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AMERICAN MORNING

Remembering Senator Ted Kennedy; Hometown Farewell to Be Held in Boston; John Yettaw, American Freed from Prison in Myanmar, Speaks; A New Beginning for New Orleans Public School System; Vets Told They Have ALS; Milwaukee's Hero Mayor; Health Care Reform in Kennedy's Honor?

Aired August 27, 2009 - 06:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. It's Thursday, August 27th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Thanks for joining us on the "Most News in the Morning." And there's a lot happening today to tell you about. Here's the big stories that we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

Senator Ted Kennedy's final farewell from the Kennedy family sanctuary in Hyannis Port to Kennedy's sanctuary and death near his two brothers at Arlington National Cemetery. We're live with the order of events as the nation says goodbye to the last link to Camelot and the end of an American political dynasty.

CHETRY: Meantime, tropical storm Danny is gaining strength in the Atlantic and moving toward land. Forecasters say that it could be a problem for the east coast of the United States by this weekend. Rob Marciano is in our extreme weather center tracking Danny for us.

And American freed from prison in Myanmar now talking exclusively with AMERICAN MORNING. about his surprise visit to the country's detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and how his intrusion did her more harm than good. Kiran's got the interview coming up.

CHETRY: Yes, although he says he believes he ultimately saved her life. So it's a very interesting interview.

Well, we begin with the final salute to an American political legend. In just a few hours, family and friends of Senator Ted Kennedy will gather in his beloved Cape Cod. The Kennedy clan including the senator's niece, California's First Lady Maria Shriver all arrived there last night. They will be celebrating a mass at noon Eastern and then send Senator Ted Kennedy on a very public procession to Boston. And that will be an opportunity for the people who put him in office and the people who loved him to say goodbye. As fellow Senator John Kerry put it, the people and the politics were truly what Ted Kennedy cherished.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He loved people. He loved the give and take of politics. He had respect for everybody. And, you know, despite all of the things that were thrown at him, he always talked about the humanity and the morality and the things that were important to people. And that's a good lesson for a lot of people in politics to learn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: And also this morning, the tributes continue. Here's an early look at some of the covers of "Time" and "Newsweek." They're all putting out special editions this week. And in a minute, we'll talk to John King in Boston.

But we start with Deb Feyerick. She is outside the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. And, Deb, they certainly wasted no time in getting out the schedule of events and finding ways not only to privately mourn but also for the public to remember Ted Kennedy.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And it's expected to be a day in which he will continue to be honored. You know, the sun is rising here in Hyannis Port. It was a very long night for family members, you know, the Kennedy children for whom Ted Kennedy was such a pivotal role in their lives, 29 cousins. And Ted Kennedy the central figure in all of that. We spoke to a Kennedy insider who was really just trying to express just what they've lost as they prepare to say goodbye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): Senator Edward Kennedy's final journey begins. A somber motorcade carrying him away from Hyannis Port, away from the boat and the ocean he loved so much, and endless days of family, past and present.

ANNA GRISWOLD, CAPE COD RESIDENT: We should celebrate his life, not, you know, not be sad about it. But he did a lot of things.

FEYERICK: Since Kennedy's death late Tuesday, his sons, Patrick and Teddy Jr. have been among family and cousins, insiders say, keeping round the clock watch over Uncle Teddy, larger than life, even in death.

Family friend Teresa Heinz-Kerry...

TERESA HEINZ-KERRY, KENNEDY FAMILY FRIEND: Listening to Teddy speak since my dad died in such a peaceful way, I was so afraid of what it might be like, and it was wonderful. So when you hear a child say it becomes so much better.

FEYERICK: The trip from Cape Cod to Boston expected to take less than two hours. The senator's body will lie in repose at the library he built for his older brother, President John Kennedy, lovingly transforming it into a forum for change and public service. A memorial to be held there Friday at 7:00 in the evening.

And on Saturday, a private Mass nearby at one of Ted Kennedy's favorite churches before he is flown to Arlington National Cemetery to be buried near his brothers. Over the next 60 days, Kennedy's staff will archive the senator's materials and close his office. The secretary of the Senate saying they cannot continue any legislative or other work under way before he died. New senior Senator John Kerry is hoping to fight to have Kennedy's seat temporarily filled.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He's asking simply for a temporary ability to appoint someone who will not run, will not get in the way of other people who want to run, who will be there for a moment only.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: You know the interesting thing, when we spoke to Senator Kerry yesterday, he said really, a part of what's going on right now is making sure that the legacy, that the issues that were important to Ted Kennedy continue to survive.

Now also, with Senator Kerry was his wife, Teresa Heinz-Kerry. She is close with the senator's widow, Vicki Reggie. He said that -- I'm sorry -- she said that the widow was really holding up, that, in fact, they really did feel like they have had a good year together. That they were able to do those things and tie up loose ends -- Kiran.

