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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS
Amanda Knox Sentenced to 26 Years; Snow Blankets Houston Area; PolitiFact.com Rates Obama's Afghanistan Promises; Store Owner Who Spared Robber Gets Thank-You Note
Aired December 5, 2009 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody.
NGUYEN: We're back.
NGUYEN: How you doing this morning, T.J.?
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: I'm OK, B.
HOLMES: Hello there, everybody. We're going to have a good...
HOLMES: ...Saturday morning. This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING for December 5. I'm T.J. Holmes and welcoming back Betty Nguyen. The team's back together.
NGUYEN: All back together. Looking forward to it.
Yes, 6 a.m. here in Atlanta; 5 a.m. in the Midwest. We want to thank you for starting your day with us.
Listen to this - it happened late yesterday. An American college student studying abroad now expected to spend 26 years in prison. Her name is Amanda Knox, and she was convicted of killing her roommate by an Italian jury. That's the one that convicted her.
But there are all sorts of twists and turns in this story, and we've got those details coming up.
HOLMES: Also this morning, a lot of people use Slim-Fast to lose a little weight.
HOLMES: Put it down.
NGUYEN: Uh oh. HOLMES: Find another way to lose weight this morning, because 10 million of those Slim-Fast drinks that are oh so popular have been recalled.
HOLMES: We will tell you why. You don't need to be drinking that stuff just yet.
Also, we're talking about snow in a place...
NGUYEN: In Texas.
HOLMES: Yes. That's not the place we usually get a lot of snow, right?
NGUYEN: No, not at all. And it looks like we're going to have some rain along the East Coast today as well. Reynolds Wolf will be explaining all of that coming up.
HOLMES: We'll show you Texas...
NGUYEN: Yes, because it's on the map to the left.
HOLMES: Oh goodness gracious.
HOLMES: All right. Let's move on to some of our top stories we're keeping an eye on.
This is something we've been following overnight. A horrible one we got out of Russia overnight. A hundred people dead after a nightclub fire? This happened in the Russian city of Perm. And Perm is about 900 miles east of Moscow. At least 140 more people were injured, most of them, we're told, critically. Officials say this was not an act of terrorism or anything; this was an accident. Say a performer was juggling fireworks when the ceiling caught fire.
NGUYEN: Well, troops are patrolling the streets right now in several southern Philippine cities after several months of a political family were taken into custody. Police suspect they were involved in attacking a political opponent's convoy, killing 57 people last week.
Philippines president has declared martial law in one southern province, and that would allow police to arrest anyone without a warrant.
HOLMES: And like Betty just mentioned, that American exchange student in Italy now sentenced to 26 years for murder. A jury found Amanda Knox guilty in the 2007 stabbing death of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. Jurors also found Knox's Italian boyfriend guilty and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors say they tried to force Kercher into some kind of a twisted sex game along with another man. That other man has already been found guilty.
Meanwhile, the victim, Kercher - her family says they are satisfied with this verdict, and they gave a news conference just a short time ago.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERCHER JR., BROTHER OF MEREDITH KERCHER: Meredith - Meredith still leaves quite a - a big hole in our lives.
STEPHANIE KERCHER, SISTER OF MEREDITH KERCHER: Yes.
J. KERCHER: Her - her...
J. KERCHER: Yes. Her presence is missed every - every time we meet up as a family, so...
M. KERCHER: But we are very lucky that we have a lot of memories, and we stay in touch with all of her friends, and - and learn more about her that way as well. So she's still very much a part of our lives, and - and she always will be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: All right. And our Paula Newton has been following this story. She joins us now on the phone from Italy, where this verdict came down.
I guess, Paula, what did - I guess, where is Amanda now? What is her life about, and it - will there be an appeals process?
VOICE OF PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (by telephone): Absolutely an appeals process, and that will be what she's concentrating on.
She has gone back to prison, and we had heard that she had quite a devastating night, really. Obviously, quite upset, inconsolable, sobbing. Her family, and me speaking to them after the verdict, were devastated. But on the other hand, they did say they had been prepared for this. They are now - members of the family will now move to Perugia to try and deal with what will be a very lengthy and complicated appeal. HOLMES: And - and Paula, what is the reaction there? Because so many people in this country that have been following this story, in a lot of ways, understandably so, because this is a - a young American girl, were sympathetic to her.
However, she was depicted in a much different way there in Italy. So what is the reaction now there that she's been found guilty?
NEWTON: I think it's been startling, just the divide between how this story has been reported in the United States and how it's been reported outside the United States.
People here - many people believe that she was guilty from the beginning, and as far as they're concerned, this was just a verdict confirming their guilt. There was no, certainly, a sense of ambivalence about it at all. People here really wondering why there had to be such a media spectacle about it, because for them, for many people here, this was an open-and-shut case.
I think that the - the doubts about forensic evidence and sloppy police work - those have never really been given great weight, here in Italy especially. And - and it has not really been discussed in the way that it's been discussed back home.
HOLMES: And you kind of just hit on a - a point I was going to bring up with this next question, which - people here in the States are used to a certain type of justice, justice system. You're innocent until proven guilty. You have to have this preponderance of evidence.
Explain kind of the differences there as far as burden of proof and evidence, and also the fact just something as simple as their justice system, you get the - the verdict and your sentence in the same day. That's even different for people here in the U.S.
NEWTON: Absolutely that is part of the jury's ruling, is what they then believe, once they decide on guilt, what believe an appropriate sentence would be. And just to repeat, Amanda Knox got 26 years; her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito got 25 years.
I think - look, we - we have to put aside any notions that we have about our justice system and reasonable doubt and having to convict beyond a reasonable doubt. That just does not happen here. On the basis of what they were told, if they believe that they have reasonable, reasonable evidence in front of them that would tend to point to the fact that they murdered this woman, they will convict.
Reasonable doubt, things like the lack of forensic evidence - those are all dealt with in appeal. The system is completely different that way. And the burden of proof, really is - is - is different in the sense that there isn't as much allowance made to the defendants. The prosecution can put forward a fairly cohesive case. Most times, in the first instance, will go for a guilty verdict.
And then all these other extenuating circumstances will be dealt with in an appeals process, which is probably set to start within the next 30 days, and - sorry, pardon me, 90 days. So you're talking three months, probably won't even have the first hearing on appeal until summer.
HOLMES: All right. Paula Newton for us on the story. Thank you so much, Paula.
NEWTON: Thank you.
NGUYEN: Well, Knox's loved ones refuse to believe that she is guilty. And her parents, they are in Italy. But her extended family watched the verdict back home in Seattle, and they do not believe that she was treated fairly.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET HUFF, AUNT OF AMANDA KNOX: They didn't listen to the facts of the case. All they did is listen to the media lies that were put out there.
