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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Blizzard Strands Air Travelers; Pilot Whistle-Blower Being Punished?; Death Panel Debate Reemerges

Aired December 27, 2010 - 22:00   ET

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


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Randi Kaye here sitting in for Anderson tonight.

We have got late word about flight delays across the country from the big blizzard.

Also tonight: He calls himself the "Patriot Pilot." He says he's being punished for videotaping what he calls major flaws in airport security, ones that let some people bypass checkpoints that you and I and pilots have to go through. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Later: new information in the mysterious death of a model at the mansion of a brand-name beer tycoon, August Busch IV. There's a 911 tape out, and you will hear it tonight -- "Crime & Punishment."

Plus: extreme living. We will introduce you to Scott Jurek, who treats a marathon like a walk in the park. He's on his feet racing 150 miles at a time. 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta tells what inspires Scott to run.

A quick word first on the blizzard that pounded the Northeast and has stranded thousands of air travelers around the nation. Thousands of flights have been canceled. New York City's three major airports were closed for much of today, although they reopened this evening. And there were major delays in Philadelphia and at Washington Dulles as well, with some travelers not able to get flights out until Friday.

We will have more on the blizzard in just a few moments.

But, first now, "Keeping Them Honest": new questions about airport security. These questions are being raised by a pilot who says he works for a major airline. He says the Transportation Security Administration,, the TSA, is not protecting the flying public, that while passengers and flight crews are subjected to pat- downs and body scans, ground crews are not.

So, anybody on the tarmac could put explosives on a jet. His name is Chris Liu. And, until tonight, he kept his identity a secret, for fear he might lose his job. To prove his point, Liu took his cell phone camera around San Francisco International Airport to show what he says are loopholes and lapses in security.

He also narrated what he shot and posted it on YouTube late last month. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS LIU, WHISTLE-BLOWER: If anybody recognizes this terminal, this is obviously San Francisco.

As you can see, airport security is kind of a farce. It's only smoke and mirrors, so you people believe that there's actually something going on here.

Folks -- well, folks, I just wanted to give you an idea of what type of security for the ground personnel there is. This is their screen. As you can see, there's only a card-slide and one door. So, when you see a cart, those carts aren't screened at all.

There's no screening here. There's no TSA here. And right here is the sign, "Think Security."

Well, I don't think there's much security here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: The management of San Francisco's airport did not take Liu's accusations lightly.

In a statement, it said, the YouTube video, which has since been removed -- quote -- "presents false and misleading information on SFO's security program. It goes on: "The video shows a door with a card-swipe and suggests that access is gained to the airfield area through this door. In fact, the door shown in the video provides access only to an employee lunchroom."

The statement goes on to say that there are multiple layers of security at the airport and passengers don't see a lot of it.

The TSA issued its own statement backing that up -- quote -- "As to access control at SFO, TSA is confident in the tools the airport has implemented and reminds passengers there are security measures in place that are both seen and unseen."

Prior to this, incident Chris Liu was part of a program developed by the TSA that permitted him to carry a firearm in the cockpit. But, earlier this month, federal and local law enforcement officials showed up at his California home to retrieve his gun and his badge.

He calls it punishment, retaliation, for pointing out serious flaws in airport security. The TSA says it holds members of that program to the highest ethical standards and goes on to say that officers must be able to maintain sensitive security information, and that it reviews each possible violation of those standards, and act accordingly.

Some also question Liu's decision to post his video online, where everyone can see it, including terrorists.

Joining us by telephone tonight is pilot Chris Liu and Don Werno, attorney. Good to have you both with us.

Chris, let's start with you.

What led you to post your video on YouTube? I know you have real concerns, obviously, over security. But posting it on the Internet for everyone to see is a pretty bold move.

LIU: Well, I saw a potential problem, and I didn't script the video. I just wanted to address it.

So, I just posted it on YouTube, and not knowing TSA was watching. And, also, Janet Napolitano did say, if you see something, say something.

KAYE: But there are critics out there who say that you have exposed flaws that, while you thought it was important to expose, they -- they do endanger airport security, that terrorists can now get ideas from your video.

What's your response to that?

LIU: Well, I think they already know, personally.

But, Don, do you want to interject?

DON WERNO, ATTORNEY FOR CHRIS LIU: Yes, I think it's disingenuous to suggest that we're showing anything that the public doesn't already know. We can all go into a terminal with a video camera and take that same footage.

And if we're taxiing on an aircraft, for example, we can take more footage on the other side. So, the real secret here is that nobody is looking at the ground crews and securing the airport.

KAYE: Well, anyone can take the video, but -- but you think it's OK that you have posted it online?

WERNO: Well, we have to ask ourselves, aren't we having this discussion because we have discovered that TSA isn't looking at the ground crews?

