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Americans Support Obama's Decision on Troops to Afghanistan; Senate Dems Hope Obama Visit Can Break Health Care Stalemate; Huckabee Defends Clemmons Clemency Decision; Susan Boyle Shatters All-Time Record for Sales; Climate Scientists Defend Their Work; Dozens of Horses Killed; U.S. Student Guilty of Murder; Terror Trials Protest

Aired December 5, 2009 - 12:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm sure we will, a little bit later. How about the voice mail? You have to be careful what you say, you never know when it's splashed all over the news.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: No texting, no leaving voice mails.

BALDWIN: Careful. All right, you guys.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Brooke, we'll see you.

BALDWIN: Have a great Saturday and good morning to everyone, I'm sitting in for Fredricka Whitfield today. We start here with this developing story out of Ohio. Take a look at these pictures. This is an early morning fire that's gutted a horse barn killing two people, but as many as 65 horses are also dead. It happened in Lebanon, Ohio, that's about 25 miles from Cincinnati. And the cause so far of this fire, under investigation right now. Of course, as soon as we get more information on the cause or anything else, we'll bring that to you here on CNN.

Meantime, hours after being convicted of killing her roommate, Amanda Knox is allowed to see her family inside this Italian prison and her parents vow she will be getting out, it's just going to take them a little bit longer to get her out. Want to go now to CNN's Paula Newton live for us in Perugia, Italy. Paula, I watched all of your coverage yesterday. You know, the applause when the verdict came down, and really how the town has reacted to all of this, but let's first start with Amanda Knox and her family. They must be shattered.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely shattered, it's a good way to put it. Amanda Knox really had an incredibly bad night. It was a rough night according to her sister, Deanna, but her family saying that she's keeping strong. They intend to continue to fight.

Of course, though, we spoke with the prosecutor this morning, Brooke, again, and he continually says that, look, this verdict, no matter what anybody thinks about it, should and has to be respected. If there's anything the Knox family has that they want to go over, they can go over in an appeals process. You know, Brooke, Meredith Kercher was the woman who was murdered in all of this, and in the middle of all this media frenzy, many times her suffering and her family's suffering has been forgotten. Today, the Kercher family, saying they were satisfied with the verdict. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDDA MELLAS, AMANDA KNOX'S MOTHER: Amanda, like the rest of us, is extremely disappointed, upset about the decision. We're all in shock. We're all heartened by the support, not only the people from Perugia, many Italians, people from all over the world have been sending us messages of support all through the night. You know, the media's been, you know, supportive. Amanda got great support when she came back.


NEWTON: What you heard there, of course, was the -- Amanda Knox family, not the Kercher family. But it's very interesting in the sense that we had these two families in front of the media today, Brooke. The Knox family having emerged, having to leave their daughter behind to serve a 26-year sentence. And as I said before, the Kercher family, still saying that, look, they believe that this verdict did serve justice for their family member, Meredith Kercher.

BAWLDIN: Justice served for the Kercher family. I think you mentioned that the Knox parents would be moving to Perugia to continue fighting for their daughter and they're hoping for this release. What can you tell me as far as the Italian court system goes, the legal system, when it comes to an appeal?

NEWTON: Well, most people here consider the appeal really the time when those convicted get a chance to have their say. It is not during the trial phase. If they have issues, the way the Knox family does, about forensics, about sloppy police work, about a coerced confession, about not having a translator, a lawyer, at the appropriate time, all of that will be brought up at the appeal, and all of it will be given appropriate weight in the appeal, because that's the appropriate venue, according to Italian justice. Now Brooke, don't expect the wheels to just stop or are going to grind any more quickly. This crime committed two years ago, an appeals process could take at least that long.

BALDWIN: What a story. Paula Newton, you've been all over it really since this crime happened in 2007. We thank you so much, live from Perugia, Italy, for us this morning.

The deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan can officially begin. Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed an order getting the first wave under way. Military sources earlier told CNN this first deployment would be around 1,000 marines. They could be in Afghanistan possibly by the end of the month. This week President Obama had committed 30,000 additional U.S. troops to that mission.

And around 900 U.S. troops are part of a new offensive in Afghanistan, it's called "Operation Cobra's Anger." The marines are teaming with British and Afghan troops to battle the Taliban and they are centering the operation right around the northern Helmand Province. Helmand Province has been really a stronghold for Taliban fighters.

But is a surge of 30,000 troops really going to be enough? Coming up in just a couple minutes, I'll be talking to a former Afghan refugee who thinks this is only part of the solution.

