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CNN NEWSROOM

New Defense Secretary Visits Iraq; Authorities Reclassify Mount Hood Search as Recovery Effort; Blizzard Blasts Colorado

Aired December 20, 2006 - 15:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm T.J. Holmes, sitting in today for Don Lemon.

A last-ditch effort over Mount Hood -- this time, the sheriff flies recon, in search for two missing climbers. We will have an update.

PHILLIPS: In Denver, it's coming down hard, and it's sticking. Is this blizzard barreling toward your town?

HOLMES: Plus: Working on Wall Street means living on easy street, thanks to some bullish holiday bonuses. I am in the wrong business, but you are in the NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Happy last day of autumn. It's snowing so hard in Denver, you can barely see where you're going.

Reporter Dave Young of CNN affiliate KWGN is right in the middle of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVE YOUNG, KWGN REPORTER: Well, conditions in Denver have continued to deteriorate all morning. It began very early this morning.

And, as you can see by the highway behind me here, by mid- morning, things had gotten really bad, and are expected to get really worse as the day goes on. In fact, they're calling for as many as two to three feet of snow in the Denver metro area. Flights are being canceled at Denver International Airport. Several major arteries in and across the street are closed due to be blowing snow and blizzard conditions.

The wind-chill factor is around single digits. And this moisture is bringing some much-needed relief to what has been a parched Denver metropolitan area for most of this winter. In fact, we have been on track to tie the driest year on record in Colorado this year.

So, this big storm, while causing lots of problems, especially with holiday plans, many of them being canceled for folks who had planned to either dry out of state today or fly out, those folks will not have such a merry Christmas, at least in the short term, until these flights can be caught up.

In the meantime, more snow expected for the next 24 hours in the Denver area.

I'm Dave Young, reporting just south of Denver.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Well, the lesson here is, get out the snow chains.

A major winter storm is plowing through the Plains.

Reynolds Wolf, in our Weather Center watching the snow pile up, what do you think?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I think this is crazy.

This is just a big area of low pressure that is just on one side of this big storm system. We have got some scattered showers and storms on the other side. You have got the heavy snow that we have been talking about in Denver.

Here are some live images that we have. This is near Mile High Stadium. You can see right there, there it is. There's the bronco right there that you see right near the scoreboard. And, sure enough, the flags are flying. And it is just coming down like crazy, again, anywhere from one to two feet of snow, some places possibly up to 30 inches of snowfall.

But that's not all. Then, you have the wind on top of it, which means all that powder is going to pile up in many spots. And that's going to cause all kinds of headaches easily through the rest of the day today, through much of tomorrow. But, then, as we get into Friday morning, we're expecting this to slowly begin to taper off. And then it's going to turn into primarily a rain event for the eastern third of the country.

Now, we have been talking about this from high above. Let's take you down to what's been happening on the ground below. We're going to use our Google Earth and we're going to zoom into a spot. This would be Highway 36, where, earlier, we were speaking with Lynn Laszewski.

She was making her way on this thoroughfare, and she was having some rough times.

Lynn, I understand you are still with us?

LYNN LASZEWSKI, MOTORIST: Yes, I am.

WOLF: How are -- how are things now? Where are you?

LASZEWSKI: I actually made to the 25, and I'm downtown Denver.

WOLF: OK. So, you made it to the 25. You're in downtown Denver. I -- are you going home?

LASZEWSKI: Still trying to get there.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: Oh, you are trying to get home. So, you do live in downtown Denver.

(CROSSTALK)

WOLF: Now, normally, is this a normal route that you would take? Is this something that's common for you, to go this way?

LASZEWSKI: Yes.

WOLF: OK. On a normal day, tell me, how long would it take you?

LASZEWSKI: About a half-hour.

WOLF: And, then, today, how long did it take you?

LASZEWSKI: Well, it's two hours now.

WOLF: What I'm amazed by -- and I'm sure some of our listeners are, too -- is how calm and happy you sound. If it were me, half the hair on my hair would be gone. I would be going cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. All kind of patience to you.

Tell us, how are things downtown where you are at this point?

