American Morning

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July 29th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

We Listen – Your Comments 7/29/09

Editor's Note: The “fat tax” and healthcare were top of mind for Wednesday’s American Morning audience. Overwhelmingly, viewers supported a tax on “junk.” Some suggest it was a positive move for fairness reasons: “Let's start being fair by taxing everything that is unhealthy so that smokers do not have to bare the entire burden for people who choose to be unhealthy in other ways.” Some wondered if those receiving food stamps would suffer disproportionably regarding medical issues, as soda is tax free.

  • Lauri: If we decide to tax "Junk Food" I am all for it, but why can't we remove the availability to get these types of items with Food Stamp cards. There should be tight restrictions on only be able to buy good food with our tax dollars since our tax dollars go towards health care of those using the cards just for "Junk". Now, in the state of Texas, you can buy anything on those cards except alcohol and tobacco. We MUST take action if we want a healthier nation to remove the "Junk Food" from the list. This is a low-income family which already has too many problems to add obesity for children and adults. I don't even buy that stuff except from time to time. A healthier child has a better chance at being a better student and getting out of needing food stamp cards. How do we get that discussion started.
  • Carol: Re the proposal on adding tax on sugar drinks: What a terrific idea. However, it will not "hurt" the poorest, as Federal Food Stamp Program does not tax its recipients. They may purchase the product TAX FREE. Will that mean more health problems in the future with those on food stamps?
  • Mike: I'm all for a tax on foods that have NO NUTRITIONAL VALUE. I'm a smoker and they taxed the hell out of cigarettes because they have deemed them bad for me. Well fair is fair... there are a LOT of items on the grocery store shelves that has none if any nutritional value. Let's start being fair by taxing everything that is unhealthy.. so that smokers do not have to bare the entire burden for people who choose to be unhealthy in other ways... i.e. eating unhealthy foods that they lead to diabetes or obesity or both... which cost more than cigarette related illnesses. Thank you.
  • Dave: This is a simple question. WHY CAN'T THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES HAVE THE SAME MEDICAL COVERAGE AS GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES? Why are they considered better than the rest of us? How about a discussion on this subject?

How do you feel about a “fat” tax? Does such a tax disproportionably target poor families? Is it fair, as “Mike” the viewer states, that non-nutritional foods should be taxed just as cigarettes are taxed for smokers? How will such a tax affect your family?


Filed under: American Morning
July 29th, 2009
12:45 PM ET

Democrats divided on healthcare

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption="Democratic Senator Ron Wyden is against public health care"]

President Obama is hitting the road again today with his push for health care reform. But on Capitol Hill, the plans are hitting several road blocks. Democrats are divided over rising costs and how to pay the bill.

One Senate democrat from Oregon, Ron Wyden is really catching heat from his own party because he wants to scrap the idea of a government-backed public option. Why?

Senator Wyden spoke with CNN’s John Roberts Wednesday to answer that.

Filed under: Health
July 29th, 2009
11:08 AM ET

Beers at the White House: Teachable moment or photo op?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Watkins says there's something deeper going on."]
[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Fauntroy says this is proxy for bigger issues."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) -A senior administration official said Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, Police Department will be visiting the White House Thursday.

The meeting among the three men will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Last week, Obama said he called Crowley and "there was a discussion about he and I and Professor Gates having a beer here in the White House."

Gibbs said: "I think it was Sgt. Crowley's suggestion about the beer, and I think the president thought it was a good idea."

Obama said he hoped the incident in Cambridge, which quickly spiraled into a national and racially charged controversy, "ends up being what's called a teachable moment" for the country.

As President Obama gets ready to hoist beers at the White House tomorrow with Harvard professor Dr.Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the man who arrested him police sergeant James Crowley will this indeed be a "teachable moment" as the president hopes? Or just another photo op?

Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University and a resident scholar for AOL black voices and Michael Fauntroy, a professor at George Mason University and author of ‘Republicans and the Black Vote’ spoke with CNN’s John Roberts Wednesday.

Watch the full interview » Video

Filed under: Controversy
July 29th, 2009
08:26 AM ET

Homegrown Terrorism: We're seeing a new phase in the radicalization of American citizens

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Emerson says if an individual is constantly fed a diet that the U.S. Government is an enemy he will naturally end up radicalized."]

The feds are searching for an eighth suspect accused of being part of a terrorist cell in North Carolina. Their alleged ring leader is accused of hoarding weapons and visiting terror camps overseas. This is just one in a string of recent reports of alleged terrorists here at home. So how safe is America from home grown terrorism?

Steven Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism spoke with CNN’s Carol Costello Wednesday.

Carol Costello: So it seems like there are a lot of people here in America, alleged home grown terrorists, being indicted for crimes for jihad. How scared should we be?

Steve Emerson: We’re seeing a new phase, Carol, here, in the radicalization of American citizens as well as American-born Muslim. In the past six months alone, there have been more than 40 arrests of either American-born Muslims or of Americans who converted to Islam in trying to carry out plots overseas or in the United States. This is indicative of what has happened in Europe over the last ten years where the environment there and some of the calls by the Islamic groups have radicalized the Muslim populations there. Were seeing it here but more interestingly we’re seeing American citizens who convert to Islam and stage operations from the safety of overseas and carry out jihad.

Costello: I want to talk specifically about Daniel Patrick Boyd, the guy from North Carolina. He just looked like your average Joe. Neighbors said if he was the terrorist, he's the nicest terrorist we know. He just seemed like such a normal guy. Yet he supposedly carried on this secret life. From 1989 to 1992, he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan. What did he do there, exactly?

