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Airstrikes Continue to Pound Hamas Targets; Treasury Injects $5 Billion Directly to GMAC; Blagojevich Clings to Power; Ship Collided with an Israeli Warship

Aired December 30, 2008 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: It's coming up to the top of the hour and here are this morning's top stories. We're following breaking news today as Israel hammers suspected Hamas strongholds. Four days now and still no let up in the bombing. Right now tanks stand ready on the Gaza border. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says this is just the first of several stages. We'll have more on this breaking story from the war zone in just a moment. We got the former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing by.
The federal government is taking new steps to prop up the country's crumbling auto industry. The Treasury Department will give $5 billion to GMAC which provides financing for most GM dealers and many customers. The government will get preferred stock and equity shares in return for its investment.

And retailers are opening their Christmas stockings a little bit late and discovering fat lump of coal inside. After horrendous holiday sales, experts are expecting a slew of bankruptcy claims and store closings from electronics to apparel and every where in between. Some economists say that we could see the biggest shrinking of the retail industry in 35 years.

Well, back now to our top story. Breaking right now, Israel blasting Gaza for a fourth day saying it's an all out war on Hamas. Israeli airstrikes leveled three buildings in a Hamas government compound. Tanks are now lined up on the border between southern Israel and Gaza, and could be inside Gaza within minutes if troops get the order.

Joining us now live from Jerusalem is the former Israeli prime minister and the current leader of the Likud Party Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Prime Minister, it's good to talk to you. Thanks for being with us this morning. What's the ultimate end game here? Is it to topple the Hamas government, or is it to merely weaken them to the point where they would be willing to accept the quick ceasefire?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, CHAIRMAN, LIKUD PARTY: Well, I think stopping the rocketing of Israel cities is obviously the paramount goal. The question is how do you stop it so it doesn't resume later after the Hamas lick their wounds? Ultimately, we'll have to bring down the Hamas regime because it's an implacable foe. It's like an al Qaeda with a base supported by Iran next to New York City. That's more or less what we have in Gaza. We have Hamas supported by Iran that is rocketing as of yesterday, a suburb of Tel Aviv government, minutes away from downtown Tel Avis. So they are committed to our destruction. They are firing missiles at our civilians. They are hiding behind their civilians. That's a double war crime right there. I think ultimately we'll have to get rid of the regime, whether it will be done in this operation remains to be seen.

ROBERTS: So what happens if you do get rid of Hamas? Because everybody knows about the split between Fatah and Hamas, and there are many analysts who say that if you topple the Hamas government there would be chaos in Gaza because there would be -- nobody there to pick up the power vacuum.

NETANYAHU: It's pretty chaotic right now I'd say. I mean, they are holding their own people hostage. They are planting their rocket launchers and their rocket caches inside people's homes, in schools and universities precisely in order to use them as human shields. I think the Palestinian population is right now held at gunpoint by Hamas.

Now, clearly, you know, Israel responds, it kills Hamas operatives, there are incidental civilian casualties which we regret, and we genuinely regret them, where as they celebrate every time they succeed to kill our civilians and our children.

But, obviously, they can amass momentary support, but they don't really enjoy the support of the public. I think there are a lot of Palestinians in Gaza, who, if given a chance, who would opt as we've seen, the West Bank, would opt for a more moderate policy of reconciliation and co-existence with Israel, and we have to give them a chance. Because with Hamas, peace doesn't have a chance.

ROBERTS: And Mr. Prime Minister, on that point, Dadud Kuttab, writes in an editorial in today's "Washington Post" about the effect of this operation will have on Hamas. And he suggests that Hamas might actually be strengthened by it after a couple of years of weakening. He writes, quote, "The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israel attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield, and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli- Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations."

You know, the operation in the summer of 2006 against Hezbollah got them off of the border but didn't exactly weaken it as an organization. Are you concerned that this may, in fact, play into Hamas's hands?

NETANYAHU: Well, obviously, not if you topple the Hamas regime down the line. Let me ask you a question. You mentioned the word disproportionate response. I don't know what is a proportionate response to 6,000 rockets falling on our cities. Are we supposed to fire 6,000 rockets back on Gaza, because you know what that would do? I think that Israel is doing the only reasonable thing that any democracy under a terrorist attack would do, and that is to try to pin point the terrorist and take action against them. Ultimately, as I say, to bring down that regime.

Now you'll have ups and downs in between, but there's a certain logic, a certain clarity, moral clarity and operational clarity in what I just said. You just can't continue this for another three years or six years or eight years.

ROBERTS: Mr. Prime Minister, if you were in charge of this operation, would you send in ground troops?

NETANYAHU: I said yesterday to the Prime Minister Olmert, listen, I'm the head of the opposition. You're in charge of taking those decisions, but I want you to know that I'll back you in whatever decisions you make because this reflects right now the unity of the people of Israel, who are united to protect our country. Our country is under grave rocket fire. Criminal rocket fire by these terrorists, and you'll have my support. But I'm not going to second guess him not even on CNN.