LASZEWSKI: Well, it's really poor visibility, because there's so much snow coming down, and it's so windy, like you said about the stadium there. And the traffic is moving, but the van in front of me is moving sideways.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: Moving sideways, moving sideways.

My advice to you would -- not to move sideways on the roadway. Stay away from that van in front of you.

Now, again, we had talked earlier that you have -- you grew up, I believe, in Wisconsin, or you spent some of your life in Wisconsin. So, you're not a stranger to driving in these kind of conditions.

LASZEWSKI: Right. Yes, I grew up in Wisconsin.

WOLF: And you also drove in parts of the Dakotas, I think you had mentioned that as well -- at one time. You said you have driven on rough weather in the Northern Plains before?

LASZEWSKI: Yes, I have been in South Dakota that was actually closed. I didn't know it at the time.

WOLF: OK, I'm with you. I have been in those parts of the world. And, during wintertime, normally, what I do is get a team of huskies, and I just yell Musharraf, and that's how I get through those conditions.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: Tell us, if you can, how does this compare to those other times?

LASZEWSKI: Well, I have four-wheel drive this time. And I'm really glad, because I don't know if I could make it with just front- wheel drive today.

WOLF: Lynn, you are a charmer. All right.

Well, thank you so much. You're a real trooper for dealing with me the last couple times. I'm glad you got to where you need to go safely. Take it easy out there.

And, for everyone who happens to be in the Denver area, drive safely, take it easy, and, if you don't have to, don't go anywhere. Stay inside. Have some cocoa, some coffee, and watch us here on CNN.

Let's send it back to you.

PHILLIPS: Or hook up with Reynolds and the huskies...

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: That's right.

PHILLIPS: ... and just say mush.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: I mean, come on, we have all done it before.

(LAUGHTER)

PHILLIPS: Exactly.

WOLF: Why not? Who needs tires?

PHILLIPS: Oh, Reynolds, you're killing me.

OK. Well, we got this video sent to us. I don't know if you have seen this or not, Reynolds. This is from Bob Cuomo. He shot it, actually, from the front door, his front door, in Fort Collins, Colorado. This is kind of cool. He's got the flag blowing. It's very patriotic. And it actually shows the snow blowing horizontally in this video, doesn't it?

WOLF: Yes. You know, it makes you want to salute with one hand and grab the snow shovel with the other one.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: I mean, it's -- this is what I was talking about, though. Even though, when the snow showers begin to taper down, you have all that loose powder everyone. And that is what is going to stack up.

In some places, it's going to stack up to five feet or so. So, it's going to be an issue. Some people are going to step out tomorrow and try to drive their car out of the carport, and they're going to have a wall of snow right there blocking them in, which is, all things considered, not really a bad thing. It's better for them to stay at home.

But, you know, we're going to see more of those images from people submitting those to I-report throughout the day. And what a story those images can tell.

PHILLIPS: Yes, we will keep showing them.

WOLF: You bet.

PHILLIPS: Reynolds, thanks.

HOLMES: Well, the new year will bring a new Iraq strategy from President Bush. At least, so we're told to expect.

Today, a year-end review from the commander in chief -- a news conference where the president conceded, things have not gone well in the war.

CNN White House correspondent Elaine Quijano, of course, was there.

Hello again to you, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, T.J.

That's right. President Bush today emphasized that his deliberations over what to do next about Iraq policy are ongoing, and he was very careful today not to reveal any hints about which direction he might be leaning.

Now, one option, of course, that we have heard about is a temporary short-term surge in the number of U.S. forces, particularly to help stabilize the situation in Baghdad. Now, the president was asked whether he would overrule his commanders on the ground if they opposed a so-called surge. He did not answer directly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me wait and gather all the recommendations from Bob Gates, from our military, from diplomats on the ground -- interested in the Iraqis' point of view -- and then I will report back to you as to whether or not I support a surge or not.

Nice try.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: The opinion of my commanders is very important. They are bright, capable, smart people whose opinion matters to me a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now, that is significant, certainly, because, in the past, when it comes to the question of U.S. troop levels in Iraq, the president has said repeatedly that he does, in fact, listen to his commanders on the ground, when it comes to that.

But, today, it seemed that the president was trying to back off ever so slightly from that. Now, of course, this news conference comes at a time when there is increasing political pressure on President Bush to change course on Iraq.

