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New Breast Exam Guidelines; President Obama in China; Owing More Taxes?; Fort Hood Shootings; Skyrocketing Drug Costs Obama in China; New Weapon Penetrates Underground Facilities; Sarah Palin "Reloading"; Congressional Felons Still Get Their Pensions

Aired November 17, 2009 - 09:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, guys. Thanks so much. Here's what we're working on for the CNN NEWSROOM today.

Right off the bat, we are talking about a controversy on spotting cancer. New guidelines are out now for mammograms and self-breast exams. Will doctors and insurers follow the recommendations?

Stung by the stimulus. Millions of Americans could face a bigger tax bill or a smaller refund.

And taxpayers outrage. You'll keep paying the pensions of some crooked congressmen because a law is not retroactive.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Many of you may be waking up this morning with new questions for your doctor. That's because a government panel is changing its recommendations now for routine mammograms and self-breast exams.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force now says women in their 40s are too young and should wait until they're 50. They also say self-exams are a waste of your time.

CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is joining me now.

Sanjay, I know we've been talking about this all morning. It actually came out late yesterday. A lot of people out there are just plain going to be flat-out confused and they want to look to their doctors for clarification on this. Maybe we should start with who this government panel is and we should emphasize there's no oncologists on this panel, right?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There aren't any oncologist. And by the way, you know a lot of people here in the newsroom confused.


GUPTA: A lot of doctors are confused by this as well or simply don't agree with this. It's caused some shock waves, I think, over on the medical community. At the heart of all of this, Heidi, I think is this debate sort of between public health, what is good for the public as a whole, versus individual risk.

And this is something that comes up over and over again. But maybe more so than with mammograms. They looked at the exact same data before and came to a different conclusion five years later. I think that's the most...

COLLINS: How did that happen?

GUPTA: Well, it's interesting. And you know we've tried to get that answer as well, but let me tell you what they said. You know a few years ago they said, between the ages of 40 to 49, women should get a mammogram every year or two to try and, you know, find early breast cancer.

Now they're saying, if that's done, that should be done simply -- they're recommending against routine screening mammography in women ages 40 to 49. They say -- the operative word here, Heidi -- is routine. They say if you're going to get one, you should talk to your doctor first, which people always recommend.

And doctors will tell you, well, look, there could be a false positive, you could have anxiety as a result of that, you could have a biopsy that ultimately wasn't necessary. But most doctors out there are probably going to recommend the same thing they've always recommended. So I don't know that a lot is going to change because of this.

COLLINS: OK. Well, that's sort of the headline, the exclamation point here. As everybody gets this information, they've been getting it for a little while.

GUPTA: That's right.

COLLINS: That's what they should take away. Probably not much is going to change here and always talk to your doctor about your individual case, your personal history. Because, obviously, the case will be different if you've got breast cancer in your family than someone who doesn't.

GUPTA: No question. And I think that is a good point. You know I think years down the road, we may get much better at figuring out who really needs what tests when. So a woman who has some family history or has a genetic marker, maybe they get an MRI scan at a certain age versus someone else who gets mammogram...


GUPTA: ... versus an ultrasound. We sort of use a gunshot approach and that may change.

COLLINS: Yes. Hey, what are some of these major cancer organizations who've been around for many, many years saying about this particular information?

GUPTA: Well, talk about friction, there's definitely some friction here between some major, major players. The American Cancer Society coming right out, as soon as this task force released its recommendations, saying with its new recommendations, the task force is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives, just not enough of them.

Think about that. Fifteen percent of all the women out there with breast cancer right now found their breast cancer because of a routine mammogram including people in my own family.


GUPTA: You know I've dealt with this. The American College of Radiology breast imaging responds. They say these new recommendations seem to reflect a conscious decision to ration care. So they're coming out and saying look, is this just being done to save money? Because we think women's lives are potentially at stake here?

So they're coming out very strong. Now they oversee all the imaging, they have a little bit of a vested interest in this, but you can see the tangle that's unfolding.

