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CNN NEWSROOM

Wintry Storm; Pakistan Lifts State of Emergency; Kabul Militants Fired Rockets; U.N. Climate Forum Closes; Babies Abandoned; Presidential Stump

Aired December 15, 2007 - 12:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Speaking of weather, within 24 hours look for an icy, wintry mess to stretch all the way from the plains to the northeast. It's really ugly out there. The central states haven't had a chance to dig out from an ice storm earlier this week, and now this, winter storm warnings, ice warnings, heavy snow and high wind warnings all over that section of the map. And just what Oklahoma didn't want to see. But a silver lining is starting to emerge there. The storm is beginning to shift. Kansas will now bear the brunt of it, getting up to nine inches of snow.
And flights out of Chicago's O'Hare airport are struggling to get back on schedule. They had been running about two hours behind, but now an airport information officer says that delays are about 15 to 30 minutes. Ooh, but it looks ugly there. And by the time the system reaches New England tomorrow night it is expected to intensify, dumping up to a foot of snow throughout that region. And as you can see, Boston already has plenty of white stuff on the ground.

So, of course, driving anywhere is a white-knuckle adventure right now for millions of people. Some commuters spent eight hours trying to make it home in Boston, and that was just the other night. Well, there is all kinds of stuff as a result of that fallout, and now what could be an even worse storm is on the way. CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf has more on how one of America's oldest cities is bracing for a second wave of winter.

But you're not driving, right?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, not right now, not at all.

WHITFIELD: Just checking.

WOLF: Right now we're just enjoying the sunshine. I've got to tell you, though Fredricka, you're absolutely right, though, Boston really did got socked with nearly a foot of snowfall in many locations around the Boston metropolitan area. The state of Massachusetts used nearly than 4,000 vehicles, snow plows, ice trucks to try their very best to clear the snow, but we had snow fall rates falling at around three inches an hour and it caused all kinds of issues. A lot of snow, snow that is still on the ground here at Boston common in beautiful Boston, Massachusetts.

Now, we had the first part of the storm that came through. We've got a nor'easter that we're expecting to come through overnight tonight into tomorrow, but that's then. Right now people are enjoying the sunshine. We've got blue skies, we had a lot of people out. Take a look at this video. We have some dogs enjoying the great snow, the animals enjoy it just like people do. We've got one shot here of a golden retriever having a wonderful time. His name is tucker, digging in the snow for something. Not quite sure what it is, but he is there. He's having a great time.

We also have some video of some moms, dads, kids, enjoying the hills here. We actually have some decent hills here in Boston with a lot of snow, a little bit of ice on them and you go down faster than you think and you can see they had a great time. They're going to be enjoying this, I would say, for the next couple hours, but Fredricka, the skies are going to go from blue to gray. And then by tomorrow afternoon we could see a possibility of rain, sleet, or snow. Looks like, though, the heavy snowfall is going to be farther to the west, back over in upstate New York, some locations possibly getting up to a foot of snowfall.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Wow, we know the folks in Boston are very hardy. They can handle this.

WOLF: They certainly can.

WHITFIELD: All right, Reynolds, we'll check back with you. Thanks so much.

WOLF: You bet.

WHITFIELD: It's nice to see that snow, but it's also causing an ugly mess in a lot of places. Trees and power lines all over Oklahoma are sagging under the weight of so much ice, and now that ice is starting to melt and fall. Chunks of it, in fact, plunged off a huge transmission tower outside a Lawton (ph) TV station, tore through the ceiling, and then watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh. Oh, my god! Oh, no!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Oh, yeah, did I mention, it's dangerous, too, potentially dangerous. More falling ice from another TV transmission tower, this one in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma's governor is calling this the worst ice storm in the state's history.

Thousands of homes and businesses in Oklahoma are braving this second storm without power. They've been without it now for days after a deadly ice storm blanketed so much of that state last weekend. Crews are working around the clock to restore electricity, but this latest storm complicates just about everything. Let's go now to CNN's Keith Oppenheim in Oklahoma City -- Keith.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka. They are cleaning up and trying to get the power back on. As you can see behind me, these are all sorts of falling limbs that a tree service is gathering and about to put in a wood chipper as part of their cleanup efforts, and there are utility crews that are all over the place in Oklahoma trying to get power back on, and they've done a very good job -- 600,000 homes were without power in the earlier part of the week, and now it's down to about 125,000.

