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Scientists Discover Concentrations of Oil at Bottom of the Gulf; Pakistan Devastated By Floods; Critical Ocean Life Threatened by Oil on Gulf Floor; Medical Money Grab: Hospital Bills Inflated; Same Sex Marriages on Hold; Crash Miracles in Colombia; "When I Was Your Age..."; "A Constellation" of Oil

Aired August 17, 2010 - 07:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and thanks so much for joining us on this Tuesday, the 17th of August. So good to have you with us this morning. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kiran Chetry. We have a lot to talk about this morning, so let's get right to it.

New information this morning on the Gulf oil spill. Researchers in Florida discovering oil has spread further east than anyone previously thought, not on the surface, but all over the sea floor in small droplets along with the dispersants that BP pumped into the water. The mix, toxic to marine life. We have more details on a story you won't see anywhere else this morning, a CNN exclusive coming up.

ROBERTS: Wedding vows on hold again. An appeals court ruling same-sex marriages will not resume its plan tomorrow in California. And both sides say they're ready to continue their legal fight this morning.

CHETRY: Also, were these magic forceps? One woman who had surgery to save her vision, then getting quite a shock when she looked at her $13,000 medical bill, even more surprised when she heard the explanation behind it. Our series "Medical Waste" ahead.

ROBERTS: First, breaking news overnight from Iraq. A suicide bomber strikes outside a crowded army recruiting center in Baghdad. At least 48 people were killed, more than 100 others were wounded.

CHETRY: Police say hundreds of Iraqi men were signing up for military service when that bomb went off. Recruitment centers have been targeted in recent months as U.S. combat forces prepare to leave Iraq by the end of the month. We're going to continue to follow the story and bring you new developments as they happen.

ROBERTS: After 200 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, everyone was asking where did all that oil go? This morning we finally may be getting answers. University of South Florida researchers have discovered it on the ocean floor well east of the spill site and just 40 miles south of Panama City Beach.

CHETRY: They say it sparkles like a constellation of little dots when its hit by ultraviolet light, and the chemical mix of oil and dispersant said to be highly toxic to marine life. We're the first to get this new information to you this morning.

Our Ed Lavendera is live in St. Petersburg, Florida with more on this CNN exclusive. Good morning, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys. They're saying those toxic levels, the first time they've been getting these readings of toxicity affecting and dramatically reducing what they call the health of these microorganisms that are crucial to marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.


LAVANDERA: This is the Weather Bird two, a research vessel that has been used by the University of South Florida for the last ten days, investigating the oil spill. Some 13 scientists have been onboard and they're just now coming home to St. Petersburg.

LAVANDERA (on camera): What's in these containers right here?

DAVE HOLLANDER, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA CHEMICAL OCEANOGRAPHER: Water in here has been -- was collected from 50 meters.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): David Hollander was one of the lead researchers on the mission.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Did you feel like you were kind of on the verge of really getting a better understanding of what's going on underneath the water?

PROF. JOHN PAUL, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA MARINE MICROBIOLOGIST: I think we're adding to the puzzle. We're adding to the pieces of the puzzle.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Hollander and another expert on the journey, John Paul, sat down with CNN for an exclusive review of their findings. The USF scientists say they found toxic levels of oil and dispersants infecting marine organisms just 40 miles south of Panama City, Florida. The organisms and other microscopic bacteria in the ocean are the foundation of the food chain.

PAUL: What feeds and fuels the ecology of the ocean, and if those guys are in trouble, then the ocean is in trouble.

LAVANDERA: So far, federal government scientists have downplayed the impact of microscopic oil making its way up the food chain. This is what the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said earlier this month.

DR. JANE LUBCHENCO, NOAA ADMINISTRATOR: Fish will degrade that oil and process it naturally. And so it doesn't bio-accumulate. So it's not a situation where we need to be concerned about that. Over time it will be broken down. LAVANDERA: USF scientists tell CNN that's a short-sighted view of the danger. NOAA officials haven't responded to these latest scientific findings.

The ten-day mission in the Gulf of Mexico was a rocky voyage. Scientists were battered with 12-foot seas and strong storms, taking them within 25 miles of the deepwater horizon spill site. All along the way they found microscopic droplets of oil all along the ocean floor.

HOLLANDER: Here is a sedimentary record from an area 1,500 meters water depth adjacent to the Deepwater Horizon.

LAVANDERA: Using UV light on the sediment, the microscopic oil stands out easily.

HOLLANDER: You can see it all spread out all over. There is no reflections. This is all speckled, and when you turn off the light completely it looks like the southern sky.

