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Anger and Accusations in Pakistan; Crunch Time for Candidates as Iowa Caucus Nears; Criminal Investigation on Tiger Attack Underway; Winter Storm Messes Up Travel

Aired December 29, 2007 - 10:00   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: One day after Benazir Bhutto is buried, Pakistan's government says it will allow her body to be exhumed if the political party calls for it.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: And take a look at this. Campaign ads everywhere. After this story, you'll feel sorry for the people living in Iowa.

From the CNN center in Atlanta, this is the CNN NEWSROOM. It's Saturday, December 29th. Good morning. I'm Rob Marciano in for T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: And great to have you around today, Rob.

MARCIANO: Oh, nice to be here. Thanks.

NGUYEN: And tomorrow. Looking forward to that. And I'm Betty Nguyen. It's 10:00 a.m. here in Atlanta, 8:00 in the evening in Pakistan. We do want to get you caught up with news from around the world so let's get straight to it.

MARCIANO: Well, will the body of Benazir Bhutto be exhumed? The Pakistan Interior Ministry this morning raised that possibility during a news conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAVED IQBAL CHEEMA, INTERIOR MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: If she insists that she has seen the bullet wounds, if they say that, you know, that -- I mean she died of the bullet wounds, we don't mind. I mean if the People's Party's leadership wants her body to be exhumed and postmortem, most welcome. But we give you what the facts are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: Ministry officials stressed that it's not so important how exactly she died but catching the people responsible. And for that, Pakistan says it doesn't need any help from any outside countries.

NGUYEN: Yes. They say they have this covered. Well, the ministry did present a long list of the damage caused by rioting since Bhutto's death. Besides the destruction to hundreds of banks, offices, gas stations and cars, officials say at least 38 people have died in the unrest since Thursday. In Islamabad, university students today staged this demonstration to protest the lack of security provided to Bhutto. Officially, the nation is in mourning. So many places have been relatively quiet. An increased police presence is also keeping volatile emotions in check.

The Pakistani government now says neither bullets nor shrapnel struck the former prime minister. The Interior Ministry instead says she died of a skull fracture from hitting her head on a sunroof lever. But an aide who helped prepare Bhutto's body for burial tells CNN the government's explanation doesn't square with what she saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERRY REHMAN, PPP INFORMATION SECRETARY: This is an offense to a grieving nation and family and friends because she was shot. I have seen the bullet wounds at the back of her head where it went in, where it came out. To say that she was concussed from the sunroof is dangerous nonsense because they are absolving themselves of responsibility for providing her better security when we kept asking her to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: OK. There's so much information being sorted around. But what are the answers to these questions? Let's get some perspective now.

Peter Wonacott is a senior correspondent with "The Wall Street journal." He joins us by phone from Islamabad with his perspective on the crisis that's now gripping Pakistan.

And Peter, the first thing I want to ask you is we heard it there from an aide to Bhutto who helped prepare Bhutto's body for burial. She says she saw bullet wounds. When you're hearing all of these different theories and scenarios coming from the Interior Ministry, what do you make of it?

PETER WONACOTT, SR. CORRESPONDENT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, the government definitely has a version to put out that its security was adequate, that there were no lapses, but that it's difficult to and possible to protect against suicide bombs. And that's what they claim killed Miss Bhutto.

NGUYEN: Well, first, they said it was a bullet. Then they said it was shrapnel. And then the last thing that they said yesterday was that she hit her head on a lever from the sunroof. Now today we're hearing from an aide that, no, none of this was the case. She saw the body. She prepared it for burial and she saw bullet wounds. I want to put up a graphic because we're getting this from the government. And it shows an x-ray of the skull. Hopefully we'll have that.

And -- right there. You're not seeing apparently, in this, any bullet wounds. I mean, a lot of people are going to question if, in fact, this is a real x-ray from Bhutto's body.

WONACOTT: Yes. We're short of seeing the body ourselves. It's hard to distinguish which version is the most accurate and correct. The government did provide a huge amount of evidence yesterday to support their version of the incident. It was quite impressive and almost incredible that they marshaled so much evidence in such a short period of time to support this version. But it was hard to disagree with what they presented before us.

NGUYEN: Well, Peter, today the government is saying -- we just heard a piece of sound from the Interior Ministry that they will allow the body to be exhumed if Bhutto's party wants that to happen.

Is that something feasibly that they would ask for? After all, the family did not ask for an autopsy to begin with.

WONACOTT: Well, my understanding is that the family refused to have an autopsy done on the body, which is not unusual among families in this country. It was in fact ...

NGUYEN: Tell us why? Is that a religious reason?

WONACOTT: I think it's mostly -- I don't think that there are strict religious precepts against it. I think it's mostly as a practice among families in Pakistan. It's just not commonly done. It would be quite unusual for the family to agree to have the body exhumed after its burial to be -- to have an autopsy performed when they initially refused to have one.

NGUYEN: All right. So the offer has been made by the government but you don't expect the family or the party to ask for the body to be exhumed.

Peter Wonacott with "The Wall Street Journal" who joins us live from Islamabad, Pakistan.