And make sure you tune in tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Our Christiane Amanpour speaks with him about President Obama's new mission statement and the 30,000 additional troops. That will be coming your way tomorrow. Look out for that at 2 Eastern Time.

Happening right now in New York City, a protest, or a rally, organized by the families of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and really, their issue here, putting five alleged terrorists on trial just blocks from Ground Zero. CNN's Susan Candiotti is live with the very latest there. Susan, I'm sure you are talking to some of the families there in the rain. What are these families proposing?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're proposing anything but the decision made by the Obama administration to have that trial held right here in New York City. We're in a square that is right near the federal courthouse where these trials are expected to be held. Right now they're playing the national anthem. This is a large crowd, and this rally is sponsored by a group called The 9/11 Never Forget Coalition.

Here you have people, of course, that are listening to the anthem right now, but they're also here carrying all kinds of signs, saying that, for example, these 9/11 defendants are war criminals and should be treated as such and do not deserve to have the same rights as people do in civilian courts. We've asked a couple of people to join us right now, but, of course, it's kind of difficult being that the national anthem is playing right now, but let us make our way over to them so we can talk with them about why they are here this day.

I'm first going to -- I'm so sorry for interrupting the anthem, I apologize. Geraldine, we're live now on CNN, this is Geraldine Davie. Her daughter Amy O'Dougherty died during the 9/11 attacks. She worked in the World Trade Center, only 23-years-old. You think it is a bad idea for the trials to be held here, why?

GERALDINE DAVIE, LOST DAUGHTER ON 9/11: Well, I think that these bad actors are not citizens, and they're being given all these civil liberties. They're -- they don't have any right to our constitution. They're military combatants. They were picked up on the battlefield. They belong in a military court. And my daughter was given no civil liberties that day on September 11th. And we're giving these bad actors all our constitutional rights. They have -- they have no rights to be -- they're going to use this as a forum to spew their hate America dictums. There --

CANDIOTTI: Do you think that this rally, and others, will change the administration's mind?

DAVIE: Well, I certainly hope so. We're here to send a message to the president and certainly the attorney general, that this is a bad idea. No good can come of this. This is a show trial. These people will use this show trial the same way that the Moussaoui trial was used, Zacarias Moussaoui, his message was kill Americans. My mission is to wake up every morning and kill Americans, and that's what he -- that's what he said at the trial.

CANDIOTTI: Thanks. Let me get the opposing viewpoint.

DAVIE: Sure.

CANDIOTTI: And this is someone that also understands your point of view, this is Jim Riches, whose son, a firefighter, was also killed during those attacks here this day. You disagree. I know you've said in the past many times, have the trial somewhere instead of delay. But how do you respond to those who think it's just a bad idea to have it here?

JIM RICHES, LOST SON ON 9/11: Well, you know, the federal trials have an excellent record, a proven ability to prosecute these high-profile terror cases without compromising national security and national safety. I was down in Guantanamo. These guys stand up in the courtroom. They make a shambles of the courtroom, yelled that they proudly killed my sons. They've also had a military trial where Osama bin Laden's driver was released with time served.

I mean, I can't see it. I think Obama stood up. He met with us. He said that he was going to take responsibility, try these guys, give us swift and certain justice and to hold them accountable and provide the best way to go. I think we should stand behind him like the spirit after 9/11 and prosecute them in federal trial the way he wants to do it. Hold them accountable.

CANDIOTTI: I want to thank you both very much. I know this is a difficult situation. We'll be talking with you more as the afternoon goes on.

DAVIE: Thank you.

CANDIOTTI: Again, the rally is going on for some time. They are planning, this group and others, are planning others like it around the country. Back to you.

BALDWIN: Susan, so obvious the story is still so personal some eight years later. Appreciate them talking to us in the rain and you as well. Susan Candiotti, live for us in New York.

A young Afghan woman has already lived through a whole lot. Communist rule, the Taliban regime, her father's death. Now, she is here in the U.S., and she is giving her opinion on her personal life and also President Obama's plan to send thousands more American troops to her homeland.


BALDWIN: Let it snow, let it snow. It is December, after all. Gosh, that looks like a total whiteout, doesn't it? It's really coming down all across the Deep South, all the way to the nation's capital. Places like Knoxville, Tennessee, could see up to five inches of snow today, and the White House looks a little bit like winter wonderland as well. Beautiful, pretty pictures coming out of D.C. This is the first snowfall of the season there. Reynolds Wolf, I don't know about you, I'm kind of a fan of the snow, I guess if it's not just too much. Like coming down in Washington, that I can handle. That's pretty.


