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AMERICAN MORNING

Lennon's Legacy; Happy Holidays

Aired December 8, 2005 - 09:34   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It was 25 years ago today Beatles fans around the world devastated by news that John Lennon had been gunned down in New York. Here's a look at Strawberry Fields in New York's Central Park, not far from where Lennon was shot outside of his apartment building. Fans gathering there later today at the precise moment of the anniversary of his shooting death. Lennon's cultural impact still being felt a quarter century after his death, of course.
Entertainment correspondent Sibila Vargas takes a look at his legacy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN LENNON, ENTERTAINER: You know, you went to see the movies with Elvis or some (INAUDIBLE) when we were still in Liverpool and you'd see everybody waiting to see him, and I'd be waiting there, too, and they'd all scream when he came on the screen. So we thought that's a good job.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A newly-released special edition DVD of the movie "Imagine: John Lennon" includes rare footage of Lennon talking about his life.

LENNON: My father and mother split when I was about four.

VARGAS: As well as recording. Many called Lennon's music the soundtrack to a generation, but critics say his solo work was uneven.

MIKAL GILMORE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "ROLLING STONE": It was pretty hit and miss until the final album released just a few weeks before his death.

VARGAS: Lennon's death came as his "Double Fantasy" album was rising up the charts. In an October interview with CNN, "Yoko Ono discussed continuing her late husband's legacy through a grant she created to honor peace activists.

YOKO ONO, WIDOW OF JOHN LENNON: This is the type of thing that John would have approved, and he would have loved to see happen, and I thought it was very important that this award is created.

VARGAS: Perhaps Lennon's greatest legacy is his influence on future generations of musicians.

BONO, LEAD SINGER, U2: I wanted our first demos for our first album. I was sending it to John Lennon to produce our first album. He invented music. VARGAS: The lyrics to John Lennon's "Imagine" perhaps resonating now more than ever.

Sibila Vargas, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Five years, 25 years. That's one of those "where were you when" stories you can still remember very well.

It is the holiday season, and I say the 'h' word with trepidation, because you say that these days and people get upset with you. That's how things are going in this season of concern about what's happening to Christmas, and enter into all of that, along with all of the concerns about Wal-Mart, and whether they're doing things to exclude Christmas. The White House, I would say Christmas card, but holiday card, which is distinctly, well, it's Old Testament, put it that way.

Joining me now is Bill Donohue. He's president of the Catholic League for religious and civil rights. He got this card in the mail. Not very happy about it. Why not?

WILLIAM DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE RELIGIOUS & CIVIL RIGHTS: When I first got it, I wasn't too unhappy, quite happy, because I thought this kind of generic Christmas card is probably something all presidents did, and then I found out later in the day, got a phone call from Alan Cooperman from "The Washington Post," said that I was wrong on that, that, every president from FDR up until Bush I had at least one Christmas Card when they mentioned merry Christmas. It began under Clinton they decided to neuter it.

So I began to wonder why is 'w' not following his father's precedent as opposed to Clinton's. That made me a little bit angry. After all, we went after Wal-Mart. I'm not going to be a phony about this and say that the president, whom I've met and I liked, I'm not going be a phony and give him a pass. So I think he should put out a Christmas card after all -- is it too much to ask people to say merry Christmas at Christmastime in a Christmas card?

M. O'BRIEN: Maybe the concern is there are people of other faiths, and the White House is representative of all Americans who practice all kinds of religions.

DONOHUE: I don't know of any evidence whatsoever that there was any protest by any segment of the population, of those 15 percent of Americans that were not Christian, when they got a Christmas card from W's father, from Reagan, from Carter, and everybody else all of the way back to FDR. The assumption is that somehow these non-Christians are bigots. They get upset with a merry Christmas card at Christmastime. If someone mistakenly gave me a happy Hanukkah card, I might laugh at it. I certainly wouldn't feel be insulted.

