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CNN NEWSROOM

Pre-Winter Wallop; Endorsements Coming In; Rape Victim Pardoned; Family Matters; Maryland Apartment Fire; Legend Gives Back

Aired December 17, 2007 - 10:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tradition to carry it on now. I think it's excellent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The store's down says he wasn't looking to boost sales with the promotion and he has not.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Welcome back to the NEWSROOM. Stay informed all day right here. Here's what's on the rundown now.

A serious case of winter. The Great Lakes and Northeast. Closed schools, slick roads and delayed flights.

The west outraged over the treatment of women. Now the Saudi king pardons a rape victim who was sentenced to 200 lashes.

Inmates on the run. They chiseled cinder blocks out of the jailhouse wall and jumped a 25 foot fence. The great escape on this Monday, December 17th. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Winter is still a few days away, but it's on the doorstep of much of the country. From the Great Lakes to New England, a major storm dumps snow, sleet, and freezing rain. About a foot of snow has fallen from Chicago into Michigan. Hundreds of school districts are closed and the storm is also being blamed for at least four deaths.

In Massachusetts, the roof of this drugstore buckled under the weight of the snow and freezing rain there. One customer was slightly hurt. For the most part, the snow is over for today. But as you can see, the problems will linger longer.

Want to head into the great white north now. CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf has been out in the cold and snow all weekend long and he's still thawed out, which is amazing. He's in Syracuse, New York, this morning.

Hey there, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey. The snowy Syracuse, New York. I mean it's beautiful. It's a busy morning. I've got to tell you that despite the snowfall we've had -- hey, good morning, sir -- despite the snowfall that they've had, the city really hasn't missed a beat. I mean yesterday when we had much of this fall, thankfully it wasn't Sunday, so you didn't have to deal with the rush hour. They really lucked out on that. City officials have been very happy in that prospect.

However, they had about 17 inches of snowfall and still whether it's a work day or not, people need to get around. They got to, you know, do the very best in every day life. They're got to go to the store, they've got to go see relatives, they've got to pick up kids. So they had to work their way around a lot of this snow.

But a lot of these businesses stayed wide open. We had, again, as mentioned, 17 inches of snowfall. Had a little bit of snow just this morning, but that is beginning to taper off.

Now you can see right behind me, a lot of these businesses are open. And even beyond that, you can see the hill, the trees, and even atop, a patch of blue skies. And those blue skies let us know some dry air is beginning to move in.

Now with that dry air, what we can expect, these showers are going to come to an end. Not much in terms of snow showers. So they're going to be getting a welcome break here in the Syracuse area in terms of the snowfall.

However, though, later on this week, Heidi, we are expecting a snow system, a bigger system, to make its way into the Pacific Northwest. We see a clipper system that might form in the northern half of the Great Lakes and could bring a few more inches here to the Syracuse area. But certainly not at the magnitude of what we've dealt with over the last 12 to 24 to 48 hours. In sunny and somewhat Syracuse, to say the least, let's send it back to you in the studio.

COLLINS: Hey, you stole my line. That's exactly what I was going to say.

All right, Reynolds, we'll check back a little bit later on. Thanks so much.

The snow, though, is still affecting travelers. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is in the severe weather center now with a look at all these airline delays.

Hi there, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Heidi.

What I've done with Flight Explorer now is I've put in all the planes across the country that are headed to LaGuardia Airport. And it's very interesting because when you take a look at this, you'll see some circling happening over central New Jersey. That's because the planes are taking their time. There's a ground -- major ground delay at LaGuardia right now. So a lot of traffic, weather, wind a factor.

Some of the planes you see are coming from Chicago, Miami, Charlotte, North Carolina, and they're going to get to LaGuardia, it's just going to take a while. So if you're picking somebody up at the airport, expect delays that look like this. Over two hours in some locations. And also we'll be looking at delays at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Not to bad, 30 minutes. It was much worse over the weekend. Ground delays in and around San Francisco.

Well, Reynolds mentioned the snow in Syracuse. We still have that now. Some lake-effect snow coming into the region. Very light in nature. We're not looking at any serious accumulation compared to what we saw over the weekend.