Peter, we do appreciate your time and your insight -- Rob?

MARCIANO: Betty, the big question, of course, is who was behind Bhutto's assassination.

Here now is CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Look at the right-hand side of the screen and you will see it -- a gun raised and firing at Benazir Bhutto. Pakistani authorities are already saying who they believe orchestrated the killing.

CHEEMA: We have intelligence intercepts indicating that al Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud is behind her assassination.

MESERVE: Baitullah Mehsud is a militant Islamist from Pakistan's tribal area of south Waziristan with ties to al Qaeda. In a transcript of the intercept provided by the Pakistani government, Mehsud says to another militant, "Congratulations to you. Were they ours?" The response, "Yes, it was us."

The former CIA station chief in Pakistan says Mehsud had threatened Bhutto even before her return to Pakistan.

ROBERT GRENIER, KROLL: She was highlighting her links with the United States, and particularly her determination to rid Pakistan of Islamic extremism. And he made an announcement to the effect that if she were to return, that he and his followers would see to it that she was killed.

MESERVE: In fact, Bhutto thought Mehsud might have been behind the October attempt on her life. He certainly has the skills. According to a former intelligence official, Mehsud runs a string of training camps for suicide bombers and has carried out suicide operations in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. His fighters are said to number in the thousands. Earlier this year, they captured more than 200 Pakistani soldiers, releasing them only after winning concessions from the central government.

MESERVE (on camera): One senior U.S. official describes Mehsud as a known bad actor and says there is good information that he may be responsible for the assassination. But until authorities complete a review of intelligence, the U.S. is not ready or able to pin the blame.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: Well, it's crunch time for the presidential candidates. This is the last weekend of campaigning before the Iowa caucuses.

NGUYEN: Yes.

MARCIANO: Wow, I can't believe it. Just five days away.

NGUYEN: For Democrats, though, the race is going down to the wire. Three candidates locked in a virtual tie.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is part of the best political team on television and she begins our campaign coverage this hour from Des Moines, Iowa.

Suzanne, so how are the candidates spending these last few days before that caucus?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Betty, really it's crunch time. There are a number of things, very exciting things that are happening.

First of all, the emphasis is all about get out the vote efforts. The campaigns are really trying to strategize how can they get people to actually get out of their homes and go to these caucuses to really motivate them. The other thing that is happening, obviously, they are crisscrossing the state. They are traveling from one place to the next to the next trying to send out their message.

Now most people, as you know, they've been campaigning here for months and months on end. So the message is out there. But it really is about trying to get folks to motivate them to get out there. And then finally, this is a period where no charge goes unanswered. And that's where you see this foreign policy debate that has really gained some steam since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. You have had people who have more foreign policy experience, really highlighting those experiences.

For instance, I talked to Governor Bill Richardson yesterday who is calling for Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf to step down. We heard from Senator Clinton as well. She very tough, very strong on Musharraf saying essentially that his government had no credibility. And we're, obviously, as well seeing how this is all playing out politically.

A spat between Senator Clinton's team, Senator Obama's team, Senator Clinton that claiming after some remarks from the Obama campaign that they are politicizing the whole thing. Obama coming back saying that the whole thing was rather silly.

So we'll see how this plays out with Iowa voters. But Betty, you should know that about 20 percent of the Democrats from the last go- round didn't have their minds made up three days before the caucuses. So there is still time to sway the voters -- Betty?

NGUYEN: Yes, there is. And you know they're going to use every minute of that to sway them the best that they can.

Thank you, Suzanne. We appreciate it.

And one candidate is already looking ahead to New Hampshire.

Our Jim Acosta joins us at the half-hour with a look at the McCain campaign and the Republican race. So you definitely want to stay tuned for that.

MARCIANO: And ahead in just a couple of minutes, we're going to have the latest on that tiger attack in San Francisco that turned deadly.

NGUYEN: Yes. Authorities there are looking into just how a 350- pound tiger got out of its enclosure and attacked three people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Coming up on 14 minutes past the hour on this Saturday morning, a quick look at some of the news. And last time -- what do we call it -- "Quick Hits."

MARCIANO: "Quick Hits." Yes. Well, there's...

NGUYEN: Morning was the last time.

MARCIANO: You're looking at a live picture there of a town hall meeting that Senator McCain in Dover, Delaware is holding right now. There so one of the town residents, no doubt, asking him a question. We're going to go back live to that in just a few minutes. Jim Acosta will be live for us at the half hour and give us a synopsis at exactly what's going on in that town meeting.

NGUYEN: We're also falling this very closely. San Francisco zoo officials say they will reopen the zoo to the public on Thursday. Right now police are investigating this week's deadly tiger attack. They are still trying to determine how and why the tiger jumped out of its enclosure. Seventeen-year-old Carlos Sousa was killed by that tiger and a candlelight vigil is planned for him tonight.

Well, it has been a nightmare for many holiday travelers trying to get home. A winter storm dumped several inches of snow in the Great Lakes area forcing Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to cancel hundreds of flights yesterday. Best advice is to check with your airline if you are flying today.

