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Obama Transition Team to Release Internal Report of Blagojevich Contact; Dangers of Diet Pills; Spending $700 Billion of Your Money; Palin's Campaign Misstep; Paparazzi Chases Obama

Aired December 23, 2008 - 07:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Just about the top of the hour now. Here's a look at your top stories this morning.
More snow, more sleet and more ice along with absolutely frigid temperatures expected to cross the northern part of the country today. Holiday travelers are dealing with airport delays, coast to coast. Flight cancellations left thousands strand on Monday. Roadways are also treacherous in many areas forcing some highways to actually shut down.

Forty-one seconds after Continental Flight 1404 started down a Denver runway on Saturday. Investigators say flight recorders picked up strange bumping and rattling sounds on the plane. Four seconds later, a crew member called for the flight to be aborted. Then the plane veered off the runway and caught fire. Investigators say the noise still don't explain exactly what caused the crash.


ROBERT SUMWALT, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The bumping and rattling, if, in fact, it is not a normal sound, they will see if they can corroborate that with something else that may have happened, for example, the airplane departing the centerline or something like that. So, again, there will be one piece of information in this jigsaw puzzle that our guys will use to figure out this accident.


COSTELLO: Barack Obama's transition team expected to release its report on the scandal surrounding the Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, today. Two Democratic officials telling CNN the report will ultimately clear Obama's team of any wrongdoing, calling the whole thing "a whole lot about nothing."

And take a look at this. Allow me to hold it up for you. These shots of a shirtless president-elect were snapped on the beach in front of the Obamas' Honolulu vacation house. It's on the cover of the "New York Post," of course.

He's another one that's inside. No press actually was supposed to get near the place where the Obamas were staying, but one member of the paparazzi put on a Hawaiian shirt and he managed to get these shots. And, you know, John, we're still trying to figure out how this man in the Hawaiian shirt with a long lens camera was actually able to get that close to the president-elect's family on the beach.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, here's the thing is that the beaches in Hawaii...

COSTELLO: It's public.

ROBERTS: ... are public, right? You can go to any beach in Hawaii and he was just there with a camera and not a member of the official traveling press, which was the group that was being kept outside of the compound.


COSTELLO: So the Secret Service is telling the traveling press no pictures.


COSTELLO: Don't be snapping any pictures because of the Obamas...

ROBERTS: And this enterprising fellow puts on a Hawaiian shirt, looks like a tourist, walks down a public beach and takes some snapshots. You know, there's obviously there's a buffer zone there and they're watching for anything that looks like a threat, like somebody who might be carrying a weapon or something like that. This guy, obviously had a camera, wasn't seen as a threat, didn't seem to bother anybody too much and had some pictures...

COSTELLO: Well, we don't know that.

ROBERTS: ... that he sold for an awful lot of money, I would think.

COSTELLO: Secret Service really isn't commenting on this as of yet. So we don't really know exactly what went down. But it is interesting that the paparazzi is following President-elect Obama and his family around already.

ROBERTS: Yes. It's not just the White House press corps. Yes.

COSTELLO: Yes. So what about things to come? Paparazzi in Washington, D.C. constantly?

ROBERTS: That could be it. But remember the famous picture of President Clinton and the first lady dancing on the beach in the Virgin Islands?

COSTELLO: I remember that.

ROBERTS: That was a -- that was a video that the Clintons weren't too happy about. So I think that the Obamas are going to have to sort of maybe trying to get the security to step it up a little bit. Maybe extend the buffer zone a little bit, something like that. But you get these long lens cameras. I mean, look at NASA when they shoot the space shuttle when it's 25 miles up in the sky. COSTELLO: I know. Anyway.

ROBERTS: So those long lenses will bring something into focus very easily.

COSTELLO: Yes. I don't know how close it was, but we're going to be digging into those questions a little later this morning. So stick around for that.

ROBERTS: A big thing to talk about.

COSTELLO: Exactly.

Turning to our top story now, take a look at this too, coast to coast more planes in the air than you can count. And those are carrying the lucky ones. Holiday travelers trying to get home to their families in spite of all the wicked weather.


SHERYL ADAMS, FLYING FROM CANADA TO CALIFORNIA: And when I got to the front of the line, they basically said that they were really sorry, but there might not be anything they could do for two days. And I just, at that point, I started to cry because I didn't know what to do.


COSTELLO: I would have cried too. So how will all the ice and snow affect today's travel?

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano is tracking that for us. You heard here. She was crying.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, if you're stuck in an airport for a couple of days that may bring me to tears as well. And I'll tell you what, Carol, we've got another little shot of winter moisture that's heading right into some busy spots. And out west in the Pacific Ocean, another storm coming in. So very active weather pattern and we've got cold air in place although that's going to change a little bit to make forecasting a bit of a headache.

But right now, north of St. Louis we're looking at snow all the way up into Chicago, the Green Bay. It's moving fairly rapidly but it's pretty good swath that's tapping the Gulf of Mexico which is a pretty, you know, warm body of water. So that will bring in some heat into the equation. But for now, just snow from Chicago all the way up to Minneapolis. Two to four in some cases maybe five or six inches of snow.