COSTELLO: Oh, come on, though. I mean, is this really hurting Christmas? Is this really such a big deal? DONOHUE: On one hand, no. However, when you put it together with everything else that's happening in our society, where you have a nativity scenes that are banned, but you have menorahs that are OK, and you a president who's in there in office because traditional Catholics and evangelical Protestants put them there, if he's going to be the leader and he starts to dumb down Christmas, how can I then have any leverage against retailers who are trying to dumb it down.

M. O'BRIEN: So to heck with all of the rest of the people, he's got to just -- you know, his backers, he's going to please them, but nobody else in the country?

DONOHUE: No, I think -- you know, I'm Irish, and I'm a veteran, and if you're not Irish and you're not a veteran, too bad for you on St. Patrick's Day and Veteran's Day. I am straight, and I don't get celebrated during Gay Pride Week. Too bad for me.

What have we come to in this country. We can't celebrate...

O'BRIEN: I've got to ask you a quick question, Bill. What if Jesus got this card? What would he do? Would he be angry about it? He's be OK with it, wouldn't he?

DONOHUE: Well, maybe he would, but I've never met him.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know what I mean. You follow his precepts. WWJD? He wouldn't be angry about this. He'd say, it's OK.

DONOHUE: I'm not going to be in the position of criticizing Jesus, but I will criticize the president, because I think that he should have followed the lead of his father. You're getting me in a very tough situation, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, I mean, I think that's a legitimate question. You're talking. If it's a Christian holiday and you as a Christian are demanding it, you have to ask what would the person who invented Christianity think about this?

DONOHUE: Why do we have dumb down and neuter Christmas? The assumption is if you say merry Christmas to a non-Christian, they're going to get angry? I don't believe it. Yes, there are some bigots, but I don't think most Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists and others, including atheists, are a bunch of bigots who'd get upset with merry Christmas. They know a Christmas card when they see it. They expect people to say Merry Christmas, including the president.

COSTELLO: Well, I just have a final question. If we had a Jewish president, would the Jewish president...

DONOHUE: Of course he would send it out...

COSTELLO: He would send out Christmas cards?

DONOHUE: It's not about him. It's about the fact that this is a recognition of a merry Christmas. If we -- look, I mean, what is the big deal here? People send me St. Patrick's Day cards who are Italian. I don't get upset about that and they're not angry because they sent it to me.

COSTELLO: But everybody celebrates St. Patrick's Day. Everybody celebrates Saint...

O'BRIEN: And everybody celebrates Christmas, in a sense...

DONOHUE: That's right.

O'BRIEN: ... because it's become a secular, commercial...

DONOHUE: So why can't they Christmas? What's the difference between merry Christmas and happy holidays? Or merry Christmas and a happy new year.

O'BRIEN: That sounds very Solomon (ph). Merry Christmas, happy new year, happy Hanukkah, peaceful Kwanzaa, do it all, just list it all.

DONOHUE: No, no, no.

O'BRIEN: Now you don't like that one, either?

DONOHUE: No, I don't, no. I don't want it dumbed down and generic. I want merry Christmas and happy new year. That's what I want.

O'BRIEN: That's what you want. All right, Bill Donohue.

DONOHUE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: WWJD. I think I got it.

DONOHUE: You certainly did.

O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer, "Minding Your Business" -- Andy.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" COLUMNIST: Miles, what happens to the economy if the housing market cools? And we'll check out the stock market, too, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right, we have a new development now in a story we've been telling you about, talking about all this morning. The mayor of San Francisco is naming a panel now to look into that videotape made by police officers. It was supposed to be a joke, an inside joke -- I emphasize inside -- but it got out because it was posted on the Web. Bad idea, officers. Officials say the tape is full of racist and sexist stereotypes. Also a bad idea, officers.

Here with more on this developing story is Amy Hollyfield of our CNN affiliate KGO in San Francisco. She's outside City Hall. Amy, a little bit of controversy there this morning.