CHETRY: That's great. At least, hopefully, that will offer some solace to her and the family. Deb Feyerick for us this morning. Thanks so much.

ROBERTS: As Deb mentioned, the Kennedy family will hold a private mass at noon today in Hyannis Port. At 1:00 p.m. Eastern, the motorcade will then leave Cape Cod and head north to Boston. Once there, it will make several brief farewell stops. Among them, the open greenway in downtown Boston named after Senator Kennedy's mother, Rose.

The motorcade will then pass the steps of the Massachusetts state House, the federal building on Bowden Street where Kennedy had an office, and finally historic Faneuil Hall. It will eventually arrive at the Kennedy President Library. That's about three miles south -- southeast of downtown Boston. That's where John King is this morning.

And, John, the stage certainly set for an impressive Irish wake there in the state of Massachusetts.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, John, you hit the nail on the head in the sense that the Kennedy family says they want to be an Irish wake. And an Irish wake is a time to mourn, is a time to reflect. It is also a time to celebrate.

And we have seen Senator Kennedy in so many of these over the years. Tragically, the patriarch of the family who has not only had to bury his brothers but has said to bury Jackie Kennedy Onassis, he's had to eulogize John F. Kennedy Jr. He has been the central figure in so many, and he will be now remembered in a way that the family says should be reflection and celebration.

Twelve hours carved out here at the Kennedy library, a building he loved so much, the shrine to his brother's presidency, the brief presidency. The public will have 12 hours, John, to visit over two days starting at 6:00 this evening. Then there are private invitation only ceremonies here, reflections and observances. The funeral, of course, is invitation only.

And you mentioned that drive around the city of Boston. You know, Hyannis Port is what we all identify with the Kennedys. The pictures of the three brothers in their youth playing football there. So vibrant.

But this city -- Rose Kennedy grew up here. Her father was a legendary mayor of the city of Boston. And Sprinkled all around the city are places so critical to the legacy of the Kennedy family both personally and politically. And the family says that he very much planned this in his final days, that he wanted to as he came to this tribute here at the Kennedy library, take one last tour of the city he loved so much.

ROBERTS: John, Deb Feyerick mentioned this just a moment ago. Deval Patrick, the governor, was on "LARRY KING LIVE" last night saying that if he gets legislation that would provide for an interim appointment before that special election to replace Senator Kennedy, that he would sign it. What's the status of that legislation?

KING: The status essentially is that the legislature is out on summer recess right now, just like the United States Congress is. And the leaders of the legislature and the governor's staff say they're going to take an informal survey of the key players in the legislature, mostly Democrats. They dominate the legislature here, but the Republicans would have to go along as well just to see if there's a sense that when they come back just after Labor Day, could they pass that legislation, could they get it done quickly to allow a temporary appointment. Somebody who would not seek the seat.

Massachusetts law says you hold a special election in five months. And Governor Patrick says he'd love to sigh and he'd love to honor Ted Kennedy's final wish, if you know, will, for his home state to pass that legislation. It's going to take probably a week or two to sort out whether there are any objections in the legislature that would derail that process, John.

ROBERTS: All right. CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION"'S John King for us this morning at the Kennedy library. John, thanks so much.

By the way, Governor Patrick will be joining us in our next hour here on AMERICAN MORNING. And a reminder, as the country says goodbye to Senator Kennedy today, tomorrow, and beyond, stay with CNN. We'll cover all of it live for you on air and online at CNN.com.

CHETRY: It's seven and a half minutes past the hour. Also new this morning, first Bill, and now Danny. Tropical Storm Danny following a similar path on the Eastern seaboard. Danny is gaining strength out over the Atlantic and forecasters say that it could impact the U.S. east coast from the Carolinas up to New England this weekend. Our Rob Marciano is tracking Danny from the extreme weather center this morning. ROBERTS: Southwest Airlines is under federal investigation for having unauthorized parts installed on more than 40 of its aircraft. The FAA says there is no immediate safety threat that gave Southwest ten days to replace the suspect parts with those approved by Boeing. Back in March, Southwest paid a $7.5 million fine for flying jets that had not been inspected for potentially dangerous cracks in the aircraft's skin.

CHETRY: And also, it's one type of art that's not tolerated. New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art model Kathleen Neill arrested yesterday for posing naked. Police say that the model arrived fully clothed, did a quick strip, while the photographer known for shooting naked models in public places clicked away. And then Neill's has been charged with public lewdness. Interesting though, some people who are weighing in on this said it's so ironic that, you know, you're in a museum full of nudes.

ROBERTS: There's a real one. That's the problem.

CHETRY: There's a real one.

ROBERTS: Yes.

CHETRY: You're in trouble.

ROBERTS: So he strapped on a set of cardboard flippers and swam across a lake in Myanmar to see Aung San Suu Kyi. And he was then thrown in jail, released when Senator Jim Webb went over there.

