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Extending Jobless Benefits, Homebuyer Credit; Pushing Ahead on Health Reform; Hidden Clues in Tuesday's Vote

Aired November 5, 2009 - 11:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. It is Thursday, November 5th. And here are the top stories for you in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Parole officers visit this California home at least 60 times over 18 years, but they never figure out a kidnapped girl is within earshot. Today, a blistering report shows how the system failed Jaycee Dugard.

Two of music's leading ladies talk about their abusive relationships with men. Mariah Carey and Rihanna open up.

Plus this...


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I left the inner sanctum of "THE SITUATION ROOM" to come here and help you with the quiz. Pick me.


HARRIS: The inner sanctum. OK.

Go ahead. Take the CNN challenge. We'll ask news junkies to take our news quiz life this hour.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris in New York today, home of the champs of baseball, the New York Yankees.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

So, the push for health care reform -- House Democrats could get some powerful support for their effort to overhaul health care in America. The AARP is expected to back the House health care reform bill in an announcement this hour. The 40-million member group lobbies on behalf of people 50 and over.

On Capitol Hill now, the push for health reform is intensifying. House Democrats expect a vote on their bill by this weekend.

Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar is following developments for us, and we will talk to her in just a couple of minutes, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM, as the stage is set for a big weekend vote on health care reform.

And moving on now, another Tea Party Express rally to tell you about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will eat away at your freedom!


HARRIS: This is Oklahoma City. Organizers say the rally is a chance for conservatives to express concerns about government bailouts, higher taxes and government-run health care. Leaders of the group are in Washington today to oppose what they see as a government takeover of health care.

Checking the wire now and the day's other big stories.

The United Nations is temporarily relocating 600 staffers in Afghanistan, and the new security measures will be put in place. They follow an attack on a U.N. guest house in the heart of Kabul just eight days ago. The Taliban siege lasted two hours and left 11 people dead. Among them, five U.N. employees.


ALEEM SIDDIQUE, U.N. SPOKESMAN IN AFGHANISTAN: We estimate that this will affect 12 percent of our staff. That equates to about 600 of our international staff members, some of whom may be relocated within country and some may be relocated temporarily outside of country while security measures can be put in place to ensure their swift return so we can continue with U.N. activities and programs in country.


HARRIS: OK. A live report from Kabul coming up in the NEWSROOM at the half-hour.

Startling stats out of the Pentagon. Seventy-five percent of Americans age 17 to 24 are unfit to serve in the military. A quarter of these young people are simply too fat.

Medical problems, illegal drug use and criminal records disqualifying many. Almost one in 10 simply don't have the smarts.

Police in Cleveland are trying to identify the bodies of 10 of 11 women found at the home of a convicted sex offender. They have ID'd one victim, 52-year-old Tonia Carmichael, who disappeared one year ago. The coroner says most of the victims were strangled.


DR. FRANK MILLER, CUYAHOGA COUNTY CORONER: They are all African- American women. Seven died of ligature strangulation. One died of manual strangulation. Two, the decomposition of the body precludes accuracy sometimes, and we're diagnosing that as homicidal violence in two cases. In the last case, the autopsy is ongoing.


HARRIS: Anthony Sowell is charged with five counts of murder, rape, assault and kidnapping. Police say more charges are likely.

Issue number one now, the economy.

New signs companies are cutting fewer jobs. The Labor Department says claims for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week to 512,000. That's the best showing since January. Still, economists expect the national unemployment rate to creep closer to 10 percent when October's number is released tomorrow.

All right. If you don't have a job or if you're looking to buy a new home, Congress looks ready to approve a measure today giving a big financial boost to many Americans.

How about this? CNN's Christine Romans with me right here in her home, New York, home of the champs of baseball.

Did I mention the New York Yankees?

Good to see you, Christine.


HARRIS: Hey, let's start with this -- how many people are expected to be helped by this extension -- that's what we're talking about here -- of unemployment benefits?

ROMANS: Right. Hundreds of thousands. A lot of people. A lot of people.

And this is why so many members of Congress are so eager to do it, Tony, because tomorrow is a jobless -- we're going to get a big jobs report; right? It's going to show us that a lot of people are out of work.

Today we had what constitutes good news in jobless claims. That's -- they just tumbled dramatically. Still, 512,000 every week are filing for jobless benefits, so we've got a problem here. We have a lot of people who are out of work, who are losing their jobs, and who now are losing their unemployment checks.

So, this would be a 14-week extension nationwide. If you live in one of those states mostly along the coast, but about half the states, frankly, where the unemployment is already over 8.5 percent, it's 20 weeks in extension there. This is paid for, Tony, by a two-year extension of taxes on employers.

