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AMERICAN MORNING

Rudy Giuliani Hospitalized for Flu-Like Symptoms; Missing Family Found After Three Days in the Woods; Implications of Jamie Lynn Spears' Pregnancy To Young Viewers; Cancer and the Uninsured

Aired December 20, 2007 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: A fight for survival.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXIS DOMINGUEZ, RESCUED FROM FOREST: We had the tree, but then we had to abandon it.

ROBERTS: Lost in the worst winter conditions.

A. DOMINGUEZ: My feet were numb.

CHRISTOPHER DOMINGUEZ, RESCUED FROM FOREST: There was just no way we were going to be able to walk in that snow.

ROBERTS: Today, a family rescued, warm and sharing its story.

Can you afford to be diagnosed with cancer? New today. Proof that the uninsured are at a deadly disadvantage on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: This is a serious problem, one that Sanjay Gupta will look at in a moment.

ALINA CHO, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Yes. On the face of it, it sounds pretty obvious but there's certainly more to the story.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's Thursday, the 20th of December. I'm John Roberts.

CHO: And I'm Alina Cho. Kiran has the morning off. A lot to get to.

ROBERTS: We begin with breaking news this morning. Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani expected to be released from a hospital in St. Louis today after being admitted overnight for what is described as flu-like symptoms. Giuliani spent hours on Wednesday campaigning in Missouri. He was interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer during the "The Situation Room" from Columbia, Missouri.

Giuliani's plane had just left for New York when he became sick. They turned the plane around, landed at the St. Louis Airport. He was then taken to the hospital. Dana Bash is live in Des Moines this morning with the latest in Giuliani's condition. Good morning, Dana. What's the campaign saying?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The campaign is saying this morning, John, that the mayor is expected to be released from that St. Louis hospital and will go back to New York. In fact, I'll read you his statement we just got this morning from Rudy Giuliani's campaign spokeswoman, Maria Comella.

She said, "After precautionary tests, the doctors found nothing of concern at this time and Rudy will going back to New York later today. He is in high spirits and is grateful to the doctors and nurses who checked him out."

Now, what we don't know, John, is what exactly those precautionary tests were, why the doctors and nurses feel confident enough that his condition is good and good enough for him to be going back to New York, obviously leaving the hospital. What we do know is according to his campaign, he was not feeling well, feeling as you said earlier, flu-like symptoms and he was not feeling well. His campaign says, pretty much all day yesterday, but it got worse as he was taking off from Missouri back to New York, so bad that he apparently called his personal physician and his doctor said you know what?

As an abundance of caution, out of an abundance of caution, you should go back to Missouri and check yourself into the hospital, and that is exactly what he did in the St. Louis hospital. We don't have any more details again of exactly what these tests were that were done on him. All we do know is that they do expect him to get back out of the hospital later today and go back to New York.

ROBERTS: Dana, has the campaign said anything about what was actually wrong with him in terms of symptoms? Was he throwing up or was it something else? And what does it mean for the next few days of his campaign?

BASH: You know, an aide that I spoke to said he apparently was not throwing up. He was suffering from a severe headache and other symptoms that made him feel so bad that he called his personal physician obviously, so bad that they checked him into the hospital which is a pretty dramatic thing especially when you've already gotten on your plane and in the air. So, you know, it's interesting that they took that step there.

In terms of his future, John, he didn't have any public events scheduled for today. He had some private fund-raisers scheduled for New Jersey. We were told that his campaign manager is expected to go in his place. His next public campaign schedule is supposed to resume tomorrow in New Hampshire. Right now, those events are still going on as planned but they are not going to make a final decision about Giuliani's attendance until later today, we were told.

ROBERTS: OK. Well, certainly we wish him a speedy recovery, and we look forward to getting some more information on his condition and what kind of tests were done. Dana Bash for us this morning in Des Moines. Dana, thanks -- Alina. CHO: As many as you know, Giuliani has had health problems in the past, dating all the way back to his battle with prostate cancer back in 2000. Joining us with more, CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So, Sanjay, flu-like symptoms can mean a lot of things. What does your gut tell you about what may be wrong?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, I mean, flu-like symptoms can be pretty awful. I mean, he may have had a pretty awful day. We happen to see some images of him earlier in the day. He looked pretty good. He was talking to Wolf around 4:00. We looked at the timing. He was obviously campaigning before that as well.

You can get a significant headache. You can get a significant congestion. Some of that may get worse when you're on a plane and you get the pressure inside the cabin. It's hard to say. I just heard from Dana for the first time that he didn't have some of the classic sort of gastrointestinal symptoms that sometimes accompany the flu. That would have been something that I think, obviously, can make you really miserable and may put you in the hospital as well.

But keep in mind, Alina, this is something that surprises people. About 200,000 people every year do get hospitalized for the flu. That's a small number with respect to the overall number of people who get the flu but still a larger number than a lot of people think, so it could just be that. You know, the precautionary tests, you may want to distinguish to make sure this isn't pneumonia, for example, so a chest x-ray.

You might want to get your white blood cell count checked to make sure that you're not developing an overwhelming infection in the body and just your heart rate and your blood pressure and make sure nothing else isn't missed as well, Alina.