And if we really want to have a discussion about a comprehensive security system, don't we have to include all parts of the airport, and not just the terminal? Because, clearly, that's not happening now.

KAYE: And, Chris, let me got back to you.

What would you say is the most alarming part of the video that you wanted to show the public?

LIU: Well, I just wanted to show that disparity between what was going on upstairs with body scans and downstairs. I think there should be a balanced layer of security. And the ground crew, you know, I -- I want to make it perfectly clear that I have nothing but respect for the ground crew and everybody that works at the airport. But we -- you know, we're all a team, and our goal is to protect the American public.

KAYE: Let me play a portion of your video. And we will talk more right after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIU: Well, folks, I just wanted to give you an idea of what type of security for the ground personnel there is. This is their screen. As you can see, there's only a card-slide and one door.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Now, Chris, the San Francisco International Airport said that your video is false and misleading. Those are their words. They say the door that you showed in that video is actually a door to a lunchroom.

How would you like to respond to that?

LIU: Well, the real thing is not the door. It's -- I have been to hundreds of airports, and I have seen basically the same thing.

And, Don, would you like to comment?

KAYE: Well...

WERNO: Well, it's interesting. There's a -- somebody who was filmed by Sacramento News 10 who's been on the airport for 45 years who -- who said that absolutely what Chris had to say was true.

We have also heard from hundreds of pilots -- I won't say hundreds -- a lot of pilots -- who all have confirmed the same security problem exists. You know, I would say that San Francisco has a vested interest in spinning the story, because they have a security problem. And it's a diversionary tactic.

The issue is and the reason we're having this discussion and it's an international story is that pretty much everybody knows that we're not doing the job that we have to do and we're not screening the ground crew. So, we can -- we can make all the diversionary tactics we like.

The problem is the problem, and it's not going to go away because we argue it's a lunchroom vs. a different door.

KAYE: And, so, Don, where do you go from here? I mean, Chris is no longer a federal flight deck officer, and you have already written that letter to Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security about the security flaws. So, what's the next step?

WERNO: Well, what's interesting is -- is Janet Napolitano was on a news show a couple of days ago, and she took the time to try to explain away a gaffe that happened on a show that Diane Sawyer had with the national intelligence director not knowing some significant intelligence issues.

You know, she needs to be taking her time and addressing the issue that America and the world want to know. And that is, why aren't we looking at every single box, bag, and tool chest that comes on to the airport? The airport has to be a secure area, like a clean room, and everything that has to come into the clean room must be sanitized.

We're not doing that. And, really, TSA has spent billions of dollars to try to give us the impression that we're secure. And we're not. Just in October, there was a major drug bust on the airport in Puerto Rico where they were smuggling drugs on a commercial airliner. If you can smuggle drugs, you can smuggle bombs.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE: And, Chris, I assume that -- I assume that's your concern, Chris, since you're zeroing in on the ground crew there and how they don't have to go through the same screening procedures, that you're concerned that a ground crew member or someone posing as one could get something on an airplane?

LIU: Yes, ma'am.

And they don't have to go through the same screening as people upstairs, but there's -- there should be a balance, effective and efficient screening.

KAYE: And I understand, too, that the TSA sent four air marshals, two deputy sheriffs to your home to confiscate your weapon before you even resigned.

Do you think they were trying to send you a message, in response to you posting the video?

LIU: I don't know. What do you think?

KAYE: Well...

(LAUGHTER)

KAYE: ... that's for you to answer.

(LAUGHTER)

WERNO: Interesting. We have learned that it was two federal air marshals and two members of an antiterrorism task force, which is -- which is really surprising.

Where are the terrorists in this picture? They're certainly not at Chris' house.

KAYE: Yes, and we're -- and we have that video there of -- of the scene in the driveway playing out that you also recorded on -- on video.

So, Chris Liu, Don Werno, thank you, certainly, for bringing our attention to this matter. And I'm sure you will keep us posted on -- on any updates. Thank you so much.

Let us know what you think about this. Join the live chat now under way at AC360.com.

Up next: more on a winter blast that packed all the power of a hurricane -- details from Chad Myers.

Plus: some amazing video of the snow piling up and up and up that you just can't take your eyes off of.

Later: what critics call death panels and others call letting Medicare pay for counseling a lot of people say they want, so they can make their last medical decisions clear ahead of time. It turned into a political battle last year. Now the fight could be back on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Well, you might not know it, but you're watching an experiment right now in how few people can put on a prime-time cable news hour. It's practically just me and the pizza delivery guy. Well, you know, we had to eat, right?

The few of us who stayed in town are surrounded by all this. And, because of all this, tens of thousands of travelers, including most of the staff, are stranded all across the country. And even though, as we mentioned, New York airports are back open tonight, the ripple effect means that some people might not get wherever they're going until Friday.