Democrats and Republicans are all for this. You know, look, it doesn't matter what party you're in. You're hearing this on the phones in your home districts. But Johnny Isakson, a Republican, said this is the third extension. This is going to be it. This is the last one.

HARRIS: We've got to stop the job loss before we can start to turn around this number, before we can turn it around. So, we are still -- even though the pace may be slowing of these layoffs, we're still in a situation where the overall unemployment rate is probably going to creep closer tomorrow to 10 percent.

ROMANS: Yes. That's right. And keep going up after that. I mean, there are people who are raising their targets well above 10 percent as well.

I mean, the labor market is broken, Tony. It's broken right now. And you can be a great employee, with great education and all the right skills, and not getting a job. And so you can't really say, oh, let's try to retrain, let's try to do this, let's think about jobs of the future.

Right now it's very hard for people to get jobs. And that's why the jobless benefits issue is so incredibly important.

HARRIS: And given where we are in this recovery right now, it's halting. You know, fits and starts. Should the jobs picture be improving given where we are in the recovery?

What's your thought on that?

ROMANS: Should it be improving? Eventually, yes. You know, it is still this...

HARRIS: Still that lagging indicator.

ROMANS: ... lagging indicator. I mean, eventually, it will begin to turn around, but you have to create 100,000 to 150,000 jobs every month just to keep up with the increase in the working age population.


ROMANS: We're likely to lose a couple hundred thousand jobs this month. So you're talking about a deficit of 350,000 jobs. We've got a lot of work to do.

HARRIS: And some good news for folks who want to take part in this homebuyer tax. It's an extension and a bit of expansion, isn't it?

ROMANS: Exactly. Exactly, $8,000 tax credit. It's going to last now until June 30, 2010. So you've got to close by June 30, 2010. You can get your $8,000 tax credit.

And hey, you've got a house, you've lived in it for five years. What about me?

HARRIS: I like the sound of this.

ROMANS: You get $6,500. And they've raised the income cap now to $225,000.

But, you know, I want to tell you -- I can't give you the good news without a little bit of bad. You know there's fraud. There's a little bit of fraud out there.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

ROMANS: You know, kids who took advantage of this. A 4-year-old got...


HARRIS: A 12-year-old, 15-year-old. Huh?

ROMANS: Yes. I mean, whenever there's free government money -- and it's not really free. We pay for it.

HARRIS: Sure we do.

ROMANS: It's going to be another $10 billion or something to do this. There will be people who will try to scam the system. And the Treasury Department auditors have already said they know that there are some gaps in being able to qualify -- verify who is qualified.

HARRIS: Yes. Good to see you.

ROMANS: Nice to be with you.

HARRIS: Good to be in your house.

Christine Romans of our Money Team.

All right. Let's get back to Capitol Hill now.

As we told you a moment ago, the push for health care reform is really intensifying right now. House Democrats expect a vote on their bill this weekend.

Let's get you now to Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar. She is following developments. And there she is.

Brianna, let's start with -- I've got a bunch of questions for you, but let's start with that crowd and the chanting that we hear behind you.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tony, a couple days out here from this -- what looks like it's going to be Saturday, this vote on the Democrats' health care bill, it's really the last stand for opponents and proponents of this bill.

These folks are opponents and they came from all over. They say they're here from North Carolina. We have some people who say they came from Hawaii.

They say they are the same people who gave -- really turned up the heat on Democrats during those town hall meetings in August, who were here at the Tea Party protest back in September. And they say they just don't believe Democrats when it comes to what they say about this health care reform legislation, that they say it won't add to the deficit. They say they don't believe it, and they also say that this bill, which includes that government-run insurance plan, to them is just going to be a government takeover of insurance.

So, Republicans are trying to harness all of this energy. They're going to have a rally right here on the steps of the Capitol, as you can see behind me, coming up at noon. And inside this Capitol, you know, Democratic leaders are hoping to have a little momentum of their own.

They've gotten some really, I guess, important energy behind them by an expected endorsement by AARP today which represents tens of millions of Americans.

Also, we're expecting the American Medical Association which represents so many of the nation's doctors. We're expecting for them to stake their claim today, which could be an endorsement. The American Cancer Society today saying that it backs this plan. And President Obama coming to the Hill tomorrow, trying to help Democratic leaders get their Democrat in line so that they can get those 218 votes that they would need in order for this to pass this weekend -- Tony.

HARRIS: Boy. All right. Capitol Hill the place to be.

Brianna, we're going to let you go. Your beat is really popping today. You're covering health care on a number of different fronts for us.

Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, taking control of your life after an abusive relationship. Rihanna and Mariah Carey talk about it later this hour.

And there is a hurricane in the Caribbean. Our Reynolds Wolf is tracking the storm called Ida. If you live along the Gulf Coast, you need to watch for this one.

We're back in a moment.




HARRIS: No matter what they say, you can bet political party leaders are dissecting the results of this week's elections. They're identifying mistakes, trends and voter swings ahead of next year's midterms.

Last night, Anderson Cooper quizzed former State Department official Liz Cheney about the results.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": But you have plenty of conservatives who, in the final years of your dad's administration, President Bush's administration, were outraged at the expense of money, at the growing deficits, of just the huge expenditures, without, you know, putting us in debt to China, which has, of course, now continued throughout the Obama administration.

LIZ CHENEY, FORMER STATE DEPT. OFFICIAL: No, you're right, Anderson. It's a very good point. And I think that, you know, if you look at what happened at the end of the eight years, I would say that, in some instances, particularly in Congress, but certainly also in some of the spending programs that we put in place in the Bush/Cheney administration, the conservatives have a point there.

I think, you know, people, whether you're Republican or a Democrat, folks out there who are voting, you know, they want you to be responsible about how you're spending taxpayer dollars. And they want you to keep spending down. They want you to keep deficits down. They want you to basically operate the federal government like you would your own checkbook at home and you own budget at home.

So, I think that, you know, these issues, particularly given the economic downturn we're facing and the fact that the president seems to want to use the downturn as an excuse to put in place sort of some drastic, very radical reforms to our economy, have people out there very concerned. And I think, you know, the vote last night is something that should send a clear message to both parties in that regard.

COOPER: You really think the president is using the downturn to try to put in extreme policies that he wouldn't ordinarily haven't been able to get in? I mean, the White House says, look, very clearly, they didn't want to bail out the auto industry, they didn't want to deal with TARP, and have this -- you know, these huge expenditures.

CHENEY: Well, I think, you know, you saw Rahm Emanuel say exactly that, that you should never let a good crisis go to waste.

And I think, you know, when the president stands up and he says that the economic downturn, the economic crisis that we're facing is because we don't have, you know, reform in the health care system, because we don't have, essentially, nationalized health care, obviously, the voters out there, just, if you look at last night and every single poll you have seen before show you that the voters out there are very suspicious of that. They don't believe that.

COOPER: But...

CHENEY: They don't believe that the solution to our economic crisis is to nationalize health care.


COOPER: But the governor of Virginia is for health care reform.

CHENEY: That's right. And I think health care is important, but I think a big part of health care reform, if you ask the new governor of Virginia, for example, is tort reform, is litigation reform, medical liability reform, that would allow doctors to do their job, without having to pay massive amounts of money for liability insurance.

COOPER: But do...

CHENEY: And that's an issue that the Democrats won't touch.

COOPER: I do want to go back, though, to -- I mean, do you not believe that there is an ideological schism in the Republican Party, that there's a struggle going on for -- about the future of the Republican Party?

Because you listen to -- if you listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, he is saying a very different message than Michael Steele. I mean, Michael Steele today seemed to be criticizing outside involvement in this race in New York.

CHENEY: I think we are a party that is clearly rebuilding. I mean, we really lost pretty significantly in 2008.

And I think that it's not unusual, and, in fact, it's healthy, to see the party going through what it's going through, which is figuring out, you know, who our leader is going to be in coming years, figuring out what are the key issues we're going to be focused on. I think it's something that you see pretty normally when a party is in opposition and has lost like we have.

So, obviously, I think there's change going on. I think it's good, it's healthy. But I think, at the end of the day, we have got to be focused on the substance of these issues and on -- you know, focus on making sure that people understand that we are the party that's going to be responsible in terms of the economy, in terms of national security, in terms of foreign policy, and, you know, proving to people that we deserve their votes.


HARRIS: CNN's "AC 360."

"Failure," it is a word mentioned too many times in a report on the investigation of registered sex offender Phillip Garrido and his captive, Jaycee Dugard.


HARRIS: All right. Let's take a look at some of the top stories we're watching for you this hour.

The first shipment of H1N1 vaccine is on its way to the U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Pentagon says the shipment contains only half of what is needed.

In Florida, a baby missing for five days has been found alive in a box under her baby sitter's bed. Police aren't saying much more. The sitter, her husband and the child's mother are being held for questioning. A Cleveland woman learns her mother's body is one of 11 found at the home of a registered sex offender, Anthony Sowell. Fifty-three- year-old Tonia Carmichael was found buried in the back yard. She had been missing for a year. Her daughter spoke to HLN's Mike Galanos on "PRIME NEWS."