CHO: Very quickly, Sanjay, as many people know, Giuliani battled prostate cancer back in 2000. He's been since given a clean bill of health, but could this have anything to do with that?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I can't say for sure. I don't know, but I think that it's probably unlikely. I mean, one thing when you do have cancer, even if you're given a clean bill of health as you do have to get regular follow-up visits, usually every year, every six months or so, so certainly hadn't heard anything else about that.

We certainly talked a bit about that during his senatorial campaign at that point, but haven't heard that he had any other problems since then. I mean, but I will say, you know, someone his age comes in the hospital, a man in his 60s, suddenly, you know, you do take everything sort of seriously. Is there chest pain involved? Was there something he needed to get his heart checked out? All these sorts of things, I think the precautionary tests that we're talking about, there are several and it sounds like at least I'm hearing the same thing you are, that they all seemed normal. CHO: Well, they had to turn the plane around midair so that was of concern but the good news, of course, is that he is going to be released from the hospital later today. So thank you for your analysis, Sanjay, for that.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CHO: We'll talk to you a bit later -- John.

ROBERTS: Six minutes after the hour now. A remarkable story of survival out of northern California. Father and his three children found alive last night after being lost in heavy snow in the mountains for three days without food. And we're just getting in some new pictures from the family this morning. In the first few, you can see they're smiling, cutting down the Christmas tree that they went hunting for. But the next ones are far different. They show the kids with their feet inside each other's jackets, trying to stay warm. And with another fierce storm in the forecast, rescuers found them just in time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEXIS DOMINGUEZ, RESCUED FROM FOREST: I wanted soup.

JOSHUA DOMINGUEZ, RESCUED FROM FOREST: And brownies.

CHRISTOPHER DOMINGUEZ, RESCUED FROM FOREST: We just kept dreaming about food.

ROBERTS (voice-over): And this is how a harrowing ordeal ends. Three children home with their mother, safe and sound. What started as a search for the perfect Christmas tree turned into a three-day fight to survive. They spoke with Anderson Cooper last night.

C. DOMINGUEZ: I was practically half way out of the tree, the shelter that my dad had made, just trying to keep Josh warm, since I was next to him, and we just did the best that we could.

ROBERTS: Frederick Dominguez and his three kids, Chris, Alexis and Josh, got lost in the snowy mountainous woods of northern California. An anxious mother feared the worst.

LISA SAMS, MOTHER: My heart hurts. I just want to find my kids and bring them home.

ROBERTS: As more than 80 searchers scoured the woods and helicopters searched from above, the Dominguez family huddled together, battling the cold.

A. DOMINGUEZ: My dad like cut up his shirt and Chris cut up his shirt, and we made new socks so our feet could stay warm.

ROBERTS: Older brother, Chris, stayed positive, setting the example for his younger siblings.

C. DOMINGUEZ: Especially in front of them, I didn't want them to really lose hope. Whenever they would freak out, I would just be like, it's all right.

ROBERTS: Then as bad weather was again rolling in, a helicopter pilot making one last pass saw the father waving his arms, and a family's prayers were answered. They were searching for a tree, but instead found the inner strength to survive in the wilderness, and now have a Christmas story to remember.

FREDERICK DOMINGUEZ, FATHER: Well, my youngest boy said, "Dad, are we going to make it? Are you sure we're going to make it?" I said, "Son, I would tell you what I bought you for Christmas if I thought we weren't going to make it."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: All four of them are expected to be OK despite a little bit of frostbite and a touch of hypothermia.

Coming at 8:15 Eastern this morning, we're going to speak with the pilot and the paramedic who rescued the Dominguez family. And tomorrow, the whole family is going to join us here on AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: I look forward to that, John.

New this morning, the tapes are gone but the paper trail remains. The CIA says it will release documents to Congress as early as today relating to terror interrogation tapes that were destroyed back in 2005. Now the decision came after the House intelligence committee threatened to subpoena two agency officials. The White House is insisting there was no coverup after the "New York Times" said four administration lawyers were in on the talks over whether to get rid of the tapes.

New CNN polls released in the past hour. The top Democratic candidates are in a statistical dead heat in Iowa. Just four percentage points separate Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. On the Republican side, if you take a look, there the CNN opinion research poll shows Mike Huckabee leading the pack with 33 percent, mitt Romney in second with 25 percent. Rudy Giuliani 11 percent and John McCain and Fred Thompson are tied at nine percent -- John.

ROBERTS: Well, New Orleans is in for a day of protest. The city council prepares to vote on a plan to demolish dozens of public housing units, and people are outraged about it. Most of the buildings were damaged by Hurricane Katrina and federal authorities want to clear the way for redevelopment. Critics say the plan will worsen an already critical shortage of affordable housing since the hurricane hit in 2005.

