had to wait on-line. Somebody was up all night. He was a Democrat, a big supporter of the president. He got some tickets to the town hall.

But he told me there were a lot of people online a couple days ago who stayed up all night who were conservatives who were saying they're very unhappy with the health reform effort and they're wanted to let the president have it.

So I think this is going to be a little bit more a mixed crowd than what we saw in New Hampshire. We'll see whether it gets rowdy or not. But there are not just going to be presidential supporters there, I can tell you that, John.

ROBERTS: We look forward to your coverage later on today, Ed. And we'd like to see you keep the hat on.

CHETRY: The only funny thing, Ed, if you wore during the White House briefings, no one behind you would be able to see a thing. So they'd probably asked you to remove it. But a good look for Ed.

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Also new this morning -- thanks, Ed. We'll check in with you a little later.

He tried to reform health care back in the 90s. Well, now, former President Bill Clinton lashing out at the GOP, saying that Republicans are trying to scare people about health care reform.

He also said that claims that a living will and end of life programs would promote death are, quote, "crazy."

ROBERTS: The government is sweetening the pot for people looking to take advantage for the cash for clunkers program. now you can use the rebate money towards cars who are currently out of stock and have to be ordered in.

Until now, those cars had to be on the lot. That was making it hard for people to buy popular some popular models that they really wanted. Ford even said it would build more of its popular Focus and Escape models to help dealers restock depleted showrooms. CHETRY: If you get by with six hours of sleep a night and you're thinking you're fine with that, a new study says you're either kidding yourself or you may have a mutated gene. Researchers at the University of California identified a six hours of sleep gene. But they say it's so rare that 3 percent of people have it.

The rest of us actually require about 8.5 hours of sleep. What that means for the "American Morning" staff, I have no idea. But they says it's very interesting and that it could be groundbreaking even though they've identified it in a few people. Could it lead to maybe -- maybe down the road all of us will be needing six hours.

ROBERTS: You were sending out e-mails at 9:30. You got the five-hour sleep gene.

CHETRY: So were you.

ROBERTS: I had the two-hour sleep gene earlier this week.

CHETRY: When you were anchoring Anderson Cooper and then coming back for our show, you had the 40-minute gene.

ROBERTS: Sometimes it's better just to stay up then to actually go to sleep.

We're hearing all kinds of claims in this health care debate -- death panels, health care rationing. We're separating fact from fiction coming up.


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

It's been a rough and up tumble week for health care reform. The town hall meetings are showing no signs of cooling down.

So can the Obama administration take the heat from the halls and stay on message? Or will Republicans capitalize on all that anger and turn things around when Congress returns to Washington?

Joining me now from Washington, Republican strategist Karen Henretty and Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. Good to see both of you this morning.

And Karen, let's start with you. Sarah Palin is still hammering on this idea of death panels being in the health care reform bill. The president explained that there is no such thing, it's merely voluntary end of life counseling.

To which, the former governor responded on the Facebook page, quote, "With all due respect, it's misleading to describe this section as a voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients." Do you agree with the former governor on this point?

KAREN HENRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there's a lot of misinformation and confusion. I think "confusion" is the best word when it comes to the health care bill, all 1,000 pages, whether is it going to cost $1 trillion? Whether you've got -- is it voluntary, is it not voluntary. It really all started a few months ago...

ROBERTS: Right, but it seemed like...

HENRETTY: ... this comparative research effectiveness.

ROBERTS: And I'll get to that too. But is she right or is she wrong when she says there's a provision for death panels in this legislation?

HENRETTY: Obviously there's nothing in the bill that says "death panel." I think that is heated rhetoric. And, you know, I don't really understand why anyone would have a problem with going to your physician and sitting down with your physician and having a conversation about hospice and livings will. Certainly, my parents have done that.


HENRETTY: And I also think if you truly believe your physician is going to pressure you to make a decision to end your life early, you should get a new physician.

ROBERTS: So Chris, what's this all about then, on the Republican side of the equation?

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it's very simple what it's about. It's fear-mongering.

The Republicans and the various grassroots groups that have been having a significant role in bringing these people out to scream and yell as well as spread these rumors and misperception, and the statements are basically to stop health care reform. It really is that simple.

