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American Morning

Veterans Day Celebrated Today; Birth Control Patch Warning; Holiday Travel Tips

Aired November 11, 2005 - 07:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.
You're looking at live pictures from Washington D.C., at the memorial there. Of course, today is the day that we celebrate and remember the veterans in this country who gave their lives in hopes of ensuring our freedom. A sad day for many people and a joyous day, I think, in many other ways because people really remember and appreciate the sacrifice of veterans everywhere.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, just seeing that wall even on tape, let's see can we put that picture back up, Danny? It just gives me goose bumps. That is the most moving memorial anywhere about anything. Just to see those names . . .

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's wonderfully designed isn't it.


COSTELLO: And every year, you know well, actually, every day people still leave flowers and letters from loved ones who sent them letters from Vietnam. It's just incredible.

MILES O'BRIEN: Oh it's just it breaks your heart.

All right. Let's get right to it and talk about Veterans Day and where we are with veterans current and future with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Peter Pace is our guest now. He joins us from the Pentagon.

General Pace, good to have you with us in your full dress there. Looking very sharp today. Semper fi and all that. And see just a thought on that memorial. It just it sort of takes your breath away, doesn't it?

GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Oh it's an incredible memorial, Miles. And on a day like today that nation has set aside to pay respects to all of our veterans, for those of us in uniform, to say thank you to the millions of Americans who sacrificed that we might have today's freedoms, to be able to promise to them that those of us in uniform today cherish the legacy we've inherited and promise our nation that as long as we wear this uniform, we will maintain those freedoms and pass them on to our grandchildren.

MILES O'BRIEN: Let's talk about those promises and where we are on delivering some of those promises. And let's go to a there's probably no more decorated veteran around right now than John McCain. And yesterday he said a couple of things that I thought were very interesting. First of all, he said there's an undeniable sense that things, referring to Iraq, are slipping. More violence on the ground, declining domestic support for the war, growing incantations among Americans. There's no end in sight. And then he said this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Instead of drawing down, we should be ramping up with more civil military soldiers, translators, and counter insurgency operations teams. Our decisions about troop levels should be tied to the success or failure of our mission in Iraq, not to the number of Iraqi troops trained and equipped.


MILES O'BRIEN: And he says more U.S. troops are need. What do you say to that?

PACE: Well, first of all, Senator McCain is a true American hero and he has sacrificed for this country in ways that most of us can't even imagine. Second, we should be measuring progress in Iraq based on capacity of all the armed forces. If you go back two years, only the coalition forces had any capacity at all. And today, we do have over 200,000 Iraqis in uniform who have capacity and an Iraqi division headquarters or Iraqi brigade headquarters, 24 Iraqi battalions all serving their country in the field.

So collectively what we need to look at is the total capacity of the coalition very much in the future being more and more Iraqis. So looking at total capacity, it is a correct way to look and I'm very, very optimistic about what I see in the Iraqi armed forces ability to become a large and larger part of that capacity.

MILES O'BRIEN: General, if you had your druthers, though, wouldn't you prefer to have more boots on the ground there to get the job done?

PACE: I prefer to have more Iraqi boots on the ground there. I think that's what the Iraqi people need. Outsiders are helping but, understandably, not welcome long term by Iraqi people. They proud. They want to have their own government in their own country and their own armed forces. So we should do all that we can to hand over, on a conditious (ph) basis, to the Iraqi armed forces as fast as we can, as much of that country as we're able to do.

MILES O'BRIEN: Let's take a look at the region, though. The goal in invading Iraq was to create democracy and stability. Just the opposite is occurring. We've witnessed the events in Jordan. Further indications of the de-stabilization caused by terror. Because of that, when you look at all the surrounding countries and you look at what's going on in Saudi Arabia and Iran with its nuclear threat and Syria and on and on it goes, it makes it very difficult to conceive of U.S. troops leaving there any time in the foreseeable future. I mean we're talking about many decades aren't we? PACE: Actually, I think what you're seeing, as a result of the growth of the democracy, is the attacks. The insurgents, the terrorists understand that when Iraqis voted in January, when they voted last month, when they vote again next month, that their Iraqi democracy, Iraqis voting their free conscience, that's a threat to the terrorists. And all the terrorists have is murder and hatred and fear and that's what they're trying to spread. And if we maintain our patience, we maintain our will, we stay focused with other free loving peoples around the world, there's every reason to be very, very optimistic about the future.

MILES O'BRIEN: Haven't though, General, haven't we stirred up a hornet's nest? And aren't we giving terrorists every day real time clinic on how to conduct their evil deeds?

