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Banking Giant Bows to Public Outcry; What Afghanistan Could Be; Evangelicals Go Green ; Some Evangelicals Going Green for Religious Reasons; Medical Breakthrough Allows Blind to Experience Limited Vision; Increasing Number Calling 911 After Person's Tongue Gets Stuck to Frozen Metal Poles

Aired December 11, 2009 - 07:59   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. It's Friday, December 11th. Thanks so much for joining us on this American morning. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Here are the big stories we will tell you about in the next 15 minutes.

First, breaking news this morning, brand new information about five Americans who turned up in Pakistan just in to CNN overnight. Their mug shots, details of their interrogationm and how they plan to go to Afghanistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops.

CHETRY: A chemical or biological attack on nation's subways, it's deadly but in some cases could be quite simple. How vulnerable are we and what can be done to better prepare for the threat? We will get some answers.

ROBERTS: No cash bonuses this year for the top 30 executives at banking giant Goldman Sachs. Instead they will be getting long term stock. The so called shares at risk start investing next year and can't be sold for five years. If the company's profits continue to rise, those shares eventually could be worth millions of dollars.

But first, we just learned a lot more about the five Americans arrested in Pakistan on terror charges. Just in to CNN, their mug shots and details of their interrogation in Pakistan.

Documents show the men were planning jihad and wanted to head to Afghanistan to martyr themselves. Also, they initially made contact with Pakistani militants through YouTube while posting comments on videos of Americans being killed in a convoy attack.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The city of Sarghoda has become known as a stronghold of radical Islamist groups. Now police here say they have thwarted a major terror plot.

This is the room where Wednesday they arrested five men who had vanished from their homes in the U.S. at the end of last month. Sarghoda police Usman Anwar chief says a few minutes later and they would have been gone. Anwar tells us they found maps highlighting known terror hideouts and an e-mail account the men used to contact their militant handlers. Arwa Damon when to ground zero of this investigation and has exclusive details for us this morning from Islamabad.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ... Police chief Usman Anwar says a few minutes later and they would have been gone. Anwar tells us they found maps highlighting known terror hideouts, and an e-mail account the men used to contact their militant handlers.

USMAN ANWAR, POLICE CHIEF: They were given specific instructions, extra specific instructions, I would say. And the telephone usage was prohibited.

DAMON: Now, the five, as well as the father of one of them are behind bars. Two are Pakistani decent, one Egyptian, one Eritrean and Ethiopian. Pakistani officials say all are Americans.

(on camera): Behind these doors are where the six are being held, interrogated by both Pakistani officials and according to the Pakistanis, by the FBI as well.

(voice-over): None has yet been charged. But Police Chief Anwar claims they could have posed a serious threat.

ANWAR: They were mercenaries. They were there for jihad. They could have done anything. They had U.S. passports. They could have access to many, many points for which other persons could not have access to.

DAMON: Also in Sarghoda, we meet the mother of one of the men. She doesn't want to appear on camera for religious reasons. She says she came to Pakistan two months ago to look for a wife for her son, and then he disappeared from their home.

SUBRIA FAROUK, MOTHER: And one day he told he will come back. One day, all day he's gone, he didn't come back, he didn't pick up the phone. The next thing again, the other parent told that all are missing. Now I told that now, it's a serious thing.

DAMON: Ms. Farouk doesn't believe her son could be involved in a terror plot. She thought he'd been kidnapped and alerted the authorities. A few days ago, her son and his friends turned up in Pakistan. He told her he wanted to surprise her.

Now, she says, her family is caught in the middle of this complex Pakistani-U.S. web.

FAROUK: They are making a story because both countries are fighting each other and involving other family. And people family are coming over here to visit marriage, enjoy their home country. This is not admitting that we are terrorists.

DAMON: Now, a provincial town in Pakistan is suddenly the focus in the investigation (INAUDIBLE).

(on camera): According to the police interrogation report which we have just received, the group made contact with at least two militant groups in Pakistan, both of whom, interestingly, refused them.

What is making this especially disturbing for Pakistani and other authorities, though, is that the arrest took place in the province of Punjab, home to the Pakistani military and political leadership, and destabilizing Punjab would destabilize the entire country -- John, Kiran.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Arwa Damon for us -- thanks.