But temperatures are brutally cold. It's only in the 20s. Some places in the teens, like in Toronto. The current temperature is 18 degrees.

The winds are still quite fierce, and that is taking down the wind chill factor to really the extreme level. Right now it feels like it's only 2 degrees in Albany.

We have a live picture of Albany, New York, the state capital, to show you. And, wow, it looks cold there. And it is. You can see the snow on the ground and I'm sure a lot of people are shivering if they're out on the streets. But it's OK, we're actually going to see a little bit better weather there later on. At least the sun is shining.

But we did have a lot of snow not just in New York, but also in Indiana. We have an i-Report to show you of what it looked like out there from Greg Porter. And the i-Report shows that there were a lot of spinouts in an around that region. You can see a ambulance there in the distance and some folks -- the video is kind of shaky, but, of course, there were a lot of traffic accidents.

Finally our last stop is California. We're looking for snow here. A big winter storm is coming in. Winter storm warning, 1 to 2 feet at the higher elevations. And it's actually going to be the beginning, Heidi, of a series of storms coming through. So from east to west this week we'll be tracking extreme weather.

COLLINS: All right. Well, we're glad you're over there doing that for us. Thanks so much, Bonnie. We'll check back a little bit later on.

Meanwhile, want to get you to New Jersey now. We are looking at the governor there, Jon Corzine, getting ready to sign into law a bill that was approved last week by the legislature. This is a bill to wipe out the death penalty in the state of New Jersey. In fact, New Jersey will become the first state now in four decades to end capital punishment. So he is getting ready, in just a few moments, to actually put his signature on that bill. Once again, the story coming from New Jersey and Governor Jon Corzine signing that bill. So there you have it.

Also, want to get onto the campaign trail now. Country first, party second. That's the message from Senator John McCain. A short time ago he got an endorsement from across the aisle. Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman endorsed McCain in his Republican presidential bid. You, in fact, saw it live on CNN this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I) CONNECTICUT: I have seen John time and time again rise above the negativism and smallness of our politics to get things done for America. And I have seen him time and time again work with people on the other side of the aisle to make America stronger and safer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: That endorsement was made in New Hampshire, which holds the country's first presidential primary coming up next month.

On the Democratic side now, John Edwards is picking up his own endorsement. This one from Iowa. CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is joining us now from Des Moines.

Good morning to you, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi.

This endorsement just hours away now. This one going to Senator John Edwards. It's of Iowa's first lady, the governor's wife, Mari Culver. Now you may ask, why is this important? Well, remember back in 2004 it was the former governor's wife, it was Christie Vilsack, who gave the nod to Senator John Kerry. He went on to win the Iowa caucuses.

So why does this matter? Everything matters now. Now is the season of endorsements. The time of endorsements and certainly Senator Hillary Clinton hoping that this will turn her campaign around as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX, (voice over): Dogged by bad press and bad weather, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign looked like it was grounded. But then something happened. Clinton got the coveted endorsement of Iowa's most important paper, the skies cleared, and she took off. You couldn't get a better metaphor.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if you stand up for me, I promise you, I will stand up and fight for you every single day that I'm president.

MALVEAUX: The makings of another Clinton morphing into the comeback kid? Well, it may be too soon to tell. But the nod from Iowa's "Des Moines Register" does help. It echoes her campaign's central theme, experience matters.

H. CLINTON: Well, I'm running because I think I can take the experience of my lifetime, particularly the work that I have done over the last 35 years, and put it to work for everybody.

MALVEAUX: She uses the argument mostly to set herself apart from her closest opponent, Barack Obama. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is fine tuning the message. Mixing it with part flattery.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Obama is a person of enormous talent, you know, staggering political skills.

MALVEAUX: Part inquiry.

B. CLINTON: Who is the best agent of change? Not the best symbol, but the best agent.

MALVEAUX: And part zinger.

B. CLINTON: I mean, in theory, we could find someone who is a gifted television commentator . . .

CHARLIE ROSE, "THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW": You think?

