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Daytime Queen Oprah to Announce End of Show; Stimulus Jobs Tally in Doubt; Military Radicalization Report Completed in 2008; "Red Flags Galore"; Home Cheap Home; U.S. Student, Accused Killer

Aired November 20, 2009 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Here in New York. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Thanks for being with us. Here are the stories that we'll be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

A stunner from Oprah. The queen of daytime talk just hours from telling her audience she is pulling the plug on her talk show in 2011. In just a moment, what she plans to do after she steps down and how the decision could change the future of broadcast television as we know it.

CHETRY: Wow. Well, fuzzy math or fabricated numbers? A government watchdog is fighting the Obama administration's Web site to track the number of jobs created or saved by the stimulus is riddled with errors. Christine Romans showed us some of them yesterday but today, people are asking how could they get so many facts and figures wrong? We're live at the White House digging for answers.

ROBERTS: And the Pentagon announcing a new sweeping investigation into the threat of radicalized soldiers. But we've learned that they just finished one last year. So was that intelligence ignored?

More ahead in a CNN exclusive. Plus, shocking new links between Fort Hood suspect Major Nidal Hasan and a radical imam in Yemen.

CHETRY: We begin with a bombshell from one of the most influential and highly-paid women on television. Oprah Winfrey is the queen of daytime talk and is now stepping down from her throne. In a few short hours, Winfrey is expected to tell the world that she will pull the plug on her show in 2011. For her followers and her syndicators and affiliates that carry her program, it's hard to imagine life without Oprah.

Alina Cho has followed Winfrey's career, spent a lot of time with her. And, Alina, so we're talking about, you know, a lot of lives here. Bottom line, impacted by the decision of just one lady.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You hear this a lot. The end of an era. But I think it's actually true in this case.

Guys, good morning. Good morning, everybody. You know, Oprah is expected to make the announcement today on a special live show. It will happen just four hours from now at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Now the last day of the show is slated for September 9, 2011. By then, she'll have been on the air a full 25 seasons. A quarter century as the highest rated talk show. An institution really that brings in an estimated 42 million viewers a week here in the United States and is seen in 145 other countries.


CHO (voice-over): She's as iconic as you can get.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: I've never seen you like this.

CHO: And for a show that started in Chicago with this in 1986.

WINFREY: Welcome to the very first national "Oprah Winfrey Show."

CHO: Along the way, the queen of daytime built an empire worth nearly $2.5 billion, hosting some of our generations' biggest names. Hollywood, politicians, even other icons.

MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER: I guess this is the most exciting interview I'd ever done and certainly was going to be the most watched.

CHO: The queen even crowned some kings, giving us Dr. Phil.

DR. PHIL, TALK SHOW HOST: Now, let's just calm down here.

CHO: And Dr. Oz., turning an appearance or a mere mention on the show into a life-changing experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is not just a mere television personality. She's a brand. She's a destination.

CHO: But it was her connection to every day people that took Oprah to the top, guiding viewers through life's challenges and baring her own for the world to see.

WINFREY: I am mad at myself. I am embarrassed. I can't believe I'm still talking about weight.

CHO: Her ups and downs went beyond just her weight and hair. There was an unexpected PR hit when the real reveal came on those free cars, a $7,000 tax bill. Then there was the dirty work of picking up the million little pieces left behind by James Frey, and a memoir that turned out to be mostly fiction.

WINFREY: It is difficult for me to talk to you because I really feel duped. I feel duped.

CHO: When she endorsed then-candidate Obama, her popularity took a hit, but her candidate won.

(on camera): How does it feel tonight?

WINFREY: It feels like hope won. CHO (voice-over): And when she teamed up with the first family to bring the Olympics home to Chicago, Oprah's golden touch failed. Yet, Oprah now leaves the daytime throne open. So from the woman who could be next in line...

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: I don't think I could be here without her. I think she has blazed a trail that is -- she's an amazing, amazing woman. She will always be the queen of daytime television, and she also said she's leaving me all of her money.


CHO: Wouldn't that be nice? You know, Ellen DeGeneres, of course, being very kind there.

What is she going to do next? That is the big question when it comes to Oprah now. She does have a cable channel that will be launching in January 2011. It's Called OWN, Oprah Winfrey Network. And she has said that she's going to appear on that cable channel. Just how much and in what capacity, of course, nobody knows just yet. Maybe not even Oprah.

But, you know, what's clear, guys, is that Oprah has generated huge ratings over the years. CBS, of course, owns the syndication rights. It's been huge for CBS. ABC distributes the show. It's appointment television at 4:00 p.m. for really a generation of viewers.

