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Insanity Defense in Fort Hood Case?; Right Time to Buy a Home?

Aired November 25, 2009 - 15:00   ET



ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Coming at you now: The Wal-Mart line- cutter speaks out.

HEATHER ELLIS, DEFENDANT: I was raped by the system.

VELSHI: And she's not mincing words.

Then, laying the groundwork for an insanity group.

COL. JOHN P. GALLIGAN (RET.), ATTORNEY FOR MAJOR NIDAL MALIK HASAN: A person can't be found guilty if at the time of the alleged offense, they lacked the mental capacity.

VELSHI: What was Major Nidal Hasan's mental state when gunshots rang out at Fort Hood? His attorney live this hour.

Plus, is now a good time to buy a new home? How much can you afford? Your questions answered.

Go to work and see the doctor, a one-stop shop that seems to be working for this business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a bit of Big Brother looking over.

VELSHI: So, what's the catch?

And who's this turkey filling in for Rick Sanchez? I'm Ali Velshi. Your national conversation for November 25, 2009, starts now. Let's go.


VELSHI: Hello again, everybody. I'm Ali Velshi, in today for Rick Sanchez. What this is, is the next generation of news. It's a conversation, not a speech, and it's your turn to get involved.

Two words, Fort Hood, 20 days ago the scene of a horrific shooting spree that ended with 13 mostly military people dead and an Army officer in the officer paralyzed. As you know, that officer is Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who officials say went on an open-fire rampage in a crowded Army processing center.

Now, as impossible as it to wrap your head around, an American soldier gunning down other American soldiers, that is what allegedly happened. So, now I want to know your answer to this question. How in the world can Major Hasan defend himself against 13 charges of premeditated murder?

The Constitution guarantees every accused man or woman the right to a vigorous defense. And the man who intends to mount that defense for Major Hasan is me now, John Galligan. He's not a lawyer. He's a retired Army colonel and he's a former military judge. He knows the system.

Mr. Galligan, why are you taking on this case?

GALLIGAN: Well, I have told everybody, I'm always pleased when I have an opportunity to represent a service member.

They're entitled to a fair trial. They defend our rights and liberties under the Constitution each and every day. And so when they walk through my door and they identify themselves as a soldier and they're facing a criminal charge, I'm quick to...


VELSHI: Despite the fact that this is a soldier who's accused of killing a dozen other soldiers?

GALLIGAN: That's correct. It's a serious charge.



VELSHI: Tell me about something that you have requested. You have requested some security clearance. Tell me about this issue.

GALLIGAN: Well, we have got a number of requests that are out there.

First of all, we're still waiting for formal discovery to be provided to us. I have requested various experts. One has been provided already. And, more significantly, I have asked for a private investigator to ensure that we're getting correct, accurate data during the discovery process.

And I have also asked that my security clearance be reinstated. Based on my reading of a lot of the reports in national news media, it appears many of the pieces of evidence in this case may very well be classified. And, as such, I want to make sure that the defense has access to it.

VELSHI: What about insanity? Tell me about this. Is it likely that that will be the plea?

GALLIGAN: Look, mental responsibility is clearly going to be an important issue in this case.

You may recall, again, in the national media, there were reports that fellow doctors, at least at Walter Reed and maybe other locations, had indicated or expressed the opinion that perhaps Major Hasan was psychotic.

I anticipate, at an appropriate time, a request will be made by the defense for a sanity board examination under the uniform code of military justice and the rules for court-martial.

Problematic in that of course is going to be awaiting a time when Major Hasan can participate in that type of an evaluation and, more significantly, a determination as to who will be on the board and where the board would be conducted.

VELSHI: Let's talk about his condition. You said awaiting a time when he can participate in that sort of evaluation.

What is his condition now? And have you talked to him?

GALLIGAN: The last time I spoke with him was this past Saturday. And the reason for that visit was prompted because his immediate commander, his company commander, had placed him in what we call pretrial confinement.

As you know, he remains in the hospital, but his status has changed from that of just being purely a patient to being a pretrial confinee in the hospital. I was concerned about the manner in which they went about making that designation.

My efforts to try and have that commander present at the hearing on Saturday was refused. A request by the media to be present was refused. In fact, none of the witnesses I requested were provided.