It's been snowing, and as I scoop some of the snow off the grass, it's tapered off a little bit, but this is sort of just enough to put just a thin layer of snow and wet stuff on the ground and so that alone is making the major recovery efforts that much tougher.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Oklahomans are bracing for their second winter storm in less than a week, while still reeling from the worst blackout in state history. Twenty-three deaths have been blamed on last weekend's ice storm and 100,000 homes and businesses are still without power.

CYNTHIA HILL, OKLAHOMA CITY RESIDENT: It's been cold. My walls are wet, you blow smoke in the house, but I had about four layers of clothes and blankets, and I survived.

OPPENHEIM: Cynthia hill is one of the lucky ones. After five days without electricity, her heat is finally back on.

HILL: It just came back on about 20 minutes ago, and I thought I won the lottery. I'm happy.

OPPENHEIM: President Bush declared a state of emergency earlier this week, making the state eligible for federal aid. Utility workers from at least six surrounding states are helping out.

BRENT SWADLEY, UTILITY WORKER: Thanks for your hard work.

OPPENHEIM: Every day has brought steady progress in restoring power, but tired crews have had little time to prepare for this storm.

SWADLEY: Trying to replace a lot of poles right now. The trees are horrible. We've got about 25 to 35-mile-per-hour wind coming in next 24 hours. We're trying to prepare for that and get the trees cut back as we can right now.

OPPENHEIM: With up to six inches of new snow expected in some parts of the state, utility workers from Texas might find themselves spending the holidays away from home.

TERRY TRULL, UTILITY WORKER: At least nod week, maybe a little longer. Just depends how long it takes to get all these people back on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OPPENHEIM: So Fredricka, some good and bad news in Oklahoma. Good news is that the storm that's coming today, maybe not quite as bad as predicted. We might just get one to two inches in Oklahoma City, about four inches to the north of here. But the bad news is it's just enough to make things slower, given that it was already a horrendous job, and as you heard in that piece, some folks may still be waiting a few days or longer before they can turn the lights back on.

WHITFIELD: Right, well that much more uncomfortable. Keith Oppenheim thanks so much.

Let's check with Karen McGinnis in the Weather Center to find out if indeed there might be a respite for the folks there in Oklahoma. Maybe they're not going to get hit quite as hard.

KAREN MCGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Not quite as hard, Fredricka, but it will still going to be slow going as the temperature's been plummeting. Now, I want to show you something else on our flight explorer. Here is Chicago. There is Milwaukee. We had conflicting reports as to whether Chicago is still looking at 2, 2-1/2-hour delays.

Now some of the state reports are that no delays at O'Hare's airport, but other reports indicate they still have delays. Flight explorer, well, shows the airplanes going in and out of O'Hare. How about our snow report? Hays, Kansas walloped with more than 13 inches of snowfall. We have reports coming out of Newton, Kansas, where they had rollovers because of the slick road conditions.

What are we expecting? Well, varying amounts, depending where you're situated, pretty much between Chicago and Indianapolis. They now have backed off some of the snowfall totals. They were originally looking at eight to 12 inches, now it looks like a four to eight-inch snow event. But, we move off toward the northeast and New England, it's quite a different story.

But I want to show you some of that Arctic air that has been plunging well to the south with these temperatures mostly in the single digits. And if you want to see just how it feels outside, combine it with the wind. And for Duluth, rather than single digits, it feels like it's below zero, minus 12 below zero, when you factor in the wind there. Billings, Montana, it feels like it's eight degrees, there.

Well, what is the origin of this storm? Area of low pressure moves through the Ohio River Valley, off to the northeast and New England going into Sunday. And we'll really look at some airport delays there -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's a nightmare scenario.

MCGINNIS: Yeah.

WHITFIELD: All right, Karen, thanks for the news.

Well, some other news we're following around the world, a strong earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia, sending panicked residents right into the streets. U.S. scientists put it at the magnitude, rather, at 6.3. Locals say it felt a lot bigger and so far, no reports of injuries or damage.

Pakistani President Musharraf lifts his state of emergency, but not before making some key revisions to the constitution. Earlier this morning he swore in the supreme court justices he personally picked to replace those he ousted six weeks ago. Critics say the ousted judges would have nullified his October election victory.

And later, in a nationally televised speech, Musharraf said he imposed the emergency as a last resort to save the country from an unspecified conspiracy. Also, he vowed next month's scheduled elections will be free and fair.