MARCIANO: So Jacqui Jeras has been watching all this nastiness in the severe weather center. I assume it's moved a little bit off to the east.

Jacqui, what do you got?

(WEATHER REPORT)

MARCIANO: Well, coming up ahead in the NEWSROOM, a look back at one of the more compelling stories of 2007.

NGUYEN: And for me, that included a trip to the mines of Africa. As an entire nation is still recovering from the effects of a war fueled by blood diamonds.

That's just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Well, as we look back on 2007, we wanted to revisit some of the more memorable stories that we were able to bring to you. One of those was the search for diamonds in Sierra Leone. I got a chance to go there and see for myself the dreams of so many hanging on just one tiny stone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN (voice over): With every sift, a watchful eye searches for that dream come true. A shiny diamond emerging from the murky water. But finding that ticket out of poverty is hard to do. These miners work day in and day out with no salary.

YAYA BAS (ph), MINE WORKER: No diamond, no pay. No help. All is gone.

NGUYEN: Twenty-eight-year-old Yaya Bas says he hasn't found a diamond in six months. Even today, he keeps digging while much of the country has left work to rally for its recent elections. Instead, Yaya can only show his support by wearing celebratory glasses made out of palm leaves. But his vision of a better future is out of focus. Whether it's the hot sun or the eternal hope, his dream of diamonds sounds almost delusional.

BAS: Like this. I will get this. I will leave to Africa.

NGUYEN (on camera): You get a diamond this big, you can leave Africa?

BAS: Yes.

NGUYEN: How much do you get for this?

BAS: This, one million dollar.

NGUYEN: U.S.?

BAS: Yes.

NGUYEN (voice over): Let's take another look at that stone. It's not large enough to earn that kind of money. Yet thousands live the dream. It was even depicted in the Oscar nominated movie "Blood Diamond" where the pursuit of precious stones created so much death and destruction. Now that the fighting has ends, the mining continues literally transforming the landscape.

NGUYEN (on camera): Many say this diamond-rich soil is what funded Sierra Leone's civil war. But today, efforts are being made to take the blood out of the diamonds found here so that they're never used to fund future conflicts.

NGUYEN (voice over): A monitoring system called the Kimberly process is aimed at keeping conflict stones off the open market.

ADBUL LAMIN, ANALYST: So that when the diamonds are exported out into international market, it can be verified that these diamonds did not come from a source that has been used to buy weapons and wage war.

NGUYEN (voice over): Diamonds are Sierra Leone's main export. Between 2000 and 2004, the government's income from diamonds soared from $10 million to $160 million, according to the United Nations.

Still, the country remains mired in poverty. Drive through the diamond heartland of Kono and you'll find the face of despair. Yet, the streets are filled with diamond shops.

NGUYEN (on camera): So this is an "H"?

GIBRIL KUYATEN, DIAMOND DEALER: Yes, these are "H" colored diamond.

NGUYEN (voice over): But even dealers admit that diamond mining is becoming increasingly difficult.

KUYATEN: It's not easy to get diamond now is the problem. We go mostly the area that we used to go, spend a few hours, and get diamonds. It's exhausted, no. It's not easy for you to get diamond.

NGUYEN (voice over): Still, thousands continue searching, convinced their dreams are hidden just below the surface. And the only way to find them is to keep digging.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: You know, I felt like I was watching the movie there "Blood Diamond."

NGUYEN: Again.

MARCIANO: But in that movie, they were depicted as slaves encamped in there...

NGUYEN: Right.

MARCIANO: ...and forced to give up whatever they found.

NGUYEN: Well, that was during the civil war. We are years past that decade of civil war and people are still having to work the mines. And it's because there's a 70 percent unemployment rate there in Sierra Leone. So really with no jobs around, they work day in and day out hoping that they'll find this diamond and that will deliver them from the poverty that they're in.

And it's a country that just came off of some elections earlier this year back in September. And you know, they really believe in the Democratic process. I saw people come out in droves.

MARCIANO: Good.

NGUYEN: Ninety percent rate of people going to the polls.

MARCIANO: Wow.

NGUYEN: That is huge. And they stood in line for hours just to make sure that their vote counted in these elections.

MARCIANO: Those young men, though, day in and day out with the diamonds. You know, there's only so many there at the surface.

NGUYEN: Exactly. And if you don't find a diamond, like you said...

MARCIANO: What's your psyche?

NGUYEN: ...no diamond, no money.

MARCIANO: What's your psyche, six months without finding a diamond?

NGUYEN: Well, he was pretty frustrated, and not only that, but he was desperate. I mean you could tell. And I had said he was borderline delusional because, you know, he thought so long and hard about finding that one diamond that's going to deliver him that he really thinks something as small as the tip of my pinkie is going to get him a million dollars and take him out of Africa. That's just not the case. But they keep that dream alive because really, if you look at the unemployment rate, what else do they have? MARCIANO: Great reporting over there.

NGUYEN: Well, it was really a memorable trip for me. One of the most rewarding things I've been this year.

MARCIANO: Kind of makes you feel a little guilty here at Christmastime with all the money...

NGUYEN: Right.

MARCIANO: ...we're spending for this and that.