Kiran, you talked to John Yettaw a couple of days ago.

CHETRY: Yes, he has a fascinating story to tell about visions, about feeling that he was actually saving this pro-democracy leader from assassination. He sits down exclusively with us to tell his side of this very, very, complicated story.

It's 10 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Watching this morning from the tropical storm to the Kennedy library and beyond. Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning."

American John Yettaw made headlines around the world back in May swimming to the Lakeside home of Myanmar's detained pro-democracy Aung San Suu Kyi and sneaking in to see her. The stunt got Yettaw sentenced to seven years hard labor and Aung San Suu Kyi an extra 18 months under house arrest.

CHETRY: And Yettaw was released earlier this month during a trip to Myanmar by Virginia Senator Jim Webb. In an exclusive interview with Yettaw, I had a chance to talk to him about why he would leave his wife and his children, and travel halfway around the world risking his own life to visit Suu Kyi and what drove him to do it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN YETTAW, FREED PRISONER: She listens to BBC daily. And her situation from what I had read about her is slightly different than what I witnessed in the home. She lives in a mansion, and well taken care of. She's highly educated, a brilliant woman, lingual. And I shared with her that I had had a vision or dream that they were going to murder her.

CHETRY: Did she think you were crazy?

YETTAW: Yes.

CHETRY: Was she happy to see you?

YETTAW: Absolutely. Yes. Yes.

CHETRY (voice-over): It was only after he left Suu Kyi's house that Yettaw was captured by police. What he didn't realize is what effect his visit would have on the woman he'd come to save.

YETTAW: Little did I have any idea that they're going to arrest her and put her on trial. I wept every day, and I suffered every day. It's not about her and it's certainly not about some unfit fellow going through the water, it's about stopping the killings. And that's what it was from day one because my message was, why isn't anyone stopping the killings? And this has been her message of peace.

CHETRY (on camera): And what was that like when you realized that your actions, as benevolent as you thought the visit was ended up causing her to face more trouble?

YETTAW: On one hand, heartbreaking. But on the other hand, grateful she's alive. Grateful that the entire world is watching and there's no way these generals are ever going to try to assassinate her.

CHETRY (voice-over): Yettaw says he had premonitions of all of this happening and that his motives were purely humanitarian. But there are many asking if he's crazy.

(on camera): Do you understand why people may think that you're mentally ill?

YETTAW: Well, I can tell you one thing, they never talked to me. And based on the media frenzy, sure, I can imagine they think a lot of things.

CHETRY (voice-over): Senator Jim Webb of Virginia helped secure Yettaw's release after he was sentenced to seven years' hard labor by a court in Myanmar. He thinks in the long run Yettaw's trip did more harm than good.

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: I really regret what Mr. Yettaw did. I think he may have been well intentioned but he hurt a lot of people, including the very woman he was thinking he was going to help. CHETRY: But Yettaw stands by his action, insisting to me that he really believes he saved Suu Kyi's life and the experience has given him a greater appreciation for his own country.

YETTAW: I'm so grateful that we live in a country where we have freedom of speech. And over there where they speak the truth, they're killed and imprisoned. And I want you to know that even on our worst day to live in the United States, the United States is one of the greatest nations on earth -- on our worst day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: He's a fascinating man.

ROBERTS: He certainly seems to believe -- he believes...

CHETRY: He has a lot of passion about it.

ROBERTS: Yes.

CHETRY: He told them he would carry the message to the rest of the world who doesn't know what's going on in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. And he also said that he discussed it with his wife and said I had a vision, I had a premonition that I need to prevent an assassination. And that she, as well as their children said go do what you got to do.

ROBERTS: I mean, his heart seems to be in the right place in terms of stopping the killings and what's going on there in Myanmar. But, you know, as Senator Webb said, you know, maybe the execution is a little misguided.

CHETRY: Right. So how did he actually do it? This is another fascinating part. How did he -- this is a heavily protected area. Her home is on a lake. There are armed guards around the entire thing.

Coming up in our next hour, he's going to explain to us exactly how he was able to pull this off and what it was like when he was in captivity for as long as he was under the military junta.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to that. It's fascinating just to hear from him.

It's been four years now since Hurricane Katrina and parts of New Orleans have come back, others haven't. But for the public school system, could the destruction of Hurricane Katrina actually be a blessing in disguise?

Could it be a rebirth? There are some people who say yes. We'll tell you what they had to say coming up.

Sixteen and a half minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: The sun coming up over Long Island Sound here and over Central Park as we begin yet another morning here in America. Nineteen and a half minutes after the hour. Christine Romans here "Minding Your Business."

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is the organization that insures your assets in banks.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

ROBERTS: And they say, hey, we've got enough money if the banks fail. But their funds are under stress.

ROMANS: The funds are under stressed because so many banks have been failing. And quite frankly, you have this fund being depleted by the day as more and more of these banks go south.

