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U.S. Colonel Comments on Quality of Iraqi Security Forces; Doctor Won't Trim Blunt Talk On Dangers of Obesity; Truth In Advertising: Are Shipped Flowers Really Fresh?

Aired August 25, 2005 - 08:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Beautiful day here in New York City. Welcome back everybody. Just about half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Carol Costello in for Miles O'Brien today. Hurricane preparations are underway in south Florida. So, let's get right to that and a check of the other headlines with Kelly Wallace.

Morning, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Carol. And good morning to you, everyone.

Here are those stories "Now in the News": We begin with Tropical Storm Katrina, which has its eye on southern Florida. Residents there definitely getting ready. Katrina is gaining strength and could soon become a hurricane. Warnings have been posted along the southeast coast of Florida and officials have called for some voluntary evacuations. Forecasters saying Katrina could bring up to a foot of rain to that area.

Hundreds of soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina are expected to head to Iraq next month. The 1,500 paratroopers will provide additional security during the fall elections. That will bring the number of U.S. troops serving in Iraq to about 140,000.

President Bush is back at his Texas ranch one day after a speech on the war on terror. The president addressing some National Guard Troops in Idaho, repeating his stance to stay the course in Iraq.

Meantime, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan is back in Crawford at Camp Casey. Sheehan broke down when supporters unveiled a banner showing her son's face. Her son was killed last year in Iraq.

There is some minor damage, but no injuries after an small earthquake in North Carolina; not exactly where you might have expect an earthquake. The magnitude 3.8 quake was centered near Hot Springs. The tremor could be fell as far south as Athens, Georgia and along the Tennessee border. Probably quite a surprise for some residents there.

And we are spreading the news, forgive us for this one, about a new art display at the New York State Fair. Take a look at this. It's a 400-pound butter sculpture featuring a family drinking milk at the breakfast table. Yes, that's right. The artist, Jim Victor, using seven 55-pound blocks of butter to make that sculpture. The buttery masterpiece is being shown in a refrigerated case, of course. We need it to be refrigerated.

My question, how many calories, 55 blocks of butter.

O'BRIEN: Let's see, 35 per teaspoon. A lot.

WALLACE: He did a good job.

COSTELLO: Excellent. All the facial features are there, everything.

O'BRIEN: Looks good. What a mess, if it melts.

COSTELLO: What does he do with it after they're done with it?

O'BRIEN: Just pat that into little pats and send it out.

WALLACE: It won't go to waste. It won't go to waste.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Kelly.


COSTELLO: In Iraq an Army colonel has been awarded the military's second highest award for valor. Army Colonel James Coffman was presented with a Distinguished Service Cross in a ceremony in Baghdad on Wednesday. It was awarded for his role in leading Iraqi special police commandos in a fierce gun fight back in November.

Colonel Coffman now joins us from Baghdad.

Good morning. And first of all, congratulations. Tell us about that day last year in November when an Iraqi police station was under attack. You respond with Iraqi security forces. It's just you. You're the only American. Tell us how the Iraqi security forces performed.

COL. JAMES COFFMAN, U.S. ARMY: They acted bravely, courageously, they fought well. Many of them were wounded and they were determined to win. They did not give up.

COSTELLO: How do you compare them with American troops?

COFFMAN: Well, they certainly have some different training from American soldiers, but basically all soldiers are alike. They have the same kind of discipline, maybe a little bit different. There are cultural differences, of course. And some of their training may not be the same as ours. But these are still soldiers and I treat them as soldiers.

COSTELLO: Sir, you talk about cultural differences. Some people say they're more loyal to religious factions or ethnic factions than they are to the Iraqi military, or the Iraqi security as a whole. How would you respond to that? COFFMAN: The forces I have worked with, I have not really experienced any kind of sectarian, religious or ethnic predominance in their loyalties. I think that they are certainly proud individually of their religious affiliations or their ethnic backgrounds, but as soldiers, they have a patch on their uniform, the ones that I worked with, that says "Loyal to Country." And my experience with them has been just that. That they are loyal to their --

COSTELLO: That's true, sir. But I'm sorry to interrupt.

But we do hear of Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi police leaving their posts. We have heard that perhaps there are some spies within the ranks. How often does that happen?

COFFMAN: You know, unfortunately, I would have to agree that it has happened more than we would like, which is zero. But, you know, I think that we should concentrate on the great strides that we have made with the Iraqi security forces.

Yes, there are some difficulties. Yes, there have been some setbacks, but on the whole -- and I've been here on almost two years now. What I've seen is a very positive forward movement on the Iraqi security forces.

COSTELLO: You know that many want some major troop withdrawal of U.S. forces by 2006. And a large part of that depends on how well trained the Iraqi security forces are. Do you think that will be possible? Can some of the American forces start coming home by 2006?

