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House to Vote to Extend Jobless Benefits; H1N1 Vaccine Recall; Where are the Jobs?

Aired December 16, 2009 - 11:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. It is Wednesday, the 16th day of December, and here are the faces behind the stories driving the headlines today.

Nicola Kirkbride, British Airways passenger. A strike could wreck the holidays for thousands of flyers from both sides of the pond.

Wes Sullivan, chaplain for hire, giving on-the-job spiritual guidance for employees during these hardscrabble times.

And students of recession. The great American job hunt when there aren't enough jobs to go around.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris, and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Running up against the clock, to be sure. Nine million Americans are relying on the government for unemployment benefits, and if Congress doesn't act quickly, some people will soon see those checks stop.

Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with a look at what lawmakers are doing about it. We moved Susan to the top of the show because it's that important.

Susan, if you would, set the stage for today's big vote.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's of particular note to nine million Americans, Tony.

HARRIS: That's right.

LISOVICZ: The U.S. House of Representatives to vote today on measures to extend the safety net for unemployed Americans. What is in the bill specifically? Well, an extension on the deadline to file for jobless benefits, which has already been extended three times this year.

Tony, the government currently provides up to 99 weeks of unemployment, depending on the state, but current law only helps those who exhaust their benefits by the end of the year. So if your benefits expire January 1st, you won't get the extension. That would affect a million Americans -- that's the estimate -- would lose their benefits if the latest extension isn't passed, three million by March.

The bill also would include extension of COBRA health coverage. We know how important that is.

HARRIS: Oh, yes.

LISOVICZ: It would maintain a boost in unemployment benefits and it would provide more money for food stamps -- Tony.

HARRIS: Well, I don't know, maybe in part you've answered this question. Do you think this will pass in time for those in danger of having the benefits expire? It sounds like in some cases no.

LISOVICZ: Well, you know, December 31st, Tony, is two weeks away. There's nothing like a deadline, a hard deadline to get people moving.

The Senate has its own version of benefit extension, so these differences would have to be reconciled, but House leaders scaled back their efforts to get the bill passed more quickly. It's part of its spending bill. The thinking is that it will likely pass.

HARRIS: Yes. All right, Susan. Appreciate it. See you a little later in the hour.

Let's check the CNN wire now.

"TIME" magazine named Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke its "Person of the Year" today. TIME cites Bernanke's monumental influence over the financial panic and how he prevented a global crisis from becoming a catastrophic second Great Depression.

Iran has test-fired an upgraded version of its most advanced missile. State-run TV today airing this video of the launch. Iran's defense minister says it's meant to boost the country's deterrent capability. He says the high-speed missile has a range of more than 1,200 miles, able to reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf.

An ugly scene outside the U.N.'s Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Have a look.

Pretty ugly stuff, huh?

Police used batons, dogs and pepper spray to break up a pretty big protest. They arrested more than 200 people. The group Climate Justice Action called on protesters to take over the conference for a day and transform it into a people's assembly.

I've got to tell you, there is a major recall today affecting hundreds of thousands of doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine.

CNN's patient advocate, Elizabeth Cohen, is here.

Elizabeth, good to see you.

Now, health officials say there is no safety risk, so it begs the question, why the recall?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The recall doesn't have to do with safety. As you said, it has to do with potency.

After tests were done on the vaccine after it was put on the market, they found that it wasn't as potent as they had hoped. In fact, it was 12 percent less potent than what they wanted to see.

So let's take a look at some of the basics so the parents can think about this.

The vaccine is put out by Sanofi Pasteur. It's for children ages 6 months to 3 years of age, and 800,000 doses were distributed.

Now, we talked with the Centers for Disease Control and they said, look, we are still confident that kids who got these shots are protected against H1N1, but we can't ignore the fact that these shots appear to be less potent than they were supposed to be -- Tony.

HARRIS: Got you. And so, for parents whose children may have had this vaccine, what do those parents now do?

COHEN: Well, the CDC says you don't do anything. If your child did get this vaccine, they were supposed to come in for a second dose because kids that age need two doses about a month apart. So, between those two doses they should be just fine. That's what the Centers for Disease Control tells us.

So, you really don't do anything. Just do make sure that your child gets a second dose. They need a second dose of H1N1, no matter what kind of vaccine they got.

HARRIS: Right. So, what's the guidance sort of moving forward here? Should kids still be getting this vaccine?

COHEN: Well, it might be that when kids show up to their doctors, that the doctor is still going to have this on the shelf. They're supposed to return it, but there is some concern that these doctors might not return it as quickly as they should.

So, you need to be an empowered patient. If you're bringing your kid in to get an H1N1 vaccine, ask the doctor, is this made by Sanofi Pasteur? And if it is, you want to check and see if it's one of the lots that's been recalled.

The lot numbers are too numerous for me to read here, but if you go to, you will see a column written by my colleague, Miriam Falco (ph), and it has all of those numbers in there.

HARRIS: That's terrific, Elizabeth. Appreciate it. Thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

HARRIS: You know, Susan touched upon it just a moment ago. Millions of people looking for jobs just trying to hang on to their homes, their cars. Our Chief Business Correspondent Ali Velshi is on the road this week, going from town to town talking to you about jobs and how to make ends meet.