LAVANDERA (on camera): It looks like a constellation of stars.

HOLLANDER: Looks like a constellation of stars.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But most troubling to David Hollander is evidence that the submerged oil is making its way through a region of the Gulf of Mexico known as the Desoto Canyon. The canyon stretches just east from the Deepwater Horizon spill site to an area south of Panama City.

LAVANDERA (on camera): So the concern is not only that you found the droplets of oil widespread but where you found it.

HOLLANDER: Yes, it's coming now into niece areas that are critical marine protected areas, critical habitats for commercial and recreational fish.


LAVANDERA: John and Kiran, the scientists tell us these are preliminary findings, but they felt confident enough to talk to us on camera about it. They will go into the lab this week and continue to do more specific and more intense studies on the data that they brought back from the Gulf waters. It will be interesting to see how this continues to play out in the weeks ahead. John and Kiran?

CHETRY: Whether or not we'll hear from NOAA about the results of their findings so far. Thanks so much, Ed.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Ed.

Coming up in just a few minutes time, what could this toxic mix in the ocean floor mean for the fragile marine ecosystem? We'll talk about that with Larry McKinney. He's the head of Texas A&M's Hart research institute for Gulf of Mexico studies. CHETRY: Another story developing right now, the devastating floods in Pakistan, a fifth of the country underwater, and now a second deadly wave is about to hit. Officials fear that millions, especially children, are at risk for diseases, waterborne diseases like typhoid, hepatitis, and cholera.

More than 1,400 people are known dead, 20 million either displaced, hurt, hungry, or homeless as a result of the floodwaters. Our Sara Sidner is in the Sind Province of Pakistan, and you saw the devastation firsthand, Sara. What is it like two weeks later?

SIDNER: It is still terrible here. We are in the city of Sukart, and in this area, some 250,000 people have been displaced. Now we hear from officials, we may be hearing that the rescue efforts are over, but the relief effort is extremely slow here, Kiran.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The flooding in Pakistan is still so expansive it's difficult to tell where the water ends and the sky begins. Search and rescue missions continue daily, this one by the Pakistani military.

Suddenly, on a tiny sliver of land, flood victims appear. They wade through floodwaters, their eyes fixed on a packed marine's hover craft as it arrives. These mostly women and children have been marooned here for two weeks now. They need everything from food to medicines.

"Look at our children. They are sick. Where can we go? We can't go anywhere. There is water all around us," this grandmother pleads. The other women in her clan chime in, spilling out their many woes.

The packed Navy special services group tried to accommodate with the small bit of supplies they have. It's not enough. But the main thing on offer, a ride to safety, these villagers refuse to take. They tell us they will not leave their land for fear their enemies in a neighboring village will snatch it. So the craft pushes off, a single flood victim aboard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are thinking that if they leave this area they will not be allowed to come back. That's also one of the reasons.

SIDNER (on camera): Pack police say they believe they've already rescued 25,000 people in 110 square kilometer area here. For those left behind, there isn't much help for them.

SIDNER (voice-over): In all, more than 200,000 people have fled or been rescued from this area. Some end up in government camps. Others have made their own shelters atop the official dam with very little help, fearing the next predicted wave of water officials say is rushing down from the north.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SIDNER: Distribution of things like food and water in this area that we've been able to see are very sparse and sporadic. What you're seeing sometimes are the few tents the government has managed to get to this area but a lot of people are simply living on the side of the roads and waiting for locals to throw bits of bread and cooked rice out from trucks where people scramble to get a hold of it. John and Kiran.

CHETRY: It sounds, the pictures are awful, but what you're saying is terrible. A lot of people here are wondering what about the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid pledged and given? Is it getting to the people who need it?

SIDNER: Yes. We should mention that the U.N. today had basically sent out an SOS asking for more aid, more funds to help Pakistan, talking about the fact that nearly a quarter of this country is affected by these floods.

One of the difficulties with dispersing aid to people and trying to get items to those in need is that there are a lot of bridges down, there a lot of roads are still covered in water now, almost three weeks since the initial flooding began. So there is a difficulty of distribution.

But I think there's also -- it's not very well organized. A lot of people are complaining that while they're on dry land they're just not seeing the kind of organized distribution of things like food and water they need to sustain their lives getting to those who need it the most.

There is a lot of frustration against the government here, a bit of frustration against the international community who seem to be a little less likely to quickly hand funds to this country for worries -- many different kinds of worries such as transparency. The government needs to provide more transparency, according to some opposition leaders here.