COFFMAN: Well, I really can't comment on the strategy here in terms of decisions on troop withdrawals. Those are for the senior officers to make.

COSTELLO: Will the Iraqi security forces be ready for that?

COFFMAN: Well, there will certainly be some units that will be ready to occupy areas and control them. Right here, right now, in Baghdad alone we have seven battalions of Iraqi security forces that are responsible for security in a large portion of Baghdad.

In other parts of the country, there are Iraqi security forces which have been given full responsibility and are securing parts of the country. By next summer, how much will they have responsibility for? I think it will depend on how well their training goes and they're ready to assume that.

COSTELLO: Understood.

COFFMAN: I mean, I can't really predict how much that is, but it will certainly be more than it is today.

COSTELLO: All right. U.S. Army Colonel James Coffman, thank you for joining us this morning. And congratulations.

O'BRIEN: In the doctor/patient relationship, honesty is the best policy, right? Or is it? A physician is now under investigation after a patient complained that he was too harsh when he told her she was obese and she needed to lose weight.

Doctor Terry Bennett is the man who gave the advice. He joins us from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Nice to see you, Doctor Bennett. Thanks for talking with us.


O'BRIEN: What exactly did you tell your patient?

BENNETT: The same thing I tell every patient that has a weight problem, that you're going to live a short and dramatic life. That you are going to spend an enormous amount of money and suffer a lot, at the end of your life. And you don't get to live to be old. So you can change this, especially if I catch you early, you can change the whole outcome by getting some pounds off.

O'BRIEN: You also added she would be undesirable to men if her husband predeceased her, right? He's obese, too. You gave that part of the advice, too, right?

BENNETT: Yes, that's part of a whole litany. Now, what you have to do, is you run down a razor blade. Because if you give them too little information, they don't get any of it. They black it all out. And they didn't hear you at all. So you give them a fact, you watch the face. You give them a fact, you watch the face. You give them all the facts, their face never breaks down. They've listened to all of it. You hope they've incorporated it. You hope you haven't hurt their feelings, but you've got the news through them.

O'BRIEN: Some people might say the part about the love life, the part about you might not be attractive to men is medically none of your business. It medically has nothing to do with her health. Tell her about the diabetes, tell her about the medical costs. By why are you minding about her love life?

BENNETT: Well, it is not about her love life. It's about what happens if you have an obese couple, the wife outlives the man by a long period, ten years, 15 years. If you're then looking for a new relationship and you understand from polling information that was filed on Associate Press, out on NPR, that a survey has been done. What do American men prefer at whatever ages -- and it is in every case, not an obese woman.

O'BRIEN: There are polls out there that say American men prefer women with large breasts. I'm sure you don't tell your patients, you know, breast augmentation would be a good way to go, because there is a poll out there, right?

BENNETT: You're right. Yes, that's different information.

But what I'm trying to do is get their attention. And if they're ignoring diabetes, ignoring hypertension, ignoring gall stones, ignoring shortened life, ignoring all of this, heart disease, joint disease, if I haven't got their attention with that, then this is the shocker. O'BRIEN: Bruce Weinstein who is an ethicist, we talked to him last night and here's what he said, about what you said.


BRUCE WEINSTEIN, ETHICIST: The physician has an obligation to say exactly what obesity means. It there's an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and so forth. But to venture into the romantic area and to essentially strike fear into this person's heart, harms her. It creates anxiety. It is not helpful.


O'BRIEN: You apologized to the patient, but I guess who you have an issue with is the medical board and the state's attorney general, which is now investigating. Why?

BENNETT: Let me explain that the stated rules at the board of medicine, state that we do not address complaints about rudeness, we don't address complaints about bedside manner, we don't address complaints about fees.

Now, this is either rudeness or bedside manner. It's not about fees. We do address doctor/patient sex, we address felony crime, we address drug or substance abuse. This is an area where their own rules say they should never have addressed this issue at all.

O'BRIEN: So even if you're wrong, this is really not under their umbrella. It is kind of none of their business.

BENNETT: You got it.

O'BRIEN: Can I ask you a question?

BENNETT: Once I understood I had offended this woman, I clearly apologized. I'm sorry. I don't mean to offend anybody. I have a huge body of patients who have come to my defense and say, you know what? He tells us exactly the same stuff. Some of us are still fat. Some of us are not. But it is not that he's not telling us the truth. It is that we're not acting upon it.

O'BRIEN: Do you give the lecture, and I know you sort of say that you have a standard lecture that you give to your female patients about the health problems and the attractiveness part of it too. Do you give that same lecture to the men? Do you say women aren't going to think you are attractive. They're not going to want to be with you if you keep this weight on?

