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American Morning

Democrats May Pass Health Reform without GOP Support; Rep. Frank Fights Rowdy Town Hall; Military Teens Unite for Support; Controversial New Gun Law Passed in Tennessee; "Double-Dipping" Official Allowed to Collect Pension While Keeping Job; Health Care Debate Continues

Aired August 19, 2009 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we're coming up to the top of the hour right now. It is 8:00 here in New York on this Wednesday, August 19th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, I'm John Roberts.

Here are the top stories of the morning that we'll be breaking down for you here in the next 15 minutes on the most news in the morning.

A town hall on health care turns into a literal sound bite machine. Congressman Barney Frank met with voters over reform and met fire with fire. Listen for yourself.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy, as Obama has expressly supported this policy? Why are you supporting it?

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: On what planet do you spend most of your time? Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.


ROBERTS: Yes, the barbs were flying last night. The latest in the health care debate from Massachusetts and the White House -- straight ahead.

CHETRY: And a dangerous situation right now in the Atlantic. Hurricane Bill is now exploding into a category four storm overnight, winds right now, 135 miles per hour. Rob Marciano tells us this will be felt in the U.S. mainland -- just how intense it will get though, still up in the air.

ROBERTS: And it's a loaded question. Should concealed weapons be allowed in bars and restaurants? It is now legal in Tennessee for gun owners who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon into any restaurant that serves liquor. But could this new law turn bar fights into gun fights? We'll hear from both sides in this debate.

CHETRY: But we begin with a move that could shatter the impasse on health care reform, but perhaps scorch some earth at the same time. After trying to negotiate with Republicans and getting an earful at town halls across the country -- as we just saw -- CNN's Ed Henry broke the news overnight that Democrats close to the White House are actively considering a go-it-alone option with no Republican assistance to pass health care reform. This so-called nuclear option is no sure thing though.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is live at the White House.

And what are you hearing this morning about the likelihood of this?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, still waiting to hear back from officials on this -- but as you noted, no final decisions have been made on this. But as Ed Henry reported last night, top Democrats close to the White House are saying that officials are actively considering this option. It's basically an obscure budget move and it's called reconciliation. It would mean that, basically, instead of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to push through legislation, there would only simple majority needed, 51 votes.

So, we should also tell you, this is something that has been on the table all along. It's always been an option. What's different now though is the context. We're, of course, just weeks away from when Congress gets back into town after its August recess. Also, this is White House, of course, facing not only reluctant Republicans when it comes to health care reform, Kiran, but as you know, some skepticism from conservative Democrats as well -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Yes, that's right. And so, if the White House does not pull the trigger soon on this, when might it come up?

QUIJANO: Yes, we're looking at when Congress comes back -- about mid-September is when things are really going to get critical here. Right now, as you know, it's sort of, "Let's make a deal" time. So, anything can happen. If Republicans do decide to come onboard, obviously, we're talking about a different story here. But, again, the critical period if things don't change is going to be mid- September -- Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. Elaine Quijano at the White House for us this morning -- thanks.

ROBERTS: Joining me now on the telephone to talk more about this is former New York Congresswoman Susan Molinari. She's now senior principal with a law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani. And she advised Mayor Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign.

Susan, it's good to talk to you. Do you -- do you blame the Democrats for going with this "go-it-alone" idea after what we saw on the House and what we've been seeing over the past couple of weeks when it comes to Republican complaints what Democrats are calling a strident tone toward health care reform and all of this back-and-forth in these town hall meetings?

SUSAN MOLINARI (R), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE, NEW YORK (via telephone): Well, good morning, John.

I don't blame the Democrats in terms of -- that there clearly needs to be a bill that has to be passed for the sake of the Obama presidency, if you will. This is an issue he's staked out as his own. He has, you know, coming out there obviously on his credibility and said, this is going to be a major initiative of the Obama presidency early on and I think he has put a lot of his presidency on the line to pass this.

Now, when we get to it, how do you do this? Clearly, if you don't have -- and I think you've had Republican after Republican come on your show and say these exact words, without medical malpractice reform, this is something we don't feel we can sign on to because we don't see how you effectively control costs and change a lot of the paradigm of what's wrong with health care with regard to these costs that come with the excessive -- what some consider excessive tests. The Democrats have clearly said that's a no-starter. So, we have, you know, something that's very important and almost a "holy grail" to the Republicans, medical malpractice reform, saying that's off the table.

I think what you're starting to see in the last few days is something that frankly took the president by surprise, which was the overwhelming -- first the overwhelming reaction to changing our health care system. And then the overwhelming reaction from Democrats who said, do not take the public option off the table. And clearly, the Republicans have said, if the public option is on the table, Republican and conservative Democrats have said we're not in the room.


MOLINARI: I think that...

