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AMERICAN MORNING

Sentencing Day for O.J. Simpson; Car CEOs Return to Capitol Hill; Questioning Obama's Citizenship; Hanging up on Obama; Iraqi Slave Labor: Military Subcontractor Confines Workers; President Bush Light Tree for Last Time; "Intercept" Set for this Afternoon; O.J. Simpson's Sentencing

Aired December 5, 2008 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Sentencing day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Orenthal James Simpson, guilty.

ROBERTS: O.J. Simpson facing life in prison today.

O.J. SIMPSON: Think you can steal my (beep) and sell it?

ROBERTS: The final chapter in a stranger than fiction fall from grace.

Plus, the congresswoman who hung up on the future president.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I'm Barack Obama.

ROBERTS: Not once but twice.

OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama.

ROBERTS: She's here live. Whether she thinks both parties can make a connection for the good of the country on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: And good morning. Thanks very much for joining us. Miami Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen hanging up on the president- elect twice.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Right.

ROBERTS: Finally gets a third one and the fourth one he gets through. I mean, you got to wonder, you know, what does this say for the future relations between the Democratic and Republican Party.

CHETRY: Exactly. She -- and then she joked around later. I thought why the heck would Barack Obama want to talk to a Republican congresswoman out of Florida. I thought it had to be a prank call.

ROBERTS: Now, we'll talk to her about all of that and, you know, where she thinks relations might go as well, because she's on the foreign affairs committee on the House. We'll talk about Obama's foreign policy coming up as well. Lots ahead for you today.

CHETRY: That's right. And we're glad you're with us on this Friday, December 5th.

Top story this morning. Sentencing day for O.J. Simpson. He's facing life in prison for his conviction on the armed robbery and kidnapping of two sports memorabilia dealers in Las Vegas. Simpson's attorneys are asking for the minimum six-year prison term calling him a "first-time offender."

Prosecutors are recommending 18-year sentences for Simpson and his co-defendant. The judge, however, could sentence both to life in prison.

The recount on Minnesota's hotly contested Senate race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken is still not over. It was supposed to end yesterday, but the city of Minneapolis has been granted an extension to try to locate 130 missing ballots. As of yesterday, Coleman still led Franken by 205 votes.

New developments in the Mumbai massacre investigation. Security sources say that the killers may have had help from inside of India. The surviving gunman reportedly telling interrogators they used an Indian operative as far back as last year to scout locations for their killing spree. The discovery is a blow to Indian authorities who blame the attacks entirely on Pakistani militants.

ROBERTS: Well, this morning Detroit is sending a message to Congress. Invest in America. The CEOs for the big three from Detroit return to Capitol Hill today and the city's newspaper which has covered the birth of the industry and the rise of the motor city, right now launching a full throttle front page push for the $34 billion bailout, telling lawmakers who are still skeptical "you don't want all this blood on your hands."

This all comes one day after the auto industry executives made an urgent plea for financial help, but Congress still seems reluctant to offer any help.

CNN's Dana Bash is covering the story. She's live on Capitol Hill this morning, and some pretty interesting theater there in the Senate committee yesterday, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Interesting theater yesterday and we're going to see a lot more today because these CEOs are going to be back on Capitol Hill. They're going to be over in the House side. And actually they are facing a Congress that seems a bit more amenable to helping them to perhaps giving them the money that they're asking for but still tied in big partisan knots over how to do it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): With choreography for the cameras, the big three CEOs returned to Capitol Hill in fuel efficient cars instead of pricey private jets. Lesson learned when it comes to public relations. Determined to convince wary lawmakers, they learned bigger lessons about restructuring their struggling companies.

RICK WAGONER, GENERAL MOTORS CEO: We're here today because we made mistakes which we're learning from.

ALAN MULALLY, FORD CEO: It used to be that our approach to our customers was if you build it they will come. Now, we are aggressively matching production to meet the true customer demand.

ROBERT NARDELLI, CHRYSLER CEO: We've identified approximately $4 billion of potential cost savings and improvements.

BASH: The CEOs came armed with new business plans that Congress demanded, promises to consolidate and modernize, concessions from auto workers unions to help cut cost. But skepticism that taxpayer money would be well spent in Detroit is still deep.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I don't trust the car leadership. I worry that if they're left on their own, they will be back a short time later asking for more.

BASH: Executives expanded their rescue request to $34 billion. One panelist warned an auto turnaround could eventually cost $75 billion to $125 billion. Republican Richard Shelby who opposes any bailout pounced on that.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: If they got the 34 billion, how long will it be before they're back here in your judgment?