And illustrating that point today, a statement less than an hour after the news conference ended -- Senator Harry Reid's office released a statement, saying the president still did not understand the need for urgent change in Iraq, saying -- quote -- "The president lost within his own rhetoric. He's grasping for a victory his current policies have put out of reach, and leaving our troops stuck policing a civil war" -- end quote.

Now, of course, T.J., the White House has not gone so far as to call what the situation is in Iraq a civil war. At the same time, the president has called the situation in Iraq grave. And officials here have continued to emphasize the need to move quickly, they understand, when it comes to changes to Iraq policy, but they also say it must be done wisely -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right, our Elaine Quijano from the White House for us -- thank you so much, Elaine.

QUIJANO: Yes.

HOLMES: And, so far, we now know one thing at least about the new defense secretary, Robert Gates. He likes to hit the ground running. On the job less than three days, he's already on a business trip to Iraq.

And CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is with him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just three days into the job, Robert Gates emerged from a C-17 cargo plane after an overnight flight from Washington, and went straight into meetings with his top commanders in Baghdad -- the big topic on the agenda, President Bush's interest in surging tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops to try to bring the escalating violence under control in the Iraqi capital.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have discussed the possibility of a surge and -- and the potential for what it might accomplish. I think it's very important, in this case, to hear, above all, from the Iraqis and from the prime minister on how best we can help. MCINTYRE: General George Casey, the top commander on the ground in Iraq, says he has asked for more troops when he thought he needed them, and says he's open to a surge if the reinforcements have a clear mission that can be accomplished militarily.

GENERAL GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IN IRAQ: Three or four times, I have asked for additional troops. But they have been for a purpose. They have been for an election or to take advantage of an opportunity that was presented as a result of the operations in Fallujah. So, I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea. But what I want to see happen is when -- if we do bring more American troops here, they help us progress to our strategic objectives.

MCINTYRE: Even General John Abizaid, who has been the most adamant opponent of sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, indicated he might go along with a surge, if that's what the president and the Pentagon wanted to try.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I think it's safe to say that absolutely all options are on the table. We're looking at every possible thing that might influence the situation to make Baghdad, in particular, more secure.

MCINTYRE: Abizaid, who had been asked to stay on as U.S. central commander for another year last spring, is scheduled to retire next March. He's already put his papers in to leave the Army, but insists he's not being pushed aside.

ABIZAID: No decision that anybody makes in a position like this is ever totally their decision, but I think the time is right, and it has nothing to do with dissatisfaction.

MCINTYRE: Secretary Gates says he's just now looking at how to increase the size of both the Army and the Marine Corps, something that will take time and is expensive. Adding 10,000 troops adds an estimated $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion to the Army's annual budget.

(on camera): Gates insists, the plan to expand the size of the U.S. military is unrelated to the possible surge of tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops here to Baghdad. But the fact is, were it not for the strain the Iraq war was putting on the military, the expansion plan would not be the priority it is.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Stretched thin on a tough mission? Here are some facts on U.S. troops in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Right now, there are about 14,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Of those, about one-third are combat troops. More than 20,000 of the total are U.S. Marines. American forces are deployed in four major areas in Iraq, central Iraq, including the capital, Baghdad, western Anbar Province, northeastern and northwestern Iraq. More than two-thirds of the 30,000 troops in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar Province are Marines.

Some of the heaviest fighting in the war has occurred in Anbar. In addition to Baghdad, Army troops are operating in and around the north central cities of Tikrit and Kirkuk and the northwestern city of Mosul. Recently, U.S. commanders have been shifting thousands of combat troops into advisory positions with Iraqi army and police units, especially in Baghdad. It's the latest attempt to get the upper hand on sectarian violence.

This change of mission is also taking place in Tikrit. So far, the U.S.-led coalition has turned security responsibilities over to the Iraqis in three of Iraq's 18 provinces. The ultimate objective is to turn all of the remaining 15 provinces over to the Iraqis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Well, you know what they say? A new broom sweeps clean.

