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AMERICAN MORNING

Gates Makes Unannounced Trip to Afghanistan; Five Car Bombs Kill Over 100 in Iraq; Obama's Administration Signals It Believes Science of Global Warming Settled; President to Utilize Repaid TARP Funds to Fund Job Creation; Bailout Money for Jobs; Emergency at Woods' Mansion; Young Boy Recovers From Autism; Going Green & Saving Green; 1,500 Marines Set to Ship Out; EPA Takes on Climate Change

Aired December 8, 2009 - 06:58   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Fifty-eight minutes past the hour right now. Breaking news. Coordinated car bombs in Iraq's capital city kill more than 100 people; nearly 200 others injured. We're going to get the latest from Baghdad on this AMERICAN MORNING, and thanks so much for being with us today. It is Tuesday, December 8th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Joe Johns in for John Roberts who is on assignment.

First is a breaking news coming out of Iraq. It's a grisly scene in central Baghdad now. A series of five carefully coordinated car bombings ripping through the capital city. More than 100 people were killed; nearly 200 others injured. Our Isha Sesay is in Baghdad with the late-breaking details.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe and Kiran, today shaving up to be the bloodiest day in Baghdad since late October.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY (voice-over): Police officials telling CNN that five car bombs rocked the capital on this Tuesday morning. Explosions happening in Southern, Western, and Central Baghdad. A number of locations targeted, including busy commercial centers and a government ministry building.

In terms of casualty figures, we're hearing that over 100 people have been killed and over 180 people wounded. The majority of those civilians, men, women, and children included in those numbers. Those explosions that happened in Central Baghdad happened over a short period of time in quick succession and gave the appearance of being coordinated, showing that even though the overall situation in Iraq when it comes to security has improved somewhat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY (on-camera): When militants strike, they strike in a coordinated manner, and they claim many lives. Back to you.

CHETRY: Isha Sesay thanks so much, and other stories we're following for you this morning. Defense Chief Roberts Gates is in Afghanistan. He arrived in an unannounced trip, just six days after the President said 30,000 more troops are going to be sent into battle. Gates will meet with Afghan President, Hamid Karzai as well as U.S. troops during the visit. He promised he is making the both, straight ahead.

JOHNS: According to WESH-TV and "The Orlando Sentinal" firefighters have responded to a medical emergency at Tiger Woods' house, his mansion, just after 2:30 this morning. This video is of a woman who we believe was taken from Tiger Woods' home.

We're sending someone to the hospital at the moment and we'll keep you updated as we get more information.

President Obama looking for ways to create jobs. Today he is expected to talk about some of the financial bailout and using it to get Americans back to work. But is this nothing more than a second stimulus? We'll talk to Christina Romer, chair of the White House council of economic advisers.

CHETRY: Also extreme weather on the move. A huge storm getting ready to hit the Midwest. Our Rob Marciano is tracking extreme weather for us. He will tell us where the blizzard will hit next.

And now to our breaking news this morning. Defense Secretary Roberts Gates making an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. He's there to assure our troops we're in this thing to win.

Gates arrived overnight six days after President Obama announced the 30,000 additional reinforcement troops going into the country. The secretary there also wants to reassure the Afghan president that America will not be abandoning him.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is in forward operating base Shank, Afghanistan this morning.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Joe, Kiran, Defense Secretary Roberts Gates arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced trip. He is here for the first time since President Obama made the announcement that 30,000 additional U.S. troops will be headed to this war zone.

The defense secretary plans to meet with troops, commanders, and he has already met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to talk about the way ahead, Secretary Gates assuring Karzai that the U.S. has a continuing commitment to this country.

But where we are right now, at FOB, Forward Operating Base Shank south of Kabul, really illustrates the continuing security challenge in this country. The U.S. army task force that operates here has already had the plus out from 300 troops to 3,000 troops operating in this region to try and get a handle on security against the Taliban and the insurgents.

One of their major jobs here is to continue every day to secure Highway 1, the main road to Kabul. The road is secure right now, they tell us, because the troops, U.S. and Afghan troops, are out patrolling every day.

If the troops weren't out there, the feeling is that the Taliban and the insurgents would, again, rear their head and control the road and really hinder commerce and development in this region.

So that's the bottom line here. It's a continuing, spotty security picture. Where the troops are, security improves. But where the troops are not located, security still very troublesome in many areas of this country -- Joe, Kiran.

CHETRY: Barbara Starr for us from this morning from Afghanistan. Thank you.

This morning there is a fierce debate erupting over what to do with billions of your tax dollars. That's the amount that the White House plans to save from the financial bailout.

In just a few hours President Obama will announce he wants to redirect that money toward creating jobs, and his plan includes relief for small businesses so that they can hire more workers, also, spending millions on infrastructure projects, weatherizing homes. Republicans prefer that the money be used to reduce the staggering deficit.

