May 1st, 2009
11:59 PM ET

Weekend Flu Watch: Help us, Delta Lady!

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Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

It may be time to edit the script of the flight attendant whose brief finger wag is famous among Delta passengers. Her name is Katherine Lee. She looks like she was cast in Hollywood, but she’s a real Delta flight attendant. And her video instructions on how to use seat belts and emergency exits seem to captivate every cabin. She’s hard to ignore, easy to obey. And, therefore, she may be a powerful weapon to prevent the spread of H1N1 flu on airplanes. We’ll get to Ms. Lee shortly. But first …

Thank You, Mr. Vice President

It all started when Vice President Biden gave an “off message” remark that, to be fair, reflected what many were already thinking. He said he would not want his family flying on an airplane now, given the spread of the H1N1 flu. “When one person sneezes,” he noted “it goes all the way through the aircraft.” That set off a flurry of fact-checks here at CNN. AC 360’s Randi Kaye got some fascinating material from Dr. Mark Gendreau, who’s not just any doctor. In addition to being Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, he’s pretty obsessed with the study of how germs and viruses spread on airplanes.

A Droplet’s Range

It was reassuring to hear Dr. Gendreau tell us: “The Vice President got it wrong on this one. There’s no scientific evidence that there is widespread transmission of particles on aircraft.” When an infected person coughs, says Dr. Gendreau and others, the virus droplets only spread about three feet. It was also reassuring to hear him tell us that each section of a plane on a major airliner has its own filtration system, and the system’s are generally HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters which trap fine particles.


Filed under: Airline Safety • Michael Schulder • Public Health
May 1st, 2009
11:45 PM ET

“Way cool” in the briefing room

Jill Dougherty
CNN International Affairs Correspondent

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At his daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was doing what some reporters call “tap dancing,” trying to avoid saying much about Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s decision to retire. The reason? The White House was waiting for a formal letter from Justice Souter notifying the President of his decision. CNN had cameras stationed on the White House front lawn, waiting to capture the moment when a marshall from the Supreme Court would arrive in a Lincoln Town Car would arrive, letter in hand.

All of a sudden, through the door into the briefing room, walks the president. Reporters jump to their feet. Cameras pivot.

“This is kind of cool, Robert,” Mr. Obama says with a big grin. Gibbs quips: “It is way cooler than it seems.”

“Absolutely,” the president says. “The reason I’m interrupting Robert is not because he’s not doing a good job. He is doing an unbelievable job. But it’s because I just got off the telephone with Justice Souter.”

The president praises Souter. “Fair minded…independent…no particular ideology.”

What will he look for in a nominee to replace Justice Souter? “Someone with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity.”

So far, it’s what you expect a president to say. But this president taught constitutional law for ten years. “I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook,” he say. “It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families.”

So far, we’re hearing a liberal: “…I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.”

Now comes the “conservative” side of president Obama: “I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions. Who respects the integrity of the judicial process, and the appropriate limits of the judicial role.”

Mr. Obama promises to consult with members of both parties, “across the political spectrum.” But conservatives already are attacking some possible Obama nominees as "disturbingly out of the mainstream.”

The briefing room “interruption” is over. The president says he hopes he can swear in the new Supreme Court justice by the first Monday in October when the new term begins.

“I would like you to give Robert a tough time again,” he laughs...and strolls out of the briefing room.

May 1st, 2009
11:11 PM ET

How Justice Souter touched my life

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Lindsay Earls
AC360° Producer

As Justice David Souter prepares to pack his bags and head back to the Granite State, many of us eagerly anticipate President Obama's first Supreme Court appointment. But I am also reflecting upon the impact Justice Souter has had on my life. Reading the news of his retirement last night, I was filled with mixed emotions. As a political junkie, I polled my friends and discussed possible replacements before bed. And as a young woman whose life has been profoundly touched by the Supreme Court, I couldn't help but mourn the departure of another member of my own personal "Fab 4."

While I often find that Mr. Souter and I are on the same sides of issues, my affection for him goes beyond that of a typical court watcher. Justice Souter, along with his colleagues Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor, joined my list of Lindsay's Favorite Americans when, on March 19, 2002, they heard a case called Tecumseh Board of Education vs. Earls. This was a case that began when I sued my high school over drug testing. I believed that the drug testing of all students involved in extracurricular activities was an unnecessary invasion of privacy. When I was a freshman at Dartmouth, the Supreme Court took my case. On the day it was argued, I was in the audience as the attorneys and the justices argued the intricacies of drug testing high school students. While not a seasoned court watcher by any measure, I felt that there were a few justices in my corner. Justice Souter was one of those friendly voices.


May 1st, 2009
11:10 PM ET

“Planes are germy anyway”

Don Lemon
CNN Newsroom Anchor

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“Planes are germy anyway,” CNN Executive Producer Jennifer Bernstein said to me over the phone today. I was talking to her about how paranoid I got while flying this week because of swine flu.

I travel by plane a few times a week, mostly for work. I’m in the air enough to earn platinum miles status on Delta and a few other airlines. (This reminds me, I need to get rid of all those US Airways miles from my stint in Philadelphia. But I digress.)