ROBERTS: OK. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, current leader of the Likud Party, good to see you, sir. Thanks for coming in this morning.

NETANYAHU: Thank you. Good to talk to you.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House is demanding Hamas stop firing rockets into Israel saying the group is showing its, quote, "true colors" as a terrorist organization. But in three weeks, the problem lands on Barack Obama's Oval Office desk.

Jim Acosta is following that side of the story this morning. He's live for us in Washington.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. We know that Barack Obama is watching the situation behind closed doors, and the turmoil in the Middle East only adds to the almost unbelievable number of crises awaiting Barack Obama's arrival at the White House.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The prospect of full-blown war between Israel and the Palestinians could hardly come at a worse time for Barack Obama. With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tensions between India and Pakistan, not to mention the nation's financial crisis, Mr. Obama's plate is filling up faster than most incoming presidents have ever seen.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Well, there are a few more biblical plagues that could occur, but not much else. It's a good thing he named his team early, because they're going to need every day and every hour before January 20th to get ready.

ACOSTA: And Middle East experts say the crisis in Gaza could have ripple effects -- more suicide bombers, more radicalism in the region.

STEVEN COOK, COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS: It is going to be higher on the agenda than they had previously thought. You're quite right.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I'm here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States.

ACOSTA: During the campaign, then Senator Obama got personal when he stood firm on Israel's right to self-defense.

OBAMA: If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my daughters sleep at night, I am going to do everything in to my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

ACOSTA: Israeli leaders haven't forgotten it.

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): He said, if someone were to fire a missile on my house while my two young daughters are sleeping, I would do everything I could to stop him.

COOK: It's clear that the Israelis have political cover from the Bush administration. And what they're essentially doing is putting the incoming administration on notice that they have taken note of what the president-elect has said.

ACOSTA: And the next administration may not offer much of a change from President Bush's policy on Hamas. Incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a hard-line position on Hamas before the Israeli lobbying group AIPAC during the campaign.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: Until Hamas renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel, negotiating with Hamas is unacceptable for the United States.


ACOSTA: Mr. Obama and his team are saying little publicly about the crisis. It's a low profile approach that will only work for three more weeks.


ROMANS: Indeed. All right, Jim Acosta. Thanks, Jim.

With no end in sight to the fighting between Israel and Hamas, we're looking at worldwide reaction, from massive protests against Israel across the Arab world and strong words against Hamas coming out of the White House.

And as Barack Obama makes the shift from candidate to president, is he starting to take a step back from the press who have been following his every move? It's eight minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: It's coming up now on 11 minutes after the hour. Stephanie Elam is back. She's "Minding Your Business" this morning with news about GMAC and big cash infusion from our pockets to theirs.

ROMANS: Exactly.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: My pockets are empty. I don't know about yours. But, I mean, they've already taken on my end of my pockets.


ROBERTS: I've got a lipstick in my pocket. That's about it.


ELAM: There you go. I think you all have holes in your pockets because it just keeps falling straight out, and that's the same case that's going on here. Let's break down exactly what's going on with GMAC. There's the financing arm of General Motors. And they are seen as critical to the survival of GM. So that's why this is coming out here this news. And it's basically got two parts. Let's take a look at what's going to happen here.

You've got GMAC going to get $5 billion that's going to come from the U.S. Treasury, a direct cash infusion there so that they can get lending again. That's the idea there. Then the government will lend $1 billion to GM so it can invest into GMAC itself. In return, the Treasury will get a stake in GMAC, the idea being that as the company comes back, he gets strong again, the government will be able to take some of those profits to repay those taxpayers and maybe sew up that hole in their pockets. And also perhaps make a turn a little bit of a profit here if that does come around.

Now there are strings attached for GMAC, mainly starting with executive compensation. That's where you're going to see some changes there. GMAC executives will have limited compensation and no severance packages for the top executives there. The bonus pool for the top 25 executives has to be 40 percent less than it was in 2007. And in some ways, they are saying that these conditions are a little bit more strict for them than they are for the banks getting the bailout. Remember, this money is still coming from that $700 bailout fund, which is now over that $350 billion.

ROMANS: These Congress people, they were burned. They passed it. You know, they gave the $700 billion to the banking industry for that rescue. There weren't a lot of strings attached. Now, they are screaming about oversight. So anybody else who's going to the government with a handout is probably getting a lot more scrutiny after the whole...

ELAM: Yes, definitely.

ROMANS: ...what many would say is a debacle with the banks, really. We don't know how that money is being spent with the banks. ELAM: We don't know how it's being spent, that's one issue here. And they want to make sure that it's a little bit more clear what's happening here with the auto sector. Obviously, since so many people were against the auto sector getting money in the first place.

