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AMERICAN MORNING

Health Care Reform Vote; Taliban's Growing Influence in Pakistan; Insurance Deal Not Breaking; Dead to Alive

Aired October 13, 2009 - 08:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up to the top of the hour - just a couple of minutes now to the top of the hour. It's Tuesday. It's the 13th of October.

Thanks for being with us this morning on the Most News in the Morning. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. We have a lot of big stories we're breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes. First, the Senate Finance Committee in just two hours is going to be voting on its $829 billion version of health care reform. The measure is designed to provide coverage to 94 percent of Americans without adding to the deficit and without a public option. The insurance industry, though, is launching an 11th hour attack and there may not be a single Republican supporting the measure.

ROBERTS: New concerns this morning about the stability of Pakistan. The Taliban now launching attacks on government forces there, reportedly looking to partner with al Qaeda to gain more power and influence, and that has some people worried about militants taking control of a nation that has nuclear capabilities.

CHETRY: Also, cheating death. A woman slips, falls through the ice, her heart stopped beating for three hours. Sanjay Gupta has her incredible survival story. Dr. Gupta himself does an amazing demonstration of what happens to your body when you're forced to float in freezing water. Here's a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: First thing you notice when you get in the water is that it's extremely hard to talk because the cold just sort of takes your breath away. The next thing is wherever this water touches my skin, it hurts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: The fine line between life and death, it's part of Dr. Gupta's "Cheating Death" series.

But first we begin with a potential turning point in the health care debate. In the next few hours, the Senate Finance Committee will be voting on a health care reform bill that would cost $829 billion to put into place over the next ten years. One of the votes that will be cast, Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa. We spoke to him earlier on AMERICAN MORNING about why he's against the measure. He says it will drive costs up for many families and says there's one important measure that's missing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Tort reform is a very major thing and why? I started to say because 10 percent of the cost of medicine is a practice of defensive medicine because doctors give you a bunch of tests that may be you don't need because they think you're going to sue them, so they give you every test under the sun so they've got a defense if you do sue them. The Democrats don't want to do that because they get all of their campaign funds from the tort attorneys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: All right. So there we heard from Charles Grassley.

Brianna Keilar is live on Capitol Hill this morning.

Quite a turnaround, you know, and one of the other things that he did mention, that he did talk about is that he misunderstood or -- you know, he misread how strongly his constituents would feel about these individual mandates as well. But all of that aside, this bill looks like it's headed for passage, right, because it does have the support of the Democrats.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Democratic chairman of this committee, Max Baucus, says he's confident that he has the votes here today. Thirteen Democrats, 10 Republicans. So Democrats obviously have an edge.

But keep in mind, there's still a couple of Democrats who have not said they are definitely going to vote for this bill on this committee, but the sense is that those Democrats -- pardon me -- would not really try to stand in the way of this vote. This is, certainly, a key vote. This is the fifth and final committee that would be passing a health care bill out of committee.

And it's really the most conservative bill of all of the ones that Congress has considered, because it has a smaller price tag and it lacks that government-run insurance plan, that public option.

So this is what this bill looks like today, that would be voted on today. It's a price tag of $829 billion. This is far below President Obama's cutoff of $900 billion and it also includes health cooperatives -- non-profit health co-ops, instead of that so-called public option, and it includes an individual mandate, a requirement that all Americans must have health insurance, but there is not a strong employer mandate that says they have to contribute to health care costs for their employees.

Democrats, Kiran, are trying to pick up one Republican vote. That's really the only chance they have. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, she's made some positive sounds about the bill, but she hasn't said definitively she's going to vote for it -- Kiran.

CHETRY: But the bottom line is, they don't need her necessarily. They can still get it passed on a party line, right?

KEILAR: Yes, they don't need her, but they sure would like to have her, because that would allow them to say, we have some bipartisan support.

CHETRY: Right. Absolutely. And then also, the other interesting thing that's sort of got thrown in here at the 11th hour is the insurance industry-funded study that came out on Monday, saying this bill could end up drive up premiums, ending up driving up premiums, rather, $4,000 a year for families. Democrats are firing that, calling it a hatchet job.

But what effect is that having on the Hill right now?

KEILAR: Well, Democrats are very much on the defensive from the Senate Finance Committee and over at the White House, because there's a specter that looms over this effort to overhaul health care. Back in '93, '94, the insurance industry was really instrumental in scuttling that reform plan.

And so, this is thing that the folks here are very aware of. They are saying this is absolutely not true. Their plan will bring down the costs.

As you said, they're saying this is a hatchet job; this is a self-serving analysis; paid for by an industry that they say has been gouging consumers. But that industry lobby stands by their numbers and they say they're just trying to make sure there are no unintended consequences, being very expensive premiums for consumers like you and me, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Brianna, thanks so much. We'll be watching, as we said, in just a couple of hours, the finance committee is going to be voting there in the Senate.