Also a developing story out of Washington this morning. Officials are confirming that a top al Qaeda operative has been killed by a U.S. drone attack in western Pakistan. Government officials are not releasing the identity right now of this person but they confirm that it is not Osama bin Laden or his second in command, Ayman al- Zawahiri.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Other stories new this morning: 16,000 U.S. soldiers have just received their orders. They are shipping out to Afghanistan. The deployments are to the president's plan to send 30,000 more troops into battle. The first to go, a battalion of marines scheduled to arrive in southern Afghanistan next week.

CHETRY: Well, the cost of the president's troops surge in Afghanistan will be a hot topic at hearings on Capitol Hill next week. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Defense Chief Robert Gates will face questions from lawmakers on Tuesday about the price tag for escalating the war. The Pentagon estimating it will $30 billion to $35 billion, and that money will have to be approved by congressional subcommittees that controlled budgets of the Pentagon as well as the State Department.

ROBERTS: And President Obama is heading home to Washington at this hour with his Nobel Peace Prize in hand. Air Force One lifting from Oslo, Norway, about 3 1/2 hours ago.

Topping the president's agenda when he gets home this afternoon: health care reform. He heads back to Europe next week for the climate summit in Copenhagen.

CHETRY: Well, our nation's subways, they are known as "soft targets," meaning -- they are considered more vulnerable because they typically have less security than, say, an airport. Have you ever wondered what would happen if they were hit by a chemical attack now? Government researchers are trying to find.

Here's Jeanne Meserve with an A.M. original.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, a chemical or biological attack on a subway system could kill thousands of people. So, the Department of Homeland Security, and scientists from the national laboratories and other countries, as well as private industry are studying what could be done to blunt the impact.

(voice-over): 1995, sarin gas, a deadly nerve agent, is released in a Tokyo subway system by the cult Aum Shinrikyo, 12 died, thousands are injured. Horrific.

But in theory, another biological or chemical attack could be worse. This animation given to CNN by the Department of Homeland Security shows small black subway trains acting like pistons, pushing anthrax through tunnels and out ventilation shafts and entrances, exposing more than 10,000 people to lethal doses in an hour and a quarter.

Scientists believe that early detection and stopping trains would result in something more like this, about 1,500 deaths, but they want to prove their theory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is basically the entire underground portion of the Boston system.

MESERVE: An international team of scientists fans out through Boston subway to gather information on air flow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five, four, three, two, one.

MESERVE: They release an invisible nontoxic gas to mimic a chemical agent. Harmless fluorescent particles played the part of a biological contaminant. Scientists then track how they move through the system. Some carry sensors on moving trains. Other detection devices are at fixed points in stations.

ANN MCDONAGH, LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LABORATORY: As the trains come in and out, pushing the air towards (INAUDIBLE), and we are seeing increases and decreases in stable (INAUDIBLE).

MESERVE: A computer compiles data in real time and shows the simulated biological agent moving through most of the subway within 45 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this was a real biological attack, would be a very lethal does.

MESERVE: The information gathered here will help determine where to put sensors, how to develop better sensors, and how to use ventilation and filtration systems to minimize an attack.

TERESA LUSTIG, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: In some cases, it's better to shut the system down, shut the ventilation and just rapidly evacuate the people.

MESERVE: The deputy chief of the transit police says the study will also help him refine emergency response and evacuation plans for all kinds of events

DEPUTY CHIEF LEWIS BEST, MBTA POLICE: It might be the unintentional release of a chemical agent. It could be a hazmat spill or smoke from a fire.

MESERVE: But the principal goal is to prevent or minimize something like this.

(on camera): Boston's MBTA is the oldest subway system in the country, the same experiments have already been run on Washington's Metro, one of the newest. And scientists believe data from these two sets of tests will help all transit systems better prepare for the frightening possibility of chemical or biological attack.

John, Kiran, back to you.


ROBERTS: Jeanne Meserve for us this morning -- Jeanne, thanks.

Seven minutes after the hour.

And also new this morning, a new virus targeting Facebook. Attackers are posting links on wall pages, telling folks to click on a cute Christmas video. However, what happens when you click on it, a little window pops up with a warning message telling people to solve the puzzle within three minutes. If you don't solve the puzzle after three minutes, you computer freezes up.

And even if you reboot the computer, the puzzle comes back again. It tells you to solve within three minutes and if you don't, your computer freezes up. And so, you reboot, and it happens all over again.