Well, in less than 10 minutes we're going to be digging deeper into the president's plan. We'll be speaking with Christina Romer, chair of the White House Counsel of Economic Advisers.

JOHNS: Day two of the climate summit in Copenhagen, and the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency are taking on critics. The EPA says greenhouse gases threaten the public health and safety of every American. And the announcement could pave the way for future regulation.

Our Jim Acosta is tracking the story for us from Washington this morning. Good morning, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Joe. No debate over global warming in the White House. President Obama is moving full steam ahead with his plans to combat climate change, and for now the White House seems to be giving the cold shoulder to the controversy whipped up by global warming skeptics known as "Climate- gate."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: What a difference an election makes. On the same day a climate change summit kicks off in Copenhagen, Al Gore made a White House visit to meet the president and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson labeled greenhouse gasses a public health hazard, warning big emitters of carbon dioxide new regulations are coming.

LISA JACKSON, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: This administration will not ignore science or the law any longer.

ACOSTA: She also took a swipe at global warming skeptics who insist a slew of stolen e-mails from climate researchers in Britain shows the cause for environmental alarm is overheated.

JACKSON: There is nothing in the hacked e-mails that undermines the science upon which this decision is based.

ACOSTA: The White House response to the controversy known as "Climate-gate" is downright icy, from the briefing room...

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think everybody is clear on the science. I think scientists are clear on science. I think many on Capitol Hill are clear on the science.

ACOSTA: ... to the president's science czar, who threw cold water on the strength of the e-mails.

JOHN HOLDREN, WHITE HOUSE SCIENCE ADVISER: The strength of science is that these kinds of controversies get sorted out over time over as to who is wrong, who is right, and how much it matters.

ACOSTA: And consider who NASA is seconding as a delegate to the summit in Copenhagen, Jim Balog, a photographer with the group extreme ice survey. He spent months capturing spectacular images of shrinking glaciers and has become a celebrity on the science lecture circuit.

JAMES BALOG, NASA DELEGATE TO COPENHAGEN: And I was stunned at how obvious and visible the signs of global warming are as seen through the glaciers.

ACOSTA: Altogether it's a major shift from the Bush years, one Mr. Obama promised during the campaign.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I actually agree global warming is a serious problem. It's not just some tree hugger, you know, sprout-eating liberal thing.

ACOSTA: Republicans accuse the president of avoiding a new inconvenient truth, that the science on global warming is far from settled.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) CALIFORNIA: I'm not trying to walk away a bit from dealing with all forms of pollution, including those that lead to climate change. What I'm saying is get the facts right, invest our money right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Government scientists say those so called "Climate-gate" e-mails don't affect the data coming into agencies like NASA and NOA which keep their own climate records showing a dramatic change in global warming.

And Joe, I was talking to a spokesman over at NASA yesterday, and he said during the Bush administration when there would be climate change meetings internationally, the Bush administration would have a very small presentation to the world community as to what it believes about global warming. A very different picture with the Obama administration -- that photographer we mentioned in the piece, is part of what is considered to be a very extensive presentation going on right in Copenhagen from the United States.

JOHNS: Well, Jim, I sort of get the feeling from watching your piece there that the administration is not really taking into account the polling out there that suggests that beliefs among the public about global warming are becoming increasingly politicized.

Is there any indication that there is going to be some effort to try to at least respond to that?

ACOSTA: Well, you know, the polling doesn't show a whole lot of support for what's happening in Afghanistan, what the president wants to do in Afghanistan. It doesn't show a real substantial amount of support for what they are doing on health care reform.

So I think the White House is saying, hey, this is what we believe. We believe the science is settled on this issue, and they are moving forward.

JOHNS: Jim Acosta in Washington, thanks so much for that.

CHETRY: Other stories new this morning at eight minutes past the hour.

A disturbing report in "The New York Times" says more than 20 percent of the country's water treatment systems have reported at some point dangerous levels of contamination over the last five years. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will question a high- ranking EPA official today about the agency's enforcement of drinking water safety laws.

JOHNS: Toyota recalls 4 million vehicles over complaints of random stalling. The National Highway Traffic Administration is investigating Corolla and Matrix vehicles model year 2006. The company originally told vehicle owners to remove driver's side floor mats.

Its employees were caught on tape giving financial advice to an undercover pimp and prostitute. But a new internal investigation of the non-profit group ACORN says workers didn't do anything illegal. ACORN's CEO described the report as part vindication.

In case you don't remember, in one of the videos, a worker urges the undercover prostitute to take her cash and bury it in the yard.

CHETRY: A major snow storm is making its way towards the Midwest that has already brought heavy rain to southern California and dumped more than a foot of snow in the Rocky Mountains. And it seems to be picking up steam as it heads east.

(WEATHER BREAK)

JOHNS: It's the video you'll probably be talking a about all morning. A woman's purse gets stuck in a subway door in Boston, and the train attendant gives the all clear sign anyway.