In the same week Robert Gates takes over as defense secretary, the head of the U.S. Central Command files his retirement papers. We just heard this a moment ago from Jamie McIntyre in his piece. Army General John Abizaid was supposed to step down in July, but he stayed on, at the request of Gates' predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld.

Other high-level departures may follow, among them, General George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace.

PHILLIPS: Police aren't revealing his name, but his neighbors don't mind spilling what they know -- coming up, the latest on the second arrest in Britain's Suffolk strangler case.

HOLMES: Plus, we will check back in on Colorado. Should Santa be worried about sleigh delays? Well, I certainly hope not, because I got some stuff on the way, Kyra.

You're watching CNN...

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: ... the most trusted name in news.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brooke Anderson.

We're going to go classic rock today entertainment. The FBI tells us all it knows about one rock legend. And two iconic bands being recognized for their achievement are taking a Web site to court.

We're going to have that coming up next in the NEWSROOM. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: We do want to let you know -- just getting word now -- that the sheriff in Hood River County has now called the search for two missing climbers on Mount Hood a recovery effort, no longer a rescue effort -- the two missing climbers still that have been missing after their friend and fellow climber, Kelly James, was found dead a couple days ago. Brian Hall, Jerry Cooke, you see them there.

They are now calling this search for the last two a recovery mission and no longer a rescue mission. We have been following the story. We will continue to keep an eye on it. But we wanted to bring you that word, now being called a recovery effort.

Stay here with CNN. We will be right back after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Again, word we're just getting, as you look at this picture, this picturesque, really, sight of Mount Hood, that the authorities now saying that the search for two missing climbers on Mount Hood now being called a recovery, and no longer a rescue, effort.

The last two, Brian Hall, Jerry Cooke, who had set out some 12 or so days ago with their fellow climber and friend, Kelly James, have been missing now for 12 days. Kelly James, of course, his body has been recovered. His body was found just a couple days ago.

But now the search had gone on. The hope had gone on, really, that these last two, Hall and Cooke, maybe had found some way to hunker down somewhere, and maybe had found a good spot. But now, the sheriff there, Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler, is calling this now a recovery effort.

Wampler also today went up and took a peek for himself. He went up in a -- on a recon mission, taking a -- taking a look around at the top of that mountain. Don't know how much that might have played into his decision now to call this a recovery effort. But that is something they have been trying to resist.

And the families and everyone, really, holding out hope that, presidency, a miracle was possible, and, sure enough, that Hall and Cooke maybe would be found alive.

But some clues left behind, also, a reason to have some doubt and to be a little disheartened, also, because a camera was found on Kelly James -- or with Kelly James' body. The video was -- or, rather, the photos were developed. And that gave the sheriff, he said, not a good feeling that maybe the climbers had all they needed to survive this long.

That may have been something else that factored into this decision -- but, again, now a recovery effort. They have also said that they would continue the search as long as it -- as, you know, the reward outweighed the risk, but maybe a decision made that that's not the case anymore at this point now.

PHILLIPS: We're told we're just getting some video in, too. You mentioned that helicopter ride that Joe Wampler -- or -- I'm sorry -- that plane ride, rather -- that Joe Wampler, the Hood River County sheriff, took.

This is actually the aircraft that he flew in to go up there -- go up there and survey the mountain. You know the weather conditions have been so bad. We were talking with Reynolds Wolf and also our reporters there on the ground, talking about the conditions, and how it's been so difficult, since these climbers were reported missing, to even get up in that area and on foot and also by air to try and find them.

But you can see here Joe Wampler landing not long ago, after surveying that mountain, and saying, this has now turned into a recovery mission. It was a rescue mission for more than a week. Now it's definitely sad news. When you turn into a recovery mission, that basically tells the public they don't have much hope that they are going to be able to find those climbers alive -- no doubt a difficult time for the family right now.

Meanwhile, Oregon deputy medical examiner is performing an autopsy in Portland -- actually, in a suburb of Portland -- on Kelly James, you remember, the 48-year-old climber that was found just a couple days ago. Don't know when those results will be released to the public, but we are following that for you as well.

HOLMES: And, also, really back to the mountain here, the -- as we said, the search had been scaled back considerably, a lot of teams being put on standby.