The Omaha Department Store that was the scene of a bloody rampage will reopen this morning for the first time since the deadly shootings. Last night, a memorial service was held on the steps of the Von Maur at the Westroads Mall. On December the 5th, 19-year-old gunman Robert Hawkins killed eight people before taking his own life. AT last night's service, hundreds of people gathered. Victims were remembered, and a local pastor offered a prayer of healing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLAVIN, SISTER KILLED IN SHOOTING: It was very touching of him and the community's force has been fantastic. Not only have we had good family support, but the community support's been fantastic. The e-mails and the cards and the telephone calls and everything else has been just great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: The Von Maur family which owns the department store says it's planning to put up a permanent memorial at the store -- Alina.

CHO: Coming up on 11 minutes after the hour, Rob Marciano at the weather update desk tracking extreme weather in the northeast and snow, snow, and more snow, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: They are. Luckily for the folks who live in Boston, it shouldn't be much more than an inch or two. But you go north of there and you'll probably see a little bit more of that, maybe half a foot. Maybe as much as a foot in some cases. We have a live camera? No? Yes? We don't. There you go. There's the radar.

White is snow. Blue is rain. The pink is never good, that's a mix. And the red on this map indicates the counties in New Hampshire and Maine that will see probably six to 10 inches of snow. All the way to the other side of the country we go, where two to three feet is possible. As a matter of fact, two to three feet has already fallen in some spots across the sierra.

The rains come down across the I-5 corridor from Portland south to San Francisco, where the rain here continues to hit the Sierra, Nevada with big time snows up there in the Lake Tahoe area.

All right. In the middle part of the country, we're watching the situation unfold where the storm that came through the pacific northwest the other day is now plowing through the Midwest, and that's going to tap some moisture from the gulf of Mexico, and we could see some severe weather with this in the form of damaging winds and large some large hail.

We're already starting to see a little bit in the way of rainfall moved through Texas and Louisiana this morning. You see this pretty good line right here about to move through the golden triangle region across the Sevine (ph) and into southwest Louisiana. That could have some winds that may do a little bit of damage and certainly slow you down for your morning commute. That's the latest from the weather department. Alina, back up to you.

CHO: All right, Rob. Thanks a lot -- John.

ROBERTS: Twelve minutes after the hour now. A record suspension in hockey tops your "Quick Hits." The New York Islanders Chris Simon has been suspended for 30 games for stepping on an opponent with his skate. It's the longest suspension ever issued by the National Hockey League. Simon, by the way, held the previous record, a 25-game ban for a high sticking incident last season. He has now been suspended eight times in his career.

A new twist to tell you about. The Miss Puerto Rico pepper spray case. It turns out that Ingrid Marie Rivera's gown and bathing suit really had been sprayed. Police say a volunteer and not a rival contestant tried to sabotage her bid for the crown. No word on why, though. Rivera did end up winning the pageant. She maintained her composure in part by applying bags of ice to her swollen face and body when she went back stage.

Well, don't adjust your television set. No, this is not a makeup job. This man really is blue. What's even stranger, he doesn't mind. In fact, he did it to himself. Why? Find out next.

And a troubling new study that looks at the dangers that a lot of very sick people in America face. Is cancer a death sentence if you don't have health insurance? The results of the first of its kind survey ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Fifteen minutes after the hour. The first pictures are coming in right now from this breaking news out of New Zealand. A powerful earthquake has struck off of the coast, about 400 miles northeast of Christ Church. You can see significant damage in the coastal city of Gizborn. One official says three buildings have collapsed there. The 6.6 quake struck at 8:55 local time or 2:55 a.m. Eastern time. There are no official reports of death or injury at this point, but as you can see, there is some fairly extensive damage there - Alina.

CHO: Is cancer a death sentence if you don't have health insurance? Well, the results of a troubling new study released overnight. They show that the uninsured are twice as likely to die of cancer within five years.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta live at the medical update desk with more on this. You know, Sanjay, on the face of it, it seems pretty obvious, but this is significant because it's the first national study, right?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And just getting a sense of just how much of an impact not having health insurance has on your survival, your overall function, your overall quality of life, we're starting to see more and more of that data. What you're talking about is something coming out of the American Cancer Society, trying to figure out how many people die that otherwise should have lived as a result of cancer because of insurance.

One of the big problems is lack of access to screenings, and we know that earlier detection can mean lives saved. Let me give you a couple of examples, Alina, I think important ones. With regards to cancer, specifically, if you look at stage two cancer, for example, in someone who has insurance, you have a 90 percent survival rate, again at five years. Eighty percent among the uninsured with stage one. Look at that again. With stage one you should actually do better, but your survival likelihood is actually lower if you don't have insurance. I think that tells a lot there, that graphic that you're looking at.

Also, but just the screening tests that have become so common and so effective, we know, for example, pap smears in women. You look at women who have insurance. Again, 88 percent of them who have insurance actually go out and get the pap smears as compared to 68 percent of uninsured women getting those pap smears. So again, this is just a problem and this is what the American Cancer Society has been focused on.

The harsh reality is that 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 to 64 don't have health care insurance. That is the same time period, Alina, where half of breast cancers developed. Ten to 20 percent of colorectal cancers, this people need to get tested. They need to get treated, and for those people it's just not happening enough.