The death panel lie -- that's what it is, is probably one of the most gross ones. And that Governor Palin, you also saw Senator Grassley echo this. It is just stunning that anyone would put something out like this that's a bold-faced lie.

HENRETTY: It's not stunning.

KOFINIS: It is stunning. It is a complete misrepresentation of the facts.

HENRETTY: But there are Democrats...

ROBERTS: I don't want there to be an argument back and forth over what's stunning and what's not. I like to get to some points of fact.

Let me throw this one out to Chris -- Sarah Palin is becoming one of the most vocal critics here of health care reform. She's also turning to the topic of health care rationing. And she points to an article that Rahm Emanuel's brother wrote in the Lancet Journal about "Complete Lives System," this is what Karen was referring a second ago, which talk about priority allocation of scarce medical resources.

Palin writes about this -- "President Obama has not yet stated any opposition to the complete lives system, as system which, if enacted would refuse it allocated medical resources to the elderly, the infirm, or the disabled who have less economic potential."

Now, there is nothing in the legislation about this, but this report that I have here that was published in the Lancet, does the president need to address this to clear up any confusion?

KOFINIS: I think part of the problem here is the one thing that these various groups and opponents have done effectively, I think, is kind of push the president and Democrats off message so we're spending more time responding to the misstatements and lies than we are hammering in the core message, which is health care reform has clear positives.

The whole argument, as you just pointed out, I think, about this notion of rationing. The current health care system rations -- 50 million people have been rationed out of it, 50 million people do not have health care coverage, and there are tens of millions of American who are rationing because they cannot afford even paying their deductible.

And you say that yesterday, for example, in Los Angeles.

ROBERTS: So do you agree with that, Karen, that under the current private insurance system, there is rationing. You do have bureaucrats who get behind a patient and their doctor?

HENRETTY: Let's go back to an assertion that you made which I think is false, first of all, that Sarah Palin is the voice of the Republican Party.

ROBERTS: I didn't say that. I just said that she is emerging as one of the most vocal critics.

HENRETTY: And you know who's also a vocal critic...

ROBERTS: I never said she was the voice of the Republican party.

HENRETTY: ... also a vocal critic, a Democrat vocal critic who supports Barack Obama about what Ezekiel Emmanuel has said about how we would approach rationing care is former New York mayor Ed Koch. He's got a great op-ed on right now.

KOFINIS: With all due respect, Ezekiel Emmanuel is not a member of Congress. He is not writing the legislation, nor is he the president. This is another red herring.

HENRETTY: He advises the president.

KOFINIS: It's a complete red herring.

ROBERTS: But he is an advisor to the president, correct?

KOFINIS: He is an advisor to the president as there are many advisors to the president. Is there anything in the legislation to suggest anything like this? Quite to the contrary. The legislation will actually expand coverage. It will make coverage more affordable for Americans. The notion that somehow it's going to ration is a falsehood.

HENRETTY: It will also increase the deficit which is where you saw a couple of months ago, you know, real opposition out there prior to Sarah Palin, prior to these town halls, which is why the moderate Democrats refused to vote for any sort of health care bill.

People are concerned about the costs, they're concerned about rationing. And all they have to do is go slower. Maybe it's time to start over. Do it in smaller pieces and they can have real reform. The American people don't want this.

ROBERTS: And the debate continues. We've got to wrap up this portion for right now. We appreciate you being with us. Karen and Chris, good to see you again. Thanks so much.


KOFINIS: Thank you.

ROBERTS: And for more details on the health care battle and everything you ever wanted to know about the town hall debates, go to care. Nobody covers this health care clash like CNN -- Kiran?

CHETRY: All right, well, still ahead, Michael Vick, after serving 18 months for a dog fighting conviction, is now signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. We'll be joined by Ryan Smith, a sports attorney and BET talk show host and also happens to be an Eagles fan. He's going to weight in.

There are very differing opinions about whether or not this is a good thing, for football, for Michael Vick, and for dog lovers everywhere.