DANITA CARMICHAEL, TONIA CARMICHAEL'S DAUGHTER: It's what I've been saying since Monday, when we were called to the coroner's office. And since this story broke, we automatically knew that this was going to be her.

You know, it's been a year. And I've lived here all my life. I have never seen anything like this. So, to be a part of it is just amazing, how this happened.

It's amazing. But, you know, we got confirmation. My grandmother -- we were here. Two Cleveland detectives, homicide detectives, showed up and they gave us the news that this indeed was my mother.


HARRIS: One of the unanswered questions surrounding the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard in 1991, how did her accused abductor, Phillip Garrido, hold her for 18 years without tipping off parole officers? A report from the California Inspector General's Office says parole officers missed dozens and dozens of chances to rescue Dugard, who is now 29 years old.

CNN's Randi Kaye outlines the findings -- and they are scathing -- for CNN's "ANDERSON COOPER 360."


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The state of California has reviewed the case and found that California parole officers "missed numerous opportunities" to discover Jaycee Dugard while supervising Phillip Garrido. Imagine this. The review found officers failed to investigate utility wires running from Garrido's house toward the shed, in that secret back yard. That filthy, dilapidated shed is where Dugard and her children, allegedly fathered by Garrido himself, were being held.

Also, the review found officers failed to investigate why a 12- year-old girl was on the property during a visit, which would clearly violate the terms of Garrido's release as a sex offender who was on parole from January 1988 until August, when Dugard was discovered. This, after the Department of Corrections held a press conference to give parole agents who had supervised Garrido a big pat on the back. That was the day after his arrest.

COOPER: It's amazing, when you read this report. It is a litany of the word "failure." I mean, failed, failed, failed over the course of 10 years. In terms of monitoring this guy, there was also a huge number of failures.

KAYE: Absolutely.

First of all, California's inspector general, who handled this review, found that the Corrections Department failed to train parole agents how to properly conduct home visits. Even worse, it found after Garrido was placed on GPS supervision in April 2008, agents ignored repeated instances when he traveled outside the 25-mile radius that he was not supposed to leave or when the device simply stopped functioning.

Now take a look at this picture. Each red dot that you're looking at represents a track of the ankle bracelet worn by Garrido. Now, in one period, the signal for the GPS device was lost 335 times. And 276 of those times, agents simply ignored the malfunction; ignored it 276 times.

In 59 of those cases, the review found agents acknowledged that the signal had been lost but took no action.

Now, if agents had reviewed these red dots, the tracks, the state says they would have noticed Garrido spending a significant amount of time in the concealed compound behind his house.

And there's more. The review discovered huge gaps in time where Garrido wasn't even monitored. The state found, quote, "frequent gaps," some of them lasting nearly a year between face-to-face visits.

And get this: according to the state, Garrido was, quote, only properly supervised 12 out of 123 months that the state supervised him. That is a failure, Anderson, a failure rate of 90 percent.

COOPER: And it wasn't just the state. There were federal authorities who were playing a role in the supervision, right?

KAYE: Yes, the state parole officers were in charge of monitoring Garrido from June 1999 until Dugard and her children were discovered in August. But before that, because of previous sex offenses, Garrido was under the jurisdiction of federal parole officers, even at the time when he allegedly kidnapped Dugard, back in 1991. He had been out on parole, and the federal officers were supposed to be watching him. The report says federal authorities failed to detect his criminal conduct.

And this all really started, says the state, when Garrido was classified as a low-risk sex offender when his history really should have resulted in a high-risk label. That mistake, as the inspector general called it, Anderson, set the tone for many mistakes to come.



The head of the corrections office that monitored Phillip Garrido blames workload. Listen to this. He says the parole officer had an average of 180 minutes a month to put into the case. Garrido and his wife have pleaded not guilty to 28 counts of rape and kidnapping.

Getting out of harm's way. The United Nations is moving staffers out of Afghanistan.

Plus, we're unveiling the "CNN Challenge" today. Plenty of questions from CNN anchors and personalities.


COOPER: Hey, pick me. Believe me, you don't want Blitzer. It's kind of smelly in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll host the quiz for you.



BLITZER: Happening now, you picking me to host your quiz.



HARRIS: Violence in Afghanistan is affecting the United Nations mission there. The U.N. is temporarily relocating hundreds of staffers while new security measures are put in place. The decision follows an attack last week that killed five U.N. workers.

CNN's Sara Sidner joining us now from Kabul with the latest.

And Sara, my understanding here is as many as 600 U.N. staffers will be impacted.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly the number. The U.N. says that it is sending out 600 of its international staff out of the country to try to assess how to make this place more secure for the U.N. staff members who are working here, trying to help the everyday Afghans.

