October 12th, 2009
02:59 PM ET

Send us your H1N1 swine flu questions!

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A national campaign to inoculate tens of millions of Americans against H1N1 influenza began last week, with health care workers in Indiana and Tennessee targeted as the first recipients, federal health authorities said.

The CDC and other public health authorities say the new vaccine is safe, and are encouraging everyone to get it, especially those in high risk groups. But experts acknowledge that many people struggle with the decision.

Do you have questions about the H1N1 virus? Let us know! Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be on with answers tonight.

Filed under: H1N1
October 12th, 2009
02:56 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Two Americans win Nobel Prize for Economics

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/europe/10/12/nobel.economics/art.econ.nobels.iu.ucb.jpg caption="U.S. professors Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson are joint recipients of the Nobel Prize for economics."]

Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Two American scholars who are experts in how businesses and the economy are regulated have won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics.

Elinor Ostrom, a professor at Indiana University, is the first woman ever to win the Nobel in Economics.

Ostrom will share the $1.4 million prize with Oliver E. Williamson, a retired professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

The issue of government control of the economy has become a significant issue since last year's financial meltdown. The Obama Administration and governments of major developed economies around the globe are now working reform their regulatory oversight of businesses and markets.

Ostrom, a professor of political science, was recognized for her work demonstrating how common property, such as forests and lakes, can be successfully managed by those who use the resources, rather than government officials.

As for Williamson, the Nobel committee said his theories show that large private corporations exist primarily because they can be the most efficient way to complete some economic transactions, challenging the belief that markets are always the most rational and efficient way to conduct business.

Survey says… the recession is over

More than 80% of top economists believe that the recession that started almost two years ago is finally over. But most don't expect meaningful improvement in jobs, credit or housing for months to come.

That's according to a survey released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics. The group asked 43 top economists last month if they believe the battered economy has pulled out of the worst U.S. downturn since World War II.

Thirty-five respondents, or 81%, believe the recovery has begun. Only four, or 9%, believe the economy is still in a recession. The other four say they're uncertain.

Economists in the survey forecast that the economy grew at an annual rate of 3% in the three months that ended in September, though the official reading of gross domestic product won't be out for weeks.

And all of the economists surveyed expect the recovery to be slow and painful, leaving many people and businesses feeling the effects of the downturn for years to come.

The only organization that can officially declare the beginning or the end of a recession is the National Bureau of Economic Research. But that group doesn't make any sort of declaration until months after the fact, in order to take into account final readings of various economic measures such as employment, income and industrial production. For example, the NBER didn't declare that the recent recession had begun in December 2007 until a full year after the fact.

Big Week on Wall Street

The stalled-out stock-market rally got a reboot last week, pushing the Dow and S&P 500 to fresh one-year highs. But that resilience will be tested in the week ahead with the release of the first big batch of third-quarter financial results.

Dow components Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson and General Electric are all on tap. Google, Nokia, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs are among the other big names due to report.

Today, with no economic or major earnings news on the docket, stocks are making some fairly solid advances, with the Dow topping 9,900 for the first time in more than a year.

Senate considers benefits extension

The Senate may vote this week on whether to extend unemployment benefits to the millions of jobless workers across the country.

This after Senate Democrats reached a deal to give an additional 14 weeks to workers in all 50 states, and 6 weeks on top of that to workers in states with unemployment above 8.5%.

The measure differs significantly from the version passed in the House last month. That one grants 13 weeks of extended benefits only workers in high unemployment states.

All this wrangling over details comes as 400,000 people ran out of benefits in September and another 208,000 are set to lose them this month.

Follow the money… on Twitter: @AndrewTorganCNN

Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Finance • stocks • Wall St.
October 12th, 2009
01:18 PM ET

Photo Gallery: Gay rights activists march in D.C.


Judy Shepard stood before a massive crowd at the Capitol on Sunday for a single, painful reason.

"I'm here today because I lost my son to hate."

Her gay son, Matthew Shepard, was kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998. He died five days later in a hospital.

More than 10 years later, Judy Shepard addressed the thousands of gay rights activists in Washington who wrapped up Sunday's National Equality March with a rousing rally at the Capitol. iReport.com: See photos from the march

"No one has the right to tell my son whether or not he can work anywhere. Whether or not he can live wherever he wants to live and whether or not he can be with the one person he loves - no one has that right," Judy Shepard told the crowd. "We are all Americans. We are all equal Americans, gay, straight or whatever."

Click here to keep reading and view the photo gallery...