BENNETT: Not only the -- you are not going to be attractive to women, you're not going to be able to perform. OK? You are going to have sexual problems. Erectile dysfunction, all that stuff. So diabetes wrecks everything. Hypertension wrecks everything. And the medicines that you take for those things end up with erectile dysfunction. So that is a big portion of the talk that goes to a man. It's even handed. It ain't pretty. None of it's pretty. I tell them, look, this is really a disastrous story I'm going to tell you. It's your story unless I can get your attention and get you to change.

O'BRIEN: I assume the patient dropped you as a doctor. Any other patients who walked away?

BENNETT: I have a huge practice. I have walkouts, we have walk ins. The ones that walk in say, you know, I heard about you from Mrs. Smith. She says you tell it like it is. My old doctor used to do that. So I'm waiting to hear what you have to say. That is, I think, interesting.

O'BRIEN: Doctor Terry Bennett. Nice to have you, Sir. Thanks for talking with us. He's in Manchester, New Hampshire this morning.

BENNETT: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Whoo, he does tell it like it is, doesn't he?

COSTELLO: Yes, he does not mince words, wow.

Let's get a check on the weather now. Chad Myers is with us now at the CNN Center.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Can a fetus feel pain? A new study is causing a stir on both sides of the abortion issue. Doctor Sanjay Gupta helps us sort it out. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Can a fetus feel pain? A new study says it is unlikely until late in a pregnancy. We're "Paging Dr. Gupta" this morning, about that question, that's adding fuel to the abortion debate.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Even in adults, pain is a difficult thing to measure. Sure, someone might say ouch or they might have an increase in blood pressure or heart rate. But in a fetus, it's pretty near impossible.

DR. DAVID GRIMES, OB/GYN: One cannot directly measure pain in the fetus. Hence it's really an unknowable question.

GUPTA: But Dr. David Grimes, professor of obstetrics, who used to work with the study's authors, says it has proven one essential point to him, not so much whether you can measure pain in a fetus, but whether they could ever feel it in the first place.

GRIMES: The fetus cannot feel pain or unpleasant stimuli because the neural networks, that is the telephone lines that would carry the message aren't connected until week 26.

GUPTA: Simply put, if the nerves aren't there to transmit the feeling of pain back to the brain, then for a fetus, pain doesn't exist.

GRIMES: Fetal perception of pain, we can say that this potential does not exist. So the question becomes moot.

GUPTA: Backwards thinking says pain doctor and my namesake, Sanjay Gupta. In a written statement, Gupta, the founder of the American Pain Association reminds us of this. Until about 1987, the medical community thought newborns do not feel pain. We were doing circumcisions and even heart surgeries without anesthesia.

Dr. K.S. Annand (ph), a pediatrician at the University of Arkansas, told "The New York Times" that there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that pain occurs in a fetus. He says that premature babies only 20 to 24 weeks old cry when their heels are pricked for blood tests.

Diametrically opposing views with the very issue of abortion sitting smack dab in the middle of it all.

GRIMES: We can say categorically that a fetus undergoing abortion in the United States cannot feel pain.

GUPTA: The researchers decided to look into this because of pressure from lawmakers to create a bill to require doctors to tell women seeking abortions that at 20 weeks of gestation a fetus can feel pain. Similar laws have been recently passed in three states and are under consideration in 19 others.

GRIMES: Legislation being considered and enacted in both state legislatures and Congress is politically motivated, and is not medically motivated.

GUPTA: But to be clear, it is worth noting that Dr. Grimes currently delivers babies and performs abortions. Also, one of the study authors, who claims pain cannot be felt by a fetus, is an administrator of a woman's clinic, which provided abortions. And another worked for the pro-choice group NARAL.

Consider this, when a sharp instrument is used to prod a fetus, they move away. Reflexively or because of pain? Truth is, because none of us will ever remember being in the womb, the question may never be answered. But that's not going to keep doctors, politicians, or activists from trying.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.


O'BRIEN: In addition to requiring doctors to inform women seeking abortions at 20 weeks about fetal pain, proposed federal legislation would offer fetal anesthesia at that stage of the pregnancy -- Carol.

COSTELLO: On the business front, Soledad, hard time for Bernie Ebbers, white-collar crime and a 21st century war of the roses. This is a good story. Ali Velshi is in for Andy today. ALI VELSHI, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: I am steamed about this one. Let me tell you about Bernie Ebbers first. These are both stories about possible misleading.