AMY HOLLYFIELD, KGO REPORTER: Miles, fall-out is in full effect here in San Francisco this morning. The mayor's going to announce that panel this morning that will look into the scandal. And a police watchdog group has scheduled a press conference, and no doubt they'll have harsh words for the police department.

These skits appeared on a Web site. They were intended for the police Christmas party. And the officer who produced them says they were meant to show that officers could laugh at themselves and integrate with their community.

But the mayor and the police chief say the skits used racist, sexist and homophobic stereotypes. They don't like how women and transgenders are portrayed. They also think there are moments in the tape that are offensive to Asians and African-Americans. The mayor was particularly offended by a scene in which a police car runs over an African-American man.

The maker of the tape has been suspended from the department, along with about 20 other officers. He says the tapes were taken out of context, but the mayor and the police chief called them shameful and outrageous and have launched several investigations, including a criminal one.

Reporting live from San Francisco, Amy Hollyfield. Miles, back to you.

O'BRIEN: All right, Amy Hollyfield, thank you very much. She's up early for us there on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco. I don't think we've heard the last of that one. Having seen it, it was hard to even listen to Amy as we watched that.

COSTELLO: It was just bizarre.

O'BRIEN: Yes, just bizarre thing.

COSTELLO: And then she said criminal charges. They're looking into possible criminal charges, which is interesting.

O'BRIEN: Well, it is San Francisco, so, we'll see.

SERWER: Arresting the police officers.

COSTELLO: Bizarre. Anyway, let's talk about the housing boom. Actually, we really don't want to.

O'BRIEN: We're not going to talk about it busting, are we?

COSTELLO: I know. We're -- I think we have to.

O'BRIEN: I'm so sick of that, Andy. Stop doing that.

SERWER: Miles, it's a different topic. We're going to talk about that...

O'BRIEN: It's a self-fulfilling prophecy if you keep doing this.

SERWER: I'm not making it happen, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. Just checking.

SERWER: It's happening all on its own, a little bit.

Want to talk about housing today. We'll start off with the big board, though. Down 24 on the Dow Jones Industrials this morning. All about housing yesterday. Yesterday, housing stocks, very weak, down 3 to 4 percent. Toll Brothers reporting batho (ph) profits this morning, up 72 percent. That stock is off a little bit because they're suggesting that next year might not be so rosy, again, as the housing market cools.

New news out of UCLA today about the housing market suggesting the fall-out for the overall economy could be dire. Eight hundred thousand jobs at risk in this business, not only in construction, but also in the finance sectors. Because, of course, a lot of mortgage bankers involved in this business -- and it's been a very, very red hot place to work over the past several years.

California, though, would not fall into a recession, these UCLA professors say, because the drop-off won't be so sharp. Of course, the California housing market, Carol, has been just out of control. But they're suggesting, again, that things would just unwind a little bit. You have to a little wary, though, when the economists and professors say that it will be a sort of a rosy ending, I mean, you know?

COSTELLO: A rosy ending?

SERWER: It's sort of -- you know, I mean, when it's not the worst-case scenario, when they're sort of saying, it's going to end, but it won't be that bad, don't worry.

COSTELLO: Uh-huh.

SERWER: Yes, exactly. Uh-huh is probably the best way to put it.

O'BRIEN: But not quite a Disney ending, but not bad.

SERWER: Something like that. He's still paranoid about this whole thing.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I am.

COSTELLO: I think we all are. Thank you, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: "CNN LIVE TODAY" coming up next. Daryn, what are you working on this morning?

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We've got holidays on the brain, Carol.

At the top of the hour safety for the holidays. Christmas tree fires are just one of the big risks that families face this time of year. But we have your top five tips on how to keep your holidays safe. Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JO FROST, SUPERNANNY: You're either very, very naughty or you're very, very nice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Well, it's not just safety, but helping your family survive the holidays. I talk with supernanny Jo Frost about keeping your kids under control this holiday season. And Carol, if you don't watch, you are going in the naughty chair.

COSTELLO: I will be watching then, because I want great gifts from Santa this year.