PACE: Well, first of all, on September 11, 2001, we weren't stirring up anything and we were attacked in New York, we were attacked in Washington, and God bless those heroes who fought over Pennsylvania. So the concept that we could somehow sit home and not be involved in this this war was brought to us. We're going to fight it someplace. You can fight it in Iraq, you can fight it in Afghanistan, we can fight it here at home. My choice is to fight it overseas.

MILES O'BRIEN: But doesn't it make it worse? Doesn't it make it worse, though?

PACE: Doesn't what make it worse?

MILES O'BRIEN: By taking this fight to Iraq. Doesn't it destabilize that region and that logic that it somehow makes us safer here? I'm not sure I understand how that works.

PACE: I take great pride in there being 25 million free Iraqis, 25 million free Afghans. This fight is going to take place someplace. Read what our enemy has written. They want to destroy our way of life. They're not blinking about that. They're looking us straight in the eye, writing it to us. We can choose not to believe them, but that would be a foolish choice. This fight must be fought. And to fight it with our friends and allies around the world, wherever it needs to be fought, is what we're going to do.

MILES O'BRIEN: Best to you on Veterans Day, sir.

PACE: Thank you very much.

MILES O'BRIEN: General Peter Pace is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

PACE: Thanks.

MILES O'BRIEN: CNN will have live coverage of Vice President Dick Cheney at the Veterans Day Ceremonies, Arlington National Cemetery, 11:10 Eastern Time this morning.

Let's get to Carol Costello and some other headlines. Good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: Miles, speaking of Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise stop there this morning. It's part of her Middle East trip. Secretary Rice landing in Mosul where she was briefed by the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad on the security situation ahead of next month's elections. And she urged all Iraqis to reach out across sectarian lines and create a country where everyone felt "fully protected." Secretary Rice is also scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and the West Bank.

President Bush is expected to answer critics today on charges his administration twisted intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. The president is set to deliver a Veterans Day speech at an Army depot in Pennsylvania where he will address the war on terror. CNN will have live coverage of the president's speech. That's at noon Eastern Time.

Africa could have its first-ever elected female president. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, known as the iron lady, is claiming victory in Liberia's presidential election. Sirleaf is a former finance minister and a Harvard graduate. Her opponent, a millionaire soccer star, is claiming election fraud. These are the first elections in Liberia since the end of a 14 year civil war in 2003.

And he's off the hook. Former baseball star Rafael Palmeiro has avoided perjury charges. Lawmakers say there isn't enough evidence to prove Palmeiro lied under oath. The former Baltimore Oriole testified before Congress back in March that he had never used steroids and then, six weeks later, Palmeiro failed a drug test and was suspended for 10 days. Palmeiro later said he had never intentionally taken those steroids.

And maybe it's just another sign that the cell phone is becoming a permanent part of our anatomy. Meet the cell phone robber. Police believe this woman has robbed four banks in northern Virginia all while talking on her cell phone. Not kidding. Who's she talking to? Who knows. This woman hands the teller a note demanding cash, gets the cash and is on the cell phone the whole time! Maybe she's talking to a lookout. Maybe she's talking to her girlfriend. Maybe you know, the funniest part, Soledad, was the teller on the other end, she was also on her cell phone and she had to say, wait a minute, I'm being robbed. I'm just kidding about that part. But isn't that ridiculous?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Oh my gosh. You know it's good to see that she's multitask. Knocking over the bank and not missing a beat while she organizes her kids play schedule later in the day with a friend.

COSTELLO: Exactly. She's managed to rob four banks!

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Wow, you know, that is multitasking. That really is something. It's it's something, Carol. I'm not sure what.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Thanks, Carol.

Let's talk about something that's very important to women. Because million of women's use birth control. And as many as four million women, in fact, use a form of birth control called the patch. Very popular. Well now there's some new warnings about this patch. Dr. Donna Moore is an expert on women's health and she joins us to talk about that.

Good morning.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Anybody who is using birth control is at risk for increased there's more estrogen. You're getting more estrogen than people who are not using birth control?

MOORE: Right and that's any kind of hormonal contraceptive.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: That's sort of the whole point of the contraceptive.

MOORE: Right.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So why are women who are using the patch exposed to more?

MOORE: Well, we always knew that women who were on the patch were exposed to the same or similar risks as women taking the pill. But what we now know is that women who are taking the patch actually have higher blood levels of estrogen. So even though there's the same amount of estrogen in the patch as in most birth control pills, we now know that women on the patch have higher blood levels.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So why is the patch, I guess, more effective in getting the estrogen into women where the pill is giving that same amount of estrogen less effectively in a way.

MOORE: Well, this is the big difference between the mechanism of what we call the delivery system. When you take a pill, it goes through your gastrointestinal tract, it goes through your stomach, and this is why women on the pill tend to have more side effects like nausea, for example. On the patch, it goes through your skin and directly into your bloodstream. So it doesn't pass through the whole GI system.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: What are the risks of having more estrogen in your system? And the number is something like 60 percent more.