In Afghanistan, militants fired rockets at police headquarters in Kabul, killing at least five people. Five others were wounded. The missiles appear to have been fired from a small, wooden cart.

The United States drops its objections and brings a dramatic close to the U.N. climate forum in Bali. The U.S. finally agreeing with a plan to negotiate a new global warming pact by 2009. The plan does not commit countries to specific actions against global warming, but it does set an agenda for finding ways to transfer technology and financial assistance from rich countries to developing nations.

Well, it is the weekend, but it's no time to rest if you're running for president, of course. Rudy Giuliani's searching for support in the sunshine state. We'll have a live report. You are in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A quick look now at what's happening "Across America." This 15-story building in Savannah, Georgia, now a 25-foot pile of rubble. It took a demolition crew about eight seconds to bring it down, just like that. Seniors called the apartment complex home until about three years ago when it flooded. It has been vacant ever since.

And two babies abandoned behind a strip club in Phoenix. Police now say they know the toddlers' names and they have contacted their mother. A surveillance tape shows someone leaving them next to a dumpster around 4:00 a.m. As temperatures dipped into the low 40s, and one of the babies was wearing only a t-shirt and diapers.

And in a small northwestern Arkansas town, a little boy is alive today thanks to that family pet. Mom stepped away from the stove to check on her children and then a fire ignited. The house filled up with smoke so quickly that she couldn't actually reach her 17-month- old son, but that dog right there did and pulled the child to safety. Everyone else also escaped the fire unhurt.

And on the presidential stump now, Republicans presidential hopeful John McCain getting a big campaign boost today in South Carolina. More than 100 retired generals, admirals and former POWs endorsed the candidate at a news conference in Columbia. And GOP candidate Rudy Giuliani laying out his vision for America in a speech just ending right now in Florida. Mary Snow, part of the best political team on television, is covering Giuliani's campaign in Tampa. And there she is.

Hi, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Fredricka.

This speech just wrapped up a short time ago, and the Giuliani campaign is saying this is really done as a way to create a sense of urgency in these final weeks before the Iowa caucus, the primaries in states like New Hampshire, South Carolina, and what this speech really laid out -- no specific new policies, but this was a way of the campaign saying for Rudy Giuliani to kind of lay out why he wants to run for president.

This coming as he's been losing his lead as the national front- runner status, as Mike Huckabee really has been surging in the polls. So, this is kind of like a broader look at his campaign, laying out his case, and one message that he wanted to drive home was his leadership skills. Foreign policy really hasn't been a big campaign issue in recent weeks. Here at this crowd, there were several dozen people here in Tampa, Rudy Giuliani talked about the fight against terrorism. Here's a little bit of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a time for leadership. This is a time for strength. This is a time to roll up our sleeves, not ring our hand. I've been tested in prices, I'm ready to lead, and the time is right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: And several times during this speech, Rudy Giuliani mentioned his days of mayor on 9/11, of course, that was one of the big themes early on in his campaign. Also it's seen as a shift away from some of the controversies in recent weeks, particularly surrounding his personal life while he was mayor in New York City. Giuliani took that head on early in the speech, saying that if you are looking for perfection, you're not going to find it in me, but he added, or any other candidate -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So Mary, why Florida?

SNOW: Yeah, you know, when you see all the other candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire, this is kind of a different shift that the Giuliani campaign has taken. They are really betting on winning here, even if they lose the early states like New Hampshire and Iowa. Giuliani campaign has been betting that they'll win here and then go on February 5 to win big states like New York, California, New Jersey. So, this is a very big test for this campaign.

WHITFIELD: All right, Mary Snow, thanks so much for that update. Certainly a lot of presidential politics. Barack Obama may have Oprah Winfrey, but John Edwards, well, he's bringing home the bacon -- Kevin Bacon. The actor is campaigning with Edwards in Iowa today. Actor Tim Robbins and singers Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Brown have also appeared with Edwards.

So you think the campaign trail is stressful, so try being a student these days. You likely know a student who is totally stressed out. Find out why and what the solutions are, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Broadway Joe, getting a diploma the hard way -- he earned it. More than 40 years ago, football legend Joe Namath won a national championship at the university of Alabama, but he dropped out to go pro. So, he picked up his sheepskin yesterday after spending the past five years studying for his degree. Namath, now 64, said it was fun but admitted it was hard making time to study.