B. CLINTON: And let them run. They'd have only one year less experience in national politics.

MALVEAUX: Obama' comeback.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I was 20 points down, they all thought I was a wonderful guy. So, you know, obviously, things have changed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, Heidi, the feud over Obama's experience has heated up so much that some voters are calling this the battle of Bill versus Barack. I should also let you know as well, Senator Barack Obama did get a very important endorsement. That from "The Boston Globe" this past weekend.

Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Well, it's all starting to happen, isn't it, Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

COLLINS: Thanks so much. Suzanne Malveaux reporting live from Des Moines, Iowa. Thank you, Suzanne.

Ron Paul on a money roll. His campaign says the Republican presidential candidate raised an astounding $6 million in a one-day Internet drive on Sunday. The latest fund-raising feat called money bomb. Paul's campaign brought in $4.2 million in its last online fund raiser.

Want the most up to the minute political news anywhere available? Cnnpolitics.com is your one stop shop. It's the Internet's premier destination for political news. Cnnpolitics.com.

A daring jail break in New Jersey. Authorities say two inmates escaped from the Union County Jail by removing cement blocks from walls and squeezing through the openings. Then they jumped to a rooftop and made their getaway over a 25 foot high metal fence. And that's not all. Authorities say the inmates left dummies made of pillows and sheets in their beds and covered the holes in the wall with pictures of women wearing bikinis. Jail officials say inmates won't be allowed to put girly pictures up on the walls anymore. A manhunt for the escaped men is underway.

A special delivery for Iran. Nuclear fuel. Russia sent the first batch over yesterday as part of a $1 billion contract to help Iran build a nuclear power plant. But the U.S. and others are worried Iran could eventually build nuclear weapons. Russia says Iran has promised in writing the fuel will only be used at this site. And the International Atomic Energy Agency also watching closely. Two weeks ago a U.S. intelligence report said Iran stopped working to develop nuclear weapons in 2003.

COLLINS: The Army looking for ways to keep soldiers in place. Realizing the key may lie with their families. That story ahead right here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A rape victim punished. Now Saudi Arabia's king says no. It's a case that stirred international outrage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A pardon this morning for a rape victim sentenced to 200 lashes. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah stepping in. CNN's Paula Newton looks at the case that stirred international outrage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): She's become known as the girl from Qatif, gang raped by seven men at the age of 19, sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison because at the time she was abducted, she was with a man who was not a relative. Her case has caused international outrage and significantly inside Saudi Arabia, a debate about justice led by her attorney.

ABDEL RAHMAN AL-LAHEM, RAPE VICTIM'S LAWYER, (through translator): We want to highlight the rape crimes in Saudi Arabia and the way they are handled and sentenced in court. This is a new era for all of us.

NEWTON: Al-Lahem had his attorney's license revoked for daring to appeal the court's sentence. The woman's lawyer went on Lebanese TV to debate the issue with a former Saudi judge who said the victim's punishment served to defend her husband's honor.

SHEIKH ABDEL MUHSIN EKEBAN, FORMER SAUDI JUDGE, (through translator): Would anyone allow someone to spoil their marital bed? This action coming from a married woman dishonors her marriage. When a woman meets up with an unrelated male in secret, what is she going to do with him? Will she be performing an act of chastity with him?

NEWTON: The victim's husband has been unusual vocal by Saudi standards in defending his wife. He intervened by phone in the televised debate to say that she had met the man to retrieve a photo he had of her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, RAPE VICTIM'S HUSBAND, (through translator): She was trying to protect her marriage. I don't know what you're talking about when you say that she admitted her guilt.

NEWTON: But at issue here, is the essence of Saudi justice. This Saudi scholar says women are still treated as possessions of men.

MAI YAMANI, SAUDI POLITICAL ANALYST: These women in Saudi Arabia want the right to walk in the street, to drive a car, to vote like all of us, like their neighbors even in the most conservative Arab countries.

NEWTON: It's the debate in the court of Saudi public opinion that may drive some judicial reform in the royal kingdom.

Paula Newton, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Changing of the guard in Iraq. British troops formally hand over control of Basra now, their last region in Iraq. The Brits' mission, training security forces and helping rebuild Iraq's economy. The handover means half of Iraq's 18 provinces are now under control of Iraqi forces.