This is what we expect today for delays. Obviously, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, St. Louis, you might see freezing rain. Dallas some low clouds and some more snow and potentially some low clouds moving into the Denver area.

All right. This pink area, that's trouble. That's where we'll see the freezing rain later on today. Changing over to rain tonight and then maybe back to snow tomorrow. So that's the kind of thing we're dealing with here as warm air starts to mix in. We've got really dense cold air mass that's been in place for a cold several days now.

Daytime highs, 31 degrees in New York, got 30 degrees in Chicago. So that's obviously cold enough for snow. Twenty-nine in Denver, cold enough for snow. Thirty-five Portland, 34 Seattle.

More snow for you folks. And this 31 don't be surprised by what's going to happen next. I think we're going to seen a warm up. So tomorrow, Christmas eve, 51 D.C., 46 degrees in New York City, and 46 degrees in Boston.

So the rain and snow will be right about here when this system continues to march its way towards the east. So there's a little bit of good news for the folks who live on the I-95 corridor, Carol. But everybody else if you're doing your traveling from A to Z, you might have some headaches not only today but tomorrow as well.

COSTELLO: Yes. Merry Christmas to you too.

MARCIANO: Yes. Merry Christmas.

ROBERTS: Barack Obama and his transition team are looking to start the New Year with a clean slate. Today they are releasing a report that they say shows all connections that Obama had with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich were nothing much to talk about. Democratic officials are calling the whole thing "a lot about nothing."

Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry is in Honolulu following the story for us today -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, Carol, today is the day that Team Obama plans to release its long-awaited internal investigation into what contact they had with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his staff. This matters, of course, because of lingering questions about what if any role Obama aide like Rahm Emanuel had in the so-called "pay to play" scandal in Illinois, specifically these allegations that the governor essentially tried to auction off the former U.S. Senate seat of Barack Obama.

You will not be surprised to learn that two Democratic officials tell me that this report will largely exonerate Team Obama, specifically one Democratic official saying about the whole controversy. "This is a lot about nothing." These two Democratic officials basically say the report will suggest that Rahm Emanuel maybe had limited contact with the Illinois governor, a little more contact with the governor's former chief of staff.

But bottom line, there was no wrongdoing in these conversations, certainly no criminal wrongdoing in the phone calls. What's interesting though is critics will raise questions about why if there was no wrongdoing did Team Obama wait until Christmas week when not a lot of people are paying attention to finally release this report. I can tell you a Democratic official insisted the timing was only dictated by the prosecutor in this case, Patrick Fitzgerald. That he basically did not want an earlier release of this report to hamper his own ongoing criminal investigation -- John, Carol.

ROBERTS: Ed Henry reporting for us today. How do you get an assignment like that? That's what I wanted to know.

If losing some pounds is one of your New Year's resolutions, there's a whole list of diet pills that you're going to want to know about and probably avoid. The companies that make them are refusing the FDA's request that they'd be taken off the shelves. The list of 28 weight loss products includes Imelda Perfect Slim, Pro-Slim Plus and Seven-day Herbal Slim. They can be bought over the Internet or in some stores.

Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has got more from Atlanta for us this morning.

Elizabeth, what's in these pills that has the FDA so concerned?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, I'll tell you. It is amazing what's in these pills. It is a list of all sorts of stuff that should never be in any products. They're certainly not in over-the-counter medicines. Let's take a look.

Some of these over-the-counter medicines contained Meridia, which is a prescription drug. You're not supposed to get it over the counter and sometimes in much larger amounts than you would ever get in a prescription. Rimonabant was also found in some of these over- the-counter supplements. That's not even approved to be on the market.

Also a drug called phenytoin, which is a seizure medication. Again, sometimes in really large amounts. And also another drug called phenolphthalein, which is -- I'll tell you it's not even a drug. I should call it a chemical. It's not even supposed to be used in the human body. It is a suspected carcinogen.

Now, John, I have to tell you, I've been covering FDA actions for the better part of two decades. I have never seen anything like this, not just for these ingredients and for the scope of it, but for the fact that these companies apparently according to the FDA wouldn't pull the products off the shelves when the FDA says that they may pursue criminal actions -- John.

ROBERTS: So where are these products coming in from that they can have these ingredients in them? Ingredients that either aren't approved in this country or are regulated in this country?

COHEN: Well, they're coming from all over the place both inside the U.S. and without. And this is a big problem that many people have charged that the FDA does a terrible job of monitoring this. They say they don't do enough on the front end. They sort of do it on the back end like you're seeing here. Now I want to mention that if you are taking one of these, if you're worried that you might be taking one of these drugs, if you go to you'll see the complete list.

ROBERTS: Do they have any enforcement powers? They've said take them off the shelves, but the manufacturers are saying no. If the manufacturers continue to say no, what can the FDA do about it?

COHEN: Well, what the FDA can do is that they can pursue criminal actions. They can pursue criminal charges. But you know what, John, you've got to really the heart of the matter here which is that many people say the FDA really kind of has very watered down police powers and that the FDA should be able to just get these things off the shelves without a second thought. But that's more difficult to do the way the regulations are written.

ROBERTS: All right. So buyer beware there.