MARK ZANDI, MOODY'S ECONOMY.COM: I think it will be --

SHELBY: Six months?

ZANDI: No. That will be fall, late.

SHELBY: But they'll certainly be back?

ZANDI: I think that's a high probability.

BASH: The committee's top Democrat told CEOs he still has a lot of unanswered questions, but also warned colleagues that doing nothing would be playing Russian roulette with the economy.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), BANKING COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'm not a miracle worker. No one is here. I'm not going pack a bag and leave and go back to Connecticut. I'm going to stay here and try and get this done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now yesterday, the auto executives agreed to a federal oversight board. One idea is for government-run restructuring of their companies. But even if that idea or anything else were really to take hold here on Capitol Hill, John, the big problem is the deep divide over where this money would even come from. Democrats still say that they want it to come from the $700 billion already appropriated for Wall Street. The White House again last night said no deal.

ROBERTS: Right. And Harry Reid saying he doesn't have the votes in the Senate at this point for it to come from the $700 billion. Any sense that that will change?

BASH: Right now, no. It definitely seems like that there are not (ph) votes there for that. That's why the Democratic leaders wrote the president one more time asking him yet again to do it himself, for Henry Paulson, the treasury secretary just to basically do it by executive order or, you know, with the executive branch, I should say, because they do have the power to do that. Because you're right, they're just aren't the votes here for that or some other ideas floating on where the money should come from. And that really is the crux of the problem. But they say they're going to work on it maybe all weekend, John.

ROBERTS: We'll see. And as you said more political theater ahead this morning in the House here.

Dana Bash on Capitol Hill. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

CHETRY: And the automakers' promises for more fuel efficient vehicles comes amid new predictions that the price of oil may fall to $25 a barrel and a gallon of gas could drop to a buck by next year.

Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business" right now. I have to ask what happened. I mean, it was six months ago that people were saying we're looking at $200 barrel oil.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It always looks like a bubble after the bubble popped, right? I mean, back then people were saying the sky is the limit for the price of oil. And now, you're looking at 43 bucks a barrel for oil.

What happened is -- excuse me, I'm speechless over the price of oil. What happened is a global recession and demand has been sapped, and there's so much concern about slowness in the economy that you're seeing oil prices tumble here. It has been incredible.

Since June or July when they hit 140 in change, they're now down to $43 a barrel. What that means for you is that your gas prices are lower and the Gulf Oil CEO telling a Massachusetts newspaper that gas prices could hit a dollar next year. Gulf is a distributor of gasoline products. So imagine a dollar a gallon for gas next year.

You hope that it doesn't take the importance in the fuel, if you will, away from the debate about renewable energy...

ROBERTS: Yes.

ROMANS: ... and about energy efficiency. You hope that we don't get -- you know, we don't sit back on that. But indeed, it's good news for a lot of people. It's a stimulus for a lot of people. It's going to be lower. Heating oil costs if you didn't lock in, actually lower. Even heating low cost --

CHETRY: If you did lock in, is there a way around that?

ROMANS: I'm not sure. I'm not sure. If you lock in, you pretty much have locked in so that's the trouble. But if you lock in now for next year, it's certainly better. It's certainly better than what you locked in last year.

ROBERTS: As you're saying, you got to hope that, you know, the pressure does for the moment appear to be off on this idea of, you know, rising oil prices mean more efficiently vehicles. But price of oil is going to go back up and it will go back up dramatically when the economy gets going again.

ROMANS: The policymakers --

ROBERTS: So (INAUDIBLE) for the future.

ROMANS: That's right. And policymakers have to remember just how horrible it was when they were that high and how, you know, really how tough it was and how we didn't really have any alternative. So you know, you hope that that's some of the policy debate that hasn't been thrown in the backburner.

ROBERTS: Enjoy it for now but it's not going to last forever.

ROMANS: Right.

CHETRY: You want a sip from my water?

ROMANS: Yes, thank you.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Christine.

Other stories new this morning. A fundraising SOS going out to Barack Obama's vast list of donors. They are being asked again to help Hillary Clinton pay down her campaign debt before she becomes secretary of state, and then ethics laws limit her fundraising capabilities.

Obama pledged to help Clinton pay off her debt after she endorsed him. As of last month, Hillary Clinton had more than $7 million in campaign debts.

Medical marijuana is now legal in Michigan, but patients could still get busted for smoking a joint because new state regulations will not be in place for another few months. The new law allows patients with cancer, HIV, AIDS, glaucoma and other diseases to use marijuana if prescribed by their doctors.

