American Morning

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September 21st, 2009
01:16 PM ET

Cubans pack concert for peace

My trip to Cuba began on my birthday – after snarfing down a Duncan Hines birthday cake made by my four kids (and decorated with redhots), i headed to Miami first, then onto Havana.

It was hot when I arrived at Jose Marti airport – temperatures for the concert were well into the 90's. Hopeful concert-goers were lined up along the roads hoping to hitch a ride or catch a Wah-wah (the local bus) to La Plaza de la Revolution. It's the same spot where Pope John Paul II said mass back in 1998. But this was a concert and the "water station" in the tent for the performers served mojitos, with Havana Club – a rum you cannot buy in the United States, because of the embargo.

Our photographer Orlando arrived with a tent, thankfully, because by midday young women were fainting from heat exhaustion and the crowd estimate had swelled to 600 thousand people. At two o'clock sharp the concert began with Puerto Rican singer Olga Tañon taking the stage, and despite the heat the crowd danced wildly to her music. Cucu Diamantes (crazy diamonds), who is tall and willowy and never broke a sweat, told me she was happy – and that it was very emotional for her. A Cuban-American who left Cuba in in the mid eighties, she hadn't been back to Cuba for 8 years, and even then it was to visit her family.

We wrangled our way onto the stage – the security was tight but it was doable – and had a quick chat with Miguel Bose, who said he was energized by seeing so many Cubans waving flags. He – as all the performers consistently did – underscored the concerts focus: peace. And brushed off any questions of controversy by saying the people, the growing crowd, just wanted to be entertained. We got to run "backstage" (really the upstairs of the national library) to interview Juanes – making our way through the throng of mostly young people who were waiting outside to catch a glimpse of Juanes as he did the mad dash (about 100 yards) to the stage.


Filed under: Behind the scenes • Cuba
September 21st, 2009
11:56 AM ET

David Gergen: Obama's overexposure is dramatic

President Obama is fresh off his weekend media blitz and is steadily continuing his push for health care reform. To add to the president's busy agenda, General McChrystal says he thinks more troops will be needed in Afghanistan but the president doesn't appear to be in a hurry to send in reinforcements.

CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN's "American Morning" Monday.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="David Gergen says he doesn't think Obama's media blitz broke much new ground."]

Kiran Chetry:As we know, the president blanketed the television airwaves yesterday in defense of his health care reform effort. Did he break anymore new ground in your opinion?

David Gergen: I don't think he broke much new ground. He reached some people who might not otherwise have seen his big speech to the joint session. The audience numbers for that joint session speech were down, from 52 million from his first joint session to about 32 million then. So he needed to pick up some audience.

I think he gave himself a little insulation. He's going into a foreign policy period here over the next 10 days or so and I think they wanted to keep the momentum going in the White House.

But he did it at great risk to, you know, his viewability, if you would like, to his ratings, or whatever you would call them, because he's been out so often. The overexposure is dramatic.


Filed under: American Morning
September 21st, 2009
11:44 AM ET

US general: Deliver troops or lose Afghanistan

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan says we have twelve months to get more boots on the ground or the U.S. risks “failure” in the war-torn nation. President Obama told CNN’s John King, any decision on Afghanistan won't be driven by "the politics of the moment" and that the goal remains getting al Qaeda.

Bob Woodward is a veteran journalist for the Washington Post, the first to get General Stanley McChrystal’s report, and he broke the story. Woodward spoke to John Roberts in an exclusive interview on CNN's "American Morning" Monday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Bob Woodward says it will take years to put more troops in Afghanistan."]

John Roberts: I want to pull a quote from the report that you have posted on "The Washington Post" Web site, in which General McChrystal said, "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months), while Afghan security capacity matures, risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible." That's a pretty dire and striking statement.

Bob Woodward: It really says: 12 months, I need more troops, I need to have really have a full counterinsurgency strategy, which is protect the people, go out into the villages, set up the kinds of security stations in contact with the population that was done in Iraq by General Petraeus. If I don't get that, likely failure, defeating them is impossible.

This is a striking thing for a general to say to the secretary of defense and the commander-in-chief. It really takes his finger and puts it in their eye. Deliver or this won't work. And he says, "If they don't endorse this full counterinsurgency strategy, don't even give me the troops, because it won't work."


Filed under: Afghanistan • Politics
September 21st, 2009
06:03 AM ET

'Mad Men,' '30 Rock' top Emmy Awards

By Alan Duke

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) - After starting with 16 nominations, "Mad Men" won just three Emmy Awards at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday night - but one of them was the big one, best drama series.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin hold their Emmys for "30 Rock," which won best comedy series."]

The AMC show about ad agency executives in early 1960s Manhattan often competed against itself, particularly in the category of episode writing, where it had four of the five possible nominations.

"Mad Men" also won best drama last year.

"30 Rock" won best comedy at Sunday's awards. The show won five Emmys overall. Gallery: Major Emmy winners

"We want to thank our friends at NBC ... for keeping us on the air, even though we are so much more expensive than a talk show," said star Tina Fey in accepting the honor.

Glenn Close won best actress in a drama for her performance in "Damages," but she turned her speech into praise for her colleagues.

"I want to salute what I call my 'category sisters,' " she said. "I respect you, and I'm inspired by your talent." She also paid tribute to the show's writers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Entertainment
September 21st, 2009
06:02 AM ET

Mad as Hell: Why the national anger?

If the American mood these days were a movie line, it just might be the one shouted out by the character Howard Beale in the 1976 film, “Network”:

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

We went to western Pennsylvania, Westmoreland County, to talk to voters about the anger that has spread from town halls to radio talk shows and to the floor of Congress. Last November the county went for John McCain over Barack Obama

It was in Westmoreland county that Obama campaigned just days before the April 2008 Democratic primary, saying that small-town Pennsylvania voters are “bitter” over their economic situation, and that they “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”


Filed under: Mad as Hell • Politics
September 21st, 2009
06:01 AM ET

PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter: Health care fact vs. fiction

Editor's Note: is a project of the St. Petersburg Times that aims to help you find the truth in politics. Every day, reporters and researchers from the Times examine statements by members of Congress, the president, etc. They research their statements and then rate the accuracy on their Truth-O-Meter.

Cost-shifting of uninsured is debated by the experts

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="President Obama in an interview on "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos."]

President Barack Obama went on the Sunday news shows to make the case for health reform.

This Week host George Stephanopolous questioned Obama on his support for an individual mandate, which requires everyone who can find affordable coverage to purchase health insurance.

Obama defended the matter as a fairness issue to people who now have coverage.

"Here's what's happening," Obama said. "You and I are both paying 900 bucks on average - our families - in higher premiums because of uncompensated care. Now, what I've said is that, if you can't afford health insurance, you certainly shouldn't be punished for that. That's just piling on.

"If, on the other hand, we're giving tax credits, we've set up an exchange, you are now part of a big pool. We've driven down the costs, we've done everything we can, and you actually can afford health insurance. But you've just decided, 'You know what? I want to take my chances,' and then you get hit by a bus, (then) you and I have to pay for the emergency room care."

The Truth-O-Meter says: HALF TRUE

Half True

Read more: Another study contests that figure

Health care advocacy group blasts insurers for CEO pay packages

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The ad from Health Care for America Now says insurance CEOs make $24 million a year and that insurers deny 1 in 5 treatments prescribed by doctors."]

Supporters of health care reform have portrayed insurance company CEOs as overpaid villains. In a recent television ad, Health Care for America Now, a group supporting the Democrats' health care reform bill, takes direct aim at the CEOs.

The group's ad mockingly explains "how to get rich" by showing a "book" written "by America's health insurance companies." Chapter 2 reads, "Pay your CEO $24,000,000 a year." A news release issued by HCAN attributed the assertion to the entry for Ronald A. Williams, CEO of insurance giant Aetna, in the 2008 Forbes magazine executive compensation survey.

The Truth-O-Meter says: BARELY TRUE

Barely True

Read more: Cherry-picking highest number

TV ad overstates health insurance denials

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The ad from Health Care for America Now says insurance CEOs make $24 million a year and that insurers deny 1 in 5 treatments prescribed by doctors."]

Supporters of health care reform have portrayed insurance companies as insensitive and too quick to deny claims. In a recent television ad, Health Care for America Now, a group supporting the Democrats' health care reform bill, says insurance companies get wealthy by denying those claims.

The group's ad mockingly explains "how to get rich" by showing a "book" written "by America's health insurance companies." Chapter 3 reads, "Deny 1 out of 5 treatments prescribed by doctors." A news release issued by HCAN attributed this statistic to a study released Sept. 2, 2009, by the California Nurses Association titled, "California's Real Death Panels: Insurers Deny 21% of Claims."

The Truth-O-Meter says: FALSE


Read more: Health insurers reject claims, but not that many

Filed under: Truth-O-Meter