And stay with us because in just a few minutes, we'll be talking with Wendell Potter. He used to work for two of the country's biggest insurance companies. But now, he's working against them, trying to get health care reform passed.

ROBERTS: Now, we know where the Taliban is getting a lot of its cash. They are extorting it from drug dealers.

According to an official from the Treasury Department, he says the Taliban is financing attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan by extorting funds from poppy farmers and heroin traffickers. They're also squeezing protection money out of legitimate Afghan businesses.

Al Qaeda, on the other hand, is said to be strapped for crash, and while it is still a threat, it has lost some of its influence, according to this Treasury Department official.

Meantime, the United States is growing steadily more concerned about the Taliban's influence in Pakistan this morning.

Our Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. And, Barbara, why Pakistan and why now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, one important reason, the U.S. believes the Taliban inside Pakistan are set on a firm path to try and destabilize this important U.S. nuclear ally.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Four bloody attacks in eight days. In the latest, a suicide bomber targets a military convoy passing through a bazaar in northwest Pakistan. More than 40 killed.

It was a weekend standoff at army headquarters in Rawalpindi that has shaken Pakistan deeply and has Washington worried. Pakistani Taliban disguised as soldiers stormed the compound, seizing hostages. Eleven Pakistani troops and nine militants were killed.

The Pakistani army spokesman tried to defend the massive security breach.

MAJ. GEN. ATHAR ABBAS, PAKISTAN MILITARY SPOKESMAN: Can anybody guarantee today that 100 percent, any organization for that matter, any army or any outside party can prevent a single act of terrorism? It's not possible.

STARR: But for the U.S., a potentially more frightening concern about growing Taliban capabilities was expressed by a key Republican senator on CBS' "Face the Nation."

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We also know that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. The Taliban taking over a country like Pakistan would be completely and totally unacceptable, destabilizing not only in that area of the world, but all around.

STARR: The Taliban's goal may not be to take over the country, just to wreak havoc. Experts believe the attacks are revenge for the recent killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a U.S. military strike, and an effort to blunt an upcoming military offensive in South Waziristan, an al Qaeda and Taliban stronghold. The Taliban's boldness underscores the group's ability to maintain its influence, even after their leader was killed.

Robert Grenier, the former CIA station chief in Pakistan, says al Qaeda has a growing partner in the Taliban.

ROBERT GRENIER, FORMER CIA STATION CHIEF IN PAKISTAN: If they're asked for support by al Qaeda, they cannot and they will not say no.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: So, how much attention is all of this getting in Washington? Just yesterday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, called his counterpart in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Kiyani to express his condolences and concerns about the latest violence - John. ROBERTS: Very troubling. Barbara Starr for us this morning from the Pentagon -- Barbara, thanks.

CHETRY: Also new this morning, more than 200 patients at a Los Angeles hospital received eight times the normal dose of radiation during CT scans. Officials at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center blame the mistake on the hospital resetting the scanner. That mistake went undetected for a year and a half. About 40 percent of the patients lost patches of hair.

General Electric makes the scanner and says it's not the machine that's defective. The FDA puts out an alert urging hospitals across the country to review their safety procedures for their CT scans.

ROBERTS: The children of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have reached a settlement over the family's estate. That keeps the case from going to public jury trial. Two of Dr. King's children had claimed that their brother, Dexter King, shut them out of decisions involving King Incorporated, the private venture that controls the family's cash.

CHETRY: And if you're a huge Elvis fan, the ultimate in memorabilia, a 154-acre ranch outside of Memphis. It's in Horn Lake, Mississippi. "The King" once owned the property, and now you can too. But you will need a lot of money. The asking price is $6.5 million.

ROBERTS: Well, he was a health care industry insider. Now he is giving us the inside scoop on the health care industry. Why are health insurers lining up against the Senate bill now? We'll ask him for his insight.

It's eight and a half minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

ROBERTS: It's 11minutes now after the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

The Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill got high marks from the Congressional Budget Office for keeping the deficit down, but now, insurance companies say it will actually cost you and your family thousands of dollars more than you're paying now.

So, who is telling the truth?

We're joined by Wendell Potter, he has worked for two different insurance companies in the past, and now he's working against them to help get reform passed.

Wendell, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming on.

WENDELL POTTER, SENIOR FELLOW ON HEALTH CARE, CENTER FOR MEDIA & DEMOCRACY: Thank you, John. ROBERTS: Let's rewind the clock just a little bit. March 5th, the White House conference on health care reform, Karen Ignagni, who is the president and CEO of AHIP, American's Health Insurance Plans, stands up and addresses the president.

Let's replay the tape for a minute.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN IGNAGNI, PRESIDENT AND CEO, AHIP: We want to work with you. We want work with the members of Congress on a bipartisan basis here. You have our commitment.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good. Thank you, Karen. That's good news. That's America's Health Insurance Plans.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: All right. So just six months ago, Wendell, there were American's Health Insurance Plans standing up, saying, "We want to work with you on health care reform." Just yesterday, they came out with this study, this PricewaterhouseCoopers report which -- it was a scathing criticism of the so-called Baucus bill in the Senate Finance Committee.