CHETRY: Sara Sidner for us getting a firsthand look at the devastation, thank you.

And to get more information on how you can help provide relief for the flood victims, visit our Web site CNN's "Impact your World" page at

ROBERTS: Also new this morning, President Obama may ease travel restrictions to Cuba. According to "The New York Times," the administration is planning to allow more Americans to visit the island on academic, religious and cultural trips. Last year the president made it easier for Americans to visit relatives who were living in Cuba.

CHETRY: A setback for same-sex marriages in California, a federal appeals court temporarily placing marriages on hold until December at the earliest. That's when the panel is set to meet again to hear arguments in the case. ROBERTS: The Bureau of Land Management plans to investigate this weekend's crash at an off-road race in southern California that left eight spectators dead. Fans fear that review could bring new restrictions that tame or even put an end to the sport.

CHETRY: Actor Mel Gibson walked away without a scratch after crashing his 2008 Maserati into a hill in Malibu Sunday night. Police say the actor was a gentleman and that alcohol was not a factor like in his 2006 DUI arrest. They also say he didn't appear to have been speeding.

ROBERTS: Nobody really has an explanation for how the car just left the road and hit hillside.

CHETRY: Maybe he was on the phone.


ROBERTS: A new dispute over who owns the statue of David this morning. It's the city in Florence versus Italy. Right now the Italian government collects the $10 million a year from visitors to Michelangelo's masterpiece. The mayor of Florence claims his city is the rightful owner claiming Florence's city hall commission paid for the statue way back in the 16th century.

CHETRY: Researchers discover a toxic mix of oil and dispersants on the Gulf floor, sea floor, some getting into critical areas to tiny ocean organisms that are at the bottom of the food chain. So how big could this environmental disaster still get? A CNN exclusive straight ahead. It's 13 minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Sixteen minutes after the hour. We're back with the Most News in the Morning.

University of South Florida researchers have discovered that oil from BP's 205 million-gallon spill is spreading along the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. They say dispersants that BP used to break up the oil did break it up into tiny little droplets and that those droplets sank to the ocean floor. And now it's threatening critical marine animals that are the very building blocks of the ocean's food chain.

Larry McKinney is the head of Texas A&M's Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. We've relied on his expertise throughout this disaster and he's with us via Skype from Corpus Christi this morning.

Larry, great to see you again. Just give folks as we give folks a look here at where this oil has settled in, it's in the Desoto Canyon which is east of the wellhead and just south of Panama City. Hoping to have a graphic of that. Maybe it will come up in just a second. How serious could this potentially be?

LARRY MCKINNEY, HARTE RESEARCH INST. FOR GULF OF MEXICO STUDIES: Well, and I do understand that the Florida State University findings are preliminary, but they do tend to support some of our greatest concerns about the fate of these underwater plumes that were discovered back in June, and that is that they could be picked up and this conveyor belt that is upwelling in Desoto Canyon and bringing this oil from the deep waters up to the shallow, and that seems to be what the Florida State folks are saying.

ROBERTS: Yes. The University of South Florida folks took a look at this, the effect on phytoplankton which we should point out, they're very, very, very tiny little animals but they are the very basic building blocks of life in the marine ecosystem. They showed a strong reaction to dispersants. Here's what the report said. Quote, "phytoplankton expressed a strong toxic response and dramatic reduction in phytoplankton health."

What could that mean for the future of fishing yard?

MCKINNEY: Well, of course, the phytoplankton are the basics of the food chain there. The good, of course, is this oil will not bio- accumulate into the larger organisms, but this is the basis of the food chain so if we're having toxic impacts there, then it does magnify -- not magnify but it does have effects throughout the food chain.

ROBERTS: Right. Now when we look at the topography of the ocean floor, you know, you have the continental shelf that comes out, and then it drops down into that Desoto Canyon which gets you into the extremely deep water in the Gulf. But right along that margin there where the continental shelf dips down into the deeper water, the shelf edge reef complex which is a spawning ground for a lot of commercial and recreational fish, the USF study said, quote, "These findings, although preliminary, suggest that subsurface oil may be emerging on to the west Florida shelf through the Desoto Canyon."

So this is not just restricted to the extremely deep water. There's enough welling as you mentioned before. How widespread could this become?

MCKINNEY: Well, it depends on how big those plumes are and how long they persist, but that conveyer belt moves water rather quickly. And so the fact that the Florida state folks are finding oil up on that shelf at the distance that they're finding it is disturbing from that regard. That means that that oil plume could be moving up on the shelf and that's sort of a worst case scenario. We would not like to see that at all.