COLLINS: Yes. So it's hard to ask how much of this goes back to Washington. And I know you're not our political correspondent, so I wouldn't put you on the spot that way, except to say that when we talk about insurance -- now how do I go to my insurance company at this point, or maybe, I don't know, six months from now.

GUPTA: Right.

COLLINS: Whenever this all goes into effect, I don't know how it will going to affect, and say, I think it's time for me to have a mammogram. Of course, the recommendation isn't out there for me to have one anymore, but can I get that paid for or not?

GUPTA: This is a huge problem. This is probably the number one viewer question we're getting. Right now they say it probably won't make a difference. We talked to the organization that's sort of -- is a trade organization for the insurance companies.

And they say right now they're not going to mistake any different recommendations to insurance companies. But you're absolutely right. Six months from now, a year from now, several years from now, if you go to get your routine mammogram, may it no longer be covered? That's a possibility we're hearing, which is kind of frightening.

COLLINS: Very much so. All right, Sanjay. We, of course, is going to stay on top of this.


COLLINS: And make sure we give a good perspective for everybody today.

Thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thank you, Heidi.

COLLINS: Our senior medical correspondent -- chief medical correspondent, big guy, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks, Sanjay.

And next hour, want to remind you we are going to be answering more questions regarding this issue with a couple of doctors who are on either side of the debate. Some agree, some do not.

President Obama in China in search of common ground. Earlier today, he and his Chinese counterpart emerged from hours of talks. They spoke of shared optimism, common goals, and long-standing divisions.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Ed Henry traveling with the president.


ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Beijing's bitter cold, President Obama was all about showcasing a new warmth with China as he toured the historic Forbidden City and its Hall of Supreme Harmony.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Beautiful. What a magnificent place to visit.

HENRY: By the end of this week, Mr. Obama will have visited 20 nations, the most in the first year of any American president. Though he told Chinese president Hu Jintao in the ornate Great Hall of the People, their relationship may be most pivotal of all.

OBAMA: In this young century, the jobs we do, the prosperity we build, the environment we protect, the security that we seek, all these things are shared.

HENRY: It was not, however, all sweetness and light. While Mr. Obama avoided a meeting with the Dalai Lama in Washington last month to not ruffle feathers before this visit, here in Beijing, he gently but publicly pushed the Chinese to cool tensions with the Tibetan spiritual leader.

OBAMA: While we recognize that Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that the two sides might have.

HENRY: And while they spoke of broad economic cooperation, Hu slapped at the U.S. for recently hitting Chinese tires and steel with new levies.

HU JINTAO, PRESIDENT OF CHINA (Through Translator): Our two countries need to oppose and reject protectionism in all its manifestations in an even stronger stand.

HENRY: But the world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases vowed to work together to get concrete action on climate change at a summit next month in Copenhagen. OBAMA: An accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations and one that has immediate operational effect. This kind of comprehensive agreement would be an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution to our climate challenge.

HENRY (on camera): But the Chinese president stopped far short of endorsing tough new sanctions against Iran, though both sides are pledging cooperation to stop North Korea's nuclear program, just a couple of days before Mr. Obama visits South Korea, the final stop on this long Asian journey.

Ed Henry, CNN, Beijing.


COLLINS: A nasty side effect from President Obama's economic recovery package, it could mean your tax refund will be lighter. Or you may end up owing the IRS more than you think.

Stephanie Elam is joining us now, live from New York to talk a little bit more about this. Good morning to you, Stephanie. Hey, some taxpayers may have to actually return part of their stimulus tax credits, right?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's what we're hearing, Heidi, and that's what's going to have some people upset, and it's not even April yet. But people are going to be wanting to take a look at what's going on here.

Now an estimated 15.4 million tax filers may be getting too much of the making work pay credit. So this is something that obviously a lot of people need to take a look at. It's according to a report from the Treasury Department inspector general. So that means they're either going to get less of a refund or that they're actually going to have to pay the government some of this money back.