They didn't listen to the facts and go on the facts. That's all they were supposed to do, and they didn't have the courage to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELISABETH HUFF KNOX, GRANDMOTHER OF AMANDA KNOX: It's like my heart fell into my stomach. That's where - where I'm at now. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight. But - but I'm at a place. Just have to deal with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: Well, Knox's parents released this statement, saying - quote - "We are extremely disappointed in the verdict rendered today against our daughter. While we always knew this was a possibility, we find it difficult to accept this verdict when we know that she is innocent, and that the prosecution has failed to explain why there is no evidence of Amanda in the room where Meredith was so horribly and tragically murdered" - end quote.
Well, Houston - we're going to change gears really quickly, because Houston saw something that it is not seen before - especially this early.
HOLMES: Is this how it goes? Is this that rare of a sight there in...
NGUYEN: It is. Snow in Houston...
NGUYEN: ...it just really doesn't happen.
HOLMES: All right.
Reynolds... REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I - I mean...
WOLF: It is mind-boggling. It makes your head just want to explode. But it is the first time ever in recorded history that we've had snow in Houston this early. And there's the proof right there. Great video that we have. I-Reporters sent in the great stuff.
And we're going to show you where that snow is moving, because it is on the move. And we'll tell you which Americans are going to be seeing all that frozen precipitation coming up in a few moments.
We're watching - you're watching - we're all watching CNN SATURDAY MORNING. See you in a few.
WOLF: It starts with a snowstorm and ends with...
WOLF: ... a shot of me in the backyard of my house.
HOLMES: That was the backyard of your - oh, that's right.
WOLF: Yes. Yes., with the flooding going on.
HOLMES: During the flooding. That's right. You are a rock star. You got the dramatic music. That's something that - you should have a...
HOLMES: You are, man.
WOLF: You think so?
HOLMES: I think so.
WOLF: Well, this rock star's going to talk about some weird stuff we saw in Houston yesterday.
HOLMES: OK, I - I - I realize now how weird this was. I guess we got the video here of it.
WOLF: Yes, we do.
HOLMES: But just how rare of an occurrence are we talking about? This is in Houston, folks.
WOLF: Well, the magical (INAUDIBLE) footage that you see right there, of the kids playing in the snow, good times - you know, it - it's a rare thing to see in Houston. I mean, you've - you've had snow there in Texas before. It does happen. Parts of Texas can get very heavy snow. Ice is usually the biggest problem. But this time of the year? Snow? Houston? First time ever in recorded history, and you see these kids making the most of it. Kids, make sure you're throwing snow, not rocks.
WOLF: (INAUDIBLE) else, OK?
HOLMES: And they say in the past 15 years, this is just the fourth time it's snowed at all.
WOLF: Absolutely. And you know...
HOLMES: In the past 15 years.
WOLF: ...what's funny, is - is parts of Houston, anywhere from 1 to 3, but there were some neighborhoods that recorded as much as, say...
WOLF: ...four inches of snowfall. I mean, it's amazing stuff. And every single bit of that is driving off towards the east. We may have some snowflakes here in Atlanta, but it looks like a better chance of snow up into the Carolinas, so....
HOLMES: We may get a little something (INAUDIBLE).
WOLF: A little bit.
HOLMES: You know, people freak out here if it starts drizzling just a little bit.
WOLF: Which is really weird, because a lot of times, when - when T.J. and I are referring to freaking - freaking out, in the Southeast, anytime you have any hint of snow, the - the stores all sell out of milk and bread, which makes me think that - I guess milk sandwiches are popular. I - I don't know.
HOLMES: Got to stock up. But don't - let's not even tell people it might snow here in Atlanta.
HOLMES: Well, has President Obama kept his campaign promises about Afghanistan?
NGUYEN: Well, Josh Levs is checking up on the president.
Hey there, Josh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH LEVS, CNN CONTRIBUTER: Hey there. Good morning to you guys.
You know, he made a big announcement this week about Afghanistan. But is he pulling through on his word from back during the campaign? We have the answers for you from the Obameter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(MUSIC, BLACK EYED PEAS, "MEET ME HALFWAY")
NGUYEN: Love that song. "Halfway" (sic) by the Black Eyed Peas.
Well, politicians often say one thing on the campaign trail and do another after they've been elected to office.
NGUYEN: Sometimes it happens, believe it or not.
HOLMES: Just a couple times in history.
HOLMES: Well - so has President Obama - is he keeping his campaign promises on Afghanistan?
Josh Levs looks at whether his actions match his words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We definitely are going to need a couple of additional brigades.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We need more troops. We need more resources there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Part of the reason I think it's so important for us to end the war in Iraq is to be able to get more troops into Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEVS: More troops. More troops. We wanted to see how specific he got, what specific promises he made and whether he's keeping them./
And one of the places in the world to look at this is this is right here, the Obameter. It's from PolitiFact.com, where they keep track of hundreds of promises he made on the campaign trail.
Joining us from PolitiFact - in fact, from the Obameter, Angie Holan, who's been following the president's Afghanistan promises.
Hey there, Angie.
ANGIE HOLAN, POLITIFACT.COM: Thanks for having me, Josh.
LEVS: All right. Let's do this - this is what I want to do. I want to start off with a sound byte in which the president made a very specific promise about Afghanistan. And we'll then - you'll tell us if - if he fulfilled that or not.
Here's the sound byte.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As president, I will deploy at least two additional brigades to Afghanistan to reinforce our counterterrorism operations and support NATO's efforts against the Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEVS: Angie, the Obameter says?
HOLAN: The Obameter says "promise kept."
This happened earlier this year, when Obama made a major speech and ordered those extra brigades, and they did go over. So we rated it "promise kept."
LEVS: The - the next one I found really interesting, because you talk about NATO. And here you don't exactly say the president has fulfilled this promise yet. Talk to us about that one.
HOLAN: The NATO promise is to lift restrictions on NATO troops. These are troops that belong to other countries, our allies. And there have either been restrictions or reluctance to send additional troops.
Now, we've rated this "in the works," because the Obama administration is making efforts on this. There have been a lot of diplomatic efforts, and other countries have said that - that they're open. So this one is "in the works," not...
LEVS: "In the works" from you guys means that you've seen him take some steps toward fulfilling it. He hasn't done it yet, but you think he's done enough that he's going in the direction of actually fulfilling it.
HOLAN: That's right. We have "in the works," and then we have our other ratings when he actually gets to fulfillment, like "promise kept" or "promise broken."
LEVS: OK. Yes, we got about a minute here.
Let's zoom - zoom in here. I want to show everyone really quickly, we're going to scroll through these. You can see - you guys have a total of five. These are the next two. You have "train and equipping the Afghan army" and "increasing non-military aid to Afghanistan by a billion dollars."
Now, in each case there, you're saying the same thing. You're saying it's "in the works" because he's taken some steps toward fulfilling these two, right?
HOLAN: That's right.
HOLAN: The - the aid is still pending in Congress.
HOLAN: So he has to wait for them on that.
LEVS: But he's working toward.
Now, I want to end with this last one. We have a screen for you on this. "Making U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on anti-terror efforts."
The Taliban has at times used Pakistan to launch attacks in Afghanistan. The president made a promise. How's he doing?