The woman ran alongside the moving train holding her purse, letting go just before the train went into a tunnel and hit a wall at the end of the platform. She suffered a bloody nose, bruises. She's considering legal action. The employee who gave the all clear sign was fired. The train operator was suspended.

CHETRY: Poor thing. Apparently she was trying to hold on to it because she had her passport in there. She had just came back from vacation.

Still ahead, we're going to be talking about autism and whether or not early intervention can make an enormous difference in the lives of children and the families of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

We're going to meet one little boy who was basically slipping away from his parents, went into an early intervention program, and made a dramatic turn around.

It's 12 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

In just a few hours, President Obama will lay out some new ideas to create jobs for the millions of Americans still out of work. He's expected to propose cash incentives for small businesses, and also for people to fix their homes with more green materials.

Some in Congress are already asking where the president will get the money to pay for it. Here to provide some details for us this morning is Christina Romer. She's the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Christina, great to have you with us this morning. Thanks.

CHRISTINA ROMER, CHAIR, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Great to be with you.

CHETRY: What can you tell us about the plans the president will outline to try and turn around the double-digit unemployment?

ROMER: Well, you caught it exactly right. This is going to be part of our ongoing effort of what the president has described as taking every responsible action to put people back to work. What you're going to hear him talk about today is some of his priorities in three areas. One is infrastructure investment. That's something that we know can put people back to work now, but also help to improve productivity in the long run.

He is going to be talking about a comprehensive program for small businesses, everything from additional credit to, as you mentioned, tax incentives for investments and also some tax incentives for hiring, so as a way to spur again private sector job creation. And you're also absolutely right. He's going to be talking about some actions we can take in the alternative energy sector, the one you described as a program to give incentives to homeowners to do energy efficiency retrofits. Those are things that we think will put people to work today, both making those products and installing those products, but also as a win for the environment and for the homeowners as they go forward.

CHETRY: It's being reported the administration is considering using some of the leftover bank bailout money to help pay for some of these programs. And that's something that you guys didn't seem to want to do in the beginning but now have thought about. What about -- what about the change of heart in that? And how will these bank bailout funds be used perhaps to help spur some of these initiatives?

ROMER: Well, of course, we did get good news yesterday when Secretary Geithner said that probably about $200 billion of those bank rescue funds were not going to be needed, can be returned to the federal treasury. No one's talking about using those directly to do the kind of investments and job creation that we're talking about. What you'll hear the president say is it does help us to do this in a fiscally responsible way. It means that we've returned money to the treasury. That opens up some space where we can do what we need to do to put Americans back to work.

CHETRY: Well, Congressman John Boehner, Minority Leader Boehner called it just more deficit spending in another form. But some say it's almost a question why more isn't being done to help some of the regional banks. As we talked about yesterday, I think the 130th regional bank did collapse this year that can lend to small businesses. Can you explain that?

ROMER: You know, we actually announced not too long ago a program to use some of the TARP funds to put more capital into the small and medium-sized banks that are the banks that do a lot of the lending to small businesses. That's something the president is committed to, and we're absolutely doing that. What we have been talking about is some money that's not needed for the -- the bank bailout, we can return to the treasury.

And the president has been very clear that the kind of actions he's talking about today are targeted. They are limited. They are aimed at getting the private sector back into the hiring business, and we know that that's got to be the source of the major job creation going forward, and we think it's going to be effective.

CHETRY: Here's what we hear a lot of and I'm sure you do, too. People say wait a minute. We're looking at a cash-strapped government. A lot of us are struggling, yet the Wall Street banks that were bailed out are now being able to set aside billions of dollars in bonuses, pay back that money.

In fact, a "Wall Street Journal" article by Simon Nixon said that the bank profits are basically windfalls in the purest sense. That they're not due rewards for exceptional skills but they're basically gifts from taxpayers." And part of this is people pushing for perhaps consideration of a windfall tax on some of these banks that made these huge profits this year. Is that something the administration would consider?

ROMER: You know, we are as frustrated as you are about the bonuses to big banks. What the president is trying to keep his eye on is what can we do for the millions of Americans that are still unemployed? And that's why today what he's going to be talking about are the kind of measures that I mentioned that can help to spur private sector job creation.

He is absolutely committed to doing this in a responsible way. That's why we're so pleased to have the TARP money going back into the treasury. That's why we're in the middle of our budget process for the 2011 budget, and trying to make sure that we're making progress on two important items. Getting rid of the jobs deficit and dealing with the budget deficit. Two big problems that we inherited and absolutely have to deal with.

CHETRY: All right. Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Great to talk to you this morning. Thanks for being with us.

ROMER: Great to be here.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Coming up, we're going to have a little bit of news you can use. So much talk about global warming and its impact on you. We thought we'd take a look at your pocketbook and how going green could affect your bottom line at home.