Well, SOS for dangerously stressed out students, all under grueling pressure to perform. Our Betty Nguyen looks at a program that keeps them from going off the deep end.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See that your big toes are touching and rock back in your heels.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When did yoga become a required course to reduce stress among students?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your tailbone underneath you.

NGUYEN: When freshmen like Natasha von keppler started spending four hours a night on homework, after three hours of basketball practice and a full day of classes preparing for final exams. The pressure can be intense.

NATASHA VON KAEPPLER, CASTILLEJA FRESHMAN: It's really like, OK, have you studied for your test? Yes, mom, I studied for my test, but it's kind of like, well, did I study enough? Because I know if I come home with a bad grade, they're not going to be very happy.

NGUYEN: It's enough to send some students to the breaking point. Stanford professor Denise Pope has seen the effects. She created a program that's helping reduce stress in 45 schools across the nation. It's called SOS, for stressed out students.

(on camera): Does the stress among students these days scare you?

DENISE POPE, STANFORD PROFESSOR: It scares me because of the suicide rates that we're seeing and the real sense of hopelessness in kids. They are experimenting with drugs on a much higher basis. They are binge drinking not because they want to experiment with alcohol, but they're saying I've had such a stressful week, I need to get completely drunk this weekend. Much about this scares me. And as a parent -- I have three kids -- I don't want my own kids to go through this.

NGUYEN (voice-over): But how do you prevent cheating, sleep deprivation, depression, even eating disorders among some of the nation's top students when there is enormous pressure to get into the elite colleges? Castilleja is an all girls school that Palo Alto, California that prescribes to the SOS program.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exhale.

NGUYEN: Along with required yoga classes, the school's building a new wellness center. It's also staggered classes so there are fewer each day, creating less homework. Sonia Swenson is a senior who is thrilled that finals are now in December instead of January.

SONJA SWENSON, CASTILLEJA SENIOR: I think that moving the finals up to before winter break has not only made the exam studying period less stressful, it's also really made winter break a true break.

NGUYEN: Lauren Schryver heads up the school's SOS task force.

LAUREN SCHRYVER, SOS TASK FORCE: So about 80 percent of our students said that both the calendar change and the schedule change were definitely decreasing stress.

NGUYEN: There is even homework-free weekends and holidays, not to mention...

KAEPPLER: We have free periods, also, which really helped if I don't get to finish one thing, then I can finish it up the next day during my free period.

NGUYEN: The school also eliminated the stress of bells ringing between classes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good luck.

NGUYEN: Some argue this is just a way to coddle students who need to be prepared for the real world. Pope disagrees. She says the current system is turning kids into robots only interested in spitting out the right answer no matter what it takes, which ends up hurting them in the long run.

POPE: They're little robatrons. They're very good middle managers, but they're not good at being creative, at thinking out of the box, they're not good at actually listening to criticism and accepting it, and they're not good at working in a team and all these things are things we need to succeed in the global economy.

NGUYEN: So can the sos plan succeed in schools without sacrificing grades? According to Castilleja High, the stress has dropped but the grades have not.

Betty Nguyen, Palo Alto, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: We'll talk a little weather straight ahead -- ice. Oh, can you do that? Maneuver your vehicle on the ice? You are looking at the invisible -- I should say the invisible enemy out there when you're driving. Rob Marciano is handling it all. That's straight ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR (voice-over): StreamlinINg your wallet on this week's "Modern Living." A high-tech solution to all those cards bulking up your wallet. It's iCache, a slim, secure device that mimics your card, debit, and loyalty cards. Here's how it works: Register each card online, upload the data into the iCache and then carry the device around instead of all your cards.

When you want to use it, unlock it with your fingerprint and dial up the card you want to use. A plastic card pops out with a magnetic stripe temporarily loaded with the selected card's information. The data disappears after one use.

And of course, the best way to avoid bulking up your wallet and potential credit problems is to only own a few credit cards. Icache will be available next year.

With this week's "Modern Living, I'm Gerri Willis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Stories happening right now. A second winter storm is moving across the country's midsection, heading toward the northeast. Nome flights have been cancelled out of Chicago.

And then overseas, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf lifts his six-week state of emergency, swears in new judges, and amends the constitution. He vows January elections will be fair and held on time.

Well, as we look ahead to the wintry mess in the making, here is a look at the aftermath of the storm that rolled across the country earlier this week.