And experts say when you do that, if you do solve the puzzle eventually, you're actually going to create a new Facebook account and that helps spread the virus, it jumps up on somebody else's computer, and if you don't solve it within three minutes, it all happens (ph) again.

CHETRY: So, what, is there -- there's no way out of this basically?

ROBERTS: Yes, it's a dead spot.

CHETRY: You should take your computer and immediately throw it off, out of your building.

ROBERTS: Just make sure that you don't do that in an apartment building when people are walking below you.

CHETRY: All right.

Well, hold the hairspray. Critics of MTV's controversial new reality series, "Jersey Shore" are now calling for advertisers to boycott it. An Italian American interest group, which also protested "The Sopranos" in the past, calls the show a disgrace and an insult. And there are reports of at least two advertisers have pulled out.

Well, the series follows a group of self-proclaimed guidos and guidettes, real world styles. The network's programming director says that the cast takes pride in their ethnicity.

ROBERTS: Why don't they take pride on what they do in that show, like when the guy decked the woman?

CHETRY: Yes, I don't think he's taking pride in that. But they -- some of them have tanning beds in their own home because, you know, it's just easier to keep nice orange golden you have them right in your home.

ROBERTS: Somehow I'm thinking about Rome, A.D. 400, just before the fall. That's what I'm thinking.

So, Goldman Sachs executives will not be taking bonuses, or will they? Maybe they still will get their millions after all. What about the Goldman Sachs sort of move to frugality?

Andrew Ross Sorkin, the author of "Too Big to Fail," joins us coming up next.

Nine minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Good morning, New York City, where it's sunny, windy and really cold outside. Twenty-two degrees right now, partly cloudy with a high of 32 later on today. So, that blue that you see in the picture will actually turn white, it will become ice very soon.

Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Banking giant Goldman Sachs has decided against handing out cash bonuses to its 30 top executives. Instead, they'll be getting special stock options that are tied to the company's performance. Right now, Goldman is enjoying huge profits, just one year after it was bailed out by you, the taxpayer.

We want to talk to about we want to talk about more about all of this with "New York Times" reporter and the author of "Too Big to Fail," Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Good morning to you.


ROBERTS: So, what are you thinking about these bonuses?

SORKIN: Well...

ROBERTS: Is this -- is this Goldman Sachs being the good corporate citizen or is this just another way of getting millions?

SORKIN: It's good and maybe slightly hmm, which is, it's good in that they are doing the kind of things we wanted them to. They're tying incentives properly. So, in the next five years, they are in it to win it. If they put the firm at risk, they hurt themselves. So, all of that is good.

The bad news is that the numbers in some way -- and this is almost a moral issue, the numbers are still as super-sized as ever. And so, we need to get over, or think about what does that mean on Wall Street?

ROBERTS: And we're not just talking about the top executives, still through the...


SORKIN: Yes, that's the other part of it. We're talking about -- it's not 30 of the highest paid executives, it's 30 of the top executives. So, if you're in senior management, you will only be taking home stock. By the way, you do get some cash. It's not -- not as a bonus, but you do get a salary. So, it's not like you're just living off a stock.

ROBERTS: But some of the other employees...


SORKIN: Traders -- you know what, if you're an energy trader this year, and you made a fortune, you will make a fortune. You will make $10 million, $20 million, $30 million, $40 million. We're still talking about a bonus pool of probably close to 20 billion -- with a B -- dollars. So, it's a -- it's still going to be a lot of money.

And the question really is: given the public outrage, is the public willing -- and are shareholders -- which in this case get to vote on the compensation plan -- willing to accept this type of payoff?

ROBERTS: We are in the wrong business. No question about it.

SORKIN: That's always been clear.

ROBERTS: What we keep hearing from these companies is, you've got to pay...

SORKIN: Right.

ROBERTS: ... your top people all of this money, this extraordinary, some would say, obscene amounts of money...


ROBERTS: Ten million dollars, $15 million, $20 million in bonus because if you don't, they'll will jump ship and they'll go somewhere else.

SORKIN: Right.

ROBERTS: And I think, you know, all of these schools are pumping out all of these students, who got 4.0 grade averages, they are on the dean's list, is the talent pool really that thin?

