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AMERICAN MORNING

Reid Pushes Opt-Out Public Option; Hotel Changes Employees' Names; Dead Celebrities Still Earning; Inner City Organic Veggies; Report Shows Women are Half U.S. Workforce but Paid Significantly Less Than Men; H1N1 Vaccines Coming More Slowly Than Anticipated

Aired October 27, 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: That brings us in on the top of the hour, exactly 8:00 Eastern on this Tuesday, the 27th of October. Thanks for joining us for the Most News in the Morning. I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us.

Here are the big stories we're going to be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

First, a major turnaround in the battle over your health care. This morning, the bill that's headed to the Senate floor includes a public option. But getting it to the president's desk -- that's going to be another battle. We're live in Washington to break down the story.

ROBERTS: How easy is it for a pilot to get distracted while at the controls of an airplane like the two Northwest pilots that overshot their landing by 150 miles. We'll take you inside a cockpit simulator to see just what pilots are paying attention to during flight. Deb Feyerick has got our A.M. original reporting for us this morning.

CHETRY: And dead celebrities raking in cash, it's not just Michael Jackson. In our special series, "The Legend Lives On," we'll show you how -- when it comes to making millions -- sometimes, being dead is a bigger asset than being alive.

Well, we begin this morning in Washington where the arm-twisting is under way over the Senate health care bill. It's a bill that does include a public option, but the version does allow states to opt out of the government-run plan if they so choose. And there is a risk here. A handful of moderate Democrats are not sold on the idea.

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, the only Republican even close to a possible "yes" vote, is indicating she's not happy either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: It's regrettable, because I certainly have worked in good faith all of these months on a bipartisan basis and, as you know, have been standing alone at this point as a Republican in order to do so, because I believe in good public policy in constructing the very best public policy on health care, and really, does me having everyone contributing to the ideas that can make it work and make it a workable, practical solution that would benefit all Americans. And so, I think it's unfortunate that the Senate majority leader decided to take a different path.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, our Jim Acosta is live in Washington.

And, Jim, you know, it's a calculated risk, as you said, for Senator Reid to do this. He actually got a little bit of encouragement from the president, right?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The president tweeted his thanks to Harry Reid about what happened yesterday. And you just mentioned Olympia Snowe there. So, if they lose Olympia Snowe, now you're going to hear Democrats wringing their hands over people like Joe Lieberman and even Roland Burris, and whether or not they can keep all of these 60 Democrats, these 60 senators who caucused with the Democrats, in line for the Reid bill.

And for months, the fight over health care reform has boiled down to this: the fight over the public option. And now Democrats in the Senate are going to find out if this is a battle they can win.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): For Democrats, it's a gamble. So, it's fitting that Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada would roll the dice and announce the Senate's version of health care reform will include a public option.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: While the public option is not a silver bullet, I believe it's an important way to ensure competition and to level the playing field.

ACOSTA: Even though states would be allowed to opt out of the government insurance program for the uninsured, it's a calculated risk, as Democrats don't have a lock on the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We're close, we're not there yet. But we're making good progress.

(CROWD CHANTING)

ACOSTA: Liberals did not give Democrats much of a choice with protests like this musical number that broke out at a conference for insurance companies. There are even ads aimed at the president himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You campaign on a public health insurance option. We worked hard for it. We worked hard for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: The fact is, President Obama rarely talked about a public option during the campaign.

BARACK OBAMA, THEN-DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to immediately provide cost relief, make sure that people who don't have coverage have coverage, and provide this option, this government option that people can buy into.

ACOSTA: To this day, the president has not demanded it. In part because Republicans may stand united against it.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: As the public begins to understand that the public option is really a Trojan horse, which is going to lead to a single-payer or government-run system, I don't think that they are going to be for it.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: One of the reasons it's so important to get the facts out is, I think, the American people have been misled about the public option.

ACOSTA: Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden points out: people with insurance through their employer would be blocked from accessing the public option, that it's really a program for the uninsured.

WYDEN: When I was having my town meetings, people would stand up and rallies and say, "Public option or bust." And then I would say, "Folks, I really appreciate your activism. Are you aware that the way this public option bills are written, more than 90 percent of you wouldn't even get to choose them?" And people were practically falling out of the bleachers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And Democrats are going to let it ride on this. Just 30 million Americans would be able to buy into the public option. Those who already have insurance at work -- that's about 160 million -- will not. And the number of people left out of the public option could only go higher if entire states are given the option to opt out of the option.

And even states like Virginia, which voted for President Obama back in the national campaign, they've got a governor's race going on right now, Kiran, and both candidates in that race, the Democrat and the Republican, don't much like the public option.

CHETRY: Yes. All right. Well, it will be interesting to see how it goes. If all the states can opt out, as you said, you know, does that defeat the purpose?

ACOSTA: Is this -- is this worth all of this trouble?

CHETRY: Right.