BALDWIN: All right Reynolds, have a great rest of your Saturday. And speaking of Washington with all the snow, we also have news in right there, the fact that President Obama will be going to the Hill. You know, the Senate is debating health care today. President Obama, we're just getting this from our own Dana Bash and Ed Henry, the president will be on Capitol Hill tomorrow to meet with Senate Democrats at 2:00 p.m., of course, to talk health care. We will have full coverage of that tomorrow and hopefully talk to someone today about what that means and really just the president's presence on Capitol Hill tomorrow. We'll be hearing hopefully from Dana Bash later today on that.

Well, as the U.S. prepares to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, one Afghan refugee, a former refugee, says the surge is really only half the solution. Masooda Omar-Young describes living under communist rule in Afghanistan as fairly easy. She said it was only the Taliban that changed everything.


BALDWIN: Your life could have been totally different.

MASOODA OMAR-YOUNG, FLED AFGHANISTAN: Yes. I don't even know if I was going to be alive anymore.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Life in Afghanistan was always uncertain for Masouda Omar. The 31-year-old was born in the capital of Kabul under communist rule. She was just a teenager when the Soviets withdrew, when the opposition Afghan forces, the Mujahideen, took over, and then several years later the Taliban.

OMAR-YOUNG: My dad passed away a month after the Taliban captured Kabul. The first thing they did, they came to our house, took our car, and told my father, who was the president of the university, told him that he shouldn't go back to work anymore and that he was fired. And that was life, and he had a heart attack a month after they came.

BALDWIN: Masooda fled to the northern cities of Afghanistan still free from Taliban rule. However, Masooda was not free. She was forced into marriage and had a daughter before moving back to Kabul. It was there that she was told her husband, who was living in another part of the country, was killed.

OMAR-YOUNG: I guess there was a wedding and four people were sitting there, and some Taliban rocket came and killed all of them.

BALDWIN: Under Afghan rule, a father's family gets custody of the child in the event of death. Fearing the possibility of losing her daughter, Masooda fled to Pakistan.

(on camera): It was a total life-risking moment...

OMAR-YOUNG: Oh, definitely. BALDWIN: ... fleeing Afghanistan.

OMAR-YOUNG: Definitely.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Months later, the then-single mother received a visa to come to the United States to join her mother and siblings.

OMAR-YOUNG: What is your project on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Incas and Aztecs.

BALDWIN: Masooda is now teaching her 11-year-old to speak Farsi, but one Afghan tradition she is not passing on -- the stifling inability to speak up.

OMAR-YOUNG: I want you to know that these things in the culture that I grew up, I do not like them, but people do it.

BALDWIN: The news from her native country is constantly on her mind and that have her new husband. Masooda supports the decision to send in more U.S. troops, but says a long-term solution lies in cutting off funds and support to the Taliban. She worries about allegations that the Taliban are being supported by other countries in that region.

OMAR-YOUNG: This was a major success for America, to go to Afghanistan. And leaving it, abandoning it will be a humanitarian disaster. But still, I mean, how long, how many people, how many troops, how much money can we keep sending there if, you know, another government that is supposed to be our ally is fueling the insurgency?


BALDWIN: And Masooda Omar-Young gracious enough to join me now here in the studio in Atlanta. Before we talk specifics about your thoughts on Obama's plan, let's just first talk about your life growing up in Afghanistan, and growing up in Kabul specifically. I thought what was interesting is when we chatted, you say people all the time just ask you just crazy, off-the-wall questions about what it was like being a woman in Afghanistan. But what struck me was growing up in Afghanistan, you said life was great.

OMAR-YOUNG: Well in large cities like Kabul when I was growing up until 1992, at least people had the options to choose whether to, let's say about women, they had the option to cover or not cover. So, I could go to school. I did not have to cover. My family didn't require us to cover our head or anything else. And then things changed dramatically. I mean, 1992, where, you know, the regime changed, obviously, and the Mujahadeen came in, and the first day of school my mom said, no, you can't tuck your shirt in. You have to, you know, wear -- cover your head and do this and do that, which was pretty difficult for somebody who couldn't understand why. I was only 13. And then --

BALDWIN: You were 13 at the time and all of the sudden with the Mujahadeen taking over, it was a total life change for you. OMAR-YOUNG: Right. Exactly. And it was also a struggle of what to wear, what is acceptable. Not only right now under this regime, but as a young woman whose fashion and, you know, appearance conscious, you know, how do I balance these two?

BALDWIN: One story you told earlier in the week that I couldn't fit in the piece was the fact that under the Taliban, you were walking along the market and you were fully covered and you felt this tapping on your leg.


BALDWIN: Tell that story.