COHEN: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: Elizabeth Cohen for us this morning.

COHEN: Thanks.

ROBERTS: Very important message. Thanks, Elizabeth.

COSTELLO: Sarah Palin opens up about what she calls her biggest mistake on the campaign trail. What was it and what will she do differently if she could? We'll tell you.

And the billions of bailout money was supposed to stimulate the economy. So how are banks using the funds? In other words, what happened to your share?

It's 10 minutes past the hour.


COSTELLO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Accountability was a huge issue for many lawmakers on Capitol Hill when the $700 billion bailout was passed. So weeks later, what are the major banks doing with billions of your tax dollars?

Mary Snow is following the story for us this morning -- and is it going to make us mad?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it will. And you know, there are so many more questions than answers, Carol.

Ask banks exactly how they're using the $350 billion in federal bailout money and they're short on specifics.


SNOW (voice-over): With investors on edge, Bank of America is among banks trying to seek customers and soothe nerves with ads like these. But what banks aren't so public about is what they're doing with the billions in federal bailout money they received, money they were given so they could start lending again.

We contacted the banks who were given the biggest amounts. Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Bank of America received $15 billion as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP. Where did it go?

A spokesman sent us a statement saying, "We're using the TARP funds to build our capital and make every good loan that we can." The bank says it anticipates releasing more information in its fourth quarter earnings report.

Sarah Binder of the Brookings Institution has been monitoring the bailout money.

SARAH BINDER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: What the banks have said largely is that we are using the money to stimulate the economy, to get the economy moving. That's far, far too general to know what precisely these banks are using, what they are doing with the money.

SNOW: Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo each received $25 billion, the largest. Wells Fargo says it can't provide any details until it releases its fourth quarter statement though it says it intends to use the funds to help customers avoid foreclosure.

Citigroup says it's using TARP money to help expand the flow of credit and formed a special committee to oversee the TARP money. JP Morgan Chase points out that it recently bought more than $1 billion in Illinois bonds and plans to lend five billion to non-profit and health care companies.

The "Associated Press" surveyed 21 banks and reports the specifics. A Republican member of the House Financial Services Committee who opposed the bailout says don't be shocked.

REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER (R), MICHIGAN: Unfortunately, a lot of people were disgusted but not surprised. One of the fundamental problems with the Wall Street bailout was the people who had caused the problem were never called in front of Congress to explain what they had done, what needed to be done.


SNOW: And the bottom line is Congress did not put conditions on the bailout money. The Government Accountability Office, for one, is calling for more transparency. And critics say now is the time for Congress to act and demand conditions since the second round of the bailout money has yet to be distributed.

COSTELLO: But it's a little late now because there's nothing really they can do to force these financial institutions to really...

SNOW: Absolutely

COSTELLO: ... tell them where the money is going.

SNOW: Absolutely. So that's why they're saying if there is a second round of $350 billion, people want answers this time around about where exactly it's going.

COSTELLO: Yes, we'll see. I hope that works out.

I do. I do. I'm cynical this morning and it's Christmas.

ROBERTS: You are. You're very cynical this morning.


ROBERTS: But, you know, it's difficult to not to be cynical when you see everything that's going on in the world.

If Sarah Palin could campaign all over again, what would she do differently? What the former vice presidential contender now calls her biggest mistake.

And how far some single men will go to get a child of their own when mom is not an option. Our special series "Baby Quest" continues. What's driving the daddy boom? We'll tell you.

Sixteen and a half minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most Politics in the Morning.

As Barack Obama's administration ends (ph), President Bush has been talking a lot about what he did wrong during his eight years. Now another prominent Republican is having her own mea culpa moment.

Alina Cho joining us now with more. Reminds me of that Jimmy Buffett song where he says, "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa."

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm guessing you know who we're talking about, of course, John.

ROBERTS: I have an idea, but what if you share it.

CHO: I will. Good morning, everybody.

Of course, we are talking about the Alaska governor and one time VP candidate for the GOP, Sarah Palin, is speaking out again. This time to "Human Events," which named her "conservative of the year."

Now during the chat, Palin said of her involvement in the McCain campaign, "My biggest mistake made was that I could have called more shots on this: the opportunities that were not seized to speak to more Americans via media. I was not allowed to do very many interviews and the interviews that I did were not necessarily those I would have chosen."

Now Palin went on to say I would have wanted to speak to more reporters because, well, that's how you get your message out to the electorate. She also said 99 percent of the campaign was amazing, but there were many things that were outside of my control. Palin said, "I did not know the people individually running the campaign, so I had to put my life, my career, my family and my reputation in their hands." She says that's kind of a scary thing when you don't know the people you are working with.

The Alaska governor also said she agrees with Republicans who voted down the auto bailout saying once bitten twice shy referring to the first rescue plan for the banks, of course. She also said I don't come from the self-proclaimed movers and shakers group. That, she says, made her work harder without any help.

And finally, when asked who her role model is, Palin said Susan B. Anthony, someone she called a pro-life feminist and far ahead of her time. But again, her biggest mistake, she says, that she didn't get more opportunities to speak to the media.