NGUYEN: Exactly. On small things, you know, like wrapping paper and bows when people around the world can just use a little bit of food on the table. So you're right about that.

Speaking of spending, do you have to spend big to win big, though? That's what a lot of people are talking about especially in presidential politics this morning. A whole lot of money is being spent in Iowa.

MARCIANO: And that's just for campaign ads. But do those ads really influence the voters, especially this late in the race? We are live in Iowa.

Plus...

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Josh Levs here.

Coming up, we're taking a look back at some of the biggest celebrity moments that we've covered here at CNN this year, and I don't want to give too much away but let's just say there's someone who we'll always have, for better or worse -- Rob?

MARCIANO: All right. Well, it's been another year of ups and downs for the travel industry. So what can you expect in 2008? This week's "On the Go" looks ahead at travel in the New Year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK ORWOLL, SR. CONSULTING EDITOR, TRAVEL+LEISURE: The latest forecast for business travel is in and the news is not good. According to a just-released report from American Express, the average cost of a 2 1/2-day domestic business trip including hotel, air travels and car rentals will rise in 2008 by 6 percent.

International business travelers will see an increase of almost 7 percent. What's causing the increase? Higher oil prices, increased airfares to pay for perks like flat beds and seats with more leg room, and a demand for hotel rooms that exceeds the supply.

More and more companies are now doing business with discount airlines and restricting employees' first class and business class air travel. American Express said companies can also help manage costs by purchasing tickets in advance, not buying expensive refundable airfares, and encouraging employees to take advantage of negotiated discounts from preferred suppliers, especially hotels, where the rate hike globally is expected to be in the double digits.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Want to update our top stories this morning.

One day after Benazir Bhutto was buried, Pakistan's government says it will allow her body to be exhumed, if Bhutto's political party calls for it. Bhutto's supporters are rejecting the latest government findings that she died after striking her head when she tried to duck bullets being fired by a suicide bomber.

MARCIANO: And investigators in San Francisco are trying to figure out how a 350-pound tiger got out of its enclosure and attacked three people. One person died. The zoo is set to reopen on Thursday.

And five days and counting until the Iowa caucuses. But one Republican candidate is looking past Iowa to New Hampshire for their primary in January -- on January 8th.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in Dover, New Hampshire where Senator John McCain is campaigning this morning. You, I assume, Jim, have been monitoring his town hall meeting. What did Mr. McCain have to say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the senator just wrapped up a town hall meeting at a Greek orthodox church here in Dover, New Hampshire. And the Straight Talk Express, if only we could turn the camera around 180 degrees you could see it is warming up just outside of the church. Senator McCain will be boarding that in just a few moments to go to a different town hall meeting about an hour away from here.

And why is John McCain in New Hampshire and not in Iowa? Why are we in New Hampshire and not in Iowa with the Iowa caucus just a few days away? Well, the reason is, is that John McCain is sort of -- he's not riding off Iowa. He's doing better than expected but he's putting all of his eggs sort of in New Hampshire at this point hoping that a victory here could propel him back into sort of the top tier of candidates in this race for the Republican nomination.

He had been written off over the summer but is seeming to coming back with a vengeance at this point. In a statistical dead heat in some polls, trailing Massachusetts, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in other polls.

But he lands in New Hampshire at a critical time. There is a campaign ad war going on between these two candidates. A Romney ad attacking McCain earlier this week as being soft on immigration and taxes and then McCain responding with a counterattack ad, if you will, that recalled "The Concord Monitor" that this week ran an anti- endorsement against Mitt Romney calling him a phony.

But inside this church just a few moments ago, the senator had a town hall meeting talking with some 200 supporters. And the issue of taxes, immigration, all these other issues came up. But he did make a veiled reference at Romney at one point saying that you can't buy an election in the state of New Hampshire. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a process which is the best in America and the best in the world. It is unique. The people of New Hampshire, obviously, because you came out here on a Saturday morning, take their responsibilities with the utmost seriousness. And this is a great thing about America, my friends. You can't buy an election in the state of New Hampshire. You got to go to the people and the people will go to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now that's a not so veiled reference to Mitt Romney who is, obviously, a successful millionaire businessman who is self- financing much of his campaign. He's obviously attracting a lot of donors. But so far, it is boiling down to a two-man race here in New Hampshire between Romney and McCain. And this is just a recent development for McCain to be in this position at this point.

This race is very much shaping up like a crystal 8 -- one of those magic crystal 8 balls. You shake it up, you look in the window, and every time you look in the window, there's a different result. So we're going to see just how these things play out over the next several days -- Rob?

MARCIANO: How did that 8 ball ever make any money? Everybody knows that it shows up different and there's only so many answers to the question.

Hey, Jim, I can tell you...

ACOSTA: That's right. I use it all the time, yes.

MARCIANO: I know. I see you looking behind the camera and wanting to chase down John McCain before he gets on the bus. So I'll let you go.

Jim Acosta, live for us in Dover, New Hampshire.

ACOSTA: You bet.

MARCIANO: Thanks, Jim.