ACOSTA: Is it worth this big gamble? That's the question that a lot of Democrats will be asking over the coming weeks.

CHETRY: And a lot of people will be asking, will it get passed -- you know, will it approved in the Senate in the first place?

ACOSTA: Right.

CHETRY: We'll certainly have to wait and see. Jim Acosta for us this morning, thanks.

ACOSTA: You bet.

ROBERTS: Also new this morning, if you've got a credit card -- and we bet you probably do -- Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd is proposing to immediately freeze the interest rates and fees until a new law goes into effect next year. The Senate Banking Committee chairman is facing a tough re-election bid and the plan seems aimed at reconnecting with voters. Many have questioned his ties to big banks after he was linked to a loan scandal.

CHETRY: Well, there's more talk of extending that $800,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers. Democrats are pushing a plan that would gradually phase it out over the next year. Another bipartisan plan would actually extend the credit through June 30th and it wouldn't only apply to first-time home buyers, it would be for people in households making $300,000 or less, making even a bigger-- affecting even a bigger swath of people.

But as it stands right now, the credit is set to expire next month. And that means you actually have to be closing on your house, not buying.

ROBERTS: So, the window is rapidly closing there.

CHETRY: Yes.

ROBERTS: We were distracted, not asleep. That defense from two Northwest airlines pilots who could not be reached for over an hour last week before overshooting their landing by over 150 miles. The pilots are telling investigators that they were engrossed in schedules on their laptops and got sidetracked. Both men are suspended. They could lose their jobs as well as their license to fly.

The story raising a lot of questions this morning, one of the most common: how could it ever happen? How do you get that distracted when you're flying?

Our Deborah Feyerick went inside the cockpit looking for answers and she joins us now with an A.M. original.

Good morning, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Good morning, Kiran. Good morning, everyone.

Well, you know, think about it, the plane is on autopilot. It's dark outside, and you turn on a computer. Before you know it, an hour has vanished. Scary, but true.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FEYERICK (voice-over): The plane simulator we're in models a four-seat Cessna, significantly smaller than the Airbus A-320. But the control panels are similar.

(on camera): How is a pilot alerted that it's time to land? What do they see? What are the -- what are the indicators?

VINCENT DRISCOLL, FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR, VAUGHN COLLEGE: Well, you're not alerted. And nobody's going to say to you, it's time to land.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Vincent Driscoll trains pilots at the Vaughn College of Aeronautics across New York's LaGuardia Airport.

(on camera): Is it easy for a pilot to get distracted, sort of become involved, essentially flying the plane?

DRISCOLL: Things can distract you. Weather can distract you. A mechanical onboard the airplane can distract you.

FEYERICK (voice-over): In the case of Northwest Flight 188, it was not turbulence or heavy cloud cover. The distraction appears to have been laptop computers both pilots were using, they say, to check new crew schedules in place as a result of the Northwest/Delta merger.

(on camera): When you're flying, how often are you -- is somebody communicating to you when you're up in the air?

DRISCOLL: You're responsible for your own navigation, OK? ATC, what they're doing is monitoring you and other aircraft around you. They won't navigate for you. When it's busy, they expect you to be on certain airwaves.

FEYERICK (voice-over): ATC or air traffic control anxiously tried reaching the pilots for more than an hour and 15 minutes. That's roughly 30 percent of the Northwest flight from San Diego to Minneapolis, an extremely long time to maintain radio silence, especially since controllers alert pilots to switch radio frequencies roughly every 10 to 15 minutes as the plane crosses into new zones or sectors.

DRISCOLL: They'll say, OK, radio contact, positive identification -- you go on your merry way. And when you get to the end of his sector, he's going to hand you over to another sector.

FEYERICK: According to the NTSB, the pilots say they heard radio conversation, but did not specifically listen to what was being said.

(on camera): For a plane to overshoot an airport, does that happen a lot? When we're talking 150 miles, we're talking, what, about 10, 15 minutes, maybe?

DRISCOLL: It just seems like a lot when you say 10, 15 minutes and then you're talking about 150 nautical miles or so. It's really not in terms of flying. FEYERICK (voice-over): Driscoll, a former pilot, says the cockpit is generally quite, though some busier sectors have more radio chatter. Also, it's easy to tune into the wrong frequency by a single digit.

(on camera): What's the lesson, that it's just that it's easy to happen?

DRISCOLL: We're human beings and things happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Now, yes, they are human beings, but the stakes are significantly higher. And according to airline policy, using laptops on the flight deck is prohibited. And really one of the big questions is, it's not just that they overshot the airport, but for an hour and 15 minutes, they were in radio silence and that is the bigger danger, because they should have at least made contact with 10 other air controllers on their way to Minneapolis. And that's a big problem.

ROBERTS: It's pretty extraordinary, the number of cues that they missed, isn't it?

FEYERICK: Yes.