HOLAN: That's right. The administration often talks about Afghanistan and Pakistan as being part of the same issue. We rated this one "promise kept." Congress passed the - the aid to Pakistan, and there are - a process for the secretary of state to verify that there are helping fight terror - terrorism in the - those border regions.
LEVS: Yes. You know, thanks for that. I keep a close eye on the Obameter. Two for five so far on the Afghanistan front. None broken. As the president goes, that's not too bad, right?
HOLAN: That's not so bad. We've got three more years to go, just about.
LEVS: And I'm (INAUDIBLE)
Well Angie Holan, we're all going to take a look at this, PolitiFact.com. Thank you so much for joining us today.
NGUYEN: Well, a store owner who gave a robber a second chance.
HOLMES: Yes, now hearing from the suspect months later. This is an extraordinary twist...
HOLMES: ...to an already pretty strange story about crime, punishment and forgiveness.
NGUYEN: Here's a look at our top stories this morning.
Working overtime on health-care reform. The Senate is starting a weekend session later this morning. Democrats need every vote they can get to pass the bill. But the public option still a huge sticking point with some senators.
Democrat Blanche Lincoln and independent Joe Lieberman say there is no compromise that they can support just yet.
HOLMES: All right. You got a can of Slim-Fast. Do not drink that stuff. You're supposed to throw it away. The makers of Slim-Fast say the pre-made shakes may be contaminated with a harmful of bacteria. They're now recalling some 10 million cans.
Now that stuff, Unilever, is what they're talking about. The FDA is investigating this stuff. The recall extends to all Slim-Fast pre-made shakes no matter what flavor they are and no matter what the "sell by" date is.
NGUYEN: Well, this has made some big news: American college student studying abroad Amanda Knox, she has been found guilty of murder in Italy. The verdict though does satisfy the victim's family. She has been sentenced to 26 years in prison. She's been convicted of killing her roommate, Meredith Kercher.
Also, her Italian ex-boyfriend was sentenced as well to 25 years in prison. Prosecutors say they tried to force Kercher into some kind of a sex game. Both though must pay nearly $7.5 million to Kercher's family.
And a third person also convicted in a separate trial. But you can bet appeals are expected in this case.
(MUSIC, JOHN LEGEND, "CAN CHANGE")
NGUYEN: Well, a crime story in New York with an ending few could have predicted. A would-be robber was given a second chance by his victim.
HOLMES: Now here we are, some months later. That suspect reaching out to show his appreciation.
Here now, our Mary Snow.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We first brought you Mohammad Sohail's story in June, when he showed mercy to a would-be robber who came into his store demanding money, the ordeal all captured by surveillance cameras. Sohail grabbed a rifle and said the man began crying, saying he needed to feed his family. Sohail gave him $40, a loaf of bread and made him promise never to rob again.
Six months later, the 47-year-old Sohail says that promise was returned in a way he never imagined. He recently received a letter with $50 inside and no return address.
MOHAMMAD SOHAIL, CONVENIENCE-STORE OWNER: I thought what is that? And when I read the letter, that's the same person, you know, the guy come and tried to rob my store.
SNOW: He read it for us.
SOHAIL: "Now I have a good job, making good money, staying out of trouble and taking care of my family. You give me $40 and a loaf of bread; here is the $50. Thank you for sparing my life. Because of that, you changed my life."
SNOW (on camera): Did you cry when you get that letter?
SOHAIL: Absolutely. Because all the time I'm thinking, my mom. My mom say, help anybody if anybody need help.
SNOW (voice-over): The letter is signed, "Your Muslim brother," and the writer states he's now a true Muslim.
During the aborted robbery, the man told Sohail he wanted to be a Muslim just like him, and Sohail recited an Islamic prayer and told him he was converted.
While the man's life may have changed, things are also different for this Pakistani immigrant. At a store in Shirley, New York, he displays letters he's received from across the country.
(on camera): Dear Mr. Sohail -- what is this? -- I want to say that, no person has ever moved my spirit like you did. Wow. From, an admirer, your biggest admirer, Lee (ph)/
Do you know who Lee is?
SOHAIL: I have no idea. People are sending me their letters.
SNOW (voice-over): And some have sent checks. Sohail says he's received a couple hundred dollars and now offers free bagels, rolls and coffee for several hours during the day. And he vows to help others.
(on camera): Would you, one day, like to meet with this anonymous mystery man?
SOHAIL: Of course. I like to see him. I want to see him. If he - if he hear me, if he listening me, this person, come to my store.
SNOW (voice-over): While Sohail says all is forgiven in his eyes, the Suffolk County Police say this is still an open investigation, as they have yet to find the mystery man.
Mary Snow, CNN, New York.
HOLMES: I don't know. I mean, it - that's a fascinating story. If that guy is out there somewhere and his life has changed because he tried to rob a store and the guy helped him out. Amazing.
NGUYEN: But we don't encourage you to do that to change your life in any way, form or fashion.
HOLMES: No, but - I mean, it's a fascinating story.
NGUYEN: It is.
HOLMES: We'll see if they end up getting together.
NGUYEN: Yes, true.
OK, you know, a big push going on right now against insurgents, in fact, in Afghanistan.
HOLMES: Yes, how many American troops are involved in his new military operation? CNN brings you the latest live from Kabul.
Stay here with us on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
HOLMES: Well, hello, everybody. Welcome back to CNN SATURDAY MORNING for December 5. I'm T.J. Holmes.
NGUYEN: Can you believe, we are almost at the end of the year.
HOLMES: 20 days 'til Christmas.
NGUYEN: I haven't done a single thing yet. Hopefully you have, at home. Good morning everybody. Thanks for watching. I'm Betty Nguyen.
HOLMES: I have to tell you about some of our top stories we are keeping an eye on this morning.
Up first, the news we got last night about the American student, Amanda Knox, over in Italy has been found guilty; sentenced to some 26 years. Her Italian ex-boyfriend, also found guilty, he is sentenced to 25 years. Prosecutors said the two were actually part of a group of three that killed Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher. Prosecutors say they tried to force Kercher into some kind of a twisted sex game. The pair now must pay nearly $7.5 million to Kercher's family. Appeals are expected to come soon.
Also, we take you over to Russia now where more than 100 people are dead after a nightclub fire in the city of Perm. Perm is about 900 miles east of Moscow. At least 140 others were injured, most of them, we are told, injured critically. Officials say a performer was juggling fireworks when the ceiling caught fire.
Also, troops were patrolling the streets, right now, in several southern Philippine cities, after several members of a political family were taken into custody. Police suspect they were involved in attacking a political opponents convoy, killing 57 people last week. Philippines president has declared marshal law in one southern province that will allow police to arrest anyone without a warrant.
NGUYEN: Well, on the front lines, right now, we're going to take you to Afghanistan. Because U.S., British, and Afghanistan forces are launching a new assault on militants in the south. And our Fred Pleitgen is just back from the volatile southern region and he joins me now from Kabul.
Fred, what are you hearing about this new operation?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Betty.
This operation is called Cobra's Anger and it is going on in the northern part of the Helmand Province. And I can tell you, that is an area that's seen a lot of Taliban activity. In fact, in that area, the Taliban have dug in. There really has not been much activity on the part of U.S. forces and coalition forces as a whole.