The Army's attempt to keep soldier on point in Iraq and Afghanistan. Family may be the deciding factor. More now from CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Here at the Army's War College, many officers are combat veterans. They, like so many, are paying a high price, often measured in terms of what they've missed.

COL. ROB RISBERG, U.S. ARMY: I've got two boys, two teenage boys. So I've missed a lot of ball games and Boy Scout and Cub Scout events.

LT. COL. MIKE GIBLER, U.S. ARMY: Firsts of lots of things. You know, first discussions, first talking, first walking, you know, first prom. You know those types of things when you're off doing something else, that's what you miss out on.

STARR: It's one of the biggest worried for Admiral Michael Mullen, the Joint Chief's chairman. He's meeting with troops around the country. ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I don't want to just draw conclusions based on information that I read or briefs that I get in Washington.

STARR: Mullen knows the troops and their families are feeling the strain of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

MULLEN: They want to know somebody from a senior position, not just me, they want to know somebody is actually listening to them.

STARR: And he's already heard the number one complaint.

MULLEN: They're pressed hard. They want to know when the 15- month deployments are going to be -- are going to end.

STARR: So it's surprising, perhaps, the Army's own statistics don't show a clear trend that troops are bailing out. Enlistees are staying on the job at the highest rate in five years. Seventy-four percent of soldiers eligible to reinlist did so last year. But West Point graduates over the past eight years have left the Army at rates that commanders say are worrisome. These days a decision to stay on duty is made by the family, not just the individual soldier.

LT. COL. DAVE ACEVEDO, U.S. ARMY: A soldier feels like a soldier -- his family is at home and is being taken care of and he can concentrate on the mission, then I think we're going to be OK.

STARR: Even with the progress in Iraq, these officers say it's more critical than ever before for Army families to feel they're being taken care of, especially because the troops may be in Iraq for years to come.

Barbara Starr, CNN, at the Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: New dad away at the war, but he still didn't miss the birth of his son.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Want to take you back to the story we told you about just a few minutes ago here in the CNN NEWSROOM about this fire that is happening in Maryland. T.J. Holmes has been watching this story for us and has a little bit new information.

Hi there, T.J.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there.

The new info is that we have a firefighter now injured. This is in Prince Georges County. Not to far outside of D.C.

This is the scene. A live picture here of this apartment complex, specifically in Beltsville, Maryland. But the fire has been going since about 9:00 this morning. We've seen firefighters, several of them, fighting this. Described as a three alarm fire by the fire department there.

But one firefighter now injured. We don't know the extent of his injuries, how badly injured or the circumstances around his injury or being injured. We don't know that. But we'll try to update you on that information as well. But he has, at least, been taken to the hospital at this point.

The left side there where you see the smoke coming out, the left side of that building, at least, it appears to be a pretty significant loss. The roof appears to have been burned out. Fire shooting up through the roof.

Again, don't know how this fire started. And we don't know about any injuries to anyone who may have been in that apartment complex, lives in that apartment complex. That we're still working on.

But the update now is that we've had at least one firefighter injured in this fire in Beltsville, Maryland. Not too far outside of Washington, D.C.

We're keeping an eye on it, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, T.J., thanks so much. We'll check back with you should things change there. Thank you.

HOLMES: All right.

COLLINS: Want to get to the big board. There we go. Dow Jones Industrial averages down about 50 points or so, resting now at 13,291. Also hearing the Nasdaq is down about 32 points. We're going to be checking in with Susan Lisovicz here in just a little while, talking more about some interesting comments from Alan Greenspan. So we'll get to that here in just a moment.

Meanwhile, his sad songs helped define a decade. Soft rock superstar Dan Fogelberg has died. But his music lives on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN FOGELBERG, (singing): Now the only girl I've ever loved is gone away, looking for a brand new start. Little does she know that when she left that day, along with her she took my heart.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A half century of singing. Most of it in exile. Miriam Makeba is still performing and making a difference, though. CNN's Robin Curnow reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBIN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): She turned 75 this year and Miriam Makeba is still singing. Lovingly nicknamed Mama Africa, Makeba is an African music legend. MIRIAM MAKEBA, SINGER: I know I made African music universal and the first artist to come out of the continent of Africa, and particularly from South Africa, to go to Europe, America, and other countries and sing the songs of my people and have people come by the thousands to just que up and want to see this young African woman.