CHETRY: The other extraordinary thing that you pointed out yesterday as well is when NORAD was notified of this, I mean, if this had been, God forbid, a hijacking, how long is it OK to have radio silence before, you know, the red flags go up?

FEYERICK: Well, it's not, and that's exactly the point. And that's why everybody was kept on that plane. They wouldn't let them off -- just to make sure that the pilot was actually not under some sort of distress.

ROBERTS: Wow.

CHETRY: Amazing stuff.

ROBERTS: (INAUDIBLE) really is incredible. Deb, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Other stories new this morning, 11 minutes after the hour now -- a member of the State Department, a former Marine Corps captain now the first U.S. official known to resign over the war in Afghanistan. Matthew Hoh told "The Washington Post," quote, "I'm not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love." He says that the war is making the insurgency worse. He also says that the U.S. is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what he calls essentially a far-off civil war.

ROBERTS: President Obama is pledging once again to close the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The president is telling a congressional fundraiser last night that he is serious about shutting down Gitmo -- something that he promised to do soon after taking office. But the White House appears to be backing off of the original January 2010 deadline, saying difficult issues still have to be resolved.

CHETRY: Former President Bush making his debut as a motivational speaker. Eleven thousand people showed up at the Fort Worth Convention Center, just down the block from his new home in Dallas. He told the audience that he stands by the decisions he made as president and encouraged others to stick to their principles and to live each day to its fullest.

Still ahead, you may have already heard this story of -- we're going to be speaking to the guy behind all of the controversy. A hotel owner -- he took over a hotel in New Mexico, was charged with making it successful again. Well, he did a few things that have sparked a lot of controversy in this small New Mexico town, like telling Spanish workers they cannot speak Spanish, they can only speak English in his presence, and also encouraging some of them to change their names. We're going to be talking to him in just a few minutes.

ROBERTS: He wanted a little more Englishization (ph) in the names there. Instead of Martin, it was Martin (ph).

And we're also awaiting -- it should happen at 8:29 this morning, the launch -- and this will be the first time in three decades that NASA has test-fired a new launch vehicle. It's the Ares 1-x rocket -- very, very short flight, just a couple of minutes or so. But this is going to be an amazing milestone in NASA's history and could be paving the way to finally visit places like the moon again, maybe even Mars, asteroids. We're standing by on the launch pad. We'll have that for you.

Thirteen minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. A bit of controversy going on in Taos, New Mexico, after one man is -- a hotel owner, who told some of his employees that they had to change their name to something more American. As well, he told some of them that, you know, for example, if your name is Marcus, maybe change it to Mark. If it's pronounced Martine to Martin. Well our next guest said that he did ask some of them, his employees, to do that, even though many in the area are outraged. He's saying that, you know, this is something that he's done before and it's actually a recipe for success, when it comes to owning hotels. Joining us is Larry Whitten, he's the owner of the Whitten Inn, from Taos, New Mexico. As well as his attorney, Alan Maestas. Thanks for being with us this morning, Larry and Allan. Thanks for having, for joining your client as well.

LARRY WHITTEN, HOTEL OWNER: Thank you and good morning.

ALAN MAESTAS, ATTORNEY: Thank you.

CHETRY: So, Larry, let me just ask you, first of all, about the controversy that's going on. Explain, when you took over this hotel, renamed it The Whitten Inn, you've taken over failing hotels in other places. You moved there to Taos with your wife and some of the moves that you made at this hotel are generating a lot of controversy. How do you see it, what's been going on?

WHITTEN: Well, my operation is taking over distressed hotel and correcting as many problems as quickly as possible to reduce the outflow of cash. It's a simple procedure, a proven procedure of retraining everyone to be a professional hotelman and up to this point, it's been very successful.

CHETRY: Well, in this case, you told your employees that you wanted them to change their names. Is that true? Martine, you wanted him to be Martin instead.

MAESTAS: That's actually not accurate. What he said was that he wanted people on the switchboard to use a name that people calling from all over the world would understand. He didn't ask them to change their names. He simply wanted the name at the switchboard something that was understandable.

CHETRY: So how is that not changing their name?

MAESTAS: Well, for example, people say, what's your name, and I say, you know what, my name is Alan Maestas. Just call me Alan, because it's easier for people to understand, it's more hospitable, it's more polite.

CHETRY: So, but isn't that your name?

MAESTAS: It is my name.

CHETRY: In this case, one of the employees said his name was Martine, not Martin.

MAESTAS: I understand that. But the point is that, changing the name is only the name to be used on the switchboard so people could understand it. Off the switchboard, he could use whatever name he wanted.

CHETRY: Larry, how did the employees respond? I mean, as I also understand, you told them you didn't want them speaking Spanish in your presence, you wanted them to be speaking English and some of them were upset by that as well.