Before turning to Chad Myers for some truly amazing facts and figures, just take a look at this piece of video -- iReporter Michael Black (ph) sent it in, time-lapse photography as the snow started falling and falling and falling. You see that yardstick pop up in the background -- nearly three feet of snow by the time it stopped in some parts of New Jersey.

Forecasters predicted a monster. What they got was a mother of a monster and more.

Let's go to Chad Myers for the details.

Chad, I'll tell you, I woke up in New York City this morning...

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

KAYE: ... and heard silence...

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: Yes, right. KAYE: ... which was so nice, no traffic, no horns honking, what a pleasure.

MYERS: Don't you love it, how that...

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: ... that snow just absorbs all the sound.

KAYE: Yes. Takes a blizzard.

MYERS: It's -- it's really amazing.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: Yes, really.

Temperatures are cold tonight. Winds are still blowing, but the snow is done. The numbers you see here are the wind gusts: New York City, 26, Boston, down to about 38 miles per hour right now. So, it's done. So -- and the airports are open.

OK, a couple of them are still closed, Teterboro closed, and White Plains has a ground stop for a while. That's until about 10:30 tonight. But the lines now at the airport have backed up so significantly, every plane that was canceled today, about 1,000 of them, should have had, on average, about 200 people.

That's 20,000 people today that didn't get anywhere. That's what New Jersey looked like, people getting stuck, this guy with his four- wheel drive getting right over that with his Toyota Tacoma. And Philadelphia -- I wanted to see that football game last night.

I don't know if anybody else did, but I just wanted to see a snowstorm football game. But the NFL canceled it. And they will get to it tomorrow. I just love snowball. I grew up in Buffalo, so I get -- that's what I get.

All right, let's go to the maps and I will show you what I'm talking about. When we talk about the airports being open, it's all relative, because now La Guardia is open.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: Randi...

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: ... those are the planes that on the way to La Guardia right now. That doesn't look...

KAYE: What, is that two?

MYERS: ... very open.

(LAUGHTER) MYERS: Air Canada going from...

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: ... from Toronto, and there's an AirTran flight coming out of Atlanta right now. Those are the two planes that are still on the way.

Here are the flights that were canceled today: Delta, more than 1,000 flights, Continental, 900. Newark, a major hub for Continental, there's still not a plane in the air to or from Newark at this hour. U.S. Air, 800, American at 300, and JetBlue, 300 planes or more, and it's all because of this.

I will make it smaller, so you can see it. Newark had two feet of snow on the ground. You have to get all of that snow off the runway, off the tarmac, off the areas where the planes and the jets should go, and where your bags are going to go as well, obviously.

You can't get all of that out of the way at a time. So, here's our problem. We have 10,000 people that were -- or 20,000 people that didn't get to where they were trying to get to today. Now they're going to try to get on planes tomorrow. Those planes only have 10 empty seats. What are you going to do with 20,000 people trying to get on 10 empty seats, and then another 10 on the next plane and another 10 on the next plane?

It is going to be a standby nightmare at the airports tomorrow. And Martin Savidge, our Marty Savidge, was at Atlanta Hartsfield- Jackson tonight, and they told some of the -- the flyers there tonight that lost their flights today due to cancellations they would be re- booked on Saturday.

KAYE: Oh, my.

MYERS: That's next year.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: Randi.

(LAUGHTER)

KAYE: Happy traveling.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: Yikes.

(LAUGHTER)

KAYE: Oh, my.

MYERS: Right. Yes.

(LAUGHTER) KAYE: All right, thanks, Chad, for that.

MYERS: You're welcome. All right.

KAYE: And, as you said, New York took the brunt of it. It normally takes it in stride. Between the subways and utilities underground, show rarely sticks to the streets once they get plowed.

But, this time, it was snow, snow, more snow, and CNN's Mary Snow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cars buried in snow, buses stranded and abandoned. One even caught fire after overheating, New York City hammered with 20-plus inches of powder and drifts even higher, with winds gusting over 35 miles per hour, a ghost town above grown, a commuter's hell under it.

Hundreds of people were stranded on subways for hours. New Yorker Ross Den captured these images. Den says he and fellow passengers spent several hours on this subway, with no heat in freezing temperatures.

The mayor called the storm one of the most challenges New York has seen in a decade, adding, 911 emergency calls were running twice the normal rate.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Snow felt at -- fell at a furious rate of two or three inches an hour. The snowfall was so heavy and so fast, that crews who were concentrating on plowing highways and primary streets often had to re-plow them repeatedly just to keep them open.