CHO: Well, testing is key obviously, Sanjay, as you just pointed out. But what's interesting is that there's some irony here. The three top Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani, McCain and Thompson, who all came out with health care proposals, they actually would not be insured under their very own health plans because they're all cancer survivors. So that means there are a lot more people like that out there.

GUPTA: You're getting at something very important, something a lot of people struggle with, which is preexisting condition. If you have some sort of preexisting condition, whether it's cancer or heart disease or diabetes, something like that, it makes it harder to get insurance. Something a lot of people have felt that frustration.

You know, Giuliani, we've been talking about this morning already, but he had prostate cancer. John McCain had melanoma and Fred Thompson had lymphoma. So they would all have difficulty actually getting covered under the various insurance programs that they're proposing.

And now, the insurance industry just yesterday, in fact, said they're proposing a series of steps to look at this very issue to figure out whether or not preexisting conditions could be lessened in terms of the impact on people trying to get insurance. But you're right, Alina, there is a bit of irony in there.

CHO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta from our health update desk in Atlanta. Sanjay, thank you. We'll talk to you a bit later.

GUPTA: Thanks, Alina. All right.

CHO: John?

ROBERTS: Jessica Simpson shows up at a Dallas Cowboys game last Sunday, and the team loses for only the second time this season. We'll tell you why one Cowboy called her a distraction. That's coming up.

And it's been the big buzz for a couple of days now. Britney Spears' little sister is pregnant. What does the world think about it? We'll read some e-mails that our I-Reporters sent in coming up after the break, and we'll have the blue guy for you. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Twenty-two minutes after the hour. It's not makeup or paint. Get a load of this. 57-year-old Paul Karason's skin really is blue. That is incredible. Now his skin began turning this color about 14 years ago after he started regularly drinking a form of liquid silver. Can you imagine living with that?

The potion is made from extracting silver from metal then mixing it in water with an electrical current. Now the drink has been billed as something that can cure almost anything that ails you, and Karason swears by it so he's happy to live by it. He said he doesn't believe drinking this potion caused the discoloration. He blames the time he rubbed the stuff on his face to treat a skin problem.

ROBERTS: Outside of this, the back of his hands are blue, too, though.

CHO: Incredible.

ROBERTS: Looks like it's coming from the inside.

CHO: Oh, my gosh.

ROBERTS: Wow.

Terrell Owens wants Jessica Simpson to stay home next week. Simpson watched Sunday's Dallas Cowboys' game from the luxury box in the Texas stadium and her new boyfriend, Cowboy's quarterback Tony Romo had one of the worst games of his career, at least the worst game since his former girlfriend, Carrie Underwood attended. Now Owens says his teammate's new girlfriend may have been a distraction. He doesn't want her around anymore.

ROBERTS: You're happily married, but she might have been a distraction. She's a beautiful girl, even up in the stands from high up there. All right.

Jamie Lynn Spears pregnant at 16. How will parents explain this to their children who watch her show on Nickelodeon "Zoey 101"? Very popular show. Our Veronica De La Cruz has been reading your I-Reports this morning.

So one of our producers says her sister actually called her yesterday.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

CHO: She has a teenaged daughter and she said, "What am I going to tell my daughter about this?"

DE LA CRUZ: Yes.

CHO: A lot of parents are concerned.

DE LA CRUZ: And it is. It is. Parents, grandparents, and we actually want to get through some of the I-Reports. We're going to start with one from Patricia, who is a grandmother. She says that she is outraged by the news and enough is enough. Now we have a child glamorizing teen pregnancy and she goes on to say some people are disrespectful, irresponsible and there are consequences to the actions we take as evidenced by the two sadly-neglected children of Britney.

Natalie in St. Ange in California says her daughter is 11, watches "Zoey 101." She says her daughter's first reaction was "great. Now, she won't be taping "Zoey 101" anymore.

Natalie writes at first I thought it was funny but realized that my daughter, in her own way, knew how a baby can impact Jamie's life and career.

This one from Lauren Middleton of Dublin, Ohio, who is a 24-year- old mother, has a sister who had her first child at 16. She says all you can do is educate your children. If you tell them what not to do, they'll do it. Once they hit the teenage years, you have to trust that what you taught them is enough.

Finally, this one from Frances Cleveland of Alabama who has two children. She e-mailed us to say "I will use this as an opportunity to talk to them about why they should wait for marriage or at least until they're older to begin having sex. I think we're going to have to stop watching TV for a while."

Yes. So you too can send us an I-Report by logging on to CNN.com/ireport. You can also send us an e-mail here to am@CNN.com.

ROBERTS: It really is a difficult situation for parents to be dealing with, with their preteen kids.

CHO: Yes, especially when you consider kids as young as 7 watching the show.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, exactly.

CHO: They're bound to hear about it eventually.

ROBERTS: Interesting stuff. Veronica, thanks.

Well, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling says Roger Clemens should lose his last four Cy Young awards. Clemens was named in the Mitchell Report of having used steroids and human growth hormone from 1998 to 2001. Schilling wrote on his blog that Clemens should either get his lawyers to take a retraction or baseball should take his awards away. Clemens has denied ever taking steroids or HGH.