WHITTEN: Well, Kiran, when you take over distressed property, naturally, there are a lot of bad things that have been going on, still going on. So I was faced, as normal, with a great -- a little bit more, a great deal of hostility. It was -- immediate cooperation was not there. And at this meeting that I held the first day I was here, with this in mind, I asked them to speak English around me, but by all means, when my guests come in the door, you accommodate that guest, and if it's Spanish, whatever language it may be, whatever they speak, you certainly take care of my guests. When they're in their own departments, when they're talking amongst themselves, use whatever language is comfortable to them. But the hostility --

CHETRY: I'm sorry. You said that as a result of this, some of your employees were hostile and insubordinate. That resulted in you letting some of them go. Now you've got a problem on your hands in that some of these employees are outside picketing. I mean, none of this can be good for business. Is this how you intended things to happen?

MAESTAS: There's an -- you're not exactly accurate. The employees that were let go aren't the ones that are out there picketing. None.

CHETRY: We have video right now...

MAESTAS: ... not good for business.

CHETRY: You're doing the legalese stuff, and I totally get it, but the bottom line is that people are angry in this town, people are picketing in this town. Larry himself says it's costing him money, it's costing him business. I mean, is this what you intended the outcome to be of this situation? You said you were going in there to try to make a distressed hotel a viable business.

WHITTEN: Well, certainly not. My method is one that I've used for 20 different hotels. The results here have not been good and I certainly did not do anything intentionally. Kiran, my partner and I spent several million dollars to come to this beautiful Land of Enchantment. It would be idiotic for me to purposely offend the great culture of the Spanish. I mean, you could really call me stupid, but I'm not a racist. No intention has ever been done purposely to insult anyone. It was a matter of procedure and, you know, hasn't been good and, you know, if I could take it all back, I would snap my finger.

CHETRY: Really? So you say if you could take it all back, you would. What -- going forward, how do you propose to handle the situation? How do you want to sort of make things right and make sure that, you know, the situation doesn't end up costing you and also the people who work there?

WHITTEN: Well, we -- the people out front that are protesting, I've offered to mediate with them, I've offered to speak with them with no results. And so all we can do is go forward, keep doing a great job remodeling. We're spending $500,000 here. I am certainly more tolerant of the Spanish names. We're working to just make sure that my guest hears a distinct name and just go forward.

CHETRY: All right. And one other quick note. A national civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens , issued a statement, but in part they're saying they're encouraging people in the Hispanic community not to patronize any of Mr. Whitten's establishments here or outside the state of New Mexico. They've sent copies about the situation. This is coming from Pablo Martinez, the state director there. How is this affecting your business, that they're asking people not to patronize your hotels because of this?

WHITTEN: Well, I wrote Mr. Martinez a letter and explained my situation, apologized for, you know, coming to town, hitting the deck in the wrong way, and I wish for him to understand I had no ill intentions. I don't know the ramifications, you know? If we can undo everything, that's what we want to do.

CHETRY: All right, we'll follow it and see how it shakes out. Larry Whitten, thanks for joining us this morning. As well as Alan Maestas, your lawyer, thanks for being with us, Alan.

MAESTAS: Thank you.

ROBERTS: It's coming up on 23 minutes after the hour. A question that we're asking after the release of a landmark report last week is, is the battle of the sexes over? We'll talk to Maria Shriver about that as well as Richard Branson. Maria Shriver is holding her annual women's conference in California. We'll talk to her about that, what the topics will be that will be of interest to folks around the nation, and also as well as women's nation report that came out last week. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Oh, excuse me. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. I just got caught up in the moment there. You know, Michael Jackson has been making millions since his death, but he is not the only dead celebrity who's raking in the cash. In our special series, "Michael Jackson: the legend lives on," our Kareen Wynter shows us the secret formula for stars to make more money dead than alive.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, behind these gates lie some of the greatest stars in entertainment history, including Michael Jackson. And while they rest in peace, some are still earning a tidy income.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE MCQUEEN, LATE SCREEN LEGEND: You're in my movie and on my track.

WYNTER: He's been dead for decades, but late screen legend Steve McQueen still finds work beyond the grave, inserted into ad campaigns like this one.

MCQUEEN: Good luck.

WYNTER: Dead celebrities making a living on their iconic images. There's a market worth hundreds of millions a year, says David Reader of green light. His company advises heirs of celebrity estates on licensing and marketing opportunities.

DAVID READER, GREEN LIGHT COMPANY: This is one we just finished last month, which is using Andy Warhol's personality for Citibank.

WYNTER: Green Light has brokered deals for clients like Andy Warhol, Steve McQueen, and Albert Einstein. Their latest addition...

READER: Bruce Lee, who we're excited to take to market globally.

WYNTER: A concept can start with something as simple as a classic photo, like this one of McQueen from a 1960s movie set. If I wanted to license something like, how much would it cost?

READER: You know, it would cost you something in the six figures, certainly.

WYNTER: Green light's not the only company in the business. From art work to alcohol even figurines. CMG Corporation has negotiated lucrative contracts for the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Betty Paige --

We're talking big numbers.