Now, what we do know is that there is about 900 Marines involved in the operation. Also, some British forces are involved, and some Afghans. What they are doing is going into that area. Some Marines are coming from the south, others from the north, while the Brits moving into that area from the east.
Now, I do have some operations updates that are fairly recent. What we are hearing is that the U.S. forces are not meeting much resistance in that area. They say that some Taliban insurgents have been killed during this operation. No, American casualties, no Afghan soldiers killed either, so far. They say that they have discovered some weapons caches. They have also confiscated some homemade explosive, of the kind that is usually used to attack American forces in that area. Certainly, this is something where they have already found some of the things they have been looking for.
They say their major problem right now, Betty, and this is very important. Their major problem right now is that the area around the town Nabzab (ph), where this is going on, is heavily mined and heavily infested with improvised explosive devices. They say, so far, American combat engineers in that area discovered some 300 improvised explosives devices and mines, as they go through that area with mine rollers, to make headway, as they sweep the town of Nabzab, and try and drive the Taliban out of there, Betty.
NGUYEN: Goodness. That makes it a very volatile situation in that particular area.
In fact, you were spending some time with troops. Tell us who you were with and what mission was accomplished during that time?
PLEITGEN: Yes, I was down in the Kandahar area. Which is actually very close to that. We went around Kandahar and Zabul (ph) Province. And really, what's going on there right now is the troops are putting the new directive of President Obama and General Stanley McChrystal into practice.
So they are partnering with the Afghan forces. They are trying to put the Afghan forces first. What they are really trying to do on their patrol, is they are trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan population there; and especially trying to win their trust.
But what we encountered, though, in a lot of the villages that we went to, Betty, is we encountered a lot of very scared Afghan villagers. One Afghan village elder actually told me, he said, that if the Taliban came into his village the next day, he would not call the American, or Afghan security forces, because he was so scared of the Taliban and believes that the Americans could not protect them.
And the operation that we are seeing right now, in Helmand, is really one operation where the Americans are trying to counter exactly that. They are trying to show the Afghan population that they are with us, that they are fighting the insurgency and that they are going to keep doing this until the insurgency as at least dropped back to a point where the Afghan security forces can move in, Betty.
NGUYEN: Yes, it is going to take some convincing. All right. Frederik Pleitgen joining us live from Kabul. Fred, thank you for that. I want to take you to a quick look at U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. The major, the majority, I should say U.S. and NATO forces are deployed in southern Afghanistan, in areas like the Heldman Province, which you see right here.
Now, there are around 37,000 international troops, at this hour, in that area. The U.S. has a total of 68,000 troops in country. Some of them are serving with the NATO-led International Security Force. NATO nations have 45,000 troops there. This year, 300 American troops and 185 coalition soldiers have died in Afghanistan.
Now that President Obama laid out his plan, get an in-depth look into what is happening in Afghanistan. You can watch iReports from around the world and read blog posts as well. All you have to do is go to CNN.com/Afghanistan. You can get amazing first-person accounts from the region, as well as charts on U.S. troop levels, through the yeas and so much more. Again, that is CNN.com/Afghanistan.
HOLMES: All right. Let's bring in our Reynolds Wolf who is keeping an eye on things.
Well, let's get to the story. The American student studying abroad, Amanda Knox was convicted of killing her roommate. Paula Newton will have the details.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: All right. They are working overtime on health care reform. The Senate starting a weekend session a little bit later this morning. Democrats say they need every single vote they can get to pass the bill. But the public option is still a huge sticking point with some senators. Democrat Blanche Lincoln and Independent Joe Lieberman say there's no compromise they can support, just yet.
HOLMES: Slim-Fast shakes, not going to be the way for you to lose weight right now. The makers of Slim-Fast say the pre-made shakes may be contaminated with a harmful bacteria. They are recalling 10 million cans of the stuff. Unilever, which is the maker of Slim-Fast and the FDA now investigating. This recall extends to all Slim-Fast pre-made shakes, regardless of what flavor they are or regardless of what sell-by date is on them.
NGUYEN: Well, American student Amanda Knox has been found guilty of murder in Italy. She's has been sentenced to 26 years in prison. She has been convicted of killing her roommate, as well as her ex- boyfriend. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. That British roommate being Meredith Kercher. Prosecutors say they tried to force Kercher into some kind of a sex game. The pair must pay nearly $7.5 million to Kercher family. Also, a third person has been convicted in a separate trial. Appeals, they are expected. And we will continue to follow this case for you.
NGUYEN: Oh, this music, let me tell you.
HOLMES: It applies here.
NGUYEN: Shall we go on with the story?
HOLMES: Well, it is something -a player, a name that a lot of people normally might not know a whole lot about, from a state that most people don't know a whole lot about. He's been important in the health care debate.
NGUYEN: That is true.
HOLMES: Senator Max Baucus, out of Montana, he is a key player on a Senate committee that has been putting together some health care legislation. News coming out that he actually nominated his current girlfriend for a U.S. attorney position, while the two were involved. They are both divorced here. So that is not an issue and not accused of breaking up each other marriages.
NGUYEN: Yes, there was no affair or anything like that at all.
HOLMES: Nothing like that.
NGUYEN: The question lies in the fact, should he have been able to screen the applicants, she being one of them, and go ahead and nominate her for the position?
HOLMES: Of course, she did not. They decided that once the process moved along and they gotten more involved in their relationship that she should withdrawal her name. So she didn't get the position. She now works at the Justice Department. But it is raising, just a few questions about what you should be able to do, a person in power, as far as trying to have influence, or nominate someone you are romantically involved with.
NGUYEN: And should it have gone even that far? Because she was down to like, what, three applicants?
HOLMES: The final three.
NGUYEN: Yes, the final three applicants. Let us know what you think about that. Go to our Facebook and Twitter sites. As well as our CNN blog, you can reach out to us several ways. We do want to hear from you. We will be reading your responses today. Let us know what you think.
All right. Reynolds, he is going to be back for his usual segment that we call the "Wacky Weekend" events. Which we love around there.
HOLMES: We love it. We love Reynolds. We love to see him every day, 6:45, or every Saturday we do this. He has a little something for everybody. Also, something this time around to get you in the holiday spirit, Reynolds coming right up.
NGUYEN: I remember the song, yeah.
WOLF: I'm a child of the '80s, so I remember that.
NGUYEN: Who doesn't like candy?
WOLF: I sure do. Especially this time of year, we have the holiday candy, the candy canes. It's what we refer in the business as a segue into the great "Wacky Weekend" event thing. Let's go right to it. Let's show you what we got.
We mentioned candy. Let's deliver it. We got the 54th Annual Candy Cane Parade in Hollywood Beach, Florida. Floats and bands on the boardwalk. Santa is going to take a break to take some time in the sun, away from the Arctic Circle. Always a good time, if you want a change of venue. It is a good thing for you.
NGUYEN: Maybe he'll get a tan while he's down there.
WOLF: I think so. And I think he's been needing one for quite some time. It's about time.