What changed between then and now?

POTTER: You know, what happened on that March day at the White House was what made me decide to become a critic of the industry. Because that was the beginning of their charm offensive, the part of the P.R. campaign that they want us to see, they want us to hear. And what we saw -- what we're seeing now is the other side of that, their efforts behind the scenes, and now more publicly, to defeat reform.

And it's all an effort to try to shape reform, if they can, or kill it if they can, but shape it for their benefits, and at the benefit of Wall Street shareholders, more than Americans.

ROBERTS: Are you suggesting that Karen Ignagni was being disingenuous during that meeting?

POTTER: I think the industry has been disingenuous from the beginning of this debate. They have never had any intention of being good faith partners with the president and Congress. And I know this from having been a part of many, many efforts over the past 20 years, almost, to defeat reform, or to help shape reform to the industry's benefit. And I was a part of some of the efforts to plan this very campaign.

ROBERTS: Now, AHIP's initial problem was with the public option, which is not in the Senate bill, but now, they're saying, "Wait a minute, there aren't stiff enough penalties for people who don't buy health insurance." That's the new beef. What's that all about? POTTER: You know, it's an argument -- it's probably the best case that I've heard from anybody why we need a public health insurance option. What they're saying is, in fact, they bought and paid for this report from an outfit, you know, that's worked for them and done many reports like this over many years. They've taken selective parts of the bill and not even bothering to read the full bill, or take some other elements into consideration, and are claiming that the bill, if enacted, would raise premiums.

It's nonsense, it would not work the way they would -- the way that they're saying. In fact, one of the authors admitted apparently late yesterday that they did not take into consideration other important elements of the bill.

ROBERTS: OK. So -- so, let me stop you there and just drill down on this claim that they're making, that the health care bill that's now in the Senate Finance Committee would add hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to the cost of a health insurance package for most people and families. That -- you're saying that that's just not true.

POTTER: It's just not true because they're taking the parts of the bill that the industry now does not like. What the finance committee did, fortunately, toward the end of last week, was reduce some of the very, very severe penalties that the insurance industry wanted to have in the bill that would be assessed against us if we decide we don't want to buy their overpriced and inadequate products that are often nothing more than fake insurance.

ROBERTS: So, how do they go forward and make such a claim if it's just patently not true?

POTTER: Because they can. Because they know they can often get away with it and they know that they've got a lot of shills on Capitol Hill. One thing we'll be able to see over the next -- you know, today and the coming days, is whether or not people will be revealing themselves as the industry shills by quoting from this bogus report.

ROBERTS: All right. So, if it comes down to a fight between America's Health Insurance Plans and the White House, who do you think is going to win?

POTTER: My money's on the White House on this one, because I think that people are behind the White House and the Congress. And I think the industry knows that. This is a desperation move on the part of the insurance industry, because analysts are now somewhat concerned. Wall street analysts that the bill might not be absolutely, everything that the industry wants. And that's what's driving this it's Wall street's expectations to this bill may not be everything they'd hoped and prayed for.

ROBERTS: And you said that this is the greatest argument for public option that you have heard to date, but do you think that this could breathe new life into this idea of a public option?

POTTER: I think it already is. From what I'm hearing, people who have been trying and working -- really in good faith to get legislation passed now know that a public option is one of the most important ways to try to keep this industry honest. Without the public option, you know, these companies will continue to have the free reign they've had over the last several years, and they will, indeed, raise our prices, our premiums to the point we can't afford them and more and more people will be in the ranks of the underinsured.

ROBERTS: Well in terms or just the argument that AHIP has been making, Wendell, I can't tell you how good it is to have you on and how refreshing it is to have someone who was on the inside now coming on and telling us like it is.

POTTER: Thank you very much, John

ROBERTS: Really appreciate it very much. Thanks so much.

POTTER: I appreciate it too, thank you.

CHETRY: We're talking about the stimulus and we're talking about money in the stimulus and how we can find out how many jobs were actually saved because of stimulus money. Well, Christine Romans is joining us on which profession has benefited the most. Sixteen minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A former employee of Oprah Winfrey is claiming she was wrongfully terminated and is suing Oprah for $75,000. Now after hearing about it, Oprah said, $75,000, that is adorable.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: That's like pocket fuzz to her.

CHETRY: Sure is. There's a picture of her, enjoying some corn dogs at the Texas state fair, she's having a blast. See that. Doesn't matter how much money you have, a good old-fashioned corn dog still makes you fun.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: But she knows the value of a dollar because she gives money away. She's very careful by giving money away and she's very strategic in her investments, she's a smart -- that's why she's on the Forbes list of billionaires.

CHETRY: She sure is. Well, Christine is here with us now to talk about what professions have been, I guess, revitalized or, I guess, saved in some aspect because of the stimulus.