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

Disgraced quarterback Michael Vick back in the NFL. A lot of people woke up to that shocking news this morning that he signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The former Falcons star spent most of the last two years in prison, 18 months actually, for running a dog fighting ring. Joining us now to talk about reaction to Michael Vick's second chance is Ryan Smith, sports attorney and BET talk show host. He's also a native Philadelphian. And we know what that mean. You're an Eagles fan.

RYAN SMITH, SPORTS ATTORNEY: Uh-oh. Uh-oh. I usually don't talk about my allegiances, but I do like the Eagles.

CHETRY: It's a tough thing. And I know, unfortunately, because I'm married to an Eagles fan so I have to hear about it.

SMITH: Great move.

CHETRY: But I want to ask you about this, because last time we had you on the show, this was just a few weeks back, when we first heard about him being reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goddel, you said you thought midseason replacement. This is a bold move on the part of the Philadelphia Eagles. What do you make of it?

SMITH: First of all, his agent wanted him to go to a team with a great support system. And that means a team that's already winning. A lot of people thought Michael Vick would go to a team, start midseason, do great. I thought so.

But I think this is one of the situations where the Eagles are looking to diversify their offense. They don't want to replace Donovan McNabb. They want to set up a wild cat system where you've got the quarterback breaking out as a wide receiver.

Michael Vick is a great athlete first and foremost. He's a good quarterback but a great athlete.

CHETRY: You think they're going to use him in another position?

SMITH: A lot of different things.

CHETRY: Andy Reid, the coach of the Eagles, is saying that he's a diverse quarterback but that he's not necessarily going to be used in other positions.

SMITH: But you can bring him as quarterback on certain play, have Donovan McNabb split out or play wide receiver or another position. You confuse the defense with all these offensive options.

And I think that's the thing with Michael Vick. I think we're looking at a second phase in his career. Not necessarily the drop back starting quarterback, but maybe doing a bunch of things on offense.

CHETRY: We're hearing from Michael Vick. A lot of the reasons Andy Reid says he's for it, he believe he's a changed man. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, said he's a changed man. Even Donovan McNabb himself said people have to forgive. I'm a dog lover, but people have to forgive.

So what does Michael Vick himself say? He did an interview with James Brown. Let's listen to a little bit of it.


MICHAEL VICK, SIGNED CONTRACT WITH PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: I should have taken the initiative to stop it all. And I didn't. I didn't step up. I wasn't a leader. BROWN: For the cynics saying, you know what, I don't know. Michael Vick might be more concerned about the fact that his career was hurt than dogs were hurt.

VICK: I don't -- football don't even matter.


CHETRY: He said football doesn't matter. It's about redemption. What do you think?

SMITH: You have to wonder about the timing, first of all. He gets signed with the team today. He's going to do "60 Minutes" on Sunday. I think that he wants the change the way the public views him. I think that he does feel remorse.

But I think there's an element here of really needing to show action. He's been touring, going to high schools talking about what happens, what happened to him and what could happen to you.

He's been touring with the Humane Society. PETA is very much against this. The Humane Society a little bit softer on this.

But let's face facts here, he's getting $1.6 million this year, club option nest year, $5.2 million. He does care about football.

CHETRY: He lost everything. He had to declare bankruptcy?

SMITH: Right, yes.

CHETRY: What do you think about people who say there's a racial element to this, that people are willing to forgive? Opinions are mixed, but some people say, look -- I'm a dog lover -- but it's dogs. And there are people who have been forgiven for doing worse things to human beings.

SMITH: Exactly. We've got player in the NFL right now who have been convicted of manslaughter and got less time than Michael Vick got.

I do think that there's an element here of people saying, you know what, it's not a big of a deal. He served 18 months of his life. But you'll always find people who say, including me, every life is important. You've got dogs that were abused, beaten, electrocuted. That's never going to be forgotten by a lot of people.

I'll tell you what about Philly, if he goes on that field and he performs, I'm not saying every fan will forgive him, but a lot of people are going to say, you know what, he's a great player, and that's what we care about.

CHETRY: Right. Let's see, we have 13,000 plus people weighing in. About 47 percent are for Michael Vick going back, 53 percent against it. There's no consensus on this one, but extremely passionate opinions on both sides. SMITH: The most passionate sports town I believe in all America. Philadelphians know their sports. So if he performs, he might do well. If he doesn't perform, if things don't go well, this will be with him for the rest of his life.