ROMANS: Of course.

ROBERTS: Stephanie, thanks so much for that.

ELAM: Thanks.

ROBERTS: The Blago --


ELAM: Try it again. Take two.

ROBERTS: I know -- all the way up until today I was saying it correctly. The Blagojevich battle rages on in Illinois state house. Lawmakers are taking on the governor's attorneys, but could four wiretap tapes make all the difference in the Blagojevich case.

And you know you want to be on top of what's hot. So before the New Year begins, we'll show you what the hot trends will be in 2009. 13-1/2 minutes now after the hour.


ROMANS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich remains the star of the scandal surrounding him, but the real drama now is playing out in the state's capital. The U.S. attorney trying to get four partial tapes of the governor's wiretap phone calls released. And as Ed Lavandera reports, all the while, the governor keeps clinging to power.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Verbal swords slash away in Illinois...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perhaps we have different sets of ears.

LAVANDERA: ...between the committee of state lawmakers deciding whether Rod Blagojevich should be impeached and the governor's attorney.

ED GENSON, ROD BLAGOJEVICH'S ATTORNEY: But the fact of the matter is -- and I said this to Mr. Lang -- offering is a crime. Where does it say he offered anything?

ROGER EDDY (R), ILLINOIS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I just respectfully would suggest that the reading comprehension classes I took are much different than the ones you had. Thank you.

LAVANDERA: The impeachment committee is one step closer to hearing selected portions of the wiretapped recordings, now that federal prosecutors are asking a judge to release four of the taped conversations. But, until that happens, both sides are arguing over what the tapes will reveal.

GENSON: There's nothing in that tape that shows that people were asked to -- to give money or -- or campaign contributions or anything. It's just talk. That's what it is. Unfortunate talk, talk that -- that was -- was -- shouldn't have been made perhaps, but not action -- but not actions.

LOU LANG (D), ILLINOIS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, the fact is that it's a crime in the state of Illinois to offer to do a public act for value. Whether somebody takes you up on that offer is irrelevant.

LAVANDERA: Ed Genson says the impeachment hearings are unfair to the governor and that there's not enough evidence to justify pushing Blagojevich out of office.

GENSON: The fact is, we're fighting shadows here. We're fighting unnamed people. We're fighting witnesses that aren't available. We're fighting people that are haven't been indicted.

LAVANDERA: But the governor is facing an unconvinced audience, skeptical of his claims that he did not seek to profit from appointing someone to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat.

The committee is also considering unrelated allegations regarding his administration and fund-raising practices.

GENSON: Is anyone here to going to stick up for the governor?

LAVANDERA: It's clear Blagojevich is digging in for a long fight, but Illinois's lieutenant governor predicts Blagojevich will be out of office by mid-February.

LT. GOV. PAT QUINN (D), ILLINOIS: You know, the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth is February 12 of next year. And I don't think Governor Blagojevich will be governor at that time.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Governor Blagojevich insists he has done nothing wrong, and in fact continues on business as usual. Showing up to work every day at his Chicago office. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


ROMANS: To get a job you have to dress the part.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her husband just left. She lost her job. She can't afford to go out and buy clothes.


ROMANS: One free outfit for the jobless and a second free one if you get hired. The charity that helps women put their best foot forward. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: 20 minutes now after the hour. Welcome back to "Most News in the Morning." The struggling economy is making the job market a tough place to be. And if you're lucky enough to score a job interview, it presents a whole new dilemma -- what to wear and can you afford to wear it? One company is helping female job applicants solve this problem, one outfit at a time. CNN's John Zarrella has got a look at the story.


SONYA JACOBSON, DRESS FOR SUCCESS: Squeeze it harder, harder, like that.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It all begins with the handshake. In the Miami office of the worldwide non-profit Dress for Success, Sonya Jacobson teaches job hunters the basics. She's dressing people in need for free, helping them make that very important first impression. The office is busier now than ever.

JACOBSON: We are turning people away. We really are. We don't have the capacity, we don't have the manpower, we don't have the funds to be able to really meet the demand.

Let's try this for size. I don't know if it's going to fit, but we won't know until we try it on. OK, how do you like that? It's pretty, isn't it? Good. Go in here, try that on for me.

ZARRELLA: Dress for Success provides one free outfit to women for a job interview, another once they land a job. Ernsline Perdue (ph) is trying to re-enter the work force after being out for several years due to illness.

JACOBSON: Come on out. Oh that looks beautiful.


JACOBSON: I like that on you. Great.


JACOBSON: Fits you perfectly.

ZARRELLA: Widespread job cuts and layoffs have dramatically increased Dress for Successes client load. Miami is up about 100 percent over last year, Denver up 68 percent and Portland, Oregon, up a whopping 144 percent.

