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AMERICAN MORNING

'Gimme a Minute'; 'Paging Dr. Gupta'

Aired May 21, 2004 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. A tick past 8:30 here in New York. Good morning. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING.
In a few moments here, we'll talk about the fallout from that raid yesterday at the home of the Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi. He has broken ties with the U.S. Will any of this affect the handover? A question for our "Gimme a Minute" panel. A lot to chew on regarding Mr. Chalabi today.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, as insect invasions go, nothing quite rivals the cicadas. Well, they're back this spring, after 17 years underground. Ooh, they're so icky. And of course they're giving people across 15 states good reason to step lightly. This morning, we talk to a bug scientist about what's really happening. That's just ahead.

HEMMER: I love them.

O'BRIEN: They creep me out.

HEMMER: I love them.

Top stories now, huh, how about you?

From Iraq today, a convoy possibly carrying radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr was apparently engaged in a firefight for some time with U.S. troops traveling near Najaf. However, the U.S. military cannot confirm whether or not al Sadr was in fact part of that convoy.

In Karbala, meanwhile, hospital officials report five Iraqi dead from violent clashes in that holy city. Among the fatalities, an Arab TV journalist. Meanwhile, U.S. forces continue making headway, we are told, against militia positions overnight in South Central Iraq.

After a week of deadly clashes, Israel says it's pulling troops out of parts of Gaza. Arafah (ph) refugee camp was the scene of ongoing clashes this week. Palestinian sources claim some 40 were killed there in the violence. Israel says the offensive was aimed at targeting militants and closing down tunnels it says have been in use for smuggling by way of Egypt. The Israeli operation had come under international criticism this past week.

Here in the U.S., the defense rests in the state trial of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols. Lawyers for Nichols questioned nearly 100 witnesses over an 11-day period. Closing arguments could begin as early as Monday. Nichols is already serving a life sentence on federal charges. He could face the death penalty if convicted on state charges there.

And a sherpa claiming to have scaled Mt. Everest in record time. The climb usually takes about four days. Officials in Nepal sherpa Pemba Dorge (ph) did it in 8 hours and 10 minutes. Last year, the Sherpa was involved in a bitter battle with another mountain climber over who had the previous fastest time. The tours of ministry held another man held that record. Eight hours? Are you kidding me?

O'BRIEN: That is unbelievable.

(WEATHER REPORT)

O'BRIEN: Well, if you're scoring at home, you know it's time for our lightning round. It gives our panel a chance to talk fast and make some sense of the week's big stories. Joining us this morning in Washington, Jonah Goldberg joins us. He's with the National Review Online.

Hey, Jonah, good morning.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: In New York, former Clinton White House aide Lisa Caputo joining us.

Hey, Lisa, good morning.

LISA CAPUTO, FMR. CLINTON WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And right here in our studio, Andy Borowitz from "The New Yorker."

Hey, Andy. Good morning to you.

ANDY BOROWITZ, "THE NEW YORKER": Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Let's get going with you, Jonah, first. As you well know, the president on Capitol Hill meeting with Republicans because there's been a little bit of griping, a little bit of grumbling. Can you tell me now that after this meeting Republicans are united, Jonah?

GOLDBERG: No, I can't. There's no disputing that there are jitters among Republicans. Whenever a president, incumbent president's numbers get this low, individual House members start running to cover their own behind. I think Bush has got some problems with the base. I still think he's doing OK, but he's not doing as great as he once was.

O'BRIEN: Lisa, someone called them all a bunch of nervous nellys who run and hide whenever there's a change in the poll numbers. Do you agree with that?

CAPUTO: Yes, I do, I do. They're going in 25 different directions. Welcome to the big leagues, as I say. I think this is the first time the Republican party has been so factionalized in such a long time. You see Senate moderates running and working with Democrats. That's a first, certainly in an election year.

O'BRIEN: Andy, Republicans sometimes it just seems they are lacking a little love for each other. What do you think?

BOROWITZ: You know a sure sign of trouble is some talk about dumping Dick Cheney and replacing him with Smarty Jones.

O'BRIEN: All right, Lisa, let's turn to our next question, and we're going to start with you on that one. As you well know, we were reporting yesterday, and we're continuing to talk about it today, the home and offices of Ahmad Chalabi raided for -- in a fraud investigation, according to U.S. authorities. What do you think the fallout is and the implication for the June 30th handover?

CAPUTO: I think it puts the handover in a big question mark. I mean, clearly you have a situation here where this is a man who, it looks like, gave the U.S. faulty intelligence about the alleged weapons that Saddam had, and now it turns out that information was wrong, not to mention he had a sweet deal with a $335,000-a-month contract. So I think that this does not bode well for the Bush administration. I think the administration did the right thing by going in there, doing the raid. Now they have to figure out what to do with the June 30th date imminent.