And I've got to tell you, the rain, Mr. Marciano, just won't let up here in the South.

Rob is going to be joining us in just a couple of seconds.

And you've got details on a city in the South which has already recorded, what, one of its wettest months on record?



HARRIS: We're going to figure out how to make this...

MARCIANO: That's next.

HARRIS: ... to make this work.

But first, here's the latest on the markets. The Dow -- oh boy -- we're in positive territory, up 44 points.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.




HARRIS: All right. Got to tell you, Congress is trying to pay the bills before its holiday break. Critics say the trillion-dollar- plus catchall spending bill smells of pork. The watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense count some 5,000 earmarks worth $4 billion.

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, one of three Democrats voting against the spending bill. He wants President Obama to veto it.


SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: First, it increases spending about four times the rate of inflation at a time when the deficit is out of control and our national debt is skyrocketing. So I just think, fiscally, it's irresponsible.

Secondly, as you know, there are more than 5,000 earmarks, special appropriations in this bill, at a time when ordinary families are cutting back, small businesses are struggling to make ends meet. It just sends a message that Congress is just out of touch and oblivious to the concerns of ordinary people, and I think that's just deeply wrong and it feeds into the cynicism that many people feel about Washington these days.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": I want to play something that President Obama said about earmarks last March. Let's watch.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe as we move forward, we can come together around principles that prevent the abuse of earmarks. Now, these principles begin with a simple concept -- earmarks must have a legitimate and worthy public purpose.


ANDERSON: So are there specific earmarks in this bill that you believe do not, as the president said, have a legitimate and worthy purpose?

BAYH: I haven't been able to scrutinize all 5,000 of them, Anderson. There were a couple of them I saw that I kind of chuckled about, although it's not entirely a laughing matter. But the principle is that at a time when we're hemorrhaging red ink, can we really afford this kind of thing? And at a time when ordinary people are having to cut back, shouldn't Congress exert a little restraint?

So, the problem here is not the president. I think he wants to do the right thing. The problem is that Congress needs to be restrained. And if it can't restrain itself, well, then, somebody has to, and that tends to be the executive branch.

ANDERSON: The White House is saying, well, look, earmarks are down 15 percent from what they were in the last bill.

BAYH: Well, it's true they're only $4 billion. But you know what? Even in Washington, $4 billion is still real money. And I suspect for your viewers at home, Anderson, it's the principle of the thing.

We've got a deficit in the trillions of dollars. They're asking us to raise the debt ceiling by $2 trillion. And at a time when ordinary people are having to make hard decisions about what they can afford and not afford, maybe not do the little extra thing this Christmas, members of Congress are still insisting on getting their little special projects. It's just not right at this moment in time.


HARRIS: OK. How about this -- the bill includes money for bike trails in California, an arts pavilion in Mississippi, and nearly $300,000 to eliminate blight in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

He is on the road and on the air. Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is on CNN Radio. There he is, the man. He is taking your calls, and we will be talking to him about jobs in this economy next, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: The House is expected to vote to extend unemployment benefits today. As many as three million jobless Americans could be affected. And with well over 15 million people out of work right now, and a 10 percent jobless rate, Senior Business Correspondent Ali Velshi is on the road this week looking for solutions. He is parked -- he has actually parked the CNN Express in Denmark, South Carolina, for his weekly program on CNN Radio. Ali, great to see you, doctor. I'm going to jump right in because I always run out of time with you and I've got a bunch of questions.


HARRIS: Let's start with the climate change going on right now in Copenhagen. In your view, is there a viable green economy taking shape in this country?

VELSHI: Yes, and it's not -- it's in spite of the stuff that's going on in Copenhagen. The reality is there are entrepreneurs out there who understand that the reality is we're going to change to a different economy, and as a result of that, they are coming up with solutions.

The problem is businesses, large businesses, including those that pollute, need to know what the regulations and standards are going to be so that they can build -- uncertainty hurting business in the United States, it's hurting productivity, and unfortunately we're going to not get a certain result out of Copenhagen. So that's going to set us back by a year. But there are lots of opportunities to be had in a clean environment, because we all agree whether or not you think it causes climate change, we've all agree we've got to deal with our carbon output, our pollution.

HARRIS: With sustainable long-term jobs that extend the middle class for the next generation, my kids and yours to come?

VELSHI: Yes. And look, keep in mind much of this is about energy.


VELSHI: Energy, we are increasing consumers of energy around the world in China, in India, and here in the United States. So there will be lots of long-term sustainable jobs in traditional energy like oil, coal and natural gas, but we're going to move towards other kinds of jobs.

We don't do new nuclear in the United States, but if we did that would provide jobs. The solar industry, the wind industry, it's not a ton of jobs yet, but there will be things to manufacture and things to build and things to install. But we need to know -- companies that invest in new plants and new technologies need to know what the rules are going to be. Once they know that, they'll start to build and there will be jobs.

HARRIS: Got it. Let me blast through a couple more here before we get to top stories.