And when I was there -- and the hearing only lasted about an hour -- my client fell asleep in the middle of the -- or dozed off in the middle of the hearing. Again, he's still under heavy medication. He has very, very serious injuries. And it's just extremely difficult to think that you can carry on a lengthy conversation about, you know, the serious matters that are before us.

VELSHI: Does he have a sense of the charges that are levied against him? You said he dosed off. clearly, he's medicated heavily. Does he have a sense of the seriousness of the charges that he's facing?

GALLIGAN: Well, again, without notice to the defense, the government representatives did go down and slap the charge sheet on him several days before this meeting -- or the change in status to pretrial confinement.

He's aware of those charges. And I have also advised him -- and it was made known to him at the Saturday hearing -- that there's a likelihood that additional charges will be preferred, which, in military lingo, is charged. So, more charges are probably coming down the pike.

VELSHI: Mr. Galligan, I don't know if you know the answer to this one, but do you get the impression from your conversations or has he told you that he expected to die three weeks ago in that shooting spree? GALLIGAN: I'm not going to get in any discussions or disclosures that my client, under these very difficult circumstances that I have described to you, any disclosures that he has made to me.

We're waiting for the process to take hold. And we hope that it will continue on the right track. I am very, very concerned as to whether or not he can receive a fair trial in the Fort Hood community. I'm very concerned that I hear so many people almost prejudging the case before we have even gotten to the Article 32. I'm concerned that folks are talking about death penalty issues before we have reached that stage in the proceedings.

Folks need to sit back and remember that there's a process. I have said this all along. There's a process that needs to be followed. He's presumed to be innocent. The burden of proof is a heavy one, and it's upon the government. The trial defense team is not yet fully established.

And, as I indicated earlier, the government's rolling ahead and doing some things that, in my opinion, didn't need to be done, like this change in status to confinee. What they need to do is answer our basic requests for the investigator, for our experts, so we can properly mount our defense.

VELSHI: Yes. All right. John Galligan, we will stay in touch with you. Thank you for joining us.

GALLIGAN: Thank you very much, sir.


WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: I think he's going to build an exit strategy to get us out of there.


VELSHI: That's one retired general's opinion, but what does an exit strategy from Afghanistan look like? We will talk about that as we approach Tuesday's big troops announcement from President Obama.

And we know you have got big plans, and you will want to know if you will get there time in for turkey. We're keeping an eye on the skies and the roads for you. Chad Myers is about to join me with that.

And don't forget the other way to participate in this national conversation. Even though Rick's not here, you can still call us. In the United States, the number is 877-742-5751.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Rick. This is Taylor (ph) from Suffolk.

Thirty-four thousand more troops to Afghanistan? No. We need to deploy them here and bring the troops over there here and take back our inner cities, fight the gangs, the crimes in our inner cities here, take care of home.



VELSHI: We have got a couple of big stories out of the White House today. It now turns out that the president is planning to make a personal appearance at the global climate change summit in Copenhagen next month. And here's the real news. The White House says that he is prepared to offer reduction of 17 percent in America's greenhouse gas emission, 17 percent below 2005 levels.

Now, that has potentially big ramifications, particularly for the cost of energy and the cost of doing business. But what's more important, your wallet or the Earth? We will be keeping an eye on that.

The other big story, Afghanistan -- the president's big announcement on troop reinforcements is now set for Tuesday evening, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, from the campus of the United States military academy at West Point, New York. We're hearing that the president is planning to speak for a good 40 minutes. And if you heard him yesterday, he said he will tell the nation how he plans to -- quote -- "finish the job" -- end quote -- in Afghanistan.

Today, the White House is saying the United States will not be stuck in Afghanistan for eight or nine more years. That's how long we have been there up to now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to put yourself in the right mood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just have the right frame of mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be calm and collected when you come to this airport, especially on a day like today.


VELSHI: Wow. I just wanted to point out there are some people with the right attitude traveling today. I know someone else with the right attitude always, Chad Myers. He's up next with a look at travel delays and your Thanksgiving forecast.

And later, I will be sorting through some of your financial worries. Here's a big one: Is now the right time to buy a home? I will tell you about that.