Emerson: Well, in 1989 to 1992, he volunteered against the Soviets who had occupied Afghanistan and he volunteered and trained with the Afghan Mujahedin, the holy warriors. But he kept up and he was interviewed in ‘The Washington Post,’ actually, in 1991 where he called the US a ‘kufr’ or an ‘infidel country.’ He kept up his religious animosity to the United States; even indoctrinating his own kids willing to send them on suicide operations in Israel and elsewhere abroad to carry out jihad. So it shows you the extent to which he was radicalized. What's more interesting here is the extent to which there are other cells across the country, Carol, that have been involved in carrying out plots either here in the U.S. and overseas but using the safety of the United States and becoming radicalized here, even though they were originally not radical or not even born Muslim.

Costello: I want to get to some of the psychology of this. Because Daniel Patrick Boyd allegedly plotted these terror missions overseas, not here in the United States. But then again, who knows, right? But how does one who lives in America, grows up in the American culture, become radicalized like this?

Emerson: You’ve raised an excellent question. I think part of the question lies in the fact that once you make the conversion to Islam, and most Muslims are not radical. Once you make a conversion to Islam, sometimes the Islamic groups, the national groups that control the distribution of literature, of the media, of the educational system, teach them jihad and teach them that the United States is the enemy. Just the other day, letters from Congress representing seven Islamic radical groups claimed to be mistreated by the U.S. government and they themselves in statements in the last ten years have been saying the U.S. government is the enemy. If you constantly are fed a diet that the U.S. Government is an enemy, that the U.S. government is part of the conspiracy to suppress Islam; you will naturally end up radicalized, hating the U.S. and even willing to carry out violence to advance that goal.

Filed under: Politics • Religion
July 29th, 2009
08:03 AM ET

Commentary: America's drug problem got so bad because we didn't raise the alarm

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption="Kerlikowske says drugs that come out of parents’ medicine cabinets are just as deadly as other drugs."]

Michael Jackson’s alleged addiction to prescription drugs has been part of the ongoing investigation into his death. Dr. Conrad Murray is said to have given Jackson the powerful anesthetic Propofol to help him sleep. Police believe that drug may have contributed to his death.

Director of the office of national drug control policy at the White House, R. Gil Kerlikowske spoke with CNN’s John Roberts Wednesday

John Roberts:
I wanted to ask this, not as a law enforcement question but from a substance abuse perspective which falls into your arena. To use the drug Propofol, which is used either as a sedative for surgery or a general anesthetic, to use it as a sleeping medication would that constitute the abuse of that drug?

Director R. Gil Kerlikowske:
You know I’m not an M.D. I can tell you the prescription drug issue is really significant throughout the United States. And of course, we've seen that in paper after paper after paper. I don't have the facts about the Michael Jackson case, the very sad and tragic loss that occurred there, but I can tell you that prescription drug problems are a problem in this country.

Roberts: The police and drug enforcement administration are looking to whether or not he used aliases to try to get drugs, whether he was doctor shopping. We hear about people doctor shopping and prescription drug abuse. How did it get so bad in this country?

Kerlikowske: I think it got so bad because we didn't raise the alarm. It's been bad for a while. If you look, the most recent data, which unfortunately is 2006, tells us that more people have died from overdoses than have died from gunshot wounds in this country. And frankly, this is something that in many ways can be prevented.

Roberts: So, when you talk about prevention, you talk about trying to curb demand and education from that standpoint. And then there's also enforcement. How do you effectively enforce something like this? You take a look at the fact that more than 56 million prescriptions were written for sleeping medication in 2008 alone, that's up 54% since 2004.

Kerlikowske: Well, there are two things. One is that 38 states have prescription drug monitoring programs. These are electronic databases and they help health officials and in some cases depending on how the law is written, law enforcement. And they can look at over-prescribing by a physician but they can also look at patients who are, as you mentioned, doctor shopping. The other thing, of course, is that a lot of this comes out of parents' medicine cabinets.

Parents can do an awful lot. We have a website, http://www.Theanti-drug.Com. Parents can get a huge amount of information. We've seen significant problems with kids that have experimented thinking that, ‘hey, these are prescription drugs, these are safe,’ and, in fact, they are just as deadly and just as addictive as anything that comes from anyplace else.

Roberts: You came to this job from your former job. You were the police chief of Seattle. Was it possible in Seattle to effectively police this?


Filed under: Commentary • Crime
July 29th, 2009
06:42 AM ET

Police search Jackson doctor's home, office

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Investigators arrive at the Las Vegas, Nevada, home of Michael Jackson's personal physician."]

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) - Investigators searched the Las Vegas home and office of Michael Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, on Tuesday morning, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman said.

Los Angeles police and DEA agents, carrying search warrants, were "looking for a lot of things," said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Mike Flanagan.

Aerial cameras showed investigators leaving Murray's home, three hours after they entered, carrying several containers.

The searches came a day after a source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to CNN that Murray administered a powerful drug that authorities believe killed the singer.

Flanagan said that while he could not disclose details of the search warrants, because a judge had ordered them sealed, he confirmed they were looking for documents and computer records.

Murray's attorney, Ed Chernoff, issued a statement saying that officers from the DEA, Los Angeles police and "various local agencies" executed a search warrant at Murray's home and office beginning about 8 a.m. (11 a.m. ET) Tuesday.

"The search warrant authorized investigators to look for medical records relating to Michael Jackson and all of his reported aliases," the statement said. "Dr. Murray was present during the search of his home and assisted the officers."

Investigators left Murray's home about noon, he said, taking cell phones and a computer hard drive. "As of 2 p.m., the search at Dr. Murray's office continues," the statement said.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: American Morning • Controversy
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