I mean, a lot of people grew up watching Oprah and there are so many a-ha moments over the years. And so as I said before, you know, you hear it a lot, the end of an era. But in this case, it really is true. A lot of people wondering whether she's going to take her show to the OWN network, Oprah Winfrey Network, when that launches in 2011. Her representatives, of course, Oprah is staying very tightlipped about that right now. We'll have to wait and see.

CHETRY: All right. Alina Cho for us this morning. Thank you.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: Other stories new this morning. The commander of military forces protecting North America wants a review of the system protecting our skies from another 9/11 type of attack. "The New York Times" reports the issue is whether the price of keeping jet fighters, other aircraft and crews at the ready is still justified.

CHETRY: And there's a health care showdown on Capitol Hill. A vote is scheduled for tomorrow night. Sixty votes needed to advance the bill toward a full debate. The Congressional Budget Office says the 2,000 plus page bill will cost $849 billion over the next decade. Republicans are promising to block the legislation which includes a controversial public option.

ROBERTS: And is taxing elective cosmetic surgery the way to pay our nation's health care tab? The White House and Senate Democrats proposing a new five percent tax on botox, tummy tucks and breast implants. The so-called bo-tax (ph) is estimated to raise $5 billion over a decade. Drug companies and cosmetic surgeons, as you can imagine, are fighting back.

CHETRY: Well, the feds say they want you to get through airport security quicker. A good thing. The Homeland Security Department is looking to expand speedy screenings for pre-approved low-risk travelers arriving here in the U.S. on international flights. A test program has been in place at seven airports for more than a year.

ROBERTS: It has been more than nine months since President Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus bill. It was supposed to create or save $3.5 million jobs. But the big question in Washington is how many jobs has it really created or saved?

Our Kate Bolduan is live at the White House this morning. And, Kate, the government watchdog overseeing the economic stimulus spending essentially says that any numbers that come out from the administration on this point just can't be trusted.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Essentially that, John. The government stimulus watchdog and chief auditor, they agree that this latest stimulus data is good for a step toward more and better government transparency and accountability, but it's becoming evident that the question of just how many jobs has the stimulus created or saved doesn't have a clear answer.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): Vice President Biden confidently counting stimulus success down to the single job.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it is posted today, it will show that we have created or saved 640,000 -- 640,239 jobs, directly as a consequence of contracting authority of the federal government.

BOLDUAN: That was October 30th. Fast forward three weeks.

EARL DEVANEY, HEAD OF THE GOVERNMENT WATCHDOG: I think there's enough inaccuracies in here to question the 640 number that might go down.

CHO: Earl Devaney, head of the government watchdog for the $787 billion stimulus program which runs, acknowledges stimulus data is riddled with errors and inaccuracies, including reports of stimulus jobs in congressional districts that don't exist.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: There is some $1.2 million that went to the fourth Congressional district of Utah. We only have three congressional districts.

BOLDUAN: A new report from the Government Accountability Office finds more troubling figures. More than 58,000 jobs created or saved from projects where no money has yet been spent. $965 million spent on projects reporting zero jobs created or saved, and an estimated 10 percent of stimulus recipients have failed to report back. Republicans seized the opportunity in a House hearing to call the Obama administration's claims nothing but propaganda.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: The whole jobs created/saved matrix is not only troubled, it is entirely deceitful. No government agency, private sector group or research economists has any idea what the reliable calculation track for this numbers would be.

BOLDUAN (on camera): Why the problems? One reason cited by government auditors is confusing reporting guidelines. Right here on, the head start program in Reynolds County, Georgia was awarded $61,000 and reported 26 jobs. We checked it out. The director said that went to pay cost of living raises for 26 people. It didn't create jobs.

(voice-over): Both Republicans and Democrats praised the unprecedented attempt at transparency with the recovery Web site. The no-nonsense Earl Devaney suggests with the good comes the bad.

DEVANEY: I believe that the principal downside of transparency is embarrassment, and there is enough of that here to go all around.


BOLDUAN: Now the White House is firing back on its critics, clearly concerned about some bad PR. Though on a conference call to reporters, Ed DeSeve, the special adviser to the president for the Recovery Act, he acknowledged the jobs count could change up or down but he called the data debate a frustrating and a sideshow, John. And he says that he thinks the focus should be more on the success of creating jobs, not on the precision in counting them. Clearly, everyone is trying to have the last word on this one.

ROBERTS: They certainly are. Kate Bolduan this morning for us. Kate, thanks so much.

Big hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday at the Senate Homeland Security Committee on the shootings at Fort Hood, how it all happened and self-radicalization. Well, now, the authorities are taking a closer look at this imam in Yemen that Major Hasan allegedly had contacts with, and exactly what influence he might have been not only with Major Hasan but other people around the world as well.