ROMANS: Well you know the White House said that 1 million jobs have been saved or created by the stimulus; we're never going to be able to verify that. But what we do know is the recipients of your stimulus money; they have to turn in report cards to the government about how they're spending that money - and those numbers are starting to come in this month, October is the first big deadline. So we're hearing from the state how they're spending the money. And ding ding ding ding -- the big winner, or at least not the loser, are the teachers.

Teachers facing big, big cutbacks because of state budget cuts and a lot of states have been funneling their money into the classroom to make sure they can keep the teachers there. Some states are still saying they are having to cut teachers, but having to cut fewer. So, let's look at the numbers: First, 62,000 teaching jobs saved in California, 14,625 in Michigan. In Missouri, 8,500 teaching jobs. For teachers in Minnesota, 5,900 were able to stay on the job because of your stimulus money. In Utah, 2,594. the recovery director in Utah telling us, in fact, they thought the best use of the money for their state budget cuts, the money they were get welcome the direct money they were getting from stimulus was keeping the teachers in the classroom. And in California, I mean, they've got so many different projects there.

They've had to file almost 5,500 different reports to Washington about how they're using the money. So we're going to be able to count some of these jobs, we're never going to count up to 1 million. There's going to be indirect jobs from construction sites, from the deli clerk who serves the guys and women on the construction site. Some of these jobs, we're never be able to accurately count, but we are going to be able to see these teaching jobs and construction and transportation jobs to a lesser degree and try to count up the numbers. So we are seeing teaching, really a place where we can quantify where the stimulus money is going.

ROBERTS: Christine has got a "Romans' Numeral" for us. Romans' Numerals are numbers driving a story about your money, so what do you got for us at this hour?

ROMANS: Well I really want to look into the situation for teachers in schools though because many of us are still - we're still feeling these cutbacks; 85 percent is my number. And this is actually, according to the American association of school administrators, they surveyed school administrators about cutbacks. 85 percent of these schools are still cutting back teachers, oh not teachers, I'm sorry, bus drivers, cooks, nurses, librarians, music teachers. You're still seeing cutbacks. So where we are, we can report that education jobs are being saved. It still is important to realize how dramatic the situation is for school districts right now and for the state budgets right now. And we've got a couple of years; the stimulus money runs out -- in a couple of years you got a lot of people kind of wringing their hands of what they are going to do next.

ROBERTS: It's going to take a long time for that money to come back.

ROMANS: It really is, yes.

ROBERTS: I think we got to go back to work first. Christine, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Well still ahead, you're going to be speaking with Leslie Sanchez. She wrote a new book. It's a very fascinating, "You've Come a Long Way, Maybe." Do you remember the Virginia Slims ad and "a long way, baby"? She talks about women and the changing role that women have in politics, and she features specifically Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and our first lady, Michelle Obama. Join us in a minute, 23 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. A woman slips and falls into icy waters and is trapped with no heartbeat for three straight hours. Somehow, after all that time, miraculously, she survived.

CHETRY: Yes, it's an amazing story. And all this week, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is looking at the fine line between life and death with stories of medical miracles, people who truly cheated death. He wrote a new book about it called "Cheating Death" and he joins us now with more - it's interesting. Even the cover of your book is black and white. And you say that going from life to death is not necessarily black or white. There's this gray area that's really unexplored.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There's not this bright, white light that we all sort of believe for a long time. And that gray area presents a lot of opportunities to possibly try to reverse death. You know it's interesting, a lot of the stories including the one that we are about to hear, could not probably have been written ten years ago, we could not have talked about them because they were not happening. This idea that cold somehow was preserving this woman at the same time possibly killing her was remarkable. And what doctors decided to do was not immediately re -- warm her, but sort of sit back, wait, and let the cold do its work, take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNA BAGENHOLM, SURVIVED FALL THROUGH ICE: We first worked, three doctors, and then we went for a scheme. The problem is when it comes down to this, it's very steep. So I hit some stairs and turned on my back and started to slide down the ice on my back. And then turn in, he was a bit lower and Marie was a bit higher. And then they kind of got rid of their equipment and ran to me. Because what I actually did was that I kind of hit a hole in the ice so that the head went under.

GUPTA: In fact, this is the exact spot where this all happened. Two of the men involved in Ana's rescue showed us.

She was where the water was most deep. Over the cliffs here.

GUPTA: At the time, most of the stream was covered with this thick layer of ice. You can only imagine the desperation her friends must have felt as the moments started to tick by. She struggled for a while, and then she stopped. it took more than an hour, and this pointed shovel, to free Ana from the ice. Marie and turn in immediately began CPR. As the clock was ticking, a helicopter flew Ana to the university hospital of north Norway. It's an hour away where she was taken straight to the operating room.

She has completely dilated pupils; she is waxy, waxy white. She's wet, ice cold when I touch her skin and she looks absolutely dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: Three hours. no heartbeat, no spontaneous respirations, pupils are dilated, which is an indication that the brain as swollen as well. Most doctors would give up. They wouldn't continue going. And she has the dubious honor of being the coldest ever human being that went on to live.