This was a day I know the clock was ticking, hoping they would have just a couple days' window here earlier in the week that they would have clear weather to do a search. It's been called a full-on assault, really that the rescue teams had put on this mountain, on this search for the past few days, knew some bad weather was starting to creep in, and they didn't have much of a window to try to get more work done.

But they worked up right until they -- until the moment where the weather got nasty on them again. And the search did continue. But, yes, it was scaled back. And now don't know how far it's going to be scaled back now, and, certainly, again, won't be sending teams up there if the risk is too great for the safety of those men and women who are up there climbing, but, again, calling it a recovery effort.

And, of course, we have been hearing from the family members the past few days. We have certainly been holding out hope that, maybe, just maybe, these last two, Hall and Cooke, found a spot and were hunkered down, and maybe could have survived -- but, again, certainly don't want to hear this news, but, certainly, the sheriff has made the estimation that this is -- now should be called a recovery effort.

So, we're keeping an eye on it. PHILLIPS: We hope to take you back there live right after the break. The sheriff, hopefully, will come to our live camera, so you can hear from him directly.

We will take a quick break. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Again, showing you pictures here, pictures you might find familiar by now, as we have been watching this for the past week, week-and-a-half, almost two weeks, even, the search on Mount Hood for missing climbers.

Kelly James, one, was found dead not long ago, a couple days ago. But, still, the search went on for two others, Brian Hall and Jerry Cooke. That search continued, and was continued to have been called a rescue effort.

Well, now, the sheriff there is now calling this a recovery effort, no longer a rescue, letting us know that the sheriff, Joe Wampler, there at Hood River County no longer believes that there is a great possibility or that they will find those final two missing climbers alive, again, Brian Hall and Jerry Cooke, who had been missing, along with their fellow climber, Kelly James.

PHILLIPS: We heard from Sheriff Joe Wampler just a few minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE WAMPLER, HOOD RIVER COUNTY, OREGON, SHERIFF: Yes, well, you know, you just got to do as much as you can do while the windows are open there.

But, right now, it's starting to snow up on the mountain. And we had some reports -- what we were doing today, we had some reports from the Mount Hood Meadows side of the White River Canyon of maybe some color. And it kind of made sense that we would want to really go check that out.

And, so we did. And we think that they saw, we were able to identify as rocks. And -- but we're going to have the PMR guys from the south side go check that out.

QUESTION: If you really felt you had any hint, you're...

WAMPLER: Oh, we're right there. I -- you know, I want to...

QUESTION: You're there yourself?

WAMPLER: Oh, yes, I want to be there first.

If not anybody else out there, there's still me. And I will go out there and look myself. And that's...

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) generally looking around? WAMPLER: And, then, while we were there, oh, yes. No, because White River right -- you know, White River Glacier, I mean, that's literally the -- one of the exit routes.

And, you know, if they couldn't see, it would be real easy to drop in there. You know, I can't say that we did the best job in the world, even just now. But we got a good hour in there, and flew around. And it's not the best flying conditions, but visibility was good.

So, we worked the area of about, oh, 9,500 feet on down to below the 6,000-foot level and really, there are no tracks in there or any sign of snow caves, any debris.

You know, there's little yellow glint that we went up there to check out because one of the guys may have had a yellow jacket, just under the snow. We're pretty sure it's rock. And there's two things side by side there, one is definitely a rock and the thing I think is, you know, being just distorted by the snow.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

WAMPLER: Oh, yes, as can you see right here, you've got to kind of pick and choose your way to the mountain. But that was OK. You know, we did that, and got a good look at what we ought to do.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

WAMPLER: Yes. You know, well, we've looked real hard. I'm pretty confident about what we've done. But now, you know, I'd like to think maybe there was another avenue, but we're still going back to having to look below the routes that -- where they were at.

QUESTION: You got together with the families again today.

WAMPLER: Yes, we did. Jerry Brown over there, Chris Gurtin (ph), our incident commander in this thing and I and all got together with the last two families and we had some real honest conversations today. I told them I wasn't going to give up. I'm not done, heck.

After that meeting, we were out there again and, because I, you know, right now, things are moving in from the west and it's actually snowing at Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows right now. So that window just slammed shut on us for however long that lasts.