Now who's vulnerable when we talk about this? Let's take a look at that. We're talking about working teens who are claimed as dependents. Also people with more than one jobs. They are susceptible here as well as married folks who both have jobs. And some retirees will also feel some of the pinch here.

Now the credit is being paid in advance incrementally, basically through paychecks. So what you'll see happen the credit is being applied automatically through your employer, just basically adjusting what's withheld from your taxes in your paycheck.

The problem is, your employer doesn't know what's going on with you, they don't know if your spouse is working, they don't know if you have a dependent, they don't know if you have another job on the side. So therefore the number could be withheld at the wrong level. And therefore there could be problem.

So with all of this in mind, the IRS is saying that they strongly disagree with this number. The finding of the report saying it's going to be this 15.4 million. They said some taxpayers already adjusted their tax filing so that their withholding is at the right level.

But still, some say, Heidi, that this problem could persist into 2010, because nothing has been done to address the fact that there are some people who just have too many different circumstances and therefore could be getting too much of that tax credit.

COLLINS: Yes. Almost every case is different, I guess. Remind us then...

ELAM: Right.

COLLINS: ... how this making work pay program actually works.

ELAM: Oh, right. Well, you know, this came about in February when the whole -- if you remember, that's back when the sky was falling.


ELAM: We hit our lows in the market in March. So February was still a scary time after the last fall. And at that point, the government really just wanted to get as much money out there. Get money into people's hands so that the consumer could start spending.

Now remember, two-thirds of the economy is actually driven by people going out, opening up their wallets, and buying whatever it may be, a loaf of bread, tube of lipstick, whatever it could be. So they just wanted to get that money out there so people would spend.

The thing is the credit is equal to about 6.2 percent of earnings, up to $400 per person, it's $800 per couple, and it's adjusted based on how much you make. So it goes up to $95,000 for a person or $190,000 for a couple and it goes down from there.

So you wouldn't get the whole $800 as a couple if you were making a part of that.


ELAM: And after a certain level, you don't get this. So some people really need to take a look at this to see if this is going to affect them so they don't have any surprises come April 15th.

COLLINS: Yes. Yes. Absolutely, it's going to take some homework. It sounds like, certainly.

All right, Stephanie Elam, appreciate it. Thank you.

Tobacco companies may have found a way around millions of dollars in new taxes. We're talking about loose tobacco used to roll your own cigarettes. Well, taxes on a pound of loose tobacco were raised from $1.10 to almost $25.

The Associated Press reports companies are now re-labeling it as pipe tobacco. Taxes on pipe tobacco are around $3 a pound. The government could lose as much as $32 million a month in tax revenue. President Obama's top money man on Capitol Hill this afternoon. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's looking beyond the U.S. financial crisis to the world economy as a whole. Lawmakers will use the hearing to focus on the U.S. role in the G-20, the economic alliance of 19 countries and the European Union.

Looking for a wife. New information this morning on the suspected Fort Hood shooter.


COLLINS: Let's take a moment to get over to Rob Marciano standing in the Severe Weather Center because if you are in Kansas, that is what you're experiencing. I mean it looks like winter wonderland? Yes?


COLLINS: The Army is planning another probe into the shooting at Fort Hood. "The Washington Post" reports Army Chief Of Staff General George Casey wants a closer look at Major Nidal Malik Hasan's entire military career. Now this would be separate from other criminal investigations.

CNN's Brian Todd has more now on what we are still learning about Major Hasan.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imam Yahya Hendi spends most of his professional time as the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University, but he also conducts services at Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington. He says he encountered Nidal Hasan there and that Hasan asked him help in finding a wife. The third imam we found who Hasan approached for that.

IMAM YAHYA HENDI, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: He said he wanted somebody to help him serve, deploy, be understandable and understanding of his own military career. He wanted -- he saw himself as someone who's continuing his service with the U.S. military until the end of his career.

TODD (on camera): And so -- that didn't work out either? He just couldn't find someone with that balance?

HENDI: Well, it's not easy to find, in general, someone who will be willing to travel with you and deploy with you every three years. But he did want a wife who will stand by him, is a loyal American, who will help him do his work and his service for the U.S. military.