But, John, of course, some might argue that when she did speak to the media, ala Katie Couric things didn't go so well for her. And then she said she wanted to call more shots during the campaign. Some might say she didn't make such wise decisions during the campaign, some might argue that she did. But it comes to mind, what comes to mind to me is the night of the election when she had written her own concession speech. Of course, she never gave that. Some argued that that was for the number one spot not the number two spot too. But --

ROBERTS: Yes, because the running mate doesn't give a concession speech.

CHO: That's right. She argues that she wanted to shake things up, do things differently her maverick way.

ROBERTS: Yes. Well, you know, she did prove though, as she went on through the campaign that the more interviews she did with people, the better she got at them.

CHO: She most certainly did.

ROBERTS: And the better off --

CHO: She did get better at that as she went on. The Katie Couric thing obviously got a lot of attention. And a lot of people do argue on the conservative side that she energized the campaign in a way that, you know, it hasn't been in a very long time which is why she's been talked about for 2012.

ROBERTS: I'll tell you, one person who she really impressed is Joe the plumber.

CHO: That's right.

ROBERTS: And he's going to be joining us in about half an hour's time.

CHO: I know. I can't wait for that. ROBERTS: We're going to talk to him about his new book and find out what he's doing these days.

CHO: It's out already.

ROBERTS: He's not getting out.

CHO: They fast tracked that.

ROBERTS: They did. Well, it's selling on his Web site and I think it will be in the stores come the beginning of the New Year. So we'll talk to Joe about what he's up to these days.

CHO: Good.

ROBERTS: Should be fascinating. Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: It's 23 minutes after the hour.

COSTELLO: No mom required.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know because I don't have estrogen what a mother might do in certain circumstances. You know, I try to be more tactile, to touch more.


COSTELLO: Single men having babies on their own. Our special series "Baby Quest" continues. What's driving the daddy boom?

You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


COSTELLO: In the fish bowl that is the White House, Barack Obama can expect to lose a lot of his privacy. But this? Take a look. Seriously.

A photographer catching the future commander in chief shirtless on the beach in Hawaii and clearly keeping up his cardio.

Joining us now to talk about that and a whole lot more, John Avlon, columnist for and author of "Independent Nation." Also, Patricia Murphy, editor of

Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: OK. So, you know, we've been arguing about this picture of Barack Obama all morning long, wondering if it's, you know, intrusive, if the paparazzi should be allowed to get close enough to take pictures of not only Barack Obama but of his wife and children as well?

So let's start with you, Patricia. What do you think?

MURPHY: Well, I think that Barack Obama is fair game, Barack Obama shirtless on a beach. This is not the first time we've seen that picture. We know it's going to sell newspapers for the "New York Post." It's not too surprising.

I do think that photographing his children is off limits right now, although he has put himself and his family in the public eye and this is just going to be a part of it. Like you said, he's in a fish bowl and that fish bowl is very transparent.

COSTELLO: Yes. But, John, he has told the press corps, you know, my children are off limits. I don't want any pictures even taken of me while I'm vacationing in Hawaii. Yet, this paparazzi was allowed to get close enough on a public beach, mind you, to take pictures of the family.

Is there something wrong with this? Should the Secret Service have created a larger buffer zone to keep people away?

AVLON: Well, you know, children should be off limits. It's important that his family's privacy is respected but, of course, privacy for the principal is one of the casualties of the presidency. And there are worse things in the world that could happen than this photograph.

I mean, he's certainly setting the bar high for us guys out there.


But, you know, the children's privacy in particular needs to be respected by the press and everyone else.

COSTELLO: Well, I would expect, Patricia, that this paparazzi, this agency, is making lots of money. They took 37 photos. And, you know, the kids are in their baiting suits. Michelle Obama is in her baiting suit.

I don't know. I don't even want to even that of the president and the first lady and their kids.

MURPHY: Yes. Well, it makes me thrilled that I'm in no way related to any Obama to have my picture taken on the beach and then put in the "New York Post." But I do think, Carol, I mean, the Obamas are very much -- I think they're the first real genuine celebrities that we see coming into the White House in quite sometime. I think we're going to see these kinds of pictures of them constantly. Anything they do will be photographed and we know that their faces sell magazines in a way in newspapers and certainly they cause ratings in a way that we haven't seen with any other couple in the White House. So I think we're going to see a whole lot more of this than we have certainly with the Bushes or even the Clintons.

COSTELLO: Well, you know, with Chelsea Clinton, nobody ever took a picture of her. I can't remember the paparazzi coming even to Washington to take a picture of going to school or anything like that. Is it possible for the Obamas to really keep the paparazzi away when as Patricia said there's a lot of money to be made here?

AVLON: I think we are looking at the first pop culture presidency. He's one of the figure of pop figure, a fascination unlike any political figure since Bobby Kennedy and maybe John F. Kennedy. So there is going to be a lot more attention and he's going to resonate far outside the traditional political spectrum for good and for bad and this is on the downside of that spectrum.

COSTELLO: Yes. Like I said, I just don't -- yes, I just don't want to see the president in his bathing suit. I just don't. Maybe it's old-fashioned.

AVLON: Take a stand, Carol. There you go.