Our Jim Acosta reports on that, coming up. It's 10 minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: In Italy, the European media immediately took apart her MySpace page, lifted pictures and an unflattering nickname. Now her parents are speaking out on what could be the last day of the trial. Our Paula Newton live from Italy at 6:25 Eastern this morning.

CHETRY: It's 12 and a half minutes past the hour. Also new this morning, the Army says it's going to be limiting media access when Sarah Palin appears at Fort Bragg for a book signing on Monday.

Officials at the North Carolina base say they are concerned Palin's reporters might use the event to express political opinions. Palin has drawn big crowds while promoting her book "Going Rogue." A pool of reporters will be allowed to view the book signing but cannot interview Palin.

ROBERTS: Representatives from the United States and five other world powers are gathering in Brussels today to consider new sanctions against Iran. The Tehran government has so far refused to accept a U.N. deal to send enriched uranium abroad for processing. During his Asia trip, President Obama warned of tougher measures against Iran for failing to halt its nuclear program. Iran, for its part, accuses the United States of, quote, "deception and mischief."

CHETRY: And we have more details now on Defense Secretary Roberts Gates' announcement about a military wide review in the wake of the Fort Hood shooting. He has appointed former heads of the Army and Navy to take charge of that review. He wants them to report back to him in 45 days, and that review will cover everything from medical and personnel policies to base security.

Secretary Gates says the goal is to prevent another tragedy like what happened at Fort Hood. Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan is accused of killing 13 people in a mass shooting at the post earlier this month.

ROBERTS: But shortly after Defense Secretary Gates announced the military wide review, CNN was able to confirm that the Pentagon had already commissioned such a report and it was completed last year. In a CNN exclusive, we talked with Shannen Rossmiller, a security expert who contributed to the now classified document. She says the information could have stopped the Fort Hood massacre.


SHANNEN ROSSMILLER, INDEPENDENT CYBERTERRORISM ANALYST: The report was written from the military perspective and it was entitled "Radicalization of Members of the DOD." And what it was for was for them to have tools to look within their ranks to spot different criteria that showed signs and red flags of radicalization and how to spot those, identify them, and then from there be able to head the problem off. The Defense Department report was intended to prevent something like this, and it's -- it's just astonishing that this even had to happen.


ROBERTS: CNN has contacted the Pentagon for a response, but so far, we have not heard anything back.

And as the Fort Hood investigation unfolds, officials are taking a much harder look at a radical imam from Yemen. Defense think that his teachings likely influenced suspect Major Nidal Hasan and several other jihadists accused of attacks across the globe.

Our Jim Acosta is working that side of the story for us this morning.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, there's a link that's emerged between the massacre at Fort Hood and a slew of recent jihadist plots, and his name is Anwar al-Awlaki.

IMAM ANWAR AL-AWLAKI, MUSLIM IMAM AND AUTHOR: This is not a course you - you want to take and just get a grade in it and then move on. No. This is knowledge that you need to love with.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A radical cleric who preaches jihad online. Imam Anwar al-Awlaki was known to federal authorities long before his recent contacts with alleged Fort Hood shooter, Malik Nidal Hasan.

Back in 2001, a public television crew videotaped one of Awlaki's sermons at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Northern Virginia, just weeks after the September 11th attacks. At that time, the iman appeared to criticize the use of terrorism.

AWLAKI: The death and homicide of over 1 million civilians in Iraq, the fact that the US is supporting the deaths and killing of thousands of Palestinians, does not justify the killing of one US civilian in New York City or Washington, DC.

ACOSTA: But as it turns out, not only was Hasan attending that same mosque in 2001, so were three 9/11 hijackers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FBI and the counterterrorism community know al-Awlaki well. He has been the subject of interest and investigation since - before and after he left the United States in 2002.

ACOSTA: Born in the US and now believed to be living and blogging from Yemen, Awlaki hopes to inspire Holy War. He's released a lecture series that he translated into English called "Constants on the Path of Jihad." That's described by security analysts as a how-to guide for western home-grown terrorists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I refer to what Awlaki puts out as "Radical Islam for Dummies."

ACOSTA: In it, Awlaki says when the Muslim is in his land, he performs jihad, no borders or barriers stop it. Federal authorities believe those lectures inspired a number of terrorist plots in the US, Canada and Britain, including a plan to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey in 2007. One convicted plotter in that case was recorded by federal agents saying, "Since I heard this lecture, brother, I want everyone to hear about it. You know why? Because he gives it to you raw and uncut."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Yemen, Awlaki's able to put out these how to manuals and - and, you know, the jihadists on the internet right now are referring to the Fort - the Fort Hood shooter as a drone, as al Qaeda's version of a predator drone, and - and you can say that Awlaki is perhaps the guy at the other end of the remote control, at least ideologically. ACOSTA (on camera): And given that history, a growing number of counterterrorism experts believe there were enough red flags to indicate that Malik Nidal Hasan was in contact with the well known jihadist - John and Kiran.