I flew to New York last Sunday morning to attend an awards ceremony at my alma mater, Brooklyn College. I had just anchored three hours of swine flu coverage, and all I could think about was being in a confined space with a few hundred other people. At least one of them was bound to have been in Mexico recently.


Filed under: Don Lemon
May 1st, 2009
09:47 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 05/01/09

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Tonight on AC360°, we'll have the latest on the swine flu outbreak.  Plus,  the Supreme Court shake-up. Justice David Souter making it official today that's he'll be retiring when this current session ends in June. Tonight, we'll look at the possible contenders to replace him.

Don't miss Erica Hill's webcast on tonight's headlines during the commercials. Watch our WEBCAST

Want to know what else we're covering tonight? Read EVENING BUZZ

Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Keep it short (we don't have time to read a "book")
2) Don't write in ALL CAPS (there's no need to yell)
3) Use your real name (first name only is fine)
4) No links
5) Watch your language (keep it G-rated; PG at worst - and that includes $#&*)

And take a look at our live web camera from the 360° studio. Watch the WEBCAM

Filed under: Live Blog • T1
May 1st, 2009
08:20 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Swine Flu Cases Rise, Vaccine Wanted

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Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

The numbers keep rising.  The World Health Organization says that the number of confirmed cases of swine flu worldwide is 367 and counting. That includes 141 in the United States and 156 in Mexico.

Meanwhile,  new steps are being taken to  tackle the virus, which is also known as H1N1.

Here are some of them:

– Spend $251 million to buy 13 million courses of antiviral medications to replenish the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile

– Shipping 400,000 antiviral regimens to Mexico, where the flu has taken the most lives

– Posting the genetic sequence for the virus on the internet so researchers around the world can study it. See it HERE.

After reviewing the data, scientists believe this strain is not as dangerous as the 1918 flu that killed millions.   And, there's more encouraging news.

"We have no doubt that making a successful vaccine is possible within a relatively short period of time," said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, Director of the Initiative for Vaccine Research at the World Health Organization.

But as for the severity of the virus, it is too early to tell.

"You might think about a baseball player, trying to estimate a baseball player's batting average one week into the season. I think that's about what we're trying to cope with here in the U.S.," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Interim Deputy Director for the CDC's Science and Public Health Program.

Would you take the vaccine when it's finally ready? Share your thoughts below.

Join us at 10pm ET for the latest on the outbreak.  We'll also have tonight's other headlines.

Hope to see you then!

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
May 1st, 2009
05:58 PM ET

I deserve the month of May off!

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Kay Jones
Coordinating Editorial Producer

I got the assignment in early January, not realizing how difficult it would be.  CNN, and specifically the 360 staff, would be working on a TV special about the TIME 100 list that comes out today.  At the time, we had an idea of how we wanted to produce this, so all I was waiting on was the list.

As we got names on the list from the TIME editors and PR team, I started making calls and sending emails to various publicists, assistants, managers, and whatever other contacts I could get my hands on.  The idea for our special was to get those who wrote the profiles of the honorees to actually do an on camera interview.  It sounds so simple, but we decided to make it that much harder:  we wanted the honorees and those who wrote about them to be in the same location for the interviews.  That was not going to be easy.

After a few weeks of calling and sending emails, I finally got my first “yes”.  CNN founder Ted Turner was thrilled to be included in the special, but he only had a few days available to go on camera.  After several calls to T. Boone Pickens’ office, I finally got a “yes” from them as well.  Success!  Right?  Not so fast, my friend.  This is TV and it’s just not that easy.  After much back and forth, they were not going to be in the same city on the same day with the same time available.  We finally came up with a compromise and had Ted at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta, and T. Boone at CNN’s studios in NY.  Not the ideal way to do an interview, but it definitely worked.


Filed under: Behind The Scenes • Kay Jones
May 1st, 2009
05:55 PM ET

Confirmed number of global swine flu cases: 365 and counting


The number of confirmed swine flu cases across the globe kept rising Friday, but some signs of hope emerged in the battle against the worldwide outbreak.

Scientists are working to develop vaccines to confront the flu, and one Mexican politician cited evidence that the virus is "letting up."

The World Health Organization said Friday that the number of confirmed cases stood at 365 worldwide, including 141 in the United States and 156 in Mexico. Thirteen countries have confirmed cases, the organization said.

Take a look at this interactive map of swine flu cases.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Public Health
May 1st, 2009
05:43 PM ET

Our common humanity

Jami Floyd
In Session anchor

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Conservatives are already starting to blame swine flu cases, here in the US, on Mexican immigrants. Of course, there is no evidence that Mexican immigrants, legal or otherwise, are responsible. But some conservative talking heads don’t care about the facts. The pundit pit is filled with folks who want to use the imminent flu pandemic to pander to the right; but they’d better be careful.

The evidence suggests that this virus started at a factory farm. Oh sure, it’s in Mexico; but it is owned by a U.S. company. There are a million pigs on the farm, at any given time. The conditions are deplorable, with huge lagoons of manure and rotting pig carcasses strewn about and swarms of flies feeding on the mess.

And flies carry influenza.


Filed under: In Session • Jami Floyd • Mexico
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