Filed under: 360° Radar • Gay & Lesbian Issues
October 12th, 2009
01:06 PM ET

Nobel shows US is still dominant

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Kiron K. Skinner
Special to CNN

As an American of African descent, I swelled with pride when I heard that the Norwegian Nobel Committee selected President Obama to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The award further validates what the 2008 presidential election demonstrated: The United States is the most mature and fully functioning multi-ethnic democracy in the world.

Despite its emphasis on multilateralism, the Norwegian Nobel Committee's statement also recognizes the predominant power of the United States.

The accepted wisdom among diplomats is that the international system is multipolar because of the increasingly multilateral governance structure of the world's numerous international institutions. In reality, however, the United States is by far the single greatest economic, military and political power on earth. Furthermore, many international institutions are dependent upon the United States for their survival.

Keep Reading...

October 12th, 2009
12:45 PM ET

Buying time to save patients

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/10/12/cheating.death.bagenholm/art.bagenholm.rescue.jpg caption="Rescuers worked frantically to save Anna Bagenholm from a hole in the ice of a mountain stream."]

David S. Martin
CNN Medical Senior Producer

North of the Arctic Circle, the weather is unforgiving, the population is scattered and the distances are immense. At the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsø, the northernmost teaching hospital in the world, doctors routinely use a helicopter ambulance and fixed-wing plane to transport the most serious cases for care – or to bring emergency care to the patient. It’s all about buying time.

During a visit Tromsø, we shadowed Dr. Mads Gilbert, who heads the Department of Emergency Medical Services at the hospital, a small city surrounded by water and mountains. He describes trauma care in this part of the world as “cold, dark, distance and dangerous.” The cold poses its own challenges, and Dr. Gilbert and the team see a lot of hypothermia from ski accidents and people who’ve fallen out of fishing boats falling into the water.

Dr. Gilbert was on call 24 hours a day all week when we were there. He is 62, a rangy man with the energy and enthusiasm of someone half his age.

“What we do with emergency medicine — be it airway breathing, chest compressions, bleeding control, treating hypothermia — is to slow or even stop the death process. So it’s really the struggle between life and death and I always feel like we’re standing on the shore with the tide coming up. We’re trying to pull people from the tide of death and onto the dry land of life,” Gilbert said with a flourish.

Hours after we arrived, his team scrambled in the middle of the night, putting on jumpsuits and helmets and climbing aboard the helicopter ambulance. The temperature was just a degree or two above freezing as the helicopter lifted off and a chilling rain soon began to fall. A young man was suffering from an uncontrollable seizure, and the local doctor wasn’t sure whether it was an allergic reaction or something more serious. The helicopter ambulance team brought the patient back to the hospital.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Health Care • Sanjay Gupta
October 12th, 2009
12:32 PM ET

'Sweatbox' borrows from long tradition that's difficult to emulate

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Emanuella Grinberg

The people who died Thursday at a spiritual resort in Arizona had spent time in a "sweatbox" similar to what Native Americans and other cultures have used for prayer and purification rituals throughout history.

And those who use them say they can be dangerous if care is not taken.

From Scandinavia to South America to Africa, people have come together in the sauna-like structures - typically heated by pouring water on hot lava rocks - for a variety of reasons, said Joseph Bruchac, writer and author of The Native American Sweat Lodge. He's part Abenaki, a tribe concentrated in the northeast United Staes, and part European.

"Each tribal nation has its own traditions, so one group might do it differently from another so you cannot generalize too much," said Bruchac, who runs an outdoor education center in Greenfield Center, New York.

In North America, most Native American tribes use the term "sweat lodge" to refer to a dome-shaped structure where the intimate ritual of the sweat takes place, said Bruchac, who has his own sweat lodge on his property in the foothills of the Adirondacks.

"Sweat lodges are typically used for a ritual preparation, like before a hunt, or nowadays, people might do it before a wedding or dance or some kind of community event as a way of putting yourself in balance," he said.

Bruchac noted that incidents like the one in Arizona tend to raise discussion in Native American communities over whether non-Natives should be allowed to adapt traditional ceremonies.

"It's a very meaningful ceremony. I can understand why people find it attractive," Bruchac said. "But I consider it sacrilegious and foolish to do someone else's rituals without proper guidance or practice, especially in sweat lodges where you're raising people's body temperatures. With that many people, oxygen is going to be depleted, and if you have heart problems or breathing problems, you could faint or die."