I mean, this is, frankly, the way it is and over the next two or three years, many of the banking analysts expect you're going to see even more bank failures. Let's look at what the bank failures have looked like.

Just three in 2007, 25 in 2008, and 81 just so far this year. So you can see that these banks are under stress from, you know, from the loans they made for bad mortgages and the like by now defaulting loans on that level but now, commercial loans as well.

The FDIC insures you. I want to be very clear about this that you are insured up to $250,000 in your bank account if your bank goes south. And there's a big fund to that makes sure that that's paid out. That fund has been dwindling. It's down to about $13 billion right now. The FDIC assures that they've got $28 billion set aside for further bank losses over the next six months or so.

But we're going to be hearing more today about what the fed, FDIC expects to do to make sure that it does have enough money. It has basically a checkbook any time that it needs to from the U.S. government. It's not ever going to actually run dry, so be clear about that. You're always going to be insured your $250,000.

ROBERTS: That money is going to come from somewhere.

ROMANS: But the money is going to come from somewhere, that's right.

CHETRY: Right.

ROMANS: And so it could be they could assess higher fees on some of the banks who participate. It could, you know...

CHETRY: Which we've seen recently.

ROMANS: We absolutely have been.

CHETRY: Every hour also, Christine gives us a numeral. We call it "Romans' Numeral." It's a number that's driving a story about your money. So what's the numeral this hour?

ROMANS: The numeral is 305.

CHETRY: How many banks have failed this year?

ROMANS: No, 81 failed this year. This is the number on that watchlist. The FDIC has a watch list. They're going to update that watchlist today. There's going to be a quarterly report from Sheila Bair who runs the FDIC. They're going to give us a better look at just how dangerous the banking environment is right now -- 305 banks on this problem bank list. We'll see if that number gets bigger today.

CHETRY: I listen to you, by the way. Sheila Bair, one of the top five most powerful women in the world, right?

ROMANS: That's right. That's right. Number two.

CHETRY: There you go.

ROMANS: That's right.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans "Minding Your Business" this morning. Thanks so much.

So you're a vet. You come back for more. Maybe, you know, you came back from the gulf war, Iraq, Afghanistan. You go into the mail. You get a letter from the Veteran's Affairs Department. The hospital system says we hear that you've got Lou Gehrig's disease which is invariably a fatal disease.

CHETRY: Yes.

ROBERTS: What do you do? We'll talk to one such vet who got just that letter coming up.

It's 22 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. In a special series this week, we're looking at how New Orleans is bouncing back four years after Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped the city out. As we know, the devastation has been well documented. But the city's school system was crumbling even before the storm hit. CNN's Sean Callebs tells us Katrina was actually a new beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The floodwaters washed away so much here. So much lost. But they also washed away a crippling problem -- a terrible public school system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very optimistic. I mean, when I talk to teachers and families especially people have said, who are trying to move here. I tell them I firmly believe that New Orleans in five or ten years will be looked to as the model for how you reform an educational system.

CALLEBS: Donnell Bailey says before the storm, he did poorly in a poor public school. He failed fourth grade and says he never thought about his future.

DONNELL BAILEY, HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN: Last week, the storm was a blessing in disguise.

CALLEBS: The storm forced an education overhaul from the ground up. This man, Paul Vallas, who turned around schools in Philadelphia and Chicago is driving the change. And he's in a hurry.

PAUL VALLAS, SUPERINTENDENT, NEW ORLEANS RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT: In the recovery school district alone, the last two years we saw an increase in test scores in every subject at every grade level.

BAILEY: But then I changed my teachers -- my teachers are in (INAUDIBLE). My teachers were more (INAUDIBLE), you know, and my teachers expect me to live up to its expectations.

CALLEBS: In fact, Donnell's new public schoolteachers pushed him so hard, and he did so well that he received a scholarship to a $17,000 a year private school. It's a good story.

(on camera): It's a winning formula of motivated teachers, renovated schools, and new laptops. But they're not all good stories here. By state law, if students don't pass an exit exam at the end of eighth grade, they're not promoted to high school.

(voice-over): Corticia Davis (ph) studies at home because she failed that test and can't enroll in school. Her mom says Corticia (ph) has a learning disability, difficulty retaining information. And she doesn't want the 15-year-old to attend the eighth grade for a third time. And says the district isn't providing adequate tutoring and other resources that might give Corticia (ph) a chance for a high school diploma.

DANA DAVIS, MOTHER OF TEENAGER: Well, I think she's already fallen in the cracks. I mean, she's already three grades behind.

CALLEBS: The new education czar, Paul Vallas, says the situation is disappointing. A, no, not every student is succeeding. And the district's long-term goal...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who's going to college?

STUDENTS: We're going to college.