KAGAN: Absolutely. You'll be a very, very good girl.

COSTELLO: I will. Thank you, Daryn.

KAGAN: All right.

O'BRIEN: Does TiVo count? Can you TiVo it?

COSTELLO: No. I think Daryn would know somehow.

O'BRIEN: You got it watch it live. All right. Kind of like she knows when you are watching.

Coming up, businesses better be ready for a possible outbreak of the bird flu, because if they aren't, we could be looking at an economic disaster.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us what they're doing to prepare as he continues his series on the bird flu, next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Well, so far there haven't been any cases of bird flu in the U.S. That's good news. That includes birds and people, by the way. But just in case that changes, some companies are doing everything they can to get red.

Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at that in this morning's "House Call."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet Ray Thomas. He's the master of disaster for global consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. He oversees risk management for some 18,000 employees. When it comes to a flu pandemic, Thomas says companies need take it seriously.

RAY THOMAS, BOOZ ALLEN HAMILTON: That they can no longer just assume that it's not going to happen to us. GUPTA: The company's avian flu disaster plan lays out how to keep employees safe and how to keep business from grinding to a halt. Step one, be prepared.

THOMAS: Second is response, third is recovery. Preparedness being the crucial step.

GUPTA: The company holds role-playing tabletop exercises.

THOMAS: First step of a tabletop might be we see evidence that avian flu is starting to mutate to pass from human to human. So that would be -- we'd stop there and say OK, what do we do collectively, what do we do within our individual corporate areas?

GUPTA: And make sure employees can work from home.

THOMAS: If we can provide them with a laptop and a cell phone,, really, they can continue to operate.

GUPTA: If a pandemic or other serious incident did strike, the company's crisis management team would meet here, in this special conference room. They could use videoconferencing, monitor the latest news and be in touch with thousands of employees and clients all over the world. But Booz Allen is an exception.

Former health and human services secretary Tommy Thompson is now a disaster planning consultant. His firm has put out a new survey that looks at how companies are preparing for a possible flu pandemic.

TOMMY THOMAS, DELOITTE CENTER FOR HEALTH SOLUTIONS: Our survey found that people are aware of avian flu, are concerned about it, but do not know how to treat it and do not know what to do.

GUPTA: Thompson's advice? Companies should prepare for a pandemic flu the way they would for a blizzard. Not three or four days, but an 18-month blizzard.

THOMAS: Transportation would be disrupted. The economy would be disrupted. You could not move around very easily.

GUPTA: But no matter how prepared Booz Allen may be, Thomas says his company still relies on others, too.

THOMAS: Anything from, you know, food for cafeteria to paper supplies or whatever it may be. Electric power, phone systems, all of these kind of things that we're relying on external parties. And they're as equally at risk of avian flu as we are. So that's the one real risks I think all companies here in the U.S. face.

GUPTA: Thomas adds that having a disaster plan in place is not only crucial for protect the people, it can protect the bottom line as well.

THOMAS: Seventy-five percent of companies that suffer a significant disaster go out of business within a year if they weren't -- if they didn't have preparedness measures in place. GUPTA: If a flu pandemic does strike, Booz Allen's master of disaster is determined to make his company a survivor.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: This whole series has been scaring me quite a bit.

Tomorrow, we will look at the migrating birds that are not only spreading the flu, but the fear. Remember, this is all going to be a part of a special this weekend. It is called "Killer Flu: A Breath Away," Sunday night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. We invite you to watch.

COSTELLO: And tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING, a look at one of the big movies opening this weekend, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Is it a mainstream fantasy flick or a Christian message in disguise? The answer could mean success or disaster at the box office.

AMERICAN MORNING, by the way, starts at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Well, we're just about out of time. That's all the time we have for this edition of AMERICAN MORNING. Thanks for being with us.

COSTELLO: Yes, thank you for being with us. Daryn Kagan's at the CNN Center to take you through the next couple of hours.

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