CURNOW: She's still singing some of her early hits composed in the 1950s.

MAKEBA: People would kill me if I do a performance and not sing (INAUDIBLE). So what I do is I try to put them in a medley of songs. I do a medley of songs. Then I just sing bits and pieces of them because I'm too tired of singing the song.

CURNOW: Tired and shortchanged, she says. Makeba doesn't own the rights or get revenue from some of her most recognizable compositions.

MAKEBA: And not being very well educated to know the ins and outs of finances and stuff, we get robbed all the time by promoters, managers, record companies and this and that.

CURNOW: So she still works, taking to the stage and touring the world to make ends meet. And to fund her passion, supporting 18 disadvantaged teenage girls who live in a home Makeba established near Johannesburg in 2001.

MAKEBA: I'm not rich, but I shared with these children whatever it is I could afford.

CURNOW: Her life has been filled with ups and downs. In exile for 31 years for speaking out on apartheid. During those years, though, she sang for John F. Kennedy, collaborated with Harry Belafonte. She was once married to jazz legend Hugh Masekela and the controversial Black Panther leader Stokey Charmichael. But after 50 years in show business . . .

MAKEBA: I know what it is not to have. I know what it is to go to bed some days without food.

Africa is where my heart lies.

CURNOW: Robin Curnow, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: The leader of the band has died. Singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg lost his battle with prostate cancer. He was diagnosed three years ago. Fogelberg had success in the '70s and '80s with soft rock hits. I'm sure you remember "Leader of the Band" or "Same Old Lang Syne." Dan Fogelberg, just 56 years old.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Good morning and welcome back, everybody. Boy, from Michigan to Maine, northerners are digging out from a massive snowstorm. Look at that video there. Football fans trudged through blizzard-like conditions yesterday to watch their beloved Cleveland Browns. A foot of snow blankets much of the region in fact, and at least four deaths are now blamed on the storm. Yesterday a Boston news crew came to the rescue of stranded motorists, and in Chicago a snowplow driver is being praised for pulling a woman from a burning car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEMETRIUS DUPLESSIS, SNOW PLOW HERO: I got out of the truck, and I ran over to the young lady in the car, and she was on the cell phone. So when I -- I kept yelling, get out of the car, get out of the car! The car on fire! She just looked at me and started to lock the door. So I smashed the door open and snatched her out!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: The woman, who was on her way to take a college exam, says she didn't realize that her car had caught fire.

Well, how fierce was this storm? Well, it earned the respect of winter-hardy New Englanders, that's for sure.

The view in Boston from Victoria Block (ph). She's with CNN affiliate WHDH.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VICTORIA BLOCK (ph), WHDH REPORTER (voice-over): Driving is hard and frightening in the howling winds and blinding snow.

PETE WEBBER, MOTORIST: Visibility is not great. You leave enough space between vehicles, you're in pretty good shape.

BLOCK: Plows are out, so are police helping people who have skidded off the road.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you OK?

BLOCK: Walking is no picnic either.

JOANNE CAMPBELL, SWAMPSCOTT: It's a complete sheet of ice. It's pretty tough. It's going to be hell tomorrow morning, that's for sure.

BLOCK: You can barely see from one corner to the next on streets piled high with snow from two storms. But walking the dog isn't an option.

(on camera): You're the dog owner.

NICOLE BAER, PEDESTRIAN: I am, yes. He is three, four times a day, got to do it.

BLOCK (voice-over): High tide helps a storm-stirred sea act out, yet church is open to the faithful, who have plans for an easy day now that their work is done.

(on camera): What are you doing up this early?

KATHY GRINDROD, CHURCHGOER: Going to church. Then I have to pick up a couple things over at Stop and Shop, and then I'm going home and staying in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: All right. So things don't look very good, that's for sure. We are following the weather for you from several different angles. We will bring up the very latest on the weather situation across the country in just a couple moments.