ROBERTS: What was her body temperature?

GUPTA: 56 degrees Fahrenheit. 13 degrees Celsius and she's now a practicing physician in that same hospital where she once was declared dead. And I say that only because people worry about brain injuries and other side effects, with she is really, completely back to normal.

ROBERTS: And because you're the type of doctor who likes to get his hands dirty, or shall we say his feet wet

CHETRY: Feet wet?

ROBERTS: You experienced these cold waters yourself?

GUPTA: Yeah, you know it's part of training exercises they do in Norway all the time. This is north of the Arctic circle so you might imagine, I mean this is something they worry about a lot. They want to show people how quickly you can become hypothermic. And even with a suit on, a rescue suit as they call it, within a few minutes, before I got rescued by a helicopter, about ten minutes, I became hypothermic, about 95 degrees, only about four degrees cooler, but you start to feel dizzy, nauseated, confused.

ROBERTS: Really, how long did it take you to stop shivering?

GUPTA: Quite a while, actually. You know I went into this warm room. They threw a bunch of blankets on me. I was shivering for a couple of hours after that. So gives you an idea of just how --and imagine, she was in the water for three hours and was still able to survive that.

CHETRY: It is, it's amazing and Sanjay talks about a lot of this in his book. And I understand, also, that you were up late last night. You were hanging up with Mr. Stephen Colbert on his show. You've been around, well you know, with this book tour and everything.

ROBERTS: Wow!

GUPTA: Where were you going with that? CHETRY: I don't know. John and I were joking today. This is how we're feeling today. Sometimes you hit it out of the park, sometimes you don't. How was Stephen Colbert last night?

GUPTA: You know, one thing about watching some of my - it reminds me of just how smart some of my is just - to not only know but also to be able to crack jokes. Super nice guy too.

CHETRY: Yes, let's see a little bit of the clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": I've been on the air for four years now. I can't believe this is the first time we've Gupta-ed it up.

(LAUGHTER)

GUPTA: I'm honored to be here.

COLBERT: What is the gray zone you talk about? There's a gray zone you talk about where you're not truly dead and not truly alive.

GUPTA: Yes, well -- sounds good, right?

COLBERT: Zombies are from there, right?

(APPLAUSE)

GUPTA: So many people like zombies who like your show. That was the weirdest thing.

COLBERT: I know my demo.

GUPTA: Zombies are actually a good example because they are sort of in this state between life and death.

COLBERT: Can I quote you on that? Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN, "Zombies are a good example." Your next book should be "Zombies" by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Wow. If you'd become surgeon general, zombies would be an official part of American health care policy.

GUPTA: With a show like that, you want to cut your losses at some point. But I talked about zombies in the book because there was this belief you can give people these paralytic agents that made them appear dead. It's a part of Haitian folklore, obviously. But with the show, I just decided to pull the cord.

CHETRY: Very, very interesting.

ROBERTS: But this idea of not quite alive, not quite dead, every morning here on the show, getting up at 2:00 a.m. (LAUGHTER)

GUPTA: The gray zone. That would be a good title for the show, "The Gray Zone."

CHETRY: Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thanks, guys.

ROBERTS: Tomorrow, by the way, what if there was a drug that could be injected into a critically wounded soldier to force him or her into a state of suspended animation and then bring them back from the dead?

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but it is real, and Dr. Gupta will be here to show us where it's happening and why tomorrow as his "Cheating Death" series continues.

And don't miss the prime-time debut of Dr. Gupta's special series, "CHEATING DEATH," this Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 p.m. eastern, only on CNN.

And as we cross the half hour, checking our top stories, President Obama will visit New Orleans on Thursday for the first time since taking office.

The White House says he plans to review federal rebuilding and recovery efforts more than four years after Hurricane Katrina. The president is expected to tour a charter school and hold a town hall meeting.

And the White House isn't commenting this morning on the Michelle Obama doll that's hitting store shelf. The action figure of the first lady comes from three outfits based on real dresses the first lady has worn. The six-inch doll will sell for $12.99 when it's released in the end of November.

And the glass ceiling was no match for Hillary Clinton, but it appears she will not be the one to break the final gender barrier in America politics. The secretary of state is ruling out another bid for the White House. When asked by NBC if she will ever run again, Clinton said no not just once, but three times - Kiran.

CHETRY: And she's one of the trifecta, I guess, the three big women in politics today, when you think about it and they pop into your mind -- Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama, the first lady, maybe not in that order, but they have been dominating the headlines.

And they come from different backgrounds, have very different ideologies, as we know. But our next guest says they might be a lot more alike than we really think.

Republican analyst Leslie Sanchez has written about the role these powerful women have played in reshaping the public debate. In her new book, "You've come a long way, Maybe -- Sarah, Michelle, and Hillary, the shaping of the new American Woman." And Leslie joins us now.

Thanks for being with us. It's good to see you.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN ANALYST: Good to see you.

