American Morning

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July 3rd, 2009
12:03 PM ET

Meet AM: Michelle Cumbo – Producer/Editorial Producer

Editor’s Note: Each Friday in “Meet AM,” we introduce you to the people who get American Morning to air.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Michelle's responsibilities range from booking guests to segment producing."]

Today, we’d like you to meet Michelle Cumbo.  Michelle is a producer/editorial producer.  This means she’s always busy looking at guest segments, finding the best guests to illustrate the news for the day and crafting the questions and topics to be addressed with these guests.  Michelle has a wonderful personality and is often cheering up people at the office with her singing.  She’s been with AM for seven years.

How did you end up doing what you do?

I was always a better writer than a mathematician. I always had a love for the English language and writing.  I got into television when my brother was in college taking a summer school course in TV production.  He had to produce a how-to demonstration segment.  So my mom said, “Why don’t you have your little sister cook?” I made these Italian cookies called pizelles.  It was horrible. I was so nervous but I loved the production side, and got more involved from there.  Now my brother is a freelance technical director who travels and works on sports material, and I’m at AM.

Describe your average day:

It’s always changing depending on what I do.  Some days I anchor produce, some days I segment produce [crafting segments and suggesting questions for the next day’s interviews]. Some days I’m booking guests.  I start off by reading all the newspapers and wires I can, getting familiar with what happened overnight or during the day, depending on when I come in.  Then I go on to see what’s interesting for today, and pitch segments.  I’ll get acquainted with the segments that I’m involved in – try and find best guests for a topic, researching guests, that kind of thing.  I’m really thinking about pegging stuff to the breaking news of the day and who is the best guest to get the info across to people.

What's the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part is when there’s a breaking news story.  Sometimes, every network is going after the same guest and you have to convince a guest why CNN is the best network to tell their story.  There’s a competitive factor and it can be difficult.

What do you like most about working at AM?

It sounds cliché but I work with an amazing group of people.  Aside from the people, it’s never boring working here.

What do you do outside of work?  What do you do for fun?

I love to cook, bake and entertain.  [Note: she is a really good baker!]

What else do you think people should know about you?

I love breaking into spontaneous show tunes.  And I’m a HUGE supporter of my hometown, Buffalo – go Bills!

Filed under: American Morning • Meet AM
July 3rd, 2009
09:18 AM ET

Why Marriage Matters

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford speaks during a press conference at the State Capitol June 24, 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina."]

By Caitlin Flanagan

Around the time of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, I turned to my father at the dinner table one night and said, "It's amazing, Dad — 50 years, and you never once had an affair. How do you account for that?"

He replied simply, "I can't drive."

Watching the governor of South Carolina cry like a little girl because his sexy e-mails got forwarded to his local newspaper, the State, made me wonder whether the real secret to a lasting marriage lies in limiting your means of escape. Whether you're putting the Buick Regal in reverse or hitting "Send" on a love note, you're busting out of your marriage, however temporarily, and soon enough there will be hell to pay.

During the press conference in which he admitted his affair, Mark Sanford warbled that he had broken "God's law," a sentiment that served only to emphasize the narcissism that had gotten him in trouble. Wrestling with God's law had apparently been the subject of many sessions of his Bible-study group, a seminar that may have spent a little too much time on the Song of Solomon, given Sanford's e-mailed encomium of his lover's physique: "I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night's light." Finally a bit of prose that makes us long for the clinical precision of the Starr report. Sanford told reporters the affair had begun "very innocently," which reveals that he still hasn't been honest with himself about the willfulness of his actions. When a married man begins a secret, solicitous correspondence with a beautiful and emotionally needy single woman, he has already begun to cheat on his wife.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: Commentary
July 3rd, 2009
07:08 AM ET

Commentary: The face of substance abuse today

Andrew T. Wainwright is a national expert on addictions and intervention. He is co-author of the book "It’s Not Okay to Be a Cannibal – How to Stop Addiction from Eating Your Family Alive" and CEO for AiR, which provides behavioral health case management services that are a beneficial addition to the treatment of chemical dependency, mental health and eating disorders.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Andrew Wainwright is a national expert on addictions and intervention."]