ROBERTS: But Republicans didn't seem favorably disposed to the alternatives to a public plan when White House officials, Kathleen Sebelius, came out on the weekend and saying, well, maybe it's not so important to have a public plan.

MOLINARI: Well, I think, in fact, what you started to hear from Republicans were "Let's define what co-ops are going to be." That was -- in fairness to the Republicans who were debating in the Senate -- that was part of the discussion that was centering around the bipartisan group in the Senate, centered around Max Baucus and Senator Chuck Grassley.

ROBERTS: Right. One other -- one other point here, though, Susan, is -- given the rancor that we have seen in these town halls and how mistrustful of the government many of the participants have been, when they hear this news that the Democrats may be prepared to go it alone, what do you think that is going to do in these town halls? Is the go-it-alone strategy a potentially risky one?

MOLINARI: Of course, it is. It's always a risk you want in politics to do -- to go it alone, because then, in fact, quote- unquote, "You own it," and if it's great down the line, and whatever the implications are, the Democrats have to own it.

Now, President Obama, if he goes the public option route and can secure his base, you know, has made a gamble that may pay off in -- by the end of his presidency and by the time he's up for re- election. What everybody had been focusing on now and I'm sure the conversations that are taking place, you know, at the DCCC and the White House today is, if we go it alone it has to include the public option, I think, in order to get enough Democrats to pass it. There is no excuse not to if the Democrats are going to own it.

And then, what are implications in light of the stimulus, GM, Cash for Clunkers, the federal bailout, you know, under President Bush, when the Democrats come up for re-election in 2010. That's the conversation that's taking place with Democrats today.

ROBERTS: This thing just keeps moving in a million different directions.

MOLINARI: Yes, it does.

ROBERTS: Susan Molinari for us this morning -- really appreciate your time. Thanks for coming in.

MOLINARI: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: All right. Bye.

CHETRY: We've heard all kinds of snarky, snide, even sarcastic remarks during health care town halls. And they're not just coming from the members of Congress, the front of the room. Last night, Congressman Barney Frank got rather frank though with some of his constituents in Massachusetts.

And our Jim Acosta was in the room during the rowdy debate. He's live for us this morning in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

You know, some would say what we're about to see is really democracy at its best, right? I mean, you elect this guy. He's supposed to represent you and then you guys have a healthy back-and- forth when you don't agree or you have questions.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kiran. I was waiting for the congressman to remind people to tip their waiters and bartenders before the evening was over. Yes.

And we've heard the White House suggest that the public is only seeing the rowdiest moments from these town halls. That is not the case with Barney Frank's town hall. There was nothing but rowdy moments.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Barney Frank.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It didn't take long for the shouting to start.

FRANK: Somebody says I'm a liar. What's the lie?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey, enough!

FRANK: Which one of you wants to yell first?

ACOSTA: And before the first question was asked, Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank was swinging back at opponents of health care reform.


FRANK: Disruption never helps your cause. It makes you look like you're afraid to have rational discussion. You just drive people away. I'm not here -- this is the council on aging, not kindergarten.

ACOSTA: Frank tried to dispel some of the bogus claims about the bill in the House.

FRANK: Illegal aliens are specifically excluded from getting any assistance in the bill. Section...


ACOSTA: To that, some in the crowd shouted, "Read the bill." So, he did and found the section where illegal immigrants are excluded.

FRANK: Right in the bill, I will be glad to show you.

ACOSTA: But even that didn't satisfy everyone.

FRANK: It is a little odd to be accused of not having read the bill by people who object when I do.

ACOSTA: Several audience members insisted reform would bust the budget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to pay more taxes because of you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bill would practically bankrupt the economy of the United States government.

ACOSTA: Time and again, Frank took that grenade and threw it back.

FRANK: And I do worry about the deficit. That's one of the reasons -- not the only one -- that I voted against the single most wasteful expenditure in the history of America: the Iraq war.


ACOSTA: The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee took only a few questions on reforming Wall Street. Instead, Frank talked at length about his support for the public option.

FRANK: I am not voting for any bill that forces anybody into anything. It will have a public option...

ACOSTA: And tried to reassure seniors there were no "death panels" in the bill.

FRANK: This notion that something in this bill that would require people who were elderly or sick to be denied medical care or killed is the single stupidest argument I heard in all my years in politics.

ACOSTA: It was that absurdity of the health care debate that retiree and Medicare recipient Mary Casinto (ph) was happy to see put to rest.

(on camera): Can I tell you though that I know for a fact that they are not going to pull the plug on grandma?

MARY CASINTO (ph), RETIREE: They're not going to pull it on me, I'll tell you, because I'd fight to the death.