CHETRY: This is a take off the Virginia Slims ad, "You've come a long way, baby." So when you say "Maybe," what inspired you to write this book?

SANCHEZ: If you talk to women about 2008, when they were in the middle of the fight for the campaign, it was really hard to digest. You had the convergence of three very powerful women.

But when you step back and look at how these women were portrayed and how they were in many cases sexually objectified and the sexism that did exist, you have to say, wait a minute, was there some sort of a time for us to reexamine the way women are treated in the media?

CHETRY: It's interesting, because you write about your own personal story here growing up with your mom in Houston, living in a small apartment, saying you developed your own brand of feminism, but it may not be what people define feminism as being.

SANCHEZ: Sure.

CHETRY: And we know you've talked about it before, that you've felt that Sarah Palin really got a bum wrap when it came to the way that she was covered and the way that people talked about her and the things that were said.

What was it about how you grew up and how you came to view feminism that bothered you about the way that Sarah was treated?

SANCHEZ: The interesting about Sarah Palin is she was a refreshing voice, she was excited, and she represented a very important constituency for the Republican Party, conservative, evangelical women, women who really wanted to espouse strong values in the family, who wanted to look at fiscal responsibility.

She had that package, and she looked like one of us. I conduct focus groups across the country, and there are so many women that sound and talk like Sarah Palin. They were frustrated with the government's inefficiency, they were frustrated. Why can't they just get things done?

And it was that sense of optimism but that sense of kind of reforming government that really appealed to conservative women like myself.

CHETRY: You also do, though, acknowledge in the book that the way it was handled when she decided to step out of office, as well as some of the other choices she made proved to be a bit unfortunate for her and to people who viewed her as a role model.

SANCHEZ: I was one of the women who adamantly defended her for what she was trying to do, for the energy she brought to the party, but in many cases she was frustrating and let down a lot of women, not only in some of the poor performances she had, but let's give her some slack -- it takes time for a presidential candidate or somebody at the top of the ticket to be aware of the national media -- but also for her own preparation.

She controls a lot of her image and she's going to continue to do so in the future. She has a responsibility, I think, as a candidate.

CHETRY: Let's talk about Hillary Clinton for a minute and then we'll get to the first lady. Hillary Clinton, you almost play out as the mean girls drama. You say that they were basically painted on the campaign as the ditz, the "witch" with a "b," and the darling. And you refer to Hillary Clinton.

You also talk about the type of women, the group of women that were the last ones to come along and support Barack Obama in the primary.

SANCHEZ: Sure. The last women to support Barack Obama were basically college educated, older, white women, the traditional feminist, the women that fought the ERA amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment, who were fighting conservative women on sex education in the classroom back in the '60s and '70s.

These are women who understood the burden that a lot of women had in the professional environment and were more skeptical of President Obama's experience. They were the last ones to join, and probably the first ones to jump off in terms of support of the president now. They were strong Hillary supporters.

CHETRY: And were they not happy with the way that she was portrayed? There was, when you think back, a lot of focus on her demeanor. Did she cry to sort of move people? Was she striking the right balance between look strong but not looking shrill. These were all the types of things that don't really -- and also, of course, her pantsuits. These are things they don't talk about with the guys.

SANCHEZ: "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuit" is one of the chapters. Hillary Clinton is an interesting phenomenon in the sense that she's incredibly qualified in terms of academic prowess, people know she's a policy person, and we've talked about that.

The bigger issue was a lot of people inside the campaign said she wasn't likable enough. She started the campaign with high negatives. Why don't they see the Hillary Clinton that we know and like -- the funny, affable character?

It wasn't until New Hampshire where you had that one experience, the tear jerk, where people felt there was something to be passionate about. She looked as if she wasn't treated fairly.

That was the rallying cry for all women regardless of ideology. If a woman's not treated fairly, it was really a sense of engagement.

CHETRY: Let's talk about Michelle Obama for a moment, because a lot of people worried about her image at the beginning. You took a lot of heat, you remember the cover of "The New Yorker" magazine that appeared to show her holding a machine gun, and all of that stuff that happened.

And then her making clear that she's taking on this role as mommy in chief. I'm not a policymaker, not somebody that was going to be a co-president. How did her image get shaped in the media as well?

SANCHEZ: Well, her image has shaped even as she's become first lady. I think she's looking more like the mommy in chief, much more feminine in her approach. She didn't want to have this appearance of a co-presidency.

But the interesting thing about her...

CHETRY: But do we pigeonhole her? Are people selling her short, focusing so much on what she wears?

SANCHEZ: What's interesting about her, she's a professional woman who has now left her career to be a mom full-time and to support her husband and take on her own initiatives.

It's very unique. She's a different type of first lady. She's stretching those boundaries, but in many cases -- think about it. She was supported by African-American women who bolstered her. They had their own sisterhood of support that was very unique that was an undercurrent that took her as she was out building support for her husband.