And no matter what, there's always going to be an element that is going to say, we're not going to forgive him. But he's hoping redemption.

CHETRY: And has gone to the NFC championship five out of eight years and have never won a super bowl.

Ryan Smith, great to see talk to you, as always.

SMITH: Good to be here.

CHETRY: Thanks - John.

ROBERTS: During the election campaign, 11-year-old Damon Weaver, the young student reporter who was trying to get an interview with President Obama. The months went on, and the cajoling went on, the negotiations back and forth.

Guess what? There is Damon with the president. He got the interview. And he'll be joining us to tell us what it was like and what it was all about. He asked him some pretty good questions too, particularly on the issue of school lunches and funding for education programs.


ROBERTS: We're coming up on the half hour now.

And checking top stories this morning -- pirates foiled by fishermen. The crew of fishing two Egyptian fishing boats apparently armed with machetes and tools turned on their attackers, a gang of Somali pirates.

It happened months ago and the story is just coming out this morning from one of the pirates and a Somali businessman. The men say the fishing crew killed two of the pirates, took some of their guns, and sailed away from the Somali town where they were being held.

CHETRY: People say that ashes were falling on them as they fled. More mandatory evacuations in Santa Cruz county in California where a wild fire has not forced 2,200 people from their homes.

This morning, though, firefighters are getting some help from the weather. They have a low wind helping to make some advances on the planes that have burned nearly 44.5 square miles.

And if you have a ticket to one of Aerosmith's shows this summer, we've got some bad news for you. The band has cancelled the rest of their tour more than a week after lead singer Steve Tyler fell off a stage at a show in South Dakota. The band says doctors want him to take time to heal before they hit the road again. Tyler broke his shoulder and had to get stitches on his head as well.

Hundreds of marines battling for control of a strategic Afghan town have now taken half of it, and they're getting some major reinforcements this morning.

Cobra helicopters pounded Taliban hideouts in the surrounding mountains with missiles. But the Pentagon admits the Taliban's resistance was more than they were expecting. One marine said machine gun fire was coming at them from 360 degrees.

The bloody fighting comes just as defense secretary Robert Gates says the war against the Taliban will take, quote, "a few years."

Our Barbara Starr is tracking developments from the Pentagon this morning. Give us a reality check here, Barbara. We're eight years into this, and things seem to be worse than ever.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They do indeed, John. When Defense Secretary Robert Gates says it's still going to take a few years, you've got to wonder what's going to happen next? What's going to happen in those few years?

Next up, the thing up to watch for, of course, is the big assessment report -- that's what they call it -- about the strategy in Afghanistan, is it working or not? Defense Secretary Gates talked about that.


ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: General McChrystal is assessing the security situation in the context of the president's goals and strategy and will submit his assessment to us and to NATO some time between the Afghan election and early September. That assessment will not include specific recommendations or requests for more forces. However, we've made clear to General McChrystal that he's free to ask for what he needs to complete the important mission that he has been given.


STARR: Gates has long been very antsy about the notion of putting more combat forces into Afghanistan. He wants to hold a lid on that. But here's the reality, John. Look at these statistics, we're about to show everyone. This is the latest statistic on the number of IEDs, those roadside bombs, being laid in Afghanistan. You see there. They have just skyrocketed in the last several months. So the reality is, our sources tell us, our military sources say General McChrystal is likely in fact, to ask for more capability, more equipment, more troops, more specialists to deal with the IED threat. John.

ROBERTS: Barbara, how is the White House going to know if all of this is working? How will they define success? STARR: Well, that's the next problem, of course. Because if you are going to put all of your firepower, now already 68,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan, how do you know if it's all working. Well, they've come up with the list of so-called benchmarks. If you remember that word from Iraq. 15 benchmarks, 15 metrics, 15 measures of success all of these very complicated analysis that will tell them whether or not it's working.

But some people say the real measure is very simple. The real reality is when those Afghan troops can begin to look after their own security and they can turn it over to them, they'll know it's working and then it sure sounds a lot like Iraq, doesn't?

ROBERTS: It certainly does, no question. Barbara Starr for us from the Pentagon this morning. Barbara, thanks so much.