ROBERTS: Now you mentioned just a moment ago, Larry, and this was backed up by the NOAA folks that it's very difficult for these dispersants or oil to bio-accumulate in the larger fish but it does accumulate in vertebrates like shrimp and the bivalves, like oysters, clams, whatnot. But is it close enough to shore that it could affect those animals?

MCKINNEY: Well, it certainly seems to be from the results because those grounds where they found the oil, those are very productive grounds. A lot of nutrients come in there, and its breeding grounds and those type of things. So the animal -- the small animals that are picking up the oil if they're consumed by larger animals, they can excrete the oil, these larger fish. But it does take energy and so it could have an impact on them.

ROBERTS: And this one other thing that's out there today. University of Georgia researchers according to the "Wall Street Journal" are contradicting the findings of the federal government as to exactly how much oil is still out there in the Gulf. Federal government said 75 percent of it had either been dispersed or evaporated or somehow had disappeared. The University of Georgia researchers crunched those numbers and found that in fact 79 percent of the oil, according to their calculations is still out there. UGA marine scientist Charles Hopkinson said, quote, "One major misconception is that oil has dissolved into water that is gone and therefore harmless. The oil is still out there and will likely take years to completely degrade." What do you believe? What do you think of that assessment?

MCKINNEY: Well, I've heard that assessment from others like John Kiefer (ph) of A&M. And so it seems to be -- there's certainly a controversy there but it seems quite believable. Unfortunately, that could very well be the case.

ROBERTS: All right. Larry McKinney, it's always great to catch up with you. Thanks for joining us this morning. Really appreciate it.

MCKINNEY: Good talking to you, John.

CHETRY: Well, it's kind of like having a steak at a restaurant instead of making it at home, I guess you could say. Is that really how hospitals are explaining some of the outrageous medical charges? Elizabeth Cohen has part two of an "A.M. Original," "Medical Waste."

It's 21 minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Coming up now at 23 minutes after the hour. A couple of medical stories that are making headlines this morning. A new study in the journal of the American Heart Association says more competitive and aggressive people may be increasing their risk of heart attack or stroke. Test showed that they had a greater thickening of the neck arteries compared to more agreeable people.

CHETRY: New York's in trouble.

Well, you've seen the ads all over the Internet, pure acai berry. Lose weight fast. Endorsements by Oprah and Rachael Ray.

Well, the Federal Trade Commission is now trying to shut down those companies saying it's all a scam. Customers were allegedly lured in by the promise of a free trial while they were getting charged as much as $60 a month despite attempts to cancel. Oprah and Rachael Ray say the companies use their names without their permission. ROBERTS: And chocolate for the heart. Another new study says middle-aged and elderly women may lower their risk of heart failure by eating -- there's the crucial part -- a small amount of dark chocolate every day. Doctors say one or two servings may actually lower the risk by as much as a third. For more on this or any other health story, head to

CHETRY: This won't help your heart. But we're going to show it to you anyway. It's what happens when you smoosh (ph) together mozzarella sticks and a grilled cheese sandwich. Well, you get the newest item on Denny's menu. It's the fried cheese melt debuting next week. It features four fried mozzarella sticks, melted American cheese, grilled between two slices of sourdough bread and, of course, if that's not enough for you, you get a side of fries, as well as a side of marinara. Denny's hasn't released how many calories is in it, but a review in took all the items, added them up and they say it's about 2,000 calories.

ROBERTS: Two thousand calories -- that's unbelievable.

Well, vows on hold this morning. Another setback for same-sex couples in California. A new decision standing in the way of weddings set to begin again tomorrow.

It's 24-and-a-half minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Top stories just a couple of minutes away now. But first, an "A.M. Original," something that you'll see only on AMERICAN MORNING.

We got a huge response when we first brought you our medical waste series back in March about the mind boggling prices that some hospitals are charging.

CHETRY: Yes. And today, we have the story of a woman. She's a doctor herself, and she needed surgery to save the vision in her right eye. Well, she couldn't believe her eyes when she actually got the bill. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us from Atlanta and she took this to the American Hospital Association. The response was a little surprising, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is a little surprising. You'll see it in the piece. The hospitals certainly have a lot of explaining to do. Why there's such an enormous mark-up on supplies they use every day.


COHEN: You recently had an experience when you were in the hospital that really blew your mind.