CHETRY: All right. Jim Acosta for us this morning. Thanks so much.

Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business." She joins you in just a minute. We're talking about making homes affordable. Is the government program, did it help? Did it help stem foreclosures? Christine Romans with the numbers for us coming up.

Eighteen minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Straight ahead on the Most News in the Morning, it's enough to give you a headache - that pages and pages of fine print that come with a credit card. But does something so important to your finances have to look so small?

Our Jessica Yellin finds out.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, we have Christine Romans with us right now at 21 minutes past the hour. We've talked about a lot of sad news when it comes to foreclosures, a lot of disappointments for people in the housing industry right now. But it also may be a good time to find an affordable home.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. And look, during the boom and the go-go days of the late '90s and the early 2000s, a lot of people simply couldn't - people with good jobs, two-income families with good jobs couldn't afford a home in many parts of the country. Well, now, because home prices have come down so much, it is the silver lining of the debacle in the housing market.

More homes are affordable. In fact, in the third quarter of 2009, 70 percent of the homes sold were affordable, and that compares to just over half of them last year.

Here are the most affordable cities: Indianapolis; Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit. The industrial Midwest still has sort of the most affordable cities there, and this means if you have a job and you're confident in your income, if you have 720 credit score or higher, if you have some savings, 20 percent to put down, you're in a good position right now. There's also an $8,000 first time homebuyer tax credit. That's going to extend into next year.

There's also a tax credit for people who may already have a home, and you could - the procrastinators out there, you - you got a little bit more to work with, right? The procrastinators on that housing - on that housing tax credit. And there are also very low interest rates. Don't count out low interest rates.

So a lot of people are saying that this is the first time in a long, long time that more American families can actually afford a home to live in.

So, here are the big winners - homebuyers without another home to sell. (INAUDIBLE) at CNNMoney puts it, it's pure poison for sellers, because 27 percent of the sellers in the third quarter didn't get what they were asking for. They had to lower their price. They got less than what they were - what they were - what they wanted for their house. That's a pretty high number.

So if you're a buyer, you're in a very good position right now.

CHETRY: If you can get a loan?

ROMANS: It was - I was very clear. You have to have 20 percent - you have to have money saved, you have to have a job and you're confident about your job. You have to have 720 credit score for many places or - or even higher in some cases. I mean, you have to have - it's the old standards. It's the standards from before the boom.

You have to be able to afford it. The bank has to know that you're going to be able to pay them back.

ROBERTS: So you had a little bit of a brush with greatness recently?

ROMANS: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. And he watches the show. Tim McGraw we're talking about. He's a country music megastar. He sold 40 million albums, scored 30 number one singles, and now this lead singer is hoping to become a leading man at the box office. He's got a big - a big film coming out this weekend.

But despite all of McGraw's success, he told me he's hoping take his name even further.


TIM MCGRAW, COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: I think that - it's all of a sudden you sort of reached this plateau, then you can see other - other places to go to. For so long you looked at this - this peak that you think you want to get to, and then when you get to that peak you realize that it's just the first peak of many peaks to come.


ROMANS: We're going to have more of my interview with Tim McGraw coming up next hour at 7:40 Eastern. And guys, he watches the program, so good morning, Tim!

CHETRY: Glad to have you.

ROMANS: You'll see the interview next hour.

ROBERTS: You think he's up this early? ROMANS: Yes. On the treadmill he watches us.

ROBERTS: Really? Good morning, Tim.

Tim, here's a story you're going to want to hear about. Oprah is stepping down, but is she giving up her empire? Hardly.

Twenty-four minutes after the hour. We'll tell you what she's up to.


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

Closing arguments are going on right now in a 2-year-old murder mystery in Italy. A student found dead in a pool of blood by her bed, and her American roommate on trial for murder. Police say it may have been part of a drug-induced sex game, and the European media has had an absolute field day with it.

Paula Newton is live for us this morning. She's in Perugia, Italy. Good morning, Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And good morning, John. And you've seen kind of the media attention on this. It's impossible to miss.

I was in court this morning as Amanda Knox came in. She looked poised and started taking notes on what has been a very aggressive summation by the prosecutor who really made light of the fact that there is all this media attention. He said there's even been a parallel trial going on, but he made clear, look, this is the only trial that counts.


NEWTON (voice-over): For all the intrigue that has passed through this medieval city, from Roman battles to papal wars, Perugia is now in the throes of a modern mystery that has engrossed millions.

The place is like an all-too-real CSI. People talk evidence, motive, forensics, trying to crack the 2-year-old case of Meredith Kercher, a British student who was slashed in the throat and left to bleed to death.