It's 19 minutes after the hour. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Updating one of the developing stories this morning. According to WESH-TV and "The Orlando Sentinel," firefighters have responded to a medical emergency at Tiger Woods' mansion, just after 2:30 this morning.

This is video of a woman who we believe was taken from Tiger Woods' home. We're sending someone to the hospital at the moment, and hopefully we'll hear from them in just about 10 minutes. So stay tuned for that.

CHETRY: Joe, thank you. Well, it's a heartbreaking diagnosis that many parents have heard before that your child has autism. It still remains a medical mystery. But this morning in part two of my series "Inside the Child's Mind," we get a look at how early intervention led to a remarkable breakthrough for a young boy who started slipping away.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY (voice-over): As a baby, Jake Exkorn was everything his parents hoped for. Happy and healthy.

KAREN SIFF EXKORN, JAKE'S MOTHER: He hit all the developmental milestones. He walked, he talked, he played.

CHETRY: But at 17 months, the light began to fade from Jake's face.

K. EXKORN: At first he stopped responding to his name. And then he stopped playing. Then by his second birthday, he stopped speaking entirely.

CHETRY: Karen worried it may be a hearing problem or a speech delay.

K. EXKORN: I never expected to hear the words "your child has autism."

CHETRY (on camera): And what was that like to hear?

K. EXKORN: I was completely devastated. It meant that there was no hope for my son, and, yet, I was determined to help my son in any way that I could.

Jake. Jake?

I knew that I wanted a treatment for Jake that had science behind it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jake, do this.

J. EXKORN: And a lot of treatments don't. But the one that had the most science behind it was a treatment called ABA (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yay. Good.

CHETRY (voice-over): ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis, is an intensive approach that uses repetition and rewards to teach autistic children the things that come naturally to most kids.

J. EXKORN: We wanted to teach Jake to respond to his name. So we'd say Jake and we take an M&M and we hold it up just between our eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jake. Good looking, good boy.

CHETRY: Day after day, 40 hours a week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say I. I -- very good.

CHETRY: They plugged away, hoping to help Jake relearn what autism had taken away.

J. EXKORN: Going into this, there were no guarantees. Nobody ever mentioned the word recovery to us, so that wasn't our goal, ever.

CHETRY: And there continue to be no guarantees, but for the first time, a new study shows that early intervention therapy can improve language skills and behavior and raise IQ giving hope to parents of children with autism. GERALD DAWSON, AUTISM SPEAKS: What we know is that if children receive early, intensive behavioral intervention, some of the children do lose their diagnosis.

CHETRY: Geraldine Dawson is the chief scientist for the advocacy group Autism Speaks. She helped design the study and says symptoms of autism can begin as early as eight months.

DAWSON: So the most important thing is to be alert for those symptoms and then get into intervention right away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good for you.

CHETRY: Jake after a year of ABA therapy, showed progress.

JULIE: My name is Julie.

JAKE EXKORN, DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM: My name is Jake.

JULIE: Oh, you're the best.

CHETRY: Then at age 4, a turning point. When Karen took him for ice cream and without prompting, Jake told the man what flavor he wanted -- nilla.

K. EXKORN: The man had no idea that this was like this defining moment in my life. But this was huge. This was huge and this marked the beginning of spontaneous language for Jake.

CHETRY: What soon followed was an even bigger milestone when at Jake's four-year checkup, Karen was told her son no longer had symptoms of autism. The doctor said Jake had recovered.

(on camera): Did you believe it?

K. EXKORN: You know, hearing her say that, blew me away in the same way as when I heard her say the diagnosis.

CHETRY (voice-over): Today, Jake is a thriving 13-year-old. He plays basketball, football, and is every bit the typical teenage boy.

J. EXKORN: I like to hang out with my friends. I don't love to study. You know, sometimes I have to. I would describe myself as outgoing, athletic and nice.

CHETRY: A dramatic transformation for a family who once thought they lost their little boy to autism.

J. EXKORN: I don't think about too much of what I do. It is kind of crazy, but my mom and dad put in a lot of effort into it, and so did I. And it paid off.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Sure did pay off. JOHNS: That's just amazing. You know, not only is it just the whole story amazing, it's also amazing to see the pictures and the video. The one thing that comes to mind, though, is they got this diagnosis, what, like 11 years ago or so.

CHETRY: Right.

JOHNS: And you have to wonder, how was it that she knew she had to do something and fast?

CHETRY: Oh, yes. Well, I mean, first of all, the reason that she documented all of that is because she -- you know, she chronicled every step of the way as you saw with home video and also the documentation, because she truly -- it was not a -- it wasn't a mistaken diagnosis. He truly had many of the markers and a lot of the signs of autism. And he got an accurate diagnosis of autism.