And all next week here on AMERICAN MORNING, join us for a special series on our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. How are they coping after months sometimes even years in the battlefield. Back from the front lines and fighting the war at home. It's all next week right here on the most news in the morning.

CHETRY: All right. We're talking about the surgeon general nominee. Is she the right person for the job? Now there's some new information about a connection she had to Burger King.

Our Brian Todd is going to be breaking that down for us. It's 33 minutes after the hour.



ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. With all the debate over health care between the White House and Capitol Hill, one really important person has kind of, well, fallen off of the radar, President Obama's nominee for surgeon general.

CHETRY: Her name is Dr. Regina Benjamin. And as the government's top voice on health care. Benjamin could have a huge impact if she's confirmed. But, as our Brian Todd reports, some are now asking if she's the right person for the job.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Kiran. Dr. Regina Benjamin's connections to Burger King are now diverting attention from what the Obama team wants us to focus on - her background for service and sacrifice.


TODD (voice-over): Her passion for better health traces back to a mother who died of lung cancer, a brother who died of AIDS related illness, a father who had diabetes. Her impressive resume includes starting up a clinic for low-income people in rural Alabama. Dr. Regina Benjamin is President Obama's nominee for surgeon general. DR. REGINA BENJAMIN, OBAMA'S SURGEON GENERAL NOMINEE: I can be a voice in the move to improve our nation's health care and our nation's health for the future.

TODD: But some observers are now doubting that. Because Dr. Benjamin has also worked for Burger King. That's right. The home of the Whopper. Dr. Benjamin is part of a nutritional advisory panel for the fast food chain. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services says she used that position to advocate for lower sodium items on the menu. And more calorie and fat information on packaging. But one nutritionist isn't convinced that Benjamin's influence at Burger King would change the culture there.

PROFESSOR MARION NESTLE, NUTRITIONIST: In my experience, the bottom line, that is the amount of food that gets sold is what counts. And public health really doesn't matter, it's considerably secondary if not even lower on the agenda of food corporations.

TODD: Burger King said it has introduced several new nutritional items to its menu since that advisory board was formed last year. But what about conflict of interest? Benjamin's gotten more than $20,000 to serve on the scientific advisory board for the giant food packaging company, Conagra. Sales this year $12.5 billion, in addition to the $10,000 she has gotten for serving on that Burger King board $10,000 since last year. One medical ethicist says this.

PROFESSOR JOHN BANJA, HEALTH SCIENCES & ETHICS, EMORY UNIVERSITY: If she was being paid a penny for every Whopper Burger King sold and if she was then sent out on a lecture tour of the United States where she would encourage physicians and nurses and nutritionist and educators to try to get their patients and school kids to eat as many Whoppers as possible. If that was the arrangement, I'd say she would have a heck of a conflict of interest. I personally don't think that she's going to have a problem at all.


TODD: And Health and Human Services officials tell us Dr. Benjamin will resign from those boards of Burger King and Conagra as soon as she's confirmed by the Senate and they say she'll recuse (ph) herself from any matters dealing with those companies for two years as part of her ethics agreement with the Obama administration. John and Kiran, back to you.

ROBERTS: Brian Todd for us this morning. Brian, thanks so much.

Remember, we introduced there are - you know, folks at home to 11-year-old Damon Weaver, during the election campaign. This young fellow from Pahokee, Florida.

CHETRY: That's right. He...

ROBERTS: He's a student journalist.

CHETRY: Yes. There he is. He wanted to interview President Obama. He had a chance to interview the vice president, Joe Biden. And he was on our air asking - saying anytime, I'll meet you. I'll meet. You say when, and I'll be there.


And finally he managed to get through to the White House. And yesterday, 11-year-old Damon interviewed President Obama. We'll bring you a lot of that and talk to Damon about that experience coming up. 40 minutes now after the hour.



CHETRY: Forty-two minutes past the hour right now. And it's time for a road trip. Every Friday, our Rob Marciano hits the road for what we call "Rob's Road Show."