O'BRIEN: Jonah, we heard Lisa talk about that particular date. But what do you think the fallout and the implications are from raiding a close ally?

GOLDBERG: Well, you know, this is a really weird Rashaman (ph) kind of situation, where I've heard so many different versions about what's going on.

Ding?

O'BRIEN: You keep going anyway.

GOLDBERG: OK. I think -- you know, I don't think this has much impact on the June 30th deadline. I do think this has a big impact on Chalabi, who is moving more to the Iranians. But it's a mess over there, and it's very hard to figure out what's going on.

O'BRIEN: And, Andy, were you as shocked at Chalabi seemed to be?

BOROWITZ: Well, you know, he's accused of passing intelligence on to the Iranians, but if it's anything like the intelligence he gave us, what the heck are we worried about?

O'BRIEN: Jonah, you're going to take the next one -- 48 Catholic Democrats in Congress wrote a letter to a prominent American bishop yesterday. They're complaining about other bishops who penalize Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. Do you think this helps John Kerry? Or do you think this hurts John Kerry?

GOLDBERG: I think it could end up hurting John Kerry, because John Kerry is very bad when he tries to talk about these sorts of things. And I think the Democrats might be making this worse, because they seem to be trying to say that the pope is -- runs the RNC or something, and it's getting very confusing the way Democrats are trying to politicize the catholic church in response.

O'BRIEN: Lisa, the pope runs the RNC or something?

CAPUTO: Well, gee, as a Catholic, Soledad, that's a new one on me. But I think this is a difficult issue for John Kerry. We've seen in the past couple of days, he has sort of staked out some varying positions on the issue, now in the papers trying to clarify today.

Clearly, the Catholic lobby is an important lobby, and I think will play a factor in the election.

O'BRIEN: Andy, what do you think?

BOROWITZ: You know, when it comes to religion, I think all of us have to listen to one person, Mel Gibson.

O'BRIEN: And finally, look, I did it on time for once undercovered story of the week. Lisa, we're going to start with you.

CAPUTO: Undercovered story of the week I think is that New Jersey is now a purple state. That means it's in play, and that independents, according to the latest Quinnepeac (ph) poll, are split. Now usually independents go Democratic, if the Democratic candidate plays to that constituency. I think this is a big, fat question mark going into the fall.

O'BRIEN: Jonah, what do you think we missed this week?

GOLDBERG: I'd say you underplayed the sarin artillery shell in Iraq. I'm perfectly fine with the idea it might mean nothing, but the media seemed in a mad race to say it absolutely means nothing, and -- or can't mean something. And I think it's sort of weird that at minimum, this story proves that we've got rogue chemical weapon shells being lobbed at our troops, and the media just wrote it all off.

O'BRIEN: It did seem that not only the media, lots of people were writing it off. I mean, if you listen to any of the folks who were talking out Baghdad, same thing, they didn't seem that worried about it.

Andy, you get the final word this morning. What do you think was the undercovered story of the week?

BOROWITZ: Well, Soledad, to comply with the Geneva Conventions against torture, CBS canceled "Yes, Dear."

O'BRIEN: You guys, as always, thank you very much, Jonah, and Lisa and Andy joining us this morning. We'll see you back here next week. Have a great weekend -- Bill.

HEMMER: The big buzz in the East and the Midwest, and a really big buzz too. A swarm of insects like we have not seen in 17 years. Cicadas, underground since the Reagan administration, now emerging in a number of states, 15 in fact. Ten trillion set to come out soon to make love and die.

From College Park, Maryland, Holly Menninger, a University of Maryland entomologist, here to talk about it.

Good morning, Holly. How are you today?

HOLLY MENNINGER, UNIV. OF MD., ENTOMOLOGIST: Hi, Bill. How are you doing?

HEMMER: I'm doing just fine.

This is like the Super Bowl for you, isn't it?

MENNINGER: Oh my gosh, we are so excited.

HEMMER: Yes? Well, answer a few basic questions for us, if you could. Why for 17 years do they hibernate or essentially burrow into the ground.

MENNINGER: Well, they are actually not hibernating during that time. They are actually growing and feeding on the juices of tree roots. But we think they hang out for that long underground so that they can really just avoid being eaten when they come out as an adult. When they come out, all in huge numbers, they are essentially overwhelming all of their predators, and no predator can wait 17 years to have a dinner.

HEMMER: I understand you've eaten one.

MENNINGER: Yes. I have, chocolate-covered ones, cooked in peanuts They're not bad, a little crunchy.

HEMMER: Yes? Do you taste the chocolate? Or do you taste the cicada?

MENNINGER: It's more chocolate. They taste like whatever you cook them in.