Warming temperatures in Oklahoma now producing a new hazard -- falling ice. Here it is plunging from an Oklahoma TV tower. And beyond that, tens of thousands of Oklahomans remain without power in the wake of the ice storm. And, by the way, more snow fell there today.

Karen Maginnis is in the weather center. More snow, but nothing like what we've seen earlier in the week?

MAGINNIS: Well, the ice situation across Oklahoma is still affecting people, Fredricka. I've got an image here. This is the entire state of Oklahoma, right here. Where you see those flashing lights, those are the customers without power. Well, in Oklahoma, the metro area of Oklahoma City, they have more than 106,000 folks without power because of the previous ice storm.

Now, they're on the verge of receiving a little bit more in the way of snowfall, but let's go ahead and show you across the midwest. We were looking at reports of maybe 2, 2 1/2-hour delays in and out of Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Well, it looks like they're inbound and they're outbound. You can see where some of that snowfall is located. Cincinnati, though, is seeing kind of misty, freezing rain. At times, it is snow as well.

Well, here's our perspective on our radar, and there you can see that pink shaded area, that's where that icy mixture's presently located. It's a thin layer before we see the warmer temperatures and then all rainfall, but it's definitely snow all the way from Chicago to Indianapolis, along that Interstate 65 corridor. St. Louis is seeing overcast skies right now but we'll expect another in the way of snowfall coming up in the next 12 to 24 hours. Tulsa picking up some snow there as well.

The area of low pressure responsible for this big bomb, as we've referred to it, is going to move through the Ohio River Valley. As it does, it's going to wind its way across interior sections of the northeast and New England. Where you see these red shaded areas, that's where our winter storm warnings are located.

Our temperatures are warming up in Chicago, just a few degrees. But there, you can see Wichita is stuck in the 20s. Minneapolis, though, has come up nine degrees. It went from zero to nine degrees, but nonetheless, nine degrees.

I was looking earlier, Fredricka, the temperature was actually warmer in Barrow, Alaska, than it was in Minneapolis.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that is cruel!

MAGINNIS: It is.

WHITFIELD: And it's a long winter in the making. All right, Karen, thanks so much.

MAGINNIS: Welcome.

WHITFIELD: Well, and this is evidence of that, snow, ice, freezing rain. Well, how do you stay safe on the road if you do have to drive in all that mess? It's a driver's dilemma.

CNN's Rob Marciano went in search of the best tires.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Come on, I thought with all- season tires, we don't need winter tires now.

MATT EDMONDS, VICE PRESIDENT, THE TIRE RACK: Well, an all-season tire is good in everything, but it's not great in anything. I mean, it's going to give you some winter performance, but it's not going to give you the ultimate performance.

MARCIANO: All right, show -- show me the difference.

So, this car has the all-season, non-barking, we're going to skid more tires?

EDMONDS: This is how you're going to find on, really about 90 percent of the vehicles out there. So, let's go see how we do.

This is a speed of you know, roughly 10 to 11 miles an hour that you find yourself driving in your neighborhood.

MARCIANO: I had nothing!

EDMONDS: That was exactly what happens.

MARCIANO: The worst I'm going to hit was the wall to this hockey rink, and it still makes me nauseous not having that control.

EDMONDS: Yes, in the worst conditions, slowing down makes a big difference. Slowing down, maintaining spacing behind yourself. Because if someone in front of you loses control, you want the ability to get around them.

MARCIANO: So, now we're in the red car with the better winter tires.

EDMONDS: As we go through the corner here, I think you'll definitely feel the difference.

MARCIANO: You can hear them digging into the ice.

EDMONDS: They're barking. You listen to it. They're grabbing the ice, they're working, they're gripping the ice like it's pavement.

MARCIANO: So here, we're going to try to brake. This would be just like driving down the road and a slick spot and you're trying to avoid the person in front of you.

EDMONDS: Yes, well, if you're coming up to an intersection, let's say, and the ice has been polished by people stopping, and that's what really this emulates here for us. We've got the all- season tires and we'll see how we do compared to the car that's great on the winter tires, so.

MARCIANO: All right, fancy pants tires, we'll see what you've got over there.

EDMONDS: Slow it up, keep going -- brakes.

MARCIANO: About twice as far to stop.

EDMONDS: Yes, yes. So, you get -- it makes a difference, you know. Getting on the brakes -- the brakes are working. We felt the brakes working, we heard them working, but the tires weren't.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, if only we could all be driving in a hockey rink where it's safer. So, Rob tells us the new winter tires are not studded and don't damage the road. He says the cost of a set of four is far less than most accident insurance deductibles.