A little bit farther north, we are going to take you up to New Gloucester, Maine. Gloucester, Maine?
WOLF: It works for me. It doesn't matter how you say it, it matters how you taste it. They have plenty of baked goods there. Not sure about lobsters, about crustaceans. Not sure how they fair, but I can guarantee you everything else is going to be just picture perfect there.
Then we are going to go back to Texas, in Galveston, Texas, they had a few flurries there yesterday. They are going to be recreating Old England, in the 36th Annual Dickens Festival. You know sometimes just one or two years isn't enough. You have to do this 36 years in a row. They have a big event there. One of the big things they have is the Victorian bed races. They get the beds and they race them.
NGUYEN: Race them down the street?
WOLF: Whatever it takes, absolutely.
Then we go across to the other side of the pond, to London, where it is the Great Christmas Pudding Race. And speaking of races it raises money for cancer research. It's is the 29th Annual Relay Race through an obstacle course. They carry a tray of pudding.
And you know there aren't enough Christmas pudding races. All the greats, when it comes to racing you go to say, Jesse Owens, you go to Roger Bannister, the guy who broke the four- minute mile. All of them, actually used to run carrying big trays of pudding. It is part of the training regimen -even Bill Cosby.
NGUYEN: Who eats Christmas pudding? I have never had Christmas pudding.
WOLF: Well, you know, Bill Cosby was actually - he ran in college for Temple.
NGUYEN: Did he have pudding pops, then?
WOLF: Well, he had pudding pops. But still pudding, it is the same theme. There needs to be more pudding races.
NGUYEN: Boy, that was a segue right there, if I knew one.
WOLF: Guys, it's an early morning. And this is with no coffee.
HOLMES: You have to get us some video of that pudding race.
WOLF: I'll do that for you. We could do that.
NGUYEN: Bring in some Christmas pudding, one day, too.
WOLF: We'll do that tomorrow.
HOLMES: Appreciate you, Rennie. Don't go anywhere folks. See him again at the top of the hour as CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.
HOLMES: A group in Atlanta is trying to combat what they say is a marriage crisis by introducing black teens to positive relationships. CNN's Don Lemon tells us the goal is to ensure more children, in the future, grow up with both parents.
DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nervous anticipation. Big expectations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From this moment forth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We shall be one.
LEMON: Two lives, two families, joined forever. A love story begins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are now husband and wife. Sir, you may salute your bride.
LEMON: But for some black teens, this seems like a fairy tale.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of my friends never been to a wedding. A lot of people seen where it is and a lot of people have been invited. I got neither one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people around me in areas I go to have - have single parents. Sometimes there is an occasion where the father takes care of them. But it's not likely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think of marriage, but I be looking ahead of marriage, like what could end up happening. And that's a divorce.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really wouldn't want to be committed to nobody for the rest of my life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My parents are married.
After they got married, everything just took a turn for the worse. They started arguing. I hate arguing. I hate it with a passion. Seeing them argue all the time just makes me feel like that's something I don't want to deal with.
LEMON: It's no wonder these kids are ambivalent. Almost half of all first marriages in America break apart. Black marriages are just as vulnerable to divorce. Add to that, the fact that nearly half of all black men and women do not marry at all. That more and more mothers are unwed and the state of marriage in the black community is in peril.
CYNTHIA HALE, PASTOR, RAY OF HOPE CHRISTIAN CHURCH: The impact of the lack of cohesive family units, and the high divorce rate on the African-American community is devastating.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't want you to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) now.
LEMON: Mega-minister Reverend Cynthia Hale, of a Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Georgia.
HALE: It is devastating because of what it does to children. The children do not understand why their parents are not together. Why their parents aren't living together any longer. Why they are not living in the same house. Why they have to be uprooted from their schools and their friends when parents move and separate. That affects their ability to learn, and then ultimately, their ability to be productive members of society.
CHILDREN IN UNISON: One, two, three, four, five --
LEMON: It is children like this who are target audience for Future Foundation, founded by former Sacramento King forward, Shareef Abdul Rahim. One of their missions? To give kids a glimpse of the reality of marriage.
LEMON (On camera): If you are not pushing marriage? What if some people just don't want to get married?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we don't push marriage. We teach healthy relationships and we teach healthy marriages. It doesn't do any good to get married and you are in an unhealthy marriage.
LEMON (voice over): Future Foundations uses community outreaches, mock weddings to teen summits to show black kids in Atlanta visions of marriage. Today, I listen in a discussion about marriage myths.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here to talk about a very important subject. Does anyone know what that is?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many say that African-Americans don't value it as much as white Americans?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.
MICHAEL CALLOWAY, FUTURE FOUDNATIONS: Across the board, we all value marriage. However, in our community we see an issue where there are not as many marriages when compared to other ethnicities. Why is that the case?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe it is because our parents weren't married, or because we haven't seen how to handle those situations.
CALLOWAY: When I say that I speak from firsthand experience, my mother was 15 when she had me. My father was no where around. I grew up in the projects. Honestly, youth development programs saved my life. They are the reason that I am a husband and that I am a father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care about marriage.
LEMON: Why not?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, because I don't. My parents aren't married, so I don't care.
LEMON: I spot a young woman in the crowd, clearly struggling with the conversation.
(On camera): Maybe a good question is, how many of you don't want to be married? Ladies? You in the pink shirt, what is your name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Felicia.
LEMON: Do you come from a two-parent or single parent home?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Single mom.
LEMON: Single mom. Where is your dad?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't really know.
LEMON: Tell me about that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just not around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (BEGINS TO CRY, CLOSES EYES)
CALLOWAY: Listening to your stories, here is what I understand. You are dealing with issues and obstacles that are beyond your control. Those issues or obstacles will justify you making the same decisions moving forward, and creating the exact same situations that you were brought up in, or those issues and obstacles will inspire you to do something different.
LEMON (voice over): Something like building strong marriages, strong families, foundations for strong communities. Finally, after an hour of heart to heart, a small breakthrough.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can be done is we see what's wrong, so as young adults, as we get older, we can change according to what we see is wrong and do what's right.
HOLMES: Again, CNN examining what it means to be "Black in America" tonight and tomorrow night, 8:00 o'clock Eastern. Watch stories of people stepping up, taking charge and creating solutions. "Black in America 2" tonight, 8:00 o'clock Eastern.
Hey, there everybody, from the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING for December 5th. I'm T.J. Holmes.
NGUYEN: Yes, good morning everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. It is 6:00 (sic) a.m. here in Atlanta, 5 a.m. in the Midwest. We do thank you for starting your day with us.
Let's get to the news right now, because an American college student studying abroad is now expected to -- spend, I should say, if I can get that out, 26 years in prison. Amanda Knox was convicted of killing her roommate. But there are so many twists and turns in the story, you have to stay tuned to the details. They are coming up.
HOLMES: Also, weather going to be a big story this week. And now, a snow weekend Texas -- yes, Texas is getting some snow. I'm told this is awfully rare.
NGUYEN: Especially this early.
HOLMES: This early in the season.