CALLEBS: For families here, that's been an all but unthinkable goal. Only about seven percent of New Orleans public school kids graduate from college. That's right, just seven percent.

So some things never change here. Once again, it's hurricane season. And thoughts of Katrina are always here. But there is now hope because Katrina did bring Paul Vallas and his army of new teachers here. And there's hope of a brighter future for the kids.

Sean Callebs, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: All right. Wow. Well, thanks, Sean, for bringing us that story.

And if you like to see any of the other stories from our great special series we've been doing this week, on after the storm what's going on right now in New Orleans after Katrina, check out our blog, CNN.com/amFIX.

ROBERTS: Just about half past the hour now. It's 28 minutes after and checking our top stories this morning.

Flags are flying at half-staff as the nation celebrates the life of a political giant, Senator Ted Kennedy. This afternoon the Kennedys will gather for a private mass at the family compound in Hyannis Port. Afterwards a motorcade will carry the senator on a farewell to Boston procession. This evening, the senator's body will lie in repose in the Smith Center at the John F. Kennedy President Library in Boston.

CHETRY: U.S. Navy officials say that pirates holding a hijacked ship off of the coast of Somalia fired at one of its helicopters. No rounds of ammunition actually hit the chopper. At the same time, the helicopter was making a routine surveillance flight over a time when he's flagged the vessel called the wind farm. Pirates have held the crew and its 30-member -- held the ship with the 30-member crew inside since April.

ROBERTS: And more pictures surfacing of Fidel Castro's meeting with Venezuelan students over the weekend. A portion of the video was released on Sunday. It's the first video that we've seen of Castro in more than a year. Castro underwent abdominal surgery back in 2006.

A technical glitch is one thing, but imagine opening a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs and being told you have got Lou Gehrig's disease, a cruel and fatal disorder that robs you of your life before killing you. What do you tell your family and friends?

And then days later, you hear this, "We're sorry. Your diagnosis was a mistake, a technical glitch. You shouldn't have gotten that letter." That's exactly what happened to hundreds of military veterans; including our next guest, Bret Casey, who served in the 82nd Airborne as a medic during the Gulf War, and he joins us now live.

Bret, thanks for being with us. Set the scene for us here. How did this letter come to your attention?

BRET CASEY, GULF WAR VETERAN: Thanks, John. I got a phone call from my mother last Wednesday afternoon. And she said she needed to read a letter to me. And she and my father had already read the letter. And she stated the letter is from the Veterans Affairs and states you have been diagnosed with amyotropic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease.

ROBERTS: Yes. I mean, let's actually put up some of the text from that letter. It comes from the Veterans Affairs Department, as you said. It says, "According to records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, you have a diagnosis of amyotropic lateral sclerosis."

It's a disease that's invariably fatal. It robs you of your life. You become bound in a wheelchair eventually. You can't swallow, and then you die a long and lingering death. What was your reaction when your parents read you that letter?

CASEY: That's right, John. Well, I was horrified to say the least. I was actually driving when my mother read the letter to me. So I immediately pulled off the road and several minutes before I can pull myself back together, I did ask her to read the letter to me a second time and a third. Just horrified.

ROBERTS: Did it go through your mind, wait a minute, this has got to be a mistake? Did you have any symptoms that might be indicative of that disease?

CASEY: Well, I didn't feel like I have any symptoms necessarily although I do have some fibromyalgia symptoms on a routine basis, daily basis. And I had had a brain MRI scan and an EEMG, which are test used for diagnosing ALS. So I knew that it was possible.

ROBERTS: Wow. So you're trying to reach out to the Veterans Affairs Administration. Did they help you out? Were you able to get in touch with them?

CASEY: Well, not right away, because it was so late in the afternoon. But the very next morning, I did get up and contact my regional VA office. The director's office there at the regional VA. And it was later that afternoon before everything got finally filtered out and had a resolution, kind of an answer for me.

ROBERTS: Right. So the Veterans Affairs Administration sent out a subsequent letter to you and to, I think, some 600 other people who got those letters by mistake saying we discovered a mistake. They tried to clean it up. They said, quote, "They wanted to express VA sincere apologies for the distress caused by this unfortunate and regrettable error."

I mean, you were told earlier that you had a disease that was going to take your life. And then they sent you this letter, and they said we're sorry, we made a mistake.

CASEY: Well, I have yet to receive that letter.

(CROSSTALK)

I'm sure it's on the way. The VA has been very good about following up and getting with other veterans, understand they're making personal phone calls. But still, the purpose of the interview today is to try to get the word out to the rest of the veterans who may not have gotten word yet from the Veterans Affairs or have gotten this letter.

ROBERTS: Do they have -- they reached out to you personally yet?

CASEY: Not yet personally, but I do expect they will.

ROBERTS: Wow. So you've got this situation. Then there was also the situation with the dirty colonoscopy equipment that may have exposed a couple thousand vets to HIV, potentially a risk of AIDS. There were improper doses of radiation therapy that were given to cancer patients. Do you still have faith in the system?