So that bring us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Should Roger Clemens have to give back those Cy Young awards?

Cast your vote for us at CNN.com/am. Right now, 61 percent of you say yes, give them back. Thirty-nine percent say no. We'll continue to tally those votes throughout the morning.

Rudy Giuliani recovering after spending the night in the hospital with flu-like symptoms. He actually had to turn his campaign plane around. We'll tell you what happened and whether it will impact his campaign going forward.

And new allegations of sexual assault in Iraq. The woman at the center of a lawsuit now says she was not the only female contractor abused by co-workers. That story and today's headlines when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Well, if you're just waking up, take a look at that. A beautiful shot of Cincinnati, courtesy of WKRC. It shows the Ohio River. Cloudy and 29 degrees right now. It's chilly but it's going up to 46 degrees. Still will be cold.

Good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, December 20th. I'm Alina Cho. Kiran has the morning off.

ROBERTS: And good morning to you, I'm John Roberts. We're following breaking news this morning. Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani will be checking out of a St. Louis hospital later on today and returning to New York. He was admitted last night after suffering what his campaign calls flu-like symptoms. Giuliani spokeswoman says precautionary tests were done at the hospital and found nothing of concern.

The aide says Giuliani wasn't throwing up but was suffering from a severe headache and some other symptoms. He apparently wasn't feeling all day on Wednesday as he campaigned throughout Missouri. Giuliani sat down for an interview, a lengthy one, with CNN's Wolf Blitzer during yesterday's "Situation Room" in Columbia, Missouri. He later became ill and then felt worst after his plane took off for New York. So bad that they actually turned the plane around and went back to St. Louis. His next public campaign events are tomorrow in New Hampshire. His aide says it's likely he'll be able to make all of them.

Also new this morning, the remarkable story of a family that survived three days in the snowy California mountains after getting lost out looking for a Christmas tree. We got new pictures this morning taken by the Dominguez family. The first set showing them smiling as they're out there looking for the three with these pictures from later on their ordeal showing them huddling together, sticking their feet in each other's jackets to try to stay warm. Their father, Frederick Dominguez, spoke last night how he felt inside while trying to stay strong for his kids on the outside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FREDERICK DOMINGUEZ, RESCUED AFTER THREE DAYS IN THE WOODS: I'm scared, you know. You can't let them know that you're scared so I'm telling them, we're going to be all right, I promise you. I was relying on god. I just said, god, I completely need you now, because my kids, you know, you just go to survival mode, and every parent will do that. You know, you just go into survival mode. You'll do anything, sacrifice yourself because it's your kids. These are your kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: And last night on "Anderson Cooper 360," Christopher Dominguez described the elation when the family saw a helicopter flying overhead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER DOMINGUEZ: I told my dad, the helicopter, the helicopter! Josh saw the helicopter. My dad, he just ran out there and started waving his arms, screaming help, help and that's when they started circling and going down and going down and we were all just happy, happy to be rescued.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: All four of them are expected to be just fine, despite a little bit of frostbite and a touch of hypothermia for being out there for that long. All of them join us tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING and coming up in about 45 minutes' time, we'll talk to the rescuers, you can see there, who picked them up.

ALINA CHO, CNN, ANCHOR: A bid by the states to reel in greenhouse gases has been shot down by the EPA. The fed said no to California's bid to place its own emission limits on cars, trucks and SUVs. 16 other states were waiting to see if it would actually go through. The decision is being looked at as a victory for auto makers because many cars currently in the show rooms right now would not meet those state requirements.

And we're getting a first look inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building after one of the most heavily covered two-alarm fires ever. That's because of where the building's located. This picture just in to CNN of Vice-President Cheney's ceremonial office, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino says it was damaged by smoke and water from fighting the flames. The fire broke out at the building right next door to the White House yesterday with camera crews from all over the world camped right outside. It was out within a half an hour, thankfully but it seemed like a lifetime when we were covering it yesterday. Perino also said that it appears that smoke started in a second floor electrical closet. John.

ROBERTS: 33 minutes after the hour. Shocking allegation from the woman accusing fellow contractors in Iraq of rape. Jamie Leigh Jones told a congressional subcommittee 11 other women have come forward claiming that they were harassed by KBR co-workers. CNN state department correspondent Zain Verjee has been following the case for us. She joins us now live from Washington. Zain, what else did this young woman tell lawmakers?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN, STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, she told lawmakers of the details of her shocking ordeal and said that sexual harassment is a major problem among contractors in Iraq. Jones also told them the laws left women with absolutely nowhere to turn so she's decided to take on her attackers, her old employer and the U.S. government and is suing them all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): Jamie Leigh Jones says she can't get justice, after allegedly being drugged and gang raped in Iraq by her co-workers two years ago.

JAMIE LEIGH JONES, ALLEGED RAPE VICTIM: There has been no prosecution, after two and a half years.

VERJEE: So she's turned to Congress for help, testifying before the House subcommittee on crime, terrorism, and homeland security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tragedy, and when our own Department of Justice can and does fail to take action.