SNOW: The powerful nor'easter delivered one of the most punishing blows to New Jersey. Almost two feet of snow blanketed the state, wreaking havoc on the few still trying to get to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been here for more than one hour. I got up at 5:00 cleaning my driveway. You know, it's -- it's a mess.

SNOW: The storm also slammed Connecticut, knocking out power to tens of thousands of residents. Massachusetts clocked the highest winds, with 80 mile-per-hour gusts in parts of Cape Cod that jut out to the Atlantic.

In some coastal towns, the storm caused dangerous flooding and fire. Exhausted travelers spent the night in airports and bus stations all over the Northeast, stranding many passengers for days because of the busy holiday season.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just talked to the guy at the desk. He said that they're all booked and that there's about 25 to 50 people on standby.

SNOW: Agony for many, but a thrill for some, who took the monster storm in stride.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't mind the weather. I think it's -- I think it's kind of nice. It reminds -- you know, it reminds me of the holidays.

SNOW: Mayor Bloomberg says, as bad as the storm was, it could have been much worse, had it happened on an ordinary school or work day.

Tomorrow, crews will resume the hard task of digging out cities and towns along the Northeast Corridor.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: Up next: the newly-released 911 call following the death of a beer tycoon's girlfriend. Why did police wait so long to release the tapes? And do they give any new clues about the untimely death of the 27-year-old former model? That's "Crime & Punishment."

Plus, critics call them death panels. Supporters say they are just the opposite. President Obama is bringing back the end-of-life counseling measures that were dropped from health care reform. We have got the facts to help you make sense of the fight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: New details tonight in the death of a former model at the mansion of her beer tycoon boyfriend, authorities releasing a 911 tape. And while there are no signs at this point of foul play , there's an air of mystery surrounding the sudden death of this woman.

Casey Wian reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than a week after Adrienne Martin, the 27-year-old girlfriend of brewery scion August Busch IV, was found dead in his Saint Louis-area mansion, police released have a 911 call made by an employee the 46-year-old Busch's home.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

911 OPERATOR: Emergency, 911.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we need an ambulance.

911 OPERATOR: OK, is that a residence or business?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Residence.

911 OPERATOR: OK. What's the problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This girl is not waking up. We can't get her to...

911 OPERATOR: Is she -- is she breathing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know. It's -- it's dark back here. I'm going to get a light and try to see.

911 OPERATOR: OK. All right. I will get them going right away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Thank you.

911 OPERATOR: All right. Thanks. Bye-bye.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WIAN: That call was placed at 1:12 on Saturday afternoon, December 19, according to the Frontenac, Missouri, Police Department. Paramedics arrived eight minutes later and pronounced the 27-year-old mother and former model dead at 1:26.

According to the police report, there were no apparent signs of trauma or other indications of cause of death.

Busch's attorney spoke with CNN affiliate KSDK.

ART MARGULIS, ATTORNEY FOR AUGUST BUSCH IV: There's absolutely nothing that indicates there's anything suspicious about this. It's just a tragic circumstance, a tragic death of a young -- a young lady, a very nice young lady, as a matter of fact.

WIAN: Martin's death marks the second time that a woman Busch was seeing has died. In 1983, while a student at the University of Arizona, Busch crashed his Corvette. His 22-year-old female passenger was ejected and killed. Busch left the scene and was later found bloody, dazed and with a fractured skull.

After seven months of investigation, authorities dropped the case because of insufficient evidence. In 1985, Busch was involved in a car chase on this highway with undercover narcotic detectives, who ultimately shot out his tire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The officers were almost hit by the -- Mr. Busch's car traveling at a high rate of speed west on Highway 40.

WIAN: Busch was acquitted of assault.

Busch was home on December 19 when Martin was found. According to the police report, there were no apparent signs of trauma or other indications of cause of death. Martin's ex-husband, who is a doctor, told "The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch" that she had a heart rhythm disorder that called long QT syndrome that, in some cases, can cause sudden death.

She had been dating Busch, the former CEO of Anheuser-Busch, for a year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was starting a new chapter in her life. She had just gone through a divorce, and she was ready to start things over again.

WIAN: Martin leaves behind an 8-year-old son.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's lost his mother right before Christmas, and there's no greater tragedy than that.

WIAN: Her obituary describes August Busch IV as -- quote -- "the love of her life."

(on camera): The Saint Louis County Medical Examiner's Office is investigating, but it won't have toxicology results for four to six weeks, and won't release any conclusions until then.

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: Coming up: our series "Extreme Living " and a marathoner who says 26.2 miles is simply not enough.

But, first, Joe Johns with a 360 bulletin.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Randi, a 360 follow tonight on a U.S. aide worker being held in a Haitian prison. Paul Waggoner was forced to spend Christmas behind bars after his hearing was delayed twice. He got a hearing scheduled for tomorrow.