From my desk on the front lines of addiction treatment, the view is staggering. Prescription drugs are prevalent, proliferating and have introduced a new generation to the wonderful world of drug addiction.

These are people who otherwise might never have experienced addiction. The previous barriers to entry of stigma and circumstance were too high. Dangerous neighborhoods and unsavory characters, untrustworthy chemicals to be taken in unspecific amounts and the fear of becoming addicted kept most amateurs on the sidelines. But in 1996 that all changed.

In January of 1996, Purdue Pharma, a privately-held pharmaceutical company, launched the marketing campaign for their new pain relief product OxyContin. OxyContin was supposed to be nonabusable thanks to a special time-release ingredient. Unfortunately, this proved not to be true.

This might not have been such a big deal had Purdue not launched a multi-million dollar national advertising campaign, targeting both doctors and consumers alike. This campaign had a two-pronged approach. First Purdue incented doctors to prescribe their products then they encouraged consumers to request them by promising legitimacy, safety and lack of consequences.

From a purely business standpoint it was the right thing to do – if you can drive demand you can sell more product. From a “What are the long term effects on our society?” standpoint – it was devastating.

Today, three percent of our population is abusing prescription drugs. Prescription drug abuse accounts for forty percent of all treatment center admissions. Prescription drug abuse is growing fastest among teenagers and young adults.

These are the worst stats we could hope for.


Filed under: Commentary • Drugs
July 3rd, 2009
06:33 AM ET

Avlon: 'Wingnut' blames gay marriage for economic woes

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. 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="New York State Legislature (L) and Sally Kern (R)."]

With no less than 8 states on the verge of government shutdowns, political radars are picking up on the odd combination of arrogance, incompetence, rigid ideology and outright corruption that spews from too many state capitals.

This week we’re taking aim at a Democrat-controlled state legislature that put petty partisan-bickering ahead of public school kids and a right-wing legislator who blames the economic downturn on everything from gay marriage to divorce.

New York State may be in better financial shape than California for now, but the Albany Legislature wins the "Wingnut of the Week" award for entering its fourth week of circus-like Senate stalemate. Famously described as ‘the most dysfunctional state legislature in the nation’ by NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, it solidified that reputation this June with a series of tragicomic new lows, complete with byzantine party defections and parliamentary games – like one party turning out the lights while the other locks the legislative door and hides the key. Literally.

This week, New York City school kids got caught in the partisan crossfire, as new Democratic Majority Leader John Sampson (a sometime lawyer who once defended rapper Foxy Brown for assaulting a manicurist) let Mayor Bloomberg’s successful mayoral control of public schools expire. The initiative – often cited by President Obama as a national example of effective school reform – needed to be reauthorized by the state legislature by the end of June to continue.

It was expected to be an easy step – the notorious old Board of Education system had few defenders, even among the teachers union – but Sampson & Co declined to bring it to a vote even after claiming a questionable quorum from a Republican who had briefly entered the Senate chamber to get a can of Coke. This is the legislative equivalent of not pulling a baby carriage out of the way of an oncoming train – and so the vestiges of the old BOE system were hastily resuscitated.


Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
July 3rd, 2009
06:00 AM ET

What’s on Tap – Friday July 3, 2009

Here are the big stories on the agenda today:

  • A potential bombshell regarding the custody of Michael Jackson’s two older children.  The singer's ex-wife says she'll fight for custody, but her lawyer is telling reporters something different.  We’ll also show you the tape of one of Michael Jackson’s last performances, from just two days before he died. Active, energetic, electric as always.  Almost hard to believe. American Morning will be live for what is expected to a huge memorial service for the singer at L.A.’s Staples center Tuesday morning.
  • The end of “Macho.”  Is the world moving towards a monumental shift of power from men to women? That’s the premise of an essay by New America Foundation fellow Reihan Salam. He writes in the current issue of Foreign Policy about the “Death of Macho”.   Carol Costello interviews him about why he thinks women are gaining the upper hand and male dominance is nearing its end.
  • The meltdown of marriage in the media.  How infidelity's visibility is eroding our most sacred institution, from Governor Sanford's affair… to Jon & Kate.  What is happening to the state of "marriage" in America?

Filed under: What's On Tap