CASEY: I do, John. The system has been very good to me. I do still have faith in the system.

ROBERTS: Right.

CASEY: Things are going to happen. Mistakes are going to be made as horrific as this one may have been. But I do have faith the VA will step forward and make corrective action as soon as they're (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: But if you could sit down with Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, what would you say to him?

CASEY: Well, I would -- I don't know. And the list would be long. But I would like to have that opportunity.

ROBERTS: Wow. Well, maybe he's watching this morning and maybe he just heard you.

Frank Casey, it's great to talk to you this morning. We're so sorry about what happened. But good of you to come on and try to get the word out there to other vets who are suffering like you did.

Really appreciate it.

CASEY: Thanks so much. Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: Wow, can you imagine?

CHETRY: No. I mean, he has a very calm attitude toward it. I mean, it was...

ROBERTS: I could tell he's very upset by the whole thing. And then, who wouldn't be.

CHETRY: Yes. But I mean, he's also understanding of the Veterans Affairs Administration. I don't know. There are some people that probably are not going to be that generous. You mentioned a bunch of things. And you remember, of course, that big loss of data, that personal information as well. That was another blunder, a very high-profile blunder that they have since done the best to correct, but, you know, it's a lot of things.

ROBERTS: There are these screw ups that keep happening, and you know, somebody needs to be held accountable for.

CHETRY: All right. We're going to switch gears. When we come back, as we remember Hurricane Bill sort of did the same thing. Kissing the Atlantic coast all the way up, and ended up, we felt its effects but it didn't make a direct hit on the United States. Now we are tracking Danny. There you see it, in the Atlantic. It's moving northward. And we could feel Danny's effects as early as this weekend or if not sooner. Our Rob Marciano is tracking extreme weather for us. He's going to be joining us in just a moment.

It's 35 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Right now, 38 minutes past the hour. And we're taking a live look right now at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. It's where Senator Ted Kennedy's body will lie in repose starting today and continuing to Friday so that people can come there, pay their respects and mourn the senator.

And it's time now to fast forward through the stories that will be making news later today. It's a story we'll be watching all day. The memorial ceremonies for Senator Ted Kennedy. This afternoon, his family will be gathering at the family compound in Hyannis Port ahead of the senator's final journey that will take him to Boston, and as we said the Kennedy Library, and then on to Arlington National Cemetery where he will be buried. And CNN will bring you coverage of all of those public moments.

Michael Vick, meantime, returns to the playing field. It will be tonight in Philadelphia. He's expected to see some action in the Eagles' third preseason game against Jacksonville. It will be his first NFL game since New Year's eve 2006.

As you know, he's been conditionally reinstated after serving time on dog fighting charges. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made a decision about reinstating him for the sixth week of the season.

And at 8:57 Eastern Time this morning, a launch countdown starts up again for the Shuttle discovery. Right now, lift off is scheduled for just after midnight Friday. It's a 12:22 a.m. Eastern I believe is the exact time. NASA had two delays already, one due to weather and another due to a valve problem. So they're really hoping the third time is the charm. During this middle of the night launches or late-night launches...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: They're trying to.

CHETRY: Yes, looking for a break in the weather anyway they can.

ROBERTS: Speaking of a break in the weather, it launches, you know, typically 5:00 on a Friday. People launch in New York City toward Long Island, in Boston, they launch toward Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, or Nantucket. Well, maybe a little glitch in those plans this weekend, too.

Rob Marciano at the weather center in Atlanta. And we are tracking Danny.

What's going on with Danny this morning, Rob?

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: We will be up early just to watch it, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right, guys.

ROBERTS: Thanks so much.

CHETRY: What the heck, right?

ROBERTS: So, it's one of the -- one of the big -- best hospitals in the world. People come the world over to Cleveland Clinic because of their first rate surgeons and health care. But it's also one of the cheapest hospitals to run in the country.

How do they do it? We pay a visit to the Cleveland Clinic, coming up in just a couple of minutes.

Forty-one and a half now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Forty-four minutes past the hour right now.

Health care reform. It was Senator Ted Kennedy's cause up until the very end. But in this make-or-break month, reform is still as uncertain as ever.

ROBERTS: It is.

One puzzle in the debate -- how to keep the costs of medical care down. Earlier this week, I went to the Cleveland Clinic, which provides top notch health care and they do it at a much lower cost than most places.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS (voice over): It's among the world's top hospitals, elite surgeons and cutting edge medicine and is being hailed as a model for doing health care on the cheap.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They actually have some of the lowest costs for the best care.

ROBERTS: This forward-looking model has actually been around for 88 years, and it's based on the simplest of concepts -- organize a hospital around the needs of the patient.

Dr. Toby Cosgrove is CEO of the Cleveland Clinic.