JACOBSON: When we get a phone call from a woman who's crying that her husband just left, she lost her job, she can't afford to go out and buy clothes, and she needs to find a job immediately, how can we say no to that?

ZARRELLA: The charitable organization relies on donations like these from a law firm. MITCHELL PANTER, CIVIL ATTORNEY: We've met with lots of different clients and friends and neighbors, and we have these beautiful clothes that we'd like to donate.

JACOBSON: Here's the complete outfit. How do you feel?


JACOBSON: Good. That's good.


ZARRELLA: Sometimes, they say, you have to dress from the outside in. John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


ROMANS: That's sharp -- the gray, the scarf.

ROBERTS: Very nice.

ROMANS: Understated, but also shows personality. It's good. You know, the purple velvet, I don't recommend that for the first day of the job. Maybe the first day next to, but --

ROBERTS: But you wear it so well. But it's a great thing if you've got some clothes hanging around your closet that are still in good shape.

ROMANS: Right.

ROBERTS: Just sort of, you know, slightly used, be a great charity to donate them, too, because it certainly can help out a lot of folks.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

All right. Does the president-elect seem a little more, I don't know, distant to you recently? Well, that may be on purpose. Is Barack Obama withdrawing into a bubble as inauguration day creeps closer? 23 minutes after the hour.

ROMANS: A holiday cruise mystery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was crazy. I mean, I'm sitting in my room when I see CNN come on and we're on the news.


ROMANS: A woman goes overboard on Christmas night. What was caught on surveillance and what her family is saying now. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: 26 minutes after the hour -- continuing our breaking news coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. And earlier this morning we told you about a 66-foot pleasure boat the "Dignity," which had been trying to deliver medical supplies, urgently need medical supplies to Gaza City. That boat while according to our CNN reporter Karl Penhaul, who was on it at the time was in international waters was rammed by an Israeli patrol boat. And there you see the boat itself had to make way back to Tire in Lebanon as it was taking on water.

Also on board that craft was former Georgia congresswoman, former presidential candidates, Cynthia McKinney. And she joins us now via the Internet from Tire in Lebanon.

And Congresswoman McKinney, can you tell us what happened? We had our Karl Penhaul saying that you were in international waters. Clearly, an international waters when accosted by the -- and confronted by these Israeli patrol boats.

CYNTHIA MCKINNEY, FMR. U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I wouldn't call it accosting, I would call it ramming. Let's just call it as it is. Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front and one on the side. But let me also state for the record that what we experienced earlier today pales in comparison to what the people in Gaza are experiencing right now as we do this interview.

ROBERTS: Right. But let me --

MCKINNEY: Our mission was a peaceful mission to deliver medical supplies. And our mission was thwarted by the Israelis. The aggressiveness of the Israeli military. Now, one of the things that I would like to ask President-elect Obama is to say something, please, about the humanitarian crisis that's being experienced right now by the people of Gaza. I would like to ask my former colleagues in the United States Congress to stop sending weapons of mass destruction around the world as we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's Jr.'s birthday.

Let us remember what he said. He said that the United States was the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. And guess what, we experienced a little bit of that violence because the weapons that are being used by Israel are weapons that had been supplied by the United States government.

ROBERTS: But Congresswoman McKinney -- Congresswoman McKinney, if I could, can you describe what happened? Was there any warning given by the Israeli patrol boats? We're hearing some reports out of Israel that they were trying to stop you from coming in to Israeli waters and that the "Dignity", the captain of the "Dignity" tried to maneuver around the boat and that's when the collision occurred.

MCKINNEY: As you can see, I'm standing beside a pleasure boat. What the Israelis are saying is outright disinformation. But I recall that there was another boat that was attacked by Israelis and it was the USS Liberty. And people would like to forget about the USS Liberty, but I haven't forgotten about it. And the people who were on that ship have not forgotten about what happened to them. And what happened to us last night was a direct threat to our mission, but not our cause.

ROBERTS: Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, thanks for joining us this morning. We're glad that everybody came away from that incident relatively unscathed. I know it must have been a harrowing one. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

Continuing with the breaking news, the fighting rages between Israel and Hamas today. Fresh airstrikes now targeting Hamas government buildings despite the pounding Israel still unable to stop the rain of rockets coming in from Gaza. Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, I asked former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the end game.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, CHAIRMAN, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Ultimately, we'll have to bring down the Hamas regime because it's an implacable foe. It's like an al Qaeda with a base supported by Iran next to New York City. That's more or less what we have in Gaza.

We have Hamas supported by Iran that is rocketing as of yesterday, a suburb of Tel Aviv government, minutes away from downtown Tel Avis. So they are committed to our destruction. They are firing missiles at our civilians. They are hiding behind their civilians. That's a double war crime right there. I think ultimately we'll have to get rid of the regime, whether it will be done in this operation remains to be seen.