ACOSTA: Now, Barney Frank did say that unlike some of the liberal members in the House such as himself, he is not insisting that there be a government-run insurance program or public option in the final health care reform package that is voted on in the Congress. And even though he says is he a strong supporter of the public option, he -- at this point -- does not want to negotiate that part of this legislation out in public -- Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. Well, there you go. Jim Acosta for us this morning -- thanks so much.

And, you know, this week, we've also heard a lot of talk about health care co-ops, the idea gaining traction perhaps in the Senate as an alternative to a government-run public insurance plan. But will a co-op really help curb costs? Is it something that's practical on a large scale? I'll be talking to Dr. Barbara Detering, who works for a health care co-op -- coming up.

ROBERTS: Well, breaking news out of Iraq right. At least 75 people were killed in a wave of bombings in Baghdad and more than 300 others have been hurt. Iraqi police say there were six bomb blasts within an hour. And one of the attacks was near the heavily-fortified Green Zone. It's one of the deadliest days in Iraq since the U.S. handed over control of security to Iraqi forces.

It's now 12 minutes after the hour.


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

In make-or-break push on health care reform, some on Capitol Hill are saying that there are other ways to help drive down costs -- other ways besides the government getting involved in public insurance. Well, in the Senate, there is growing talk about health care co-ops. How do they work, and could that kind of plan really work on a nationwide level?

Let's bring in Dr. Barbara Detering. She works for one of the country's most successful health care co-ops. It's Group Health in Seattle, Washington.

Thanks for being with us this morning, Doctor. Great to talk to you.


CHETRY: First of all, for people that are wondering how health care co-op works -- how does yours work?

DETERING: This organization was started about 60 years ago by a group of people who came together and decided that they wanted to pay for health care in a different way. And that is, that instead of having a see-for-service model where one's paid for individual visits and individual events, that they group their money together and organized a whole system of care and a delivery of health care and a group of physicians that provided all the health care -- sort of pre- paid in advance.

In this way, the incentive to the doctors and to the whole system was to try to be really efficient taking care of everybody so that you wouldn't run out of money by the end of the year. And money at end of the year would be available for re-investing in the organization and in the care and hopefully lower premiums for the group the following year.


CHETRY: Let me ask you about this then, because what it sounds like, in what's become sort of a nasty buzzword, is rationing. But what you're describing sounds like -- in a way, are you rationing?

DETERING: I would say absolutely not. Every time there is a decision to be made about how to best care for a patient, one has to take into effect, you know, the efficacy or how effective the treatment is, how safe it is, and how affordable it's going to be. I don't thing that affordability is a bad thing to talk about when it comes to making decisions about what best to do for each patient in their individual situation.

CHETRY: Now, how is it different -- you talk a little bit about the fact that you have your members who come together, you pool your resources. You have about what, 580,000 members in yours. Is that a model that can be replicated on a large scale? I mean, talking about the 49 million uninsured. Could you do it on a scale of millions?

DETERING: I think that, from an insurance standpoint, you need to be at least about this size in order to make the insurance part of the whole thing work. But I know of many delivery systems throughout the country -- whether it's the Mayo Clinic, the Kaisers, the Cleveland Clinic -- that practice the kind of medicine we do which, in my mind, is the most important thing, which is to focus on prevention, primary care, quality outcomes versus simply more procedures and more visits and more events in people's lives.

CHETRY: Right.

DETERING: So, I think that part really can be -- and I think that that's the key to making health care available for everybody, and affordable. In Seattle, we -- because of the type of practice we have -- have really helped keep our community's cost of care down. If the whole country costs as much as Seattle does for health care, we wouldn't be in this mess, because we're much less expensive than other areas of the country, and yet our outcomes are quality and how healthy our population is, is just as good as anywhere else.

CHETRY: Yes, it is interesting to see that model and to see that -- you guys are among the lowest in terms of how much your state, Washington State, has to, you know, pay for health care.

DETERING: Exactly.

CHETRY: One of the other questions though that people have is, wait a minute, these co-ops may be great on a smaller scale but, really, they couldn't compete with private insurance the way that a government-backed public plan could to try to negotiate lower drug costs, to try to negotiate. What do you think about that?

DETERING: Well, I do think you have to have a certain group of people together. It requires a certain number in every instance. We do have to compete on the open market with other insurance companies to attract members and to attract people to our organization. So, you would have to have it fairly big. We still have to play by all the rules of any other insurance company and compete.

We, of course, don't have to make the kind of huge profits to give to our shareholders because we're non-for-profit. And the money that we do make in our margin at the end of the year we use to actually re-invest into the delivery of health care and also to hopefully hold down or premiums for the following year.

CHETRY: All right. Well, you were able to explain to us exactly how a co-op would work. It's very interesting to see your model and to see whether or not that could work on the national stage.

