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American Morning

Bird Flu Fears; Winter Olympics Update; Olympic Abstinence

Aired February 21, 2006 - 07:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: CNN will have live coverage of the president's address. It starts at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
The CIA reportedly removing thousands of documents from public shelves. Part of the National Archives, once public and available to historians and researchers, has now been reclassified. According to "The New York Times," some 55,000 pages have been taken from the open shelf since 1999. So far no response from the White House.

In the southern Philippines, rescue workers digging through a mud filled elementary school once again today but without the hope felt just 24 hours ago. Crews say they had heard tapping from the earth but radar has found nothing. More rain is expected today, triggering fears of more mudslides. More than 1,000 people still missing.

And U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is beginning her Mid East trip. Two main issues top the agenda, getting Arab allies to cut support for the Hamas lead Palestinian government and blocking Iran's access to nuclear weapons. Her trip also includes stops in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

That's a look at the headlines this morning. Back to you, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Carol, thank you very much.

No human cases of bird flu have been found yet in the United States. And maybe we should underscore the word "yet." Although you could see, if we throw this list up here, all the human cases are confined to seven Asian countries. Dozens of countries, though, in Asia and Europe and Africa have found infected bird. But again, none in the U.S. The bird flu is spread by migratory birds, so experts say frankly it's just a matter of time before it gets here to the United States. Let's talk this morning with Dr. Irwin Redlener. He's the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

It's nice to see you, as always. Thank you very much (ph).


O'BRIEN: We're talking about a new study that has come out that talks about a fairly dire predictions. I think it's fair to say if, and maybe more like when, the bird flu comes -- migrates -- the virus changes and mutates and can be transferred from the animals to people. REDLENER: Yes. In fact, what they're talking about is, it's not only a problem that it might one time mutate into something that humans can actually carry among themselves, but actually multiple introductions of this kind of virus could be a problem in sequence, one after another. We get one under control and then another one comes. So it's really an uncomfortable read, actually.

O'BRIEN: It's a read that comes out of Harvard School of Public Health.

REDLENER: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Which, obviously, has huge amounts of credibility. How likely do you think the scenario that they're underscoring is?

REDLENER: Well, the main problem with the scenario, it underscores a particular point, which is that the possibility of actually containing the pandemic, if it begins in one place, is very, very limited because there will be multiple opportunities for this virus to recur, number one. And number two, the whole idea of being able to contain it when it first gets started is extremely difficult and not likely to happen at all.

O'BRIEN: Is there historical precedent for this area? You know, other diseases in the past where we've seen this happen?

REDLENER: There are some precedents where this happened before, but this information that just came out from the study is really derived out of certain kind of mathematical models, which are not all that relevant. The main thing is that we, in fact, can see this recur over and over again in short order and that actually would really put a stress on the world's ability to contain and deal with this.

O'BRIEN: Is it linked to the flu? I mean if we make it through flu season, which, in some ways, here in the United States really haven't been that bad in some ways.


O'BRIEN: Does that mean it's like, shoo, the flu season's over, now we're in the clear?

REDLENER: I really wish I could say it was. But the fact of the matter is that the avian flu, this type of virus, does not really respect the traditional flu season. So we could actually see this at any time. It's not really related to what we're currently used to.

O'BRIEN: OK. So what are the countries doing? Let's not talk about the United States yet, but the countries where the major problems are.


O'BRIEN: What are they not doing right now that they should be doing, you think? REDLENER: Well, I think all the countries are on high alert right now. I'm not just talking about the western European countries we're now obviously seeing more and more cases of the avian flu arising in birds and fowl. But even in Asian countries and poorer countries, there's a lot of attention. The problem is that the resources to actually contain and control the disease when it arises in southern China or India or Thailand, all of these countries are very limited resource wise, so that the global community is worried that it will start some place, not be detected early enough and then spread rapidly throughout the world.

O'BRIEN: But the response seems to always be, and so they killed a hundred thousand chickens and they -- so they . . .