This morning a new dad is appealing a ticket that he got while racing his pregnant wife to a hospital in Boston. About two weeks ago, John Davis decided to use the break-down lane after getting stock in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. When he pulled up behind a state trooper to ask for help, the trooper got out of his car and slapped him with a $100 citation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DAVIS, GOT TICKET WHILE WIFE WAS IN LABOR: I was, you know, on the lane (ph), but I was trying to remain calm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He made an otherwise, you know, nice event a little distressing. You know, we'll always have that memory now of heading into the hospital and getting a ticket.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, both mother and newborn are fine. Can't say so much for the husband's wallet, though. A spokesperson for the police department says the officer made a decision to enforce the break-down lane law.

Ooh, he's playing the grinch. It's this year's Christmas play too.

CHETRY: I'll tell you what, when you're going through contractions, apparently this woman was like her contractions were only three minutes apart. They're probably petrified that she's going to actually give birth in the car. The ticket is the least of their problems.

ROBERTS: I remember once crossing the George Washington Bridge and there's a police car in the left-hand lane, lights and siren on, and there was a couple in their SUV following close behind. And the woman was like -- you could tell what was going on.

ROMANS: My husband got one on our wedding day. Can you imagine you tell the cop, I'm racing to get married. And the cop said, forget it. Take it any way.

CHETRY: These people use all of these have excuses.

ROBERTS: And you're waiting there.

(LAUGHTER)

CHETRY: He made it. That's all right. The wedding day was messed up, and the marriage was lasting and wonderful. See that. All right.

Well, anyway, a lawsuit questions Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship, claims he can't be sworn in as president. What are the chances the Supreme Court will actually take up this case?

Nine minutes after the hour.

Sentencing day for the man many believed got away with murder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED GODMAN, RON GOLDMAN'S FATHER: We're absolutely thrilled to see that the potential is that he could spend the rest of his life in jail where that scumbag belongs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: As O.J.. Simpson learns his fate, a look back at the saga that's held America captive for more than 14 years. Justice for O.J.?

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Hey, it's coming up to 13 minutes after the hour now. Let's fast forward to stories that will be making news later on today.

The government is warning airlines to expect delays this winter because of a shortage of the chemical that's used to keep runways free of ice and snow. Several airports say they'll try using alternative chemicals to keep flights moving.

A new report is linking gun-related murders and other crimes to relaxed gun laws. According to the report obtained by "The Washington Post," in states where it's easy to peddle and traffic guns, 60 percent more gun-related homicides occurred than states with tougher laws. The report due out later on this month is from the Mayor's Against Illegal Guns Coalition.

And today, O.J. Simpson finds out how long he'll be spending behind bars for that robbery and kidnapping conviction in Las Vegas. CNN's Kara Finnstrom looks at Simpson's day of reckoning and his infamous legal past.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kiran and John, O.J. Simpson's attorneys will seek leniency. They are asking for a prison sentence that would be no shorter than six years. But when the judge ultimately hands down her sentence in that Las Vegas courtroom, Simpson could face a term of up to life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FINNSTROM (voice-over): Thirteen years ago, the nation watched the chase. The theatrics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not guilty of the crime of murder.

FINNSTROM: The so-called trial of the century that turned O.J. Simpson into celebrity outcast and obsession.

FRED GOLDMAN, RONALD GOLDMAN'S FATHER: Ron and Nicole were butchered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Orenthal James Simpson guilty.

FINNSTROM: Last October 3rd, we watched again when Simpson convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping in an entirely different case was taken away in handcuffs. His daughter cried. His sister fainted. GABRIEL GRASSO, SIMPSON ATTORNEY: And O.J. walked into the Bank of America with an AK-47 and duct tape and duct taped all the tellers and stuck them in the safe, OK, and stole a million dollars, he'd be charged with the same exact thing he's charged with here.

FINNSTROM: Prosecutors said Simpson and a group of cohorts orchestrated a holdup in a Las Vegas hotel room using a weapon to get merchandise from two sports memorabilia dealers. Simpson claims the items were stolen from him. The confrontation was caught on tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O.J. SIMPSON: Don't let nobody out of this room. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)! Think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and sell it?

UNKNOWN: No.

SIMPSON: Don't let nobody out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FINNSTROM: Simpson's attorneys say a fair trial was nearly impossible. Millions had watched his acquittal in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Two years later, the public watched another jury in civil court find him liable for the killings. And then there was this 2007 book, "If I Did It." Simpson's hypothetical account of the murders.

Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman's father, reacted to the Las Vegas conviction.

GOLDMAN: We're absolutely thrilled to see that the potential is that he could spend the rest of his life in jail where that scumbag belongs.

FINNSTROM: Goldman now plans to witness the sentencing and he'll have company. The Las Vegas courthouse is planning for crowds, offering limited public tickets and setting up an overflow courtroom with a TV.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FINNSTROM: The one outcome that is already clear, it won't end all of this. Simpson's attorneys plan to appeal -- Kiran, John.

CHETRY: Kara Finnstrom, thanks.

Well, she's the Florida lawmaker who hung up on Barack Obama twice. This morning, though, she's taking our call. We'll talk to her live about what happened and what the president-elect said to her.

Also, there's a suit disputing Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship that's now made its way to the Supreme Court. Is there really a case? A closer look at 16 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." Today the Supreme Court will consider whether to take up a unique challenge to the president-elect. It's a lawsuit contesting Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship. It's been appealed now to the high court.

CNN's Kelli Arena tells us what it's all about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He won the election fair and square. End of story, right?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: There's some people out there who wish to believe that there's something illegal about his candidacy and now his presidency.

ARENA: The latest effort to rewrite the election of 2008, an accusation that Barack Obama is not a legitimate natural born American, and so can't be sworn in.

SCHNEIDER: There was always that charge hanging out there there's something that's not really American about him. And there's a small group of people who just want to keep that discussion going.

ARENA: The argument which is being taken all the way to the Supreme court goes like this.

When Barack Obama was born in 1961, Kenya was still a British colony. Obama's father was from Kenya and, therefore, a British citizen. That British citizenship automatically passed on to his son, and that means that Obama who was born in the U.S. was born with dual citizenship. But is that enough to disqualify him from being president?

THOMAS GOLDSTEIN, SUPREME COURT LEGAL ANALYST: The law was always been understood to be that if you are born here you are a natural born citizen and that is particularly the case when you have a U.S. citizen parent like Barack Obama's mother.

ARENA: The Obama campaign says the proof of his U.S. citizenship is right on his birth certificate. Case closed. What's more his Kenyan citizenship automatically expired when he turned 21. Legal experts do not expect the Supreme Court to take the case, even though it has never really defined what it means to be a natural born citizen.

GOLDSTEIN: This is one of those terms that's probably going to stay ambiguous in the law because the courts don't like to step in when what they'd be doing is overruling the will of the voters. It's a so-called political question.

ARENA (on camera): This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of lawsuits nationwide trying to overturn the election results all centered around the same theme that Barack Obama was not eligible to run for president.

Kelli Arena, CNN Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Well, if somebody called you saying they were Barack Obama, would you believe them? One Florida congresswoman didn't and hung up on the president-elect twice. But this morning, she is taking our call and she'll tell us why she had trouble believing. You'll want to hear this one.

Twenty-one and a half minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Bill McKenna is in the business of protecting you from the sun. His company Sky Shades makes umbrellas and shade structures for everything from restaurants to playgrounds. But instead of just keeping the sun out, McKenna wants to harness its energy.

JOE MCKENNA, SKY SHADES: It's running a laptop. We got a DVD player that's playing. We got a cell phone charging.

JERAS: This is what he calls the Powerbrella, a prototype solar power umbrella.

MCKENNA: We're pulling electricity out of the unit right now.

JERAS: Sky Shades' partners with Konarka, a company that makes the thin solar films that are placed on top of the umbrella.

MCKENNA: Pockets allow us to be at a slide the panels in and out. So there are 16 eight watt panels.

JERAS: Energy from the sun charges the batteries in the unit. A volt meter shows how much electricity it's getting. McKenna says the design is ideal for outdoor places where people charge their electronic devices.

MCKENNA: I've got different friends that take their laptops and they go into the Starbucks and the Panera's (ph), places that offer free wi-fi. And one of the challenges that they've always told me is getting there at the right time to be able to use some of the outlets and plugs that are available in the stores. It's a new generation of solar, and it's going to change the way people think about solar.

JERAS: Jacqui Jeras, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Well, who are you indeed? Governor Sarah Palin fell victim to a prank telephone call. So did Fidel Castro. But when Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen received a call from President-elect Barack Obama she hung up on him twice. Only this was no radio disk jockey that was trying to prank her. It was the real deal.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen joins me from Miami this morning to talk about the mix up. It's good to see you this morning.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Good morning.