WYNTER: And the legendary rebel, James Dean.

He's one of our top clients.

WYNTER: But when it comes to the king of posthumous celebrity earners, that crown belongs to Elvis, who dominates "Forbes" annual list of top earning dead celebrities.

ROBERT SILLERMAN, CEO CKX: Elvis will generate in 2009 between $50 million and $60 million.

WYNTER: Numbers that could easily triple next year, with the upcoming launch of an Elvis Cirque de Soleil show in Vegas, says billionaire entrepreneur, Robert Sillerman. His company, CKX, owns 85% of the rights to Elvis. But Sillerman says Elvis could be dethroned with the late Michael Jackson's huge earning potential.

SILLERMAN: 2010 is going to be interesting. It's going to be the first time that there really is a horse race with Elvis.

WYNTER: But green light's David reader says an estate's true test lies in a star's staying power, how bankable their image remains over time, like this 20th century pioneer whose persona still resonates with consumers, from coffee lovers to Kobe Einstein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WYNTER: Forbes magazine releases its list of top earning dead celebs tomorrow. We'll find out whether Jackson clinched that top spot from Elvis -- John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Kareen Wynter for us this morning. Kareen, thanks. And tomorrow, Michael Jackson's "this is it" documentary hits theaters. Kareen Wynter's going to give you a sneak peek right here on American Morning. We should point out too by the way, we're expecting that launch to occur about a minute from now. It's now been put off to about 9:24 or so. NASA having some problems with the weather down there at the Kennedy space center.

CHETRY: All right, there's a beautiful shot of the launch pad. Fingers crossed that everything goes well. Meanwhile, still ahead, we're going to be joined by the first lady of California, Maria Shriver, as well as, Sir Richard Branson. They're joining us this morning. Taking part in a very special cause. Oh, there they are. ROBERTS: Yes, we'll be with them in just a moment. So, stay with us. 29 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Thirty minutes past the hour. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. A look at our top stories now. And a live look at Cape Canaveral. The weather right now is causing a bit of a delay for NASA, but right now we're inside a four-hour window for the launch of the new Aries 1-X rocket. Scientists, astronauts, hoping liftoff will happen at 9:24 eastern time this morning.

It is the largest rocket in the world, and today's mission, an unmanned mission, is to collect data. NASA is hoping this new vehicle, the first to be tested in three decades, will end up replacing its shuttle program, which is set to shut down next September.

ROBERTS: Allegations that a Chicago bar denied black students and let their white classmates in. The class president at Washington University in Missouri says a settlement with the bar could happen as soon as tomorrow.

The students complained to state and federal agencies after six African-American students from the senior class trip were turned away from Mother's Bar while 200 white classmates were allowed in.

The bar said, well, it was dress code violations including baggy jeans, but students turned the table on the bars. A white student and black student swapped clothes. The white student let in with baggy jeans, the black student kept out.

CHETRY: Well, if you're having a Big Mac attack in Iceland, you may be out of luck, because the country's three McDonalds will be closing next week. McDonald's got too expensive there. The famous burger in Iceland will set you back $6.36.

The franchise owner is blaming the fact because of the economic downturn this, he's forced to import all the ingredients from Germany and it's just simply costing him too much money. Here in the states, by the way, you pay about that for a Big Mac extra value meal.

ROBERTS: The battle of the sexes is over. That's what a new report from California first lady Maria Shriver declares. The study says half of the American workforce is now comprised of women and almost 40 percent of women identified themselves as the bread winner in their families.

It's certainly going to be a hot topic at the women's conference, which is hosted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and first lady Maria Shriver, which takes place today.

And joining us now from Long Beach is the first lady of California Maria Shriver and Sir Richard Branson, who will also be speaking there. Folks, so good to see you this morning. Miss Shriver, let me ask you first of all about the report, this "Women's Nation" report that was released last week. Why did you feel that it was important to do the study now and how will the findings impact your women's conference this week?

MARIA SHRIVER, FIRST LADY OF CALIFORNIA: Well, I thought it was important because it had been something like 40 years since we had last taken a look at the American woman. And there wasn't really any contemporary data on who she is, what she's doing, what she's thinking, when she's making.

And so we take a look over the past year at who she was. And we came out to find that she's half of the American workforce, that mothers are either two-thirds or primary bread winners in American families.

She works, she doesn't make as much money as men, she doesn't feel supported in business, government has not kept up with the changes in the American family, neither has the media or faith-based institutions.

So we put forth together a report ways that all of these institutions could come up to speed with who the American woman is and what she needs to be successful.

ROBERTS: Sir Richard, you heard what the first lady had to say there, that many businesses have not kept up with the changing role of women in society. Let me ask you, what are your businesses doing to try to reflect that changing landscape?

SIR RICHARD BRANSON, CHAIRMAN VIRGIN GROUP: Well, it's very interesting. As a result of the report, and I expect as a result of coming to talk to 25,000 women, I obviously looked at what we were doing internally.