She said that she wanted to try a therapy that had science behind it. She scoured the Internet. She did a lot of parental research. And one of the interesting things that she ended up writing -- I'm sorry -- I should have pointed out that a little early -- but she actually, because of the hours that she spent, she wrote a book called "The Autism Source Book" for other parents because she said that in some ways she was trail blazing, just trying to figure out what worked and what didn't. And she wrote a book for so many parents out there.

And she also acknowledges that Jake's case is a rarity that somebody would actually lose their autism diagnosis completely. But she talks about these therapies that are out there that have really made a difference and have helped these children make enormous strides regardless of whether or not they eventually are no longer considered autistic.

JOHNS: Really encouraging for parents, though. Of all the stories I've seen, it's one of the most encouraging stories.

CHETRY: Yes. And we're going to linked it up with our Web site as well. We'd love for you to weigh in as well at CNN.com/amFIX.

Meanwhile, it's 29 minutes past the hour right now, and we're going to be talking about part three, by the way.

JOHNS: Yes.

CHETRY: And this is a totally different -- this "Inside the Child's Mind" is completely different. This is about whether or not there are actual differences in the brains of men and women, how that corresponds to learning in the classroom.

We're going to visit a single sex classroom where they say that by splitting the genders, they've actually raised test scores both for men and women -- for the female students and the male students. So is this idea working or does it leave kids ill-prepared as some critics say for a co-ed world? We're going to have a look at that tomorrow, "Inside the Child's Mind."

Meanwhile, it's 30 minutes past the hour. A look at the top stories now.

A series of five coordinated car bombings in central Baghdad leaving 100 people dead overnight. Four hundred others injured. A courthouse, the government's interior ministry and a university among the targets. And just yesterday, eight others died in a school bombing in Baghdad. Most of those killed were children.

Two Northwest Airlines pilots, the ones who overshot their landing by more than 100 miles last October are now blaming air traffic controllers for the incident. The pilots filing documents with the National Transportation Safety Board trying to get their licenses back. After first claiming they were distracted while using their laptops, the pilots are now saying that controllers failed to follow rules and didn't effectively coordinate the flight with Northwest Airlines dispatchers.

The New Jersey Senate poised to vote on a same-sex marriage bill Thursday. The bill narrowly cleared the Senate's judiciary committee last night. A vote of 7-6. If it passes, New Jersey would be the sixth state in the U.S. to legalize gay marriage. Joe.

JOHNS: With all of the focus on climate change in Copenhagen, it's hard to know what a global summit can really accomplish for you. If our leaders agree to environmental rules, how is it going to hit your wallet? What are some of the things you can do now to go green and maybe save some green too.

Here for the "A.M. Breakdown" is Diane Brady, senior editor with "Business Week." And we hear of 100 different things, and there are some people, like me, for example who are a little bit worried how this is going to affect the pocketbook. Because it does sound like it could get a bit expensive.

The first thing, one of the most interesting things I've heard about, is in Boston, where if you have one more trash can, say, two, and you put them out at the curb, they'll charge you for the second one but won't charge you for the first. How would that work if you were to put that idea all over the country?

DIANE BRADY, SENIOR EDITOR, "BUSINESSWEEK": Well, a lot of places are doing this now, where they are actually trying to quantify the fact that garbage and collecting garbage costs money. And one of the issues in Boston, is you're seeing people from surrounding suburbs where they are charged $3 per bag actually bring some of their garbage into neighboring municipalities. In effect, states are saying we don't want to pay to pick it up, we're going to limit how much garbage you have.

JOHNS: So two trash cans or two bags? Which one is it? Is it bag or can?

BRADY: It's often bags. And what will happen is they'll give you a city-issued bag. This happens in candor right now. You have to divide your organic waste. People are used to recycling bottles and newspapers. I think we're going to have to get used to very quickly having to recycle almost all of our waste, because there will be a real limit.

And states are highly motivated right now. Cities are motivated. They don't have the money to be doing pickup more than once a week in many cases.

JOHNS: Another thing, I think all of us have heard about energy star appliances and how they are supposed to save money and energy at the same time. There is now talk about energy star homes. What does that mean? It's just more of the same?

BRADY: This is a big trend happening. It's where home builders basically with new homes, build homes that are at least 15 percent more energy efficient than the code and what that does is it promises to save you thousands of dollars on insulation and energy costs and it helps your resale value and it's also something that the home builders can use as an extra perk which they need in this market to try and get you to buy their home.

Now there has been some controversy though, hasn't there, about whether these energy star appliances are actually as energy efficient as people say they are. Do we have a sense that eventually somewhere down the road, we're going to see some sort of commonality in the way you can judge the amount of money and the amount of energy you're saving?

BRADY: Well, I think that there's always controversy, in part because of the technologies keep improving. So every appliance built today is more energy efficient than 20 years ago. But the reality is you're going to probably save at least 15 percent, probably 30 percent if you're replacing an old appliance.