REDLENER: Or a hundred million chickens.

O'BRIEN: I mean, exactly.

REDLENER: Yes, exactly.

O'BRIEN: As opposed to some kind of early-on prevention. I mean it's something that happens sort of after the fact. You know, after the horse you built the barn.

REDLENER: Yes. Unfortunately, what they'd have to do to stop it in birds is really to inoculate birds with an appropriate vaccine which, of course, is difficult, almost impossible to do. And then the idea is, when they do find it in birds, is try to control it in that spot. It's just extremely difficult and challenging in a lot of these countries.

O'BRIEN: In the U.S. the plan here, and we've interviewed a zillion experts about it, the strategy seems to be more of a plan about what to do when it happens as opposed to a prevention plan.

REDLENER: Well, our tools for prevention would mainly be vaccinating people like we do for the normal flu. The problem is, since we don't have the vaccine -- in fact, we don't even have the anti-viral treatment, like the Tamiflu, in sufficient quantities. So we're really quite stuck here with all of our strategies being after the fact, in a sense. And part of that -- our success in that will be determined by how quickly we can determine that individuals actually are coming down with this kind of avian flu and then get on the case. And, of course, the only hope that we're going to have is a very robust healthcare system to really be able to treat people effectively.

O'BRIEN: Well, with all due respect . . .

REDLENER: We're not getting our hopes, are we?

O'BRIEN: Doctor, I mean, let's talk about the robust healthcare system.

REDLENER: Yes. O'BRIEN: You got a bunch of people -- millions of people, tens of millions of people who aren't insured at all. Let's not even worry about the fact that Tamiflu is hard to get.

REDLENER: Yes. Right.

O'BRIEN: May not even necessarily work.


O'BRIEN: You've got a lot of people who can't even get inoculated for the regular flu in the winter season because they're not covered by healthcare.

REDLENER: Exactly. Well, and we want to, of course, anybody with symptoms to get in and get treated early. So all those 46 million Americans who don't have health insurance, they're sort of like typhoid Mary's of day past where they're not getting to the system early and they actually will be a problem when we're talking about pandemic. And second of all, our hospitals are very, very far from being ready to deal with the number of people who might get sick.

O'BRIEN: This is kind of our depressing segment of the day.

REDLENER: A bad way to start the morning, but . . .

O'BRIEN: It really is.


O'BRIEN: I don't know that you have a lot of good news for us. Hopefully the news will improve.

REDLENER: Well, hopefully we'll see a lot more rapid emergency investment in the healthcare structure by the government. We're not seeing enough right now. There's been a little bit of resources commit. We need much, much more and we need it in a hurry.

O'BRIEN: It's going to be a big problem otherwise. Dr. Irwin Redlener, nice to see you as always.

REDLENER: Nice to see you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for talking with us.

REDLENER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it.

Let's get right back to Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Soledad. Yes, potentially scary news there.

Somebody who always brings at least a smile, if not good news to the Weather Center is Bonnie Schneider. She's in for Chad Myers the last couple of days.

Good morning again, Bonnie. What do you have?


MARCIANO: At the Winter Olympics today, a big rivalry hits the ice and it's not the Americans versus the Russians in ice hockey. It's a home-grown rivalry. Two Americans, Shani Davis versus Chad Hedrick. CNN's Larry Smith is live in Torino this morning.

Larry, give us the dirt. Give us the gossip. How did this in- house rivalry get started and what do you think's going to happen?

LARRY SMITH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big thing how it got started was when Shani Davis opted not to race in last week's team pursuit and that really drew the ire of his teammate, Chad Hedrick, who was trying to win five gold in these games and he felt that with Davis and the team pursuit they had a chance at gold. It turned out they finished only sixth. Hedrick's been very outspoken what he feels is Davis', well, lack of team attitude. More of an individual attitude. But for the moment, going into tonight's 1500 meter speed skate, he basically has said that he'll agree to disagree.