MOORE: Right.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: I mean, it could be a lot more.

MOORE: Right. And what's important to know is the FDA has advised that this has happened but we don't know what the increased risks in actual women are. What we're speculating or what we're thinking is that women who take the patch might have increased risk of blood clots or deep DVTs or deep vein thrombosis.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Because those are all the same risks you would have with higher levels of estrogen.

MOORE: Right.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So you're just sort of extending what you already know.

MOORE: Right. And, of course, the condition that gives you the highest level of estrogen is pregnancy.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So compared to pregnancy you're . . .

MOORE: Right, we're still lower.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: I mean, how could they I mean the patch has been out there since 2002.

MOORE: Right.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So, you know, fast forward a couple of years. How come only now did they realized that that mechanism of delivery is really delivering 60 percent more estrogen than if you took the pill by mouth?

MOORE: Well, I certainly can't speak for the company and the manufacturers. However, what I can reassure people is that, when a drug gets put on the market, we don't stop doing research. We continue doing research once a drug is on the market to continue to monitor for any adverse effects and we continue doing scientific studies in the laboratory as well.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Do you then advise women who are concerned about the amount of estrogen that they're getting to switch to oral contraceptives? Do you say, you know what, stop using the patch until they figure it out? What's the advice?

MOORE: Women who have chosen the patch have chosen the patch for some very good reasons. The patch actually can increase compliance, which is very important in any contraceptive choice. I do advise women who have questions to talk to their doctors.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And ask the doctor what? I mean doctors always say, talk to your doctor. And say . . .

MOORE: We love saying that.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And say what?

MOORE: Say, am I at increased risk for blood clots? There are many other risks other than estrogen. Obesity, a sedentary life style, certain other diseases. Certainly smoking is a horrible risk. So ask your doctor, is this important for me and do I need to make a change? But don't just stop taking your patch because you've heard this news report. SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: That would be a bad idea.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Dr. Donnica Moore, nice to see you. Thank you very much.

MOORE: Likewise. Take care.


MILES O'BRIEN: All right. Am I looking crooked this morning?




MILES O'BRIEN: Our executive producer, Kim Bondy (ph), keeps telling me I'm looking crooked. All right, how am I doing now? Am I better? Is that straight?


MILES O'BRIEN: No. Don't move, she says. OK.

Let's check the weather now. Bonnie Schneider is at CNN Center.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Just a little bit off, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: A little bit back this way.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You're crooked.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. That's it.

MILES O'BRIEN: Oh, there we go. Back a little bit this way.

Good morning, Bonnie. How are you?


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning, if you're looking for a good travel deal this holiday season are you looking for a good travel deal this holiday because your you get Thanksgiving off right?

MILES O'BRIEN: I'm getting Thanksgiving off. Yes.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Do I sound bitter?


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: If you also are getting Thanksgiving Day off, we're going to have some tips that may save you some money if you want to travel. A look at those are ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

MILES O'BRIEN: Oh, you're going to have fun here. You will! You will! Trust me!


MILES O'BRIEN: Let's see, I'm trying to straighten out here.

ANDY SERWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're straighten out to fly right.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well, that works.

MILES O'BRIEN: You know, straightening out and flying right is not so easy for many major air carriers these days. Delta Airlines 77 years ago began, what, crop dusting in Monroe, Louisiana, I believe.

SERWER: Oh, you know the history.

MILES O'BRIEN: And now, what, they lost a billion bucks in a quarter. That's some real money.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: They're hemorrhaging money.

SERWER: Barrels and barrels and barrels of red ink. This is the latest bad news for this airline. $1.1 billion loss in the third quarter and it's just huge amounts of money when you start looking at how much they've lost so far this year, $2.6 billion. Four years, $11 billion. And all of this, even though passenger traffic is up, fares are up, of course, it's a lot about fuel costs. $442 million more in the third quarter than they did in the previous years. They're auctions off jets. How much longer can this go on? Of course, they are in bankruptcy.

Speaking of another airline in bankruptcy, United Airlines, of course, has been in Chapter 11 now for three years. But get this, things may be turning around. They're actually hiring flight attendants. News flash. Airline hiring flight attendants. They're looking to hire maybe 2,000 flight attendants. Get this, though. Base pay for the new flight attendant, $17,000 a year.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Significantly lower.

SERWER: Yes, indeed.

MILES O'BRIEN: Get your own darn coffee!

SERWER: Now you can make maybe $10,000 more in overtime on that, but that is a very low base pay, I would say.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, that's really low.

SERWER: And it really is tough for a job that's so hard, I think. It's a difficult job.

MILES O'BRIEN: The question is, how do you make a billion dollars in aviation?