ROBERTS: CNN is on the front lines of the conflict. Paula Hancocks joins us live from Israel along the border with Gaza.

What's the latest from where you are, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Well, John, in the past hour or so, we have seen an increase in the amount of Israeli airstrikes. It had been fairly quiet all morning. But if you think about it, it's been more than 400 Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, northern side in Gaza City since Saturday lunch time.

Now we've been seeing a lot of helicopters hovering over Gaza City. You see a couple of missiles hitting targets there. Still Israel finds Hamas targets inside. It's also going off, a lot of the Hamas military leaders at this point. So a lot of targeted assassinations trying to stop these rockets coming into Israel.

But just about a minute ago we saw another Qassam mortar being launched and heading just a bit further north from where we are. The red alert siren and certainly in one area around where we are. So, Israel is not managing to stop these rockets at this point. Four Israelis have been killed. Of course, the death toll on the other side far higher and we are seeing civilians being caught up in this violence as well. That's the question that everyone is asking since the Israeli Prime Minister said that this is just stage one. What is stage two? Is that a ground invasion? Is that the operation that we are seeing tanks preparing for? John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN, ANCHOR: Or is stage one just as long as it takes for Hamas to sign on to a new ceasefire? We don't know. Is this going to continue for hours, days, maybe measured in terms of weeks? Do we know what the end game is here? What will it take for Israel to stop its operations there?

HANCOCKS: Well, John, you know just as well as I do it's so easy to inflame tensions in this conflict. It's so difficult to calm them back down again. We just had confirmation as well that a rocket reached about 22 miles (INAUDIBLE). This is about 22 miles from Gaza. This is an area that these rockets have not reached before. So certainly we are seeing long range missiles from Hamas, from militant groups. Israel is pounding and they are still managing to reach new areas with these rockets. 22 miles away. John.

ROBERTS: Yes, same thing we saw in the summer of 2006. They would pound Lebanon and rockets would still be fired. Paula Hancocks from along the Israel-Gaza border for us this morning. Paula, thanks so much. Stay safe.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Turning now to most politics in the morning as Barack Obama makes the transition from candidate to president, the press is starting to notice something less access. So as the days tick down between the transition and the new administration, is Obama retreating into a bubble?

Joining me now from Washington, "Time" magazine national political correspondent Karen Tumulty. Karen, welcome to the program. Good morning.


ROMANS: Is he bristling a bit at the media and is he bristling a little earlier than most president-elects and new presidents?

TUMULTY: No, Barack Obama during the campaign was not terribly accessible to the press. I was on the plane and sometimes a week even longer would go by without him setting foot in the press compartment of the plane. But this is something that every president has to deal with, the fact that you are losing so much privacy. In the '80s, I remember there was a story, possibly apocryphal but it had a ring of truth to me, that at one point Nancy Reagan planted a tree in front of the bathroom window at the ranch in Santa Barbara because she was just get tired of the long range lenses. So again, it's kind of part of the job description and every single president has to deal with it and this does - this Hawaiian vacation in many ways does seem to be Barack Obama's introduction to how limited his abilities are to put himself in that.

ROMANS: Well, the famous long range photograph of him on the beach and there are pictures of his children. And of course he sort of waved off the press before a round of golf. And then slipping way to go to a waterpark with his daughters. Kind of upsetting some people in the pool, in the press pool, who would have liked to have gone along. I mean, is he setting up barriers here now and early? It's an interesting dance that they have to dance, because America wants to know what he's doing. He is a young president. He's got an attractive family. He's making history. At the same time he does have a family.

TUMULTY: And that's where things become complicated because I do think there should be - there has to be separate standards of privacy when children are involved. These girls are going to be trying to live as normal a life as possible in the White House and I think, you know, at some point some sort of truce on dealing with Sasha and Malia, is really where the issue is ultimately going to become. I think you know adults sacrifice their privacy, children really don't buy into this deal.

ROMANS: Just four years ago he was an Illinois state senator. Do you think not being a governor first or a senator for longer or held a higher profile position for longer, do you think that he wasn't sort of prepped for all of this dance he has to do with the national media?

TUMULTY: You know, I think no one can really be prepped for this. And again, when he was in Washington as a senator, he really didn't have his family with him. They stayed behind in Illinois. And so they were, in that sense, sort of insulated from this. I remember at one point during the campaign, during the primaries, Michelle was able to sort of slip away from the campaign, go around the corner and play with her daughters in a park and no one even noticed who it was and who these two little girls are. That's obviously a thing of the past for the Obama family now.

ROMANS: All right. Karen Tumulty, "Time" Magazine. Thanks, Karen.

TUMULTY: Thanks a lot.

ROBERTS: Out with the old and in with the new, be a trendsetter in 2009. We're running down the list of what will be the top trends for the new year. We're trend spotting for you this morning. In our continuing series "Baby Quest," does a special diet really help a woman conceive? Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows you a hi-tech laboratory where they are using cutting-edge technology and a special diet to bring on the babies. It's 36 minutes now after the hour.