I think we've got more than 50 percent women working for our company, for instance, Virgin America here has nearly 70 percent women working.

But I think there's a lot of things that we can do to make women's work -- jobs in the workplace more comfortable. I mean, the very short holidays that women and men get in America, I personally think is unacceptable and it needs to be looked at.

If people want to have time off to maybe go and look after their children, maybe on an unpaid basis, there should be flexibility in that. There should be the flexibility to give women and men the right to work from home more often.

I think businesses just want to make sure that people are working. And then so they make them come to an internal office unnecessarily, where as I think at least 50 percent of the workforce could be working from home.

And I think there's lots of, you know, job sharing, lots of other flexible things that need to be looked at. ROBERTS: And Miss Shriver, one of the issues the study points out as well is the inequity in pay, that women are still only making 77 percent on average of what men are, and that this is disparity that has been place for generations. When is it going to change?

SHRIVER: I think it's only going to change the more we talk about it, the more we put a spotlight on it. I just did an interview with Megan McCain and she said, I didn't even know that. I think a lot of people still don't know that.

So I hope the report will open the eyes of business leaders like Sir Richard Branson. I hope it will open the eyes of political leaders, faith-based institution leaders.

And I think that these are issues that have traditionally been called women's issues, but these are issues that men care about on an equal basis. Men want flexible hours, men understand the need for family paid leave, men understand the necessity of child care policies in this country and beyond.

So these are no longer, quote, "women's issues." These are the American worker issues. And it's smart business to be progressive on this front. It's smart government policy, and it's smart, really, for all of us to be together on these issues, because they support the American family.

BRANSON: It's interesting that in...

ROBERTS: Go ahead.

BRANSON: Sorry. No, I was just saying that it's interesting, in Denmark a few years ago, they forced a law which said that 50 percent of all directors in companies had to be women.

And I've just gone back to our companies to see how we're doing as far as far as directors in the boardroom. And I have to admit, it's not that good.

And so we're going to ask a question today to the women, do you think that there should be a law which pushes companies into getting to a 50 percent male/women directorship, or do you think we've got to get the rights of women, you know, the basic rights sorted out before you actually go to that.

ROBERTS: All right, so you're taking a look within your corporate structure to see where you can make improvements.

But here's a question, Miss Shriver, I wanted to ask you. Why aren't there more men, like Richard Branson, that is the self-made millionaire who started with nothing and worked their way to the very top echelons of business the world over, you know, of the 20 richest women in the world, all except one, Rosalia Mera from Spain who's involved in textiles, inherited at least a port of their portion from their husbands or their fathers.

SHRIVER: I find that question, why aren't there more women like Sir Richard Branson challenging, because there are so many women starting businesses in this country, so many women supporting families single-handedly. It's not about becoming like Sir Richard Branson. There are women that are balancing elder care and child care.

It's not that easy. Women, even though with all these advancements, in the poll and in the Shriver report, it said 80 percent of women said they felt they were the sole person responsible for rearing their children and taking care of their parents or their spouse's parents.

So it's not so easy to go become Sir Richard Branson. But women are making their ways in different ways and having the same kind of impact as a Sir Richard Branson.

But I think what's great here is that Sir Richard Branson, who has an incredible company and an incredible life and an incredible voice on this issue, can look within his company and see how he can support women in leadership positions. That's what businesses need to do, because women need different kinds of job sharing opportunities, they need flexible hours.

And you will see plenty of Sir Richard Bransons, but they won't be called Sir Richard Branson.

BRANSON: Actually, if you look at the amount of new companies that are being formed, it's more than 50 percent women that are forming them. So I think despite them having children and having to look after elderly parents, you're going to find the equivalent of Sir Richard Bransons in women, many of them a decade ahead.

ROBERTS: Some welcome and dynamic changes going on in the workplace. We thank you both for being with us, Maria Shriver, Richard Branson, great to talk to you again.

SHRIVER: Thank you.

BRANSON: Cheers.

CHETRY: We're coming up on 38 1/2 minutes past the hour. The H1N1 vaccine swine flu fears, and now people are waiting in long lines to get the vaccine. Mary Snow takes a look at where it is and who is going to be able to get it and when.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: It's 40 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Forty-six states are now reporting widespread swine flu activity, the president declaring H1N1 a national emergency. So maybe you've decided now is the time to get the vaccine? Well, you have to get in line. Our Mary Snow tells us why finding a shot to protect you from swine flu has unexpectedly become a real pain.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, so what's behind the delay in producing the H1N1 vaccine? Health officials say the process hinges on the way the vaccine is made.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): With lines like this one in Salt Lake City, it's clear there's a demand for H1N1 vaccines. But where are they? Health officials say a delay in vaccine production comes down to a 50- year-old technology that relies on eggs.