VELSHI: Now, for some reason, millions and millions of Americans are in the air and on the highways today, ahead of that big day that we Canadians call Thursday. You all call it something else.

(WEATHER UPDATE) VELSHI: Look, I know we have all got bills to pay. And it's tempting this time of year to dip into the old savings, so you can put gifts in everyone's stocking, but here is the deal. I'm going to explain why you should spend that money on a new home. Yes, I am talking to you. Don't change the channel. This is about you.

And the alleged Wal-Mart line cutter speaks out. You remember the surveillance tape we showed you last week? Well, you have got to hear what she's saying now about the plea deal she cut to avoid jail.


VELSHI: There are a squillion ways you can get hold of us. You can call. You can tweet Rick. You can go to Rick's Facebook. You can go to mine. You can tweet me at Ali Velshi.

But I'm going to talk about your money. And that's why you want -- may want to get into your questions about whether or not this is the right time to buy a house. I get a lot of questions from people. And after a while, there starts to become a critical mass, people asking me about investing in the market, buying gold.

But one of the ones I'm getting the most about is whether or not I should buy a house. And I want to talk to you about this. For some of you out there, this may be the perfect time. Now, there are many of you where it doesn't make sense to buy a house right now, because your house is under water or you're selling in a place where the values might be continuing to go down.

But, for much of the country, you might be starting to see a reversal in home prices, after seeing one of the biggest drops in history. And when you combine that with the fact that mortgage rates for a conforming loan -- that's a loan in most parts of the country that is less than $417,000 -- in many parts of the country, those rates are in the 4.8 percent, 4.9 percent, 5 percent range.

I am not expecting that we're going to see those kind of rates for a very long time again. Can't tell you where house prices are going. I think we're probably going to bottom out pretty soon. And in some parts of the country, you're already seeing prices stabilize or going up.

So, the issue here is that if you're thinking about buying a house, don't just think about the price of the house. Even if the price of the house goes down a little bit over the course of the next year, the increase that you could see in interest rates might wipe out the benefit of waiting for the price of the house to drop.

We're going talk more about that, your questions to me about this. We will have an expert to talk about your money coming up on this show.


ELLIS: All of the witnesses testified that they did not hear me talking, yelling or screaming or cursing in the store. They said that I was using a loud voice.


VELSHI: Yes, they tell me I use a loud voice, too.

The police department in small-town Missouri has another version of that woman's behavior and her story the night they arrested her at a Wal-Mart. She pleaded guilty and says there's a reason she did that, too. That's Heather Ellis on HLN last night. According to her, the trial was a joke and she feels -- quote -- "raped" -- end quote -- strong language.

I will let you hear her side of things.

And don't forget, the other way to participate in this national conversation is to call us. In the United States, the number, 877-742- 5751.


VELSHI: It was a she said/they said case that drew the nation's attention when it turned into a racial firestorm. I'm talking about Heather Ellis, whose line-cutting at a Wal-Mart escalated into a brawl with police officers and nearly landed her a 15-year prison sentence.

Here's the surveillance video. She loses it when a customer complains. She's seen pushing people's things off the conveyor belt, and then apparently attacking the officers who were called in to restrain her.

They charged her with assault. She accused them of racism. That was three years ago. You can sort of see the scuffle on the bottom of the screen. The case ended on Friday with a plea deal. And now Ellis is speaking out.

She talked exclusively with HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell, and she held nothing back.


ELLIS: I think that I'm a victim of judiciary rape. I was raped by the system. I'm watching the jurors laugh. I watched the jurors talk to each other, communicating. We had jurors that was asleep.

The prosecutor who recused himself from the case, well -- and during deliberations, he was approaching the bench, laughing and joking with the judge while the jury sent questions out.

Each and every one of the 13 witnesses the state had, all agreed, they all came to the stage -- I say the stage, because it was like a show. They all got on the witness stand and testified that prosecuting attorney Sokoloff had brought all of them in a room together, let them hear everybody's testimony, and coached them on what to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VELSHI: Well, here's what the prosecutor said when our cameras caught up with him.


MORLEY SWINGLE, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Nobody wanted to see her go to prison. Nobody wanted to see her spend a long time in jail. But, on the other hand, a message does need to be sent to people that, if you're being arrested, you -- you can't resist it, or something will happen. There will be consequences.