Thanks so much for being with us this morning. It was great to talk to you. Dr. Barbara Detering. She's a family medicine doctor with the Group Health. This is the (INAUDIBLE) there in Seattle that we've been talking about the co-op. Thanks so much for your time.

DETERING: Thanks, Kiran. Thanks for having me.

CHETRY: And we also -- we also know that you have a lot of questions about health care reform as well. We're sorting fact from fiction. We're putting together the answers for you. All of it is online at - John.

ROBERTS: A law that was passed last month in Tennessee has created some strange opponents. It allows people to take concealed weapons into bars and restaurants. There is a Democratic state senator who says it's a great idea and there's a restaurant owner who's also a gun owner who says it's a bad idea. It is kind of turned all sorts of things on its head.

And we'll be talking about this coming up, in just a few minutes.

Nineteen minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Their own personal Jesus there.

Well, there is a new way to use Twitter. Apparently, it can bring you closer to God. An Israeli student has set up a page where you can tweet prayers to be placed in Jerusalem's western wall. All you have to do is get your hopes and dreams down to 140 characters, or put it in a tiny URL. Then you can write chapter and verse.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we are now talking with Christine Romans. She's "Minding Your Business" right now.

And this is interesting -- is the financial sector no longer what's going to drive a recovery? Is that somewhere else?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is a very good question. You know, you talk to technology CEOs in Silicon Valley and they think that their industry is going to lead us out of a recession and will be the first to turn and will actually lead a recovery. Silicon Valley CEOs saying 77 percent of them expect their sector, tech, to lead the recovery. And almost half of them -- ding, ding, ding, ding, ding -- half of them think the job picture will improve by next year.

So, if you are working in the technology field, you should know that those CEOs sitting there in Silicon Valley are thinking that things are going to get better. Fourteen percent of these CEOs are planning layoffs for next year. Fourteen percent, that is a dramatic improvement from 60 percent of them who cut jobs in the past year.

So, this is what we're seeing here. Technology executives are saying that their industry is going to lead the economic recovery. One of the triggers -- they say it's really important here, business confidence, no surprise. Consumer confidence, no surprise. They say we need effective regulation. Government stimulus spending they say is going to be helpful and government bailouts.

CHETRY: Yet they're still shedding jobs.

ROMANS: Oh, actually that's (INAUDIBLE). They say bailouts and stimulus was the least -- sorry. I didn't see the N-O-T (ph).


CHETRY: They are still shedding, though.


CHETRY: If they were saying that they were going to lead the recovery and they were hiring, wouldn't it be better?

ROMANS: Well, you always hire -- the very last thing you do is hire. And when you start to hear companies saying, we're looking out, we're going to try to see when we can start calling people back -- which brings me to some companies that have: Ford, Dell, G.M., AK Steel, truck maker Oshkosh. There are companies that are starting to call people back. And that tends to be what they do first. Before they go out there and hire new folks and put a little notice in the paper saying we're hiring, they tend to call people back. And they're starting to that.

ROBERTS: And as we heard just last hour, G.M. is bringing some people back.

You know, every day, Christine brings us a "Romans Numeral." It's a number that's driving a story about your money today. So, what's the "Romans Numeral" for this hour?

ROMANS: It's 38. And it's 38 percent. It has do with this notion of calling people back. It has to do with this idea of...

ROBERTS: Thirty-eight percent of companies saying the next six months, they'll be calling employees back?

ROMANS: In the next year...

ROBERTS: Next year.

ROMANS: ... they're going to start hiring people they'd already laid off...

ROBERTS: I'm going to get a new car.


CHETRY: John is always so close (ph).

ROMANS: He got the toaster. He got the toaster, that's right.

Anyway, the best and important for people to remember, when you start to see the recession waning, you're going to see companies saying, look, you know, gosh, we had some people we had to let go, now we're starting to build up, let's go and reach out there, and call them in. You know, it's a little something. It's a little something that we'll watch and see if it's a sign that the recession is starting to wane.

ROBERTS: How does that Barenaked Ladies song go, like a game show contestant with a parting gift, could I not believe my eyes?


CHETRY: ... a trusted friend who didn't hear me or tell me lies.

ROMANS: Oh, nice.

ROBERTS: I didn't get the big prize.

ROMANS: You guys could take this show on the road.

CHETRY: Oh, yes.

ROMANS: Get a little, you know, brass band, right, Kiran?

CHETRY: I can memorize lyrics. However, I can't sing anything on key. That's the problem.

ROMANS: I apparently can't remember if it is or isn't the reason why...



ROBERTS: All right. So, a new law in Tennessee allows people to carry concealed weapons into bars and restaurants. Is it a good idea or is it -- as one gun owner says -- an absolutely terrible idea? We'll have that debate coming up for you.