ROBERTS: So it's Wednesday. You're there working in the district. The phone rings then what happened?

ROS-LEHTINEN: And then though the gentleman says President-elect Barack Obama would like to speak to you. I said, oh, yes, right. And then the gentleman comes on speaking, doing the best impersonation of Barack Obama.

And I said to him, you know, you're much better than that guy on "Saturday Night Live" but I'm not going to fall for it. He said, "Ileana," because I've known him just a little bit and he says, "Ileana, how can I convince you that this is Barack Obama?" I said, really, I know you radio stations. You're always punking people. You're playing spoofs, and he continues to go no. This is a -- I just want to show you that I want to reach across the aisle. I want to work with Republicans. You're the ranking member of the foreign affairs committee. You work with Chairman Berman. So he's mentioning -- he's mentioning some names and I said, boy, this is a very good elaborate prank.

Howard Berman is not exactly a household name nor am I.

ROBERTS: Right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: But I think this is just a Miami radio station. So I said no, I'm really sorry. You're very good. I'm not falling for it. He's still speaking to me. I hang up.

ROBERTS: Ooh, ouch.

ROS-LEHTINEN: A minute later, Rahm Emanuel is on the line and he says, "Ileana, you know that this is Rahm. You've talked to me. You know my voice.

I said boy, you guys are really -- you know, the nuances, you really, this is an elaborate prank on me. I'm thrilled that you would go through the trouble. And Rahm keeps talking. He says I have President-elect Obama on the line.

And again, President-elect Obama comes on and he still continues with congratulations on your victory. And I said, guys, really, I'm very busy. It's funny. I appreciate it. Klunk. I hang up twice.

ROBERTS: And then so Chairman Berman calls and he says --

ROS-LEHTINEN: Right.

ROBERTS: Ileana, you got a problem here. ROS-LEHTINEN: He said Ileana, you know my voice. And I said, Howard, I do know your voice. But tell me this inside joke that we have which I'm not going to tell.

ROBERTS: Oh, come on. That's the most interesting part.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Oh, no. It's about our colleagues and when he starts saying the joke, I said oh, no. He said yes, I've gotten a call from Obama and Rahm Emanuel...

ROBERTS: Right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: ... and you have, indeed, hung up on him twice. So, sure enough a minute later, here he is again on the line, calling my cell phone. I apologized profusely.

ROBERTS: I'm sure you did.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I thanked him humbly for his call. And I said, you are very gracious. You either run out of people to thank or your day is very light to be calling a little slug on the planet. He goes, well, as I said before you hung up on me twice...

ROBERTS: Right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: ... that I do want to work in a bipartisan manner and it was just an incredible call. What a morning.

ROBERTS: So, what do you think about that idea of him reaching out to work across the aisle? I remember in the year 2000, early in his presidency in 2001, President Bush said the same thing. People complained that he didn't in fact worked across the aisle. Do you think that Barack Obama will be able to do it?

ROS-LEHTINEN: I'm getting that feeling. I really am because he has shown it in his appointments. He has shown it. He has said it. And I'm a good evidence of it.

I just thought I was being punked by these incredibly funny radio stations. You mentioned in your tease for the story that Fidel Castro got punked.

ROBERTS: Yes.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Hugo Chavez has been punked here in the radio stations, and Sarah Palin falling for the Sarkozy call from France.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

ROS-LEHTINEN: And that was a Canadian radio station. So I think that President-elect Barack Obama is trying to reach out to Republicans. They've got a better majority of Democrats in the House, but here he is calling me because of the foreign affairs aspect.

So we then went on to talk about serious issues. I talked to him about a little about Cuba. A little about Israel. Those are two passions of mine, but he was very gracious. And he says, "I will always remember this call because I've been calling a lot of people. Nobody has hung up on me yet, and certainly nobody has hung up on me twice."

ROBERTS: Well, I'm sure you'll both remember it and maybe his ability to work across the aisle will depend on who hangs up on him and who doesn't.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Yes.

ROBERTS: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, it's good to see you this morning. Thanks for being a good sport about all of this.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. Thank you very much.

ROBERTS: We'll see you soon.

ROS-LEHTINEN: See you.

CHETRY: Well, it's 6:30 here in New York and we're going to get a check of the top stories this morning.

The big three auto executives returning to Capitol Hill to drive home their pleas for the $34 billion in taxpayer money. During Senate hearings yesterday, the automakers promised to pare down, change business models, renegotiate union contracts. Some Democrats calling their plan a step forward, but others remain skeptical. And this morning, Democrats also renewing calls for the White House to act on its own.