COSTELLO: OK. I did. I took a stand. Stop it. Thanks to both of you. John, Patricia.

AVLON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Back to you, John.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Carol.

It's 29 minutes after the hour now, and here are this morning's top stories.

With unemployment hitting quarter century highs, more people are resorting to shoplifting this holiday season. According to the "New York Times," police departments across the country say that shoplifting arrests are up by as much as 20 percent compared to last year.

The concert industry had a record year in 2008 despite the down economy. "Billboard" magazine says tours grossed close to -- get this -- $4 billion this year. Two Jersey Boys had a lot to do with that. Bon Jovi beat out all the other bands grossing more than $210 million and drawing more than two million fans.

"The Boss" Bruce Springsteen second with 204 million. Madonna came in third.

More than 100 million Americans are sucking in too much soot. The Environmental Protection Agency has added 15 more cities to its sooty air list and they are mostly in states that you think would be clean, places like Alaska, Utah, Idaho and Wisconsin. The EPA say a lot of wood stoves in those areas is maybe what's to blame. There are now 46 metropolitan areas exceeding limits set for soot. They have until 2014 to clean it up.

COSTELLO: He went from a household name to the butt of jokes. So where has Joe the plumber been?

Well, he's not fixing leaks. That's for sure. He's back. And he's broke. And he's here on AMERICAN MORNING live.

And longing to have a child not just for women anymore. In our continuing series "Baby Quest," see how far some single men will go to get a biological child of their own.


COSTELLO: Alzheimer's disease can rob a person of their identity, their independence and their connection to their loved ones. But one 89-year-old man in Massachusetts may have found a way to break through the clouds of dementia.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has this inspiring story.


SAUL ROGERS, WIFE HAS ALZHEIMER'S: I love you. I love you.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: 89-year-old Saul Rogers climbs into his wife's bed every day. It's his best weapon against a heartbreaking disease.

ROGERS: If possible, get in bed with your spouse. If they are in a hospital, rehab or nursing home and tell her how much you love her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put your cup in the table.


GUPTA: Restlessness, yelling, confusion, it's part of life for Saul's wife Rita and more than half the 4.5 million people living with Alzheimer's disease. You see Rita's memory began to fade eight few years ago. It started with names and places and eventually she no longer recognize Saul or her children. She moved into Briarwood Center in Massachusetts earlier this year, unable to talk or even move.

S. ROGERS: All of a sudden, an idea came to me. And I think it came from God. So I got in bed with her and started to love her up. Getting close to her. Cuddling up. Telling her how much I loved her and everything. And she started to say a few words.

GUPTA: Over the next few months Rita improved. And now she's more responsive and mobile.

S. ROGERS: I believe love conquers everything. A loving touch.

GUPTA: In fact, UCLA researchers have taken a closer looking at the physiological effects of touch.

LYNN WOODS, UCLA SCHOOL OF NURSING: Therapy touch does have an effect on stress hormone cortisol. So it decreases stress. And increases the relaxation response and decreases anxiety.

GUPTA: Studies prove that touch therapy can dampen the symptoms of the disease and improve the caregiver's quality of life. Saul said it's certainly worked for him.

S. ROGERS: I know she will never recover from Alzheimer's, but I'm enjoy every bit of time she has left.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Washington.


ROBERTS: Well the big buzz about the swimsuit photos of the first family on vacation. How did photographers get close enough to snap the president-elect with his shirt off and his shorts on. 35 minutes after the hour.

COSTELLO: A lifetime of savings evaporates.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm calm on the exterior but I'm dying inside. I cry at night but not now.


COSTELLO: Trusting a man she thought was a financial wizard, the widowed grandmother who lost everything in the biggest Wall Street swindle in history.

You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


ROBERTS: For many people having a little one in the house is one of their fondest dreams. But sometimes having a child in the good old-fashioned way just isn't possible. So all this week we're looking at the ways that people try to have a child. We're calling it "Baby Quest." And Carol Costello brings us part two in our special series today. This is a real fascinating aspect of this story.

COSTELLO: It is. It's becoming like a daddy baby boom out there. I'm not kidding. If you're a single guy and you yearn for fatherhood, there is a way. And a lot of men have found it. Surrogate. It turns out having a baby by a surrogate is increasingly popular. The number of men and women using surrogates has quadrupled in 10 years with men fast taking the lead.


DAN GURR, SINGLE FATHER: I know, you want to keep walking, don't you?

COSTELLO (voice-over): Mama's boy? Forget it. Daddy's rule in Daniel Gurr's world.

GURR: Are you OK?

COSTELLO: Dan Gurr is just one of many single men opting to have children of their own, on their own. No mom required. It's becoming a daddy baby boom.

GURR: Having a biological child was very important for me. It's not for everyone but for me I just felt if I was going to do it that's what I want to do.

COSTELLO: That's right. Gurr's son is his. He's among a growing number of single men, gay and straight paying women to carry their children. And it's slowly becoming socially acceptable. Singer Ricky Martin did it. He has twins now. Clay Aiken did it too with no regrets telling "Entertainment Tonight."

CLAY AIKEN, SINGER: I don't have a problem with any of that stuff. So nothing bothers me.