ROMANS: Welcome back to "the most news in the morning." The FBI trying to figure out what happened to a passenger aboard a Norwegian cruise ship. Agents are looking at surveillance tape and talking to witnesses after a woman disappeared Christmas night. Sean Callebs is live for us in New Orleans. Following this story, Sean, what do we know now about this mysterious disappearance?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know a lot happened late yesterday afternoon. We're finding more and more layers to this story as we continue to look into it. You're exactly right. The FBI is right now knee deep in an investigation, trying to determine if a crime and could be a very big if, if a crime has been committed. We know that surveillance cameras aboard that cruise line captured images of someone going over the rail on Christmas night. Rather than a crime, Jennifer Seitz's family believes this could be a very tragic final action in a very despondent woman's life.


CALLEBS (voice-over): It's a high seas mystery. One the FBI meeting the Norwegian Pearl when it arrived back in Miami on Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was crazy. I mean I'm sitting in my room and I see CNN come on and we're on the news.

CALLEBS: 36-year-old Jennifer Ellis Seitz seen in this video taken back in 2003 apparently went over the ship's railing on Christmas into the water, about 15 miles off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. After searching for days, the Coast Guard and Mexican Navy called the search off Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's so many different crazy stories going in the ship.

CALLEBS: The FBI has seen surveillance tape taken aboard the massive cruise liner that shows someone going overboard. The agency is trying to determine if a crime has been committed. The FBI says it's standard when an American apparently dies on the high seas. Seitz's husband Raymond reported his wife missing around 3:30 in the morning, at least seven hours after she apparently went over the rail.

The Seitzes took the cruise to celebrate their wedding anniversary and took Jennifer's mother as well. A joint Ellis-Seitz family statement says "Jennifer was in a very happy uplifted mood," but went on, "Jennifer however has had previous emotional issues. The family suspects that Jennifer chose an unfortunate ending to her life. She was a beautiful and caring person and will truly be missed by all who love her."


CALLEBS: And we are learning more about Jennifer Seitz's husband, Raymond. You're looking at a mug shot of Raymond Seitz. This was taken back in April of this year by the Polk County sheriff's office in Florida. He was charged with domestic violence. Now, in the affidavit basically Raymond Seitz admits to head butting his wife, striking her forehead with his. But we should point out that charges were later dropped when Seitz agreed to went through a diversionary program. And also Christine, once again the FBI right now is just looking if a crime has been committed and at this point Raymond Seitz is no way has been named as a suspect.

ROMANS: All right. Sean Callebs, thanks for bringing us that story, Sean.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS (voice-over): The stork goes hi-tech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just amazing, probably one of the most amazing days of my life.

ROMANS: Cutting-edge technology that's giving couples a precious gift. Inside the lab that's building healthier babies. You're watching "the most news in the morning."



ROBERTS: Welcome back to "the most news in the morning." 2009 just days away now and with the new year comes, of course, new trends. So what can we expect? Marian Salzman is the chief marketing officer at Porter Novelli Worldwide and she joins me now with an '09 preview. Good morning to you.


ROBERTS: One of the things I was really happy to hear about because I am one is that the boomer generation is out, the cuspers are in.

SALZMAN: Right. Well generation cusper, call them if you will. There's definitely going to be a power shift. Obama going to the White House is the beginning of something new. I think you're going to see this group born 1954, and 1955 to about 1965 with different set of values. We weren't allowed to go to Woodstock. We were told to go back to our bedrooms and do our homework. We really can't remember any of the great assassinations expect for maybe our parents kind of being told to cover our eyes.

Breaking news to us happen every three, four, five years while we're growing up. A very different set of values. And we're going to bring different kinds of decision making skills. Also, we left out of the big gravy train. Most of us didn't make money in any of the big hey days. I think with the different set of values coming out of the big blow up of all these things.

ROBERTS: So not only will the cuspers be in a generation Jones, as you call it, but also heartland home-based, a new focus on the windy city?

SALZMAN: Well I think Chicago is going to be the big trend spotting market. We've all focused on L.A.. We've all focused on New York. We've exhausted these places to death and suddenly we find out that leading indicators say people in the Midwest, the people to study, it has produced Oprah. It has produced Obama. Neither one of them can really shake their modest vices, cigarettes or food.

ROBERTS: Now do you think Chicago will still be a trend setting city after the president-elect moves to Washington? SALZMAN: Yes. I do think so. In part because they are embracing, giving to charities ahead of other people, embracing family values ahead of other people. Embracing political vices ahead of other states. So they have the ying and the yang. They have the goodness and they have badness. So they have all of our conflicts built into one.