Pirates, enemy number one on the high seas, but a few of them just got saved after their engine failed. A Somalia crew in the Gulf of Aden sent out an S.O.S. A Danish naval ship answered the call and rescued the seven member crew only to find that the boat was packed with grenades and assault rifles. The men haven't been officially linked to any recent pirate attack.

And this morning U.S. combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are at their lowest level since the two wars began more than five years ago. 11 troops died though in November. That is down though from a high of 129 four years ago. The U.S. military crediting increased security in Iraq, but commanders say fighting in Afghanistan does taper off in the winter and that the region is still a hot bed of terror. 20,000 troops will be deployed there over the next 18 months.

Meantime, there is disturbing news from Iraq about foreign workers being duped by a U.S. Defense Department subcontractor, and then living in prison like conditions in Baghdad. They say they were promised jobs with American defense contractor KBR through a Kuwaiti company. But as CNN's Michael Ware tells us, they encountered something entirely different.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They say they feel like prisoners. Locked in a derelict warehouse for months on end. No salaries, poor food and armed security guards patrolling the fences. It's an obscenity, abuse of contract workers in Iraq. From India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Uganda, more than 1,000 men are penned here, lured to Baghdad with promises of jobs that did not exist.

Even crueler most paid for the privilege to come selling bombs or anything of valued, told they had jobs waiting with American giant KBR. All though modulus catering services, a Kuwaiti company. These officials in Iraq refuse to comment. Their Kuwaiti office saying only that the situation was under control and being dealt with. KBR says it abhors unethical behavior insisting its contractors abide by its code of conduct and it alerts authorities when contractors do not.

But the Kuwaiti company who received these men from the recruiters shoved them in here. A compound within Baghdad's airport with showers without water and taps that are useless. 600 men who'd hoped to send money to their families piled in one room, as many as four to a bed. And apparently all forgotten. A nuisance no one wanted to address. Unable to stay without visas, they are unable to go without money.

(on camera): Is your government helping you? Is your government helping you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing. Nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't get anything.

WARE (voice-over): And when they protested, the guards fired above to silence them. These Ugandans said Iraqi police hand cuffed and beat them. Their police refuse to comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said, OK, if you said you are here because of U.S. influence, we are going to show you the difference between Iraqi government and U.S. government. We're going to see if the U.S. is going to help you.

WARE: And as they spoke to me, the manager who in turn locked them out for talking.

(on camera): Let these men back in? You will not let me go back in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No, no, I gave them two minutes. If they not come back inside, that's it.

WARE: But if they talk to us you won't let them in. That's not -- that's not right.

(voice-over): Other workers duped by different agents don't have a camp at all. These men sheltered by this airport road in a wasteland, living off food donated by Iraqi workers. The men who brought them here have disappeared. Their immigration status is in disarray. Passports taken or pages with visas torn out. They are stranded, forsaken. The U.N. has visited and it said it's trying to help. But all are in limbo. The U.S. military says it takes human rights abuse seriously and is looking into the matter.

The Iraqi government has just confiscated one of the company's official's passport until a solution is found. Until then, the world needs to be watching so they are not forgotten again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WARE: And it's appalling crisis here in the midst of the war zone in Iraq continues to lurch along. Overnight, we had reports from inmates within this worker's labor camp and they are telling us that buses showed up in the middle of the night to drag 160 of them to the airport without receiving any money or any assistance whatsoever.

The workers did not get on the buses and now they are telling us that they are being told by the site manager at the camp that their food and water is going to be cut off on Monday. So, someone is going to have to do something about this.

Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, it's great that you are bringing attention to that situation. That is appalling to say the least. Michael Ware for us this morning in Baghdad. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Well, snow is back on the weather map this morning. Where its falling and how it could impact the start of your weekend. We're going to head to the weather center coming up next.

Plus, meet the man who is spending a small fortune to give those less fortunate some of the best seats in town for Barack Obama's inauguration. This is a great story you're going to want to hear here on the "Most News in the Morning." It's 36 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's a bittersweet moment for President Bush last night as he attended his final lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington. Mr. Bush illuminated the 42-foot Colorado Blue Spruce after praising troop stationed overseas.

And Santa Claus traveled all the way from the North Pole to be there. Serenading the first couple with a rendition of "When it's Christmas Time in Texas."

(SANTA CLAUS SINGING)

ROBERTS: Somehow I don't think he was really singing that, though. Rob Marciano is off today. Reynolds Wolf at the weather center in Atlanta. And we got snow, snow, snow falling gently behind your head there this morning, Reynolds.