Hispanic women, in many ways, did the same thing for Hillary Clinton, bolstering her campaign in California and Texas. She didn't really see that on the national platform, but it was very, very powerful.

She is going to be bolstered by those relationships, and I think there's a lot that women can learn collectively in terms of how she conduct herself as a mom, a professional, and a supporter of our president.

CHETRY: It's an interesting book and there's a lot of really interesting issues, and we'll see how things shape up in 2012.

SANCHEZ: We've got two candidates.

CHETRY: We'll be talking about all three of these women.

Thanks so much, Leslie Sanchez, thanks for being with us this morning - John.

ROBERTS: Rush Limbaugh wants into the NFL, but does the NFL want rush? We'll found out coming up.

It's almost 40 minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: A shot of the mighty Mississippi in St. Louis this morning, where it's cloudy and 45 degrees. Later on today, afternoon showers and a high of 51. Not a particularly great day there in St. Louis.

Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

Rush Limbaugh, never been shy with his opinions about the National Football League, or anything else, for that matter. Now he wants to put his money where his mouth is. The conservative radio show host announced last week that he is part of a bid to buy the NFL St. Louis rams.

CHETRY: And now some critics are lining up to try to block the bid, saying that his comments in the past should be held against him now. Our Brian Todd has a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A shot across the bow for the idea of Rush Limbaugh becoming part owner of an NFL team. In an e- mail, the new director of the Football Players' Union, DeMaurice Smith, encouraged players to speak up about the conservative talk show host's bid for the St. Louis Rams, quote, "We will not risk going backwards. Sport in America is at its best when it unifies, overcomes division, and rejects discrimination and hatred."

Some players have said they would be uncomfortable playing for an ownership group that includes Limbaugh because of comments he's made about race. One of them, quote, "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons."

And in 2003, an implication on ESPN that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.

TODD (on camera): Contacted by CNN, Limbaugh's producer declined to comment about DeMaurice Smith Smith's statement. Limbaugh himself has said he's not racist.

TODD (voice-over): Sports commentator Steven A. Smith says players may be posturing about Limbaugh, but in the end they'll go where the money is, and he says that's how Limbaugh's bid should be judged.

STEPHEN A. SMITH, COMMENTATOR: If he has the dollars, he should be allowed to do it. He's definitely an NFL fan. I've listen to him talk about football. It's not like he's ignorant to the game of football.

TODD: But could this controversy actually sink Limbaughs's bid? In the end, it will come down to a vote among NFL owners.

DAMON HACK, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: I think that's going to be the big question mark. How much will the owners listen to their players? How much, you know, will there be communication and contact between the players and the ownerships of the respective franchises to say, you know, what, Rush Limbaugh will be a part of this league or not a part of this league.

TODD: Limbaugh does have competition in this bid. There are half a dozen groups trying to buy the Rams. And the winning investors need the votes of 24 of the 32 owners of the other teams.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the Reverend Al Sharpton sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell saying Limbaugh has been divisive and anti-NFL in some of his comments. Reverend Sharpton talked about it on "AC360" last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Reverend Sharpton, do you believe Rush Limbaugh is racist?

REV. AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Race has nothing to do with it. He has offended the players, whether they be black or white. When you say, these people are like Crips and Bloods without guns, I mean, nothing in my letter referred to race.

I'm talking about, you're going to disparage these people's character. Now I want to be one of the owners that will decide their contract, decide their future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: There you go. What do you think? Do you take issue with Rush owning an NFL team? Why or why not, give us a call and leave us a message explaining your reasoning the number is 877- myamfix. You can also of course send us at the blog CNN.com/amfix.

We're going to take a quick break.

Rob Marciano is tracking extreme weather for us and powerful storms on the way. Also, some snow in the mid-West.

Forty-eight - 46 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: All right, there you go. It's 50 minutes past the hour. A shot of Atlanta this morning; cloudy, 58 degrees, but a little bit later, it's going up to 70. It's still going to be mostly cloudy, though.

Our Rob Marciano is there. He's tracking extreme weather for us. He got a lot to talk about, mixed bag around the country today.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, as a matter of fact in Atlanta yesterday, we had flooding rains, although not as bad as two weeks ago. They have since gone, but we may get another batch as this system, which is going to bring rainfall to Texas, kind of moves into the area.

Rain across the northeast, it shouldn't be that big of a deal, it will end quickly. But the bigger deal will be this storm system across the West Coast. This is an old typhoon, remnants of it and right now it's slamming into parts of northern California. Rainfall with wind from Sacramento to San Francisco today and then eventually driving south into Los Angeles. Rainfall amounts here could be anywhere from two to three to four in the mountainous areas, upwards of six inches. And if you get that rainfall in some of the coast ranges or up in the Sierra where some of the fires were, you could very well see some mudslides, the snow levels are going to be pretty high. Winds could gust to 60 or 70 miles an hour near the Bay Area and higher than that in the mountains.

So if you are an animal in a storm drain stuck there like this little kitty in Sacramento, apparently stuck there for a month. The fire department came there yesterday and swooped the kitty out to safety, just before the storms are about to hit.