You mentioned the reason for all of this, and that is that they were in this guarded house, and they were attacked. Five of their members were killed. And they are responding to that by really looking at the security situation and trying to figure out how to make it safer here for their staff, And that's of the utmost importance.

Obviously, sending out 600 people means half of their international staff, but they are clear to say that they are not leaving Afghanistan. So, it's not a referendum saying they are completely pulling out of this country. But they realize they really have to do something to make it safer for the people who are working here -- Tony.

HARRIS: Well, Sara, yes, you can make it safer. You can move people around. But that comes at a cost. How much money do you think the U.N. will need to make this whole situation a lot more secure for its people?

SIDNER: Well, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked for about $85 million to try and secure the area for these U.N. staff members. A lot of money to try to figure out how to make things safer so that people can work and do their jobs.

We should also mention, though, that we're talking about the international staff. There's about 1,000 or 1,100 international staff here. About 80 percent of the people that work for the U.N. here in Afghanistan are actually Afghani. So, they're saying, look, we're not pulling out everyone. We're not pulling out even, you know, a huge percentage of people. But we're certainly trying to make a statement here that things have to be safer and that the security situation has gotten worse -- Tony.

HARRIS: All right. CNN's Sara Sidner for us in Kabul, Afghanistan. Sara, thank you.

President Obama continues to listen to advisers about troop levels in Afghanistan, and we are listening to your views about the war.


CALLER: I think my solution is very simple. Number one, you either go in with 500,000 troops and high-tech gear and equipment or two, if you're not going to do that, then let's just get out. It's going to be a mess unless you really go in there to try to win. My name is Bill.

CALLER: Hi, my name is Carleton (ph) from Maryland. I think that we should definitely, definitely keep out of Afghanistan. What I also think we should do is try to focus more on homeland security so we won't be attacked here on our shores and also try to build alliances with those people and let them help themselves. Thanks again, and do the right thing.

CALLER: Hi, I'm John (ph) from Winterhaven (ph). I feel that we should send troops as soon as possible. I feel that when we hire a person to do the job, and they tell you the tools that they need to do the job, that you should supply them the tools to do their job. I also think we're putting more people in harm's way by not sending in troops sooner. And I also believe that we're going to be in that area to stabilize that area for the next foresee future, at least 50 years.


HARRIS: Got to tell you, we appreciate your calls, and you have been calling in the hundreds with your thoughts. There is still an opportunity for you to call and express your views and concerns. Here's the phone number: 1-877-742-5760. Let us know what you think the U.S. should do next in Afghanistan.

Susan Lisovicz is here. Let me get this thing out of the way. On Wall Street today, we've got a really nice rally going, right?


HARRIS: What's pushing the numbers higher today? And don't turn this to the Yankees.

LISOVICZ: Well, we can talk about that, too. The most winning team in professional sports?

HARRIS: Oh, no.

LISOVICZ: Yes, we can talk about that. We can talk about the numbers there, 27 world championships.

But I think what you really want to know behind the triple-digit gains, one of the things that's prompting markets higher today, Tony, is consumer spending and retail sales that we saw. Retail sales in October grew by just under 2 percent. So, that's a pretty good, healthy jump.

You look a little bit close -- more closely at some of the anecdotal evidence. Look at the parent company of T.J. Maxx. We're shopping for bargains and bulk.

HARRIS: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

LISOVICZ: So, T.J. Maxx would be the bargains. Costco, right under that, 5 percent sales growth, that's your bulk.

Gap also owns Old Navy, and it did particularly well. Check out the number there. But also what's nice is that you saw some high-end retailers, Nordstom and Saks, register some growth. You're seeing improved foot traffic.

And you know, remember spending, very psychological, so, you may not be affected by the recession. You may have a job. You may have a good retirement plan. But if you -- you know, you hear all this noise about things being bad. You may not...

HARRIS: The psychology works against you, yes.

LISOVICZ: Exactly.

HARRIS: So, Roger (ph), put those numbers up again because it reminds me of yesterday when we spoke, and -- oh, terrific. We were talking about auto sales, and we had a similar graphic up for auto sales, right?


HARRIS: And we were talking about these numbers were compared to numbers last year...


HARRIS; ... when we were in a real mess. Are we looking at year-to-year retail sales numbers here? LISOVICZ: That's a very good point. I mean, you can talk about the fact that things certainly are not nearly as bad as they were a year ago. Remember, October in 2008, this is a couple weeks after Lehman collapsed, credit just simply froze up, layoffs started to mount and there was a lot of fear in the air.