CHAD HEDRICK, OLYMPIC SPEEDSKATER: Obviously you guys sensed some problems before I made that comment because I've been asked about Shani quite a bit this week. And, you know, whatever you guys take it as, I'm very happy to be part of Team USA.

DEREK PARRA, OLYMPIC SPEEDSKATER: Shani, Shani and not everybody gets along. Personalities clash sometimes and Shani's very quite and soft and Chad's very outspoken.


SMITH: Well, you might be wondering, we'd like to here from Shani Davis and, well, so would we. He's refusing to talk to the media until competition is over. Again, tonight's 1500 meters. And, Rob, we could say this much at least, his focus was so, you know, was rewarded when he did win the 1000 meters gold medal on Saturday night. The first African-American, first athlete of African descent to win a gold medal in an individual event at the Winter Olympic.

MARCIANO: Certainly making the U.S. proud there. You know, Soledad can't stop talking about this figure skating, so let's get on it. Emily Hughes tonight. I do remember she did qualify and then that was taken away when they were going to have Michelle Kwan and now she's going to hit the ice tonight. What's up with that?

SMITH: Now she's back in. She was to finish third in nationals. And, by they way, Soledad's not alone, everyone's talking about figure skating.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Thank you. SMITH: So you and a few other people there, Rob. But it is the team signature event of every Winter Olympics. Emily Hughes, third in nationals. She was pushed back as an alternate when Michelle Kwan got the medical bye. She is now injured, can't go. Emily Hughes back in. Seventeen years old. Her big sister Sarah surprised the world and won gold in Salt Lake City in 2002. Maybe Emily could do the same. Sasha Cohen, the 21-year-old U.S. national champion also is there, as well as 16-year-old Kimmie Meissner, who may be the most athletic at all.

But to try to add to a medal total as they begin the competition tonight. USA right now 15 medals. That's second highest total ever for the U.S. in a winter games. Second only to the 34 they won in Salt Lake four years ago. So some disappointments, but overall a good showing for the U.S. to this point.

MARCIANO: Well, it's going to be exciting to watch, that's for sure. Larry Smith live once again in Torino. Thanks very much, Larry. Enjoy the food over there.


O'BRIEN: Yes, we haven't even talked about the food very much. But, you know, my daughter's -- do your daughters just love the figure skating?



SERWER: Yes. Ice dancing. It is the marquee.

MARCIANO: OK, everybody is talking about the figure skating.

O'BRIEN: It is. It's fun. Gosh. What's up with you?

MARCIANO: Andy, you're a big fan. Would you stop hitting me? I'm going to hit the HR office by the end of this week.

O'BRIEN: There. Go. Complain all you want.

SERWER: I watch the hockey, Rob.

MARCIANO: Yes, that's better.

SERWER: That's the skating I like.

O'BRIEN: That's their manly sport.

SERWER: That's the manly thing.

O'BRIEN: Even the women's. All right. Go ahead. Busy. Business news.

SERWER: Soledad, I get to ask the question, where is the beef? Still not exporting American beef to Japan. I'll tell you why.

Also, flying this spring? Look, ma, no bags. Tell you about that, too, coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Oh, and then there were three. "Dancing with the Stars," the TV sensation that is sweeping America off its feet, and you can see why. Look at this. Look at these moves. Look at that dancing.

SERWER: Ah cha cha.

O'BRIEN: Well, yes, and it's in its final week now. Some of the survivors and the casualties, too, appeared on "Larry King Live" last night. And Larry asked a celebrity contestant about washing out, I guess is the way you'd put it. Here's what he said.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Fallen when you were eliminated?

GEORGE HAMILTON, ACTOR: No, not at all. I actually was really crushed when Master P. went because I knew I had to keep up the standards and I received all of his votes and then I gave all of his votes to Stacy because I'm -- I'm -- I can't tell you how much I'm in love with this woman. She is such a wonderful person and such humility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know, George, we know.