SORKIN: I don't think it's that thin. And we've also have this pay inflation. So, you have Goldman inflated to this price and Morgan Stanley has to get it in there and Citigroup feels it has to get it there. So, there is this game of everybody playing chicken with each other. Is there a lot of talent out there? Yes.

Is there a top, top talent that you actually needed all these places? There's an 80-20 rule in all these places. The top 20 -- the top 20 percent are bringing in all the revenue. They do have other options, but, you know, it's a lot of money.

ROBERTS: I mean, it's not like television news where only a handful of select people can do these sorts of things?

SORKIN: These type of numbers (INAUDIBLE).

ROBERTS: Tim Geithner, he's getting real tough on these guys. He's really upset of the compensation package. It's across the board. But when it comes to a company like Goldman Sachs which didn't want the bailout money in the first place, they paid it back as quickly as possible.

Is there any control?

SORKIN: There's very few options in this case. You're going to see Ken Feinberg, the pay czar has come out and he is trying to curb pay at TARP babies, if you will. The AIGs of the world. GM, Chrysler, people who have gotten the money, who haven't been able to pay back.

Bank of America has paid it back in part to get out from under that. But, you know, in the U.S., there has not been a push to try to really do anything across the board. In the UK, we just heard that they're actually getting tax bonuses. If you make more than $25,000 in a bonus, which is $40,000...

ROBERTS: 50 percent.

SORKIN: 50 percent is going to be taxed.

ROBERTS: Well, taxes are pretty high here on bonuses, too, aren't they?

SORKIN: Yes, but not nearly the same.

ROBERTS: Right. Right.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt gave a speech the other day up at West Point in which he blasted his fellow corporate leaders. He said, quote, "Tough-mindedness, a good trait, was replaced by meanness and greed, both terrible traits. Rewards became perverted. The richest people made the most mistakes with the least accountability." We should point out, last year, Immelt, according to sources, made $3.3 million. Gave up a $12 million bonus, but has taken some big multimillion dollar bonuses in the past. But is Wall Street going to get this message, or they just going to say, Jeff, shut up?

SORKIN: You know, I have to say I think it's a little bit of "Jeff, shut up" in that the incentives may seem perverse, but the biggest problem I think we all have is this idea of rewarding bad behavior and putting the system at risk. And so what we need to do is find a way to align everybody's interests so that they are putting themselves and the system together. The question is, can you do that and what is the price?

ROBERTS: President Obama meets with bankers on Monday. He is doing a"60 Minutes" interview on Sunday. We understand that in that interview, he is really going to come down hard, very harsh language on these bankers.

What are we expecting for this meeting on Monday?

SORKIN: I think he's going to play tough with him. But he has been trying to play tough. But the problem for the president, he has to wag one finger over here. But he also is reliant for a very long time on Wall Street as supporters. So it's a very difficult mix. I think he pushes it with him, but the question is, how far can he really push it? And what kind of control can he really put over them except for sort of moralisation?

ROBERTS: Right. Andrew Ross Sorkin always great to see you.

SORKIN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thanks for coming in.

By the way, you can check on Andrew Ross Sorkin's book, "Too Big to Fail," a fascinating behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of the greatest financial crisis since the great depression."


CHETRY: All right. Thanks, John.

Well, also still ahead, a minister on a mission to get more evangelical Christians onboard with saving the environment and accepting climate change.

Also, still ahead, who's number one on the most fascinating person of 2009 according to Barbara Walters. We'll find out.

Seventeen minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Well, it's all hard to believe the boy band stuff happened actually in this decade. It was in NSYNC's "No Strings." It was the most popular album of the 2000. The top album of the entire decade.

Does that make you want to cry, John?


CHETRY: Selling 10 million copies so far.

ROBERTS: All right. Fast forward in 2009, The Blackeyed Peas, "Boom, Boom Pow" was the top song this year.

CHETRY: And the list just keep on coming. Barbara Walter's Ten Most Fascinating Peoples List. That's out. And the First Lady living up to her title. Michelle Obama was first on the list. She talked to Barbara Walters about life in the White House, her workout regimen, her guilty pleasures, which include foods and really bad TV.

ROBERTS: Oprah giving us a sneak peak of her holiday visit to the White House. It's the first couple's first Christmas there.

So what do you get the guy who has Air Force One? Well, she tried to find out.


OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: Is there a greater pressure to give a good gift when you are the president? Or can you get away with the least of gift to give the president.

It's all right, busy.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: What are you going to get me? You should feel pressure.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have been giving good gifts. You get some nice stuff. But here's a general rule, I give nicer stuff than I get.

WINFREY: Really?

M. OBAMA: No way!

B. OBAMA: Absolutely.

M. OBAMA: I gave you good gifts last year.

B. OBAMA: Oh, come on, please. You know, it's like Mothers's Day and Fathers's Day...


M. OBAMA: We are talking about Christmas. Don't become distracted.

B. OBAMA: But that principal applies generally.

M. OBAMA: So you are a good gift giver? B. OBAMA: Where did you get this nice, little --

M. OBAMA: This was a gift.

WINFREY: Was this anniversary?

M. OBAMA: Anniversary.


ROBERTS: Oh, oh, come on, you don't do that. Where did you get that from?

CHETRY: He's got to be in the dog house for just saying he gives nicer gifts than he gets?

ROBERTS: Oh my goodness.

CHETRY: And she was trying to be so polite. Just wait, make those camera stop rolling.

ROBERTS: A lump of coal today, I think.

CHETRY: All right. Well, minister on a mission. This is a big initiative actually to get more evangelical questions who typically don't believe or buy a lot of the science behind global warming and climate change onboard with climate change. And then are some very, very high-profile evangelical ministers getting on board including Rick Warren who wrote "A Purpose Driven Life."

ROBERTS: You're right.

But we are also going to be checking with Barbara Starr. She's spent the past week in Afghanistan. She takes us to a place where U.S. soldieries are embraced, and things are actually peaceful there. Wait until you see her report coming up.

It's 23 minutes after the hour.


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

If you travel 90 miles north of Kabul in Afghanistan, you will discover what that country could be someday. It's a province called Panjshir.

It features breath-taking snow top mountains, a river that runs through them, and a few 100,000 very proud people. And it's a place where American troops and only American troops are welcome.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is there, and she has this exclusive "AM Original" for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The stunning beauty of Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley. These mountain peaks have kept these fiercely independent and devote Panjshiris safe. Neither the invading Soviets or the Taliban were ever able to control this region.

Because the area is now relatively secure, U.S. troops stationed here are able to concentrate on encouraging the local Afghan government to take responsibility for its citizens, a major priority of the new counterinsurgency strategy.

Army Major Ian Murray is part of a reconstruction team living here in the valley.

MAJ. IAN MURRAY, U.S. ARMY: We get to actually get out, work with the government officials, work with the local people and make sure that the basic services are being provided to them. We've been really focused on building schools, providing some basic electrical power through micro-hydroelectric projects and providing the clinics

STARR (on camera): And you do not have Taliban or insurgent activity here?

MURRAY: No. There is no Taliban. No insurgent activity. We had no instances of any kind of Taliban activity in the valley.

STARR (voice-over): We are taken to visit a school the U.S. helped build. Boys and girls attend separately as they do across Afghanistan. It's a freezing cold day, and these boys have walked miles to get here in the early morning.

(on camera): This cold, remote valley is a place of great history to both the Afghans of the Panjshir and to the United States. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the first CIA jawbreaker team landed here with trunk full of cash. And within days the war against the Taliban would begin, a war that still goes on today.

(voice-over): All up and down the valley you still find rusted hulks of soviet armor and artillery, a testament to the will of the Panjshir's to resist outsiders which makes it all the more extraordinary that the people in this valley are willing to accept U.S. troops.

Here the U.S. soldiers have their own security force, local Mojahedin (ph) fighters who have sworn to protect the Americans, fighters who once fought the Taliban and the Soviets.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Panjshir Valley.


CHETRY: Well, we're coming up on 28 minutes past the hour right now.

Checking our top stories this morning. The Island Nation of Cyprus in shock after thieves stole the body of its former president. Police say the body was taken from its grave some time late Thursday night or early this morning. The motive remains unclear. The former president died a year ago from lung cancer.

ROBERTS: A Yale lab technician is missing this morning. The university says 47-year-old John DiNello has not been seen since Monday. He reportedly works the same building where lab technician Raymond Clark allegedly murdered grad student Annie Lee. Police say DiNello takes daily medication does not have it with him. Investigators are treating this as a missing person's case and not a criminal investigation.