Well, from Dora the Explorer to Thomas the Tank Engine, some of the hottest toys this holiday are recalled. The numbers are pretty staggering, the implications potentially deadly. So, what's a parent to do? It's Trouble in Toyland and we're going beyond the fear and recalls to offer you solutions, next in the NEWSROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK ORWOLL, SR. CONSULTING EDITOR, TRAVEL + LEISURE: The latest forecast for business travel is in and the news is not good. According to a just released report from American Express, the average cost of a 2 1/2-day domestic business trip, including hotel, air travel and car rental, will rise in 2008 by six percent. International business travelers will see an increase of almost seven percent.

What's causing the increase? Higher oil prices, increased airfares to pay for perks like flat beds and seats with more leg room, and a demand for hotel rooms that exceeds the supply. More and more companies are now doing business with discount airlines and restricting employees' first-class and business-class air travel.

American Express said companies can also help manage costs by purchasing tickets in advance, not buying expensive, refundable airfares, and encouraging employees to take advantage of negotiated discounts from preferred suppliers, especially hotels where the rate hike globally is expected to be in the double digits.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Ten days until Christmas and we have a new toy recall to tell you about. 300,000 toy cars and baby beads sold at Dollar Tree made in China and possibly poisoned with lead. Sound familiar? Well, take a look at the list of toys recalled in the U.S. just since January of this year. Lead paint, choking hazards, even one laced with a date rape toxin.

Well, it's left millions of us wondering, so what is safe to buy this holiday season? We caught up with an Atlanta family taking control of the problem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD (voice-over): It's a futile race in the Holbrook household, but the kids, five-year-old Sam and seven-year-old Bailey still jump right in, find a toy in the play room that is not made ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In China. WHITFIELD: ...or recalled, like ...

TRACY HOLBROOK, PARENT: Dora stuff, Diego, Elmo. I mean, the list goes on and on.

WHITFIELD: Frustrating and expensive.

(on camera): Who do you blame? You know, where are the gaps? Who do you get angry at?

T. HOLBROOK: The toy -- the big toy names who are trying to save a buck. They don't really care about the quality of things when it comes down to the dollar.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): The Holbrooks in Atlanta, like millions of American parents, are fed up.

BRIAN HOLBROOK, PARENT: Seems like there's no checks and balances as far as all these toys are getting manufactured in China, they're coming over here, but they're not having to go through that same scrutiny as like the financials of an organization.

T. HOLBROOK: It's impossible keeping up with all the recalls and it's impossible going through all the toys upstairs to find all of the recalls to take them back.

WHITFIELD: So Tracy and Brian made a pledge: no imports.

B. HOLBROOK: There'll be some toys that they want to get that ...

WHITFIELD (on camera): They can't.

B. HOLBROOK: ...they won't be able to get.

T. HOLBROOK: They'll have toys that are not advertised, probably, because everything is advertised as made in China. That's how everything they want, they see on TV ...

WHITFIELD: Right, is it fair there is this kind of anti-China?

T. HOLBROOK: It is absolutely not fair. It should be on the big toymakers. It should be on the agencies who are supposed to protect the product. It shouldn't be on China. It just happens to be everything is made in China.

WHITFIELD: Are these companies putting profit before safety?

T. HOLBROOK: Yes, absolutely they are.

WHITFIELD: Makes you mad?

T. HOLBROOK: Yes.

B. HOLBROOK: It's how cheap, how inexpensive can they put something in front of a consumer, and so it's a price war and whoever's going to buy the cheapest. We'd rather have something that's maybe a few dollars more expensive, but comes in and says it's been safety tested for children.

T. HOLBROOK: I personally feel like I have power to stop it as a consumer.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): That's why Tracy got busy online.

(on camera): And so, this is how you'll be doing your holiday shopping?

T. HOLBROOK: Yes, all online, all American-made.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): And she passed the links on to 40 friends and family members.

Stoking the ire of many families with small kids, the U.S. government's seemingly conflicting policies. On one hand, encouraging imports while on the other, failing to inspect products from overseas, so that families like the Holbrooks can sleep at night, knowing their children and the toys they love are safe.

Fredricka Whitfield, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Well, the Holbrooks know just because a toy is American-made, does not necessarily mean it is safe, but given the list of recalls, they feel more comfortable with American-made products.