HAMILTON: She has such humility. It doesn't mean I'm taking away from the other guys, but I've -- if this was a presidential campaign, I would give all my votes to her right now and have.


KING: So in other words, George, you're saying you want Stacy to win?

HAMILTON: Well, yes, that would be the trophy I'd like to take home.


O'BRIEN: Oh, we fear he meant that literally. That, of course, was George Hamilton, perpetually tan. And there, look at Larry King with his little moves.



O'BRIEN: He's got his moves going on. He took the floor with the pro dancer Ashley Delgroso (ph). By the way, the winning pair is going to be announced on Sunday. He looks pretty good. Look at him.

SERWER: He does.


MARCIANO: Not bad, Larry.

O'BRIEN: A reminder, you can catch "Larry King Live" every night 9:00 p.m. Eastern. That's is right here on CNN. We cannot guarantee that he'll be dancing each and every night on his broadcast.

MARCIANO: All right, time for a business update. Japan's looking to make mad cow a thing of the past. Is that the story?

SERWER: Well, you remember last month, Rob, Japan halted imports of U.S. beef. This is after a two-year ban ended in December. So we were up and running for just one month. Then they discovered some suspected veal, suspect veal with some backbone parts in it. We don't want to get too graphic here. But potential for mad cow disease in there.

Now what happened is the U.S. responded by issuing a 475-page report, delivered it to the Department of Agriculture in Japan and you know what they said? Insufficient data. Not enough material. We don't believe you yet. We need more assurances that you can prevent these kind of body parts, if you'll let me say that . . .

O'BRIEN: That's kind of gross.

SERWER: Yes. Into the country. So they really are not letting us export beef to that country still. About a third of our exports, when we're up and running, went to Japan. $1.4 billion worth. So it's a big business.

Now I want to talk about luggage a little bit. You know taking luggage on the plane has never been more of a hassle. Of course, with security since 9/11, it's heavy, you've got to worry about it. There's a new bunch of businesses springing up and doing remarkably well that will take care of all of your business and your luggage and it's just amazing stuff.

O'BRIEN: We did a story yesterday. We said 10,000 bags a day are lost.

MARCIANO: A day they lose.

SERWER: Right. Three and a half million pieces last year. Something like that.

O'BRIEN: Oh, man. So tell us about this Luggage Forward.

SERWER: Well, this is -- there's a couple of them. One's called Luggage Forward, for instance. There's a story in the "USA Today" you can check out. And the way this one works is, they basically come to your house, grab your bags. You never see them again until they're in your hotel room. I mean how sweet is that? Of course, very expensive. Hundreds of dollars. But round trip it would cost you hundreds of dollars to do a golf bag and a couple heavy suitcases.

Then there's another type. This would be say Baggage Direct where they would actually just sort of accompany you. They'd pick up your bags from your hotel and home and then check them through for you and that's much less expensive.

O'BRIEN: They check them through the airport for you?

SERWER: Right. Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Can't you like FedEx your bags or just ship them ahead of time?

SERWER: You can do that. You can do it UPS. And more and more people are doing that concept (ph).

O'BRIEN: I tell you, I think it's a brilliant idea.

SERWER: I do, too.

MARCIANO: Makes you feel like, you know, VIP at least.

O'BRIEN: No. At least you have free hands.

SERWER: Yes and if you have kids and a lot of bags, forget about it, right?

O'BRIEN: Oh, man, that's a pain, yes.


O'BRIEN: Of course you need the vacation first.

All right, Andy, thank you very much.

SERWER: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, some athletes think no sex before the big game means better performance on the field. Is that true or is it an old wives tale? We'll take a look at that. And I'm not sure how we're going to take a look but somehow we're going to investigate that.

SERWER: We'll let Sanjay handle that, right?

O'BRIEN: Yes, definitely Sanjay's problem.

Later, we're going to give a new checkup for our week seven, can you believe? Sanjay shows us who's made the most progress in our "New You" challenge.