NGUYEN: Well, you may have seen a campaign commercial here or there. But if you live in Iowa, it is hard to escape the ads. They are everywhere.

The story now from CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice over): Just days away from the Iowa caucuses, voters here are being bombarded.

TNS Media Intelligence Consulting Company is tracking the traffic and found 1,093 political ads aired in a single day on broadcast TV stations in Iowa alone -- the equivalent of more than nine solid hours of commercials in a 24-hour period.

EVAN TRACEY: TNSMI CAMPAIGN MEDIA ANALYSIS GROUP: Every time you turn on your television, get in your car, or open your mailbox, you are seeing a political ad of some sort.

MALVEAUX: Analyst Evan Tracey started TNS over 10 years ago. He's studying whether campaign ads make a difference.

TRACEY: They do. You're hearing basically three themes: change, immigration and, I'm not George Bush. And it's very hard for anything unique to cut through to voters. But if your messages aren't up there, you have no chance of getting through.

MALVEAUX: Getting through is what candidates are banking on and now, along with independent groups, they are spending nearly $1 million a day in Iowa for network TV advertising. And they've broken all records and pouring $83 million in the race for the White House so far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She changed the lives of six million kids.

MALVEAUX: Tracey says some of the biggest spenders are Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney who are each shelling out at least $400,000 a day to run ads in their early voting states.

But Tracey adds big bucks for advertising doesn't automatically mean a big payoff in the end.

TRACEY: If you look at somebody like Mike Huckabee who spent, you know, very little compared to everyone in the race, he's doing extremely well in the polls. If you look at somebody like Mitt Romney, however, you know, his place in the polls is probably directly attributable to his advertising. So each campaign is different. Each campaign has been using television differently in this race.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And what makes advertising still very important now is this one particularly interesting fact. Back in 2004, about 20 percent of the Democratic caucus voters were still undecided three days leading up to the caucus. So it is still time to sway some of those voters -- Betty?

NGUYEN: Well, I want to ask you this, Suzanne, it was so many ads. I mean we listen to that one-day period over 1,000 ads was, you know, was the equivalent of, what, nine hours of commercials? Any mudslinging being thrown around?

MALVEAUX: Well, sure. There's some negative advertising that's going on as well. But most of that is actually coming from these independent outside organizations that have put in thousands of dollars for issue oriented ads, they're called. But it is very clear that they're supporting a certain candidate's position. And those are the ones that tend to get kind of nasty -- Betty? NGUYEN: All right. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, one of the best political players in our best political team on television. Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, guys.

NGUYEN: Time is winding down and the race is heating up for the Iowa caucus. For the freshest polls, the latest fights, the political ticker blog and so much more, check out CNNPOLITICS.com.

MARCIANO: Well, it's been a morning to reminisce a little bit about some of the more memorable stories of the past year.

NGUYEN: Nothing like famous people behaving badly, right? You hear it all the time. It captures everybody's attention.

MARCIANO: We love it.

NGUYEN: And Josh Levs with the Dot Com desk has been reviewing some of the celebrity highlights or shall we say low lights of 2007.

LEVS: I was thinking the exact same thing. And these are really more low lights. All of them.

NGUYEN: Really? All of them.

LEVS: Yes, I mean, what I'm about -- these are the hot celebrity stories.

NGUYEN: Let me think.

LEVS: Everybody took their career almost (INAUDIBLE).

NGUYEN: Paris, Britney, I mean, you can count it on one hand, right?

LEVS: Yes, you do it -- you're doing pretty well.

MARCIANO: He's on it. She's got her fingers on the pulse of status.

LEVS: That's right. I mean you guys might remember this and I don't know if you're familiar with her as a young woman named Paris Hilton who did get some media attention over the past year.

NGUYEN: Who's that?

LEVS: We will show you some picture in case you're forgetting who she is.

NGUYEN: We all know her well.

LEVS: But this biggest story, biggest celebrity story we covered over the past year. And as you're taking a look, I'll show you later how you can see to see it on Dot Com. But basically this is the biggest celebrity story we had over the past year. Of course, she ended up having to go to jail and that was back in June, and then she had the big interview on "LARRY KING" which was the long sought after interview.

NGUYEN: She's a changed woman now, Josh.

LEVS: Oh, she is in so many ways and we've learned a great deal about her.

But hey, you know, new year, new start. You never know what's in it for Paris and I have a feeling we'll be there to follow it.

MARCIANO: I'm sure she'll have a few -- what do you call those promises you make at the beginning of the year?

NGUYEN: Resolutions?

LEVS: Resolutions.

MARCIANO: Yes, thank you. Yes, she can make a resolution.

LEVS: All right.

Second biggest story, we believe, Don Imus. Right?

MARCIANO: Oh, yes. (INAUDIBLE). Right.

LEVS: This is another huge one. Let's show you that. This was back in April when he was fired, obviously, after making a very inappropriate remark on his radio program that was also carried on TV. And then we followed the saga there after as he went and met with some Rutgers players and tried to do public apologies.

And ultimately, by the end of the year, he already got his new start. He doesn't need 2008 to make that happen. He has a brand new start right now trying it with a new show and, of course, the nation and some of his critics paying close attention to see what he does and says this time around. Right? How he handles himself.