It's 26 minutes after the hour.



ROBERTS: Sleep deprivation strikes again. You know, mix up (ph) Blues Traveler and Barenaked Ladies.

CHETRY: And Barenaked Ladies.


CHETRY: One was Blues Traveler "Run Around," the other one was Barenaked Ladies "One Week."

ROBERTS: I'm going to go to the back and have a nap and I'll be back...

CHETRY: You know what it is? They both have catchy lyrics. So, I don't blame you.

ROBERTS: There you go.

CHETRY: There you go.

ROBERTS: And we're back with the Most News in the Morning and we're also back with our next installment of our "The War at Home" series.

CHETRY: Right. Just about the difficulties and challenges that returning veterans face as well as their families.

We had a chance to introduce you and we want to show now again two California teens, they struggled to deal with their dad's deployment to Afghanistan and they found a way to cope with the loneliness and isolation by coming together. And now, they're trying to do the same for other military girls. Their "military sisters," as they call them.


MORANDA HERN, CO-FOUNDER, THE SISTERHOOD OF TRAVELING BDUS: I'm Moranda Hern. I'm 15. I'm from California. (INAUDIBLE). And I'm a military teen.

KAYLEI DEAKIN, CO-FOUNDER, THE SISTERHOOD OF TRAVELIGN BDUS: (INAUDIBLE) I'm Kaylei Deakin. I'm 16 and I'm from Elk Grove, California. I'm also a California military teen.

CHETRY (voice-over): These two teenagers now share a tight bond, but just a year ago, they were going through similar tough times all alone.

HERN: Kids who don't live on active-duty bases or go to active-duty schools go through, you know, a lot of bullying.

CHETRY: Both their dads are with the National Guard. When their fathers were sent to Afghanistan, they found dealing with the deployment difficult.

DEAKIN: I don't know how many of you have been through deployment but...

HERN: Show of hands.

CHETRY: The girls met at a National Guard family event. And after sharing their stories, decided to start an online support group called The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs. It's a play of the movie "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," but these pants are BDUs, or Battle Dressed Uniforms -- what their dads wear in combat.

HERN: You know, going to bed, crying yourself to sleep, you know, wondering if your dad is going to come back alive, it adds a lot of an extra toll.

CHETRY (on camera): And how was your dad not being around -- how did that affect your self-esteem?

HERN: Well, girls get a lot of their self-esteem from their fathers. And I've always been really close with my dad.

DEAKIN: I went to school, I used to wear my dad's camo jacket and camo hat, because it just, it made me feel secure in that. It was more comfortable for me. And a lot of kids didn't understand that. So I got pick on a lot.

CHETRY: So, so on their Web site, and at events like this one in San Pedro, California, the girls say by sharing stories, they can offer support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mostly, like depression, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cry myself to sleep sometimes because I will miss him so much, like being used to seeing him.

CHETRY: And those tough times didn't magically end when their fathers came home in from Afghanistan.

CHETRY (on camera): You're thrilled your dad's safe, your dad made it back alive unharmed. But there were other things underneath the surface that you guys had to deal with?

MORANDA HERN, CO-FOUNDER, "THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING BDU'S": Yes. It is hard for someone like our dads to go from leading troops and having to be really strict to coming home and trying to deal with teenage girls.

CHETRY: You said your dad was stricter when he came back. What did your dad say about the mohawk?


HERN: It was blue when I met her.

CHETRY: All friendly expressions dropped, and he's like, "That's got to go."

DEAKIN: This is acceptable because it is not dyed and it is my natural color compared to the bright pink one-foot tall one.

HERN: Kaylie and I, we really want to hear from you and what you think about it because we're just two people trying to represent what you all want.

Our goal this whole time has been for those girls coming to the conference and that who will benefit from this. And lives can be changed.


CHETRY: There you go. and both their dads, as we said, are back home. Kaylie, by the way, the one with the mohawk, she enlisting in the Marines.

ROBERTS: She'll be getting a new 'do.


CHETRY: Yes. And they are also planning to host a military conference back in March. They're hoping to get about 400 teens and 100 female service members to take part, also hoping to get Miley Cyrus maybe to perform.

ROBERTS: That would be great.

CHETRY: They were up this very early watching our show. They sent me a tweet and said, who else is getting up at 3:30 California time to see it?

So, good job girls, and if people want to know more about this, take part in their program, it's

ROBERTS: And tomorrow our "War at Home" series looks at something else.

CHETRY: Yes. It's a big challenge for troops coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq finding a job, especially in this economy. We're going to show you what the army's doing in Fort Hood in Texas to help.

ROBERTS: All right, it's now coming up on 33 minutes after the hour. Breaking news from Iraq this morning, 75 people killed, more than 300 injured in a wave of bombings in the capital of Baghdad.