Those stories are ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


MARCIANO: We all know Olympic athletes make a lot of sacrifices to be the best. But you may be surprised to learn that many athletes are depriving themselves of sex in the days and weeks before a major event. The theory is, it helps them. Does it really work, though? In a story first seen on "Paula Zahn Now," CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reports.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Ancient Greek Olympians, the Buffalo Bills and Josh Davis all have something in common. They're all lean, mean, athletic machines living by a strict code, train hard, compete hard and no sex before a competition.

So it was through trial and error that you figured out abstaining was a good idea to win a medal?

JOSH DAVIS, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Right. Yes. When I abstained, I got the gold.

COHEN: Josh won gold three times in Atlanta, two silvers in Sydney and he broke seven U.S. records. And while he adores Shantel, his wife of 10 years, he says abstaining days before a competition and the day of works for him. Of course, he does have sex. The man has five children.

DAVIS: It's awesome. I mean, God invented it and he said go for it and I love it and we love it and it's great and we celebrate that. But being that my job is to race for our country, one night every four years, I can probably abstain that day and really focus my energy, you know, to bring home the gold.

COHEN: You said you've made some mistakes?


COHEN: It was Ft. Lauderdale, 2002.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My perennial favorite, Josh Davis. He will not be in this final heat tonight.

COHEN: The Davises blamed Josh's poor athletic performance in part on too much canoodling.

DAVIS: I flew her with me to Ft. Lauderdale. We're on the beach and I'm getting ready to race and not having the kids around and being on the beach, it was just so romantic and so wonderful and we had a great time at the hotel, but my times in the pool were awful. I was really tired. I don't know what was wrong with me. I just could not perform and I -- in the pool and I didn't make the USA team. But we had a great time together.

COHEN: Now Josh says he learned his lesson and so have others before him. Muhammad Ali said he didn't have sex for six weeks before a match. The no sex rule has even made it into movies like "Bull Durham."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there's no relationship between sex and baseball. Ask Crash (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what did he say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said if I give into you, I'll start losing again.

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, "LOVELINE": For the most part, this is a wives tale.

COHEN: Psychologist Drew Pinsky says it's all in an athlete's head.

PINSKY: I think it might be what you call retaining the eye of the tiger. I think people have sort of a sense that if they remain irritable and deprive themselves of things, that perhaps then they'll be more apt to be aggressive when they need it.

COHEN: Dr. Ian Shrier, past president of the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine, agrees.

DR IAN SHRIER, MCGILL UNIVERSITY: Among the six studies that we looked at, all of them showed the same thing, sex the night before competition does not make you weaker, does not decrease your aerobic capacity. It doesn't make you more tired.

COHEN: Football great Joe Namath said he had sex the night before his team won the Super Bowl. He claimed sex improved his game. And Dr. Jay Julius Irving claims to have conceived one of his children the night before he played the best game of his life.

But Josh Davis knows what works for him.

DAVIS: USA number one.

COHEN: He's training to become the oldest man ever to make a USA Olympic swim team. He'll be 35 at the 2008 games in Beijing.

DAVIS: The day of a race I have a certain amount of physical energy that I need to put towards that race. Obviously engaging in relations would take away from the energy potential that I would have.

COHEN: So at the trials for 2008 you're not going to make the same mistake?

DAVIS: Right. We won't be together for that week.

COHEN: Separate rooms.

DAVIS: Separate rooms that week and then we can celebrate after I make the team.

COHEN: An old wives tale? A myth? The Davis' don't really care. All they know is there's a time for love and a time when love takes a back seat.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, San Antonio, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MARCIANO: And a reminder, "Paula Zahn Now" airs week nights at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning, "New You Resolution" week seven, can you believe it? And it looks like those hypercompetitive Rasch twins making some big progress. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has got a checkup. He's going to bring us up-to-speed, as well as on them and other pairs as well.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in just a moment.