DR. LINDA BURKE-GALLOWAY, OUTRAGED BY BILL POST-SURGERY: Well, when I got out of the hospital and got the bill. Yes, I definitely had an alarming experience. I received my bill and noticed some items that were totally inflated. Forceps, 25 gauge disposable, $863.20.

COHEN: What went through your mind?

BURKE-GALLOWAY: I was outraged. I said, listen, I'm a physician. This is an instrument that you're going to throw away. And I encountered a very arrogant young man from the Billing Department who basically said when you sign consent for the procedure you allowed us to charge you anything we wanted to.

COHEN: And so you then went on the Internet to see what it would cost to get a pair of forceps from a medical supply company.


COHEN: OK. So let's -- come show me what you found.

BURKE-GALLOWAY: A forceps similar to the one I had, $192.

COHEN: You paid $863 --


COHEN: -- but you can go buy it from a medical supply company for $192.

BURKE-GALLOWAY: Yes. Yes. That's very troubling.

COHEN: Well, what I'm going to do is I'm going to go to the American Hospital Association. I'm going to ask them, please explain this markup to me.

BURKE-GALLOWAY: I thoroughly agree with that.

COHEN: So the mark-up on these forceps was more than four times what it would cost to just get it from a medical supply company. Why four times? Because people want that -- people want to know why.

RICHARD UMBDENSTOCK, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION: I think everybody understands the notion that when you buy something, let's say like a steak, and you want to have a really nice steak dinner at home. It's a lot less expensive to prepare it and enjoy it at home than it is out in the restaurant.

COHEN: If they want to charge you $863 for a disposable piece of equipment, they can do it?

UMBDENSTOCK: The hospital has to be able to bring in more money than it spends or it won't be there for the next patient.


ROBERTS: Let's look at that analogy. OK. You go to a restaurant. You want a nice bottle of wine. Typically, the mark-up is 100 percent. They double the cost. Even if they double the cost, they wouldn't even be anywhere near in the ballpark. I mean, patients obviously can't bring their own supplies to the operating room, so what do they do?

COHEN: No, you can't bring your own supplies because hospitals say, "look, we don't know if they're OK, if the quality control, infection control." Because you can just buy them. I went online and bought the same forceps that she used in the surgery. So the only thing that you can do is to do what she did which is to call the hospital and argue with them and there is a chance that they will reduce your bill somewhat. Maybe not for these forceps or for any particular supply, but maybe they'll go over your overall bill and reduce it. You never know until you try.

CHETRY: Yes, there's nothing that gets your blood boiling more than thinking about having to go back and forth with the insurance or the hospital. In your book "The Empowered Patient," you talked about what it is like to try to battle your insurance company. What do you do, you know, to get somewhere as opposed to just get angina?

COHEN: Right. Exactly. Well, I think what you have to do is you have to try to sort of take a deep breath and remember you're negotiating with two different people, you're calling the hospital and you're also calling the insurance company. Two different people. One thing that helps is if you get your insurance through your employer, ask your benefits department to help you out.

I know I've had to do this before, and they're very, very helpful. Insurance companies are more likely to listen to your employer because they represent a lot of money. You represent just one person. So if you get it through your employer as most Americans do, use that employer to help you.

ROBERTS: So what are you going to do with that lovely new pair of forceps?

COHEN: I don't know. I'm just going to carry it around. I mean, I must say when I saw the price, I don't know if I expected it to be gold-plated or what, but it's just a bunch of plastic. It kind of resembles kind of a ball point pen. So it's amazing that this cost, you know, 800 and something dollars.

ROBERTS: It's probably amazing that it even costs $180.

COHEN: Right. Exactly. That's true.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Elizabeth.

CHETRY: Keep it around in your purse. You never know when you'll need it.

COHEN: That's right.

CHETRY: Thanks, Elizabeth.


CHETRY: Well, tomorrow we take a look at a hospital that is actually saving, not skimping, on quality care. More than $1 trillion a year in wasteful spending. And some people are saying maybe the entire system could learn something from this hospital. We'll show you it tomorrow.

ROBERTS: Crossing the half hour here, this morning's top stories.

In Iraq overnight, a suicide bomber blows himself up in front of a military recruiting center in Baghdad. At least 48 people are killed. The death toll will probably go higher because more than 100 others were injured. A crowd of Iraqi men were in line to sign up for military service when the bomb went off.

CHETRY: Researchers at the University of South Florida say they've discovered that droplets of oil and dispersants are spreading east across the gulf floor closing in on the Florida panhandle. They say the chemical mix is actually settling into areas critical to marine ecosystems and that it's highly toxic to the smallest of marine organisms. We have a CNN exclusive report with more detail coming up.