ROBERTS: And today, Rob is in the sunshine state at the World Yo-Yo Contest. And Rob, it's been a long time since I've had a yo-yo in my hands. And I tell you, looking at what some of those young folks are doing with the yo-yo - wow, things have changed over the last 50 years.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm a lot scared. I should trust these guys. Things have changed quite a bit, John, in the last 10, 20, 30 years. These guys, they're my boys, they're my posse. And I haven't learned much more than going over the top. There you go. That's the best trick I got for you right there. I've tried a few things. It's my buddy, Ben.

These are one of 240 competitors in this World Yo-yo Contest. 24 countries competing, seven different divisions. This is the Holy Grail right here of yo-yo competition. And I was able to track down a couple of these guys yesterday and actually get a lesson. Let's see how it went.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make a muscle. Stronger, stronger.

MARCIANO (on camera): Stronger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great form. Totally optional. Throw it down at the ground. Straight, as hard as you can. Now take your left hand put it midway through the string.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your right hand, put it over the top of the yo-yo. You're going to pinch with your left hand. You're going to pinch the front of the string.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And pull your right hand up. So it goes like this. Oh, my God, you almost had it.


MARCIANO: Yes, almost only counts in horseshoes, I guess. That's the best I can do. Are you ready. I don't think we have time for this. But I'm going to try. Ben taught me the around the world. John and Kiran, what are the odds of me being able to do this.

CHETRY: It's a hard one.

ROBERTS: The folks behind you better watch out.

CHETRY: Yes, you got to get some velocity there.

MARCIANO: All right. Everybody, give me - clear the room.

ROBERTS: Clear the room.

MARCIANO: He's warming up.

CHETRY: Pick up some speed.

MARCIANO: One, two...

One more. That's - oh, that's right.

ROBERTS: Oh, man.

MARCIANO: Thank you.

CHETRY: You did it.

MARCIANO: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Very good. Excellent, well done.

MARCIANO: Let me cheat - let me cheat real quick. Oh, yes, I got it. I got it.

ROBERTS: By the way, Rob has good health insurance. I wanted to point it out.

MARCIANO: Turner does take care of us.

Thanks, guys. Well done. That's it from "Rob's Road Show." Next week we're doing some tractor pulling. All right. That's still open for discussion.

ROBERTS: Hey, we were talking - you forgot to mention this earlier. I remember when I was a kid playing with a yo-yo is basically, you know, two doughnuts of wood, sandwiched together over a piece of dowling. These things have ball bearings in them now? That's why you can do all these amazing tricks.

MARCIANO: Yes. That's one of the reasons why you can let it sleep, walk the dog.

ROBERTS: Wow. MARCIANO: A matter of fact, the Guinness Book of World Records this kid's going for, not here but later today or tomorrow. He's going to let it sleep for 16 minutes. That's all due to ball bearings. The Dunkin' Company invented it in 1929. Is that right? 1929. So it's been around a while but it's never been better or more popular.

CHETRY: How about it. I remember the coolest thing we had was our yo-yo's glowed in the dark. They had the glow in the dark one, you know. There you go.

MARCIANO: You're the coolest kid in town.

CHETRY: I'm interested to see how the judging works. Because every one seems really good. And yourself included, Rob. So, congrats for the around the world trick there.

MARCIANO: Thank you. It's been a lot of hard work the last 10 minutes.

ROBERTS: So Rob at the World Yo-yo Championship in Orlando today. It's going to be the tractor pull next week. If you got an idea for Rob's next road trip, send us an e-mail, head to our web site at, "Rob's Road Show." Let us know where he should go.

CHETRY: Well, still ahead. You know Damon Weaver when - he was the young Florida journalist trying to get an interview with President Obama. Well, he went to the White House. He sat down with the president one-on-one. And he's going to join us live, show us a few clips from the interview and tell us how it went. It's 47 minutes past the hour.



ROBERTS: Good morning, Mr. President. Partly cloudy. It's 72 degrees out right now, later on today, mostly sunny. High somewhere between 82 and 85 degrees. A little bit of clouds floating around. But should be a beautiful day in Washington.

Well, you're used to seeing our White House correspondents, Suzanne Malveaux and Ed Henry on the White House lawn. But here's something that you don't see every day. The most persistent reporter on earth.

CHETRY: Well, he's been trying to get an interview with the president since the early days of the campaign. He came on our show a couple of times to talk about it. So guess what? He was able to finally secure the interview.