Bernie Ebbers was the old boss of WorldCom. He was convicted in March of conspiracy, false statements, securities fraud. He was sentenced to 25 years and he wanted to go to a prison near his home in Mississippi, and the judge recommended that he did -- a low security prison, but the Bureau of Prisons makes that decision, has told him to report October 12th to a medium security prison in Louisiana to live out his 25 year sentence. So that's a little tougher than he was expecting, he's going to a medium security prison.

COSTELLO: OK, on to the flowers. The war of the roses, so to speak.

VELSHI: Unbelievable. Unbelievable story. FTD is the old name in flowers, that the one everybody used to use. Basically, they use a network of florists across the country to deliver your flowers. Since then, 1-800-FLOWERS has become bigger. And there is another competitor in the business, Pro Flowers, which some of you may have used.

Pro Flowers runs an ad, and I'll just show you what it looks like. They talk about how it is fresh from the field. That is their whole thing, direct from the field. They send it to you, the implication is very clear. They cut it and send it to you.

COSTELLO: They cut it, put it in a box, slap it in the mail.

VELSHI: There is no wholesalers, there's nothing else. FTD has sued them, saying this can't be possible. Your own evidence shows that it is not possible. Stop advertising this way.

Pro Flowers has come out with a statement saying they vigorously defend their freshness guarantee. And a lot of nonsense in a two-page e-mail. Is it fresh from the field or isn't it? That's all there is to it.

COSTELLO: That is a yes or no question.

VELSHI: Because FTD has a business model that is not working. This is their salvo. This is what they're trying to do to help it. Fine, FTD's got its own problems, but they have asked a legitimate question. Is this direct from the field or isn't it. If any of you over at Pro Flowers are listening to this, call me. I'm going to get the answer to this one. Now I'm steamed.

COSTELLO: We've never heard of misleading ads before?

VELSHI: Never mind oil prices, never mind Northwest, I'm on the flower story.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI: All right. COSTELLO: We're back in a moment. Stick around.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We're back with more on some of the stories we felt deserved a little more talking about.


O'BRIEN: I've got to ask you about this doctor, Terry Bennett. What do you think? He's the guy who told the obese patient that not only was she obese, but kind of laid it out plainly and clearly all the problems she was going to have, including when her husband predeceases her -- which he says is going to happen because he's obese too, -- she's going to have a hard time finding a man.

COSTELLO: Well, I understand why this woman would be upset, because I would be upset as well. But if you're a doctor and you're not getting through, maybe you would try anything to get through to say I'm going to save your life. And this is so important to me that I'm going to do that. But that probably didn't make her feel any better did it?

WALLACE: It's funny, when I first hear the story I thought it was outrageous. How could someone say that to someone? I mean, where is the sensitivity? Show me the love. But when you listen to him -- I mean, he's very straight straightforward and as you said, he tells it like it is. He says he tells this to men and women.

O'BRIEN: And he's not giving -- I think it comes across clearly. He's not giving his opinion. He's citing studies and facts and things like that.

WALLACE: He's certainly got a wakeup call about, you know, obese people.

O'BRIEN: Not everybody likes the feedback, I guess.

COSTELLO: No, that's true.

WALLACE: Exactly.

COSTELLO: This is a story that caught my eye, Dwight Gooden, you know the famous New York Yankees pitcher. Great pitcher. Forty- one years old. He's long had a problem with drugs and alcohol. He was stopped at a traffic stop in Tampa, Florida and visibly drunk. Refused to get out of the car twice, even though police asked him to. And then simply drove off. And he's been missing ever since. And they're asking his family and friends. They asked Gary Sheffield who, of course, plays on the New York Yankees now, because that's his nephew, where is your uncle? He says I don't know. We've tried everything to help him. But sometimes you just can't do any more.

O'BRIEN: That is so heartbreaking. You see so many families where abuse is an issue and they say at some point you just have walk away and let the person fix their own problems. COSTELLO: Yes, it's a shame because he had absolutely everything. He's 41 years old, famous, had a 3.51 ERA when he left, he pitched with the Mets, got the Cy Young, he was 1984 rookie of the year. And now he's troubled.

WALLACE: You know your sports.

O'BRIEN: Yes, she does.

COSTELLO: Oh, I'm obsessed.

WALLACE: Yes, she is.

What struck me about it is we have heard this before in a way, that he had fallen and was sort of making his way back, maybe even playing ball again, fallen again. So it really is heartbreaking.

O'BRIEN: Reminds you of Darrel Strawberry. What people would give to have a tenth of the talent that he had.

COSTELLO: And some of that money that should make your life easy.

O'BRIEN: But addiction, come on, you know that doesn't always happen.


O'BRIEN: All right. Some stories worth chatting about and a little more. Coming up, we have an update on Tropical Storm Katrina. A hurricane warning is already in effect along the Florida coast. Schools and businesses are closed there. The latest on her path is just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.