Meanwhile, want to get to Saudi Arabia now. King Abdullah stepping in. A pardon today for a rape victim who was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes. The court found her guilty of being alone with a man who wasn't a family member. An appeal by her attorney led to an even harsher sentence. The country's justice minister said King Abdullah granted the pardon in the interest of the Saudi Arabian people.

But the justice minister is quoted in the Al-Jazeera newspaper as saying, "The king is convinced and sure that the verdicts were fair."

Want to take you now to Johnson, Iowa for an event that's happening right now. We are looking at the Hillary "I know" effort. This is taking place once again in Johnson, Iowa. You see the presidential candidate there on the left of the screen. These are people coming to the microphone on her behalf, sort of testifying, if you will, people who've known her for their whole life and been sharing some of their personal stories about her and bringing those stories to the voters. So that's what's happening as we speak right now in the Clinton campaign in Johnson, Iowa.

With the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary getting very close, endorsement are coming in right and left. Over the weekend "The Des Moines Register" endorsed Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton for the Iowa caucuses. McCain also picked up an endorsement from "The Boston Globe." On the Democratic side, the "Globe "is backing Senator Barack Obama. The New Hampshire primary is January 8th.

If you want the most up-to-the-minute political news anywhere available, just go to CNNpolitics.com. It's the Internet's premiere destination for political news, CNNpolitics.com.

A Marine becomes a dad while away at war, but he was still able to watch his baby son being born, thanks to a video hookup.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTEN STACHOWIAK, MOTHER: I was there, and he was obviously right there on the monitor. So he didn't have to see too much gross stuff, though.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a side shot, right.

STACHOWIAK: Yes, it was a side shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Aww. The live video feed was provided by Cape Canaveral Hospital and Freedom Calls. It's a group that helps link troops and they're families.

Romance in France. The president and the supermodel. Paris purrs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

COLLINS: Romance and all of Paris buzzing this morning. French president Nicolas Sarkozy and former model Carla Bruni were seen together at Disneyland Paris this weekend. His office won't say anything about the relationship. Sarkozy and ex-wife Cecilia just divorced in October.

Is the Army ignoring widespread cheating out exams for promotions. Veronica de la Cruz takes a look at the new investigation, coming up in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A grieving mother just wants justice for her dead son. The 3-year-old died Saturday at an indoor play place in Washington State. Police say two adults landed on top of him while they were all playing on an inflatable jumping toy. The boy's mother says The Play Place didn't have enough supervision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REBECCA PIERCE, MOTHER: It's been an absolute shock. You know, you want to wake up from the nightmare. It's a nightmare you'll never wake up from. There will be more charges filed as far as I'm concerned. My son was taken from me. To hell with everybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: The coroner ruled the death as an accident. The Play Place does include an all-ages jump time and requires users to sign a liability waiver. The company has offered condolences to the family.

A scathing new report tells of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers using the Internet to cheat on exams. It helps them get promotions. What's the Army doing about it? Veronica de la Cruz is here with more.

Hi there, Veronica.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Heidi. You know, these accusations of online cheating are not new, but a five-month investigation by "The Boston Globe" shows just how widespread the cheating is. According to "The Boston Globe's" Web site, the Army is aware of and has largely ignored, Heidi, this problem that's existed for about eight years now. Their investigation found that hundreds of thousands of packages of exam answers have been downloaded from multiple Web sites. Records from one site, shamschool.com, shows that between September '06 and August '07 nearly 43,000 packages of engineering tests were downloaded, plus close to 20,000 interschool exams, nearly 19,000 air defense artillery exams, and more than 13,000 packages for the Quartermaster Corps all downloaded. So pretty shocking numbers there.

What is the Army done about all of this? Well, according to "The Boston Globe" not much. No one has been prosecuted for cheating. There is a note on shamschool.com, however, which reads "Due to the refusal of the webmaster to censor this site, the Army has taken it upon itself to prevent access here from any military computer." Now the problem with that, of course, is that it doesn't stop you from using a different computer.

The report also showed how easy it was to come by exam info. The site we're looking at is arm armyfocus.com, and it supposedly sells test answers. There are also apparently links on tons of Yahoo! and Google message boards. Now I do want to mention that we did try to reach out to the Pentagon and the Army for comment this morning. No one has gotten back to us yet. "The Boston Globe" does suggests the Army is having such a tough time finding qualified recruits that they might be letting the cheating slide, Heidi..