CHETRY: Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAMON WEAVER, INTERVIEWED PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hi, I'm Damon Weaver, and I'm here at the White House to interview President Obama about education.

Right now I'm in the room, and this is where I'm going to interview President Obama. Right now, I'm waiting for him to arrive so that I can interview him.


CHETRY: All right. That's Damon Weaver, just 11 years old. And Damon joins us now live from the White House once again. Look at you out there, you're on the White House lawn. You're covering the leader of the free world. How does it feel, Damon?

WEAVER: It feels very good.

CHETRY: How did you finally secure the interview?

WEAVER: Well, I was always thinking because they were doing something on education and they were thinking Damon Weaver could do this. So they called me up and they asked my schedule, and I was available. So that's how I got the interview.

ROBERTS: Fantastic. I know you've been trying for months as we have here. You managed to beat us to the punch. We haven't managed to interview the president yet here on AMERICAN MORNING since the election. So kudos to you, Damon, for doing it.

Hey, you managed to talk to him right in the middle of this heated health care debate. And he certainly is getting a lot of heat. Let's listen to a little bit of the back and forth between you and the president.


WEAVER: I know as president you get bullied a lot. How do you handle it?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You mean people say mean things about me? Well, you know, I think that, you know, when you're president, you're responsible for a lot of things, and a lot of people are having a tough time and hurting out there. And the main thing that I just try to do is stay focused on trying to do a good job.


ROBERTS: Damon, the president said that sometimes he gets worn down, as well. Did you get a sense from talking to him that being president is a pretty tough job?

WEAVER: Well, yes. Being president is a very hard job because you have a lot of paperwork to do and have to take care of America.

CHETRY: You have a lot of paperwork to say the least. ROBERTS: Particularly these days. Just signing the checks is a lot of paperwork.

CHETRY: Well, one of the other things that you had a chance to talk to him about, you talked about education, you also talked about school lunches. And here's the exchange between you and the president. Let's listen.


OBAMA: And so what we want to do is make sure that there are more fruits and more vegetables in the schools now. Kids may not end up liking that, but it's actually better for them. It'll be healthier for them, and those are some of the changes that we're trying to make.

WEAVER: I suggest that we have French fries and mangoes every day for lunch.

OBAMA: See, you know, and if you were planning the lunch program, it'd probably taste good to you, but it might not make you big and strong like you need to be.


CHETRY: So French fries and mangoes, that was the suggestion you gave to the president for your school lunch menu every day.


CHETRY: All right. Well, that was a cute little exchange between the two of you. And...

ROBERTS: You know, when it comes to French fries, we've got to take him up to New Hampshire for the next primary where he can go to that (INAUDIBLE) restaurant and have French fries in 15 different ways. Hey but seriously, though, on the education front. You also ask the president, Damon, about funding for schools like schools in your district. You live in Pahokee, Florida where you say is a fairly low-income district. Did you get an answer from the president, Damon, that he's got a plan to help you out?

WEAVER: Well - let's see. Yes.

ROBERTS: You think...

WEAVER: I did.

ROBERTS: You think he's got a plan to help you out?


ROBERTS: All right. Well, you got a good answer from him there.

CHETRY: He talked about trying to make sure there's an equal distribution of some of the funding in the states for various schools in the county, but you also had a little fun with him, right? Teasing him about a basketball challenge.

ROBERTS: Yes, you know, a lot of people were trying to help you get this interview, one of them Miami Heat's Dwayne Wade and said he's pulled a little one on one with the president if he gave you the interview. Let's listen to that part of the exchange between you and the president.


WEAVER: My buddy, Dwayne Wade, promised me if you gave me the interview he would play you on a one-on-one basketball game. But he's not sure if he would let you score. Would be you be willing to play him in a one-on-one basketball game?

OBAMA: I would play Dwayne Wade. Dwayne was here. I'm sorry to hear that he was trash-talking about his game. I got to admit Dwayne Wade was a little bit better than I am. I might rather have him on my team playing against somebody else than playing against him.


ROBERTS: So I guess the question, Damon, is what are you going to do now to put Dwayne Wade and the president together?