Well, just like Tracy Holbrook rallied her friends and family to take action, parents all across the country are turning to one another to get help and share advice about the recalls.

Linda O'Connell knows all about that. She's the editor of a Web site called South Jersey Moms, and joins us today from Allentown, Pennsylvania. All right, Linda, good to see you.

LINDA O'CONNELL, EDITOR, SOJERSEYMOMS.COM: Hello.

WHITFIELD: Well, can you identify with the Holbrooks, the frustration that has mounted because of all of these recalls? And their mantra is no imports. What did you and your friends do?

O'CONNELL: Well, I am not a toy safety expert, obviously, but I am in touch with the kinds of strategies that informed and concerned moms are taking. There's a lot of ranting out there. People are absolutely furious, as your report indicated.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

O'CONNELL: There is a feeling of betrayal, how could they do this to us? There is also a feeling of annoyance that if we have to spend more time thinking about the toys that we're buying, that's not fair either because we're all so busy and overworked and we have enough to do taking care of our children.

WHITFIELD: Right, and so because of all that, you helped create this Web site to kind of be a one-stop shopping place of getting guidance, finding answers, helping people navigate so that maybe shopping isn't so frustrating?

O'CONNELL: Well, the South Jersey Moms Web site, sojerseymoms.com, is oriented toward social networking among moms and problems with toys are exactly the kinds of things that people talk about and have been talking about on the site. Because of that, for our December issue -- actually, our November issue of the magazine that we do and for our online edition in November, we decided to do what a concerned and mindful mom might do and cast our net as wide as possible on the Internet and in the region to look for toys that we would pick out as most likely to meet our standards.

WHITFIELD: So, what is the feedback that you're getting? Are most of those who've responded saying we're just going to go anti- China? We only want American-made. Are they saying something similar to what the Holbrooks said in that piece?

O'CONNELL: What we found in our area were really two streams running. Some people who were saying if it's on the shelf and I'm in an independent toy store or I'm in an educational toy store, I'm just going for it.

WHITFIELD: OK.

O'CONNELL: And other people took the route of I have to go alternative.

I think the three things that we focused on ...

WHITFIELD: Yes.

O'CONNELL: ...were the alternatives, the giving yourself an alternative shopping experience that would allow you to more carefully examine and be more mindful of the toys.

WHITFIELD: What does that mean, like what? What does that mean?

O'CONNELL: Well, we stayed away from big box stores.

WHITFIELD: Ah-hah.

O'CONNELL: We looked at arts centers, we looked at museum gift stores, activity center, aquarium gift stores. Strangely enough, library gift stores and even hospital gift stores ...

WHITFIELD: Wow.

O'CONNELL: ...at this time of year, get Christmassy, there is not as much to choose from. You are much more likely to have a contemplative experience examining the toys, and in many cases, in independent toy stores, having a real conversation about the toy. WHITFIELD: Right, so it really sounds like this holiday season, the real emphasis is on parents feeling satisfied, and honestly, the children's satisfactory just might have to come secondary if it means safety.

O'CONNELL: I think that's true, as was said in your previous report.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

O'CONNELL: Children will probably get things from mindful people that are not Thomas or Elmo or Hannah Montana.

WHITFIELD: Right, right, in other words, they're going to have to be happy with what they get this year.

O'CONNELL: Well, if you're looking for the must-haves, you could be not having that.

WHITFIELD: OK, right. All right, well Linda O'Connell, thanks so much, of sojerseymoms.com.

O'CONNELL: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much for your time. Happy holidays.

O'CONNELL: Bye-bye.

WHITFIELD: Well, we know the challenges that you're facing don't end here. That's why we continue to update our Web site and we've even created a section on CNN.com to post the latest information coming in. Just click on the Holiday Shopping tab at the top of our home page and you'll find news articles, video, and an archive of stories on each recall going back to the summer.

Our special coverage, "Trouble in Toyland" continues all weekend long. Coming up at 2:00 Eastern, I'll talk to the CEO of one of the biggest toy stores in the country, FAO Schwarz.

But first, see no evil. Meet a police officer with an incredible skill, and he's also blind.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, well, let's update one of our most popular stories from last month. Remember Lakshmi? Well, here she is in early November. The little girl was born with eight arms and legs, and actually, the extra limbs were meant for Lakshmi's conjoined twin.