OMAR-YOUNG: I definitely can go back to that. So, you know, as I told you, I didn't live under Taliban rule for long, but I did, in 1999. And I was totally unfamiliar with everything, all the rules they had already established in Kabul. So I had the burqah on, cover fully, and I had these black ballet flats, and obviously only, like, two inches at the back of my foot was showing, and I felt something tapping at the back of my foot. And I thought, you know, I thought I stepped on somebody's money or something in the market. And --

BALDWIN: And it end up being.

OMAR-YOUNG: The second time harder, and I turned around and I saw five guys all decorated with bullets and eyeliner --

BALDWIN: That was, like, reality then.

OMAR-YOUNG: And, of course, I started shaking and started, you know, when you have the cops behind your car driving, going through "Oh, my god, I'm covered, my head are covered, my feet are covered."

BALDWIN: It was just that strict, it was that strict. Really quickly before we go, because I want to get your reaction. You watched the president's speech earlier in the week and the one sort of disagreement you have is perhaps the 18-month timetable.


BALDWIN: Briefly.

OMAR-YOUNG: I feel like it was long due to send more troops, but at the same time we're sending more troops and saying, don't worry, we're not going to be here for long. So, it shows lack of commitment, I believe, and also makes people think twice about supporting the current government.

So, yes, we have to have planned strategies set. This is not open- ended war, but I feel like it wasn't the right time to -- to, you know, give the timetable and send more troops at the same time.

BALDWIN: Masooda Omar-Young, thank you for coming and sharing your story again.

OMAR-YOUNG: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Wonderful job.

Is the guilty verdict the end for American exchange student Amanda Knox? Our legal guys debate her murder convictions in the Italian courts.


BALDWIN: All right. We want to continue the conversation this hour about Amanda Knox, the American exchange student found guilty on all counts in Perugia, Italy, of murder, murdering her former roommate. Want to talk to both of our legal guys. Avery Friedman is a civil rights attorney and law professor, and Richard Herman is a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor.

Richard, let me just start with you. You know, I watched this whole thing unfold last evening, and a lot of reaction when it came to this verdict, guilty on all counts. What did you think?

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Hey, Brooke, it was a one- year trial. I mean, it crystallized last night with the verdict. A whole-year trial, the jury was out what about 10 hours and came back in my opinion with a flash verdict. It's outrageous, Brooke.

In the United States, jurors are directed to weigh the credible evidence in reaching guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or acquittal beyond a reasonable doubt. Here in Italy, apparently the standard is whatever inflammatory words a lunatic prosecutor has about a case, believe that because that's what happened here. There was no credible evidence to convict this woman beyond a reasonable doubt of murder.

BALDWIN: Avery, let me pose this next question to you. Richard, you bring up a good point, about the differences, the stark differences, between the Italian judicial system and that in the U.S. here and the fact that this jury, this is a non-sequestered jury, meaning they could hear everything going on, the rumors, tabloids. It was a circus, was it not?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, I think you nailed the issue, Brooke. The fact is in addition to what Richard shared, what we looked at here is we had a juror non-sequestered being exposed to sensationalistic media. In America, we have rules about that that have been around for 40 years.

Here, indeed, it was a media circus. But the fact is the prosecutor who is actually indicted right now kind of reminds me of Richard's favorite guy, Michael Nifong, is part of where I think the appeal's going to be going with this case.

BALDWIN: Both of you guys, I'm curious as to whether or not, I know that this whole appeals process will be the next step. I think it was Campbell Brown who talking to Knox's aunt last night, talking about the possibility of U.S. intervention here in this case. Do you think the U.S. and the U.S. government could do anything to help free Knox? Avery, first. FRIEMDAN: Yes, that is wishful thinking. I understand the involvement of State Department and that type of thing. We're dealing with the Italian judicial system. I see absolutely no legal way to have intervention by the United States government.

BALDWIN: OK. Richard?

HERMAN: Well, it could be done through political channels, Brooke, aside from the legal system. Will that happen? No. That's not going to happen.

But the point earlier brought up about the non-sequestered jury, the government, the police, the police, brought defamation cases against Knox's parents for their criticism of the way they handled Knox check they arrested her, all of that was made public and the jury could read that during and prior to the time they deliberated the case. It's unbelievable what happened here.

BALDWIN: It's such a fascinating story and I could continue with that, but I can't. Let's move on to the story out of Cleveland, Anthony Sowell. You know, the guys whose what, 11 bodies were found, buried hidden in his home.

FRIEDMAN: More to come, Brooke. More to come.