But again, that's OK. I feel good about what we did. I wanted to really help the family out before they went home, but I think they're going to be out of here basically today and...

QUESTION: It's got to be a pretty tough meeting for them.

WAMPLER: We'll catch up with them again.

QUESTION: But, I mean, this has become personal for you.

WAMPLER: Oh, yes, you know, it's like anything we do. You start something, you want to finish it. You know, I had the A team working on this one and it's not only me, it's everybody else who participated in this thing and, oh, boy, you know, I feel real good about everybody else.

You know, our team was just awesome. You know, everybody in our office that we worked with and everybody came together. We got the playbook out for search on Mt. Hood. That worked wonderfully.

You know, we never had any downtime throughout the week. We always had jobs for people to do, people willing to do it. You know, we ran 24 hours a day on this thing and, you know, we're at that point right now.

QUESTION: How about when you got...

PHILLIPS: Pretty sad reality check there coming from the Hood River County sheriff, Joe Wampler. You heard it from him. No longer is this being called a rescue mission but a recovery mission. Bottom line, it's going to be pretty much a miracle if they're able to find Jerry "Nikko" Cooke and Brian Hall alive somewhere up in that mountain.

The sheriff actually went up in a plane within the past couple of hours to go up and survey the mountain himself, trying desperately to find any sign of where these two men could be. He was up there for about an hour.

He also said, look, he doesn't want to -- he's going to finish what he started. He's not giving up. He had some very honest conversation with family members today. It looks like they might be heading home, he said.

The National Weather Service issued another winter storm warning for this area as well, for Mt. Hood and for Hood River Valley until 2:00 a.m. tomorrow, predicting mostly freezing rain around 6,000 feet and below. Several feet of snow above that, high winds and low visibility is going to make it tough as they still try to search for those bodies of Brian Hall and also Jerry "Nikko" Cooke.

Once again, it would take a miracle to find them but you never know. Never know. But it has been turned from a rescue mission to a recovery mission, coming straight from Sheriff Joe Wampler right there.

HOLMES: All right. We want to now -- certainly going to keep an eye on that story and any developments out of Mt. Hood. But for now, we will take a quick break and we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Another live look at Denver, where those people appear to be going just a little too fast in that snow. We were talking about this earlier with our Reynolds Wolf about a major winter storm heading through. And Reynolds says do not ask Santa for snow chains. Go get them right now.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HOLMES: And, of course, When the weather becomes the news, you can become a CNN correspondent. If you see severe weather happening, send us an i-Report. Go to CNN.com and click on i-Report or type in i-Report@CNN.com on your cell phone. Please share your photos and video with us.

PHILLIPS: The birth of Jesus is cause for celebration for an estimated two billion Christians around the world, but how did that come to be the case? How did Christianity come to be the world's most practiced religion? Its early days are the subject of a new "CNN PRESENTS: AFTER JESUS, THE FIRST CHRISTIAN." Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): As Christian communities took hold around the Mediterranean, women were critical in spreading and nurturing the new faith. But now at the beginning of the second century, a hierarchy develops and its face is male.

PROF. BART EHRMAN, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, CHAPEL HILL: Eventually, Christianity came to oppress women and to silence women. And so throughout history, of course, Christianity has been known as a male religion in that only the leader -- only the men, can be leaders of the churches. Only men can be the priests or the pastors or the pope.

But in the early days, Christianity was probably much more in tune with women's needs and the possibility of women playing leadership roles in the churches.

PROF. JUDITH LIFU, KING'S COLLEGE, LONDON: It is a man's world and it's a world when it's quite often difficult to capture the glimpses of women and to catch the glimpses of what women themselves felt. On the whole, women don't write in this world, they don't leave records of what they're doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a result, the few surviving documents we have are written by men of the church who drafted blueprints for church life in works such as the "Dedicae" (ph).