And ultimately this is the right thing to do, this is the Department of Energy, it's the EPA. They are trying to get more Americans to use less energy. So you see it in appliances and homes everywhere.

JOHNS: And there's the idea of the commuter tax, which there had been a 100 different reasons for that. People talk about it in the District of Columbia as a way to raise revenue. But here in New York, it's seen as an energy-saving device. If you charge for cars coming into the city, fewer cars will come. Is that really an effective idea, you know, given the way America is sort of addicted to driving and addicted to petroleum?

BRADY: We are an anomaly. When you look at Europe, when you look at Singapore even Mexico City, they either have congestion pricing where basically you pay more to go downtown, you have alternate street. They tried to do it in New York. Of course, it was pushed back in part because people in the boroughs said that it was regressive to people coming into the city. But the reality is you have to start passing the costs on to people, and the money that you save by (INAUDIBLE) car use can go to better public transportation. So many cities are looking at this and you're starting to see more public goodwill behind it.

JOHNS: Passing the costs along, that sort of raises the overarching question here and it is, is going green be cheaper for us in the long run or more expensive?

BRADY: You know, it's almost like, if you remember 20, 25 years ago, buying green toilet paper was twice as expensive as buying the regular stuff. As more and more people use it, what will happen is the price will come down. We've seen it happen with organic food and you look at something like wind energy. Right now, it's optional. People pay more to have that, but ultimately it's something that everyone absorbs the costs, and once we do that, it will just become the norm and we'll get used to it.

JOHNS: The other question, given the economy and where a lot of us are right now, trying to cut back rather than spend more, doesn't it make it a little harder to sell the idea of going green, if you're trying to save money in the short term?

BRADY: Well, I think people have a sense of false economy. We love our cars. But let's face it, it is more expensive to drive your car to work every day than it is to take public transportation. The reality is, it's less convenient for most people to take public transportation. You have to weigh the costs and the benefits, but as it becomes more expensive, people will start to make choices that ultimately may be better for the planet.

JOHNS: Are we talking about going over a 10-year period to get to that point where it's less expensive, or a two-year period? I mean, short term, long term?

BRADY: I think it depends on how many people are forced to absorb the cost. I get my con ed bill, for example, and it's optional whether or not I choose to, you know, pay a little extra for wind energy. Right now, utilities do that. Only two percent of Americans are willing to do it, because they feel like suckers. Why am I paying for wind energy when the guy next door isn't?

If you make everybody pay, this will happen a lot quicker. If you get legislation in place -- we saw it with gas prices. When gas prices go over $4 per gallon, people suddenly start getting excited about taking the train or the bus. There are a lot of things that will come into play that will encourage people to make better decisions.

JOHNS: Diane Brady, thank you so much for that.

BRADY: Thank you.

JOHNS: Kiran.

CHETRY: Joe, thanks.

(INAUDIBLE) developing news right now at 37 minutes past the hour. Firefighters responding to a medical emergency at Tiger Woods' mansion. Set to have happened about 2:30 this morning this is video of a woman who we believe was taken from Tiger Woods' home. For more details on what exactly is going on, Steve Barrett of Orlando affiliate WFTV joins us from Ocoee, Florida, this morning outside of the hospital. Hi, Steve. STEVE BARRETT, REPORTER, WFTV: Basically, another bizarre night out of this Windmere area, Isle Worth, where Tiger Woods lives.

Here's what we know, at 2:30 in the morning, approximately, this 911 call comes in. Shortly after that at the hospital right behind me, you're looking at, basically an ambulance arrives, and a woman gets out. Then an Escalade comes with what the videographer tells me looked like Elin Woods, Tiger Woods' wife.

She gets out of an Escalade that has almost the precisely the same license number as the Escalade that he crashed that sort of started all of this. Of course, this all comes on the heels of several other women making claims that they have some relationship with him.

Also, FHP, now Florida Highway Patrol coming forward and saying that they do now have a witness believed to be Tiger's wife saying he may have been drinking, may have also been taking some prescriptions like Ambien the night before the crash, and, of course, now we have this incident overnight. 2:30 in the morning.

This ambulance shows up here, with a license plate that appears to be from the same leasing company that Tiger Woods, at least that crashed SUV. So there's a lot more happening on this story here today. We're expecting more information from FHP as well today on who this witness is that's making some claims that there may have been some drinking involved. Of course, FHP, Florida Highway Patrol, saying that they have no charges to make against Tiger Woods on this accident that might be based on those claims. Back to you.

CHETRY: One of the questions, Steve, just because of the intense interest surrounding this, and, of course, the huge amount of questions now because of this woman being brought into the hospital. Is hospital staff going to be -- or administration or the police or the -- the rescue crews going to be weighing in at all, giving any detail on who this may be?