DR. TOBY COSGROVE, CEO, CLEVELAND CLINIC: I think the biggest thing about us is we're integrated. The doctors and the hospitals are part of one organization. We're all pulling the same direction. It's the main word -- team.

ROBERTS: A big difference here?

The doctors are all on salary. No such thing as fee for service. Whether they order one test or 100, they get paid the same.

COSGROVE: We're all on salary. I'm on salary just like everybody else here is. And it really doesn't make any difference. When I was a practicing cardiac surgeon, whether I did two or three or four heart operations a day, what I took home in my pocket was exactly the same.

So it takes the personal impetus to do more out and simply you're not incentive to do more or, on the other hand, to do less. You're just incentive to look after the patient.

ROBERTS: Now let's be clear. No one is exactly crying poverty.

(on camera): What's the range here? The salaries of doctors?

COSGROVE: Well, it could go all the way from a couple hundred thousand dollars up to $1 million.

ROBERTS (voice over): But while that might be less than in a traditional fee for service setting, there are other incentives for signing on.

DR. ALEXIS SCHAFII, SURGICAL FELLOW: If you try to go out in private practice, there's a lot of overhead. You're paying for your offices, your staff, your nurses, your malpractice insurance. It all adds up.

ROBERTS: And it's not just the salary structure that has people talking.

OBAMA: Cleveland Clinic has one of the best health information technology systems in the country.

ROBERTS (on camera): This is the old medicine, the old way of doing things -- paper records for every patient who came in to the Cleveland Clinic. There are 2.5 million files in this basement repository. Another 2.5 million in an offside facility.

But as of May of last year, for almost every patient who walks in the building, the Cleveland Clinic stopped doing it this way.

Now, nearly everything is electronic. Plugged in to wireless workstations on wheels.

(on camera): This has replaced the traditional chart that you see at the end of the patient's bed? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. You don't have to flip through papers anymore. Everything that you need is right here.

ROBERTS (voice over): It means clinicians and surgeons can have instant access to the same data, aiding integration, reducing duplication, helping to eliminate errors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breathe in and out now.

ROBERTS: It's a comfort to Keith Kasbaum, who traveled from out of state for his heart surgery.

(on camera): I'm just wondering how your experience here , you know, what you've observed is different from what you've seen in other places.

KEITH KASBAUM, PATIENT: It's a step above what I experienced. I have limited experience, but it doesn't compare.

ROBERTS (voice over): Electronic records haven't saved money just yet. It's expensive to set up.

But overall, the Cleveland Clinic delivers health care at lower costs than most of its competitors. They hope to reduce those numbers even further with a heavy focus on wellness, a heart-healthy cafeteria, a free gym for employees, yoga classes on the roof, and strict rules for anyone who wants to work there.

(on camera): Is it true that you won't hire somebody who's a smoker?

COSGROVE: That's right. We said, look, you know, we want to have a campus where we all walk the talk. And so we've decided not to hire smokers. And as much as we test also test them for nicotine.

ROBERTS (voice over): You can shun smokers, but is it possible to legislate a healthy lifestyle?

Dr. Toby Cosgrove believes we at least need to have that discussion and worries the debate over insurance reform is missing the bigger picture.

COSGROVE: We need to do something about insurance reform, but we also need to do something about health care reform, particularly in terms of the basics about keeping people healthier and secondly having a more efficient delivery system.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: And the Cleveland Clinic, of course, is taking further steps to integrate medicine.

The latest thing that it's doing is it's grouping similar disciplines together. So at their neurosurgery center, you got neurosurgeons, neurologists, psychiatrists, all in the same place, all within proximity to each other so that they can work, you know, very closely with each other.

In other models, you have neurosurgery in one building, neurologists in another building, psychiatrists in the psychiatry center.

So they thought if they put everybody together, they can work together.

CHETRY: Some of it boils down to common sense, doesn't it?

ROBERTS: A lot of them.

CHETRY: And it's not happening in many places. And as you show in here, it's really become a model.

But is it a model that others can duplicate or are trying to duplicate?

ROBERTS: Some are. The Mayo Clinic works in the same principle. There are some smaller hospitals that pay their doctors salaries. Dr. Cosgrove was saying only about 10 percent of students coming out of medical school now going to either private practice or with one other doctor.

You know, this idea of a salary structure is growing. But there's still many, many big medical centers that do it the old way. And it takes a long time to change.

CHETRY: And as we said, they're rated number one for cardiology across the country and world, right? And in many other fields. I mean, they're the premier place to go. And they're doing it cheaper.

ROBERTS: Yes. Innovative hospital. It's amazing that sometimes the best care is the cheapest care.

CHETRY: Good stuff.

All right. Well, still ahead, we're going to be talking about Milwaukee's mayor. You may remember he was beaten with a pipe after trying to come to the rescue of a woman leaving an affair. Well, he is now back to work after this beating happened to him. There is a suspect now.