TODD (voice-over): While he was a devout Muslim, CNN has also learned Hasan frequented this strip club near Fort Hood in the weeks leading up to the shootings. Hendi says that runs counter to Islam, too. HENDI: For me, everything that he did is against the teachings of Islam. Killing fellow soldiers, fellow citizen men and women, the shooting, the bloodshed, it speaks of someone who did not understand his faith very well. Islam is against going to strip clubs, but also against killing fellow citizens.

TODD: Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder at Fort Hood. He's not pled to the charges. CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen says that with his defense of suicide bombings, the giving away of his possessions, and the way he dressed, Nidal Hasan seemed to be preparing for his own death.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think what he was doing was a jihadist death by cop. Here's a guy who obviously has personal problems. He's a loner, avoids women, basically, has few friends, and then grafted on to that, he finds sort of jihadist ideology as a way of sort of making sense of everything and he decides to martyr himself.

TODD (on camera): Bergen and other experts says Hasan could be someone who engaged in what they call self-radicalization, the idea that militant religion might provide an answer to psychological problems that someone already has.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: Drug companies promise to play ball at health care reform, but the cost of drugs is shooting up faster than it has in years. Was it all just lip service?


COLLINS: Checking some of our top stories now.

An about-face, of sorts, on mammograms. A government task force says women do not need to be screened for breast cancer on a regular basis until they turn 50. It claims tests are producing too many false positives. But the American Cancer Society and other cancer organizations are standing by their recommendations that women should start getting mammograms once they turn 40.

It is the big story here in the CNN NEWSROOM. We talked about it an awful lot with Dr. Sanjay Gupta just a little while ago. A lot of confusion out there, too, for you at home. What should you be doing? You should be talking to your doctor, you should listening to the government task force, the American Cancer Society.

As I said a lot of confusion. So we'd love to know what you think about this new report that's come out today. You can always go to our blog,, and we'll take some of your responses and put them up on the screen a little bit later on, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Just how sincere are drug makers on health care reform? Our Alina Cho explains why the industry's commitment is now in question.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Heidi. You may have heard that drug makers have struck a deal with the White House on health care reform. They've agreed to cut $80 billion over 10 years from the nation's drug bill. That's $8 billion a year. All of that sounds really good, but what many people don't know is while everyone is talking about lowering costs, prescription drug prices are skyrocketing.


CHO (voice-over): At this pharmacy in New York City, the rising costs of prescription drugs is forcing some folks to make tough choices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you have the choice between paying your rent or getting your medications, the choice is obvious. You're going to pay for your shelter first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to make choices. I have to pick and choose, you know, things that I have to do without to get this medication.

CHO: The nation is in the worst recession in decades, but as Americans have less money to spend, brand name drug prices are up. Way up.

DR. SIDNEY WOLFE, PUBLIC CITIZEN: There's no question that the public has been bamboozled, the White House has been bamboozled, and the U.S. Congress has been bamboozled by this ever-successful industry.

CHO: According to a new study for the AARP, the cost of brand name prescription drugs is up more than 9 percent, adding on average $200 a year to the price of a once-daily pill.

And the jump comes just as the drug industry is promising to shave $80 billion in drug costs over 10 years.

PROF. STEPHEN SCHONDELMEYER, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Just a 10 percent increase this year may amount to a $20 to $25 billion increase in drug spend. That kind of overwhelms an $8 billion a year savings.

CHO: Consumer advocates say they've seen it all before. Higher prices every time the government is about to initiate major change.

WOLFE: We see how ghoulish this industry is. And it's almost taunting everyone, as long as you're not going to control our prices, we're going to raise them as much as we want.

CHO: Pharma, the leading drug industry lobby, would not go on camera, but issued a statement, calling the argument, tying drug price increases to health care reform, "a flawed assumption," and adding, "Price increases are the natural result of market forces and unfortunately medicines are always looked at as a cost and never seen as a savings." (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Some patients are able to take generic drugs. And we should point out that the price of generics has actually gone down almost 9 percent, according to the study. But it's also important to note that not every patient can take generics. In fact, brand name drugs account for nearly 80 percent of all prescription drug spending in the United States.