COLLINS: All right, well, it sounds like there's a lot more to happen in all of this. We will wait to hear comment, of course. All right, Veronica de la Cruz, thank you.

(BUSINESS HEADLINES)

COLLINS: Just days after Hanukkah, a Florida family wakes up to find hate graffiti all over their home, their spirit broken.

Vanessa Medina (ph) of affiliate WSBN has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VANESSA MEDINA, WSBN REPORTER (voice-over): Nothing can wash away the hurt of the family that lives inside this home.

VOICE OF VICTIM, HOME SPRAY-PAINTED: To see this is just -- it's nauseating. It makes me sick to my stomach.

MEDINA: The family waking up Sunday morning to a sickening sight. Images of hate spray-painted on their home, driveway, garage, even mailbox.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were so overcome, I just started crying.

MEDINA: The shock and horror of seeing red swastikas just too much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen my father cry.

VOICE OF VICTIM: If you look at the side of the house, it's very, very graphic and very obvious.

MEDINA: Obvious and foul. Messages of "heil Hitler," "burn in hell," repulsive to neighbors too.

GABRIEL JARDIM, NEIGHBOR: Hate crime, for me is the entire community.

ALAN HARRIS, NEIGHBOR: I was almost two blocks away and I could see the red swastika from that distance, and I was pretty appalled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This has to an awful lot of, I think, internal hatred for someone to do this.

MEDINA: A family hurt, mortified someone would target their religion, deface their home, their once safe haven.

VOICE OF VICTIM: It's horrible to see that my room is right there.

MEDINA: The words, the symbols will soon be painted over, but the wounds, this family says, will last forever.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Police are investigating the case as a hate crime, and the FBI also involved because some of the graffiti was painted on public property.

A border where no news is good news, why an Iran/Iraq crossing point is safer.

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COLLINS: You already know to catch us week day mornings from 9:00 a.m. until noon Eastern. But did you know you could take us with you anywhere? On your iPod? The CNN NEWSROOM podcast is available 24/7 right on your iPod.

Time to take look now at some of the most clicked on videos on cnn.com. Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul threw his own Boston Tea Party, to mark its anniversary. He's also raising money, a lot of it, too.

What's a copy of the Magna Carta worth? Auctioneers are opening it will fetch as much as $30 million.

And a web cam and a satellite link enabled a father to see the birth of his daughter while stationed in Iraq. Good story there. For more of your favorite video just go to cnn.com/mostpopular.

Country at war. A border at peace. CNN's Harris Whitbeck looks at the change at one Iran/Iraq crossing point.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This Iranian tour guide is leading yet another group of pilgrims from Iran to see holy cities in Iraq. Crossing the border between Iran and Iraq has never been simple. Now, he says, things are much easier. For two years now, U.S. troops and border patrol agents have been advising the Iraqi authorities on how to make crossing points more secure, and less porous for smugglers. It's part of the U.S. attempt to make it harder for the Iraqi insurgency to launch attacks in the country.

(on camera) According to U.S. intelligence, the border crossings have been used by the insurgency in Iraq and that's why inspects, such as these, have been asked by the U.S. to look for more than just the contraband of commercial goods.

(voice over) They're looking for what the U.S. military says is the hardware sent to the insurgents by their CS supporters in Iran.

SGT. 1ST CLASS DARYL KINDER, U.S. ARMY: The biggest thing that we're doing right here is deterring accelerants from coming across the borders. By accelerants I mean the, the weapons, the IEDS, or the IED making material, money, even foreign fighters.

WHITBECK: So far no weaponry or foreign fighters have been discovered at the border crossings, but the U.S. advisers still feel their presence is being felt.

KINDER: Although we haven't caught anything yet, we've, at times, seen the vehicle traffic stop and to us that's one of the visible signs of deterrence.

WHITBECK: Iraqi authorities agree that tightening up the border with Iran will improve the counter insurgency efforts.

MAJ. GEN. RASHID GHADBAN, IRAQI BORDER ENFORCEMENT DEPT. (through translator): Discovering those points where they come in is our number one responsibility. We have improved our capacity with coalition forces. We work 24/7 on the issue.