(WEATHER REPORT)

CHETRY: Well, it's the hottest ticket in town, and this morning meet the man spending a million dollars, perhaps even more than that to make sure that the down and out are front and center at Barack Obama's inauguration. It's 40 minutes after the hour.

She risked her life to save someone else's baby.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does anybody think of them and that woman and that small precious baby? No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: A CNN exclusive. Meet the brave nanny who saved the little one caught in the crossfire of Mumbai. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." It's a generous invitation to the hottest ticket in town. One man is spending a million dollars, possibly more to give those in need one of the best views in Washington to witness Barack Obama's historic inauguration. And his guests will be getting the VIP treatment, including free hotel rooms, food, drinks, even clothes if they need to attend an inaugural ball.

Earl Stafford is the man who is making these dreams come true. And he joins me from Washington this morning.

Earl, thanks so much for being with us.

EARL STAFFORD, PURCHASED INAUGURAL PACKAGE FOR DISADVANTAGE: Thank you for the invitation.

CHETRY: So you're a businessman and you made a lot of money, and you started a foundation, a faith-based non-profit organization to try to help others. And this is your first big venture that you guys are doing. Your first big project, I guess if you will. So, tell us about this million dollar inaugural hotel package.

STAFFORD: Well, we were inspired. We are a Christian family. We were inspired to do something to help those that are needy, those that are disadvantaged in society.

This first came to me in March of this year, and I never expected it to grow to the enormous size that it's grown to now. But we started in July. We rented a hotel room and we expect to just to bring in a few people who were homeless or who were distressed. But as things have evolved, we have now hundreds of people that we're looking to bring into Washington to be part of the celebration.

CHETRY: So, it's interesting. So J.W. Marriott offered this hotel room package, which is hundreds of rooms, a big suite and then the use of the balcony, right, so that you're all be able to get a beautiful view of the parade route. They weren't planning on doing this for charity. You just found out about that and you purchased up that million dollar package, if you will, from the hotel. STAFFORD: That's correct. I just happened to see it in the newspaper, in the Sunday edition of the "The Washington Post", and the next morning I ran to the hotel and said I want that. And I knew then that this thing was going to be big.

CHETRY: Was Marriott surprised when they found out what you were doing with it?

STAFFORD: The J.W. Marriott was very surprised, but they have been just wonderful host and partners with us in making this happen.

CHETRY: How were you going to decide who gets to attend this? Because I'm sure that there are a lot of people that would love this opportunity.

STAFFORD: It's an enormous task, no doubt. But we have partnered with the National Urban League, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and other organizations, social organizations around the country to help identify these individuals. And then we're asking those organizations to host these individuals to ensure their safety and their welfare while they are here.

CHETRY: It's very interesting. You can also send a request if you want to be considered or if you know somebody to inauguration at the StaffordFoundation.org. You're talking about people that are not necessarily just disadvantaged financially, but terminally ill and also soldiers, right, who served in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and may be injured or just coming back from service?

STAFFORD: That's correct. We have a debt of gratitude to those soldiers who have returned and given up their lives and part of their lives for us. And so, we want to be inclusive to include our wounded veterans. We want to include the terminally ill. We want to include those who are socially and economically disadvantaged. We want this to be a purple event.

CHETRY: Well, you guys are doing a great thing. Very exciting. So, we would love to hear from you afterward on how everything went. Earl Stafford, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

STAFFORD: Thank you.

CHETRY: It's 47 minutes after the hour.

ROBERTS: What's the devil doing advertising a television channel?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greetings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: The pitchman with an evil laugh. But doesn't this guy have a credibility issue? Jeanne Moos checks it out. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: He is perhaps the most unlikely pitchman you could ever imagine for the Catholic Church. As CNN's Jeanne Moos tells us, the church is trying to attract viewers to a new cable channel by making a deal with the devil.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greetings.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What the devil? A religious TV channel is teaming up with, guess who?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and I have toiled together to create filthy television. Now a new network is threatening our wonderful world of eviltainment.

MOOS: And this one really is a little devil, 4 feet 5 inches.

MICHAEL MIGLIOZZI, CO-FOUNDER CESARIO MIGLIOZZI AGENCY: Having a little person was something that just added to the comedy, visually.

MOOS: How the Catholic Arch Dioceses of Brooklyn get mixed up with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not tune in to Net TV on December 8 at 8:00 p.m. I will go to stopgood.com.