Also, Alabama. We have some pictures coming into us as well from Huntsville. Check this out. Reynolds Wolf is looking in all things whether related for us this morning.
NGUYEN: I love this story.
HOLMES: Do you -- I was kind of surprise by this.
NGUYEN: That's why I love it. It's such a surprise.
HOLMES: You know, when I see this, and I think about her doing like a Beyonce and "All the Single Ladies" video.
NGUYEN: With the leotard and everything.
NGUYEN: All right.
HOLMES: But you know her, you probably remember her.
NGUYEN: Susan Boyle.
HOLMES: But she is not, all folks like Rihanna and Beyonce as the top selling artist. We'll look at the music history she has made.
NGUYEN: It is amazing, it really is.
All right. Let's get to the top stories right now, shall we?
HOLMES: Yes, this is one we're watching overnight. This one happened over in Russia. More than 100 people dead after a night club fire in the Russian city of Perm. That's about 900 miles east of Moscow. At least 140 others were injured, most of them critically. Officials say a performer was juggling fireworks when the ceiling caught fire.
NGUYEN: Well, stepping up the drone attacks in Pakistan. A U.S. official says the White House is expanding the CIA drone program. It allows U.S. forces in Afghanistan to target al Qaeda and Taliban suspects over the border. Now, the U.S. military doesn't comment on drone attacks in Pakistan.
HOLMES: Also, a story we have been following. We finally got word after a year-long trial yesterday that American student Amanda Knox is now guilty. At least that's what jurors have delivered over at Italy. She's been sentenced to 26 years in prison. Her Italian ex-boyfriend also sentenced to 25 years. Both convicted of killing Knox's British roommate. Her name is Meredith Kercher.
Prosecutors say the group tried to force Kercher into some kind of a twisted sex game. The pair that's found guilty here, Knox and her ex- boyfriend, must pay nearly $7.5 million to the victim's family. A third person was also convicted in a separate trial. And appeals are expected.
Our Paula Newton has been following this case, following this trial, for us for some time. She joins us now live from Italy.
Here we are the day after we saw this coverage for some two years now. So, what is the reaction like now that she has been found guilty?
PAUL NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reaction depends, of course, on who you talk to. Most importantly, today, we already had reaction this morning from Meredith Kercher's family. She, of course, was the woman who lost her life in this brutal attack.
And, you know, her family, T.J., certainly wasn't about saying that, you know, they kind of wanted to clock any kind of a victory here. They were very somber, continued the dignified distance that they have kept from the media circus -- in a press conference, made it clear and said that this was a measure of justice for them and a measure of justice for their sister and daughter.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYLE KERCHER, BROTHER OF MEREDITH KERCHER: The decision -- place that we got a decision, but it's not time, you know, it's not time for celebration again. It's not a moment of triumph, and as we've said before, at the end of the day, we're all gathered here because, you know, our sister was brutally murdered and taken away from us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: You know, and that has always been the bottom line for this family as they talked about the case and talk about the competing evidence. They really just wanted the memory of Meredith Kercher to be respected.
Now, on the other side of the coin, T.J., the Amanda Knox family went to bed quite late last night. I was speaking to them, as late as 4:30 in the morning. I can't imagine how shattered they are. Today, the priority for them is to get a chance to see their daughter, Amanda Knox, in prison. It's not a normal visitation day in prison. Amanda was inconsolable after the verdict and they just want to -- they say got a chance to hug her and tell her that they love her -- T.J.
HOLMES: Well, what's next for Amanda now? What are her options for a possible appeal and how quickly could that process get underway?
NEWTON: This is a very mechanical process in Italy. There will be an appeal, there always is. It can't even begin really for at least three months. You'd be looking at a hearing later this summer, perhaps. All the issues will be brought up, again. It will be an absolutely exhausting process for anyone involved.
But really, it's her only hope. The appeals process here in Italy is completely different as it is back home. The defendants or, in this case, the convicted murderers, really do have recourse to talk about the evidence that they doesn't exist, to talk about the sloppy police work. And in many times, even if a verdict isn't overturned, there are those kinds of intervening circumstance they have a good chance of getting their sentence really redeemed, perhaps sometimes even cut in half -- T.J.
HOLMES: All right. Paul Newton for us this morning -- thank you so much.
NGUYEN: Well, Knox's loved ones refuse to believe that she is guilty. Her parents are in Italy but her extended family watched the verdict back home in Seattle. And they do not believe that she was fairly treated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET HUFF, AUNT OF AMANDA KNOX: They didn't listen to the facts of the case. All they did, they listened to the media -- live, that were put out there. They didn't listen to the facts and go on the facts -- that's all they were supposed to do and they didn't have the courage to do it.
ELISABETH HUFF KNOX, GRANDMOTHER OF AMANDA KNOX: It's like my heart fell into my stomach. That's where I'm at now. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight. But, I don't have a choice. Just have to deal with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: Knox's parents released this statement saying, quote, "We are extremely disappointed in the verdict rendered today against our daughter. While we always knew this was a possibility, we find it difficult to accept this verdict when we know that she is innocent, and that the prosecution has failed to explain why there is no evidence of Amanda in the room where Meredith was so horribly and tragically murdered," end quote.
HOLMES: We'll be talking about that story more throughout the morning.
Also, a big story today will be weather.
HOLMES: A big deal in Houston because they are seeing something they haven't seen before, this early, at least.
NGUYEN: This early, yes.
It's obviously snow in Houston this time of year, Reynolds.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I know. I mean, you know, when talk -- when you lead into that, some people think, gosh, what happened, you know? When you talk about this thing, it's never been seen here before, are you talking alien invasion? What you could possibly guess. No. Hard to believe, snow is never been recorded reported in Houston this early -- never reported and recorded in history.
And you see the kids out there enjoying themselves and -- looks like the snow is not going to stay put. It is now driving off to the east. It's going to affect millions more Americans. We're going to show where it's headed -- coming up in just a few moments. Kids having fun. Good deal.
NGUYEN: You know, we are getting close to Christmas. I'm just not there just yet. I'm hearing the songs. I've seen the Christmas trees and all that stuff. Yes, not there yet. But, if you live in Houston -- hey, look outside. It will get you in the mood.
WOLF: Isn't it weird how that kind of thing happens though? Just a little bit of frozen precipitations. The kind of thing that makes you want to go out there and spend money, put up, you know, a tree and your house, put up, you know, all kinds of cool things.
NGUYEN: Put up a snowman.
You know, what's weird is having snow in places like Dallas or maybe some ice storms in Austin...
NGUYEN: It rarely snow. It's usually ice.
NGUYEN: So, they actually get some powder -- it's nice.
WOLF: And as far south, it's going to the coast, like to Houston, that it's just beyond belief.
NGUYEN: Yes, that doesn't happen this time of year. Never, right?
WOLF: And never -- never before in recorded history. I mean, I'm sure before we were, you know, someone was there to record it's happened, but as long as we've been keeping records, this is the very, very first time -- an amazing thing to see. And I'll tell you, Betty, they are expecting a warm up in Texas. So, what fell yesterday is going to be going very soon, if not going completely by this afternoon.