WHITBECK: The area itself is one of the most peaceful places in the country.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, on the Iraq/Iran border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Coming up at the top of the hour, crank up the snow blower. A big storm shuts schools, cuts power and slows air travel. The updated forecast coming your way in just a few moments.

But first, the view from New Hampshire. There are dozens of motorists who spent their Sunday going nowhere. This story now from Michelle Relerford. She's with CNN affiliate WHDH.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE RELERFORD, CNN AFFILIATE WHDH: For sledders, snowboarders and tubers of all ages, the day was a snow lover's dream.

Tell me how much fun is this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot.

RELERFORD: But it was a nightmare for people doing their sliding out on the roads.

CHRISTINA KAFFEY, STRANDED MOTORIST: I hit a patch of ice and it just slid sways and I couldn't control it. Even in four wheel drive, it had no control at all. It just kept rolling.

RELERFORD: Sunday's Nor'easter rolled into southern New Hampshire around 4:00 a.m. Dumping nine inches on Nashua's already eight to ten inches of snow on the ground. Snowplows plugged away to keep lanes clear, but near whiteout conditions made it tough to see ahead or look behind.

TROOPER WILLIAM BARASSI, NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE POLICE: What you see is what you get. We're dealing with some pretty treacherous conditions and just urging people to stay off the roads if they can.

RELERFORD: The heavy snowfall, high winds and bitterly cold temperatures weren't enough to stop holiday shoppers, getting the last minute must-haves.

BOB HILL, SHOPPER: We just had a baby on Thanksgiving. My wife and I's first, and we just haven't been able to get everything done as early as we wanted to.

RELERFORD: But unless you're vehicle is aero-dynamically designed for slipping and sliding, here's two words of advice.

KAFFEY: Stay home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: To New Jersey now. The death penalty abolished. This morning New Jersey became the first state to ban capital punishment since 1976, that's when the Supreme Court restored the death penalty. Governor Jon Corzine says the eight men on New Jersey's death row will now face life in prison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JON CORZINE, (D) NEW JERSEY: Today, New Jersey is truly evolving. We evolve if you believe, as I do, that government cannot provide a full-proof death penalty that precludes the possibility of executing the innocent. Society must ask, is it not morally superior to imprison 100 people for life than it is to execute all 100 when it's probable we execute an innocent?

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: New Jersey has not put anyone to death since 1963.

Iran's nuclear delivery. From Russia with a cold shoulder for the U.S. The story ahead right here in the NEWSROOM.

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COLLINS: You're with CNN. Hi there, everybody, I'm Heidi Collins. Developments keep coming in to the CNN NEWSROOM on this Monday, the 17th of December. Here is what's on the run down.

Joe Lieberman's Independence Day. The one time Democrat backs a Republican for president. Will John McCain get his joementum on?

Outcry from the West. Now, the Saudis pardon a rape victim who faced 200 lashes. A report, live from Mecca, ahead.

And heavy snow challenging the winter hardy in Buffalo. Closed schools and slippery roads from the Great Lakes into New England. Digging out, in the NEWSROOM.

Winter is supposed to be still a few days away, but maybe not. It's certainly on the doorstep of much of the country. From the Great Lakes to New England, a major storm dumps snow, sleet and freezing rain. About a foot of snow has fallen from Chicago into Michigan. Hundreds of school districts are closed. The storm is also being blamed for at least four deaths.

In Massachusetts the roof of this drugstore buckled under the weight of snow and freezing rain. One customer was slightly hurt. For the most part, the snow is over for today. But the problems will certainly linger.

One of those problems, air travel. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is in the severe weather center now with a look at more airline delays. I imagine it's probably getting a little worse, huh Bonnie?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, Heidi. And now we're not only talking about New York, were talking about Chicago where it stopped snowing. Take a look at Flight Explorer. I programmed it so it shows only the planes that are heading to O'Hare. And they are lining up again.

As you can see, the congestion right in an around that area, across Chicago. That's because there's too many planes trying to come in and we still have strong wind in that region. So the delays are long in Chicago.

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