It's the indictment of Amanda Knox that has both magnified the mystery and ignited media mayhem. Knox has become a choice fill-in for the press, say her parents in Seattle, but to them, she's a victim.

CURT KNOX, AMANDA KNOX'S FATHER: How journalists took apart her MySpace pages and literally created a person that they needed in order to sell whatever it is they were trying to sell, versus the person that she really is. And she is a good kid.

FRANCESCA BENE, ITALIAN JOURNALIST: It is very simple in the beginning. Take a photo and say, "Oh, she's a dark lady." True stuff (ph).

NEWTON: The media first went with the police line. Knox was guilty. But the local newspaper has investigated every shred of evidence, logged hours of testimony and interrogations.

NEWTON (on camera): Amanda Knox's parents point out that in over two years of investigation, prosecutors have been unable to find any physical evidence in this house, the murder scene that would link their daughter to the murder.

NEWTON (voice-over): But sources close to the prosecution tell CNN that during closing arguments, there will be a few surprises, a portrayal that will describe a frenzied murder fueled by sexual violence and backed by evidence.

A verdict is expected next month, and with it, Knox's parents expect their daughter will be home for Christmas.

KNOX: You know, we have purchased Amanda a ticket.

NEWTON: (INAUDIBLE) she can - she can come back.



NEWTON: Tough stuff there, John, you know, and at the same time you have the parents of Meredith Kercher in England, still two years later, not knowing exactly how their daughter was murdered, why, or who's responsible.

ROBERTS: Paula Newton for us this morning. Paula, thanks so much.

We're approaching the half hour, and here are this morning's top stories. Women still getting used to new breast cancer guidelines and whether to listen to them now have another thing to be concerned about. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now says women don't have to get their first cervical cancer screening or PAP test until they're 21, regardless of whether they're sexually active. And women in their 20s should only be tested once every two years instead of every year according to these new guidelines.

Well, some spare time in space. NASA says space shuttle Atlantis won't need to undergo another inspection before it leaves the International Space Station next week because things look so good. That leaves more time to move 27,000-plus pounds of supplies out of the ISS. Astronauts completed the first of three spacewalks yesterday and they'll be going out again tomorrow.

CHETRY: All right, cool.

Thirty minutes past the hour right now.

The queen of daytime television is calling it quits, sort of. In a few hours, Oprah Winfrey is expected to announce that she's ending her daytime talk show in September of 2011. But it's by no means the end of her media empire. She's planning to shift focus to cable. And also, her newest venture, it's the Oprah Winfrey Network, otherwise known as OWN. This big announcement is bound to impact a lot of lives, not to mention balance sheets.

"New York Times" media reporter Ryan Stelter joins us for a little perspective.

Thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: So, what do we know about the timing behind all of this? Talking about doing it in 2011, but making the announcement now?

STELTER: Well, Oprah has thought about doing this before. She's threatened in the past to leave her show before. But the difference this time was this cable channel. She announced that almost two years ago that she was going to create this massive joint venture with Discovery Communications, which owns Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, and create a network all around her.

I think it's probably the first cable channel named for a single person. But the channel hasn't gotten off the ground. It's been delayed. It's had problems. And I think she's doubling down on that channel today.

CHETRY: It's interesting though, because she did try to do this before, right, with the Oxygen Network and that's not necessarily a success at all.

So, what happened since then? What's changing? How may this be different?

STELTER: I think the Oprah folks would say, that was -- she wasn't involved enough. But the mistake was there was she wasn't involved enough in Oxygen in 2000. She's going to try again this time and be more involved. And hopefully, re-air some of her periphery show episodes on the cable channel.

CHETRY: All right. And then also, the other interesting thing is we heard the shift from broadcasting where, I mean, she made a lot of money for syndicators of the show. She made a lot of money for many people, and now, to shift to cable. I mean, is this, in some way, taking the "Oprah Winfrey Show" away from broadcast toward cable?

STELTER: It's very symbolic of this move that viewers have been making as well from broadcast to cable. We see it in news, in sports, in entertainment and now, with daytime talk. But I think that, you know, there's going to be no replacing Oprah in daytime. There's going to be a lot of people that try to fill that slot on syndicated TV, but no one that can quite probably gain the same audience.

CHETRY: It's very interesting because a lot of people are asking, "Who is the next Oprah?"


CHETRY: I mean, are there people who have that same type of draw? I mean, Oprah mentions a book, the book it's an instant best seller.


CHETRY: Oprah brings a doctor, you know, out of obscurity, the doctor is now, you know, a guru.


CHETRY: Is there anybody that has that sort of power, that special touch that you can see down the pipeline?

STELTER: The closest to them are people that Oprah has groomed, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Nate Berkus is now developing a show of his own. People like Rachel Ray, who she developed. And then I'd say the one that she hasn't developed is Ellen DeGeneres, and I think that a lot of television stations hopefully bet on Ellen as someone that can draw some of the big celebrities that Oprah drew.