NGUYEN: Well, enjoy the snowman while he's still alive. WOLF: Absolutely. And the great about is you're not going...
NGUYEN: He's going to melt away.
WOLF: Exactly. And you're not going to have to, you know, use the shovel and clean it up.
We're going to show you some great things we have out and it's going to be -- again where the snow is headed. Right now, it looks like it's going to be going to places like the Appalachians, with snow could be get heavier, six inches of snow there. There are driving issues happening along parts of the Blue Ridge parkway. We're going to get to that in mere moments.
Let's go right to it. In fact, let's show a shot over there that we have in Atlanta, where in Atlanta this morning, we got a few scattered clouds, low clouds. We have a few rain drops along the freeway this morning. But if you happen to be in north Georgia, the story is a little bit different, where we're seeing just a touch of snowfall.
In fact, we're going to zoom in on a few spots. Let's do that right now. Let's take you back to Atlanta. And you'll notice, right her, a little bit telltale precipitation just forming, just north, along 75, when we get up to places like, say, (INAUDIBLE) or back into parts of the Appalachians, right along 81, that snow is going to really begin to pile up. We're talking about six inches of snowfall in some places. In other places, it's just a light dusting.
And as this storm system marches its way up towards the east and northeast, what it's going to do is you're going to see some rain mainly along the coast because you've got warmer air and quite honestly, the ocean water has a moderating effect on the atmosphere. It makes things a little bit more mild.
However, places like New York, this evening, you might see a dusting of snowfall. Maybe about an inch or less. Same story in Philadelphia.
Washington, D.C., I don't think you're going to see much snowfall at all. But in Boston, there's always a change you might have some snow flakes out by Fenway Park.
Meanwhile, something else we're going to be seeing around parts of the country, is the possibility of more snowfall for portions of the northern Rockies, even places like Yellowstone or back towards the Teton. We're talking about a combination of not only snow that could measure in several feet, but also wind gusts topping 40 miles an hour. Wind chill factor at 35 below. So, we're talking just some rib- rattling cold, no question about it.
Same story back in the Sierra Nevada, anyone making that drive from Reno back over to Truckee, maybe into the Lake Tahoe, could have some snow to deal with and some strong wind gusts.
But for much of the Central Plains, a lot of sunshine. As I mentioned, the snow is going to be long gone before the day is out and look for chance of severe storm in south Florida, and nothing severe as of yet, but there is that potentially, you might have a rumble of thunder, maybe even a tornado or two before all is said and done, and possibly, even a waterspout.
Now, very quickly as we wrap things up, 40 degrees in Memphis, 40 in Washington, D.C., Tampa, not bad for you at all today, rain early but then clearing out, 63 degrees is the high, 51 in Houston, 56 in San Francisco, and Billings, wow, 19 degrees. Try that one on for size.
All right. That's the latest in the forecast -- let's send it back to you guys at the desk.
HOLMES: All right. And, Reynolds, you are a Rihanna fan, Beyonce? You're fan of those two?
WOLF: I -- basically, everything she does is really the sound track of my life.
NGUYEN: "All the Single Ladies" -- that's the sound track of your life?
WOLF: Oh, let's be honest. That would be yes.
HOLMES: Is Susan Boyle in there as well? They do rate up there for you as far as your favorite artist, Susan Boyle?
WOLF: Rihanna is really like the sunrise, but she's kind of like the sunset when it comes to Boyle. I've finished my day off always. She's the dessert of my day.
NGUYEN: The dessert of your day. Well, clearly, she's been the dessert of several people's day.
HOLMES: As always, I hate I'd even asked...
NGUYEN: It's a tough transition, too.
HOLMES: Yes. But, Beyonce, Rihanna, you have Susan Boyle is in that kind of category as a top selling artist.
NGUYEN: Yes, history making. History breaking --- record-breaking. Josh Levs is here with the quite a surprise.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
NGUYEN: I was happy to hear about this. I'm rooting for, you know, for the people that you don't expect to be up there.
LEVS: I think that's one of the reasons people like her so much. I think that's part of what she is as an icon. As you know, like kind of a lot of people like the anti-Beyonce (ph) -- but you won't believe this. Look, everyone knew it would be big, right? But she has broken a record for all of music history. Think of any female singer ever, of all time, it is Susan Boyle that now holds this major record -- I'll tell you what it is.
NGUYEN: I'm just so amazed. I mean, her voice is beautiful.
HOLMES: I haven't heard the new stuff. I just remember her from the show.
NGUYEN: Were you waiting for a remix or something?
HOLMES: No, I don't know.
NGUYEN: There's no auto-tune on this one. It's all good.
HOLMES: I didn't know if there was a new album out or whatever this is. She's doing well now. I don't know her new stuff.
NGUYEN: All right. The "her" is Susan Boyle singing, of course, you know, that singing sensation from the TV show, "Britain's Got Talent." And definitely, she does.
HOLMES: Yes. And she is now making history with that talent.
Josh Levs has more in today's "Levs on the Lookout."
LEVS: They have me over here in the CNN audio booth today with Cedric, because, you know, we're here to talk about recording an album. In fact, we're thinking about talking some of Betty and T.J.'s news reads this morning, setting them to music and maybe that can sell millions, too.
These numbers massive. You've got to see this. But, first, we're going to start off with the moment that helped change the music world. Take a look.
LEVS: OK. So, you remember this, she was on "Britain's Got Talent." They set you up to now think she's going to be some terrific singer and then she starts singing like that. So, of course, boom, she becomes an icon.
But what a lot of people don't stop to realize is that she's the first, ever, in history, Susan Boyle is the first worldwide overnight sensation. This has never happened before. Someone who was totally unknown one day and literally the most watched and listened to singer of the world the next day. It's the power of the Internet.
Well, now, her album comes out. People bought it like crazy in advance. Let me tell you about how many she's selling.
This is the most album of any artist so far this year. OK. But listen to this record. Susan Boyle now has the largest ever sales debut for any female singer in the entire history of recorded music. She sold 700,000, more than 700,000 in her first week. She beat Eminem's record for this year, where he had sold 600,000 in his first week. She is beating both "American Idol" finalists from last year.
And part of what we're seeing here is also a shift in music industry. You know, certainly, she had a lot of support because of the iconic moment that you saw there on the Internet. But what also happened here is that these days, a lot of younger people go to iTunes and Web sites, and they buy individual songs.
But there's a lot of older listeners that actually go to stores or online and buy an entire album. So, when you look at who sells the most albums, it is her. But it is not just a matter of today's market, it's also the entire history of recorded music.
Betty and T.J., there you go. That is the record. Susan Boyle has officially set today, she is the biggest debut of any female singer ever in the history of recorded music. Not bad for a first album.
NGUYEN: That floors me, ever in the history of music?
LEVS: Think of everyone. Think of Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, no debut album has...
NGUYEN: Madonna, Mariah Carey.
LEVS: Biggest debut for female ever.
LEVS: It's crazy. I mean, it's huge.