BALDWIN: More to come? So Avery, what do you think, he's now entered this, what, insanity plea?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, he was convicted before of rape but he didn't enter it now. He all of a sudden became insane, Brooke. Essentially what's going on here is while it's a defense of last resort. I mean, what we have is a guy who not only murdered these women, but methodically and carefully buried the bodies. I know Rick Bombik, I've tried cases against him, good lawyer. I think he's going to be successful in blowing up that kind of defense.

BALDWIN: And Richard, you get the last word here.

HERMAN: Brooke, you --

BALDWIN: Go ahead.

HERMAN: Yes, the mental illness defense, it works about 2 percent of the time. It didn't work for Charlie Manson or Ted Bundy or, you know, all the others that try it. Here you have to in essence prove that at the time the acts were committed, the person suffered from a mental illness and they could not appreciate right and wrong at the time they did it.

That's essentially what it means. But when a jury hears that the proposed mental ill person took steps to hide, bury, put away the bodies, that does away with that whole aspect of that second prong of the test.


HERMAN: This guy, he's got 11 bodies like Avery said, more to come.


HERMAN: You know, it's not going --

BALDWIN: It's tough to explain that, isn't it? Guys, we've got to leave it there. But hang around, because we're going to continue our discussion a little later this hour when our legal team takes on former Governor Mike Huckabee and Arkansas parolee in the Seattle police killings. Stay here.


BALDWIN: It has been another busy, busy week for the president. You know, Tuesday, Mr. Obama announced his new Afghanistan war strategy to the nation. And now CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser joins me live from Washington to talk about some of those responses we've been getting from our own polls.

And Paul, let me just start with the sense from Americans. Do Americans support the president's decision to send this additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIR.: It appears they do, Brooke. That's what our poll indicates. Take a look at these numbers. We asked the obvious question, "Do you support the president's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan?" And you can see right there, 62 percent favor that move, only 36 percent oppose. And Broke, this is interesting because the poll still also indicates that the war itself is not that popular, that most people oppose the war, but they do support the president on the troops.

We went out in the field on Wednesday and Thursday. The president gave his big speech on Tuesday night, Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, conversely, what about the drawdown? Do people approve of the announcement the troops will start coming home from Afghanistan in July of 2001?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, that...

BALDWIN: Or rather 2011.

STEINHAUSER: In '11, right. Right. Yes, that was one of the other big things the president announced, and our polling indicates that 2 out of 3 say yes, they approve of that. But this is what they don't approve of. They thought it was a bad idea for the president to announce that decision to start withdrawing troops as early as July of 2011. So they like the idea, they don't think it was good that he announced it.

BALDWIN: Well, the poll shows people feel things are going poorly for the U.S. forces there in Afghanistan. Do they blame the president, or perhaps his predecessor?

STEINHAUSER: For things right now, they blame his predecessor, George W. Bush, because this war obviously was fought mostly on his watch. But if things continue to stay poor for the U.S. troops over there, if are still problems in 2011, you can see from this poll that indicates that people will blame the current president, rather than the former president. So this war, in a sense, is really becoming Barack Obama's war, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Always interesting to tap into the public, see what they think. Paul Steinhauser, live from Washington, thank you, sir.


BALDWIN: It could change everything you think you know about climate change. Why the United Nations wants an investigation into the science of climate change.


BALDWIN: Top stories now. Tragedy strikes the Warren County, Ohio, fairgrounds. A fire swept through the stable barn at the Lebanon Raceway before dawn this morning, and CNN has confirmed that two people and as many as 65 horses were killed in that blaze. We'll have more details on the story as soon as that becomes available to us -- again, coming out of Ohio.

Meantime, out of Washington -- whew, busy day, and some news here about the president. Democrats in the U.S. Senate want a health care bill passed by Christmastime, the chamber taking up the contentious issue in a rare Saturday session again today. The sixth day of debate began about two hours ago, and the 2,000-plus-page proposal has critics on two crucial points here, federal funding of abortion and the so-called public option. Both issues threaten Democrats' solidarity and garnering the 60 votes necessary to pass.

And I want to bring in Dana Bash, our senior congressional correspondent, on this latest development. Dana, I know you're on the phone with me, Dana, about the fact that now we're hearing that the president will be on the Hill tomorrow. This has to change things.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That's right. Well, this is something that his fellow Democrats here on Capitol Hill have been asking for, more presidential involvement, because -- you just laid out what's going on in public. There's a debate going on not only today, Saturday, but it will also go tomorrow, on Sunday.