What's the latest? We'll tell you.

It's 15 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Fifty-two and a half minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

The suspect accused of attacking Milwaukee's mayor, Tom Barrett, with a pipe is due in court today. Meantime, the mayor is recovering from his injuries, trying to get back to the business of running the city. Jessica Gomez has the details.

JESSICA GOMEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is back to work here at City Hall. His niece, Molly, starts school next week. They talk to me about the night they'll never forget.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAYOR TOM BARRETT, MILWAUKEE: The pain is OK right now. You know, I can move these fingers.

GOMEZ (voice-over): Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on the road to recovery, thanks in part to his niece, Molly.

BARRETT: Molly was my hero. She's the one that was there that really bailed me out.

GOMEZ: Molly and her mom were at the Wisconsin state fair with the mayor that night. These pictures taken just before the attack.

They were on their way to their car when the mayor tried to intervene in a family dispute involving this man, 20-year-old Anthony Peters, before it got violent.

BARRETT: It was just so fast. And he was so angry and so out of control that there was really nothing we could have done.

GOMEZ: It was Molly who got police there.

MOLLY FLOOD, MAYOR BARRETT'S NIECE: You I just said I'm going to open my big mouth and I'm going to start yelling. So I was just yelling at him and said I'm going to call 911, I've got a cell phone, I'm going to call.

FLOOD's 911 CALL: "There's a beating at 88th and Orchard, and my uncle just tried to step in. And a guy took a stick to him and hit him over the head and he's bleeding all over the place. We need an ambulance."

BARRETT: She literally had my back. I didn't know she was behind me. And she literally had my back and was distracting him so that he would leave. And that's why I'm able to talk today.

GOMEZ: Talk, even laugh about his first fistfight since sixth grade.

BARRETT: And I was saying to my wife in the weekend, there's not many people who've lost teeth in two different parts of the mouth 43 years apart, even professional boxers. And I said, that sends a pretty strong message that if you get in a fight with me, there's a good chance I'll lose a tooth.

GOMEZ: This boxer grateful that this time he had a little help.

BARRETT: You give her a hug and say thank you very, very much. FLOOD: Waiting for my college tuition check and...

(LAUGHTER)

BARRETT: (INAUDIBLE).

GOMEZ: A family bond now even stronger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GOMEZ: Anthony Peters, the man accused of beating up the mayor, is facing multiple charges.

John? Kiran?

CHETRY: Just so senseless. You know, he has a good attitude about it, but that it's such a shame it's happened.

ROBERTS: So much of violence is senseless.

CHETRY: Yes.

ROBERTS: So the remembrances for Ted Kennedy begin today. We'll give you the schedule. We'll tell you what's happening, where you can see Senator Ted or pay your respect at least to Senator Ted Kennedy over the next couple of days. We've got all of that information coming up, all the way from Cape Cod to Boston and Washington.

Fifty-five minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Of all of the issues that Senator Ted Kennedy championed, health care reform truly was his baby; his number one cause. So to honor his memory, could lawmakers actually find the inspiration to reach across the aisle and get a health care reform bill passed? Our Jessica Yellin takes a look.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, John, Senator Kennedy was so beloved and health care was so important to him that many in Washington believe his death will inspire his colleagues in Congress to come together and pass health care reform.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): March 2009, Senator Ted Kennedy at the White House launching the latest push for health care reform.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking, and this time we will not fail.

YELLIN: He called it the cause of his life, and just last month renewed his message, writing in "Newsweek," "Our response to these challenges will define our character as a country." Now advocates insist Kennedy's colleagues will find a way to pass health care in his honor.

RON POLLACK, FAMILIES USA: I have no question that Senator Kennedy's passing is going to inspire his colleagues to get health care reform done this year.

YELLIN: One of Kennedy's closest Democratic allies is more measured but still hopeful.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: My hope is this will maybe cause people to take a breath, step back, and start talking with each other again in more civil tones about what needs to be done.

YELLIN: One source of optimism -- Kennedy was beloved by many Senate Republicans who have opposed the reform proposal. Among them, Senator Orrin Hatch, who wrote this song as a tribute to his good friend.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

Senator John McCain tells CNN...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: All of us will not only miss him but perhaps maybe try to carry on his legacy of reaching across the aisle and getting things done for the American people.

YELLIN: But the battle lines have hardened in over the divisive fight over reform with even minute Democrats reluctant to compromise. So, will affection for a lost colleague be enough to push it over the finish line?

NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: These are very real, substantive, ideological and partisan differences. One person's name and memory will not make all the difference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: There is another outstanding question. How quickly will Kennedy's Senate seat be filled? And will it happen in time for Democrats to have that crucial 60th vote to pass health care reform - Kiran, John.

ROBERTS: Jessica Yellin this morning. Jessica, thanks so much.

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