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: It's a tried and true method, but it's not perfectly predictable. Some viruses grow quickly in eggs, some don't grow as well. And what happened with this year's H1N1 vaccine that several of the manufacturers had challenges in getting a lot of the vaccine virus out of those eggs. So we have a delay.

SNOW: That delay doesn't support Dan Adams, who told us this back in July.

DAN ADAMS, CEO, PROTEIN SCIENCES: No matter what you think, the way that the major pharmaceutical companies make flu vaccines is not going to solve a real pandemic problem. It takes too long to get there.

SNOW: Adams is the CEO of Biotech Protein Sciences and uses insect cells and not eggs to make vaccines. The company doesn't yet have a license to make H1N1 vaccines. But his company isn't the only one using different technologies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the equivalent of about 100,000 eggs.

SNOW: Alan Shaw's biotech firm Vaccinate uses proteins and bacteria.

SNOW (on camera): Why is it so much faster?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: E. coli double every 20 minutes. A hen will lay an egg once a day, roughly.

SNOW: This company is applying for federal money, but the government has already invested in other, including protein sciences, as it seeks alternatives to using eggs. Critics ask, should the government have invested in alternative technologies earlier?

SCHUCHAT: We're optimistic that over the years ahead, some of these new technologies will bear fruit, but none of them were ready for this pandemic. It's just a sad truth that the pandemic came too early, basically.

SNOW: Currently the government has contracts for H1N1 vaccines with five companies, all of which make the vaccine the same way.

ANDREW PEKOSZ, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: And since growing the virus in eggs is the only FDA approved means of generating the vaccine, that really becomes our major stumbling block right now. SNOW: MedImmune is having less difficulty with its nasal spray vaccine, but it's not for everyone. It's approved for ages two to 49 with no underlying illnesses. It's not recommended though for pregnant women because it contains a live virus -- John and Kiran?

CHETRY: Mary Snow for us this morning, thanks.

SNOW: Rob Marciano is tracking the severe weather across the country today. Storms in the south yet again. The traveler's forecast right after the break. Stay with us. It's 43 minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: And welcome, Denver, good morning. You guys are probably just getting up right now. KUSA, a beautiful shot this morning, where right now it's mostly cloudy; it's 43 degrees. A bit later, it's going to be cloudy, going up to a high of 54 -- John.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Kiran. Let's fast forward now through the stories that will be making news later on today.

The Sunshine State ready to harness some of those rays this afternoon. 12:400 Eastern, President Obama will be speaking in the largest solar panel plant in the United States that's in Arcadia, Florida. More than 90,000 solar panels will go online today.

The administration with a full court press on Green Energy today; at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, Vice President Joe Biden expected to announce that an old General Motors plant will go back online to build plug-in hybrid cars.

And responding to the national emergency of swine flu, with concerns about the vaccine, its safety and its supply, a house homeland security subcommittee will hear from officials about the federal response to the virus and that will be at 2:00 eastern.

Kiran, that's what so many people are worried about, it's either, why isn't the vaccine here, or we're afraid to take it because it hasn't been tested enough.

But we talked to Tony Fauci the other day from the NIH and he said it seems to be perfectly safe by all accounts.

CHETRY: Right. It's sort of a double-edged sword. The CDC at one point saying, take it. And people are saying, "I can't get it. But is it safe?" We'll have to see.

They're hoping to have more rollout in the next month. That's when, at least, our pediatricians are telling us it's going to be ready for the kids.

Meanwhile, 47 minutes past the hour right now.

Rob Marciano tracking it all for us; we had a bit of a delay with the rocket launch. We're going to find out more about whether the skies will be clear enough there in Florida for this to happen.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It's kind of sketchy. There aren't any real storms around but there are high clouds that are streaming across parts of Florida, all associated with this big weather system. And winds are pretty strong too.

They're concerned about rocket going through those high clouds, the ice crystals creates enough friction that creates that static electricity that creates problems when you're launching a rocket. Keep your fingers crossed.

Here's where all the moisture is. It is certainly coming down in Mississippi, Alabama. A flood watch out for North Georgia, including Atlanta. And then New York City, kind of the northern branch of this system has kind of broken apart. And you're seeing some rain as well. That's going to create some travel problems, I think, across parts of this area.

New York metro area, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Charlotte will probably see some stuff. And then San Francisco and Vegas, you might see some issues as well, because of this winter storm that's pouring into parts of the intermountain west; 8 to 16 inches of rainfall possible, maybe a foot in Denver.

Here's what it looked like yesterday at Mt. Hood, up highway 26 there over the mountain passes, it's snowing to as low as 3,500 feet and certainly the ski resorts up there at Timberline Pass (ph) trying to get a handle on things as the snow begins to fall. From the Wasatch of Utah into the Rocky Mountains and even into Denver proper, that rain tonight will turn over to snow during the day tomorrow, so some early season action in the high country -- John, Kiran, back up to you.

ROBERTS: All right, Rob, maybe we'll get an early season in this year. It would be grand. Thanks.