VERJEE: The Department of Justice stayed away, saying it's investigating her charge, so they won't have any comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to call the attorney general. I'm going to call the Secretary of Defense, too, Gates. They're stiffing all the Jamie Jones' that have come and gone before and they're stiffing us right now.

VERJEE: Jones was working for Kellogg, Brown and Root, a major U.S. private contractor in Iraq and has filed a civil lawsuit against them. KBR says the allegations are without merit and it's committed to providing a safe working environment for all employees. Private contractors in Iraq operate in a legal twilight zone, because it's unclear if or who can prosecute them. A problem that surfaced after 17 Iraqis were allegedly killed by U.S. contractors in Iraq. Jones' congressman says private contractors in Iraq operate like it's the wild west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a new sheriff in Iraq and enforce federal laws.

VERJEE: Jones says she's not the only victim.

JONES: Numerous other women have contacted me who were assaulted and raped and were then retaliated against for reporting those attacks. There are at least 11 others that my attorneys are aware of.

VERJEE: Lawmakers say they're going to be holding more hearings on this case and the whole problem overall. John.

ROBERTS: A question a lot of people are asking this morning, why did it take the Department of Justice so long to investigate this claim? VERJEE: Well, it's not really clear. The biggest problem is that from a legal point of view, it's a really gray area. I mean who holds them accountable? Whose jurisdiction does this fall under? Different agencies may also not communicate well with each other, so you get a lot of delay and confusion, and agencies just backing off and saying this isn't my problem.

ROBERTS: That certainly has prompted a whole reexamination on how this stuff is carried out. Zain Verjee for us this morning. Zain, thanks. Alina.

CHO: Plans to withdraw from the GOP presidential field tops your "Quick Hits" now. Five-term Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo is expected to announce today that he's dropping out of the race at a news conference in Iowa. The long shot republican has consistently pulled at the back of the nine-person GOP field. Tancredo's campaign has been centered around his strong opposition to illegal immigration.

Well, she once slapped a Capitol Hill police officer. Now she's running for president. Former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has joined the Green Party ticket. She says both republicans and democrats are tied to corrupt corporations and the Green Party shares her views on ending the Iraq war. McKinney was the first black woman elected to Congress from Georgia.

How could the gas-guzzling muscle car become an endangered species? We'll tell you why one auto maker is worried, that's coming up.

Plus a new study says hospitalists, much like specialists can actually help you heal quicker and maybe even save money. But what exactly is a hospitalist? Dr. Sanjay Gupta is live with a preview. Hey, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alina. Hospitalists are these general care doctors who are actually responsible for you while you're in the hospital. What can they do for you? How might it affect your care and are there any downsides? I'll have that coming up after the break.

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ROBERTS: 40 minutes after the hour. A hospitalist can save your life and save you money. And that's the word from a new study but I know what you're saying. What is a hospitalist and how can he help me? Or she? We're paging Dr. Gupta for the answers. CNN's chief medical correspondent is in Atlanta this morning. All right, Sanjay. What is a hospitalist?

GUPTA: Well, hospitalists are doctors that have been around for about ten years now. These are doctors who are responsible for your general medical care when you're in the hospital. They don't see patients in the outpatient setting. They don't perform surgery but the situation might go like this. You go to your doctor's office because you haven't been feeling well. They say you know what you need to come into the hospital for a few days. At that point a hospitalist might actually take over your care - to answer your questions, prescribe medications and just generally take care of you while you're in the hospital. That's what a hospitalist is this. Question, they've been around for ten years. The question is what are the advantages and disadvantages in a new study from "The New England Journal of Medicine," now saying that despite the fact that you're hiring more doctors essentially to fill these roles, overall it leads to shorter hospital stays and it leads to less cost to the patient as a result of that. So, there is a cost savings just having the hospitalists. The potential disadvantage, John, interesting, when there are handoffs, when you're handing off your patient to another doctor, there's a concern that maybe some lack of information in getting transmitted from one doctor to the other might affect patient care and just the idea that your doctor, your primary doctor, the person that you trust and come to know over the years isn't the same person taking care of you in a hospital is something that doesn't always sit well with patients but overall there seems to be some benefit at the hospitals who have these.

ROBERTS: Sanjay, you say they've been around for ten years. I've never heard of them. Do all hospitals have them in?

GUPTA: No, they don't and you know, there hasn't been a lot of data on whether or not this is a good thing. About 29 percent of hospitals have them right now. We did a little bit of background on this. There's about 12,000 in the United States so it's not really a surprise you haven't heard of them. Most people haven't but they expect them to grow, grow significantly to about 30,000 and again, for the very reasons that the "New England Journal" article cited if it leads to lower costs, if it leads to shorter hospitalizations, that's sort of the name of the game for a lot of hospitals out there.

ROBERTS: All right, well, we'll see if it will grow in the way you say it does. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning. Sanjay, thanks. We'll see you back a little bit later on with some other topics. Alina.

CHO: General Motors is worried the new fuel efficiency standards will bring an end to the ultimate American muscle car. We're talking about the Corvette. New rules would require an auto industry average of 35 miles per gallon by the year 2020. The current Corvette only gets about 24. And speaking of the new Corvette, GM is expected to unveil the most powerful and most expensive version ever at next month's auto show in Detroit. The 2009 Corvette will have a 620 horsepower engine and $100,000 price tag. Steep.