The "Dedicae," for example, which is a composition that is titled "The Teaching" -- dedicae means teaching -- "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles". And this is meant to be part of the legacy of the Jerusalem and Jewish Christian community to help Gentile Christian communities structure themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Locked in the library of the Greek Orthodox patriarch in Jerusalem is the single surviving copy of the "Dedicae," written about 100 A.D. It is a type of how-to manual for early Christians that provides practical advice: how to worship, pray, baptize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN GREEK).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you baptize? Do you immerse or do you sprinkle? What do you do if there's not enough water? How do you handle the situation? How do you celebrate Communion? How do you break the bread? What should you say when you have the Lord's Supper? Very practical advice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The "Dedicae" provided structure for the earliest Christians. And with structure came power. And with that power came the final foundation stone of what we recognize today as the church, the authority to define what is sacred scripture and what is heresy.

PROF. AMY-JILL LEVINE, VANDERBILT UNIV. DIVINITY SCHOOL: Surely, by the end of the first century, the letters of Paul had been collected. The Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and likely other gospels as well had been written. But it would take another several centuries before the canon of the church, as we know it today, finally took shape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Different Christian communities had different gospels that they read during the worship services. Eventually, as it turned out, of course, only four gospels made it into the New Testament and scholars are fairly convinced that these four, in fact, are the four earliest gospels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With dozens of other gospels circulating, how did church leaders ensure the survival of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is true that church leaders discouraged the reading of these other books. And they didn't allow them to be read in the church services. But they didn't burn these other books. The way that you would prevent a book being circulated in the ancient world was simply by not copying it. So the way to destroy a book was simply not to reproduce it. And that's what happened to most of the gospels that didn't make it into the New Testament.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Armed with a hierarchy, a distinct set of beliefs and rituals and a canon of sacred texts, the Christian church had not only structure but had power, a clear and present danger to the Roman Empire.

Christianity, attracting millions of followers, growing in its influence, extending its reach, had to be wiped out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: And can you see a lot more of the "CNN PRESENTS: AFTER JESUS: THE FIRST CHRISTIANS" tonight starting at 7:00 Eastern.

And be sure to stick around for a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360," "What Is a Christian?" 11:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Plus, get more at CNN.com. View behind the scenes video and pictures, track the Christianity timeline and see how researchers describe what Jesus may have looked like.

HOLMES: We do want to turn back not to Mt. Hood and that search for the two last, remaining missing climbers there. It is now being called a recovery effort. Rescuers there now giving up the hope of finding these final two alive.

Our Dan Simon is on the phone with us now.

And Dan, what else can you tell us about how this decision was made to turn this now into a recovery mission instead of a rescue mission?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sheriff Joe Wampler, he himself is a pilot and he took one final sweep of the mountain today. He was in a small airplane and when he got back, he concluded that there really is no hope of finding these two climbers. And he said, this is now a recovery effort, meaning there is simply no hope for finding these two climbers alive.

You know, a search-and-rescue is characterized in the sense that there's still hope that these two people can be found alive. But, you know, hope has completely faded now. They have been out there for some time now. And they've done basically all they can do.

And so he thinks it's appropriate now to call back all the resources, tell all the volunteers that this is over, go back to your families, we had a tragic outcome here. And it just, unfortunately, has a tragic conclusion.

Also, the two families of these missing climbers who held out hope and who were here for so many days praying that their loved ones would be found, we're told that they're now going home to obviously mourn the loss of their loved ones, because, as the sheriff now believes, they are not alive -- T.J.

HOLMES: And, Dan, do we know at all how -- even though it is called a recovery effort now -- how those recovery efforts will go? Who will be -- will there still be some people that will continue to make flights around -- trips around that mountain to still -- would hope to recover the bodies at least of these two on the mountain? Do we know anything about how a recovery effort might go?

SIMON: That's an excellent question. They quite haven't worked that out yet. We know that bad weather is coming in today, so certainly nothing will happen today.

But typically, T.J., and this is extremely sad, sometimes, in these situations where you have lost climbers who they believe, you know, are sometimes buried in the snow -- and it's possible that happened in this case -- what will happen is, you essentially have to wait for warmer weather. You have to wait for a different season, until sometimes, you know, these bodies can surface.

We don't know if that's going to happen in this particular situation, but that's certainly not uncommon. In any case, the sheriff not really making any active plans to really begin this recovery at this point simply because the weather is so bad.

And, quite frankly, T.J., you are dealing with a time of year where these rescuers who have sacrificed a lot -- we're coming up on the holidays and because there is no hope of finding these climbers alive, he is allowing these rescuers who worked so hard to be with their families around Christmas.