CHETRY: And holiday tourist had to scramble for cover in New York's Time Square during a deadly shooting involving police. Authorities say an officer shot and killed a 25-year-old man after he pulled the gun, fired several shots outside of the Marriott Marquis Hotel yesterday. Very popular spot with tourist. Officer had been trying to question the man about CDs he was paddling when he took off running and then began firing at police.

Well, it's an issue that is traditionally divided some conservative Christians. The environment. For decades, many Christians have cast doubt on the science behind global warming, but that is beginning to change.

Jonathan Merritt is a Baptist minister who says that evangelicals need to start accepting that climate change is real and not a political issue. Evangelical Christians traditionally do not buy into climate changes as much as other groups.

In fact, Jonathan, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

I want to ask you first of all about why we don't see, traditionally, evangelical Christians believing that climate change and global warm is a proven fact?

JONATHAN MERRITT, AUTHOR, "GREEN LIKE GOD": Well, thanks so much for having me on, Kiran. Your question is really -- the answer to your question is really two parts. First of all, religion and science have always had a tumultuous relationship since Galileo, and there is sort of that distrust between the two camps. And I think sometimes it's unnecessary. That's the first reason.

But here in America, and some more specifically to our context, it's more of a historical answer. And that is after the 1970s, 60s, 70s and even into the 80s, there was a division that occurred in response to the Cultural Revolution.

And so there was a politicization of America, and the right stole god and the left stole green, and you never saw those things together in the same sentence until now. I just wrote a book called "Green Like God" because I think those things belong together. I think our god has a lot to say about what we see going on in the world right now. CHETRY: And you say you had an ah-ha moment about global warming back in college. You're now 27. Explain why this issue became so personal to you.

MERRITT: Yes, it's fascinating. I became an environmentalist our of Southern Baptist seminary, not really a story you hear every day.

But I was sitting in class and I had a professor at Southeastern seminary in North Carolina, and he was teaching about revelation, that god speaks to us both through his word, the Bible, and through the natural world around us that the Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 1.

And he said something that changed my life. He said when we destroy god's creation, which is god's revelation, it's similar to tearing a page out of the Bible. And for me, an evangelical Christian, that struck me and signaled and began in me a shift in perspective. I began to search this issue out more carefully.

CHETRY: It is interesting because politics and religion oftentimes merge in ways that don't seem to necessarily be true to the roots of the Bible, I guess you could say.

Back in 20006 Pastor Rick Warren was one of 86 evangelical Christian leaders to back initiatives fighting global warming. We also -- take a look at Pope Benedict who is now referred to by many as the "Green Pope" because he speaks out on issues of climate change.

Are Christian leaders starting to teach about climate change as a moral issue, much like poverty?

MERRITT: Yes, I think god's on the move. I think people are beginning to rediscover what our scriptures say about these things. The sierra club was not the first entity to say this world was good. God did. He said this creation is a good thing, and he asked us to take care of it.

People like Rick Warren, and other evangelical Christians are now looking at the world around us and they are speaking with one voice saying we can do better.

CHETRY: You know, you have an uphill battle it seems, at least according to some of the polling. A recent pew poll from April of '08 asked is there solid evidence the earth is warming. Let's put it up, because there is really a difference in terms of how people identify themselves in religion.

And when you take a look, White evangelical protestants, only 34 percent believe there is solid evidence of global warming because of human activity.

MERRITT: Right. Right. It goes back to what we said before. This issue has become so political, and many environmentalists, they support things that evangelicals can never support. They take a pro- abortion stance. We have to oppose that, our faith demands it.

That makes us skeptical, because those in the environmental camp we disagree with on so many issues, and I think that's unfortunate.

CHETRY: How do you bridge that gap now, because the point is, as I said, when religion and politics sometimes merge together, so if you are fighting against a lot of the ideology of a certain group of people who have beliefs one way, what do you do when you are actually with them on a major, major belief, which is that we have to do something about climate change?

MERRITT: Well, I think you have to do two things. The first thing is, and people always laugh at this and think it's such a Sunday school answer, but you go back to the word of god. You begin as a follower of Jesus Christ, you always begin with the Bible.

And we find a beautiful picture in the Bible of a creation that god loves that he wants to see flourish and that he's asked us to take care of.