Ron Paul says he's not giving back the campaign donation from a white supremacist. That tops your "Quick Hits" this morning. A west Palm Beach Florida man sent the republican a $500 check. He runs a website with the motto "White Pride Worldwide." A spokesman for Paul says the candidate will take the money and use it to spread freedom. He says the man who donated it now has 500 bucks less to do whatever he does.

Aruban prosecutors plan to go public today with evidence they've gathered over the last eight months in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. That evidence has been deemed insufficient to charge three men who have been arrested several times in the case. Holloway vanished during a trip to Aruba back in 2005.

Well, his reporting exposed asbestos dangers in that toy there. Today Greg Hunter is here with a follow-up, that toy has now been recalled. And bumpers barely getting by on new crash tests. Results you have to hear if you load your kids up in a mini van. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: 47 minutes after the hour. If you're just joining us, here's a look at the stories making headline this morning. Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is expected to check out of a St. Louis Hospital today, after suffering what his campaign calls flu- like symptoms. A spokeswoman says precautionary tests found nothing of concern. He is said to be in high spirits and plans to return to New York. The aide also expects Giuliani to attend his next public campaign event, scheduled for tomorrow in New Hampshire. We're going to have a live report coming up at the top of the hour.

The latest CNN opinion research poll in Iowa has the top democratic candidates in a statistical dead heat. Only four percentage points separate Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. Over on the republican side, Mike Huckabee, no surprise, still leading the pack. This time with 33 percent. Mitt Romney is second with 25 percent. Rudy Giuliani at 11 percent.

Some breaking news coming out of New Zealand. New video now showing the aftermath of this morning's 6.6 magnitude earthquake. Three buildings have collapsed in the coastal city of Gisborne, more than 200 miles from the capital of Wellington. There are no official reports of death or injuries.

And a very merry Christmas for the Dominguez family, rescued last night after three days without food in the snowy mountains of northern California. A father and his three kids went looking for a Christmas tree, but got lost and couldn't find their truck. Then after three cold nights huddled together for warmth, they were spotted by a helicopter and rescued. John.

ROBERTS: A new report out this morning on a new round of crash tests. This time bumpers on some of the most popular mini vans. And our consumer reporter Greg Hunter looking out for you this morning with the results. Good morning, Greg.

GREG HUNTER, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, John. Well, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested six leading mini vans and low impact crashes on both front and rear bumpers and heads up, that seemingly minor fender bender could end up costing you big bucks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNTER (voice-over): These bumper tests replicate a front and back collision at six miles per hour. As well as front and rear quarter bumps at three miles per hour. Low speed crashes represent an estimated 80 percent of property and liability insurance claims. The damage to this Nissan Quest may not look bad but the institute says there is $3,500 damage.

JOE NOLAN, INSURANCE INST. FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY: The Nissan Quest was the worst performer in our tests. It failed miserably in our full width six mile an hour rear impact.

HUNTER: The Quest handled $8,000 worth of total damage from the combined front, rear and corner bumper tests. Nissan told CNN, the Insurance Institute tests are "not related to safety," adding the Nissan Quest performs competitively in terms of cost of repair. Five other mini vans wracked up similar damage in the combined tests. Even the top performer, the Honda Odyssey, needed more than $5,000 worth of repairs. Honda told us, "we are very pleased to have the lowest repair cost within the group of tested mini vans." Honda continually is striving to improve our vehicles, to keep crash repair costs in check." The institute says car makers could easily design better bumpers.

NOLAN: There's plenty of room to make bumper bars wider, taller and stronger to protect the expensive parts like hoods, fenders and head lamps.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUNTER: According to the Insurance Institute those low-speed crashes like you just saw end up costing Americans about $6 billion a year to fix. Now you know why they want stronger bumpers. If you want to see that story or other stories, logon to cnn.com/americanmorning.

ROBERTS: So, could the car manufacturers make stronger bumpers to absorb these impacts and not increase the cost of the car by much?

HUNTER: John, they can and at one time they did. They did a series of tests on a 1981 Ford Escort. Back then, that car was required to have a strong bumper, and had a little more than $500 for damage. It was less than a tenth of the damage on the best performing vehicle in this test.

ROBERTS: Remember the old bumpers though they're kind of clunky looking. They would actually move in and out, wouldn't they/

HUNTER: You couldn't even tell the '81 Escort had any damage, incredible.

ROBERTS: Hey, we got a follow-up on a story Greg brought us earlier in the week. Consumer protection officials in the state of Connecticut are pulling the "CSI: Fingerprint Examination Kit" for kids from the market over fears of asbestos. The state agency says it's now going to notify the Consumer Products Safety Commission about it. Inspectors say the fingerprint powder is consistent with a form of asbestos and toxic hazardous substance. Greg's report exposed its presence. He's got a little bit more. How does it happen that this stuff gets in there? HUNTER: Well, sometimes they put asbestos in a product on purpose and sometimes not. Asbestos is not bad. It was in 1989 and 1991, a court case overturned it. Asbestos is not bad even though it's known to cause cancer. In this case it probably got in there as a contaminant, up to 5 percent of the dust in one test showed it had asbestos in it and what happens is they don't have a duty to test for it. They aren't required to test for asbestos so it ends up getting in as a contaminant. That's how it got in there.