BARRETT: It's not likely at this point. They are really kind of keeping their lips tight on this. The woman that we saw being taken into the hospital is a woman that is older. There has been some sort of speculation it may have been Tiger Woods' mother-in-law, Elin's mom. But we don't know that for sure

Of course, with all of the rules and regulations around, you know, medical information, very difficult to get information, and, of course, this story itself is even more difficult. A will the of people clamming up around here. The best information, of course, coming out of FHP. We do have calls though into the Orange County Fire Rescue Service, and we'll, of course, bring you all of that latest information as we get it.

CHETRY: All right. Steve Barrett for us of WFTV, live outside of the hospital there. Thanks so much.

Well, Marines from Camp Lejeune heading into Afghanistan. Chris Lawrence is there this morning with more on what it's going to be like for these families facing yet another deployment. Hey, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, how would you spend this morning? How would you treat your family if you only had a few weeks together? Stay with us after the break, so we can show you the other side of this new military deployment, right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

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JOHNS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. It took three long months for President Obama to decide on a troop surge strategy for Afghanistan.

CHETRY: Yes. It look less than a week for the Pentagon to announce those first deployments. About 1,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, just got the call they will ship out this month. Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is there at Camp Lejeune this morning, and as we know, a lot of lives are about to change.

LAWRENCE: That's right, Kiran and Joe. You talk about the Marines rushing to Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, not months and that means families this morning, right now scrambling to take care of finances, talk to the kids. It's going to change a lot of their lives very quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Five-year-old Thomas. Three-year-old Georgia. And baby Catherine. The family that's getting ready to say good-bye to Lieutenant Dan Durbin.

LT. DAN DURBIN: I'm hanging, yes.

LAWRENCE: He's one of 1,500 Marines who just got orders to Afghanistan. They'll be gone within a month.

(on camera): What are some of the things you're already doing as a family?

KIM DURBIN, MARINE SPOUSE: Well, we're talking to my five-year- old a lot about it.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Reality is crashing down on Kim Durbin. She's going to have to be mom and dad.

KIM DURBIN: Oh, it's scary. Very frightening trying to be the one that spanks the kid and being the one that hugs the kid. You know, you're doing everything.

LAWRENCE: Once deployed, it's not easy reconnecting with family. Marines just back from southern Afghanistan say they were able to call home or e-mail every four to six weeks if that.

(on camera): Are you prepared not to be able to talk to him for, say, you know, a month at a time maybe?

KIM DURBIN: I don't know how you prepare for that. But you just got to do what you got to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously the southern...

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Marines they will be deploying to Helmand province, one of the most violent areas of Afghanistan. They seem excited to go, but some young Marines wonder can I do in real combat what I've only done in training?

LANCE CPL. JOSHUA WILLIAMSON, U.S. MARINE CORPS: We'll see how I react when it goes down in a couple weeks.

LANCE CPL. MATTHEW JENKINS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: The best thing you can hope for is that you personally know yourself that you're not going to freeze up.

LAWRENCE: These last few days can be the hardest. Kim's husband, the kids' dad, will be gone before the New Year.

K. DURBIN: Well, we're thankful that he's going to be with us for Christmas. So we're just trying to enjoy the time we have together. I think when we actually say good-bye, it's going to be hard, but we'll get through it and we want to enjoy the time we do have together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Yes. Kim says the only thing that makes it bearable is the fact that there are so many other families here that are going through the exact same thing. In fact, 16,000 more American troops will be on the ground in Afghanistan by the end of spring, so she's definitely not going to be alone -- Joe, Kiran.

CHETRY: Hopefully they'll be comforting each other and helping look out for each other out, because it's not going to be easy for sure.

Chris Lawrence for us at Camp Lejeune this morning. Thanks, Chris.

Forty-six minutes past the hour.

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CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Forty- nine minutes past the hour.

I guess we need to brace ourselves, right? Some winter weather is heading east.

JOHNS: Yes, or at least put a hat on if you don't have any hair.

CHETRY: You'd be colder (ph).

JOHNS: Right. I'm -- I'm not really liking this, Rob. You know, I'm from Ohio. Never used to big snowstorms, just little snowstorms.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, come on. If you're from Ohio, you get big snowstorms in there.

I think folks in New York along the I-95 corridor will kind of be spared from this. So, don't fret too much.

But if you look at this thing, this map here -- I mean, it's pretty ugly looking, isn't it? I mean, this is a big storm. It came into California as a big storm, a strong storm, with torrential rains there and heavy, heavy mountain snow. Some parts of Colorado and the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe seeing 30, 40 inches of snow already. Winds measured at 90 miles an hour at some of the mountain passes, and this is all heading off towards the east.

So a little precursor for folks who do live in Ohio, they had no a little bit of snow and ice already out ahead of the system and that led to some traffic accidents there. So this will be a scene that will be repeated across much of the Midwest as we go through the next 24 to 36 hours. So brace yourself for that.