COSTELLO: The end result is priceless. But expensive. Men can pay well over $100,000 to fertilize a donated egg, then to have it implanted in another woman's womb. It sometimes takes several tries. But it's often the only way for a single man to have a child.

ADAM PERTMAN, EVAN B. DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE: In some ways, in some context there's some suspicion, a man wants to adopt a kid by himself. No as thought there's some nefarious motive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That dress looks really pretty.

COSTELLO: Several states either ban or severely restrict adoption by gay individuals and couples. Jeff Walker knows that. He's single and gay. He tried to adopt and failed. So he turned to surrogates. And now he has two little girls. His only worry, the lack of a mother figure in their lives.

JEFF WALKER, SINGLE FATHER: It's a tough question. You know, I wonder myself. I task myself to make sure I try to do things that I think that mother would do. I don't know because I don't have estrogen what a mother might do in certain circumstances. But you know I try to be more tactile and to touch more.

COSTELLO: Walker's mother and his aunts are often around the girls to make sure they experience a woman's touch. How these children react when they understand how they were born, all of the men say the same thing, it will be just fine.

STEVEN HARRIS, SINGLE FATHER: I'm going to start telling them the truth even before he understands what the truth is. As he grows into it that will be the natural progression of what his life was.

COSTELLO: Harris who is single and straight had 21-month-old Ben through surrogacy.

HARRIS: I thought getting married was the way to go. Because I did want a family. But having been, I really do feel complete now.

COSTELLO: These dads agree, the process, and the often resulting exhausting task of parenthood is worth it.

GURR: I can't believe that I wondered whether I should do this or not. I can't imagine not having him in my life.


COSTELLO: It is true, single parenthood is a lot more stressful especially if you're strapped for cash but there's no definitive objective study that says children raised by single men are any worse than children raised any other single parent home. In other words, dads can be just as nurturing as moms.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. You know, I'm a father myself. You know a couple of kids. I how important it is for men to have a child in the family.

COSTELLO: Wouldn't it have been difficult for you though as a single father, like any single parent, how difficult it is to raise a child.

ROBERTS: I wouldn't have been no more difficult than it is for a single mom. You know, it's a challenge for any single parent, and you just got to sort of say that you're going to rise to the challenge and go ahead and do it. But it is interesting how many men are turning to donor egg and then a woman that medical science likes to call a gestational carrier can do this.

COSTELLO: They do that for a specific reason, like they'll go through a book and they will choose a woman who will donate the egg and then you know, the egg will be fertilized and the embryo planted in another woman -

ROBERTS: -- in another woman.

COSTELLO: And she's the carrier.

ROBERTS: The gestational carrier.

COSTELLO: And that's for legal purposes as well as emotional purposes because you don't want the carrier to suddenly want to keep the child.

ROBERTS: There are some states like New York where you can't do that. So these people have to go to other states like Pennsylvania and states like that where they can do it.

COSTELLO: That's why it costs upwards of $110,000.

ROBERTS: It can be very, very expensive. But you know, you can't put a price tag on children. It's priceless.

COSTELLO: They are priceless. Speaking of that, while many people are turning to science to have babies, children in foster care in the United States are available for adoption right now. And some agencies are turning to the web to help find families for kids including the New York State Adoption Service. They put videos of kids ready to find a new family.

Here's 12-year-old Jasmine from New York telling her own story.


JASMINE, AGE 12: I watch basketball. I wish that I had a family. I wish I was a teacher.


COSTELLO: If you are interested in adopting Jasmine go the New York State Adoption Service Web site, you can find the link at

And coming up tomorrow on our "Baby Quest" series, surrogate moms. Kiran Chetry talks to a new mom and the woman who carried her baby for her. So well look at that other side of the story that we're talking about.

ROBERTS: Yes. So many fascinating aspects to this whole issue.

Well, just when you thought you had seen the last of Joe the Plumber, the guy who became a central figure in the last days of the presidential campaign is back with a new book and he says he's broke and he's here live to tell us all about that.

And now they know how close or -- rather how they got so close to snapping the president without his shirt on. We're going to be talking with the owner of the agency that got the bare-chested photos of Barack Obama. Stay with us for that. It's now coming up on 45 minutes after the hour.


COSTELLO: Top videos right now on Most popular, Utah is the fastest growing state. The U.S. census says in just one year the state's population increased by 2.5 percent. One of the main reasons, people who live in Utah tend to stay in Utah.

And the 411 on finding quality wine on a budget, the wine guy shares secrets for which $8 bottle of vino to get and which $40 bottle of vino to ditch. His favorite is Tirantis, a white Argentinean wine for under $10. And get in line, stiff competition if you want to be part of President-elect Obama's transition team. Officials say they have received 300,000 resumes for the 8,000 jobs available. Those are the most popular videos on

ROBERTS: She's a 68-year-old widow left with nothing after the biggest alleged Wall Street rip-off in history. Her husband died 20 years ago shortly after he entrusted Bernie Madoff with everything that they had. AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho joins us now with her tragic story.

It's just terrible.

CHO: It really is. It's so sad. You can just see the shock in her eyes. It hasn't really settled in yet, John. I don't think. You know.