NGUYEN: Yes, no doubt. But, I mean, the voice.
LEVS: Oh, you got to love it. I mean, I'm happy for her.
NGUYEN: T.J.'s got all of it on his iPod.
HOLMES: Don't have it yet. What genre is she? And I'm not even sure. What is she singing?
LEVS: You know, I've got to check on that. I know that they're rating her on the Billboard Top 200. So, it's albums and everything together.
LEVS: But what she would be under, what is that? Adult contemporary? I don't even know. Good question, T.J.
NGUYEN: Yes, maybe adult contemporary.
LEVS: Something like that.
NGUYEN: It's still T.J.'s beat. All right. Thank you, Josh.
HOLMES: All right. Well, there was a whole lot of money put aside.
NGUYEN: Yes, but so far, less than 2,000 people are getting permanent help from the president's effort to help troubled homeowners.
HOLMES: So, what exactly went wrong? Our housing specialist, Clyde Anderson -- he's to map this all out for us and tell us what's being done to make it right.
Stay with us.
NGUYEN: Taking a look at our top stories right now.
Working overtime on health care reform. The Senate is starting a weekend session later this morning and Democrats -- they need every vote they can get to pass this bill. But the public option is still a huge sticking point for some senators. Democrat Blanche Lincoln and independent Joe Lieberman say there's no compromise that they can support as of yet.
HOLMES: Well, they're supposed to make you thin but they might make you sick. Slim-Fast, if you got those the cans in the house, you're supposed to throw them out. The makers of Slim-Fast say the pre-made shakes may be contaminated with a harmful bacteria. They are recalling some 10 million cans. The FDA is now looking into this. The recall extends to all Slim-Fast pre-made shakes regardless of the flavor and regardless of the "sell by" date.
NGUYEN: Well, American student, Amanda Knox, has been found guilty of murder in Italy. She's been sentenced to 26 years in prison. Her Italian ex-boyfriend is also sentenced to 25 years. Both are convicted of killing Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher. Prosecutors say they tried to force Kercher to some kind of a sex game.
The pair must pay nearly $7.5 million to Kercher's family. And a third person is also convicted but in a separate trial. Appeals -- they are expected.
NGUYEN: All right. So, the president's plan to help troubled homeowners is thinning off a little trouble of its own. The loan relief is temporary, as in borrowers must enter a trial period before they can qualify for permanent assistance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have so many people on trial payments now that we don't know if they're going to be permanent. It's just really hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: And a congressional report found that, of the 650,000 homeowner that have received temporary help, only 1,700 have qualified for permanent financing, only 1,700. Well, this week, the administration decided to do something about that.
Housing expert Clyde Anderson joins us now with what is wrong with the plan and what's being done to make it right.
I'm just so surprised by it. I mean, how many was this plan supposed to help?
CLYDE ANDERSON, HOUSING EXPERT: Millions.
ANDERSON: We're talking about millions of people.
NGUYEN: Seventeen hundred as of today.
ANDERSON: Yes. So...
NGUYEN: OK. Part of the problem is, when you apply for this, you still aren't out of foreclosure just yet, right?
ANDERSON: No. No.
NGUYEN: Those proceedings continue.
ANDERSON: They can continue and there's two processes. There's a temporary modification and a permanent modification. So, you could be in that temporary modification and you can still be going through the foreclosure proceedings. The problem is, one hand is not talking to the other.
NGUYEN: Well, another problem with that is and when those proceedings continue, that incurs cost, correct?
ANDERSON: Exactly. And we got to make sure we're holding these companies accountable, you know? They have to go in there and that's the fix to go in and make sure they are held accountable. And they're going to put them out there on glasses, is what I would like to call it. It shows who's doing what.
NGUYEN: Let everybody know.
ANDERSON: Let everybody know. And that's the key.
NGUYEN: Well, another problem, too, is the actual application process -- I hear it's quite tedious. ANDERSON: Very -- very tedious. There's a lot of information that they're looking for. There's a lot of things you got to provide. And everybody doesn't know this information. And sometimes, it can be intimidating. So, the fix for that one is that they're going to come in and have people help train.
ANDERSON: Help make sure everybody knows and they are making them the -- the Web site making home affordable, more user-friendly.
NGUYEN: Yes, we have that up right now. The Web site.
NGUYEN: Also a number that you can call right there. And all this is free.
ANDERSON: It's all free. They give free advice. The Web site is great. I've been on the Web site. I've tried it out. They tell you a checklist of everything that you need to provide.
And so, it's key that kind of read all the information and make sure you know what you need going into it.
NGUYEN: You know, it's great if you can qualify and get the permanent, you know, solution here. But another one of the problem is, it's a little nerve-racking because if you don't qualify, that's it. There's no appeal, right?
ANDERSON: Yes. There's no formal appeal process. And so, what they're doing is they're bringing what I like SWAT teams.
ANDERSON: These SWAT teams are going to come in, clean it up, making sure that everybody knows what's happening. You can apply again, but you really got to have a really, really good appeal letter to say, "Hey, why didn't I get it the first time?"
NGUYEN: Wait. Now, explain it to me. So, there will be an appeals process now?
ANDERSON: It's not really a formal process. You could go back and say, "Hey, let's try again."
NGUYEN: So, it's just like try again. OK.
ANDERSON: Yes. So, it's not a formal process. Now, with the SWAT team coming in, I'm hoping that they're going to go and do something that's formal and say, "OK, you didn't get it because" -- because a lot of people don't know why they didn't get it.
NGUYEN: Exactly, if you don't know what your problem is and you're going to make the same mistake applying again.
ANDERSON: Exactly. Don't know what to fix.
NGUYEN: But do we know for sure that the SWAT team is going to be coming in?
ANDERSON: That has been said -- the treasury had said...
NGUYEN: ... what it will do exactly.
ANDERSON: Exactly. The Treasury said they are coming in and they're going to make sure these companies know what they're doing. You got to think about it. They rolled this out six months ago or so. And nobody was really trained.
We saw the problems, the red flags coming down the pipe. Nobody had all the processes in place. And so, now, they're going to come in and make sure that everybody knows details of what they're supposed to be doing.
NGUYEN: Devil is in the details.
ANDERSON: That's it.
NGUYEN: All right. Clyde, as always, thank you.
ANDERSON: Always a pleasure.
HOLMES: All right. Clyde, good to see you here.
This is a segment a lot of people are going to be interested in this morning.
HOLMES: It doesn't directly apply to you two, I just want to bring you all in to it.
NGUYEN: All right.
HOLMES: I think I got your attention here. But infidelity has been in the news a lot this past week. As we know, the high-profile case of it, if you will. So, there's a lot of people thinking about, you know, text messages and voice mails and things like that.
So, if you are worried your man or lady is cheating on you, you can do more than just suspect it. You can find out.
Our next hour, a segment you're going to want to see, our tech guru is going to show you some tools, some high-tech tools to catch a cheater.
HOLMES: All right. Of course, Betty and I will be back at the top of the hour with more live news on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
NGUYEN: But first, "HOUSE CALL" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta begins right now