CHETRY: Oprah came to it with a different -- she almost came to it as a part interviewer, but part self-help guru, you know what I mean? And Ellen is a little bit more -- I mean, she's hilarious. We love her show, but she takes it more from a comedienne standpoint.


CHETRY: Oprah almost as you learn something after leaving her show. I mean, people joke about that. That's some reason why sometimes she was the spot of ridicule. But that's why 42 million a week watch as well. Besides Ellen, is there somebody who's going to try to take up that mantel, the charity work as well?

STELTER: I think we'll get a lot of failed actors come out of the woodwork, trying to fill that time slot. I don't think anyone, though, has all the different elements that make her a media mogul. And I think what matters now more than ever is having that multi- platform reach with magazines and movies and books. It will take a long time to build that up. And so, I think, frankly, the people who she groomed in this decade will be the leaders in the next decade.

CHETRY: And what does this mean for Oprah in terms of risk- taking, also, in terms of the money she makes?

STELTER: It's a massive bet by her on cable, and people in the business will whisper a billion dollar figures for this channel. And it's true. Cable is making a ton of money right now. The channel called the Travel Channel sold for $1 billion a couple weeks ago and that's a barely viewed channel.

So, there's a lot of ad money in cable. A lot of possibilities for subscriber fees. But it's a giant risk to go off your big pulpit, you know? The "Oprah Winfrey Show" was her pulpit.

CHETRY: And do you think we're going to see some of her best stuff in syndication on this cable channel?

STELTER: We'll definitely see repeats on her cable channel. The question mark is whether they will also replay her old shows on broadcasts, whether some of these stations that are losing their dominant daytime talk shows will also be able to show 10-year-old episodes.

CHETRY: Yes, because it will have -- I mean, if you were the local affiliate that had Oprah, and you were doing your 5:00 newscast, you loved it. So, we'll see...

STELTER: Starting today, they have two days -- two years to figure it out.

CHETRY: Right, trying to fill that void.

Well, thanks for joining us to talk more about this. Brian Stelter with "The New York Times" -- great to have you.

STELTER: Thank you. Thanks.


ROBERTS: All right. Be honest. Have you ever read the fine print in your credit card agreement? Come on. No. I didn't think so.

Well, guess what? Our Jessica Yellin does. And wait until you see how long it takes her to get through it.

Thirty-five minutes after the hour.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Let's huddle up here you guys.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will Allen is calling the shots on this farm. A long way from the basketball courts where he made his name years ago.

Allen is the founder of Growing Power, a nonprofit organization that turns run-down city land into vibrant vegetable gardens. He planted the seeds for the project 16 years ago, by helping a local kid plant a garden. Allen now has 14 green houses in inner city Milwaukee alone.

His goal is to teach community how to grow their own food, especially in spots he calls food deserts.

WILL ALLEN, FOUNDER, GROWING POWER: A food dessert a place where you have to travel over three or four miles to the nearest retail grocery store. There is no access to fresh food.

TUCHMAN: Allen is now sharing his city farming secrets with people across the country, including Omar Brownson (ph), who works with faith-based groups in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is something that's real. Urban agriculture is a good way to have good healthy community, good food and good jobs.

ALLEN: Obviously, I'm not going to be here on this earth forever. So it's my responsibility to come up with a succession plan to pass on what I've learned to others.

TUCHMAN: And Allen's drive is winning him new fans. First Lady Michelle Obama recently invited Allen to visit the White House garden.

Gary Tuchman, CNN.




ROBERTS: There you go, look at that credit card debt, the average credit card debt that people are holding in America -- a beautiful shot of the Capitol building as well.

We're back with Most News in the Morning.

When it comes to credit cards, it's no wonder that a lot of us are confused. There is so much fine print and so many risks involved. But there is a way to make it clear without having a magnifying glass and a law degree.

Our Jessica Yellin tells you how.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, John, we've all heard endless horror stories about credit cardholders hit with unexpected rate hikes or penalty fees. Well, now, we met one man who says your credit card agreement can be crystal clear. He just needs Congress' help to make it a reality.

(voice-over): Americans swipe their credit cards 58 million times a day. But how many cardholders actually understand what they've signed up for?

Some in Congress are trying to get rid of the fine print in contracts like this one.

(on camera): Can you tell me what the interest is?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have any clue. It doesn't say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to give me about an hour. But at the end of the hour, I would say no.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's too much gobbledygook.

YELLIN: To test it the point -- we sat down to read one.

(on camera): ... for the account and the person to whom we address billing statements...

(voice-over): So, how long did it take? Stay tuned.