And then once you have that Biblical perspective through that prism, you begin to look at the problems that we see all around our world. You have to get educated.

It never has been easier to become a so-called expert. In churches today, you talk to somebody for 30 minutes, and you ask yourself if this person a scientist, an economist, a policy expert, a theologian. We have to be very honest and have integrity to admit where we are experts and where we are not. But it begins with the study of the word of god.

CHETRY: Jonathan Meir, author of "Green Like God." We appreciate you talking with us.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: We told you a couple minutes ago that at Yale University they are looking for a lab technician that has been missing for four days. Apparently he was found at home and everything is OK. So mystery solved. No reason why he went missing for four days if he was at home.

So you want to save some money on your health care plan? Gerri Willis has some tips for you on how you can save money before it gets more expensive in 2010. And Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a brand new technology that could give hope of eyesight for the blind. Stay with us. It's really amazing stuff.


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": The event was attended by the creme de la creme of Scandinavian society. The prince and princess were there. And of course -- what?


You can't keep -- you got to feel him up during the Nobel Prize ceremony?

(LAUGHTER) What is Will Smith doing there? To be fair, I guess he's doing the research now because he figures at some point he is going to play him.



ROBERTS: And in fact in an interview yesterday Will Smith was talking about playing Barack Obama in any kind of movie that comes up, and his wife Jada reached over and said you have the ears to do it.


CHETRY: He does, actually. There you go. He fulfilled two requirements, because he was also the fresh prince of Bel Aire at one point. Sitting among royalty.

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. The new year will mean health care insurance for many of us that is less generous and more expensive.

CHETRY: In other words you have to start acting now if you want to save money come next year. Gerri Willis is watching your money for us and has some end of the year tips that could actually save you a lot down the line. We are all ears.

GERRI WILLIS, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: As you know, it will be more expensive for health care than it has been in the past. Schedule your appointments now. Buy the glasses. Ask for extra medicine refills now.

And of course maximize that flexible spending account. Remember an FSA lets you set aside pretax money to use on health related expenses. It usually has to be used by the end of the year, but some companies give you a little leeway, maybe April I think in our case is the deadline for using that money.

So let's take a look at what you can spend that money on if you are looking to get some of your FSA dollars. Over-the-counter medicine, massage therapy, first aid kits, dancing sessions as treatment, believe it or not, and of course you can just use it for regular old fashion medical stuff.

ROBERTS: Ballroom dancing is covered?

WILLIS: A doctor has to say that you really need that. You just cannot go out willy-nilly and take cha-cha lessons.

ROBERTS: So you doctor can take a look at you and say the way that you dance is hazardous to your health. Go get some lessons?


WILLIS: No, it has to apply to something that is wrong with you, obviously. ROBERTS: How do you make sure you get everything that you are entitled to?

WILLIS: You want to think about, can I get the free stuff? A lot of employers give you free stuff. Cigna insurers took a sampling of ten large employers, and on average only half of employees took advantage of low cost screenings, free services like cholesterol screening, prostate cancer, mammograms. This is free stuff you want to take advantage of.

Squeeze it in because next year it will be a lot more expensive. Are you going to take dancing lessons?

CHETRY: Well, between the testing he has to get done, a dental cleaning, and --

ROBERTS: Somebody once said to me, if you keep dancing like that you will hurt yourself.

WILLIS: Well, that's not a doctor's prescription.

ROBERTS: It's pretty close.


Thanks, Gerri, it's good to see you.

Well, Ali Velshi and the CNN Express hit the recovery road to find out if Americans are buying these claims the recession is over. He also listened to what Americans are buying this holiday and what we learned one year after the financial collapse.

"Recovery Road" premieres next Wednesday.




ROBERTS: Despite subzero windshields last night Cleveland Browns fans went out early for tailgating and other pregame activities. Later on their team feasted on defending champions Pittsburgh Steelers, beating their bitter division rivals 13-7, all but eliminating Pittsburgh from the playoff race.

CHETRY: That's a tailgate, you bring in an entire pig?

ROBERTS: Yes, perfect. Everybody else was having frozen hamburgers.

Computer chips in the eyes of the blind to help them see, amazing technology. Our Dr. Gupta shows us what it's all about next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: A medical breakthrough is literally giving us a look into the future. It's a tiny chip that can actually stimulate the brain to see light and shapes, a bionic eye.

Our Chief medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us how it works and how it's changing one woman's life.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Roberta Campbell's began to dim when she was just 13. The first hint, it came at school.

BARBARA CAMPBELL, STARTED LOSING VISION AT 13: The teachers called my parents in and said she is not seeing stuff on the page.

GUPTA: Years later, it got much worse.

CAMPBELL: There was an open manhole I was about to go into, and it was very scary. And that was a huge wake up call.

GUPTA: Then one day Campbell's vision was gone.

CAMPBELL: Everything is a gray, foggy haze.

GUPTA: Cells on Campbell's retina that detect light had deteriorated until five months ago when she began seeing glimpses of light using what some are calling a bionic eye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an electronic device that essentially stimulates the retina electronically.

GUPTA: First an operation to implant a computer chip directly into the eye.

This is where Campbell's story starts to sound like science fiction. The letter "E" is registered by the camera. That's the first step. After that, the camera sends a signal wirelessly to the back of Campbell's retina, again transmitting the information of the letter "E".

And then that "E" subsequently goes to the back of Campbell's eye all the way to the back of the brain to a part of the brain that is actually responsible for sight. So you have a camera and a microchip, and it allows her to see once again.

CAMPBELL: Now I can see that the lights are on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For patients that have had no vision for years and years, these are really major milestones for them.

ARIES ARDITI, LIGHTHOUSE INTERNATIONAL: We can take somebody who is totally blind and turn them into somebody with very, very poor vision. That's really the first time in history that we have been able to do that. GUPTA: Doctors caution that retraining Campbell's eye and brain could see could take years. Her vision is in black and white and will never be perfect. Still, Campbell has dreams.

CAMPBELL: I am not sure it's going to happen, but seeing colors, that's my number one thing. If I could see colors again, my plan was to go to the Grand Canyon.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


CHETRY: That's just amazing technology.

Still ahead, from the unbelievable to the what the heck is going on, apparently there has been a rise in 911 calls because people are doing this, sticking their tongue onto a freezing cold object, like a poll, and then wondering why it won't come off.

It's 54 minutes past the hour.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you kidding? Stick my tongue to the stupid poll? That's dumb.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's because you know it will stick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I double dog dare you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now it was serious -- a double dog dare. What else was left but a triple dare you, and finally, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple dog dare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I triple dog dare you.


CHETRY: You know what happens after that if you are a fan of the movie, right?

ROBERTS: You call 911 and get your tongue unstuck from the poll.

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Subzero temperatures can make kids do the darndest things.

ROBERTS: And with much of the country gripped by bitter cold, and old winter adage is being proven again -- when tongue meets frozen metal -- well, here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's like being tongue tied to a poll. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the dumbest thing I have ever done.

MOOS: Frozen to a poll on purpose. If you thought it only happened to movies like "A Christmas Story," real kids have gotten stuck three times in just the past few days, from Vancouver, Washington -- to this Boise, Idaho, fencepost, three separate incidents in which kids like this one had to have their tongues liberated.

In Spokane Valley, Washington, the dark-haired girl used her cell to call 911 to rescue her 13-year-old friend. The second girl put her tongue on the poll only after the first girl put her lips on the pole and her lips came off without a problem, but not the tongue in temperatures of about ten degrees.

In the movie, the kid is abandoned. In real life, the friends stuck by the girl whose tongue was stuck.

As for how best to get a tongue unstuck, breathing isn't usually enough, nor do we recommend the technique used in "Dumb and Dumber." The best method is room temperature water says the captain who rescued the laughing 13 year old.

So kids, don't you dare risk you tongue over a dare. The captain didn't bother to give the girl a tongue-lashing, figuring it had been lashed enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did ask her why she did it, and she said curiosity.

MOOS: We know what that did to the cat?

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: This has been a great day. I can leave now just informed and cheerful.

ROBERTS: Stay away from the flagpole because it's very cold.

CHETRY: I will. If not, I'll carry a room temperature cup of water with me at all times.

ROBERTS: Continue the coversation on today's stories. Go to our blog at

And that'll wrap it up for us. We'll see you back here bright and early on Monday. Have a great weekend.

CHETRY: That's right. Have a great weekend.

Meanwhile, the news continues right now. "CNN NEWSROOM" right now with Heidi Collins.