Forty-nine minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure: they're all on the rise for inner city children. One of the biggest problems, in urban areas, it is really hard to find fresh and healthy food that's also affordable.

In today's "Fit Nation" report, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to one woman who's trying to turn things around.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ladonna Redmond is on a mission. We met her two years ago right here in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago. It's the last place you'd expect to find a garden, but that's exactly what she showed me. What are we growing in here?

LADONNA REDMOND, URBAN FOOD ACTIVIST: Any number of things. Those are collard greens on the far aisle there.

GUPTA: Redmond led an effort to what she calls urban farm sites. Why? Because no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't find any fresh produce in the neighborhood.

REDMOND: If you wanted to, you could buy illegal drugs. You could get access to a variety of illegal drugs. If you wanted to buy a gun, you could buy a gun in this community.

But if you wanted to find an organic tomato in this community, if you didn't want to come to our urban farm site, you wouldn't be able to buy one.

GUPTA: With few grocery stores nearby, most people do their shopping at convenience stores like this one except they're full of chips, sugary drinks, and candy. And according to a new study from the Journal of Pediatrics, shopping at these convenience stores is part of what's making our kids fat.

Researchers talked to more than 800 kids outside convenience stores and found that on average they were eating 356 empty calories at every stop.

What are you guys buying in there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chips.

SANJAY: Chips?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Candy.

SANJAY: Let me see.

But in lower income minority communities like this one where high-blood pressure, diabetes and obesity run rampant, Redmond says we can't afford to ignore the issue.

REDMOND: There has to be an insistence that healthy living and a healthy lifestyle is a must.

GUPTA: So now two years after we first met her, Ladonna's adding store owner to her list of professions.

REDMOND: In our project, Graffiti and Grub, really tries to bring healthy lifestyles to the hip hop generation.

GUPTA: All in the hope she can change the tide in the ever- growing storm of obesity.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS: In all the debate over health care reform, there's within sort of the angry and at times the whimsical, but what about the musical? Our Jeanne Moos takes a look at a new type of health care protest coming up next.

Fifty-three minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. The health care debate taking a musical turn at an insurance industry meeting in Washington.

CHETRY: Yes, a group of protesters was actually singing out about the public option. Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Back then, there was the famous Annie.

And today there's public option Annie.

There's a name for the protest that took place at this insurance lobby conference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's technically called a grill-in musical.

MOOS: Suddenly, audience members started singing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For killing the public option and blocking any hopes of its adoption. Thank you, sir

MOOS: They were members of the satirical group, Billionaires for Wealthcare.

The group has clever little slogans like, "Let them eat Advil."

Unlike a dachshund, security didn't sniff out the five singers and 6 camera people who infiltrated the insurance event.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody can go to a town hall and just yell and scream and throw a tantrum.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get off of me!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we are trying a new dynamic, a new paradigm with positive energy and to make people smile.

MOOS: A similar guerilla musical broke out last month at Whole Foods store in Oakland, California. Protesters were mad at Whole Foods' CEO John Mackey for questioning whether people should have an intrinsic right to health care. So they took the 1982 hit Mickey and turned it into Mackey.

But the guerilla musical that got rave reviews wasn't a protest...

Imagine you're in the produce aisle when this production breaks out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We squish our fruits together. You've got a pineapple there, why don't we make them a pair. Let's squish our fruits together.

MOOS: And though most shoppers were dumbfounded, at least one guy kept pawing through the broccoli.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say, yes, we can.

MOOS: The group that staged this is called Improv Everywhere, most famous for the time over 200 participants simply froze in Grand Central Station, now frozen has given way to fresh fruits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fruits deserve the chance to mingle

MOOS: When's the last time you heard applause in the produce aisle. Who cares about squeezing the (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's squish our fruits together

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: I like those musical protests. They're fun. Nice little twist on it.

CHETRY: It's better than all the shouting, right?

ROBERTS: Exactly.

CHETRY: So we're still waiting, what are we, about 20, 25 minutes away from the rocket launch?

ROBERTS: About 9:24 Eastern, they're saying. That new Ares-1X rocket, there it is in the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center. This is the first time that they've test fired a launch vehicle like this in three decades. This could be the vehicle that sort of opens up the next frontier of space exploration: back to the moon, asteroids, maybe even Mars.

CHETRY: Right. Very exciting? Will this be what replaces the shuttle? The new way to get people into space?

Well, we're going to have to see. Again, their window opened up at 8:00, they have 8:00 until noon. They're going to try to get it going down there. Good luck. The weather has to cooperate, of course.

ROBERTS: Yes and it hasn't been thus far. So we're hopeful in the next little while, they'll get off the launch pad. Continue the conversation on today's stories; go to our blog at cnn.com/amfix. Awfully nice having you with us today, thanks so much for joining us.

We'll see you back here again bright and early tomorrow.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, keep watching, the news continues. Here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins. Good morning, Heidi.