Authorities jailed Waggoner earlier this month under suspicion of kidnapping a baby boy from the hospital where he volunteered. No charges have been filed. In fact, there's no evidence the boy was kidnapped. The hospital says the child died and was cremated because the father would not claim the remains.

The founder of WikiLeaks has reportedly signed book deals worth $1.3 million. "The Financial Times" says Julian Assange plans to use the money to maintain WikiLeaks and to cover his legal fees. The U.S. is reportedly considering prosecuting Assange for leaking foreign policy secrets through the Web site.

Hawaii's newly elected Democratic governor says he will do everything he can to resolve questions about President Obama's nationality. In his first on-camera comments about the so-called birther controversy, Governor Neil Abercrombie says he will try to release more documentation of the president's birth in Hawaii in 1961. The first family currently is vacationing in Hawaii.

And the founder of Playboy is tying the knot for the third time. Eighty-four-year-old Hugh Hefner is engaged to a woman 60 years younger than he is. Crystal Harris was the December 2009 Playboy Playmate.

For those who wonder about the obvious generation gap, we do know that Hef tweets. He posted on his Twitter account that, when he gave Crystal the ring, she burst into tears.

KAYE: Yes. (CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: So, a lot of caddy comments about that one.

(LAUGHTER)

KAYE: Oh, yes. I think Hef called it his best Christmas ever.

JOHNS: Hey, you know, if it's OK with them, it's OK with me.

(LAUGHTER)

KAYE: All right, Joe, thank you for that.

Coming up: You may have thought you would never hear the words death panel again. Well, the political battle over an obscure facet of health care reform is back.

Later, you will meet a man who is living his life to the extreme. He is an ultra-marathoner. He runs 150 miles at a time -- his extraordinary story straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Another "Keeping Them Honest" report tonight. The return of the controversy over so-called "death panels."

Once thought dead and buried, perhaps the most talked about and fought-over provision of President Obama's health-care overhaul is back and threatening to launch yet another firestorm.

Just look at these headlines. From the "National Review" to FOX nation, dire warnings that the White House plans to make death panels a fact of life and sooner than you might think. No doubt you might remember the death panel debate. It was one of the ugliest fights of the whole reform issue, with GOP critics ripping the president's plan as the next best thing to government-sponsored euthanasia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Death panels are the bureaucracies that President Obama is establishing that -- where bureaucrats will make the decision on who gets health care and how much.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There was a provision in the bill that talks about a board that would decide the most effective measures to provide health care for people. Doesn't that lead to a possibility, at least opens the door to a possibility of rationing?

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think people are very concerned when you start talking about cost controls, that a bureaucracy, we don't -- well, you're asking us to trust the government. We know people who said routinely, you're going to have to make decisions. You're going to have to decide. Communal standards, historically, is a very dangerous concept. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not in the bill.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: I was about laughed out of town for bringing to light what I call death panels. There's going to be faceless bureaucrats who is will, based on cost analysis and some subjective idea on somebody's level of productivity in life, somebody is going to call the shots as to whether your loved one will be able to receive health care or not. To me, death panel. I call it like I saw it, and people didn't like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Backed into a corner, the president did his best to calm voters' fears. End-of-life counseling, he said, was a voluntary way for patients, not the government, to take charge of their medical needs and have Medicare pay for the counseling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What you can't do -- or you can but you shouldn't do -- is start saying things like -- we want to set up death panels to pull the plug on Grandma. I mean, come on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: But his reassurances didn't work. Polls showed many older Americans believe government death panels were real. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation says some 30 percent still do.

So in 2009 Democrats dropped the end-of-life planning provision from the reform package altogether. Fast forward to Christmas day 2010, just two days ago, when this article appeared in "The New York Times," despite stripping end-of-life counseling from the health-care reform bill signed into law last March, the White House is moving forward with the plan.

As of January 1, the government will pay doctors who advise their Medicare patients on end-of-life care options. It's all part of a new Medicare policy folding what the government calls voluntary advanced care planning into each Medicare patient's annual checkup.

In other words, the White House is doing by regulation, what Congress could not do by legislation. But the White House is quick to deny credit. According to a spokesman, the end-of-life counseling benefit actually became law under President Bush. The only thing new here, the official says, is a regulation allowing these discussions to happen as part of the patient's yearly checkups or what they call "wellness visits." those are the facts. But what does it mean for your family's health?

Joining me now is Maria Cardona, Democratic strategist and one- time campaign advisor to Hillary Clinton; and Nancy Pfotenhauer, president of Media Speaks Strategies and former adviser to John McCain.