And what happens is, when consumers are fearful, they don't spend. I mean, it's as simple as that. So, you know, it is an easy comparison, but you are starting to see some actual growth beyond that, and that's important. That's important for this economy to recover, to see some spending.

HARRIS: So, I guess all you do is look at the morning...

LISOVICZ: You're looking pained. You're looking pained.

HARRIS: See this?

LISOVICZ: There it is.


LISOVICZ: We're not in seventh heaven. We're in 27th heaven.

HARRIS: And folks are shopping at Yankee stores all over.

LISOVICZ: That's right. That's a good point. You know, it's sort of our patriotic duty to wear pinstripes, not only on Wall Street, but yes, yes, all over the five boroughs. That is the Yankee clubhouse. It has been open all night, basically. This is the city that doesn't sleep. And I believe that your size is extra good shape.

HARRIS: That's right. That's fit, that's strong, it's XL.

LISOVICZ: Sold out. Sold out. That's exactly right.

HARRIS: You're doggone right.

LISOVICZ: Sales are strong, Tony Harris.

HARRIS: What do you have there?

LISOVICZ: I have my Yankees cap that I got at the stadium for the ACLS game, championship. Yes, I went to the clincher. That was also game six.

HARRIS: (INAUDIBLE) a way to lift that from you before I leave today. Good to see you, Susan.

LISOVICZ: You do that. That's an easy one. Good to see you up here.

HARRIS: Good to see you.

You know, he's the head of Apple, which as you know brought us -- let's see -- iTunes, iPods, iPhones, Steve Jobs, the CEO of the decade. You can read all about him. It's our SPECIAL REPORT at

Remember the tent cities that popped up in Sacramento, California this summer? They've been taken down, but there's a new initiative today to provide housing for the homeless. And get ready to take the CNN Challenge. It's next.


HARRIS: So, let's get you caught up on our top stories right now. The House health care bill about to get a big boost. The American Association of Retired Persons is expected to endorse House overhaul efforts today. The American Medical Association is also expected to weigh in on the bill today.

In Tampa, Florida, a brutal attack on a jail guard, and his rescue caught on tape. Take a look at these images. The Hillsborough County sheriff's office says the guard escaped serious injury because other inmates came to his aid.

Carrie Prejean, the Miss California USA who was stripped of her crown, apparently settled a lawsuit with pageant officials after a racy video came to light. A source familiar with the settlement confirms reports the home video was presented by pageant lawyers and features Prejean alone.

The City of Sacramento stepping forward in a big way to help its homeless citizens find a permanent address. Here's Suzanne Phan of CNN affiliate KXTV.


MAYOR KEVIN JOHNSON, SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA: Sacramento got national and international attention for our homelessness challenges in our community.

SUZANNE PHAN, KXTV-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nine months after journalist Lisa Ling reported about Sacramento's former tent city for the Oprah Winfrey show, she's back to tour the former campsite.

LISA LING, JOURNALIST: I'm so blown away and impressed by what is being done to try and curb homelessness here.

PHAN: The camp area, just north of downtown Sacramento, has been cleared away. What had been there, 250 tents.

LING: There were tents everywhere.

PHAN: That camp was up for two months after Ling's visit, before police cleared it away citing illegal camping. Thursday, Ling will be on hand when the city launches its initiative to help the homeless.

The Sacramento Steps Forward Campaign is a call for action for the community to help and homelessness regionally. Mayor Johnson has not released any details yet, only saying...

JOHNSON: We want permanent housing. That's our commitment.

JOAN BURKE, LOVES & FISHES SACRAMENTO: I'm very, very happy and hopeful about this initiative because it's going to provide homes for over 2,000 homeless people in Sacramento.

PHAN: This comes at a time when homeless shelters are over capacity nightly, and the county budget crisis means no winter shelter at Cal Expo this year. Recently, Mayor Johnson announced that 270 beds had been secured at various shelter locations. Plus, there's another 100 beds available this year, thanks to motel vouchers. As for many of the homeless in tent city who continue looking for safe ground?

LING: I don't think homelessness will ever go away, but these are very important first steps at trying to break the cycle of homelessness.


HARRIS: The Sacramento Steps Forward initiative formally launches at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. That's 10:00 Pacific. And you can find more information on the Sacramento Steps Forward Facebook page.

So, it is here, the CNN Challenge, where you can prove you know what's going on in your neighborhood, your country and your world. It is an interactive game about the news.

Let's go to Josh. And Josh, walk us through this new online game.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We even had that cool dramatic music you were just playing, Tony.

HARRIS: That was good.