Kennett is a town where it's just like anywhere else in the United States. This is not a racist environment, as I said in closing arguments.


VELSHI: Well, obviously there's some lingering emotion there. It's also worth noting that our producers and reporters who were in the courtroom during the trial say they never saw the jury talking or laughing.

Well, he's got a few thousand employees.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... fear and anxiety on the part of most employers to just step into an area they know very little about. But we did it, and at a cost of a fraction of what the national averages are.


VELSHI: Well, he's got a few thousand employees who get their health care from him -- well, from the doctors that he hired to take care of them.

I'm going to talk to him in just a few minutes about how this works.

And up next, once the U.S. sends more troops into Afghanistan, when and how will they come back out again? We're talking strategy next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, Rick. This is Jackie (ph) from Omaha.

I don't want my grandson to do another tour. He's already done one in Iraq. I don't want him to go to Afghanistan. They need to send our troops home, send all those boys and girls home.




CALLER (on phone): Hey, Rick, this is john from Missouri. Get them troops out of there. That whole commotion over there is not worth one American life.


VELSHI: So President Obama is going to West Point on Tuesday to announce his new plan for Afghanistan. As we have been reporting since yesterday, the Pentagon is preparing to send some 34,000 fresh troops into the fighting. We have got 68,000 Americans there now, so we're looking at an increase of 50 percent. Also on our side are about 42,000 troops from other countries and the administration is trying to convince those countries to do more by sending more troops. So you get the new troops, next question, what do they do? What's the new mission? How do we turn this thing around?

Interesting reporting today from "The Wall Street Journal" which talks to commanders on the ground in Afghanistan. They told the paper, most of the new troops will be deployed in the south of the country at the Taliban's power base, where they were formed in Kandahar. You can see that near the bottom of your screen. According to the "Journal," commanders will take the reinforcements, plus troops that are currently stationed in the countryside, pack them around Kandahar, secure the major highways and try to win the city's allegiance with massive economic assistance. Basically the point is that supporting the Afghan government is better than supporting the Taliban for people who live in Kandahar. That's the template, get the troops out of the country, get them out of the countryside, get them closer to the cities and get aid flowing to improve people's lives and wean them away from the Taliban. That is according to reporting in "The Wall Street Journal."

Yesterday the president told us that this is all about finishing, getting the job done and getting out of Afghanistan. It wasn't his war to start with, but like it or not, its his now. Joining me now from Washington is Michael Hirsh, he's the senior editor at "Newsweek." Michael, thank you for joining us. Your initial thoughts on the plan as we have described it.

MICHAEL HIRSH, SENIOR EDITOR, NEWSWEEK: Well, it's going to be touch and go both in terms of what happens in Afghanistan and what happens back here in Washington over the next several years, think about it in terms of a five-year time frame as laid out by Hamid Karzai, the newly inaugurated Afghan president in his recent speech.

But what I mean by that is the political support that Obama's going to have to try to continue to muster among his own Democrats in particular is going to be critical to supporting this, you know, relatively long-term commitment.

VELSHI: He's trying to present this as a way out of Afghanistan. It's always a little bit counter intuitive to think of the way out sending more troops in. But it's a strategic shift. Right now the allied troops are trying to deal with the country side, the rural areas have not been able to succeed, so they're changing strategy all together and focusing on the cities. Does that make sense?

HIRSH: It makes sense, I think, given the limited number of troops that are going to be there, up to about 110,000 troops if you include the additional 10,000 that Obama is hoping to get from the European allies in addition to what he's going to announce on Tuesday. But it's not enough to really achieve victory in the traditional sense in the country. It's enough as "The Wall Street Journal" indicated to perhaps secure a couple of islands that are cities, Kandahar and Kabul which is why so much else...

VELSHI: Does that ultimately lead to them being able to leave?

HIRSH: This is where I think it's going to become very much like Iraq. You remember in the years leading up to the surge and then after the surge in Iraq, it was all about how much could the Iraqis get their act together. The Iraqi government, the Iraqi security forces. That's why this is going to be so important here. That's why you have a serious debate between Karl Eickenberry, the ambassador on the ground there and Stanley McChrystal, who's in command of the forces there over the question of Hamid Karzai and whether can tackle the corruption that's so endemic in his administration.