Nancy, we'll start with you. After all the heated rhetoric over these so-called death panels, how outraged will opponents of the health-care law be now that the Obama administration has found a way to bring back these benefits?

NANCY PFOTENHAUER, PRESIDENT, MEDIA SPEAKS STRATEGIES: Well, to use the president's language, this is something you can but not should [SIC]. do. This was rejected by Congress by the people's House when he had overwhelming Democratic majorities. America said "no." He's now doing a regulatory end-run on that.

Whether you agree or disagree with the sentiment of the American people it was strong. It was forceful. And Democrats, themselves, backed off.

So I think there will be a tremendous backlash. I think that's unfortunate, but I think it will happen.

KAYE: And Maria, why would you say the White House is so keen on giving credit for this provision to the Bush administration? What are they so worried about?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, it's a fact, but what we've seen, unfortunately, in this debate is that, you know, facts don't really matter.

But the fact of the matter is here, and you said it in your opening, Randi. This was something -- this framework was actually that was actually started and implemented under President Bush. So if opponents to this are now getting all riled up they need to go back and blame President Bush for this. That's No. 1.

No. 2, the brilliance of the coining of the term "death panels" is surpassed only in its complete and utter lack of intellectual honesty. Which is to say that there's no reality here. There's nothing based in fact in the term "death panel." It doesn't exist. It's completely voluntary. It puts power in the hands of patients which is where it needs to be.

KAYE: Nancy, would you like to respond?

PFOTENHAUER: Certainly. Name me a single country that has put this level of government intervention into their health care system when they did not eventually and up denying care?

They call it things like "comparative effectiveness research" in places like England and Germany, but what happens is they basically decide that, in order to lower costs, patients of a certain age, disability or with a certain illness, really shouldn't have certain treatment options available to them. That is not OK.

This is more than the camel's nose under the tent. And while I do believe that it's hyperbolic and agree that it's hyperbolic, the concern is legitimate. And the American people, particularly elderly Americans, are right to be worried.

KAYE: What we're talking about here is simply patients talking with their doctors about advanced-care planning and having the government pay for it. So what is so controversial about that?

PFOTENHAUER: What do you think they're going to be advising? Again, name me a country where you have seen this level of government intervention into the health care system when there weren't actual rationing that occurred?

Whether you're talking about back in Great Britain, when people over the age of 45 were determined to be no longer eligible for dialysis or when cataracts could not be replaced. Eventually, in order to lower costs, they get counseled -- people get counseled out of options.

And so the question is just -- why should the government be involved in this? It should be a private conversation between patients and doctors. There's no reason for the government to be having this level of involvement. And there's concern by the American people, and Democrats in Congress rejected it.

KAYE: Maria?

CARDONA: Randi, there's absolutely no government involved here. The conversation is going to take place between the doctor, the patient and his or her family, and it's a completely voluntary conversation that is one that, frankly, that we should all be having and not necessarily waiting until the end of life.

These are options that give families security. They lessen anxiety. They lessen depression. And importantly, they lessen the trauma of patients who, at the end of their life, too many of them have gone through procedures that are ineffective, that are harmful, and that are painful at a time when a patient should be at peace.

This gives them the opportunity to make decisions where they can understand what they're options are and empower themselves. There's no government involved here. That is a ridiculous accusation. And another myth. And this is something that completely empowers the patient. Where was the outrage when George Bush implemented it? Where was the outrage right then?

Let's not be hypocritical here.

PFOTENHAUER: Why on earth would government -- would Medicare have to sanction these conversations? What exactly is going on? It is a legitimate point.

And I remind you, Democrats in Congress, president Obama could not get this through when he had a huge Democratic majority. So why the back-end regulatory maneuver?

And unfortunately, I do think that it's hyperbolic. I do think it's been overstated but there's a genuine concern and I think the concern is legitimate. He is engendering distrust by going about it this way.

CARDONA: I would respond to that by saying reason this was taken out of the original bill is because clearly, the hyperbole that was happening on the other side and the complete myth and lies that were being spread was taking the focus off of the benefits of the total health-care plan, which gives 30 million Americans who currently don't have coverage, will give them coverage.

It will give -- will give patients again, the power of knowing what is going to be their health care plan now and at the end of their life and is, frankly, that many doctors and patients believe is the right thing to do. That is why they're going about it, doing it now through regulation.

But again, George W. Bush was the one who implemented this in the first place so let's not be hypocritical.

KAYE: We're going to have to leave it there. It was great chatting with both of you, sort of. I hope we continue this conversation another night.

CARDONA: Thanks, Randi.

KAYE: Nancy Pfotenhauer, Maria Cardona, great having you both with us.

CARDONA: Thank you.

KAYE: Up next, what pushes someone to take their body to the extreme? One man's story about being an ultra marathoner and how he goes to the limit and beyond.