ROBERTS: Yes. We got the president-elect and then we got Blagojevich all in the same -

SALZMAN: You have the "Tribune," you have also the first place where Americans, every day citizens demand their stake in the bailout. Do you think about the strike where the people went back and said hang on -

ROBERTS: That's right.

SALZMAN: Give me my fair share. That was really the beginning of people saying stop I want my business too.

ROBERTS: So the economic crisis obviously will have a big impact in the first part of next year. Not all of next year. And you suggest that one of the trends we're going to see is the ultimate re- boot. What is that?

SALZMAN: That's right. Think about when your computer melts down, you call the IT department. You call a geek squad and they say re-boot. Every one of our systems needs to be rebooted. Education isn't working. Health care isn't working. The roadways aren't working. Think about those pot holes you fall into every morning when you're getting here. The whole country needs to be rebooted at a bigger level. The world economic forum has met and they said that we need to reboot everything. We are broken. And we're broken and we're going at least 40 miles per hour and we got to reboot what we're doing at that speed.

ROBERTS: Tom Freeman had an interesting piece in a recent "New York Times." Going from Hong Kong's airport to landing at JFK. He said it's going backwards in time and economy as well.

SALZMAN: And look, it's a buzz word now which makes it even more dangerous. Freeman talked about it last week. It's on the cover of "Men's Journal." It's on the cover of "Marie Claire." Everybody is buzzing about it. But if we don't figure out how to do it, we're broken.

ROBERTS: And also the dollar becomes much more valuable when economic times are tough. You say that there will be a return to value and values?

SALZMAN: That's right. I mean, we're going to put a lot more emphasis on having cash in our pocket but only spending our cash with people that are good people. So you want to spend your money with an employer that's a good person. What does it mean to be a good person? It means when they layoff people they treat them fairly. It means when they give money into causes, they give them into good cause, causes in the community that actually makes a difference. Pretty much harsher armchair critics.

ROBERTS: You know I spent a couple of weekends up in Woodstock recently and one of the big words we heard around the shops there was sustainability.

SALZMAN: And local. Local is the new global. You don't want to be bothered with the rest of the world until you solve your problems locally. It doesn't mean we don't care about world issues, of course we do but local is the beginning.

ROBERTS: We'll get you back here at the end of 2009 and see how well you did.

SALZMAN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Marian Salzman, great to see you. Thanks for coming in this morning. Appreciate it. Christine.

SALZMAN: Good to be here.

ROMANS: All right, John. CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away. Heidi Collins is in the CNN Center with a look with what's ahead. Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, and good morning to you, Christine. That's right. Here's a check of what we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A boat carrying medical supplies to Gaza hit by an Israeli Navy vessel. Our correspondent is on board that supply ship. We're going to be hearing from him.

Also, eat more food, take in fewer calories. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta lets you in on a secret from the Far East. And shopping spree for a tough economy. Get a new look without opening your wallet. We get started at the top of the hour, right here on CNN. Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Heidi. Can't wait.

Experts say one in eight couples have trouble having a baby. But now there may be new hope in our continuing series "Baby Quest." Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows you what some call the fertility diet. It's 48 minutes after the hour.


ROMANS: It's the sort of thing that many of us simply take for granted, getting pregnant. But for lots of couples, the process can be long, agonizing and frankly emotionally consuming. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now with you know what's on the cutting-edge of fertility treatments. Good morning, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. You know as we started investigating this, a lot of things jumped out at us. One of them were the numbers. As things stand right now there's two million couples that are struggling to have children. Six million women have been told that they will be unable to have a kid at all. But we have found that there is some definite hope out there. Take a look.


GUPTA (voice-over): Maggie and Robert (inaudible) had a typical courtship. Dating, vacations, finally marriage.

MAGGIE: The next step for us was to start our family.

GUPTA: But Maggie was not ovulating regularly and Robert's sperm was unhealthy. They became a statistic. Experts say one in eight couples like them are trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant.

MAGGIE: You have the hope and then you say I don't want to hope that much because I don't want to be let down.

GUPTA: Science is changing all that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been a virtual revolution. An explosion in our knowledge and certainly in our ability to help millions and millions of couples.

GUPTA: Fertility experts set their sites on men with new technology having a low, even no sperm count is no longer a problem. Doctors can extract it surgically and use one sperm to fertilize an egg. One sperm. Another in vitro fertilization method takes cells from a woman's own uterus and pairs them with the embryo before implanting it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We put this embryo on top of the mother's own endometrial cells. That's allowing that embryo to be in an environment that maybe closer to what it sees in the body.

GUPTA: The results say fertility experts are better pregnancy success, healthier babies.

Another revolution is happening outside the lab, a fertility diet based on a large study of Harvard nurses. It suggests healthy foods like beans, brown rice, nuts, vegetables can affect ovulation positively. Unhealthy foods, that's right, they have the reverse effect. Sounds simple. There are some skeptics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: one has to be careful that one doesn't oversimplify.