VELSHI: And for those who don't know, this is McChrystal's suggestion, this is McChrystal's plan, McChrystal wants to change the strategy in Afghanistan because he says if we don't, we're going to be mired there for a very, very long time?

HIRSH: Very much so, so you pull out of the rural areas where our troops are very vulnerable and you create these pockets of civilization around the cities, as you indicated, try to wean over the population that way. But remember, even if his strategy is successful, you're still going to have large safe havens where the Taliban will still be able to operate.

VELSHI: Michael, good conversation, we're obviously going to have to discuss this a lot more so that we can all get a better understanding of what the administration is trying to do and how it solves the problem there. Michael Hirsh from "Newsweek," thank you very much.

All right, make sure you watch CNN Tuesday night. President Obama and his decision about U.S. troops heading to Afghanistan. He's expected to speak in some detail. If you want to understand why we have got troops there and how this ends, you need to watch this. Our special coverage and the best political team on television beginning Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Just ahead, is this the future of health care?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a fear, an anxiety on the part of most employers to step into an area they know very little about. But we did it and at a cost that were a fraction what the national averages are.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VELSHI: We'll meet a hotel owner who fired his insurance company and hired doctors and nurses instead.


VELSHI: As Congress continues its debate over the future of health care, a Florida hotel owner has his own solution. Instead of getting insurance for his workers, he set up a clinic for them. Here's CNN's Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA (voice-over): At this health clinic in Orlando, Florida, there's no such thing as no vacancy. It's located inside a hotel and run by the hotel's owner, Harris Rosen, who started the clinic 18 years ago to see if he could cover all of his employees and save money.

HARRIS ROSEN, ROSEN HOTELS HEALTH CLINIC FOUNDER: There is an apprehension, a fear, an anxiety on the part of most employers to step into an area they know very little about. But we did it, and at a cost of what the fraction of the national averages are. Why? We emphasize wellness.

ACOSTA: Rosen dumped his insurance company, hired his own doctors, nurses and support staff, all of it at little cost to his employees. But there's a catch.

ROSEN: If you smoke, Jim, you can't work for me.

ACOSTA: The employees have to follow Rosen's rules or risk losing their coverage. Smokers have to quit. Heavyset workers have to go on weight-loss programs and so on.

ROSEN: So, there is a bit of big brother looking over to make sure that you're following the regimen.

ACOSTA: But you're big brother?

ROSEN: Yes, and I don't like that very much, because I'm not very much a fan of big brother or any big brother, but I am.

ACOSTA: Chris Teague, the assistant manager at one of Rosen's hotels lost 100 pounds with the clinic's help. You're glad they nudged you?

CHRIS TEAGUE, HOTEL ASSISTANT MANAGER: Yes, oh, yes. It changed my life dramatically.

ACOSTA: The clinic's approach does have its critics who say it's an invasion of privacy.

JEFFREY BLOOM, TRIAL ATTORNEY: The idea of providing wellness care is wonderful, but if I choose not to go back to a follow-up care with a doctor, that's my decision. ACOSTA: But it's not the critics who worry Rosen, it's Congress. You would think with the health care system Harris Rosen has put in place here, he'd be a big fan of Democratic plans for health care reform, but the message at this health care hotel is quite the opposite. It's do not disturb. Under the Democratic proposals in Congress, Rosen says he'd save money by shutting down his clinic, forcing his employees into a public plan and paying a government- imposed penalty.

ROSEN: I'd hate to close this facility down. It means so much to all of us.

ACOSTA: Including Harris Rosen, who seems to enjoy providing health care whether it's in Spanish or French more than he likes running the fanciest of his seven hotels.

ROSEN: Some of my friends will probably not be happy with what I'm about to say, but I do believe that it's a right.

ACOSTA: Jim Acosta, CNN, Orlando.


VELSHI: OK that report was so intriguing that we wanted to learn more. Harris Rosen joins us now by phone from Hollywood, Florida. Mr. Rosen, thank you for being with us.

ROSEN: It's my pleasure, Ali.