Police say there were six bomb blasts all occurring within an hour. One of the attacks to the heavily fortified green zone near the foreign ministry. It is one of the deadliest days in Iraq since the U.S. handed over control of security to Iraqi forces.

CHETRY: Two senior North Korean diplomats are in New Mexico meeting with the governor Bill Richardson later today. Energy issues expected to be on the agenda. The Obama administration says that the North Koreans requested that meeting but that Governor Richardson will not be representing the president.

ROBERTS: We have learned who is behind the image of President Obama as the Joker from the Dark Knight. It ended up on posters with the caption "socialist" at town hall meetings on health care.

But the artist is not part of any right wing group. He is a 20- year-old student of Palestinian decent from Chicago. We'll talk to him on the show tomorrow.

Guns and alcohol, the argument goes it could be a dangerous, even deadly, combination. In Tennessee it is now legal for licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons into restaurants and bars.

This morning a group is challenging that law, trying to get it repealed. One of the plaintiffs is Randy Rayburn. He owns several restaurants.

And also joining us this morning, State Senator Doug Jackson, one of the lead sponsors of the legislation. Senator Jackson, start with you. What does this law say? Why did you support it? Because when it was first -- the idea was first introduced back in 1997, you were pretty skeptical of it.

TENNESSEE SENATOR DOUG JACKSON, LEAD SPONSOR OF GUN LEGISLATION: I was skeptical in 1997. We passed a law that allows law-abiding citizens that go through a background check, that gives training to have a handgun and carry their handgun and be armed day to day.

It was predicted at that time as that bill was debated in 1997 by the news media and people throughout the state that this would turn Tennessee into the Wild West. Now looking back 12 years, we see that was not the result.

And now 44 states have that same handgun carry law. Millions of permit holders, law-abiding citizens around this country have this same right. and what we see is an outstanding record of safety and responsibility.

Let's bring in Randy Rayburn. And Randy, you're one of the lead plaintiffs in this case, as we said, trying to get this law repealed. You are also a restaurant owner, and we should point out, you are also a gun owner. Why do you want this law repealed?

RANDY RAYBURN, CHALLENGING NEW TENNESSEE GUN LAW: John, I feel it's very important for everyone to understand that Tennessee was the first state in the United States to pass a law to specifically authorize and expressly allow the carry of weapons into bars in the state of Tennessee.

The law does not differentiate in Tennessee between restaurants and bars, as we have over 110 different alcoholic beverage licenses, but only no bars. The reality is this is a chilling impact upon our tourism, hospitality, and restaurant industry, which is our second largest industry in the state.

ROBERTS: How does it have a chilling impact?

RAYBURN: John, there have already been three shootings in Tennessee this year according to "Knoxville News" reports by gun permit holders in the state of Tennessee without them coming in to bars where alcohol is served.

There is a whole section of Tennessee law on nuisance laws that shows that historically that night clubs, honky-tonks, places that serve a majority of alcohol are at risk for fights.

I own three very nice restaurants, and I'm not worried about myself, but you can ask any bartender or server in the state of Tennessee, and they will tell you this law is very, very misguided, and that the fabrications which have been told to pass it were I'm sure passed along to Senator Jackson by the Washington lobbyists.

ROBERTS: Senator Jackson, we should point out here that restaurant owners and operators can keep weapons out of their restaurants simply by posting a sign that says no guns allow. The Tennessee Hospitality Association conducted a survey of a number of restaurants. 78 percent of them said they would ban guns on their premises. Half of the remaining 22 percent said posting "no- guns-allowed" signs might hurt business by turning off customers.

They don't want to be out there telling people no. And the president of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau said, quote, "This is a nightmare for us. We get hundreds of thousands of international visitors. Now when they go to Beale Street in Memphis, they'll be greeted by a three-by-five sign with a weapon in a circle with a line drawn through it."

They say it's a turnoff. What do you say to that?

JACKSON: John, nothing could be further from the truth. That's absolutely false.

And let me just tell you the most dangerous place to be in Nashville is between Randy Rayburn and a TV camera. Randy Rayburn has the right to post at his restaurant, and every time I turn on the 6:00 news it seems he's there holding up a sign that says, "Guns never, free parking always."

For such a sinister bill that poses an imminent risk to public safety, so he claims, he certainly doesn't mind combining marketing of his restaurant with this very issue on the 6:00 news.

Here's the reality. Tennessee is not the first. We're one of the last states to pass this. John, your own state of Georgia allows law-abiding citizens with permits to go into restaurants that serve alcohol. Tennessee is following the lead of the majority of the other states. We're not the very first state.