Later, Kanye West losing control. He may not be our latest edition to the RidicuList, but he is a clue to who or what is on it tonight.

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KAYE: We're back tonight with the Best of the Best. Athletes who take their sports further and faster than any before them have dared. From the peaks of Everest to g-force speeds of NASCAR, these men and women, some barely in their teens, excel to the extreme. What's their secret? Dr. Sanjay Gupta finds out in this week's series, "Extreme Living."

He begins with Scott Jurek, an ultra marathoner, one who tackles races of more than 150 miles a pop and one of the fastest runners in race history. In a moment, Sanjay goes one-on-one with Jurek. But first, we go up close with the racer, an athlete defying all odds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scott Jurek has been called "the King of Pain" and the greatest ultra marathoner ever. Ultra marathons can be 125 miles longer than a typical 26-mile marathon.

Scott finished his first in 1994, and since then, he's dominated the sport. Today he holds records for races that cover more than 150 miles and last over 24 hours straight. A notoriously tough ultra marathon is the 135-mile Bad Water in Death Valley, California. The 2005, to get through the 135-degree heat, Scott was dunked in this king-sized cooler full of ice water.

Halfway through the race, he collapsed, and for ten minutes he didn't move. But he managed to get up and not only finish the race but shatter the course record.

Scott says it was his mother, Lynn, who taught him how to persevere. She died last March after living with multiple sclerosis for 30 years.

(on camera) So what propels you to be able to do some of these things? Running the distances you do? A lot of people wouldn't even dream of it.

SCOTT JUREK, ULTRA MARATHONER: I think for me it's that self- exploration, that idea of there's something out there and the desire to see what my body, what my mind and down to what my spirit can do.

GUPTA: Do you think anybody can do this?

JUREK: I think anybody can run an ultra marathon. I know that's...

GUPTA: Really? Because I was reading all about you, and the first thing I thought was, "I don't think I could ever do this."

JUREK: It really is -- I like to say that running an ultra marathon is 90 percent mental, and the other 10 percent, that's mental, too. So you know, really, somebody who has it in their mind that they can accomplish this can really do it. Maybe everybody isn't made to be a runner.

GUPTA: Were you always a runner? I mean, how did this start?

JUREK: For me, I actually used to hate running. I grew up hunting and fishing in northern Minnesota, and that really was where I got connected with the outdoors. And I had got interested in running through Nordic ski racing and had to get ready for the, basically, the snow season by doing some running on the ski trails.

GUPTA: You obviously do this competitively. What's the furthest distance you've ever run?

JUREK: The furthest distance I've run is 165.7 miles...

GUPTA: A hundred and sixty five...

JUREK: ... in 24 hours.

GUPTA: So tell me how that works. Are you taking breaks or what are you doing?

JUREK: So the more time I take breaks, the clock is always going, so the idea is to continue running throughout and as much as you can, because you only get 24 hours. And the only times I did stop were to go to the bathroom, basically, and even eating is done on the run.

GUPTA: Have you heard about the medical aspects of this? What have you been told.

JUREK: Well, I think it helps -- I'm actually a physical therapist, and so I know a little bit about the body. But you know, is it healthy to go that far in that amount of time? It's hard to say.

But the human body was built for endurance. If you look at our ancestors and what they did. I mean, even think of my great- grandparents and what they did for work out in the fields. And I think maybe our perception of what is normal has changed over the years. And I like to always refer to what people used to do.

GUPTA: You talk about exploration. And maybe, to some extent, exploring what the body can do. But at some point you made the decision to say, I'm going to go from someone who didn't like to run to racing in the hardest, presumably, running competitions in the world. Was there a moment when that happened for you and you said, "I can actually do this"?

JUREK: I think it was probably after my first 50 miler. After my first ultra marathon. I'd run a marathon and then a month later decided to do this 50-mile race. A buddy of mine, Dusty Olsen (ph), said, "You've got to try this out."

And at 20 years old, most -- most 20 year olds aren't thinking about running 50 miles, but after I completed that I said, of course, "Never again." But it was after a few hours, and I was like, "You know, I can -- I think I can be pretty good at this."

GUPTA: Are you competing when you're out there? Are you competing against the other racers? Against yourself? Running away from something?

JUREK: I like to say I'm trying not to compete. I'm trying to work with my body. I'm not competing against myself. Obviously, there's a clock out there. And I do use the other racers and the competition to push my body to that edge, because the competition really helps, you know, explore those boundaries. You know, what am I capable of?

GUPTA: When you watch this video over here, it's probably -- a little bizarre to watch yourself, but is there something going through your head at this point? What are you thinking about or focusing on doing something like this?

JUREK: Well...

GUPTA: Mile 107, I should point out.