VELSHI: All right, I've got a few questions for you. Somebody sent me a question on Facebook and it says, "It's admirable on his part," describing what you're doing, "but to then be opposed to national health care for the millions of citizens who don't have coverage seems totally inconsistent with what you're trying to accomplish."

ROSEN: But Ali, I'm not at all opposed to national health care, I support it completely. What I don't support is a federal public option. I support a local public option like we have here in Orlando where we have -- Orange County, in the city of Orlando, together, creating a health care plan for those people who can't afford it or who are uninsured. And what happens is they ask docs to provide care pro bono and the docs are provided with sovereign immunity so they can't be sued and that takes care of about 100,000 uninsured. So absolutely, unequivocally, I support a health care plan but not overviewed by the federal government.

VELSHI: All right, tell me a bit about this. I'm interested in this. You run hotels.

ROSEN: We have seven of them in Orlando.

VELSHI: And now you are running the health care business?

ROSEN: Yes, yes, 18 years ago, so I mean we have been doing this for 18 years, Ali, and suddenly, you know, health care is a topic that seems to have gained popularity in recent years. For the past 17 years, no one cared what we were doing, but we were creating this little private sector health initiative and it's worked very well.

We save anywhere from $10 million to $15 million a year comparing our prices which are around $2,500 for the cost of covered life compared to $7,500 nationally. And we have a very, very healthy group of associates who follow our regimen and stay healthy.

VELSHI: So two issues. One is you've got this idea that you're promoting wellness, and one might think that it's big brother and one might think that it's fantastic that you're keeping people healthy. On the other side, your workers don't have other insurance coverage typically, so what happens if they are really sick? Can they be treated?

ROSEN: Well, time out. Understand that this is comprehensive coverage. If you get sick and you're hospitalized, you pay $500 and I pick up the rest. So if you're having a heart transplant, you pay the first $500 and I pay the balance. I do have insurance that protects me for anything over $500,000. But this is a comprehensive plan with dental, with nutritionists, with podiatry, with X-Rays, everything. So this is a very, very comprehensive plan.

VELSHI: So if somebody needs a second opinion or they need surgery, then insurance kicks in.

ROSEN: They can go whenever they want. Now we do have specialists that we negotiate special rates with, but they're free to go wherever they want. Pharmaceuticals, any time they come to the clinic, and they need either a generic or they need a prescription and we provide it for free in the clinic.

VELSHI: If a worker continues to smoke or doesn't lose weight, do they lose the coverage or do they lose their job?

ROSEN: We have something called three strikes and you're out. Strike one, if you appear not to be staying on the regimen, strike two, we bring in nutritionists, we bring docs in, we bring in psychologists, psychiatrists in, and we say guys, we're doing this for your own good, strike three, you do lose your coverage.

We haven't had that happen yet. We hope it never happens. We don't want to go there. But look, I spent almost $13 million last year on health care and we're a little company. And all we do is ask our folks to try to stay healthy. We'll do whatever we can. Listen, if you want to stop smoking, we'll pay for everything. If you want to lose weight, Weight Watchers and everything is free. So we'll do whatever we can. We do our part. We just ask you to do your part.

VELSHI: Very interesting. Harris Rosen, do you think that this could be a model for other companies?

ROSEN: Let me tell you something. It's easy to do. We have been doing it for 18 years. We have created the template. Anyone who wants to do what we're doing, all they have to do is and listen, we just created a Web site because you guys have brought so much attention to this. It's,

They can find out anything they want to know about this. They can set it up. They get together with other little businesses on their block, create one larger entity so they can negotiate with specialists and hospitals and they're in business. It's not difficult at all.

And if everyone did this, and I know that that's ridiculous, but if 200 million employees, all of whom had insurance and I believe that everyone should have insurance at work, we would save the nation a trillion dollars.

VELSHI: Harris Rosen, great to talk to you, thank you for joining us.

ROSEN: God bless.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, there are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this where I -- pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland.


VELSHI: Yes, the president is sending a turkey to Disneyland. You know, it just wouldn't be the day before Thanksgiving if I didn't show you this video. Oh, and have you seen the guy who gets blasted on his smoke break? It's all in "Fotos."