SERWER: You start with three.

MILES O'BRIEN: That's exactly right.

Thank you.

SERWER: You're welcome.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Sad but true.

MILES O'BRIEN: Sad but true.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well despite the airline industry's problems, more than 20 million people are expected to fly this Thanksgiving. Still time, believe it or not, to try to find a great deal. We've got some travel tips coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well, 'tis the season to start fretting about your holiday travel. If I'm working Thanksgiving so, can you feel my pain? Do I sound bitter? But there are millions of other people who are going to be traveling over the holidays, this Thanksgiving holiday, and there are still some deals to be had. Nilou Motamed is a senior editor at "Travel & Leisure" magazine.

Nice to see you as always.

NILOU MOTAMED, SR. EDITOR, "TRAVEL & LEISURE": Nice to see you too, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: The prices are much higher and there are so many more people traveling. Why?

MOTAMED: Fifteen percent higher than last year.


MOTAMED: It's a confluence of things that have happened. There's been, obviously, the fuel costs. There has been higher demand. People made their bookings as early as summer this time. Normally they're waiting until September to make their Thanksgiving bookings. And airlines have cut some of their routes and some of their seats, so there's fewer seats available. Higher demand, fewer seats. You basically see the equation there.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, I guess. I'm surprised that so many more people are traveling this year than last.

MOTAMED: There's definitely this idea that people have a little bit more money to play with and they want to make sure they see their friends, they want to make sure to make their plans and they planned early.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: If you don't have a ticket and you're only two weeks out from Thanksgiving, I mean, realistically, do you still have a chance not only to get a ticket, but to get a good deal on a ticket, do you think?

MOTAMED: You definitely can but it's all about being creative and being flexible.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well, flexible. What do you mean by flexible?

MOTAMED: Flexible in two was. One, about the dates for your traveling. And, secondly, maybe even the airport that you're traveling to. If you're looking at dates and you want to absolutely fly the day before Thanksgiving and come back on Sunday, that's going to be a little bit iffy. If you want to fly the day of Thanksgiving, you might actually find some great rates and it will be less crowded. That's one benefit.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: We always show those, you know, those live shots of the traffic on Wednesday evening. And it's like, don't travel on Wednesday. I mean, come on now.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Can we be more clear? But it's actually not so bad if you take if you go on the holiday itself.

MOTAMED: Especially in the morning because actually, in general, people should be looking at morning flights if they can anyway because, you know, connecting flights, morning flights if you go later and later in the day, things can get, you know, crazy.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Worse as you go.

MOTAMED: Exactly, as you go.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You've got some Web sites that you like. I'll throw them out there and then you tell me what you like about them.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: For web savings you say Why do you like it?

MOTAMED: Smarter Living is great. First of all, you can sign up. They send you updates on the best fares every week. So they send you like a newsletter every Wednesday, which is great. And also they do packages. It's just a good, all-around Web site. What's important with these Web sites is to find ones that have a good search function where you can say, I want to fly on this date, what do you have on another date if that date's not available.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, it is all about the search function. What's that? MOTAMED: Mobissimo is actually one of these new search engines, the meta-engine. It goes through 85 different Web sites and pulls all the materials from them and brings you all the information to one Web site.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And this one's kind of self-explanatory,

MOTAMED: Well, you know, as you said, it's cheap, it's flights, it's good. But a great thing they have is they have that calendar function. So if your date isn't available, they'll give you another option.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So it's all about back to you're being flexible.

MOTAMED: Flexible.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You know, if you don't have a chance really for Thanksgiving in getting a good fare, can you start thinking ahead to Christmas or are you sort of are you out of luck for Christmas too at this point?

MOTAMED: No, actually, you're absolutely not out of luck. If you blew it for Thanksgiving and you're feeling like you need to make another effort for Christmas, this is the time. In fact, I was just talking to some travel agents. They were saying, the eastern Caribbean is available for Christmas. So if people want to go somewhere warm, that's a great place to go. Again, think about going to different airports. If you're going to be going to California and say you're going to L.A., go to Long Beach or to Oakland instead of San Francisco. Those kind of little details make a big difference.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility on all fronts and you can get a little good luck there.

MOTAMED: What can I say?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You can say, Soledad, you may have Thanksgiving off. That's what you can say.

MOTAMED: OK, everyone, Soledad, has Thanksgiving off.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: No, it's not going to work.

Nilou Motamed, nice to see you. Thanks very much. Always nice to chat with you.

Let's get back to Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: Talk to the hand, Soledad!

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: He's got Thanksgiving off.

MILES O'BRIEN: Coming up, has the president's latest pick for Supreme Court hit a little snag? A potential conflict of interest in Judge Alito's past. A live report from Washington ahead.