American Morning

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April 30th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

What’s on Tap – Thursday April 30, 2009

Here are the big stories on the agenda today:

  • We may be entering a dangerous new phase in the swine flu outbreak this morning.  The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic alert level from four to five, warning of widespread human infection from the swine flu outbreak that originated in Mexico.  That’s one level away from an “all-out pandemic.”  More public schools are shutting their doors in the U.S.  All 140 schools in Fort Worth, Texas are closed today and may not reopen for weeks.  Researchers are baffled by the way the virus is jumping relatively easy from person to person, and by how it’s affecting the young and relatively healthy.  Still, health officials say there are no plans to close the border.  President Obama last night, saying that’s akin to closing the barn doors after the horse is out.  Dr. Sanjay Gupta is live in Mexico City for us this morning – ground zero for an epidemic that has now spread to four continents.  We’re also getting updates on numbers and the effort to stop it, from the acting CDC Head, Dr. Richard Besser.  He confirmed the first death in the U.S. due to swine flu Wednesday morning on our air.
  • The next 1,361 days.  Two wars, an economy in crisis and now a deadly flu outbreak on his plate, as the President assessed his first 100 days in office.  The president said he's been "sobered by the fact that change in Washington comes slow,” but thinks the administration has taken steps to restore confidence in the American people.
  • Money and Main Street: Family Fight.  Losing a job can be a financial disaster for any family, but in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where nearly one-in-seven workers is unemployed, such tragedies are common, as textile and furniture manufacturers pack up and leave.  It’s a story that truly shows how the branches of the housing crisis have shot through the windows of almost every industry, and affected almost every average American.   CNN’s Gerri Willis meets one family, determined to cope.

Filed under: What's On Tap
April 29th, 2009
06:35 PM ET

The Back Story on the Specter Defection

John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. He writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast and is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "John Avlon writes that centrists have been forced to the margins of the Republican party."]

By John Avlon
Special to CNN

Senator Arlen Specter's defection to the Democrats yesterday will bring the Democrats to a filibuster proof 60 seat majority once Al Franken is seated.  This is bad for believers in the virtue of checks and balances, but the reality is that Republicans have only themselves to blame.

Centrists have been forced to the margins of the Republican Party, as the party itself has been forced to the margins of American politics. The two dynamics are, of course, directly connected.

In his press conference, Specter named Joe Lieberman as his political soul mate, a man who lost a Democratic primary to a left-wing anti-war candidate but easily won re-election as an Independent in Connecticut.  But his real and rightful anger was directed at conservative activists who have targeted centrist Republican incumbents in recent years, including Specter.

Among these ranks have been Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee, Maryland Congressman Wayne Gilchrist and New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson.  All were challenged by conservatives backed by the Club for Growth who were cheered on by right-wing radio.  All lost their primary challenges.  And all the victorious conservatives were easily beaten in the general election by Democrats.

This is the dynamic that has led the Republican Party into retreat and increasing irrelevance, preaching to a shrinking choir instead of building a big tent.  Senator Specter was acting in self-interest – he knew that he had a better chance of winning a general election than a closed partisan primary. 

But the fact that Democrats welcomed him with open arms while Republicans like Rush Limbaugh said good riddance after attacking him for years, speaks to the shifting fault-lines below what could be a larger, Obama-led realignment.

Filed under: Politics
April 29th, 2009
04:06 PM ET

1,361 days to go in president's term

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has called the 100 day mark a "Hallmark holiday."

And Democrats are practically asking the question: Are you better off now than you were a hundred days ago?

But historians say hold on. The president still has one thousand, three hundred and sixty one days to go.

Filed under: National Report Card • Politics
April 29th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

We Listen!

With President Obama’s first 100 days in office now complete, the majority of American Morning viewers graded him with positive marks. Some were more cautious, noting that “the changes he makes are exactly what we voted him to do.”

  • John: I like Obama's priorities, especially his priorities on making the US less dependent on foreign oil and fossil fuels. I don't like his financial crew which seems to be among the Wall Street idiots who created our current financial crisis. I think he is too afraid of proposing the big tax hikes that will be necessary to get US finances in order, and it is the President's job to take the lead on this. Democrats in Congress won't do it because they got burned for doing so in 1993. It is Obama who must take on those who complain about deficits and debt and give them a moment of truth by proposing tax hikes sufficient to put the US back on the track to paying down the national debt. Cutting deficits and paying down the debt would do wonders for domestic net business investment and the job market. I despise the Republican version of fiscal responsibility, which is synonymous with being stingy and only interested in the wellbeing of the very rich.
  • Pebbleshart: President Obama's first 100 days has a 76% approval rating from me. The changes he makes are exactly what we voted him to do. I am proud of how he is dealing with the unethical behavior and selfishness of Wall Street and those who feel they are worth millions and they are not. The President is right when he is working to create friendship with the world and help solve challenges throughout the world. America has to set the example for the world to follow and no one should be above the law when it comes to torture and inhuman treatment. Thank you, Mr. President, keep up your good work! I trust you to lead us into the future!

Grade the president and tell us why you believe he deserves the grade you give him. What has the president completed that has directly affected you and how? What has disappointed you about his first 100 days? What do you hope to see him achieve in the next year? In the next four years?

Some viewers were displeased by the Republican comments on Mr. Obama’s first 100 days.

  • Richard: Someone who was thoroughly REJECTED in his bid for the presidency should not be commenting on the one who WAS ELECTED.
  • Carl: Why do you let people who have an axe to grind, vent their comments, about our President? To make statements without foundation is irresponsible.

Tell us your thoughts. How do you feel about letting those who oppose the president to express their opinion? Do you believe it’s appropriate for former candidates to weigh in on the current president’s progress? What would you like to hear from the Republicans and independents?

Filed under: We Listen
April 29th, 2009
02:01 PM ET
April 29th, 2009
12:51 PM ET

Concern vs. Alarm: What do we need to know about swine flu?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "A preliminary image of the swine flu virus from the Centers for Disease Control."]

Today I asked one of my colleagues "what makes swine flu different from the regular flu bug?"

Her answer: "One is being talked about all day on TV and the other is not"

She has a point but that's not the whole story. Since we began covering the swine flu these have been my biggest questions:

-What makes this different from the regular seasonal flu? (Seasonal flu kills 36,000 Americans each year)
-Why can't they come up with a vaccine for it?
-How do you know if you or your loved ones have swine flu?
-Can you get it from eating pork?

If you are wondering the same things, here's a quick explainer based on what we've gotten from all of the experts we've talked to over the past few days, including our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CDC Acting Director Dr. Richard Besser, and the president himself.

The biggest reason the swine flu is a concern is that swine flu is harder to treat or fight, because it’s a new strain and thus people have little natural immunity to it according to experts. Here's what Dr. Carlos del Rio of the Emory University School of Medicine told VOA News.

"This is a totally new virus... You have a virus to which there's no pre-vaccination, there's no prior immunity. And, therefore, the mortality rate may be higher than other influenza viruses."

Coming up with a vaccine takes time. And as the CDC acting director said today on our air, they are fast tracking a swine flu vaccine. Whether or not they choose to recommend using it is still apparently up in the air. Watch the interview

So how do you know if you have it? Symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; much like regular flu. So if you have those, stay home, avoid others in your household, and call your doctor to see if you should get tested or take an anti-viral.

Lastly, experts say you cannot get it from eating pork, according to the USDA.  In fact, there’s no evidence that even touching raw pork infected with the virus is risky, says the USDA.

You can get more swine flu questions answered here

Hope this helps,


Filed under: Health
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