And if you like four-legged and furry creatures of the more stinky variety, we switch now to a skunk that got his head stuck in a Skippy peanut butter jar. The little guy was hungry, so they called the skunk whisperer, I guess. This guy who comes out and deals with skunks and he managed to -- oh, little guy. Isn't he cute?

Come on, he can't smell that bad, huh? Maybe that angle -- all right, guys. There's your obligatory animal video of the day.

CHETRY: I had skunk for - our dog got sprayed by a skunk. And that skunk lived in our garage for a week.

MARCIANO: Tomato juice is I hear...

ROBERTS: And where did the dog live for that week?

CHETRY: Well, we washed him over and over and they say it takes six months after your dog gets sprayed especially right in the face before they don't smell like skunk, it's unpleasant. But we had to get a skunk whisperer - I guess you could say to trap the skunk and go take him someplace else. Not our garage.

MARCIANO: And how's she smell right now, John, is that ok? Everything has cleared out now.

CHETRY: The dog got sprayed, I didn't, thank goodness.

ROBERTS: I'll tell you though, ungrateful skunk. You take the Skippy jar off its head and the first thing he does it raises its tail to you. Those skunks are just ungrateful.

A quick follow up now of one of our favorite stories from yesterday; our John Zarrella risked life and limb to show you the problem of exotic animal attacks across Florida. One of the biggest offenders, iguanas; one man in Boca Raton decided to take the pesky lizards on, inventing a repellant called iguana rid.

The south Florida Sun Sentinel talked with Mark Streisfeld who says, it's pesticide free, it drives away iguanas with a bad smell and taste. It's being sold locally in about 50 hardware and garden stores.

CHETRY: What does it do to your lawn, your dog, or anything else?

ROBERTS: Maybe it's odor skunk?

CHETRY: Oh yes, I guess so.

Sticky moments caught on tape. Jeanne Moos is coming up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We're back with the Most News in the Morning.

When you're chewing the fat with the head of the United Nations, you don't want to be chewing on something else at the same time.

CHETRY: Yes, like gum, right? Well, California Senator Barbara Boxer clearly figured this out. As Jeanne Moos shows us, she made sure to spit it out first.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: it was one of those sticky situations. Senator Barbara Boxer was meeting with the U.N. Secretary General.

Senator Boxer doubled her embarrassment.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: How are you?

BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: Fine, fine.

MOOS: Getting caught whipping out her gum. But hey, who wasn't? When Tom Brokaw moderated a presidential debate, he deposited his gum on the desk next to him. When Rosie O'Donnell announced she was leaving "The View," we got this view of her gum leaving her mouth.

When President Obama said that that president has to be able to...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Walk and chew gum at the same time.

MOOS: didn't mention the ability to talk and get rid of Nicorette at the same time, but the real trick is to sleep and chew gum.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me have it, because you're falling asleep. MOOS: You won't want them to choke. He probably will die of embarrassment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Matthew, let's spit your gum out, ok?

MOOS: When he sees himself sleeping, chewing gum and sucking his thumb years from now. And when driving, make sure your window is all the way open before you spit out your gum. Even before you go on TV...

ANN COULTER, COMMENTATOR: I'm putting my Nicorette back in. It's like smoking before I go on.

MOOS: Gum chewing isn't safe from prying eyes; Ann Coulter was offered another piece of Nicorette.

COULTER: If you can chop it up so I can snort it.

MOOS: It could have been worse, much worse. At least no one did this.

Actor Joaquin Phoenix came closest during his bizarre appearance on Letterman.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX, ACTOR: I'll come to your house and chew gum.

Ok, I don't have to...

DAVID LETTERMAN, CBS HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Just relax.

MOOS: A minute later, he peeled the gum off. It's not safe to leave it. Britney Spears had a wad of her gum auctioned off.

Maybe the best thing to do is to just say no. Russia's president said yes to a piece of gum, but Vladimir Putin had the sense to say nyet. Even pretty woman wasn't that pretty...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop fidgeting. Get rid of your gum. I don't believe you did that.

MOOS: And did Toby Keith hit anyone?

Sometimes you just wish you could take it back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I spit out and I suck it back in.

LETTERMAN: How do you do that?

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Stupid human tricks.

CHETRY: You said that it was, what, fishing line? ROBERTS: I don't know how they do that. It defies the laws of physics.

CHETRY: Maybe it has fishing line.

ROBERTS: You know what we should do?

CHETRY: Try it?

ROBERTS: We should get the "SITUATION ROOM" to do an investigation.

CHETRY: All right. Meanwhile, we're going to have to leave it there, but we would love for you to continue the conversation on today's stories. Go to our blog, cnn.com/amfix.

ROBERTS: I'm going to hear about that.

Thanks for joining us this morning. We'll see you again bright and early tomorrow. Meantime, the news continues on CNN with Heidi Collins in the "CNN NEWSROOM."

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