GUPTA: After all, pregnancy is a complex, coordinated process in the body. The Rickards (ph) finally did get pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing. It's probably one of the most amazing days in our life.


GUPTA: We tend to focus a lot on a woman's age and her overall chance of reproduction. What we found as we're working on the special is that men are often the culprit in about half the cases of infertility. And now fertility experts are able to figure out specifically what the limitation is. And I think more importantly, as you saw in the piece, they were able to correct it as well. So, there' definite hope out there both on the male and female side when it comes to infertility.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the fertility diet. You say that can be kind of an oversimplification. Let's be clear that just a diet is not going to fix your fertility problems but it is a factor.

GUPTA: We know a lot more about what limits ovulation in a woman than ever before. This was based on a large study looking for specifically at the best diets for fertility and it has taken a step further, they were trying to figure out what regulates one's insulin levels. Keeps insulin levels as stable as possible. The types of diets that do that are much better for a woman's ovulation in the long run. So a lot of the foods that we mentioned there, foods that are already known to be good for somebody are also better at keeping those insulin levels stable, regulating a woman's hormones, making her more likely to ovulate.

ROMANS: All right. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Let's find out how much Caroline Kennedy really knows.

CAROLINE KENNEDY: You know, I really ought to give it some thought you know again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a lot of you knows.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Saying you know a lot doesn't mean she doesn't -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it doesn't. Not at all.

ROBERTS: Jeanne Moos on the senator wanna-bes habit. But who's counting.

You're watching "the most news in the morning."


ROBERTS: Welcome back to "the most news in the morning." We all have our personal quirks, but when your last name is Kennedy and you're trying to be the next senator of New York, well, you know, every word, you know, counts. Here's Jeanne Moos.


MOOS (voice-over): You know when you know when you're under the media microscope?

KENNEDY: Well, you know - you know, I really ought to give it some thought, you know, again.

MOOS: When we start counting you knows.

KENNEDY: You know, people know who I am.

MOOS: She's all grown up now, Caroline Kennedy.

KENNEDY: You know, in our family, you know, you always think about, you know -

MOOS: First she was criticized for not talking to the press while trying to get appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's senate seat.

KENNEDY: You know, Hillary Clinton, you know, is a big loss for the state.

MOOS: And now that she is talking we're on her back about excessive you knows, as many as four per sentence.

KENNEDY: You know, I can tell you, you know, in our family, in our family, in particular, you know, there was a sense that, you know, we have to work twice as hard.

MOOS: A blog called perfunction noted them with a buzzer.

KENNEDY: You know -

MOOS: In a 2 1/2 minute clip.

KENNEDY: You know, I really try to encourage -

MOOS: They buzzed Kennedy 30 times leaving voice coach Jeffrey Davis to say -

JEFFREY DAVIS, VOICE COACH: Wow, that's a lot of you knows.

MOOS: You know it.

Saying you know a lot does not mean she doesn't know.

DAVIS: No, it doesn't know, not at all. It's a verbal tic. Basically what happens is you haven't clarified your thought yet and you start speaking anyways.

MOOS: So you're stalling.

DAVIS: You're stalling.

MOOS: Davis calls it the little phrase that saves us between thoughts but most of us don't need saving 142 times. That's how often the web site politico counted Kennedy saying, you know, in a transcript of the "New York Times" interview.

Of course, we all have tics.

DAVIS: You just said umm, big umm.

MOOS: President Obama is known for his ahhs.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: You know, I think there's still working it through. Ahh.

MOOS; Though lately, he seems to have broken that habit. Sarah Palin had her winking tic.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How long have I been at this? Five weeks.

MOOS: And we all know President Bush had his linguistic barriers and tariffs.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Barriers and tariffs everywhere.

MOOS: One solution to saying too many you knows is to be told every time you say it and the web is helping Caroline Kennedy with that.

KENNEDY: You know, you know, you know.

MOOS: The speech coach recommends allowing silence between thoughts.

DAVIS: Silence has more eloquence than words and it's powerful.

MOOS: At least Kennedy knows what she doesn't know.

KENNEDY: You know, I have quite a bit to learn.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: Silence.

ROBERTS: So, um, what do you think?

ROMANS: I know, you know, it's been a great couple of great hours with you John. You know.

ROBERTS: Like, you know, it's been great.

ROMANS: It's hard. I can see - you know I just did it. Tap dancing.

ROBERTS: He's right. Silence sometimes is more powerful. You know, I should subscribe to the old adage of it's better to keep one's mouth shut and appear stupid than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. But I never got that one right.

ROMANS: I can never have two ears and one mouth, usually two ears you're your mouth once, you know.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans, great to have you this morning. Thanks so much for being with us.

ROMANS: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: That's going to wrap it up for us here on AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here again tomorrow.

ROMANS: All right. Now here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins.