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AMERICAN MORNING

Senate Democrats Announce Successful Health Care Compromise; TSA Airport Security Manual Reveals Security Gaps; Interview with Al Gore on Global Warming; Take on Leaked Climate Change Summit; Al Gore Answers Questions From Viewers

Aired December 9, 2009 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And we're back on this Wednesday, December the 9th. Never want to go away too long because we want to make sure you come back. Thanks for joining us on the Most News in the Morning. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: We're glad you're back. I'm Kiran Chetry. Thanks for being with us. We have some big stories we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

First, a former Homeland Secretary official calling it, quote, "The biggest security breach since 9/11," the TSA's playbook on airport security posted online for all to see, talking about, among other things, the limitations of x-ray machines.

So how did that happen? Our Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is looking for answers this morning.

ROBERTS: Senate Democrats say they have a deal on health care reform, they just don't want to talk about the details yet, not at least until Congressional accountants put a price tag on it. But we already know that there is no public insurance option in this latest plan and support within the ranks may be splintering already.

A live report from Washington coming your way in just a moment.

CHETRY: And it's an AMERICAN MORNING exclusive. Former Vice President Al Gore joins us live. He'll be talking about his new book "Our Choice" where he offers his solutions to stopping global warming. And we'll also get his reaction to the leaked e-mails that skeptics say may cast down on the science behind climate change.

ROBERTS: But first this hour, details of a major security breach affecting every airport in this country. The TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, trying to explain how its screening manual, something no one outside the agency is supposed to see, was posted online for everybody to see. And it tells potential terrorists what we can't see.

Some security experts calling it the biggest security breach since the TSA was formed, the biggest security breach since 9/11. It's already down off Internet, but is it too late? Our Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve live in Washington looking for answers for us this morning.

Jeanne, sometimes you just shake your head and say, how does this stuff happen?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Down on government web sites. You can find it elsewhere on the web even now. It's a 93-page manual laying out checkpoint procedures from the trivial to the critical, including things like the limitations of x- ray machines and which orthopedic devices do not need to be checked for explosive residue.

And the TSA is being blasted for the breach by, among others, a former inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security who spoke to CNN's Campbell Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK KENT ERVIN, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY INSPECTOR GENERAL: This is the most serious security breach that TSA's been involved in since 9/11 and since TSA's inception in 2002. It is really incredible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Members of Congress also expressing outrage. Senator Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security committee, saying "As Americans make travel plans for the upcoming holidays this shocking breach undercuts the public's confidence in the security procedures at airports. This manual provides a roadmap to those who would do us harm."

The detailed information could help terrorists evade airport security measures.

The TSA is trying to minimize the impact, calling the report outdated and unclassified. In a statement it said TSA has many layers of security to keep the traveling public safe and to constantly adapt to evolving threats. TSA is confident that screening procedures currently in place remain strong.

But, of course, John, there's going to be a lot of debate over that.

ROBERTS: Oh, absolutely. The first part of the debate, do we know how this happened?

MESERVE: Yes. The TSA put a redacted version of this report online to help people who were interested in government contracts. It had blocked out, put black patches, over the parts of the report that were redacted.

But it had not eliminated the text. So people who are good at programming could excavate that text and reconstitute the entire document.

ROBERTS: Oh, my goodness. Jeanne Meserve for us this morning from Washington. Jeanne, thanks.

MESERVE: You bet. CHETRY: Well, also new this morning, Senate Democrats are coming together on health care reform, announcing late last night that they have agreed on a plan but they don't want to talk about it yet, not until the Congressional Budget Office puts a price tag on the deal.

One thing we do know, there is no public insurance option, and because of that we're already seeing signs it could be on shaky ground. We get more now from Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We can't disclose the details of what we've done, but believe me we've got something that's good.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If it's specifics you're looking for, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and the so-called gang of 10 senators who negotiated the deal aren't prepared to offer any, not until the Congressional Budget Office puts a price tag on the plan.

REID: We want to know the score before we start giving all the details, even to our own members.

KEILAR: Two Democratic sources tell CNN the agreement replaces a public government-run insurance option with a private, not-for-profit option. It would be overseen by the Federal Office of Personnel Management, the same group that manages the current health plan for federal employees.

There's a mechanism in the agreement that triggers a more traditional government run plan if the nonprofit option fails.

But the compromise could be a deal-breaker for Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. He said last night he would not support replacing a public option with a purely private approach because it wouldn't provide enough competition for insurance companies to keep their rates down.

Sources also tell CNN the deal would allow Americans 55 and older to buy into Medicare. But when reporters pressed for details late last night, the majority leader was less than subtle about keeping his colleagues silent.

QUESTION: Is the end in sight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I guess...

REID: The answer is yes.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: So the question now is, will this compromise worked out among ten Democrats be enough to satisfy the entire Senate Democratic caucus delivering those 60 votes needed to pass this bill? That's still an unanswered question.

And will liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives, which has already passed its own bill, some of those liberals are insisting on a strong government-run insurance plan. Might they refuse to support it? Kiran, also a big open question today.

CHETRY: Yes. And why aren't they releasing more details about it?

KEILAR: Well, if Democrats were to go public with the details, then the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office would be allowed to go public with the cost estimate.

So, what happens is if that cost estimate were really high, then opponents could skewer it as a really bloated bill. So what Senate Democratic leaders would prefer to do is put something in, figure out what the estimate is.

If it's reasonable, then they can release it. but otherwise they can in private tinker with this bill to get it with the price tag they want without going out with a bill that seems really, really expensive.

CHETRY: Right. So you mentioned the cost, also the public option. And another of the really controversial things here was the abortion issue. And they voted to block that amendment which would restrict abortion coverage in this legislation. How big of a challenge might that be moving forward?

KEILAR: This is a challenge because that was an abortion amendment sponsored by a Democratic conservative, Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska. And if Democrats want to stick together on this or Democratic leaders want everyone together, they need his vote.

And at this point, there's still this question of whether since he didn't get that toughened up abortion language in this bill if he'll sign on to this. He was in these negotiations among the ten senators, but will this abortion issue scuttle this for him? Still an open question.

CHETRY: A lot going on still on this health care debate. Brianna Keilar for us this morning in Washington, thanks.

ROBERTS: Also new this morning, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is a giant step closer to filling the late Senator Ted Kennedy's seat. Coakley won a four-way Democratic primary race. State senator Scott Brown was the winner on the Republican side.

Coakley will be heavily favored when the two face off in a special election taking place January 19th to finish out Senator Kennedy's term. If Coakley wins she will become the state's first woman senator.

CHETRY: Well, the Federal Trade Commission cracking down on a group of telemarketers allegedly offering bogus credit card rate reduction.

The FTC now filing lawsuits against three companies. Officials say they made illegal robo-calls telling consumers that their credit card interest rates could be lowered if they paid up- front fees ranging from $495 to close to $1,500. The suits claim the firms never tried to negotiate lower rates and although refunds were promised but few were actually paid.

ROBERTS: If you're a frequent flier, this probably won't surprise you. Fewer flights are arriving on time these days. A government report says the 19 biggest U.S. carriers had an on-time arrival rate of 77 percent in October. That is down 10 percent from the previous month and also 10 percent lower than this time last year.

Alaska Airlines recorded the industry's best on-time performance in October, Northwest Airlines had the worst.

And speaking of delays, a powerful storm causing a flurry of travel trouble across much of the U.S. From Kansas up through Iowa and northern Michigan people could be waking up this morning to at least 16 inches of snow.

Further east it's ice that's coating homes, trees and roads across Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland and West Virginia. And here in New York and across New England, the clouds are dumping a treacherous mix of snow, sleet and lots of rain.

(WEATHER BREAK)

CHETRY: Meanwhile, it's an AMERICAN MORNING exclusive -- former Vice President Al Gore will join us next, talking about his new book "Our Choice," offering his solutions to stopping global warming. And he is also going to be taking questions from you, our viewers. The former vice president joins us. Back in two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We're back with the Most News in the Morning.

A groundbreaking climate change summit underway in Copenhagen, Denmark. President Obama will be there next week.

CHETRY: That's right. And in preparation he spoke with former Vice President Al Gore who's been sounding the alarm about global warming for decades. And this morning the former vice president and Nobel Peace prize winner joins us for an exclusive interview.

ROBERTS: He's also the author of "Our Choice." It's a new book, a plan to solve the climate crisis. Mr. Vice President, thanks for dropping by. It's always good to see you.

AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Always a pleasure.

ROBERTS: We should let folks know too we're going to spend an extended amount of time on this because there's lots of questions to ask. First and foremost among them, I'm sure that you're familiar with what's being done, climate-gate, University of East Anglia, the Climatic Research Center, all of those e-mails that were hacked. We saw language like, trick, used, hide the decline, resistance to Freedom of Information Act requests. I wonder what your thoughts are about this. And on the surface at the very least, does it look suspicious?

GORE: Well, they took a few phrases out of context. These are private e-mails, more than ten years old, and they've tried to blow it up into something that is really not.

Just to pick one example, some of those exchanges you're talking about had to do with years ago whether or not a study that they thought was of poor quality and shouldn't belong in the scientific report should be excluded from the report. Well, they had exchanges back and forth, it ended up in the report.

ROBERTS: Right.

GORE: Fully analyzed and discussed. So if you take one little thing from ten years ago out of context and describe it inaccurately, then it becomes a controversy without any real substance.

ROBERTS: Some of them were from ten years but many of them were far more recent than that, some as recent as last year. You know, I talked with Professor Peter Liss, who is the interim director of the Climatic Research Unit. He thought that, in fact, this would have some sort of an impact on public opinion, that people who weren't sure or were skeptical might become more so. What do you think?

GORE: Well, that's a separate question. Is there any substantive reason to worry about them? No. Does the noise machine of the climate deniers blow them out of proportion and fool some people into thinking they have substance? Well, that's another -- that's another matter. And I don't know how to respond to that. Over time the scientific process whereby all these scientists pick over every detail openly and fully, that process works and that's the process they followed.

CHETRY: You know, it's interesting. In some parts of the book you talk about how it was harder to prove concrete or to have concrete examples several years ago, but as we've progressed in the years, it's gotten easier and easier to point to data suggesting this.

GORE: Yes.

CHETRY: Yet there were still people like Senator Inhofe who's going to this Copenhagen summit who says that it's the greatest hoax ever perpetuated. When we talk about public opinion, it's dropped a little bit in terms of whether or not global warming is caused by humans. In fact, we asked it last year. Fifty-four percent believed it. We asked it just last week and only 45 percent believe it.

Is it frustrating for you to think that perhaps less people believe humans are responsible for at least some of our climate change?

GORE: Well, again, if you put it in a longer context, 10, 12 years ago when the last of these big meetings took place, virtually no heads of state went out there. There was still a raging debate on points that have long since been settled. Now more than 70 heads of state are going to be in Copenhagen. They're close to getting a final agreement. It will probably be finalized next year after the political agreement that's expected next week.

But to the first part of your question, there's an air of unreality about the discussion of arcane points from e-mails from long ago. The north polar ice cap is melting before our very eyes. It's been the size of the continental United States for most of the last three million years, and now suddenly 40 percent of it is gone and the rest of it is expected to disappear within with five, 10, 15 years.

All the mountain glaciers all over the world are melting, many of them at a greatly accelerated rate, threatening drinking water supplies. We've had these record storms, record droughts, floods, giant fires, unprecedented all over the world. The evergreen trees of the American west are dying by the millions because the warming trend is making them vulnerable to pests that they could resist in the colder weather in which they evolved. Climate refugee flows are beginning and could reach the hundreds of millions, destabilizing political systems around the world. Sea levels are rising.

These changes are now beginning to unfold right in front of our eyes. The fact that they're distributed globally causes this problem to masquerade as an abstraction. It's not an abstraction for those who are being affected, nor would it be for our children and others who will be affected unless we take action now.

CHETRY: And it's interesting that you say it's not an abstraction. In your book "Our Choice," you also talk about what needs to be done. And moving forward, you say that you have to overcome change in the way we think, the cost of carbon and the political obstacles.

GORE: Yes.

CHETRY: Right now, one of the political obstacles in the way is this economy. A lot of people are out of work. A lot of people are saying we can't afford to do anything right now. What do you say to that?

GORE: Well, there's been an interesting consensus building around the world that actually one of the best ways to create millions of good new jobs and stimulate the economy is by investing in green infrastructure. When the world went into this global synchronized recession from which we're now thankfully beginning to emerge, interest rates were so low that economic policymakers couldn't use that tool so stimulus spending was the instrument of choice all around the world. And infrastructure spending was the favored option.

Many countries devoted even far, even larger percentages of that stimulus to building green infrastructure, in China, South Korea, et cetera. They see these industries as the key industries of the 21st century.

China will overtake the United States in wind next year, soon thereafter in solar. They're building the largest smart grid or super grid in the world. We have an opportunity to take these new jobs that are going to be created and plant them in local communities here in the United States and create millions of them. They can't be outsourced.

ROBERTS: Right. You know, in the book you lay out sort of a blueprint for how we can solve some of these problems. You talk about solar and wind, but that could only handle a percentage of things. You also talk about nuclear power, and the environmentalists pretty much put a bullet in any nuclear power development years ago.

Now they're coming out saying, well, this has to be a critical part of our infrastructure going forward. If they hadn't tried to kill nuclear power a couple of decades ago, how much further ahead would we be right now?

GORE: Just a brief part on the first part of your question, John, more sunlight falls on the surface of the earth in one hour than is necessary to provide the entire world's energy for a full year.

ROBERTS: But there are limitations with the technology.

GORE: Those limitations are yielding to dramatic improvements in the technology. But let me turn to your question about nuclear.

What really led to the stop -- almost a stop in nuclear power, was the cost. It's been going up 15 percent a year for 30 years. A $400 million reactor is now $4 billion reactor.

ROBERTS: But a lot of that cost was because of environmental regulation.

GORE: Well, I'll not sure that's actually the case. Some of it was. But the environmental regulations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have long since been redesigned to the industry's liking.

I'm not opposed to nuclear power, John. I don't believe that it was either the safety or environmental concerns that resulted in the primary obstacles that led to the industry coming to a standstill. It is the cost and where the global distribution of nuclear power plants is concerned. It is the demonstrated linkage between nuclear reactors and the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation. These cannot be placed by the tens of thousands around the world without putting nuclear weapons technology in the hands of people who we really do not think should have it.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: Let's leave it there for a second. I think we've got to take a break and we'll come back. We've got some viewers who have been selected over the last 24 hours. We'll put those to you right after the break.

GORE: Great.

ROBERTS: Thanks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. We are back with our exclusive interview with former vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore.

CHETRY: That's right. And this morning, he's answering some of your questions. We let our viewers know that you would be here, and so there are a lot of people who want to ask you and find out a little bit more about this.

Tim Gibson wrote in, and he said with the revolution of scientists apparently, quote, "shifting data to suit the argument one way or another, how am I supposed to believe anyone one way or another?"

GORE: Well, the climate deniers tried to create the impression that that's what was in those stolen e-mails, but when you put them in context it's clear that's not what they were doing. This was an open process in which the studies that were being argued about actually were fully included and openly discussed and analyzed. So this was an example of people who don't want to do anything about the climate crisis taking things out of context and misrepresenting them.

ROBERTS: You know, he asked another question which was repeated by a lot of people as well. So, I think it's fair to give him two questions here. And that is, is there a natural cycle between ice age and warming? People keep arguing about, how much of this is just natural and how much of this does have a human component to it?

GORE: Yes, that's a great question. There are natural cycles related to the sun, related to the planet's orbit around the sun and so forth. But those natural cycles are now overwhelmed by the fact that we're putting 90 million tons every day of global warming pollution into this thin shell of atmosphere surrounding the planet.

The magnitude of the manmade changes has now overtaken and far surpassed the natural cycles. And many of the natural cycles actually are pointing in the opposite direction. The manmade global warming is now so pronounced that it is not only overwhelming in magnitude, but it is reversing what would otherwise be the effect from the natural cycles.

CHETRY: And that goes along with what David in Arizona asked you. He wants to know, please tell us what percentage of carbon dioxide is caused by human activity relative to other sources of carbon dioxide.

GORE: Well, the majority of it is caused by human activity, and a cutting-edge study now quantifies the different causes of global warming. About 43 percent or almost half is from CO2. Twenty-seven percent, a little more than a quarter, is from methane. Then there is black carbon, also referred to as soot, which in some areas of the world is a very, very pronounced cause. And then you have the nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide and so forth. But the largest single source is manmade CO2.

ROBERTS: Right. And Jim in Cleveland asks this question. He says, quote, "In a worst-case scenario, what's the soonest that the planet could reach critical mass if global warming persists at the current rates?"

People have talked about a level of, I think it's 350 parts per million as sort of the threshold here.

GORE: Yes.

ROBERTS: But he's wondering how much more carbon dioxide and how many more greenhouse gases can be pumped into the atmosphere before it reaches critical mass that no turning back point?

GORE: Well, in the view of many scientists, we have already reached critical mass if you define that phrase as reaching the point where there are going to be dramatic changes on the planet.

I mentioned earlier the north polar ice cap is disappearing right now. We're at 389 parts per million, almost 390, and some scientists, as you said, Kiran, say that 350 is probably the safe level we should shoot for.

They have already reached a kind of a compromise with the science in saying the best the political systems can imagine doing is stabilizing at 450, which is way higher than many scientists think is a safe level. But the danger is that we'll barrel through 450 and go way on up there, just making this an entirely different kind of planet from the one that had conditions that were conducive to the rise of human civilization.

CHETRY: Right. Which leads me to my question about what you hope comes out of this Copenhagen conference. I mean, even in the best-case scenario, we have the E.U. promising more than President Obama may promise.

GORE: Yes.

CHETRY: And he could still face a lot of pushback at home dealing with the wars and dealing with health care as well.

GORE: Yes.

CHETRY: I mean, how much is a political reality?

GORE: Well, I think this meeting, sometime toward the end of next week, we will probably see a political agreement among the heads of state gathered there, including President Obama, that will give instructions to the negotiators to fill in the details and get a binding treaty early next year. But in this political agreement they're shooting for, they will hope to also get specific commitments country by country to start the reductions process sooner than would start if we just waited for the treaty next year.

ROBERTS: Former Vice President Gore, it's great to catch up with you again.

GORE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thanks so much for coming in.

GORE: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

ROBERTS: Good to see you.

GORE: Thank you, Kiran.

CHETRY: Thank you so much for answering the questions from our viewers as well. There's a lot of interest in this. Thanks a lot.

Well, still ahead -- it's 30 minutes past the hour. We have a look at the top stories right know.

Winter still two weeks away, but snow plows are out from the plains to the northeast. A monster storm paralyzing travel in more than a dozen states. Extremely dangerous blizzard-like conditions and blizzard conditions themselves forecast for parts of the midwest. A mix of rain, sleet and heavy snow from New York all the way up to New England.

ROBERTS: Thanksgiving with no turkey for Amtrak. The railroad said it carried more passengers during this year's Thanksgiving week than ever before. Across the country, nearly 700,000 passengers traveled on Amtrak for the holiday. That ridership is four percent higher than it was last year and surpasses the previous record that was set back in 2007.

CHETRY: And a massive turnout to honor four Washington state police officers gunned down last month in the line of duty. Some 20,000 mourners, mostly police and firefighters from across the country and Canada, attended this memorial at the Tacoma Dome. The procession of police and fire vehicles leading to the service actually stretched for 10 miles.

ROBERTS: And President Obama keeping the focus on putting America back at work today before he jets off to get his Nobel Peace Prize in Europe tomorrow. One big idea being floated right now, a new recovery plan using leftover Wall Street bailout money. But Republicans are saying it's money that we didn't have in the first place. Our top guy at the White House, Ed Henry, is up early covering this for us this morning. Good morning, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. You're right, the president clearly before heading out tonight for Oslo, Norway to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow wants to show that he's on top of the unemployment situation. He's going to be hosting a bipartisan group of lawmakers here at the White House later this morning to talk about that jobs plan he laid out yesterday. You talked about it last hour, cash for caulkers, trying to get more energy efficiency, get people to create some jobs in the energy industry.

Also some tax credits, trying to give small businesses more lending. The what's interesting is that Republicans are not so much picking apart the details of the jobs plan, but they're more concerned about how to pay for it. The president saying he thinks some unused TARP funds, those bailout funds, should be used for a jobs plan. Republicans saying that money should be used for the deficit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: TARP has served its original purpose, and at much lower cost than we expected. In fact, because of our stewardship of this program and the transparency and accountability we put in place, TARP is expected to cost the taxpayers at least $200 billion less than what was anticipated just this past summer.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: It was the intent of the law when it passed that any funds that are paid back in should go back into the Treasury, should be used to pay down the debt. They shouldn't be recycled, respent, reused in allowing TARP to become what is essentially a political slush fund to be used for whatever the administration decides to use it for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: And the back story is that the president is really trying to show the American people his focus is on jobs, even when he does some of this globe trotting and talks about important national security issues. You'll remember the pattern of last week when the president gave that important speech about his new Afghan policy at West Point within two days he had that jobs forum here at the White House.

The next day went to Allentown, Pennsylvania, a hard hit area, again to reach out to people who have lost their jobs. Same thing happening here. Yesterday the speech in Washington about the unemployment situation about his jobs plan. Today sitting down with bipartisan lawmakers here at the White House before he heads to Norway, John.

ROBERTS: All right. Ed Henry for us at the White House this morning. Ed, thanks so much.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt was at the president's jobs summit. He says the jury is still out in the president's plan. What the man in charge of one of the biggest most high tech companies wants to see for the little guy. Eric Schmidt joining us this morning at 8:30 Eastern.

CHETRY: Many critics of the president's job plan are asking, where is the stimulus, the $784 billion stimulus. Wasn't that supposed to put America back to work? Well, we found out there is a lot of it going on. A couple of Republican senators that are calling the projects pure waste.

Our Brian Todd is showing us where your money is being spent. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Kiran. The Obama administration insists it is policing all stimulus money. But a new list just unveiled singles out 100 stimulus projects which two Republican senators call pure waste.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Rebuilding a historic railroad for tourists in Nevada? $2 million. Upgrading a police boat near Seattle to detect explosive traces in the water? $190,000. Research on the behavior of ants? $500,000. Two Republican senators say these are just a few of their top 100 questionable projects financed by taxpayer stimulus money.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: This is about highlighting the inefficiency of the wasteful stimulus program that isn't going to do what it said it was going to do.

TODD: Also on the list, signs paid for with stimulus money that tell you when a road construction project is paid for with stimulus money. Price tag for just the signs $1.3 million.

Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn say the stimulus should be more focused on highways and bridges and less on special projects. But defenders of the individual projects claim they do have value. Regarding that Seattle-area project, Bainbridge Island Police say upgrading that one boat will help them make the waterways around Seattle safer, an official with the tourist railroad says completing it will employ workers and create tourism jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the perfect use for the stimulus dollars. We're creating over 885 new jobs and sustaining current jobs.

TODD: What about research on ants? Will that help the economy or just pay the researchers?

PROF. THOMAS "DANNY" BOSTON, ECONOMIST, GEORGIA TECH: If we're talking about repairing and rebuilding and constructing projects, then that multiplier for those kinds of projects is much larger. If, on the other hand, you're engaged in basic scientific research, then that multiplier is much lower because you're not doing as much direct spending immediately.

TODD: The White House says it's acting swiftly if any of the 40,000 projects is being mishandled.

JARED BERNSTEIN, ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO THE VICE PRESIDENT: And every time we hear about a problem, we jump on it in a New York minute. So I think what's going on here is a kind of political posturing that's really not about job creation.

TODD: But Senator McCain is not convinced the stimulus projects all are adding to payrolls.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The billions and billions and billions, as much as 50 already, have been spent on projects that don't create jobs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: If you want to decide for yourself, you can go to a web site called recovery.gov, you can type in your zip code, click on each project, look at the administration's description of it and look at what the recipients claim are the jobs that are being created and saved by that project. You can also vote on what you think of these projects at stimuluswatch.org.

We went there and we clicked on a category called the least satisfying projects, according to those who voted. The top two? One that explains how people vote in Africa. That cost nearly $234,000. And one which furnishes picnic tables in Cherokee, Iowa. The price tag for that? More than $30,000.

John and Kiran, back to you.

ROBERTS: Brian Todd this morning. Brian, thanks.

CHETRY: Well, emerging research showing how boys and girls are wired differently when it comes to learning. We visit one school where the teachers are putting that to the test with single-gender classrooms. It has its critics, but are the test scores proving them wrong? 37 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

You know, as kids grow up, we start to see that boys and girls many times develop at different stages. But there is growing research showing how boys and girls are also wired differently when it comes to learning best. We visit one school where teachers are putting that to the test with single-gender classrooms.

Now, it has its critics, but are the test scores proving them wrong? Here is part three of my AM original series "Inside the Child's Mind."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's up over here? Three, two, one. There you go. Stop it. Oh, that isn't correct.

CHETRY (voice-over): For these seventh grade boys, math is a competitive sport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!

ALLAN MICHAELS, MATH TEACHER: I like to call it controlled chaos.

CHETRY: The chaos is part of a program at Woodbridge Middle School in Virginia. Faced with a gender gap in test scores, the school formed single-gender classrooms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies, take a look.

CHETRY: Testing the growing school of thought that boys and girls are hard-wired to learn differently.

DR. LEONARD SAX, NATL. ASSOCIATION FOR SINGLE SEX PUBLIC EDUCATION: The best way for the boys is not the best way for the girls. The best way for the girls is not the best way for the boys.

CHETRY: Dr. Leonard Sax, author of "Why Gender Matters" says the solution? Split them up.

(on camera): Why does gender matter when it comes to learning?

SAX: The brain research is showing us quite clearly that the brains of girls and boys develop along different trajectories.

CHETRY (voice-over): Sax says math skills develop earlier in boys, language skills faster in girls.

SAX: The surprising finding is that the coed classroom ends up disadvantaging both girls and boys, ends up reinforcing gender stereotypes. The girls end up thinking abstract number three is for boys, and the boys thinking creative writing is for girls.

CHETRY: Proponents of single-sex education say boys learn best with competition and movement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Set yourselves up over here.

CHETRY (on camera): What is it about movement and boys that somehow seem to go together when it comes to teaching?

MEAGAN KENNEDY, BOYS LANGUAGE ARTS TEACHER: The boys in general just, if they're in their desk and seated and expected to sit and do their work there, they're more apt to become unfocused, you know, be disturbed by others, start the tapping, making the noise.

CHETRY (voice-over): Meagan Kennedy says since the program began three years ago, reading scores in the all-boy classrooms are up and discipline problems are down.

KRISTEN WILLIAMS, GIRLS MATH TEACHER: This is the math process.

CHETRY: In Kristen Williams' all-girl math class, warm lamp light and desks grouped together reflect the thinking girls work best in a cooperative environment.

WILLIAMS: Give them a lot of social time, a lot of time and opportunity to be verbal, to work in partners, to work in groups.

CHETRY: Williams says she's seen dramatic improvements, particularly among girls that struggled in co-ed math classes.

WILLIAMS: These are just sort of guidelines. CHETRY: But even with some signs of success, single-sex education has its critics.

DAVID SADKER, AUTHOR, "FAILING AT FAIRNESS": If you assume that boys behave one way and you teach to that stereotype and you assume that girls learn another way and you teach to that stereotype, what you're doing is limiting the option of kids. You're reinforcing stereotypes.

CHETRY: Professor David Sadker who's written extensively about gender bias in schools says rather than separating students by gender, schools should work to make co-ed classrooms better.

Creating single-sex schools to improve test grades is a cheap solution to a much much deeper problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's really good.

CHETRY: But for Darah Rawls the all-boys class was the answer to his problems. After getting Cs and Ds through grade school and struggling emotionally, Darah's mom, Ashanti, moved the family to Woodbridge just so Darah could attend the single-gender program here.

(on camera): What were the first changes you noticed when he started here at Woodbridge and in the all-male classes?

ASHANTI DEVAUGHN, DARAH RAWLS' MOTHER: Just even the way that he dresses, his behavior. He just walks with a different stature. And he's matured because he's around other boys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like the ninja.

DEVAUGHN: I think that's pushing him to be the best, to be better.

CHETRY (voice-over): Darah now gets As and Bs and dreams of becoming an Air Force pilot.

DARAH RAWLS, STUDENT: Makes me feel really good about myself and everything.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: There you go. This is one success story. Critics were quick to point out not all single-sex schools have had the same success that Woodbridge has in terms of the test scores. But Dr. Sax says that the reason is that program works at Woodbridge because they've taken the time to train the teachers to really understand how to teach the genders differently. That it's a lot more than just dividing up boys and girls in classes.

ROBERTS: I was wondering something, (INAUDIBLE) that professor in Arizona and that is -- is there a one-size-fits-all policy here? What about boys who learn differently than other boys and girls who learn differently than other girls? CHETRY: Yes. And he's -- he points out based on the type of research they've done, they think there are more differences -- there are more differences between the genders than there were within the genders. But it's also still a choice, even at Woodbridge. They still continue to have the coed classes for students and parents who prefer that.

But Dr. Sax also says he believes that single-sex education is actually the right choice, particularly for boys. He talks about this attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, these diagnoses are up in boys especially than we've seen from decades ago, and he thinks that 90 percent of these boys are actually misdiagnosed, and if that they understood better how to teach them that they would see them actually be able to be off their medication.

ROBERTS: Fascinating stuff, no question about that.

We're at 46 minutes now after the hour. Our Barbara Starr is in Afghanistan this week, and so is the Secretary of Defense. Barbara's reporting on all of that, coming up right after the break. Stay with us.

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

Just a few hours ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with US and NATO commanders in Afghanistan.

Our Barbara Starr is on the ground there with US forces, giving you a firsthand look at how the president's new strategy may change the war there. She's breaking down Secretary Gates' visit in this "AM Original" report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, Defense Secretary Robert Gates' quick trip here to Afghanistan was all about assurance -- assuring troops, assuring commanders, and assuring the Afghan government that the US remains committed to this war.

STARR (voice-over): But what we are learning on the ground here is this is an increasingly complex picture. In this region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are so closely tied together, the security picture is growing more complicated. US military officials tell us across the border in Pakistan, they believe that al Qaeda and Taliban operatives are on the move as a result of Pakistani military operations.

Facilitators, moneymen, insurgent organizers, all being forced to move from what had been their very secured positions. They are getting more confident here that the Pakistanis will be able to get a number of these officials. They're not talking about Osama Bin Laden. They are talking about lower-level to middle-level operatives.

Here in Afghanistan, the picture also more complex. In some areas, as we are learning, violence is declining, but in some areas it still is at all-time high levels.

One of the things that they are looking at that people will be watching for is whether here in the east some US troops might be repositioning, leaving certain areas in hopes that the Afghans can take over security and that the Taliban wouldn't overrun an area, that maybe it might be a better idea if US troops, oddly enough, weren't in some areas.

STARR (on camera): John, Kiran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT: Barbara Starr this morning.

CHETRY: It was interesting to hear General McChrystal talk about the ability to win, but also catching Osama Bin Laden as being still one of the biggest goals and the keys to victory.

ROBERTS: Yes. A real symbolic thing to -- to capture him. You know, he sits there in the northwest of Pakistan, somewhere along the border, maybe moving back and forth. It just serves as an inspiration to -- to people who follow him.

CHETRY: Well, we're go talk much more about that when we have our Afghanistan panel at 8:30, coming up in just about 40 minutes.

Right now it's 51 minutes past the hour.

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

As leaders around the world weigh in on climate change in Copenhagen, scientists say the conference could affect the future of the well being of our planet.

We are "Paging Dr. Gupta," CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent. He has been studying all of this and, you know, Sanjay, what effect is climate change having on our water? This is one of the big areas of concern here now.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, and there's really two things at play here, John. One is the temperature of the water, and according to some data, there has been a -- a steady, although incremental, change in -- in water temperature over the last about 40 years. The reason that's relevant is even with small changes in the -- in the temperature of the water, you can get the growth of organisms such as plankton which can contaminate water. That's the first issue.

The second issue is really how much water there is. And again, according to the National Climatic Data Center -- this is a division of NOAA -- they study this to try and figure out how much rainfall has actually occurred and how much it's increased over a period of time. What they find, since 1970 you've had about a 7 percent increase overall and about a 14 percent increase where it was pretty heavy rainfall, 2 or more inches of rainfall. So it's raining more and it's raining harder.

The problem, John, is that we still have 1970's infrastructure when it comes to taking care of that run-off. In a lot of big cities, you have combinations of the sewage and the storm water all coming together and, as a result of that, you can get these organisms such as E. coli, possibly sickening people.

And it's -- it's not just theoretical. We saw that in Milwaukee, for example, after a particularly heavy rainfall about 15 years ago. About 400,000 people got sick, 69 people died as a result of that contaminated water. So that's really seem -- seems to be the big concern when it comes to -- to climate change, is the amount of water and the temperature of it.

ROBERTS: So, Doc, how can people protect themselves from disease but still use the water that we need? And we're not -- not just talking about drinking water. You can obviously get that in bottles, but there's an environmental impact of all of those empty bottles as well. So how can people best protect themselves?

GUPTA: Well, you know, one thing, if you just sort of play out the scenario that I just described, this idea of sewage water possibly getting into lakes and reservoirs and even -- even the ocean, really pay attention to warnings, for example, when they say, you know, not -- not to -- to -- no swimming, for example, in these waters. People can get sick from that. We've heard about some -- some tragic stories where people swam in contaminated water and became quite ill.

But also, simple things that you can use -- do at home, using phosphate-free products. That's fertilizer. If you, again, play out that equation, the water's running off, a lot of the fertilizer getting into the groundwater as a result of this rainfall. That can be a problem.

Filtering your water can help, but, John, I -- I can tell you, researching this, you can find just about anything in the water -- parasites, viruses, bacteria. And filtering helps, but it can't take care of all of that.

But I think the -- the biggest issue, again, is this idea of the infrastructure. If we are going to have more water and that water is possibly going to combine with sewage water, the infrastructure has going to have to change in a lot of big cities to accommodate that and not let these water supply sort of intermingle.

ROBERTS: Sanjay Gupta with us this morning. Doc, good to see you. Thanks so much.

It's 57-and-a-half minutes after the hour. Top stories coming your way in just 90 seconds. Stay with us.

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