LEVS: Best way to go into it. And I'll tell you, it's getting a lot of traffic online today. We looked earlier at Google Trends. It was one of the most popular things being Googled today.

But you don't need to Google it. Just come straight to us, And this is it behind us. This is one of the steps when you get there. You have this whole row of some CNN personalities, anchors and others, and you can click on any one of them to be your guide throughout it.

Let's zoom in. Let met show you an example. For example, here's Campbell over here. She'll give you her argument as to why we should choose her.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN HOST, "CAMPBELL BROWN: NO BIAS, NO BULL": I've got the questions. Let's see if you've got the answers.


LEVS: All right, let's give a little love to Kiran over here.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR, "AMERICAN MORNING": I have an advantage. I'm on the air earlier than most of these other anchors, so I've been chugging Red Bull since 3:00 a.m. Pick me.



LEVS: I'm actually going to stick with Kiran because she and I talked about how we're Red Bull buddies even though we're in different cities. So, let's let her take us through the game right now.

So, here's some of the steps. So, you've picked who your guide is going to be. Then the questions are about news stories that we've covered, and the questions get tougher and tougher as the game goes on.

What I did here is, I set it all up to the lightning round. And we'll go here to the lightning round, where the questions are kind of tough. Now, the first one is actually one I got to show this morning. This says, "Which head of state recently addressed a joint meeting of Congress?" We know that one's Angela Merkel, because we reported on it right here.

Let's go to the next question. Now, you can see we're timed in our answers here. Take a look at this: "What Internet company won a $711 million judgment against the Spam king, Sanford Wallace?" Now, I actually sent this story out on Facebook, but the answer is Facebook. But look at how hard it is to answer. You've got to go through and spell out "Facebook" and still not lose your time.

So, this is the basic idea here. There are also some simpler questions over here. "Who was awarded Major League Baseball's 2009 Roberto Clemente Award for community service and excellence on the field?" And actually, you know what? That one's kind of a timely answer because you can see there it was Derek Jeter.

The one that comes after that, we're going to toss at you right now. Here's what we're going to do. We've got a question. We're going to show it to you. And then, during the break, you're going to have a chance to answer it by Facebook and Twitter.

Let's zoom way in on that question so you all can see it right there. And it's about something that we have been covering here as well, the -- and there you can see it: "What is the name of NASA's new rocket, flight-tested for the first time on October 28th?"

And you can see the answers that are options there. The Ares 1- X, the Athena K12, Hercules X-1 or Jupiter 120. Think about your answer. We've got some people in the atrium who are going to answer, and let's show the graphic where you can weigh in during the break. Send your answers right now, Facebook or Twitter Or to our blog, You've got my Facebook and Twitter pages there, joshlevscnn. There you go. Send us your answers right now. When we come back, we're going to see who got it right.


LEVS: And we're back in the NEWSROOM. I'm Josh Levs showing you the new, where you check out your knowledge and put it to the test of the news stories. Now, before the break, we showed you this question, one of the questions today up on

It's about NASA's new rocket. The question is, "What is the name of NASA's new rocket, flight-tested for the first time October 28th?" Your options are Ares 1-X, Athena K12, Hercules X-1, Jupiter 120.

Well, before we tell you the answer, we are going to go to our Nicole Lapin, who's in the atrium here at CNN Center, joined by some people, Nicole, who are going to help answer this, right?

NICOLE LAPIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I feel like a geeky Vanna White, but all of these people are very excited, and I think they all know the answer. So, what do you guys think? Ares, Athena, Hercules or Jupiter?

CROWD: Ares.

LAPIN: Is that the final answer?

CROWD: Final answer.

LAPIN: OK, Josh, we have Ares, A. We're locking it in.

LEVS: Were you helping them? Did they get any help from you?

LAPIN: I was not helping them.

LEVS: No hints?

LAPIN: These are smart people.

LEVS: Well, it is true.

LAPIN: They are well-informed, and they are excited about the CNN Challenge. We are locking it in, buddy. Ares.

LEVS: And when you're at CNN Center, you get really knowledgeable by osmosis. All right, let's go to the answer, and we'll show everyone what the correct answer is. There you go, it is indeed...

LAPIN: Ares.

LEVS: ... the Ares 1-X.

LAPIN: Congratulations.

LEVS: Good job, people.


LEVS: We love it. And not only that, but actually, Scotty (ph), could we zoom in on the screen here? Nicole, check this out. I, you know, I let people Facebook and Twitter us.


LEVS: We got a bunch of Tweet. We got one that was wrong, the Hercules X-1. But look, Ares 1-X, Ares 1-X, Ares 1-X, Ares 1-X. Most people...

LAPIN: Our viewers are smart.