HEMMER: Back to the basic questions. Do they bite?

MENNINGER: No, they do not. They don't bite. They don't sting. They're not poisonous at all.

HEMMER: Why are they so loud? they make at huge buzz when they get together?

MENNINGER: Exactly. Those are just the males singing their love songs to the females. Only the boys can crawl. They crawl up to the tops of the trees, and they just sort of sing their songs, trying to attract the female.

HEMMER: How long are they going to last, Holly, about four weeks, I believe, maybe a little longer?

MENNINGER: Yes, four to six weeks. Definitely it's going to take us into mid-June. HEMMER: What do you learn from these bugs?

MENNINGER: All kinds of stuff. I think the one thing people need to remember, remember, they don't bite, they don't sting, and it's really an excellent opportunity for people to sort of embrace nature and see one of the coolest events around. It's great for kids to go out and collect, to play with, to sort of watch their life history evolve right before our eyes.

HEMMER: Is that a cicada on your T-shirt that I see, Holly?

MENNINGER: That is a cicada, with its wings spread out. Typically people find them with their wings folded back, but it is, indeed.

HEMMER: Enjoy the Super Bowl.

MENNINGER: Thank you.

HEMMER: You got it. Holly Menninger from the University of Maryland there, from College Park.

Cincinnati says they get about five billion. Some people make things off of this stuff, too, like the symphony recorded a song.

Have you ever gotten caught in a swarm?

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: No, no.

HEMMER: It's amazing stuff, too.

O'BRIEN: One bug puts me over the edge. I don't know how she can hold them and talk about eating -- ooh, look at that.

HEMMER: See, that's scale coming off right there, too.

O'BRIEN: Nasty.

Still to come on this AMERICAN MORNING, it's not just Google's founders that are cashing in on the company's big public offering, so is one of the Internet's biggest players. We'll explain.

HEMMER: Also in a moment here, when cutting those carbs could be, maybe, hazardous to your health, perhaps. Sanjay has a look at that in his series as it continues yet again today, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: All this week, Dr. Sanjay Gupta's been looking at America's low-carb craze. In the final installment of his five-part series today, Sanjay tells us that serious carb cutting may be hazardous to your health.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Low- carbohydrate diets have spread across the world, promising quick weight loss, and the diets have delivered enough to make them the most popular diets of all time.

Still, many dieters, even the hardcore ones, had this nagging feeling and are asking the question, might this be bad for me? So far, the evidence isn't clear to say that the diets are for sure safe, or dangerous. But many doctors do worry about increased cholesterol with the high fat, kidney problems with the high protein, and metabolic problems with the constant yawing back and forth with the weight.

So is this another fad diet, or are low carbs the new normal diet?

Bottom line, if you think it's bad for you, there's a good chance it is. Many of the diets require crucial supplements to fend off health problems later on. And as always, make sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new diet.

(on camera): All right, here again to talk about possible dangers of a low-carb diet, Heidi Skolnik. She's a nutritionist for the New York Giants and the School of American Ballet; Amy O'Connor, deputy editor of "Prevention" magazine; and Wahida Karmally, director of nutrition at the Irving Center of Columbia University Medical Center. Thanks to all of you for joining us.

Lots of concerns about this diet potentially, the low-carb diet, Wahida. Are the concerns overblown, do you think?

WAHIDA KARMALLY, COLUMBIA UNIV.: These are real concerns, because heart disease is the No. 1 killer. And when you consume a diet that has lots of saturated fat and cholesterol, your LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol, will go up, and it increases your risk for heart disease,a and there are other dangers as well. Your blood pressure can go up because you're missing out on all these fruits, and vegetables, and whole grains and low-fat dairies.

GUPTA: You're clearly not a fan.

But, Amy, you know, Dr. Atkins, before he died, he actually studied at his center down in North Carolina, and said in fact cholesterol levels go down. You'd think they go up, but, in fact, they go down. What about that?

AMY O'CONNOR, "PREVENTION" MAGAZINE: I think that's because when you lose weight, your cholesterol does go down.

GUPTA: So what's wrong with that? You're losing weight.

O'CONNOR: Well, what's wrong with that, is what you're missing out on, which is fruits and vegetables, and all the phytonutrients that can actually help protect us against disease. And there actually is a side effect to a lot of these low-carb foods that a lot of people don't talk about, which is gastrointestinal distress, which I've experienced firsthand taste-testing low carb products.

GUPTA: Is that right? That just doesn't feel good.

You know, it's interesting, Heidi, both Dr. Agasten (ph), author of "The South Beach Diet," and Dr. Atkins, of his book, were both cardiologists, they took care of heart disease patients, and this was the diet they came up with. Why is it potentially harmful to heart disease patients?