ROBERTS: Hey, it looks like it's in absolutely the worst place, too, because the kids will be dusting for fingerprints and that dust will be spreading everywhere, they'll be inhaling it.

HUNTER: Listen, the dust is bad. If you got this kid, you should probably take it and put everything back in a box and bag it. Not every kit has asbestos. Some of the tests turned up negative, some turned up positive. If you had this, ere on the side of judgment, ere on the side of safety and put it in a bag, get it away from your kids, seal it up and put it away. I'm sure they'll have a nationwide recall. I'll look into that later on. Right now it's just the state of Connecticut. So, take it away from your kids right now.

ROBERTS: I know you'll keep following this for us, thanks. All right, Greg. Alina.

CHO: Thanks, John. A car accident claims the life of a space station astronaut's mother. We'll tell you if the tragedy will actually affect the mission in space. That's coming up.

And it's a royal record today in England. We'll tell you what major milestone Queen Elizabeth II is reaching today. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling says Roger Clemens should lose his last four Cy Young awards. He's won a record seven. The problem is Clemens, you'll recall was named in the Mitchell report as having used steroids and human growth hormone from 1998 to 2001. Schilling wrote on his blog that Clemens should get his lawyers to get a retraction or baseball should take his awards away. Clemens has been denying that he's ever taken steroids or HGH. And that brings us to this morning's quick vote question, take a look, should Roger Clemens give his Cy Young awards back? Cast your vote at cnn.com. As you can see, right now 66 percent say yes, 34 percent say no. We'll continue to tally the votes throughout the morning and bring them to you.

ROBERTS: Somehow I don't think he's going to give the awards back.

CHO: And what would they do with them anyway? Yes, I don't think he will either.

ALI VELSHI, CNN, BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Give them to Mets fans. I just want you to know I have not taken HGH or steroids either, despite what some of you think, this is all natural. This is all me.

ROBERTS: Ali is here "Minding your Business" this morning. A lot of people wondering if this Department of Transportation plan to ease congestion at New York City airports is going to work.

VELSHI: Well, here's the thing. To all of you out there who all of you who don't come to New York City or think that we all think it's all about us. When it comes to airport delays, it actually kind of is. About two-thirds or three-quarters of the delays across the United States are caused by airports in the northeast, JFK, Newark, La Guardia, Philadelphia. So the Department of Transportation is coming up with a deal.

First of all those of you traveling this coming weekend and next weekend they're releasing some military space like they did around Thanksgiving but for the longer term they'll limit the flights to JFK to 83 flights an hour. Back in the summer there were more than 110 in some cases per hour and they're also be limiting flights out of Newark Airport. La Guardia already has some hourly limits. The idea to spread out flights from peak times to non-peak times and limit all of the regional airports so that they don't end up switching flights from one airport to the other and thereby reducing the number of flights out there. This is a voluntary plan, it's supposed to go into effect by March 15th. The airlines are happy that it's a voluntary plan but it certainly has that specter of...

ROBERTS: You mean, they don't have to do it.

VELSHI: No. It's an agreement they have reached together. It's not like the election. Because the threat has been if the airline don't come up with the deal, the government will do something about it. So, it's an agreement they have reached together. It's not legislation because a threat is if the airlines don't come up with the deal the government will do something about it. This is one of those working it all out together kinds of things, seeing if it helps.

ROBERTS: But they have to limit the flights. Yes.

VELSHI: They have to limit the flights, yes.

CHO: And it doesn't really take effect until the summer.

VELSHI: It will start in March but the summer it becomes bad. This past year was the worst in 13 years for delays.

ROBERTS: And if they don't get more air traffic controllers this is just another it will expand.

VELSHI: They need a bigger solution for this. This just is another van, they needed to have bigger solutions for this.

ROBERTS: All right, GDP numbers coming up next hour.

VELSHI: 8:30 we're getting that third quarter (inaudible) we're going to see what it actually is for all of you who think that we're in a recession or heading for one, those numbers will be important. ROBERTS: All right. Looking forward to it. Ali, thanks.

CHO: A royal record happening right now in England. Queen Elizabeth II today becomes the oldest monarch in British history. Beats the record set by her great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria who lives 81 years and 243 days. According to Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth will official surpassed the market noon Eastern time. Just about four hours from now. Victoria also holds the record, we should mention, the longest reigning monarch at almost 64 years, Queen Elizabeth would need to stay on the throne until September 15 to break that mark. John.

ROBERTS: Weight loss surgery can do a lot more than improve your appearance. It can be a real life saver. We're paging Dr. Gupta, he's got details on that. And the amazing story of a family rescued from Snowy Mountains after three cold nights, lost out in the woods. We'll talked to the two men who discovered them. Coming up. The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

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