If you are traveling by air, Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis, you will see snow-, wind- and some rain-driven delays. Rain across Atlanta and Memphis, that could be heavy at times. New Orleans seeing some heavy rain right now and this is rolling up 85 towards the Atlanta area, flash flood watches are posted for some of these parts of the world.

Five, three degrees or so in Denver, right around the freezing mark for St. Louis to Oklahoma City, so north of that is where it's mostly snow, getting snow right now in Chicago. Folks there will probably see a few inches, but I think Milwaukee, up towards Rochester and Minneapolis you'll see upwards of 10, 11, maybe 12 inches or more of snow there, and then (INAUDIBLE) back to Omaha is where we're seeing most of that snow.

But, out ahead of this, it will be warm. There will be severe thunderstorms, and the winds will crank as well, high wind watches posted for Ohio also. If you don't get the snow in New York, you will get the frigid air behind this system as cold air from Canada gets into town round about Thursday. But between now and then, things certainly do look a bit dicey for a lot of the country.

Joe and Kiran, back up to you.

JOHNS: This is no joke. No joke -- I mean, it's not even winter yet, technically.

CHETRY: It's a meteorological winter, though, according to Rob, right?

MARCIANO: Exactly. So December 1st, it starts to feel like winter. We start to see (ph) winter weather. And, quite honestly, Joe, as we get closer to Christmas, people tend to embrace it just a little bit more. So, it's not all that bad.

JOHNS: Well, they can speak for themselves.

CHETRY: I'm with you, Rob.

MARCIANO: I'm selling it here. (INAUDIBLE) sell it.

JOHNS: Good enough. Thanks, Rob.

MARCIANO: All right guys.

JOHNS: This morning's top stories just minutes away, including at the top of the hour, an American accused of jihad. The feds say he helped plan the Mumbai attacks last year. Drew Griffin has more on his alleged role in the bloody three-day rampage.

CHETRY: At 8:15 Eastern, he's called global warming the, quote, "Greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Senator James Inhofe joins us live to tell us why he is going to Copenhagen and what he's going to say to diplomats at the Climate Change Summit there.

JOHNS: And at 8:50 Eastern, we're paging Dr. Gupta. Why tennis may save you from having a stroke, but golf? Not so much. We're paging Dr. Gupta.

Those stories and more at the top of the hour.

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

As the climate change takes center stage in Copenhagen, the Environmental Protection Agency is also bringing the focus back home. EPA chief Lisa Jackson says the United States is facing a, quote, "real public health threat" from greenhouse gas emissions in our own country.

We're paging Dr. Gupta this morning, CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, in Atlanta for us. And, Sanjay, how serious a health risk are we talking about when it comes to climate change?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I've interviewed Lisa Jackson about this, and she -- she said it's one of the biggest public health risks as well. But one of the issues here is that we're talking about incremental changes, incremental increases in -- in these various risks.

There's been a lot of data linking greenhouse gases to things like asthma, cardiovascular disease, lung disease overall. There was an interesting new study that came out. I was really fascinated by this, talking about its link to allergies overall. There's about 36 million people who have allergies, and they can be pretty profound.

But what they speculate happens here, as you get more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, more carbon dioxide, you're in effect sort of juicing various plants out there that make pollen. So it's -- in essence, you got more carbon dioxide out there and it eventually leads to more pollen.

That -- that's something that they think is happening right now and it's leading to both more -- more powerful or -- or serious allergy seasons and longer allergy seasons as well. So, that's one example of what happens, that sort of that -- that cycle of things, Kiran.

CHETRY: Wow! That's -- that's really interesting to think about. But a lot of people say, all right, so what can we do to make this better? I mean, we're seeing this climate change conference taking place in Copenhagen. It takes so many people and so many nations to agree to sign on to even some of the small changes. So what can we do here at home?

GUPTA: Yes, well, I mean -- and -- and there's probably more things that you can do within your own home and -- more on an individual level than you can do globally or even nationally right now. So -- so things that you can do as far as allergies go, specifically, you got to really think about the fact that there's more pollen.

If you have serious allergies, this is something that you'd tried to treat in the past, you can try and obviously decrease the amount of pollen in the home, some simple tips like keeping the doors closed, changing your clothing when you get inside. Stay in door peak times, usually at 10:00 to 4:00 and being vigilant about checking pollen counts overall. That simple stuff.

But Kiran, you know, this idea that, you know, you have longer springs that you -- than you used to, this idea that, you know, I don't remember getting allergies at this time of year. It seems like it's coming earlier than it used to. That could possibly be happening. Some of the researchers that we talked to say over decades now you do have these longer allergy seasons.

So, I think more than anything else, it's something to sort of pay attention to. If your allergies came at a certain time when you're, you know, 10, 15 years ago, it could be coming a bit earlier now than in years' past.

CHETRY: All right. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning. Thanks so much.

JOHNS: Top stories coming your way in just 90 seconds.

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