HEIDI SKOLNIK, NUTRITIONIST, NEW YORK GIANTS: Well, I think it's looking, again, long term, not just at short-term studies. The rage in the past seven to 10 years in the nutrition world is in fact these phytonutrients. So we also have to look at immune markers, anti- inflammatory markers, beyond just cholesterol, in term of what's going on. And without the phytonutrients, it's short-sighted.

GUPTA: One thing for sure, these diets are definitely here to stay. They've become really popular, a part of our diet culture. You've really informed us a lot this week. We thank you all, some important stuff, on AMERICAN MORNING's "Low Carb Craze" series.

back to you, Bill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: All right, Sanjay, thanks for that.

In a moment, who is going to make a fortune from the Google IPO? on that list is one very familiar name. Andy has it, right after this, on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And welcome back, everybody.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: If you weren't jealous of amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos before, you will be now when you hear this story. And an online jeweler with a sparkling IPO debut yesterday. With that and the market preview, my pal Andy Serwer "Minding Your Business."

Morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: How are you?

CAFFERTY: Good.

SERWER: Good.

So everyone is talking about this big Google IPO that's going to be coming up over the next couple of months. Those two young men are going to become billionaires. Guess who else is going to make out like a bandit? That's right, Jack, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of amazon.com. He's 40 years old. He's worth $5 billion already. Already. And get this, Jack, in 1998, this guy bought into Google when it was very much of a private company, paid 6 cents a share for his shares, and this thing is going to come out probably at $90 a share. Did a little math here. Say he bought half a million shares, which is about right. I'm going to do this math for you. It's disgusting, 500,000 shares, about 30,000 bucks, goes out at 90, $45 million.

CAFFERTY: I hate him. What else do you got?

SERWER: Yes, all right. What other bad news do you have for me.

Speaking of Seattle, that's where Amazon is. Another company out there, Blue Nile, an online jewelry company -- and Amazon is trying to get into that business as well -- went public yesterday and did well. The stock was up 38 percent from $20 to $28. This is a company is profitable. It's kind of cool. It's build your own diamond ring there, so you sort of assemble it yourself. How about that for your teenage daughters? Build your own. Click, $10,000, click, $15,000. You can see how that would work, right?

CAFFERTY: I hate them, too. What else you got?

SERWER: More good news for you, Jack. Actually some mixed news yesterday from the markets. We're kind of all over the place and ended up just about dead even. You can see there, the Dow barely budging, S&P up a little bit. We should have a good open this morning, though. Oil prices, get this, slightly lower, a bit of a reprieve. They're calling it a Friday frolic today, how about that?

CAFFERTY: There you go. Thanks, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

CAFFERTY: 9/11 Commission came to New York two days this week. They're getting ready to kind of wind up their hearings. The final report is due out in July. Has this been a good idea, a worthwhile exercise? This is some of what you've written us this morning.

Abby in West Offord (ph), Massachusetts, "There's no better demonstration to the world than our system of government than the recent hearings on 9/11. I spent the last couple of weeks in Malawi (ph), Africa, watching night after night what was going on in home. My Malawian (ph) friends were amazed and gratified to see our Democratic process in action. Me, too."

Mr. R. Wolfowitz (ph) in Chicago -- "I'm embarrassed by the behavior of some of the surviving families. This is all about money. Now you see Motorola in the headlines because they provided the radios for the NYC responders. Welcome to the world of class action law firms. There's a profound difference between displaying one's grief with dignity and wandering around looking for someone to blame so that you can sue them."

It's worth pointing Mr. Wolfowitz said that not all of the families are behaving in that way.

And finally Pat in Clinton, Massachusetts, "Today's ridiculous terrorism warning from our government. If the Homeland Security Department is telling us to watch out for terrorist disguised as pregnant women, should Bill Hemmer be looking cross-eyed at Soledad O'Brien? After all, maybe she's carrying bomb-making materials instead of twins. Have you sniffed her lately? Are we going to start staring even more than usual at pregnant woman? So absurd."

CAFFERTY: I'm so tired. I can't carry one other thing than what I'm already carrying.

One other quick note. Join us this weekend for "IN THE MONEY," Andy and I and Susan Lisovicz. Six weeks away from turning over control of Iraq to the Iraqis, at least on paper. We'll take a close look at what it's going to take for the U.S. to accomplish its mission in Iraq. "In the Money" airs Saturday at 1:00, Sunday at 3:00 Eastern. It's a fine little program, if I do say so myself.

HEMMER: And programming available in Malawi, too, West Africa apparently.

CAFFERTY: That's good stuff, right. They watch us in Malawi.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. Thanks, guys. Still to come this morning, more photos of apparent abuse and some damning reported statements from inside Iraq's Abu Ghraib Prison. Details just ahead, right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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