And the real reason, Brooke, why the Democratic leaders kept the senators in all weekend is so that they could have discussions behind closed doors, behind the scenes, about what really is vexing the Democrats, and that is, how you get 60 votes when there's such a division over the public option. And that is why the president is going to come tomorrow, on Sunday. He's going to address Senate Democrats in a meeting. And he is going to do what, in fact, one Senate Democrat just told me in the hallway late yesterday, which is that they believe that the president needs to come in and make decisions and he basically needs to broker this deal with his fellow Democrats. I just was staking out a meeting -- again, the reason they're here -- with some of the most conservative Democrats, who don't want a public option, who think a government-run insurance option is the wrong way to go, and liberal Democrats who say that they will only vote for something with that. So they are talking, which is again the reason that they're here. Not much movement, but they are at least having discussions. And again, the Democratic leadership hopes the president will help broker that compromise.

BALDWIN: Do you think, Dana -- just in a follow-up question -- do you think in talking to some of these sources that you have there in Congress that the president's presence might help speed things along? I know some of the Democrats are hoping to pass this thing by Christmastime.

BASH: They're hoping his presence helps speed things along, but I think -- in fact, I know, in talking to many, many Democrats, that they want more than presence. They want a decision. They want the president to come and say, Here's -- here's where I stand, particularly on this contentious issue of the public option, and it's -- and if he picks a side, so to speak, that he can try to convince the people who disagree with him that they need to come along because, overall, there's so much agreement among Democrats on health care reform.

Having said that, as I said before, there are a group of moderate Democrats and liberal Democrats who are on opposing sides of this whole question of a government-run option. And they have been meeting and they just -- a meeting just broke up. There were about 10 of them altogether. Several of the senators, these Democrats, told me that there are some good ideas that could form the basis of a compromise, but they're not there yet. That is why many of these Democrats want the president to really get involved and sit down, roll up his sleeves, and again, help make a decision.

BALDWIN: All right, so more than presidential presence, we need decision. And again, just to remind our viewers, we are hearing that the president will be on Capitol Hill right around 2:00 PM tomorrow. Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash joining us on the phone. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, let's go back to our team of legal eagles. They are Avery Friedman, civil rights attorney and law professor, and Richard Herman, New York criminal defense attorney and law professor. All right, first topic this week, we heard former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee basically defending his decision to commute the sentence of a man, Maurice Clemmons, now blamed for the deaths of these four Washington state police officers.

Let's first listen here to what he told CNN's Drew Griffin.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Now, if you think that a 108-year sentence is an appropriate sentence for a 16-year-old for the crimes he committed, then you should run for governor of Arkansas.


BALDWIN: All right, Avery, I want to begin with you. People are pointing a lot of fingers. Is the former governor to blame here?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, LAW PROFESSOR: Well, you know, I think -- I think Mike Huckabee's response to Drew was a little bit defensive. Well, a little bit? A lot. But you know what? In all honesty, governors every year grant pardons. They grant clemency. They look to their respective state parole boards.

Look, the fact is that a 16-year-old given a sentence of 109 years is very disproportionate. I think to blame a governor, no matter who it is, nine years after is way out of line. I don't think Mike Huckabee is responsible at all.

BALDWIN: So Avery says perhaps we shouldn't be blaming him, but Richard, what about how he reacted? I believe Huckabee said, basically, Hey, the system doesn't always work.

RICHARD HERMAN, LAW PROFESSOR: Yes, he put a statement on his Web site claiming that there was a breakdown in the criminal justice system, but he didn't apologize for his action. Whether Avery's right or wrong, this man wants to run for president of the United States, and this is going to hound him throughout his -- his run in the campaigns.

They're going to brutalize him on this because of the fact -- look, this was a violent felony conviction on this particular person, violent felony. It got 108 years. That is disproportionate for a 16- year-old. But to commute the entire sentence, have no controls on this person, have no parole, have no reporting requirements, nobody following up, and for this person to be able to bring his family in to help him, and friends to provide false leads to law enforcement, to give him food and money and transportation and cell phones -- I mean, it's...


FRIEDMAN: Huckabee didn't do that. I mean, he simply reduced it to...

HERMAN: Yes, but he let him go.

BALDWIN: All right, let's move on from Huckabee, a lot of people still talking about that. But there's this story out of Florida. It's basically this property rights case.

FRIEDMAN: I love this.

BALDWIN: I think it's Destin, is it not...


BALDWIN: ... where, you know, there's this issue of beach erosion. And so the government's coming in and saying, Hey, we need to put some sand in. And this is our property. And some of these home owners are saying, Hey, not so fast. Avery, what's at stake here?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I love this case, Brooke! I mean, it's a case -- it's like a "Seinfeld" episode. It's not -- it's a case about nothing. The fact is, for 50 years, Florida's been renourishing the beaches. Six of five hundred owners, roughly, say, Well, you know what? Once the state comes in, puts the sand in, we want to keep it.