VELSHI: Oh, the holiday season is upon us, I can smell the turkey now. Whether it's football feasts or the family gathering, Thanksgiving is full of tradition, many of them handed down for generations. Well, we have wrapped that up with another tradition on this show, a daily tradition called "Las Fotos Del Dia."


OBAMA: You know, there are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this where I -- pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland.


VELSHI: That's President Obama having a little fun with this Thanksgiving tradition as the Official Turkey Pardon, a custom passed on from president to president for two decades. So what does a free bird do? It goes to Disneyland. It will be the grand marshal in that theme park's Thanksgiving parade. There's very little about that story that I will ever understand.

Have you heard this story? Two nuns leave a grocery store. That's them in the video. You see a man approach them in the parking lot. The nuns are loading up their car. The man distracts them by asking for advice, and then he's seen snatching a nun's purse. The nun chases after him, but he flees in a getaway car. Now that is low.

OK. Check out this guy taking a smoke break at a Utah oil refinery. Sounds like a bad plan. Watch carefully. You see the flames and then, boom. Investigators blame the blast not only on the smoker but on the ruptured pipe. The explosion was so powerful, it knocked several workers to the ground and damaged at least 10 homes. Incredibly no one at the plant was seriously hurt. The refinery is shut down until inspectors deem it safe to reopen.

This is "Fotos Del Dia."

I know, I know. You have gifts to buy, mouths to feed, cars to fix, tuition to pay. What is more important than a roof over your head? And if you've never had a mortgage, I'm about to explain exactly why now might be a very good time to get one.


VELSHI: OK, I've been telling you all hour, you can't have me sitting here and not talking about money. And you need to know what to do with your money. It's a good time to start thinking about this. The stock market is up about 20 percent since the beginning of the year, so if you decide this is the time to look at your 401(k), you might be surprised to see that you -- you've done well if you stuck to an investment strategy. If you didn't have an investment strategy, you should have one, and something worth thinking about is buying a house. I'm talking to Karen Lee now because she is the owner of Karen Lee and Associates, she's a financial planner. Karen, thanks for being with us.

KAREN LEE, FINANCIAL PLANNER: Thanks for having me.

VELSHI: It's never a bad time. We're so exhausted by all of the money stuff that's happened in the last year.

LEE: True.

VELSHI: That so many people are just not engaging fully, but I think there's this interesting combination of low interest rates, remarkably low mortgage rates, and a housing market that is coming close to an inflexion point quite possibly that for some people in the country might make it a good time for them to buy a house.

LEE: Absolutely, Ali. With the interest rates at what a 50-year low?


LEE: And the opportunity with houses that have come way off of a high value, it couldn't be a better time, as long as you're in the right situation.

VELSHI: Let's talk about the right situation. What puts someone in the right situation in the house? LEE: Well, I read your blog about this, and you were spot on. If you have been saving up cash, because we want to go in with that 20 percent down.

VELSHI: And at least, in some cases they are asking more. But you've got to have at least 20 percent down.

LEE: And you're renting or you're relocating maybe you're with a company that's going to pay for the relocation, you don't have to worry about selling your house. For first-time home buyers you've got the credit.

VELSHI: That's an $8,000 credit that's been extended now, it was going to expire, and now it goes until April.

LEE: Correct.

VELSHI: So there are a few things that come together that could make this a worthwhile deal. Who would you advise not to be getting involved in buying a house right now?

LEE: Well, I think the person who thinks they're going to make some money real quick, that's the typical American get rich quick scheme, let's run out and buy a house at this deflated value, I'll turn around at a year and flip it. And I think they're going to be sorely disappointed because I don't think the housing market is going to come back up that quickly. I actually think the values that we're at right now are truer to true value than what they were at the top of the market.

VELSHI: Let's talk about the other side of the equation. People constantly call me and talk about getting involved in the market right now or buying gold right now. It doesn't tend to be the right strategy for investing. If you're looking at markets and you're thinking things are interesting, how do you approach this?

LEE: Well, it's been an amazing time in the market to watch the panic that hit between October and March.


LEE: And then the people that you just said that stuck with their strategy and there within about 20 percent their high water mark from November '07. People are calling me and saying I can't believe how good my account looks because they stuck with their strategy. So it might be a good time to evaluate your risk tolerance. If you panicked during this time, maybe you did go in a little overly invested to stocks, might be a good time to do rebalancing.