ROBERTS: Actor Michael Douglas says he is very optimistic after doctors discovered a tumor in his throat. A spokesman for Douglas says the 65-year-old actor will undergo eight weeks of radiation and chemotherapy and the doctors believe he'll make a full recovery.

CHETRY: A whole new development in the fight for same sex marriage in California. A federal Appeals Court has stopped gay and lesbian couples in California from saying "I do" again.

ROBERTS: And that has a lot of weddings on hold this morning, as you can imagine. Many same-sex couples had already invited friends and family to celebrate with ceremonies booked for tomorrow. That's when the stay was supposed to expire. Dan Simon has got the latest on the emotional legal and moral fight.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, we're at San Francisco City hall where same-sex marriages were set to resume on Wednesday even while Proposition 8 is under appeal. As a matter of fact, the city clerk's office was planning to keep its office open longer to allow all the people to come in and apply for marriage licenses but that's not going to happen now. Mayor Gavin Newsom obviously a huge backer of same sex marriage had this reaction.


MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: If this was someone saying I can't marry someone I love that I've been with for 20 years and I was about to marry that person, at 6:00 this Wednesday, and now you're saying I can't? When just last week you said I could? I mean, think about honestly how that hits the heart.


SIMON: So here's what happened. The 9th circuit Court of Appeals has blocked a lower court's ruling saying those marriages cannot take place while Proposition 8 continues to make its way through the legal system. This obviously marks a victory for Proposition 8 supporters. A statement from, the defendant in this case, says "California voters spoke clearly on Prop 8. We're glad to see their votes will remain valid while the legal challenges work their way up the courts." And that last statement is the real key here. Proposition 8 continues to make its way through the legal system.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals saying that it will look at this case in an expedited fashion and you can expect the trials some time in December. Now, same-sex marriage supporters have the option of appealing this recent ruling to the Supreme Court but are choosing not to do so.

They've released a statement that says, "we are very gratified that the Ninth Circuit has recognized the importance and pressing nature of this case and the need to resolve it as quickly as possible by issuing this extremely expedited briefing schedule." The bottom line is things will remain the status quo here in California. The future of Proposition 8 remains uncertain.

John and Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: Dan Simon for us, thank you.

Well, still ahead, miracles happen. Passengers walking away from a crash that looked deadly. It looked like no one could have survived it as it turns out, one person did die but 130 others survived this Colombia crash. Now a lot of people are asking what caused that plane to go down? We're going to be speaking with retired commercial pilot Jim Tilmon, next.



CHETRY: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour right now. Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

A team of NTSB investigators is on its way now to Colombia to assist authorities there after that plane crash. Some people are calling it a miracle that anyone survived. The 737 went down in stormy weather yesterday. May have been hit by lightning. It broke into three pieces on impact but 130 people on-board survived, some literally walking away from the wreckage. The one fatality was a heart attack and it happened after the crash.

Jim Tilmon is a retired commercial pilot. He joins us this morning from Chicago. Thanks for being with us this morning, Jim.


CHETRY: What was your first reaction when you take a look at those pictures and you see the plane literally split in half, you know, the nose facing one direction, the tail facing another?

TILMON: Well, you know, when you think of the classic crash, you think in terms of the nose hitting something. The airplane flying into something. We didn't see that out of this accident. What I can see from the wreckage, it looks like they just hit really hard, almost like a pancake, just straight down. This of course brought us a very, very good scene in terms of any fatalities. Injuries were due for a high impact landing as opposed to running into something.

CHETRY: Right. Usually, you hear as you said, first of all the crumpling of a plane if it does hit nose down. Secondly, you usually hear about fire that takes place, you know, in a crash landing like this. One of the generals of the national police in Colombia said it was the pilot's professionalism that prevented the plan from actually going off the runaway.

What do you make of the fact that I mean -- yes, it wasn't in one piece but it was there?

TILMON: Yes, you know, this was one of those things where it was almost just a matter of inches. I mean, he was so close to being actually, being able to put this thing on the runway and on the gear. But I think what we're looking at here is not lightning.

Lightning is a possibility? Yes. But I consider it to be relatively remote. I think we're more likely looking at wind shear or something of that nature or a microburst. Anything that would cause the airplane to suddenly just go -- on to the ground.

CHETRY: Right. So let's talk about some of the theories. There were reports of lightning strikes in the area at the time. We know there was a downpour, it was severe weather and some of the passengers actually reported feeling a blow. If lightning were to strike a plane and you say you've been in planes when lightning has hit it, it wouldn't be enough to do what you say happened here.