Good morning, everybody.

You know, by now we've heard so many stories about how the rich and famous have lost millions in the Madoff scandal. But many of those people will survive. Imagine being one of the smaller investors, losing your entire life savings in an instant. That is exactly what happened to a woman I recently met in New York, a mother of five. A grandmother of ten. Now left with nothing.


CHO (voice-over): At 68, Norma Hill should be enjoying retirement but two weeks ago everything in her life unraveled.

NORMA HILL, INVESTED WITH BERNIE MADOFF: I'm calm on the exterior but I'm dying inside. I cry at night but not now.

CHO: 20 years ago her husband Jack invested his life savings with Bernie Madoff. Two weeks later he died of a heart attack, leaving Norma alone to raise five children. She knew nothing about money or investing, so she went to the man she thought knew everything, Bernie Madoff.

HILL: He put his arm on my shoulder and said, I'll take care of your money.

CHO: Did you believe him?

HILL: It was two weeks after my husband had died and I didn't know where I was -- you know, which way to turn and I decided that he was sincere.

CHO: For years Norma had no reason to be suspicious.

These are blue chip stocks.

HILL: Yes. It's Exxon, Intel, JP Morgan.

CHO: And when the markets began to tank, Norma felt safe because her monthly statement said Madoff invested her money in Treasury notes. Then on December 11th, her son called with the news, Madoff had been arrested.

HILL: I thought it was just totally incredulous. I mean, why would a man who was so highly regarded by all the financial wizards in the United States be arrested.

CHO: Her entire nest egg, more than $2 million gone. What about the whole notion of not putting all your eggs in one basket?

HILL: Well, hindsight is 20/20. I have social security, period.

CHO: It's not the first time Norma has been victimized. In 1981 she was taken hostage in the infamous Brinks heist and held at gunpoint. The news was splashed across the headlines, not unlike what is happening now.

HILL: My car was commandeered with my mother in it.

CHO: Do you feel like you've been commandeered in another way.

HILL: Yes. Actually that's a good way of putting it.

CHO: Really like a house of cards, isn't.

HILL: Yes. It is. It finally collapsed.


CHO: Norma says she only has enough money in savings to last her two more months, after that she would likely have to sell her only asset, her home. And then of course, she would then have to find another place to live. Norma says her sons have offered to help, but she says of course they have their own financial burdens.

The one lesson she has learned be careful who you trust. She says she feels like she has aged 10 years in two weeks, John. She says she feels a whole range of emotions as you might imagine, sad, angry, she blames herself for being naive, she says and she blames Bernie Madoff, she says for being greedy.

ROBERTS: Yes. You can imagine that that somebody is set up for retirement and suddenly discovers that they lost it all.

But she said she was invested in blue chip stocks and then Treasuries, but those investments just never made?

CHO: Well, that's the big question. You know I looked at all of her statements over the past six months, they looked totally legitimate. I said do you think these were made? I mean are these legitimate? She said I don't know, I don't know where my money is.

You know, here is a woman who's 68 years old. $2 million she thought she had. She thought she was set. She could do some traveling, enjoy her grandchildren. Do some volunteer work which she enjoys. Now she doesn't know what she's going to do.

ROBERTS: Mort Zuckerman who is one of the guys who was hit by this Madoff -

CHO: $30 million.

ROBERTS: Yes. Last week said he doesn't know how Madoff every slept with stories like this, if what happened is true, you got to wonder how he did.

CHO: That's right.

ROBERTS: Alina, thanks so much for that.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: 51 and a half minutes now after the hour.

Just when you thought it was over.






ROBERTS: The most famous plumber in America, here, live, is he really broke and bitter?

Plus time to make your new year's financial resolution, grab a pen, Gerri Willis shows you how.

You're watching the Most News in the Morning.



MCCAIN: My old buddy, Joe, Joe the plumber.

OBAMA: I'm happy to talk to you, Joe.

MCCAIN: People like Joe the plumber. Hey, Joe, I want to tell you. Joe, you're rich.

OBAMA: That includes you, Joe.

MCCAIN: I want you, Joe, to do the job.

OBAMA: The conversation I had with Joe the plumber -

MCCAIN: What Joe wanted to do, Joe was trying to realize the American dream. What you want to do to Joe the plumber, we're going to take Joe's money, Joe, you're rich, congratulations.

OBAMA: Tax cuts to Joe the plumber.

MCCAIN: small business people like Joe the plumber.

OBAMA: Joe if you want to do the right thing.

MCCAIN: I want Joe the plumber to spread that wealth around.


ROBERTS: Joe Wurzelbacher, you probably know him better as Joe the plumber. He became blue-collar talking point during the final leg of the presidential campaign. Well now, Joe is out with a new book with his take on American values. Joe Wurzelbacher, author of "Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream" joins me now from Toledo, Ohio.

Joe, good to see you. I guess the book is available on your Web site which is It's coming out in stores I believe, first in the new year. In the book you say that the McCain campaign was, "fragmented and disorganized." And you go on to say, "I did not want him for the Republican ticket. I do not agree with the a great many of his policies, nor do I care for aspects of his voting record."