Alan Siegel says it doesn't have to be this way. His company specializes in contract simplification. They've done it for the Internal Revenue Service, major banks and insurance companies.

ALAN SIEGEL, SIEGEL+GALE STRATEGIC BRANDING COMPANY: It's designed to be readable and it's totally plain English and we use personal pronouns instead of the party of the first part.

YELLIN: He says government regulators and credit card companies have both resisted simple contracts.

(on camera): Is it possible to have a credit card contract that anyone can understand?

SIEGEL: Absolutely.

YELLIN: How long does it have to be?

SIEGEL: I believe it can be one side of one piece of paper.

YELLIN (voice-over): In fact, he's created a sample. One page, here is the interest rate, here are the penalty fees. His testing shows a tenth grader could understand it.

(on camera): Have you shown this to any credit card company?


YELLIN: And what did they say?

SIEGEL: Panic.

YELLIN (voice-over): Some in Congress think card companies have a stake in keeping their products and their contracts confusing, and have proposed a new consumer protection agency that would work to make these agreements less complicated.

The American Bankers Association is fighting it.

NESSA FEDDIS, AMERICAN BANKERS ASSN.: There are other ways to address it rather having to create an expensive, big, bureaucracy.

YELLIN: Speaking for the credit card companies, she says government regulators are already working on streamlined new rules that will make credit card agreements clearer. But she insists credit card contracts can never be just one page, blamed the lawyers.

FEDDIS: Those contracts are based on lawsuits that have compelled them to use certain terms, certain words and to include certain information in order to have an enforceable contract. It's the nature of law.

YELLIN: Back to the current, complicated contract...

(on camera): ... authorization for us to collect the amount of the check electronically or...

(voice-over): It took 10 minutes to read one page, an hour for the whole thing. No wonder so few of us know what we've agreed to.

(on camera): Those drafting Congress' proposal say this new agency would make these contracts clearer first by requiring that companies write them in plain English but also -- and here's the controversial part -- by pushing companies to offer credit cards that are simpler. Credit cards with fewer tricks and traps. As you might imagine, industry is fighting that, they say it will stifle innovation and limit consumer choice -- Kiran, John.


ROBERTS: Jessica Yellin this morning -- an hour to read it and four years in law school to understand it.

CHETRY: That's so innovative.

Still ahead: We're going to be talking to Rob. He has a look at the travel forecast for the weekend.

And do you remember the FAA computer crash yesterday? Well, they're still dealing with some of the aftermath this morning. Rob Marciano breaks it all down for us in just a moment.

Forty-four minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Let's hope that you are not flying out of Charlotte this morning because that's what it looks like today. Lots of fog, clouds, and 48 degrees, could be use this as soon as that fog lifts, which shouldn't be too long for now. It's going to be a nice day; sunny with a high of 66.

CHETRY: All right. Rob Marciano keeping track it all for us this morning, so we were talking about the FAA computer glitch yesterday that really snarled things up in a lot of places including Atlanta. How is it looking today, Rob?

MARCIANO: A little bit better. A lot better as a matter of fact. No advisories as far as computers go from the FAA, but I think we are going to see some issues with just the weather, so that's one thing we didn't see a lot of yesterday; although, there was some low visibility across parts of New York.

We're seeing some rainfall moved through the Northeast. This is all part of that storm system that was very stubborn as far as getting out of Midwest, so rain about is coming to an end, but visibilities will be low. You saw that in Charlotte, so a lot of low-hanging moisture, and this is the time of the year when the nights are long, and fog can certainly be an issue, especially in the morning.

All right, Corpus Christi, and towns around there, just heavy rain. This is an unusual amount of moisture coming in to develop the Mexico and Southeast Texas for this time of year. Eight inches of rainfall near Corpus Christi and a little over 12 hours last night, and this is going to be a slow mover as well, so if you're traveling out of Houston and Dallas, you will see some issues.

Again, the New York and metropolitan airports will see some problems as well; San Francisco and Seattle with some more than West Coast action as the next storm comes into that area.

All right. Check out some of this video coming out of the UK. We show you this because, one, it's historic flooding with 12 inches of rain across the UK. They've never seen that in a 24-hour period, and part of this energy is actually leftovers from Ida; the storm that just keeps on giving. Making landfall across the Gulf of Mexico, battling the East coast of the U.S., and then traversing across the Northern Atlantic into the British Isles, and this is the result.

Hundreds evacuated, and you saw some of those rescues of people there, and there's more water and wind on the way for this weekend. Unbelievable. We just want to get rid of Ida, and she just keeps on giving. John and Kiran, back up to you.

ROBERTS: Rob, thanks.

CHETRY: All right. Still ahead, our top stories just a couple of minutes away including at 7:07 Eastern time, she cut the line and now she could do time. A black woman accused of roughing up white police officers at the Missouri Wal-Mart after an argument in the checkout line. We'll show you the same tape that the jury got to see.