So that means most Americans, Heidi, who are buying prescription drugs, are now paying more for them. Heidi?

COLLINS: All right, Alina, thank you.

President Obama in China. With the dollar falling, could there be changes in the value of Chinese currency? Why your buying power is riding on the decision.


COLLINS: Hey. Stocks rallied yesterday. Did you see that? I'm sure you did. The Dow jumped more than 100 points after a new report showed retail sales rebounded last month. Not everybody was expecting that. Today, Wall Street will find out if that is helping some of the nation's biggest retailers.

Susan Lisovicz is watching the numbers and joins us now with a look ahead this trading day as the bell rings.

Good morning, Susan.


So, far the earnings aren't too hot. We're expecting a slightly lower open. But remember that the Dow has been higher in eight of the last nine sessions.

Yesterday's big jump in retail sales, to which you referred, Heidi, came largely on the back of auto sales. Other sectors are still struggling. Today's example, Home Depot, which is reporting lower quarterly earnings and sales. Rival Lowe's did the same yesterday. Like Lowe's, Home Depot sees signs of stabilization in the housing market, but Home Depot's stock right now is down 2 percent.

Meanwhile, discounter Target or Target (ph) as some of us say, posted an 18 percent jump in profit, but it's due mostly to cost- cutting measures. And luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue posted a surprise profit, again by cutting cost.

Simmons Bedding is filing for bankruptcy. If its restructuring plan is approved, the second largest mattress maker expects to emerge from Chapter 11 in about two months.

The three major averages closed yesterday afresh 13-month highs in the first minute of trading were given a little bit back. The Dow, the NASDAQ, and S&P 500, each down about a third of a percent. Finally, Heidi, Costco is parting ways with Coca-Cola. The wholesaler will no longer carry Coke products because of a pricing dispute. In addition to Coke products, the company also makes Sprite, Desani Water, Full Throttle energy drinks, Minute Maid Juice, in other words, lots of beverages.

Heidi, can't we all just get along?

COLLINS: Just get along. Yes, yes, we're trying so hard.

All right. Susan Lisovicz, we'll check back later on and see how those numbers look. Thank you.

President Obama has wrapped up his day in China and what a day it's been. Earlier, and he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao for several hours. They came out of the meeting stress common goals like the economy, climate change, and energy. They also agreed to varying degrees on the nuclear threats of Iran and North Korea. They remain deeply divided, though, on China's record on human rights and U.S. levies on Chinese products like tires and steel.

For President Obama, no need is more pressing and no issue more important than the economy.


OBAMA: As President Hu indicated, we discussed what's required to sustain this economic recovery so that economic growth is followed by the creation of new jobs and a lasting prosperity. So far, China's partnership has proved critical in our effort to pull ourselves out of the worst recession in generations.


COLLINS: One of President Obama's specific goals: finding a middle ground for the two nations' currencies. Now, with the U.S. dollar falling, he's trying to convince the Chinese to raise the value of their currency so that Chinese goods are not as cheap on the world market.

Here to help us understand this issue better and why it matters, University of Maryland economist Peter Morici.

Peter, thanks for being here, again.

So, President Obama is actually pushing the Chinese, as we've said, to raise their currency level, the value of it, the yuan. In fact, you say in an article that I read that the Chinese have been undervaluing their currency for something like 20 years.

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: That's absolutely the case. They, essentially, buy dollars with yuan every day to keep the value of their currency low. They regulate trading. It's not freely traded, for example, the way the British pound or Canadian dollar, or many developing country currencies are traded. As a consequence, as the dollar falls, because it's pegged against the dollar, it falls with it. And that pushes out not only American products off American store shelves, but products from Mexico, Indonesia, many developing countries who are becoming very, very concerned that China is becoming a predator and trying to hog up all the sales and all the prosperity for its workers.