VELSHI: You say risk tolerance. It's the starting point for an investor.

LEE: Absolutely.

VELSHI: It's the first thing you do. You don't go and buy a stock and look at the ticker. You go in and how does one evaluate the risk tolerance? What does that mean?

LEE: Well I can only tell you, having been doing this for a long time as an adviser, they first start with talking to an adviser. The adviser typically is some kind of personality questionnaire that helps walk them through how will I handle that low when it hits?

VELSHI: And when you say personality questionnaire, it could be about whether you like roller coasters versus mini golf?

LEE: Absolutely.

VELSHI: Are you a risk taker because if you're not, you don't want to get involved in investments that are going to keep you up at night.

LEE: Correct. And the reason it's important right now to re- look at maybe years ago, the risk tolerance that you set because things kind of plummeted a little more deeply than some of us were used to so maybe our tolerance has changed a little bit and we need to make things a little more moderate in our portfolio.

VELSHI: But with a market that's up 20 percent since the beginning of the year, that's an unusual market, up 60 percent since the March lows. Would you be advising people to be investing right now?

LEE: Well, absolutely, based on their time horizon. Is this again, for tomorrow, for a year from now, of course not. We would never want to put that money in the market. Is this your retirement? You're in your 30s, 40s, of course. Do we not think the market in 20 years will be higher than it is today?

VELSHI: How do you treat the question of gold? You must get that, too.

LEE: I do, I do, and we certainly have people who wanted to get involved in gold. Gold is typically that hedge against inflation. It hasn't done as well performance-wise as the overall market. I got to tell you, I think if a person wants to have a portion of their investments in gold, it should be part of their strategy for the long term, not just jump in, jump out.

VELSHI: There's a theme I'm getting from you and that is the long term.

LEE: Absolutely.

VELSHI: Thanks so much for joining us. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

LEE: And you, too.

VELSHI: And thanks for sharing good advice with our viewers.

LEE: Thank you.

VELSHI: Let's check in once more with Chad Myers keeping an eye on your travel plans. Hey Chad, what's going on?

MYERS: Well Ali, you know what, we checked this all the time and it's sponsored by Navteq, you'll understand that from the maps. But we have a little kind of a problem here on the Bronx Expressway right there on 276. Police activity blocking all lanes northbound. That can't be good. You can go onto yourself and see all the roadways, all across the country wherever you want.

We do know that the Golden Gate has cleared up, at least. There was a crash on the Golden Gate about an hour ago. That has now moved out of the way, 6,700 planes in the sky. On a normal day, a not travel day like today, this number should be about 5,700, so there's an extra 1,000 planes in the sky. You know those air traffic controllers are really working hard today.

Some rain showers across parts of the down state in Carolina, pan around here, move you back down, see some rain showers, heavier stuff down here across parts of South Florida, so if you decided to take a weekend in the Keys, well, today is not your best day but it gets better from here. By the way, you're in the Keys anyway so don't worry about it because there's all kinds of things to do, even at that point.

We're going to watch across, we're going to watch Navteq traffic and we're also going to watch the airport delays because now I believe they are going to start to pick up at the TSA areas because people are off work now, and, Ali, it's crunch time for them to get right to the airport.

VELSHI: Because it hasn't been a terrible day so far for traveling.

MYERS: It has not been. Correct, most of the planes that I've been looking at, even on Expedia, Travelocity, you can click on it, you can say show seats and there are seats available on almost every plane today and that's good because if a plane gets cancelled in front of you, at least there will be enough room to get people on and not sit there and spend the night.

VELSHI: Look at us news guys, no delays so now we're speculating that there might be delays. There is going to be a delay somewhere.

MYERS: Has to be something.

VELSHI: Chad, always my pleasure to work with you and to be here with you. Thanks so much, Chad Myers.

Now tomorrow while you're minding your turkeys, I'll be minding your jobs. If you're not in a Tryptophan coma, join us at 3:00 Eastern for "Your Money." Our theme tomorrow is "give me my job back." We're going to tell you everything there is to know about jobs.

All right, Let's take it over to "THE SITUATION ROOM" Suzanne Malveaux is standing by to bring you the next few hours of news -- Suzanne?