TILMON: No, I don't think so. I mean, lightning can change your attitude pretty fast because you get a loud bang sometimes and a flash, and that sort of thing. You might have some disruption of your avionics, your radio and all that, for just a brief moment. But it really is very, very unlikely that lightning would bring an airplane down.

CHETRY: So you talk about wind shear being a likely potential factor here. What exactly is wind shear? What does it feel like when you're in the air?

TILMON: Well, from the pilot's perspective, it's a kind of sudden change in the characteristics of flying. Let's face it, your air speed is what keeps you in the air and if you are flying and you have a headwind, let's say, of 35 knots and you're relying on that for your approach and everything else, and all of a sudden, the wind really shifts. I mean, really shifts. I mean that's why they call it a shear. So rather than having a 35 knot head wind, you may end up with a 35 knot tailwind.

And that's a very important situation in terms of your ability to stay on track and on a glide slope and land the airplane properly. So these things happen very, very abruptly. Most pilots have been trained to prepare for this and understand that in thunderstorm activity, it is likely to happen so be prepared.

CHETRY: As we understand it, they can develop underneath the thunderstorm, the wind shear, these violent shifts in wind direction and it can actually cause you to suddenly lose lift which may have indeed been the case here. As we understand it, they've made a lot of advances technologically speaking, equipment both at airports and also on board the plane to try to I guess detect and avoid if necessary. What may have happened here? Did it simply come on too suddenly or were there potentially maneuvers to get away from the wind shear?

TILMON: Well, yes. I mean, you've explained it very well actually. The thing is that it's timing. Timing means everything in this situation. If this had happened maybe a few minutes or even seconds prior to or afterwards, we may not have this accident to talk about. But this happened at the worst possible time because when you're close to the ground you don't have any room to maneuver or to correct.

If you have a little altitude, you can add enough power to bring the airplane back in to the normal flight regime. The problem with this one I think is that this happened at the worst possible time.

CHETRY: And, but again, as we saw, obviously something went right in that he was able to land the plane. Made it on to the runway. And while you see it was broken apart, many everybody on- board survived.

TILMON: Yes. I agree. The pilot's skill did play a role in this. I can tell you if you've ever flown through wind shear, you feel like you have lost control and it's very, very difficult to be able to maintain heading and to maintain your track for your glide slope and everything else.

You can lose it pretty fast and it happened so rapidly, I think in this case, he never had the chance to do anything except struggle to keep the airplane from having a worse situation than what it did. I think he did a good job actually from what we could see. There is a lot we got to learn. We don't have the box now to (INAUDIBLE) but we have something much better. We have an interview with the pilot which is going to give us some information that likely we would not get under other circumstances.

CHETRY: Yes, you're right. A firsthand accounting of what may have gone down. Jim Tilmon, retired commercial pilot, founder of the Tilmon Group, thanks for joining us this morning.

TILMON: Thank you, Kiran.


ROBERTS: Do you wear a wristwatch? Ever mailed a letter? Ever handwritten a note? Not the Class of 2014. A snapshot of a new world view coming from the incoming freshman class up next.

And heavy rain with flooding potential. Plus, gone but not forgotten. Memories of tropical depression five still very much in people's minds. Rob Marciano has got the weather forecast coming right up.

Forty-five minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: (INAUDIBLE) Nashville this morning, where right now it's mostly cloudy and kind of muggy, 72 degrees. Later on today, high of 91, and watch out for those thunderstorms in Music City.

CHETRY: Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Rob Marciano checking things out for us weather-wise. Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Guys, yes, we've got a little bit of a wet pattern setting up for spots and fast-moving systems that will be traversing across the country, the southeast, the Central Plains, those all gets potentially to the east. And also the monsoon is set up and there was pretty heavy-duty rain yesterday across parts of Arizona.

Check out some of these flood -- flood video out of Flagstaff. What happened was they had about a half-inch to an inch of rain over an area that -- that burned last month. So a wildfire burn area, and that just sent all the mud cascading down in and around the outskirts of Flagstaff. So that was a nasty situation there and that will be an ongoing threat, I think, as we go through today.

Yesterday, we had some intense thunderstorms roll through the I- 95 corridor. They probably slowed you down yesterday afternoon and last night, some producing some damage. But they are moving offshore and today should be a fairly tranquil day for the New York City area.

New Orleans, this is leftovers of tropical depression number five. It continues to make inroads, but it will bring heavy rain to this area. Flood watches are out. Three to six inches of tropical rain will be in the forecast for Gueydan (ph) and parts of Southeast Louisiana.