MOOS: He's the anti-spokesman created by a Los Angeles ad agency to relaunch a New York-based religious channel.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: New Evangelization Television.

MOOS: The programming will include a Catholic newscast, a restaurant review show called Breaking Bed and good clean cartoons, for instance Bullio the Bubble, whose best friends with Jesus. So why enlist the help of the devil?

MIGLIOZZI: We could have preached to the converted, but we wanted to widen the audience.

MOOS: And it's not exactly new for the church to use the devil as a recruiting tool says ad agency partner Enzo Cesario.

ENZO CESARIO, CO-FOUNDER, CESARIO MIGLIOZZI AGENCY: Good and evil. It's been around for centuries.

MOOS: In the computer age, the devil gets his own Web site, stopgoodtv.com, where you can type in questions.

(on camera): Does the devil really wear Prada?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of question is that? Do I look like a Google. MOOS (voice-over): No. You look like actor Jimmy Briscoe, dressed in a costume and horns purchased at Target, seen here devilishly looking down the makeup woman's top. His puns can be hellish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got something on my tooth. (INAUDIBLE) for lunch.

MOOS: That's soul, s-o-u-l, the devil appears in viral and TV ads, as well as on busses. Judging from some of the language used by viewers commenting on the ads, it looks like they are reaching beyond the religious audience. Who would ever thought we'd see the Catholic Church using a pitchman with a pitchfork.

(on camera): Did God approve this message?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

A baby, a nanny and a 12-hour siege. She grabbed him in the gunfire. The Mumbai terrorist attacks. Now, he's an orphan, and she is a hero, and they are only on CNN. Exclusive, the brave nanny who saved the baby's life.

Plus, joy germs. How to get infected with the happiness bug and keep it for a whole year. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Top videos right now on CNN.com. Most popular -- a Massachusetts state trooper gives a ticket to a woman in labor. The couple says the officer didn't cut them any slack for driving in the break down lane in bumper to bumper traffic as they were rushing to the hospital. They say he even asked them what's under the jacket. She said my belly. The baby was born about two hours later.

Also, jingle bell hell. A look at all the annoying Holiday songs playing at shopping malls and on 24-hour a day radio stations. They want to tell you Christmas is here, now pay up.

And a dog rescued from a drainage pipe 1,000 feet from where he disappeared on Friday, in Ohio. A robotic camera found a pair of puppy dog eyes blinking hundreds of feet on the ground and the dog is OK. Those are the most popular videos right now on CNN.com.

CHETRY: Well, it's been called the most realistic test to date for a missile shield built to protect the U.S. from any attack by states like North Korea and Iran. It's set for launch sometime after 3:00 p.m. today. And it comes at a critical time with future president watching.

Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre joins us now. Watching and also deciding, is it worth the billions to try to continue to perfect this technology.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kiran, seven times in the past, the Pentagon has shown it can hit a missile with a missile. But the tests have always been dismissed just too easy, not proving anything by critics. So this test comes with an added degree of difficulty, decoys.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): This was the view from the target missile leaving Alaska during a test last year. It was designed to mimic a North Korean attack, and show the U.S. can react within minutes.

Hundreds of miles away, this interceptor missile streaks into the California Sky. Quickly reaching a closing speed of more than 10,000 miles per hour. What happens next The Pentagon argues could some day save a major American City from nuclear destruction. Watch the thermal imagery again. It shows what's known as a kill vehicle colliding with the dummy warhead in space, something skeptics once said was impossible.

ON THE PHONE: LT. GEN. TREY OBERING, FORMER MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY DIRECTOR: Our testing has shown that not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can actually hit a spot of the bullet with the bullet. The technology has caught up.

MCINTYRE: Just before stepping down as missile chief last month, General Trey Obering told reporters that with interceptors missiles on stand by in both California and Alaska, he has very high confidence the system could defeat a North Korean strike. But critics have argued for years the $100 billion shield could easily be overwhelmed by launching several missiles at once or fooled by using simple, cheap, low-tech decoys.

STEPHEN YOUNG, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: The system can't tell the difference between a Mylar Happy Birthday balloon and a nuclear war head in space. They simply travel at the same speed. They look identical. You can do any number of things. To fool this system, it simply can't work in the real world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: In part to counter that criticism, this test is going to employ what the Pentagon calls our counter measures. That means for the first time in a long time, this system is going to have to discriminate between the real target and the decoys. If it works, it will be a technological feat but, Kiran, it probably still won't silence the critics.

CHETRY: Very interesting. All right. We'll have to wait and see today.

Thanks so much, Jamie.

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