Well, doctors in India removed two arms and two legs, the marathon operation just over a month ago. Well, take a look at the result. Lakshmi went home today. Look at that, she's wearing braces for now, but doctors say she should have no problem walking. In fact, the two-year-old can already stand if she holds onto a steady object. So precious. Well, he sees no evil, but he can hear it. A blind police officer has a sure sense about wiretaps. CNN's Paula Newton reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's the sound of a new-age cop walking his beat. Alain's career is snatched from the stories of superhero strength. He can't show his face. He works undercover as a Belgian cop, hearing what most people can't. His job is to listen and interpret every note and noise from secret wiretap evidence. He nurtured his sharp hearing, he says, because he had to for his own survival. Alain is blind.

ALAIN, WIRETAP SPECIALIST (through translator): When I'm in the street, all the surrounding sounds in the environment are important for me. To know when I'm on the sidewalk, and there's a trash collector or something else, I need to know what it is before getting to it.

NEWTON: And it's those surrounding sounds that are so important for wiretap evidence. It's background noise to most, but not Alain. He can figure out the floor where an elevator has stopped just by listening to the gears, make out most of what's being typed out on a computer just by hearing the top of the keys.

We put Alain to the test with recorded conversations, first in a train station.

(on camera): (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

ALAIN: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

NEWTON (voice-over): Lots of people, he told us, they're not stopping. He guessed either an airport or a train station.

(on camera): Half an hour, 45 minutes, it'd be OK to wait.

(voice-over): He got this next location right away. It's a cafe, and he correctly picked up on people drinking wine nearby and a baby in the restaurant.

(on camera): OK, and then we'll meet to go over that, yes?

(voice-over): And then to this conversation in a moving car. He said it was not a standard vehicle. It had to be a truck or a car with a large cab. In fact, it was a London taxi.

It may all sound like trivial information, but especially in wiretap evidence, it is anything but. Pieced together, it helps police track and tail a suspect's every move. Now more important than ever, wiretaps play a crucial role in counterterrorism.

Belgian police say this pilot program could be a crime-fighting tool for police forces around the world.

GLENN AUDENAERT, BELGIAN CONTERTERROR CHIEF: Technology is as well an opportunity as a threat. We need to seek out the edge of technology to identify what kind of threats come to us from that edge or what kind of opportunities to us to develop counter strategy.

NEWTON: Alain says he's more surprised than anyone to be one of Belgian's newly minted cops. He hopes his acoustic talents will serve the public just as it has him.

Paula Newton, CNN, Brussels.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Well, straight ahead, 'tis the season. You know, the bell-ringing outside the stores and shopping malls all holiday season long. Well, you're about to meet one bell-ringer who's been ringing his Salvation Army bell as long as Elvis has been singing about blue suede shoes. You'll meet him right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh Holy Night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Well, why go Christmas caroling when you can go Christmas gargling? Yes, that's what you're hearing. I-reporter Greg Deluca says he and his friends make Christmas gargling an annual tradition at Rutgers University. They say they do their best to sound pretty awful, which they do. Well, their other goal, to help lighten the mood on campus during finals week. Is it beer or is it listerine they're using to gargle?

Well, think back to the first time you ever saw a Salvation Army bell-ringer bracing the cold next to that big, red kettle. Well, the sight is so familiar, but there is one face that really goes with it, unless, that is, you live in Denver.

Shawn Patrick from our affiliate KUSA has a story that should ring a bell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHAWN PATRICK, KUSA REPORTER (voice-over): When Merrill Fie began swinging the bell, rock and roll was in infancy, John F. Kennedy was a freshman senator from Massachusetts and there was no 16th Street mall.

MERRILL FIE, SALVATION ARMY BELL RINGER: It's always fun. It's always a new experience.

PATRICK: Merrill says some things have changed.

FIE: They've got a little more zip to it.

PATRICK: And the staff has expanded. Merrill's daughter and grandchildren were with him.

FIE: Today is the Fie family's day on 16th Street mall.

MERRILL STILLWELL, FIE'S GRANDSON: It's unbelievable! He manages to pick the cold day every year. I don't know how he does it.

FIE: So, I'm wearing my fishing longjohns. I don't ski, but I do have fishing longjohns. I keep walking around, keep things circulating.

PATRICK: Merrill says he never collected a diamond or a rare gold coin, but he has found a lot of good will and generous hearts.

FIE: Some people you'd least expect come and put money in the kettle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Well, that gets you in the mood.

A look at the top stories straight ahead. "YOUR MONEY" is next. Here now is a preview.

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