Millions of citizens have this same right all across the country. Not a single state has ever repealed this law. The state of Arizona just passed it, 40 or more states have a same or similar law that allows citizens to go in establishments that serve alcohol. Not a single state has ever repealed their law.

ROBERTS: Let me just point out, Senator Jackson, I'm in New York, not Georgia. And you certainly can't bring a concealed weapon into a bar in New York City, at least not yet.

Randy, what do you say to what the senator just said, that you're seeking publicity for your restaurant here?

RAYBURN: John, I'm concerned this may cost me business, but I'm going forward with this because I believe this is poor public policy. And I might note for the senator that in the state of Georgia you may not carry weapons into the bar chair of those restaurants and you may not go into those bars that serve more than 51 percent alcohol.

This is an issue that has been disingenuously applied to the public and to the legislature both on bars and guns. The proponents of this really would like to remove all exemptions or preemptions, whether in schools, courthouses, the legislative plaza still restricted.

Senator Jackson is obviously a very strong supporter of this, but one of his own colleagues in a statewide of 800 registered voters in Tennessee confirmed to me recently that 67 percent of the voters in this state who are regular voters are opposed to this bill, and less than 20 percent of them support guns in bars and restaurants and/or parks in the state of Tennessee.

JACKSON: John...

ROBERTS: One quick response, senator, and then we have to run.

JACKSON: Thank you very much, John. But let me just point out. This law has been in effect now, went into effect in July. You can dine all across Nashville. You see few very restaurants that have put up a sign "no guns allowed."

And they are not posting because many of these restaurants, they have restaurants in neighboring states that have the same or a similar law. They don't have problems in other states. We're not going to have problems in Tennessee.

ROBERTS: We should point out that since this law was enacted a month ago, there are no reports of any issues with concealed weapons in restaurants, but we'll keep watching this issue going forward, because it is a very charged one.

Gentlemen, thanks for being with us this morning. We really appreciate it.

RAYBURN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: And we want to know your thoughts on all of this -- should guns be allowed in bars and restaurants? Sound off on our blog, fix.

CHETRY: And how do you like this one? You collect a pension, but you keep working and you also collect a salary?

ROBERTS: Wouldn't that be great? Now there's a lovely route to retirement. I could do that.

CHETRY: Some lawmakers are actually doing it, double dipping.

ROBERTS: Can I start now?

CHETRY: I don't know if that's included in our paperwork.

ROBERTS: I don't think so.

CHETRY: Allan Chernoff takes a look for us.

It's 40 minutes after the hour.


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

It is a practice that boggles the mind, and even more shocking, it is legal in almost every state -- politicians who retire, collect their pensions, but then they can keep working and collect a salary. It's called double dipping. Here's Allan Chernoff to explain.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, this is entirely legal. It's the kind of situation that can lead people to wonder, hey, how do I get one of those jobs?

Lawmakers can do it here in New York, and some may be doing it in your state as well.


CHERNOFF: Long Island Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg is retired from the job he still holds.

CHERNOFF (on camera): You retired last year?


CHERNOFF: But you're still working?

WEISENBERG: That is correct.

CHERNOFF: And you're still getting a pension?

WEISENBERG: Absolutely.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Weisenberg, a member of the state assembly for two decades, gets a pension of $72,000, while earning $101,000 in salary.

It's all legal. In New York, state and local elected officials over 65 can theoretically retire to get a pension while continuing to hold the same job earning a salary.

Weisenberg is one of four members of the assembly who retired last year and now gets a pension and salary "The New York Times" reported Tuesday and the state controller confirmed it to CNN.

Weisenberg says he wants to be sure to provide for his wife, but says he works mainly to provide public service.

CHERNOFF (on camera): The average person looks at this and says, wait a minute. He's retired but he's still working? He's getting a pension and a salary?

WEISENBERG: Yes, but do they get elected to office every two years? We get elected to office. And the reality is...

CHERNOFF: And that's why you should have a pension?

WEISENBERG: The pension is earned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is outrageous that the law is the way it is, but they're allowed to do what they are allowed to do.

CHERNOFF: In the majority of states, legislators can double dip by holding a second government job to hold two salaries. Only nine states ban it.

In half the states of the nation, legislators can double dip by holding a second elected office on the county or municipal level. And in some states, including Delaware, Arkansas, and New York, public officials can pull in both a salary and a pension at the same time.

Non-partisan watchdog groups say this is an example of broken government.

SUSAN LERNER, COMMON CAUSE, NEW YORK: There is no oversight on this and there is no accountability because there is no one other than the legislators who decide what the deal is for the legislator's pension. That doesn't sit right.


CHERNOFF: It is tough for any New York state elected official to look good these days after the state Senate fell into a stalemate over the summer that threw the government into chaos.