It's ridiculous. The supreme court said -- Florida supreme court said the property owners are wrong, and I think the Supreme Court is probably likely going to uphold that.

BALDWIN: So you say much ado about nothing? Richard, do you agree?

HERMAN: No. No, it's much ado about a lot here, Brooke. You have a piece of property that you buy. You have oceanfront property. The state wants to come in and build a beach area for you. You have a beach on your own property. So they come in, they lay sand to extend your property, and they say that's their property now and they want to put a public beach in front of your house, between you and the ocean.

They can't do that. The courts can't do that in Florida. The legislature can. This is the first time a judicial decision giving this property to the state without compensating the particular landowners...

FRIEDMAN: Who's going to win?

HERMAN: ... is taking place. That's why...

FRIEDMAN: Richard, who's going to win?

BALDWIN: Avery, that's my last...


BALDWIN: ... the last word.

HERMAN: The land owners.

FRIEDMAN: Very simple, I think -- I think the public beach presents itself. It's been that way for 50 years. Nothing's going to happen.

BALDWIN: Nothing's going to happen. That's your prediction.

HERMAN: Hey, Brooke...

BALDWIN: Nothings going to happen.

HERMAN: Hey, Brooke, got get out of Atlanta. Get out of the snow, Brooke. Come up to New York. It's nice and warm here.


BALDWIN: It's chilly here. All right, guys, Richard and Avery, thank you both. Good to see you.

FRIEDMAN: Wonderful to see you. Take care, Brooke.

BALDWIN: She is a real-life Cinderella who shot to fame and fortune, and the fairy tale not quite over yet for Susan Boyle. Find out how her new recording is breaking records.


BALDWIN: Oh, yes, move aside, Britney, Beyonce, and yes, even Barbra Streisand. Susan Boyle has shattered a record in the music industry now. Josh Levs is here to tell us about that and what it really says about today's music industry. Hey, Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN: Hey, Brooke. I love this. It's so -- you know, I don't know if everyone realizes -- I'll tell you the record in a second -- but this is the -- she's the first ever in history truly overnight worldwide sensation, where someone was completely unknown one day and then literally the most watched and listened-to singer in the world the next day, all because of this.


SUSAN BOYLE (SINGING): I dreamed a dream in times gone by...


LEVS: As we all recall, that's when she was on "Britain's Got Talent." And you know, that show set her up, just like they've set up a lot of people (INAUDIBLE) to leave the audience not expecting a great singer, right? And she comes out and she does that, immediately becomes an icon, and thanks to the Internet and that book (ph), going viral that night. She becomes an icon around the world, so many people thinking and feeling so much about her success and what it means.

Well, now she comes out with her album, right? And this is astounding. She has not only sold the most albums of any artist in a single week this year, Susan Boyle has now had the largest sales debut for any female singer in the entire history of recorded music. She sold more than 700,000 -- more than 700,000 albums in her first week.

And part of what this is about, also, as Brooke was mentioning, is the shape of today's record industry because a lot of young people are buying individual songs. A lot of older people in America and around the world are buying still entire albums. Who is going to be selling the most entire albums? Susan Boyle, whose fan base largely skews older. A lot of the other examples, you know, where you were saying Beyonce, that kind of thing,a lot of people go to iTunes, buy one song, Susan Boyle selling 700,000 albums in the first week.

But you know, it's not about today's context. And Brooke, this is the entire history of recorded music.

BALDWIN: That's amazing.

LEVS: Susan Boyle has the biggest debut ever.

BALDWIN: And you know, I think it really shows just -- we all really appreciate a good Cinderella story, don't we?

LEVS: Yes. I mean, I think, you know, that's a lot of what this is about. And it makes people say, you know, like, the lady down the street who has the cats, you know, the person you see at the grocery store, your own aunt that you don't talk to often enough...


LEVS: Like, maybe these people have these amazing talents and amazing gifts that we all just don't realize. I think people see her and they think that, and it means a lot. And that's what icons are, right? They're (INAUDIBLE)

BALDWIN: You never know. You won't see me singing.


BALDWIN: But Susan Boyle, I can handle.


BALDWIN: Josh, we'll leave it at that.

LEVS: We'll leave it at that!

BALDWIN: I'll spare you the details. Josh Levs, thank you.

LEVS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up, we're talking about the hacked e-mails triggering, really, this brewing scandal under way. The question is, did researchers tweak their findings to manipulate what we think we know about climate change?