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Ethics
October 12th, 2009
11:52 AM ET

Map: Pakistan Swat Valley


At least 41 people were killed and dozens wounded in a blast Monday at a security forces checkpoint in northwest Pakistan, authorities said.

About 45 people were injured in the explosion in the Shangla district in the volatile Swat Valley, said Syed Altaf Hussein, a senior government official in the area.

The explosion targeted a military vehicle, officials said.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Pakistan
October 12th, 2009
11:35 AM ET

Earnings reports will influence markets, political debate

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/10/12/john.king.monday.memo/art.traders.gi.jpg caption="Earnings and consumer confidence reports will affect markets and indicate whether the economy is rebounding."]

John King
CNN Chief National Correspondent
Anchor, State of the Union

For a sense of the economy, it is a good week to track the earnings reports from Wall Street. And for the two biggest issues confronting the Obama White House - Afghanistan and health care - keep your eyes on Washington.

It was the collapse of the financial sector that played the biggest role in the economic turmoil of 2008, and several earnings reports in that sector this week are sure to influence both financial markets and the political debates over bailouts and bonuses. JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America are scheduled to report their earnings.

Consumer spending is another economic engine, and if there is early evidence of a rebound, the earnings from Johnson & Johnson and General Electric might provide clues, just as the numbers from Google and Intel will give a sense of the tech sector.

Washington celebrates Columbus Day on Monday, so the political week begins in earnest on Tuesday. The Senate Finance Committee likely will dominate the day as it votes on a 10-year, $829 billion health care plan.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Barack Obama • Economy • Health Care • John King
October 12th, 2009
11:27 AM ET

Morning Buzz: The meltdown of an American company

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/10/11/U.S.gay.rights.rally/art.gay.rights.rally.cnn.jpg caption="Sunday's National Equality March in Washington coincided with National Coming Out Day."]

Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

Randi Kaye is reporting today on the fate of a classic American company called Simmons Bedding. It was founded 133 years ago in a small town in Wisconsin but is now on the verge of filing for bankruptcy. Why? It’s been sold seven times in approximately two decades, most recently by a private equity firm that critics believe is responsible for its demise.

They say this firm loaded the company with debt and then lived off what it borrowed. While Simmons is in turmoil, the private equity firm has not only escaped unscathed, it has made a profit of $77 million dollars. So how did this happen? And does it reflect certain loopholes in the regulatory system? Randi Kaye is keeping them honest tonight.

Happy Columbus Day everyone. The halls of Congress will be relatively quiet for the federal holiday but tomorrow there will be no holding back on the health care debate. Members of the Senate Finance Committee plan to vote Tuesday on their version of the health care reform bill.


Filed under: Eliza Browning • The Buzz
October 12th, 2009
11:21 AM ET

Dear President Obama #266: When is a good time for gay rights?

Reporter's Note: President Obama has promised to be a fierce advocate of gay and lesbian rights. So far, a lot of gays and lesbians are not so convinced; the subject of my daily letter to the White House.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/10/11/obama.gay.rights.reax/art.obama.hrc.gi.jpg caption="President Obama speaks to a major gay-rights group Saturday night in Washington."]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Point of reference before I say anything else: My wife and I were unpacking our Halloween decorations this afternoon when my brother called. He and I launched into a long discussion, one thing led to another, and now I am seated in the kitchen writing this letter in full pirate regalia. I’ve been answering every question for the past hour with “Arghhhh,” and the girls have all about had it with me. I, on the other hand, am having a blast. Ah, the joys of Halloween season. Putting on a costume for a few hours and pretending to be someone else is a lot of fun.

BTW: I bet it will be a hoot for you to see all those kids in latex “you” masks running up and down the streets on Halloween night. If I were president I’m pretty sure I’d crash some costume party, just to listen to people carry on about what a great disguise I had. Ha! But maybe not. You politicos are accused of putting on false faces all the time as it is. A case in point: Your relations with the gay and lesbian communities. Tens of thousands of them marched on the Capitol over the weekend demanding marriage rights, equality, and an end to the military’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell rule. And more than a few think that you are talking the talk, but not walking the walk of being on their side.

Gay rights is an admittedly tricky area because we, as a nation, still haven’t decided where we stand on such matters, yet people are passionate on both sides of the issue. I can understand how any president would be wary of taking decisive action, knowing the political firestorm that will certainly follow. Without question, you could be greatly distracted from your ambitious agenda if you engaged in a political fistfight over gay rights at this moment, and I’m sure you have plenty of advisors who have given you just those words of caution.


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