Now, he stood by you after you had said during an interview that a vote for Barack Obama was a vote for the death of Israel. He was there backing you up but you're throwing him under the bus now, why?

JOE WURZELBACHER, AUTHOR: I'm not throwing him under the bus, the things I spoke about, his voting records, I mean that's factual. You know, we talked about -- he wanted to make other senators famous for having pork you know in a bill, and yet he goes back to Washington, you know suspends his campaign and goes back to Washington and votes for a $700 billion bailout, when Americans are in a time of need, you know we're taken advantage of and money you know, you wash my back, I'll wash yours.

Money was thrown, you know, (INAUDIBLE) speed at $250,000. So many other different organizations received pork. So it's not that I'm throwing John McCain on the bus. I have said it in my book, I respect John McCain for the service he provided our country, but as far as his voting record, I mean you know he proposed the amnesty bill for the illegal aliens. And I mean that got a lot of negative publicity, a lot of you know, opinion polls you know proved that the American people don't want yet they don't listen to us.

So I'm not throwing McCain under the bus. That's just factual and that's what happened.

ROBERTS: But I guess the throwing him under the bus aspect of this Joe, comes from the idea that you were out there on the campaign trail, you were stumping for John McCain, you didn't say anything about it then. He loses the election. Now you're writing a book for profit, saying all of these things about him. Many people take that as throwing him under the bus.

If you felt so strongly about it during the campaign, why didn't you say something then?

WURZELBACHER: Well no, it's not so much that people are saying I'm throwing him under the bus, the media is saying I'm throwing him under the bus. So you know, let's correct that. You know, let them make the decision when they read the book. You know, so far I have heard that and it's been written about in the last couple of weeks since the interview with Glenn Beck, that I threw him under the bus.

But that's just what I heard from the media. It's not what I heard from the general populace of America. So they read the book, they can decide if I have thrown them under the bus. I just stated facts about other politicians as well. So it's not, you know, I'm not singling John McCain out, he just happens to be the one I got to meet and you know, work with for six hours. So he's a good example that I can use.

ROBERTS: But if you disagreed with some of his policies, why were you out there on the campaign trail supporting him?

WURZELBACHER: Do you agree with every candidate and your candidate's policies?

ROBERTS: Hey, I'm not out there stumping for anybody, I'm a journalist.


ROBERTS: No, seriously.

WURZELBACHER: I'll leave that one alone.

You know I was out there, I told everybody -

ROBERTS: Excuse me, Joe. Why would you cast aspersions on my journalistic integrity. I don't even know you?

WURZELBACHER: Oh, I wasn't even -- you specifically and in general some of the media, you know is very slanted to the left. You personally, John, I don't know you, I don't mean to cast any kind of bad things about you, brother.

ROBERTS: All right.

WURZELBACHER: I just, you know, in general you can say the left pretty much shot me up, wouldn't you say?

ROBERTS: Well, I mean, you know, I guess when you entered the political fray, you've got to expect that some people are going to take some shots at you, you know, when you get out there and you enter into that political arena. It's a tough place to be. It's a little bit like the gladiator sport -

WURZELBACHER: Oh, absolutely.

ROBERTS: Going into the coliseum. One of the other things you talked about in your book is you were critical of Barack Obama and that his policies were learning towards socialism. You also have been critical of John McCain. You say "the incident with McCain and other discussions with other less admirable types on the bus day that talking about the $700 billion bailout left me with the worse feeling in my gut about the future of America. Then I did my meeting with Obama."

I'm wondering if you don't believe in Obama, you don't really believe in McCain, what do you believe in?

WURZELBACHER: Well I believe in America and I believe what our forefathers founded this country on. I mean, George Washington said, you know, parties, Republicans, Democrats will kill America. Excuse me, look at how it's divided. I mean, I don't want to sit there -- Americans, I mean we love America, yes Democrats and Republicans have different ways of trying to make America better. There's common ground there somewhere amongst all of us, but we have the country so divided with parties that nothing gets done.

So, I mean, you know everyone wants to keep on talking about the McCain incident, as far as throwing him under the bus and whatnot. It has nothing to do with that, the real deal here is, you know expect these guys to work for us. I mean, you know -

ROBERTS: But is it true or untrue, though, Joe that the reason why you wanted John McCain to win was because you thought that a Republican presidency could block a Democratic Congress from doing anything, therefore really causing gridlock?

WURZELBACHER: Well, you know, having a -- I'm not for a Republican Senate, House and president at the same time. There's no checks and balances. As far as the Democrat to have the same thing. As far as McCain being president, you guys got to remember, you know 2 1/2 years ago, three years ago, he was the favored Republican of the Democrats. You know there wasn't a strong conservative figure running for president this year. So, you know -- I don't -- that's about the only answer I have for you, brother.

ROBERTS: OK. Joe Wurzelbacher, "Fighting for the American Dream." It's the new book. It's on -- available on It will be out in stores in the new year.

Joe, good to talk to you. Best of (ph) the holidays to you as well. Thanks for coming on.

WURZELBACHER: Thank you. You have a merry Christmas.

ROBERTS: All right, you too.