The heat from Dallas to Houston and Corpus Christi, this is the only area that we're seeing it. So that's good news. It's beginning to wane just a little bit.

In Atlanta, you'll see 30 to 60-minute delays, Houston 30 to 60- minute delays. And temperatures in Kansas City, 75. Last week we're talking about 95 to 100, and 89 degreed expected in New York City, 84 degrees in Atlanta. So starting to cool down just a little bit.

But if July felt hot to you, you're absolutely right. Here's the -- here's a map from NOAA, and basically here's the world. The U.S., Europe here. Any time you see a red dot, that means that temperatures were above normal. A big red dot like in Russia, Western Russia, really above normal. Parts of the East Coast of the U.S., really above normal, West Coast just a little bit above normal.

But, generally speaking, the land -- the land and sea temperature combined is the second warmest on record. But just the land temperatures, the absolute warmest July on record, almost two degrees Fahrenheit above normal. So, hopefully August will be a little bit cooler. I don't see how it could be warmer. But July was certainly one to sweat one out in parts of Europe and certainly on the East Coast.

John and Kiran, back up to you.

ROBERTS: And yesterday here in New York as well. It was like being in a steam bath even though the temperature's coming down, oh, so slightly.

MARCIANO: It's tough to escape it in New York, that's for sure.

ROBERTS: That's for sure. Thanks, Rob.

MARCIANO: All right, guys.

ROBERTS: Every fall, Beloit College looks at its incoming freshmen class and tracks how much life has changed over the years. Well, this is going to make a lot of us feel awfully old.

When you talk about telephones, these 18-year-olds from the Class of '14 don't think about anything with a cord. It's all about the cell phone.

As for Clint Eastwood, he's the Oscar-winning director of films like "Million Dollar Baby" and "Letters from Iwo Jima", not the guy who said, "Go on, punk. Make my day."

If you need to know what time it is, by the way, no, none of them wear wristwatches, or very few. Most of them check their cell phone for the time. And, yes, they've always had 500 cable channels, but there's still nothing on TV.

CHETRY: Wow. So they can teach a history class about what we grew up with.

ROBERTS: Can you imagine? The days when there were no fax machines or laptop computers.

CHETRY: No. They don't even use fax machines now. They just scan their -- scan the documents and send them.

ROBERTS: Life is getting a lot easier, but far more distractions than there ever were before.

CHETRY: Oh, yes. Well, there you go. I guess they don't -- I mean, we can't even get -- they don't even know a Sony Walkman, I'm sure, back in the day, carrying around a little cassette. Remember that?

ROBERTS: I remember eight-track tapes.

CHETRY: Yes! Eight-tracks. Man. Times have changed.

Well, this morning's top stories just minutes away, including two presidents and two wars. Now Defense chief Robert Gates says it's time for him to take a permanent break. What will the war in Afghanistan look like without him?

ROBERTS: Plus, the fundraiser-in-chief, the president, raking it in for Democrats running for office, but some voters are saying he should be more worried about their money.

CHETRY: And prescription broccoli? How doctors in Massachusetts are really trying to help people eat more fresh vegetables by writing them a prescription for them. How that's working, coming up at the top of the hour.


CHETRY: Who's the one who didn't even get up for the wave. He just sort of half-heartedly threw up his hands.

ROBERTS: Yes. That would be Phil (ph).

CHETRY: Fifty-five minutes -- come on, Phil (ph). You can't even get up for the wave?

Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. There you go. Better late than never.

Fifty-five minutes past the hour. Time for your "A.M. House Call", stories about your health, and a new report of a devastating toll of cancer. The American Cancer Society says the disease is now the world's top economic killer, costing $895 billion in productivity in 2008 alone, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the world's GDP.

It also says the amount of money that we spend to fight the disease is way too low considering cancer's impact.

ROBERTS: And a warning going out to all Facebook users this morning. This isn't necessarily medical, but it is something to be concerned about.

There's a new scam that's making the rounds. It involves those dislike buttons that pop up on your pages. Whatever you do, you see a dislike button on your Facebook page, don't hit it because it's a fake.

CHETRY: Yes. The networking site says that the rogue feature tries to trick members into giving permission to access their profile pages, and once that happens you can allow access to your personal information, among other things. Facebook says it's now working to disable that application.

ROBERTS: Everybody is trying to scam you.

It's 57 minutes after the hour. The top stories coming your way right after the break. Don't you go away.