A new Quinnipiac poll out this week shows nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers disapprove of the state legislature, an all-time low -- John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Allan Chernoff for us this morning.

The latest on hurricane Bill straight ahead. Could it threaten the East Coast of the United States? We'll find out. Rob's tracking it.

It's 46 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Good morning, Atlanta where it is partly cloudy and 75 degrees right now. Not too much clouds in the sky though. Isolated thunderstorms and a high of 87 degrees here. Boy, did we have a thunderstorm last night?

CHETRY: It woke you up, huh?

ROBERTS: The hail banging against my window and then the lightning and thunder and sheets of rain coming down. It was great.

CHETRY: You could be in for more of that though because we have hurricane Bill making its way to the east coast.

ROBERTS: Let's hope not.

CHETRY: Well, even if it skirts us we're probably going to feel something.


CHETRY: You know, Sanjay's been answering a lot of questions people have about health care and health care reform. Why do Americans pay more for their drugs than, say, other countries? He'll answer that for us.


CHETRY: When it comes to health care reform, there are TV ads, there is spin from Washington, and there is a lot of misinformation floating around out there. So we're trying to cut through all of that and get you some real answers to your questions.

ROBERTS: This comes from a twitter follower of our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And do you know how many people are following him on Twitter? 631,000 -- He's a popular guy.

OK, so here's the question, "Will the current reforms push the sale for generic drugs?" So let's bring in Mr. Twitter, Dr. Gupta to break it all down for us. Hey, Sanjay.


A lot of people interested in this stuff, no question. Let me give you a couple of numbers. We've been looking at this issue of prescription drugs, generic drugs specifically.

As things stand now, about seven in 10 prescriptions that are filled in the United States are for generic drugs. And on average, they're 80 percent to 85 percent cheaper. So keep that in mind when you think how cost saving might play into all this.

We went straight to the White House to ask what is part of the bill that you're hearing so far will help try and make sure that generics continue to be made available.

There is a lot of language here, but read this. It's important -- establish legal pathway for generic drugs, creating incentives for research innovation so pharmaceutical companies still feel like they can research and innovate even if these drugs go to generic more quickly and prohibiting anti-competitive agreements.

John and Kiran, this is sort of surprising to, and I think for the average person as well, but let's say you have a prescription drug maker. They may go to a potential generic maker and create the sort of illusion saying look, we know you guys can go to generic now, but we'll give you money not to do that. We want to keep this as a brand name drug longer.

That sort of anti-competitiveness could make a difference. What it might mean for you in the end is that if you go to a pharmacy, if you're in a hospital pharmacy or outpatient pharmacy, your likelihood of getting generic drugs may happen faster after a brand name drug has come out. CHETRY: The administration, as we understood, also just made a pretty big deal with the pharmaceutical industry to the tune of billions? How does that factor in?

GUPTA: And some people have said, look, the White House talking to pharmaceutical industry, they've lost their competitive edge in being able to negotiate with PhRMA later on down the road.

But you're absolutely right, Kiran. They're talking about $80 billion. This will be over ten years trying to bring down costs specifically for Medicare. This is as far as the language we could tell said we need to try and cut the drug costs down for Medicare recipients specifically.

There is a thing known as a doughnut hole. We use this term a lot. Let me spend two seconds explaining this.

If you have lots of drug costs, lots of prescription drug costs, what they say is once you spent $2,100. you will no longer be covered until you spend $6,700. So that's the hole in the middle. They think that money might cut down on the size of that doughnut hole and also possibly offering some discounts for certain drugs.

That's what we're hearing. Again, a lot of this is very fluid.

ROBERTS: Sanjay Gupta answering your questions for you this morning. Doc, thanks very much. It's good to see you.

GUPTA: Thanks, guys.

ROBERTS: Question for you -- what's 40 years old, makes $25 million over two years? Got the answer coming up.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

It's just Brett being Brett. Quarterback Brett Favre has unretired again, signing now with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings just a few weeks after saying he wouldn't join the team and had planned to stay retired.

It was something about a rotator cuff tear that he found he had and was worried he wouldn't be able to play, and then found it was an old one and he was playing with it anyways.

Favre reported to the Vikings training camp and is expected to start in the team's preseason game Friday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

CHETRY: There you go. The love of the game keeps him coming back for more even if his body says no.

ROBERTS: And it's great. He's going to be 40 years old in October, and the Vikings are willing to pay him $25 million over two years. CHETRY: Listen, he's performed well in the past and they're going to bank that can he do it again in the future.

ROBERTS: Go, Brett.

CHETRY: We'll continue the conversation on any of these stories. Go to our blog at

That does it for us today. Hope to see you right back here tomorrow.

ROBERTS: The news continues meanwhile with Don Lemon in the CNN "NEWSROOM."