All right. Third biggest one of the year. Rosie O'Donnell. Rosie O'Donnell leaving "The View." We were all over this. It feels like more than a year ago, doesn't it?

MARCIANO: It does feel like a little long time ago. But maybe we just miss her so.

LEVS: Well, that show -- I'll tell you. The saga of that show -- I was looking back. We've covered that show for years and years. Star Jones was a huge story. Every thing that happens on that show is fascinating to America. So Rosie and this was back in May when she ended up leaving "The View." And there as you can see here she had some big public disputes with Elisabeth Hasselbeck -- I think I said that right. And she's gone now and they have half of a new team -- two new people who have joined them since Rosie left.

So there you go guys. Three biggest celebrity stories of the year. Does it make you nostalgic for 2007? MARCIANO: Certainly does.

NGUYEN: Not really.

MARCIANO: Do you have any projections for 2008?

NGUYEN: Yes.

MARCIANO: You know?

LEVS: OK. Here are my -- I'm going to go out on a limb, right? Britney is going to do something crazy. And (INAUDIBLE) right?

NGUYEN: Oh, you think? OK.

MARCIANO: Yes. Yes.

LEVS: And some -- OK. You can quote me on this. Keep me honest next year, all right?. I have a feeling some big Hollywood celebrity will get pulled over for a DUI.

MARCIANO: Wow.

NGUYEN: That already happened. Didn't Micha Barton get pulled over?

LEVS: No, we're talking 2008.

NGUYEN: Oh, all right.

MARCIANO: Yes.

NGUYEN: Here's another one.

MARCIANO: What?

NGUYEN: Some big Hollywood couples are going to break up. Oh, big surprise there. Yes. I know.

MARCIANO: I know. You guys are going to make money in Vegas with those kind of odds.

LEVS: (INAUDIBLE)

NGUYEN: We have a firm grasp on the obvious.

LEVS: Those slot machines owning all my change.

NGUYEN: All right. Thanks, Josh.

MARCIANO: Well, with that, thanks, Josh.

LEVS: Yes.

MARCIANO: With 2007 almost over and you do want to know what's going to happen next year, the Amazing Kreskin will be joining us with his projections for 2008.

NGUYEN: Yes. And volunteers are hard at work on the Rose Parade floats today. We're going to give you a little sneak peek when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARCIANO: Well, it's 45 minutes past the hour now there just about. It's Saturday morning. Our "Quick Hits" now because we want to give you more news...

NGUYEN: In less time.

MARCIANO: You got it.

NGUYEN: All right. So here we go.

A hospital helped save a life even before it opens to the public. Here's how it happened. It was in Texas at the brand new Presbyterian Hospital of Rockwall. Doctors testing a CAT scan machine on an administrator discovered he had a life-threatening undetected brain aneurysm. He had emergency surgery and is now recovering this morning.

Pretty amazing.

MARCIANO: Wow. Potentially saving his life right there. Good work off the bat.

Well, the popular tournament of roses parade now just days away. Here you can see some of the final touches being done on those organic float. Around 40 million people watch the New Year's Day parade every year. The grand marshal for the 2008, this year's parade is star chef Emeril Lagasse.

I wonder if he's going to be serving any food.

NGUYEN: Yes. You know I'm not a parent, neither are you. But being a parent is obviously a very tough job. So just imagine this, raising 100 kids.

MARCIANO: Wow.

NGUYEN: Yes. Sound like too much work for you? Well, not for a Florida woman. Fran Jennings has been opening her heart and her home to foster children for the last 22 years. She just took in her 100th child.

So congratulations to you, Fran. You're doing great work out there.

MARCIANO: She is an angel no doubt. And I predict, if not this year, maybe years going forward, she'll take in another child.

NGUYEN: Another one?

MARCIANO: I think so.

NGUYEN: That's a pretty good prediction.

MARCIANO: Yes. Going out on a limb there.

NGUYEN: Yes.

MARCIANO: Well, we spent most of the morning looking back at last year and all the news events that we've showed you.

NGUYEN: But now it is time to look forward, and who better to do that than the Amazing Kreskin, joining us this morning from New York City.

We want to thank you for being with us.

THE AMAZING KRESKIN, MENTALIST, AUTHOR: Betty, I got to tell you. I am looking at Rob putting his hand to his head and thinking, have I just retired? Is he taking over in this business? You realize, Betty and Rob, that this is my 14th year with you folks -- 14 years now.

MARCIANO: Wow.

NGUYEN: Are you serious?

KRESKIN: And I couldn't even foresee that.

MARCIANO: Well...

NGUYEN: Well - what, you couldn't foresee it? Well, that's a problem then.

MARCIANO: Yes.

NGUYEN: I know you've acknowledged...

MARCIANO: Maybe it is time for you to retire.

NGUYEN: Yes.

KRESKIN: You know, I'm looking at all the political news right now and so you folks all should know, the Associated Press carried the story, in, of all places, a bar, the world, the Hilton -- what am I saying, the Trump World Bar here. The United Nations is a package, a sealed case that has been put there two weeks ago by me. And it contains the results, I believe, of the presidential election next year in November.