BALDWIN: Slight change in travel plans for the president. Mr. Obama will not be in Copenhagen for the start of the upcoming climate change summit next week. Instead, he will catch the finale, meet with other world leaders near the end of the conference, which wraps up on December 18th, the White House saying the president will also go to Oslo, Norway, to pick up that big prize, that Nobel Peace Prize, about a week earlier.

And what some are calling "climate-gate" -- have you heard about this, this scandal that's brewing about some of the science behind climate change? This after thousands of e-mails and documents were hacked and released to the public. So the question really is, did scientists manipulate the data to back up their own beliefs?

Our own Mary Snow digs a little deeper into the scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two weeks after computers were hacked at the UK's University of East Anglia and e-mails between climate scientists were posted on the Internet, the head of the U.N.'s climate science body told the BBC radio he wants an investigation.

RAJENDRA PACHAURI, CHAIRMAN, IPCC: We certainly are going through the whole lot, and then, as I said, we'll take a position on it. So we certainly don't want to brush anything under the carpet. We don't want to sweep it under the carpet. This is a serious issue, and we certainly will look into it in detail.

SNOW (on camera): This U.N. probe is in addition to an investigation under way at the University of East Anglia, which says it's looking to see if there's any evidence that scientific data was manipulated or suppressed.

(voice-over): Phil Jones, the head of the university's climate research unit, has stepped down temporarily. Those who question the effects of human activity on climate change have seized on the e- mails, accusing scientists of conspiring to hide evidence and trying to destroy data, among them, Republican senator James Inhofe, who's called global warming a hoax. This week, he called for a hearing. No decisions yet. And the e-mails were raised at a House hearing this week.

REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R), ARIZONA: Anyone who thinks that those e-mails are insignificant, that they don't damage the credibility of the entire movement, is naive!

SNOW: But at that hearing, a top government scientist said the e- mails do nothing to change the science.

JANE LUBCHENCO, NAT'L OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMIN.: E-mails really do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus and the independent scientific analyses of thousands of scientists around the world that tell us that the earth is warming and that the warming is largely a result of human activity.

GAVIN SCHMIDT, NASA GODDARD INSTITUTE FOR SPACE STUDIES: These are the temperature records from the U.S....

SNOW: Gavin Schmidt is a leading climate scientist with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In the weeks since the e-mails were hacked and questions arose, he's been putting large volumes of data links on the Web site that demonstrates a consistent trajectory of a potentially dangerous warming climate.

SCHMIDT: So what we've said is we've just said, You know, look, you know, you're not aware of that data, but here is all the data that's already existing.

SNOW: His name appeared on those e-mails, and he says he has nothing to hide.

SCHMIDT: There's nothing in these e-mails that's problematic. You know, most of the stuff that's been talked about has been taken completely out of context, and there's a lot of nonsense that's being spoken.

SNOW (on camera): Debate over the e-mails comes a world leaders head to Copenhagen for the U.N. climate change conference. As to what kind of impact these might have? The UK's energy and climate change secretary is quoted by the BBC as saying the idea that they could derail the conference is, in his words, "nonsense." Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


BALDWIN: (INAUDIBLE) questions about your personal spending habits -- i.e., are you a penny pincher or not so much? Well, we have the "Smart Cookies," and they will be providing you with sweet, sweet financial advice. So mix (ph) your e-mails, your questions to We'll answer as many of those questions as we can. They will be live with us in our studio with the "Smart Cookies" present and accounted for -- that's what they're calling it -- in the 3:00 PM Eastern hour right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


BALDWIN: Checking our top stories. The mother of Amanda Knox says her family is shocked, really shattered after her daughter was convicted in the stabbing death of a British exchange student and her former roommate. She visited Knox at an Italian prison today where Knox has begun her 26-year sentence. Her family says she will be appealing that.

And senators busy, busy in a rare weekend session today, debating the president's overall bill. They are racing against the clock, hoping to get the measure approved before the end of the year. By the way, the president is expected to go to Capitol Hill tomorrow right around 2:00 PM Eastern to meet with those senators. The legislation would provide insurance coverage for more than 30 million Americans.

Russia is a country in mourning today after more than 100 people died in this nightclub fire, many of the victims crushed to death as panicking patrons tried to get out of there. You can see them. This pyrotechnical display is believed to have ignited the ceiling, which then spread to the wooden walls.

Make sure you keep it right here with CNN throughout the day for all the latest-breaking news. I'll see you back here at 2:00 o'clock. "YOUR MONEY" starts right now.