LEVS: ... getting it. Our viewers are smart.


LEVS: Tony, something to be proud of, and obviously we're inviting people to keep weighing in throughout the day. It's all up at the blog. We want to know what you think about this. And you know, keep those responses coming.

HARRIS: Look, look, our viewers are smart, and that's an easy question. Come on, let's challenge our viewers with these doggone questions, all right?

LEVS: You want a really hard one?

HARRIS: Let's ramp it up this hour! Yes, let's ramp it up for next hour.

LEVS: All right, we're going to get a really hard one next hour then.

LAPIN: Bring it on.

LEVS: Watch out. We're going to bring it on.

HARRIS: All right. Nicole, appreciate it. Josh, thank you.

And here's what we're working on for our next hour. Ready to rally and taking shots on the Democrats. House Republicans are gathering outside the Capitol to criticize what they consider a government takeover of health care, and we will take you there live.

Also, the mother of an Iranian woman whose death added muscle to the protest movement is speaking out. We will tell you what the martyr's mother is saying. All that and more coming up in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Troops on the frontlines have enough to worry about. Now the Pentagon is trying to take worries about the H1N1 flu off the table. Thousands of doses of the vaccine are on the way to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but is there enough to go around?

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more on the vaccination plan.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Americans wait in lines across the country to get the H1N1 vaccine, the Pentagon this week finally began shipping limited vaccine supplies to troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Under Pentagon guidelines, tens of thousands of troops on the frontline and those headed to war are the top military priority to receive the vaccine. Even so, suppliers are severely limited. Only half of what is needed is now on the way.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: Right now, we don't have enough to even take care of all of them.

STARR: The Pentagon is defending plans to offer the vaccine to detainees at Guantanamo Bay as well as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prisoners are considered to be high-risk but a lower military priority than troops, health care workers and civilian personnel.

(on camera): I haven't heard an assurance that detainees will get it after civilians in this country.

MORRELL: I -- but Barbara, Barbara, Barbara, you're presuming that I have the knowledge or the wherewithal to tell you the protocols that are being used for the general population here. All I can do is speak to what the priorities are in this department.

STARR (voice-over): Troops at home also a priority because they will be called upon to help in towns across the country if the crisis grows. The military's top homeland defense commander has teams that could move into action.

GEN. GENE RENUART, COMMANDER, U.S. NORTHERN COMMAND: And it would be to provide things like, potentially, logistics, movement of supplies, maybe additional health care providers that could assist in immunization.

STARR (on camera): The Pentagon stopped counting the number of troops that have come down with H1N1 back in July, when world health authorities declared a global pandemic. But privately, military officials say the number of cases continues to grow. And recently, Defense Secretary Robert Gates received his vaccine.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


HARRIS: Singer Rihanna is back with some new music and a fresh perspective in her first television interview since ex-boyfriend Chris Brown brutally attacked her in February. She tells ABC's "Good Morning, America" she initially took him back, and she explains why.


RIHANNA, R&B SINGER: I'm a human being, and people put me on a very unrealistic pedestal, and all these expectations. I'm not perfect. Also, it's pretty natural for that to be the first reaction. It's completely normal to go back.

You start lying to yourself. The minute the physical wounds go away, you want this thing to go away. This is a memory you don't want to have ever again.


HARRIS: Oh. CNN's Larry King will have reaction to Rihanna's statements on her actions following the incident with Chris Brown. Domestic abuse survivors weigh in. That's tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Grammy winner Mariah Carey also weighing in on Rihanna. She told CNN's Larry King last night about the different kinds of abuse that can go on in a relationship.




KING: What did you make of that story?

CAREY: Oh. yes. Yikes. I don't know. I think that, I can't imagine if I had been, like, let -- I was very, as you know, sequestered, when I first started out. And if I were just allowed to be, like, young and with a young boyfriend who's also a star. And, you know, you're working and you're both -- I don't know what goes on, do you know what I mean? So, it's, like, I wasn't really allowed out of the house. So, I can't imagine what she went through.

KING: So, you've never been abused by that, ever been hit by anyone? Anyone ever abuse you?

CAREY: Abuse has several categories.

KING: You've been emotionally abused.

CAREY: Emotionally, mentally...

KING: Why is it hard to get out of it?

CAREY: Well, it's scary. You know, I just think you get into a situation, and you feel locked in, if your situation is similar to one of the situations that I've been in, which I won't harp on.

KING: No, you don't have to -- but it is hard to get out.

CAREY: For me to really get out, it was difficult, because there was a connection that was not only a marriage, but a, you know, business thing where the person was in control of my life.


HARRIS: Wow. Strong stuff.