So, certainly, if there was hope that they could be found, the rescuers would be there. He would insist on that. And I know the rescuers themselves would want to be there. But his feeling is this just had a real tragic conclusion and it's time to really move on, unfortunately.

HOLMES: All right. You said it, Dan. It is sad. Here we are days away from Christmas. We get this news and also, certainly the families want more closure, would certainly like to have those -- have the bodies of their loved ones.

And we -- like you said, Dan, it's sad. We may actually have to wait till warmer weather before the bodies are ever recovered.

Dan Simon, thank you so much for the phone -- on the phone for us from Oregon. Thank you so much.

PHILLIPS: When we come back, more on the blast of winter weather blanketing Denver right now and beyond. Live pictures from the Mile- High City right now from our affiliate KUSA out of Denver.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Reynolds Wolf in our Weather Center watching that snow pile up in Denver and beyond. Those blizzard conditions -- look at these -- courtesy of our affiliate KUSA. You know this city well, Reynolds.

(WEATHER REPORT)

PHILLIPS: All right, here we go, another i-Reporter, buddy, from Scott Brunchen (ph) and I guess this picture is of the Gold Miner Hotel. These are guests from Louisiana, a far cry from...

WOLF: From where?

PHILLIPS: From Louisiana.

WOLF: See, what does that tell you about this weird event. Earlier, we were tracking a flight that was coming from Mexico City into Denver. You have people from Louisiana in Denver dealing with the snow. What's going on here?

PHILLIPS: Yes, I mean, I'd rather be in the French Quarter right now. Forget this crazy snow, right?

WOLF: Now you're talking.

PHILLIPS: Foot of snow on the ground, we're told, in El Dora, Colorado. WOLF: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Where is it?

WOLF: It's a beautiful place. It's in the great state of Colorado. There you go.

PHILLIPS: That was a great way to work yourself around that. From El Dora, Colorado. All right, mush.

WOLF: Mush indeed.

HOLMES: He gets around. Well, 'tis the season to be screaming, fa-la-la-la-la.

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: That was pretty good, T.J.

HOLMES: Never mind, thank you. Especially, if you're afraid of Santa, this is what happens. That's just sad. We've all been there. Do you have photos like this, Kyra, maybe, stashed somewhere? We want you to share.

PHILLIPS: Wouldn't you be scared of a big, old guy with a white beard?

HOLMES: Yes, but you don't get it at that age. Dude is going to hook you up later, little guy. He's going to hook you up. Don't worry. No reason to scream. If you've got some snapshots like this, we'd like for to you share them with us, or a terrified tot or some other Kriss Kringle craziness.

You can go to our Web site, CNN.com, click on i-Report, or you can type in i-Report@CNN.com on your cell phone. Share your videos, share your photos with us.

PHILLIPS: We'll show more tomorrow.

HOLMES: Now, I wonder if Wolf Blitzer has a picture of -- are you sitting on Santa's lap screaming or anything?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: No.

PHILLIPS: It's been a long time since Wolf has sat on Santa's lap, from what I've heard.

BLITZER: It's been a long, long time, but I did relate to the snow having grown up in beautiful Buffalo. A little snow occasionally in Buffalo as well.

Let me tell you what's coming up right at the top of the hour. The president of the United States speaking out on Iraq. Will he send more troops to the region? And does he think the U.S. is winning the war? We're going to go live to the White House. Plus, Mr. Bush on working with the Democrats and on his legacy. Our John King and Jeff Greenfield, they'll dissect what the president had to say.

And we'll also get the Democratic reaction to the president. The incoming Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin joins us right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Plus, the race to succeed President Bush -- is the GOP field missing a true conservative? We've got our eye on the race to the White House. There's a new Republican contender who's out there today. All that coming up right at the top of the hour.

In the meantime, back to you guys.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Wolf.

HOLMES: Thanks, Wolf.

PHILLIPS: "Closing Bell" and a wrap of Wall Street straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Closing bell about to ring on Wall Street.

HOLMES: Yes, and, of course, Susan Lisovicz standing by with the final look at the trading day.

Hello, Susan.

(MARKET REPORT)

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