WEAVER: Well, now I'm going to call Dwayne Wade and tell him that I got the interview with President Obama.

ROBERTS: And what did he say?

WEAVER: I didn't call him yet.

ROBERTS: Oh, you didn't call him yet. Sorry. I thought you said you did call him. So you're going to call him today and tell him you got the interview and it's time for him to come to the table here?


CHETRY: That would be even more fun. Well, what's been the reaction? Were you nervous about doing this, knowing that you were going to the White House and having to make sure you had all of your questions ready to go?


CHETRY: Not nervous at all?

WEAVER: The day that I found out, we had to write questions.

ROBERTS: Excellent. All right. So you got the president, that's the big get for now. But like any good journalist, you've got to look forward to the next big get. Who's the next person on your list that you really want to interview?

WEAVER: I don't really know.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll give you a little bit of time to think about it. I'm sure you're still kind of coming down off the high, being there at the White House.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: Damon, it's great to talk to you again and congratulations. Way to go, buddy. Terrific stuff.

WEAVER: Thanks.

CHETRY: The other thing that he's learning is when you're up early at the White House, sometimes construction gets in the way of your live shots, right?

ROBERTS: Construction, leaf blower...

CHETRY: We heard some banging in the background.

ROBERTS: Taking down the tree, whatever. That was a lot of stuff going on at the White House.

Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps in a car accident yesterday. How is he doing? We'll tell you, coming right up. Fifty- five minutes after the hour.



CHETRY: School starts soon, and many parents are bracing for an onslaught of swine flu cases. One family, in particular, is interested in how it will play out because they actually volunteered to be guinea pigs of sorts for the new vaccine. So We're paging Dr. Sanjay Gupta this morning to find out more about why they decided to take part in those trials.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a typical summer day for Andrew and Nathan Stein. But what they plan to do for the rest of their school vacation is anything but typical. In a couple of weeks, both boys will enroll in a human trial of a vaccine to prevent the H1N1 or swine flu virus. Although both admit they aren't looking forward to being poked with needles, their decision to join the trials is personal.

ANDREW STEIN, TRIAL PARTICIPANT: One boy that I knew at our school died from a type of the flu. So I wanted to prevent that as much as I could.

GUPTA: The boy's mother, Christy Stein, supports their idea. She was involved in a trial of a pediatric vaccine to prevent swine flu back in 1976.

CHRISTY STEIN, MOM: I trust the people who are running the study. And I'm not concerned about it at all.

GUPTA: Why enroll children into an H1N1 vaccine trial? Well, it seems young people age six months to 24 years are more susceptible to the virus. And because young people are different, trials also need to be tested on youngsters.

DR. KAREN KOTLOFF, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: In the younger population, groups that may need a higher dose or two doses of the higher dose, et cetera, and these studies will answer those types of questions.

GUPTA: The Centers for Disease Control has also warned pregnant women are at high risk, but for now, adults, young people, and those over the age of 65 will be tested in different groups to determine dosage.

Scientists say it's extremely important they complete their pediatric trials so they have a proven vaccine to protect kids if the swine flu begins to spread rapidly in the United States. Even the Steins' grandfather who happens to be a pediatrician believes his grandsons can make a difference.

DR. WAYNE CROWDER, GRANDFATHER/PEDIATRICIAN: The H1N1 influenza has the potential to cause a severe pandemic. I'm very interested in doing anything I can to protect my family, my patients, and the general public's health.

GUPTA: Nathan Stein agrees.



GUPTA: But like with any shot, people have been complaining with redness, soreness at the site. Most of that seems to go away in a couple of days. There have been some rare situations of severe allergic reactions, as well. One of the terms that a lot of these volunteers are hearing is a term called informed consent. That's what you hear during a trial is that you're consenting that we don't know exactly how this is going to work, but we're trying this out for, again for the betterment for the public at large.

Take a look at the sites around the country. Again, 11 sites, nine states around the country currently conducting the trials. They're looking at all sorts of different things. They're looking at the two dose vaccines, having one shot followed-up by a second shot. They're also looking overall at how H1N1 vaccine compares to the regular seasonal flu vaccine, as well, in terms of safety. John and Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: Sanjay Gupta for us. Thanks so much.