COLLINS: Well, we actually have a poll that was done on this. I want you to look at the numbers with me, if you would. This is CNN and Opinion Research Corporation poll. It says this -- it was done November 13th through the 15th -- opinion of China: Large potential market for the U.S.? People said 27 percent, yes. Unfair competition for the United States? Sixty-seven percent.

So what do you make of this? Are they competing unfairly? And how does protectionism, possibly, play into all of this?

MORICI: Well, first of all, an undervalued currency is protectionism, because it's an export subsidy. Let's take something more tangible, Buicks. The Chinese love to drive Buicks. But we have to make the Buicks there and move our suppliers there, because China has a 25 percent tariff. It has a 40 percent undervalued currency, so making bucks there has a two-thirds price advantage over making them in the United States and sending them there.

You know, if they would let us make what we make well and buy from us, and we could buy from them what they make well and not rig the market, then we'd all grow together. But one of the reasons we have 10 percent unemployment is we've lost millions of manufacturing jobs to this kind of unfair protectionism in China.

COLLINS: Well, what about the trade deficit, the United States trade deficit? How does that play into all of this? Because I'm wondering how you get that done or how you make that deal, if you will.

MORICI: OK. Well, the trade deficit is 50 percent trade with China. If China would revalue its currency and reduce its trade barriers, we'd be able to sell more there.

COLLINS: Right. But, why would they want to do it?

MORICI: Well, the fact is, they don't want to do it is because they're gaining an advantage. They have hundreds of -- they 100 million people who are underemployed in rural areas that they'd like to move to the cities to make stuff. Unfortunately, free trade has to be two ways. If China doesn't change its ways, eventually, the trading system will come apart.

A lot of developing countries are starting to manipulate their currencies. Brazil is putting in place capital restrictions and thing of this nature, which are a little less a tariff. But, you know, the free trading system that we have, that China enjoys, requires cooperation and fair play. And if China is going to want to cheat on the system, eventually, no one's going to play with them anymore.

COLLINS: And President Obama certainly has his work cut out for him in this regard while he is there today, and as we speak.

Peter Morici, we sure do appreciate your time today, University of Maryland. Thank you.

The Pentagon is speeding up production of its newest weapon now with an eye toward North Korea and Iran. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more on the ultimate bunker-buster bomb.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iran's once-secret underground nuclear fuel enrichment plant. The Pentagon is worried Iran is now burying weapons factories so deep that the current arsenal of bombs can't reach them, leaving the U.S. with no viable military option if a strike was ever ordered. This new Air Force 15-ton bomb may change that calculation.

This is the Massive Ordnance Penetrator or MOP, now being rushed into development to be carried on B-2 and B-52 bombers. The most likely targets: Iran and North Korea, which are believed to have buried weapons facilities hundreds of feet underground or into the sides of mountains.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: Some of those would probably require this Massive Ordnance Penetrator, simply because they're buried so deep and no other bomb would be able to certainly destroy them.

STARR: At 30,000 pounds, the MOP, some experts say, would be able to penetrate 60 feet of concrete, a significant boost over current bunker-busting bombs, like the 2,000 pound BLU-109, which can penetrate just six feet of concrete, and the 5,000-pound GBU-28, which can go through about 20 feet of concrete.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: This is a capability that we have long believed was missing from our quiver, our arsenal, and we wanted to make sure we filled in that gap.

STARR: No air strikes against North Korea or Iran appear to be in the works, but Iran says it could start enriching uranium here in the next two years. And both the U.S. and Israel want to ensure that Iran cannot manufacture and assemble a nuclear weapon. All of this has now led to more funding for the MOP, the Pentagon plans to have the first bombs available by December 2010, two years earlier than planned.


COLLINS: Barbara Starr is joining us live now from the Pentagon.

A couple questions, Barbara. Should we read anything into the fact that the Pentagon has these bombs ready early? And also want to talk with you about this new IAEA report that's raising a little bit of concern for the U.S.

STARR: Well, that IAEA report does, indeed, Heidi. In fact, what it's raising is the concern that Iran acknowledges it may be building more sites and putting them underground to avoid any air strikes by either the U.S. or Israel. So that's a huge concern.