ROBERTS: At 7:10 Eastern, the first public hearings into the Fort Hood massacre addressing political correctness and homegrown extremist. What happened in the system that allowed this to happen?

CHETRY: Also at 7:40 Eastern, she was just named one of the sexiest men alive. Tim McGraw talks to Christine Romans about a new movie, a new album, and what he wants to accomplish in the future. Those stories and much more coming at the top of the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Fifty- three minutes past the hour right now. It's a big movie weekend, and you can mark that down for "Twilight" fans, of course. You're going to make "New Moon" the no. one at the box office.

Meanwhile, though, there are two words we'll be hearing a lot together in the coming weeks, and that's "Precious" and Oscar.

ROBERTS: There's certainly a lot of us surrounding the new movie about the teenage girl who faces unbelievable hardships. The film is ultimately hopeful. It takes a long time to get there. Jason Carroll spends some time with the film's breakout star, and he joins us now. Good morning.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, whenever I see those clips there, it's hard to believe that it's the same person who I met because they are so different. You know, in person, but you know, the young woman who plays Precious beat out 500 other hopefuls in order to get that role. Her name is Gabby Sidibe, and it's a name you will be hearing a lot of.


GABBY SIDIBE, "PRECIOUS": My name is Clareece Precious Jones. I want to be on the cover of a magazine. I wish I had a light-skinned boyfriend.

CARROLL (voice-over): It's been called provocative and disturbing and has received an "R" rating.

SIDIBE: Don't nobody want you, don't nobody need you.

CARROLL: Precious has already won awards, Oscar buzz surrounding Mo'Nique who plays the abusive mother, Mariah Carey, the social worker, and newcomer Gabby Sidibe.

SIDIBE: It's certainly is a huge surprise.

CARROLL: Certainly is. Considering what Sidibe was doing just a few years ago.

SIDIBE: I was fiercely just a receptionist; fiercely, I was just a college student. I went to one audition and it turned into this.

CARROLL: Over coffee, we talked with Sidibe about the movie's graphic subject matter, and the audition that almost wasn't.

SIDIBE: A friend of mine called me and told me about the audition. I didn't really want to go, because I had class the same day at the very same time.

UNKNOWN FEMALE: Can we talk about the abuse?

CARROLL: Based on the novel "Push," Director Lee Daniels tells the story of Precious, an illiterate 16-year-old living in Harlem who is sexually and physically abused. SIDIBE: I have known this girl in so many different people in my life like I've known her in friends and family and then people I didn't want to know.

CARROLL: Sidibe hopes the film will help real-life preciousness.

SIDIBE: People carry these secrets, because they think that they are alone, and I think the film shows that you are not alone.

CARROLL: But some black scholars say, you know, I'm not quite sure this is the image of the African-American family that should be being put out there. What do you think?

SIDIBE: I think that it's -- it's certainly an image. Does it speak for all of the black community? No.

CARROLL: Despite those critics, just walking down the street...

UNKNOWN MALE: Can we have a picture, please.


CARROLL: And you'll see Sidibe has many fans.

UNKNOWN FEMALE: I'm going to see the movie.

CARROLL: How old are you?

UNKNOWN FEMALE: Eighth grade.

CARROLL: Eighth grade. 13. Do you think you're old enough to see a movie like that?

UNKNOWN FEMALE: My mom really once we talked about it, but I don't know the content of the movie itself?

CARROLL: Gabby, what do you think?

SIDIBE: Maybe 12 is old enough to see it, but with a strong conversation afterwards.

CARROLL: Sidibe hopes the conversation afterwards will be about hope.

SIDIBE: She doesn't let life knock her down and keep her down. She keeps moving and that's where about you can see the hope.


CARROLL (on-camera): It is definitely a powerful film. As for what Gabby will do next, she told me, she hopes to keep working, maybe to do comedy. The movie "Precious" opens nationwide today.

ROBERTS: She is so nice.

CARROLL: She is lovely. You know, New Yorker, 26-year-old, just as lovely as can be, and I just hope she has a bright future in front of her.

ROBERTS: I'm sure she does.


CHETRY: Everyone who has seen the movie says it's powerful, difficult to watch, but powerful.

CARROLL: No question. It is a tough film, and you know, I think a lot of parents out there are wondering is my young daughter perhaps old enough to see it. Again, Gabby says with strong conversation afterward.

ROBERTS: Which means the parents need to see it too.

CARROLL: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: There you go. All right. You'll be selling a lot of tickets based on your recommendation, James.

CARROLL: We'll see.

ROBERTS: Thanks.

CHETRY: Our top stories are just 90 seconds away. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back. Fifty-seven minutes past the hour.