NGUYEN: Really?

KRESKIN: And by the way, when I wrote it, so that nobody thinks this is some kind of stage illusion, a prominent rabbi here in the city saw exactly what I wrote. He's initialed it. He is sworn to keep it confidential, although he's already been asked by the press. Well, is it a woman or not? That doesn't -- can you imagine? Eight months ahead of time, Rob and Betty.

NGUYEN: All right. But you know what? I know that you've told us that but that's not going to get you off the hook.

KRESKIN: I know.

NGUYEN: You say you have no paranormal powers. But I have to ask you when it comes to politics, we've got the caucuses coming up. Talk to us.

KRESKIN: You know...

NGUYEN: Obama, Clinton, Huckabee, all these other candidates.

KRESKIN: You know...

NGUYEN: What do you know?

KRESKIN: You know, I got to tell you regarding the Iowa thing. I think Obama is going to beat Hillary in that situation. And I also...

NGUYEN: Really?

KRESKIN: ...think that Huckabee is going to come out way ahead. But I want to say something, and this is nothing to do with any -- I'm a thought reader. I read people's thoughts. I travel constantly all over the world. The Iowa thing really doesn't matter. And if anyone doubts me, look at what happened with Jimmy Carter, what happened with Bill Clinton in the past. I don't think -- and I really think the main decisions, in spite of even the tragedy that's happened in Pakistan two days ago, I think the real decision as far as the vote for the president is going to be in the last two weeks.

If you listen, as I travel endlessly, I'm only home four days a month, the public is so inundated with the pontificating of the different people who are running that they aren't hearing anything anymore. You'll understand that I've predicted the results in Canada 30 days election campaign. England's 30 days. In this country they campaign for 30 years.

NGUYEN: Yes. But you also have predicted...

KRESKIN: Thirty years.

NGUYEN: ...that Hillary would run but would not win. So I have to ask you about that. Do you continue with prediction?

KRESKIN: Well, let me say something. That's -- you're looking at my past. I understand that. Let's just say something. When I made my decision as to who would win, even though I wrote it out for the press in December 8th - 28th of this year, I had made up my mind three months ago before someone entered the picture that's the one refreshing person and that's Oprah Winfrey.

Now I know everybody is saying... NGUYEN: But she's not running, Kreskin.

KRESKIN: Yes. But all the experts are saying, oh, well, entertainers don't make an impact. They don't? In 1920, Al Jolson came to the picture the first time an entertainer ever campaigned. He campaigned for Coolidge. And then the largest woman vote in the history of this country took place 1952 and a military man wrote because Arthur Godfrey, who is Mr. CBS, you vote, to vote, let's not short-circuit Oprah.

NGUYEN: Right.

MARCIANO: OK. Listen, enough about politics.

NGUYEN: Yes.

MARCIANO: Let's talk sports. It's a great weekend. You know, we've got the big steroids controversy. You got guys who are going to be, you know, coming up for election to the hall of fame, baseball at least.

KRESKIN: O'Malley -- by the way, O'Malley is going to be the biggest controversy of all. Don't ask me why but you're going to hear raging controversy that he shouldn't be in the hall of fame.

NGUYEN: O'Malley?

KRESKIN: Mark my word that nobody believes it.

NGUYEN: Walter O'Malley.

KRESKIN: Walter O'Malley. I think, by the way, in spite of the tragedy of steroids and the disgrace, I think that baseball is still going to continue to remain the most popular sport. And for some reason that I can't put my finger on, and I don't know why, I think basketball is going to continue to diminish popularity wise in this country. I don't know why.

NGUYEN: Really?

OK. Let me ask you this, Beijing Olympics. Those are coming up. I know you have a prediction about that.

KRESKIN: Well, I think a cloud is going to hang over it. Part of the reason is going to be the business world in this country. I've been asked to appear at the Olympics to perform. I'm not going into this why I've been asked to go to Beijing. But the problem matter is...

NGUYEN: What are you? Dancing or something? What do they want you to do?

KRESKIN: The bottom line is that we have -- many of our outsourcing of merchandise and so forth is because of the slave labor in China. And, yes, you do have individuals who are fighting to protect the rights of the workers. It's one person for every 35,000 people. I think a cloud is going to hang over the Olympics just as it did over Germany with the Olympics in the 1930s.

NGUYEN: All right. I got to get you a couple of other things before we have to go, because these are new fads for America. You say whistling will return as an art form along with rope tricks?

KRESKIN: Also -- what did you say?

NGUYEN: Along with rope tricks?

KRESKIN: Yes. The spinning of rope, also the use of the whips. I'm not talking about anything sexual.

NGUYEN: Kreskin, watch it.

KRESKIN: Also a game called hopscotch which most people don't know about today.

NGUYEN: I remember playing that.

KRESKIN: I think kids are going to suddenly realize that without a computer or a box, there is something that they can do by themselves. By the way, and this is a surprise to people in the behavior areas, I think a very unique area of psychotherapy is going to arise using ventriloquism. And before people think I've flipped my lid, a lot...