The Pentagon likes to say, or officials here like to say, it's not useful -- those are their words -- to speculate on future military targets. But certainly, there is no question they are rushing this weapon into development, into the arsenal, so that they can have this type of option, which they haven't had before.

It's a real cat and mouse game. Iran and North Korea are digging deeper. The U.S. is developing bombs that can go as deep as they can dig right now -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Two years earlier than expected, too. All right, Barbara Starr. Thanks so much. We'll keep our eye on this one, of course.

Checking our top stories now.

A woman accused in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart is set to plead guilty today. Wanda Barzee has reached a plea deal with prosecutors. Barzee and her then-husband, Brian David Mitchell, are accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart from the bedroom of her Utah home. She was found nine months later. At a competency hearing for Mitchell last month, the now 21-year-old Smart testified that Mitchell raped her daily over those nine months.

The shortage of H1N1 vaccine is being addressed on Capitol Hill today. A Senate panel is holding a hearing. The CDC says the pandemic has affected the U.S. more than initially thought.

Governor, vice presidential candidate, now author -- what will be next on Sarah Palin's resume? Hear what she said to Oprah.



COLLINS: Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's book "Going Rogue: an American Life" goes on sale today. And the former vice presidential candidate is hitting the road in support of it. Palin kicked the tour off with an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

CNN's Candy Crowley reports.



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With everything but a hardy high-ho-silver, Sarah Palin is back, filling up the TV screen.

She's got a best-selling book, before it was for sale, a publicity tour to keep it moving, a big-ticket interview with Oprah. What is Sarah Palin up to? SARAH PALIN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, but my dad's quote, I think, it's a -- it's sums it up better, perhaps, than I'm summing up. He says, "She's not retreating, she's reloading."

WINFREY: Reloading?

PALIN: Yes, she's able to get out there and fight for what is right.

WINFREY: Does that mean you're reloading for 2012?

PALIN: I'm concentrating on 2010 and making sure that we have issues tackled as Americans, to make sure that we're on the right road.

WINFREY: Would you even tell me if you were thinking about it?

PALIN: No, I wouldn't, not.

But 2012 -- Trig's heading into kindergarten in 2012. I'm looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to affecting positive change between now and then. I don't know what I'm going to be doing in 2012.

CROWLEY: In 2009, she quit her job as governor of Alaska and now she's pushing a 432-page book.

Chapter six is titled "The Way Forward." It is 13 pages long. Chapter four "Going Rogue," is 140 pages. It rehashes the campaign, from its heady start...

PALIN: I felt like, wow, John McCain is a maverick. He is a bold man. The choice that he just made, he's all about empowering women.

CROWLEY: ... all the way to its messy little end, as described this week to ABC's Barbara Walters.

BARBARA WALTERS, ABC ANCHOR: Press reports quoted unnamed McCain aides calling you a diva, you know this, a whack job, a narcissist. Why do you think these people were trying to destroy your reputation?

PALIN: For some people, this is a business. And if failure in this business was going to reflect poorly on them, they had to kind of pack their own parachutes and protect themselves.

CROWLEY: Palin's book blames the McCain staff for missteps and miscalculations, for mishandling her daughter's pregnancy news, for advising her on what to eat, how to dress, what to say, who to say it to, refusing even to let her talk on the night the election was lost.

PALIN: Disappointed too, that we didn't take one last opportunity to remind Americans that all of us, together, need to be able to move forward; united we will stand as a country. And that's what I wanted to talk about. CROWLEY: Palin blames the media for invasive coverage of her children and sexist, distorted, unfair coverage of herself, particularly that disastrous interview with Katie Couric.

PALIN: Well, I think that her agenda was to, not necessarily show me in the best light and not allow my mistakes, my gaffes to go uncut, whereas she had just interviewed Joe Biden and he had made mistakes, but those were dismissed; they were ignored.

CROWLEY: Judging by book sales and media coverage, Palin remains a fascinating figure, a politician who has slipped into the celebrity box.