JUREK: I'm not focusing on the fact that I have another 130 miles to go or another 30 miles to go after running 107 miles. But the main thing, I always say, is to try not to think. Because the more I think, the more I think about how hot I am, how much my legs hurt, and the goal is to really turn off that mental noise, so to speak, and focus on the simple tasks of, you know, I'm going to get to that next shady spot down the road or the trail. I'm going to get to the next aid station, you know, take care of my body on a food and hydration level.

GUPTA: You talked about your mom, as well. Is that part of the reason, as well, that you continue?

JUREK: Well, it definitely would drive me thinking about her. And at a very young age, I mean, she was younger than I am right now when she was unable to walk.

And it's -- it's pretty touching and moving growing up as a child and not seeing your mother being able to do the things that most moms can do in their 30s. And last year when she passed away in March, it was -- it was a really touching experience, and that really fueled me in setting a new American 24-hour record and running 165 miles in 24 hours. And, you know, I thought about her and how she had struggled with the disease like that and the fact that, hey, it's not too bad. I can keep going. I only have 24 hours of running to do.

GUPTA: Incredible. Scott, thanks again so much.

JUREK: Thank you for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: Tomorrow, more on extreme athletes with Jennifer Jo Cobb (ph), the fastest woman in NASCAR. That's "Extreme Living" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta right here on AC 360

Up next, if you thought you had a tough time today in the snow, imagine being stuck in the middle of an icy pond. We'll tell you the unusual way this cat was able to get back to shore.

And this Muppet knows it's not easy being green. He might want to share his secrets for keeping cool with the puppet who made our RidicuList tonight.

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KAYE: It's time for tonight's "Shot." Joe, you've got to check out this poor calf, stuck on the ice near Watonga, Oklahoma. The pilot of a local news helicopter used the wind, actually, from his helicopter's rotor blades to push the calf back to safety.

A pretty amazing story about an animal rescue on ice and that -- got us thinking -- exactly. The exact same pilot who used his helicopter, this time to save the calf, Joe, also saved a deer. Yes, a deer three years ago that was stranded on the ice. So mental note: you get stranded on the ice, you better hope that pilot is up in the air somewhere, right?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a novel idea. Great idea. Instead of running and roping and rodeo clowns...

KAYE: Yes.

JOHNS: ... just blow the calves around.

KAYE: And I love that shot -- I love the shot of the deer just sliding across the ice.

JOHNS: Amazing.

KAYE: Really great. Joe, thank you for joining us tonight.

Well, now, time to add another name to the RidicuList. Our nightly journey into the valley of the absurd or even the 1980s. Tonight, ALF.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL FUSCO, VOICE OF ALF: OK, where do you keep your casserole dishes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?

FUSCO: The cat won't fit in the toaster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Yes, that ALF, and, yes, he was quite the scamp. He did have the kind of street wise but loveable alien attitude that could really open up a big old can of laughter on a live studio audience. But no one is laughing now, so you might want to cover your ears and send your cat into the other room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FUSCO: Oh, boy, oh, boy! (EXPLETIVE DELETED) You're doing a good job, A.J. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Yes, it surfaced on YouTube and no, it's not pretty. The ALF no one knew. There's really no excuse, but let's be honest. There is an explanation. Fame is fleeting, and it isn't always sunny in Hollywood. People blow hot and cold. One day you're David Hasselhoff, and the next day, well, you're David Hasselhoff.

You could travel halfway across the galaxy to taste that bitter truth or just across the pond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM HENSON, VOICE OF KERMIT THE FROG (singing): It's not that easy being green. Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Kermit knew how tough a gig fame is. It made him sad, even as it turned his co-star into a monster and a binge eater.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Om, nom, nom, nom. Om, nom, nom, nom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, dear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Pressure, fame and the fear of losing it all. It does something to be to you. Some reach for food. Others, well, they grab on to anything they can.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KANYE WEST, SINGER: Taylor, I'm really happy for you. I'm going to let you finish. But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Kanye West at the MTV Video Music Awards. He couldn't stop himself. And whether it's Kanye on Taylor's mike or Tom Cruise on Oprah's couch or Mel Gibson and his cop who pulls him over, sometimes you just can't control yourself.

ALF, we understand. Really, we do. It's not that easy being brownish-orange. It wears on you. We get it. But ALF, you were supposed to be better than that. An Advanced Life Form, a pioneer on this planet. You knew what to say as a stranger in a strange land, especially with the cameras rolling and the mike open.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: See, ALF, that's what an alien says. He keeps it clean. He represents, or else, he takes one giant leap onto the RidicuList.

Serious stuff at the top of the hour, starting with the pilot who took this video. He says it shows a serious security problem at airports around the country.

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