NGUYEN: Yes, I'm starting to wonder about you.

KRESKIN: A lot of people can talk easier to an animal or a small figure than they can to a giant therapist.

NGUYEN: All right.

MARCIANO: Listen, I'm taking notes here because, you know, when you do retire, I want to be able to...

KRESKIN: Well, listen, Rob, the one area -- Rob?

MARCIANO: Yes?

KRESKIN: The one area this may not work is with news anchors. I'm only joking. Only joking, guys.

MARCIANO: Listen, if you can predict that Betty and I will be left -- allowed to come back in the building...

KRESKIN: By the way, Betty and Rob, I've got a new book. I'm very proud of this.

NGUYEN: Of course, you have to plug the book. Yes. "Mental Power."

MARCIANO: Raise it up just a little bit. "Mental Power," all right.

The Amazing Kreskin, thanks for joining us. Good luck to you. KRESKIN: See you next year.

MARCIANO: See you next year.

NGUYEN: All right.

KRESKIN: That I am foreseeing.

NGUYEN: Have a great 2008.

KRESKIN: Thank you. Happy New Year.

NGUYEN: OK. Talk about a great guy.

MARCIANO: Oh, yes. Listen. This Massachusetts man...

NGUYEN: This -- yes. Not only Kreskin but this guy.

MARCIANO: ...paid $2 for a file cabinet. But what's inside is worth thousands. Stick around for that story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: All right. Here's the scenario. An old filing cabinet with a hidden treasure.

MARCIANO: Yes. A man in Massachusetts paid $2 for this...

NGUYEN: Two bucks.

MARCIANO: ...in a yard sale, got a bargain, obviously, discovers it's worth more than $100,000.

NGUYEN: Yes.

MARCIANO: Michelle Reliford of affiliate WHDH has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRED PIETROWSKI, FOUND BONDS WORTH THOUSANDS: $50,000 at 8 percent interest since 1988.

MICHELLE RELIFORD, WHDH REPORTER: The bucks don't stop there. This bunch of stocks and bonds is valued well over $100,000, maybe much more now in the hands of Fred Pietrowski of Lawrence. He paid $2 for this file cabinet at a yard sale and found a hidden treasure.

PIETROWSKI: I thought they were just old papers, you know, to throw away. And then I started seeing all this fancy scroll work with the orange scroll and one says $50,000. The other one says $15,000. I go, whoa, wait a minute.

RELIFORD: They are stocks and ponds from AT&T, BellSouth and the James River Corporation. Included this pricey pile, the release papers that would make the finder a pretty wealthy keeper. PIETROWSKI: Irrevocable stock power transfer. And they are all signed by the owners. So whoever puts their name on the top, they own them.

RELIFORD: This former Eagle Scout and Navy vet says he never thought twice about keeping the money.

PIETROWSKI: We've had Christmases where it was hard to put food on the table and to take money away from somebody, especially if it was their grandparents or something, just not right.

LINDA PIETROWSKI, WIFE OF FINDER: I would think these people would like to get back what belongs to them, too, if we can find out who it belongs to.

RELIFORD: So far, no one's matched up, but he plans to keep looking, believing in a higher reward.

PIETROWSKI: What goes around, comes around. You do the right thing, it balances out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: What a great guy and a terrific story there.

We're also following this story. Just what happened in the seconds following this picture? Was Benazir Bhutto shot? Did she get shrapnel from a suicide bomber or did she fall and hit the sunroof? The Pakistani government says it doesn't need help in this death investigation. Well, we are going to talk with our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen coming up.

MARCIANO: A Michigan State graduate in Karachi at the time of the suicide bombing. She talks about the chaos she witnessed and why she still fears for her safety. We'll talk to her in the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARCIANO: Party time, coming up.

NGUYEN: Coming up. Yes.

MARCIANO: New Year's Eve. Tune in 11:00, Anderson Cooper and a lot of more personalities will be here.

NGUYEN: Times Square.

MARCIANO: But before that, here's what's going to come up Monday morning on "AMERICAN MORNING."

NGUYEN: New Year's Eve. Kiran Chetry has the details now from New York.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Betty and Rob. Coming up next week on "AMERICAN MORNING," Monday is New Year's Eve. And as cities across the country promote a safe holiday celebration, we're going to be live from Times Square and you can bet there will be hundreds of New York City's finest on hand when the ball drops.

But did you also know that the Big Apple is about to set a new record? Some of the lowest crime rates ever reported for the city. How did New York do it while others cities are seeing crime rates go through the roof?

Also the Feds are trying something new. Coming to a roadside near you, mug shots of America's most wanted, shown in a new way. We're going to see how it may help catch criminals.

Plus, we're down to the wired days away until the Iowa caucuses. We're on the campaign trail as the candidates pull up all of the stops.

And something you haven't seen before, it's a new freedom for millions of Americans who use wheelchairs. This one is so high-tech it can climb stairs, curbs and even more important, it puts patients at eye-level with those who were standing. We're going to meet one young woman who says it's changed her life.

Also breaking news, when John Roberts and I see you Monday. It all begins at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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