WINFREY: Should I be worried -- should I be worried, because I have heard that you're going to get your own talk show?

Come on.

CROWLEY: Oprah, you are the queen of talk shows. There's nothing to ever worry about.

CROWLEY: No question that Palin is a tour de force, a celebrity politician with the emphasis now on "celebrity". The question is whether she's a force to be reckoned with when the emphasis is on "politician".

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: Crooked congressmen behind bars, but still getting their pension. Taxpayers must pay up if the bad deed were done before a law was put into place.


COLLINS: In Brownsville, Texas, when opportunity knocks, a police officer answered and a 19 year old went to jail. Police say Anthony Carrazco was apparently drunk and going door to door in an apartment complex trying to sell marijuana.


SGT. JIMMY MANRRIQUE, BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS POLICE: He asked me if he wants to buy marijuana. That he has a bag of marijuana, he even has his own scale, he can weigh out however much you wanted.


COLLINS: Police say the teenager also had a gun. The drugs and weapons charges are even more serious because he was arrested near the local campus of the University of Texas. That is designated a drug and weapons free zone which means the penalties are more serious.

An awful lot going on this morning; we want to tell you all about it with our CNN crews who you see are all in place this morning. Let's check in with them beginning with Stephanie Elam in New York this morning. Hi there, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi. So when AIG bailed out -- was bailed out last fall, did the Fed do everything they could? Some say they did too much. I'm going to delve into that story at the top of the hour.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange where we're keeping an eye on your money and your taxes. A new report says millions of us might be getting a bigger than expected bill from the IRS next year. I'll explain in the next hour -- Heidi.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And I'm Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Last week we had Ida, a remnant thereof created hurricane force winds on the East Coast. And this week we've got hurricane force winds on the West Coast with more coming later in the week. We'll talk about that at the top of the hour.

COLLINS: All right, very good thanks so much, guys.

And the new guidelines from the government say women under 50 don't need routine mammograms but some cancer experts certainly don't agree with that. We're going to talk to doctors on both sides of the debate. We'll also be reading from your comments on the new guidelines in the next hour.


COLLINS: As a taxpayer you probably know you pay for Congressional pensions but did you know this? Members can keep taking your dime if their crime was before a certain time. CNN's Joe Johns explains.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You might think former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson just sentenced to 13 years in prison for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes would be just about the last guy on earth that got a pension paid for with your taxpayer dollars. After all, he's a towering symbol of political corruption.

He will forever be known as the Congressman who got caught red handed with $90,000 of FBI sting money in his freezer. But what's perhaps even more outrageous than the frozen cash, Jefferson is still eligible to receive a full Congressional pension for the rest of his life.

STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: Taxpayers are going to see that he's trading in his pinstripes for prison stripes but he's still going to get pension funds paid for by them, tens of thousands of dollars while he's sitting in his cell.

JOHNS: Wait a minute. Two years ago Congress passed a law called the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. It's supposed to prohibit Congressional convicts from getting their pension. And yet guys like Jefferson who committed their crimes before Congress passed the law can still get the money.

Sounds like a loophole but the constitution says you can't enforce a law retro actively.

ELLIS: It's only if you committed your crime after the date the bill was enacted. As long as lawmakers did their dirty deeds before September 14th, 2007, they have a get out of jail free card or at least get a pension in jail free card.

JOHNS: But don't think we're singling out William Jefferson. A long list of Congress members have made their way from Capitol Hill to prison and still managed to keep their pensions intact.

California Republican Duke Cunningham also convicted for bribery and in prison for eight years gets a combined Congressional military pension of $64,000 a year.

Former Democratic Congressman Jim Traficant of Ohio convicted for bribery and tax evasion did his time and now he's out, receiving a $40,000 a year pension.

And former House Ways and Means chairman Dan Rostenkowski, also a Democrat, was released from prison years ago with a whopping $125,000 a year pension.

In all, you, the taxpayer, are on the hook for about half a million dollars a year in pension payments for former members of Congress who went to prison.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.