What came out of the president's meeting with business leaders earlier this week, beyond, oh, we will take another look at loan applications maybe we've rejected?

VELSHI: Goose eggs came out of that meeting. I'm actually puzzled by it, because on Sunday night, the president's interview on "60 Minutes" seemed like it was a very strong position he was taking.

The banks don't seem to care that much about what the president is doing. If I were the banks, I would care, because the mood here on the street where I am is that people think the banks have not played fairly with them after getting a taxpayer bailout. But the reality is, not much did come of that.

The banks weren't meeting the president to tell them to start lending. The bottom line is they are not lending enough.

They say people are not lining up for those loans. I'm speaking to small businesses who say, "We can't get the loans." So it's a bit of a chicken and the egg situation. We don't know which one is which, but the reality is America will get going again when loans start flowing to good-risk small businesses and mortgage owners, and that has not been achieved yet.


Ali, appreciate it so much. Let's get the phone number up again for folks to call you in the remaining moments of your CNN Radio show. I've got 877-266-4189. Correct?

VELSHI: We're welcoming people and their solutions. We want to hear how you're dealing with this recovery and recession and how other people can be helped by that.

HARRIS: Ali, appreciate it. Good to see you. Thank you, sir.

Can you really get a two percent mortgage? Home loan modifications, or so-called extreme refis, some are working, some aren't. You can check out the story. The reporting is being done by our terrific money team at

All right. Let's do this very quickly here. Let's get to our top stories today. Top stories now.

British Airways is in court today in London trying to head off a cabin crew strike over Christmas. The 12-day strike is set to begin Monday. The airline and union leaders are holding talks right now. The union is fighting cost-cutting moves that include a two-year pay freeze.

In Copenhagen, dozens of arrests as police break up a protest at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The group holding the demonstration called on activists to take over the conference for one day and turn it into a people's assembly. Police used batons, dogs and pepper spray to disrupt those plans.

"TIME" magazine calls him the most powerful nerd on the planet, and now Ben Bernanke is TIME's "Person of the Year." The magazine says the weak economy was the story of the year, and without Bernanke's leadership, it could have been much, much weaker.

A check of the day's top stories once again for you in 20 minutes. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: So, you say you are ready to rip into your holiday gifts. Well, hold on. Opening that box could cost you.

Personal finance editor Gerri Willis is in New York with her tips on holiday returns.

Gerri, look, come on now, what if I just -- I can't stand it and I have to rip into that box? I'm going to do it later in the day. What then?


You know, retailers are charging restocking fees like nothing you've ever seen. These are fees that are imposed on returned goods, typically electronics, if they're opened, if they're not in a factory sealed box.

So, look, for example, you bought a product for $300 and you were charged a $15 percent restocking fee. Your refund is only $255. And those fees can be even higher, anywhere from 10 percent to 25 percent. We've even heard, Tony, about retailers charging up to 60 percent restocking fee.

HARRIS: Are you kidding?

WILLIS:, for example, will keep 60 percent or more of the price of your jewelry or watch if you return it in a damaged box, or any manuals or tags are missing. And it's not just electronics and jewelry you have to worry about. Some appliances, tools, garden products, you name it, they do not want to see that package messed up. So, I know it takes a little fun out of the holidays, but you might want to find out what's in the box before you open it.

HARRIS: Right. I just don't want to open it, I want to destroy it. I want to rip it open.

All right. What are the trends that you're seeing, returns this season, Gerri?

WILLIS: All right. OK. Well, returns are going to be a bit easier. That's the good news here. And this is from a survey by Consumer World.

This year, some stores have actually extended their return deadlines. They've eased policies regarding return of goods without receipts.

Target, for example, won't require a receipt for returns, but that's only -- only if the amount of receiptless stuff you have to exchange is less than 70 bucks. Best Buy has lengthened its holiday return period to January 31st, except for -- this is important -- computers. And Wal-Mart has extended its holiday return period on computers and cameras.

So, a little breathing room here from the major retailers.

HARRIS: Hey, can you help us with this one? Who's got the best return policies out there?

WILLIS: Well, OK, policies vary by stores, obviously, but this is Consumer Reports' list, and you'll want to pay attention to this.

Best return policies are at Bed, Bath and Beyond, Bloomingdale's, Costco, Ikea and Kmart. And the ones they're not so crazy about, Home Depot, where you can't return items you bought online at their stores., you have 30 days to return an item once it's shipped, regardless of when you got it., where you can't return televisions over a certain size.

You know, it's buyer beware out there, Tony. You've got to make sure you keep your receipts. If you buy and return items online, be aware that many merchants don't refund the cost of shipping.

Consumers have a problem returning a gift out there, if you can't get it returned, contact the store manager, the customer service department. Look, if you're still having issues, you can go right to the top, the attorney general's office or a local consumer agency.

If you have questions, e-mail me at We want to hear your return stories.

Do you have good return stories?

And Tony, do you think you can hold yourself back from ripping open these presents?

HARRIS: No, I'm a Toys "R" Us kid. Are you kidding me? I'm going home today, I'm ripping stuff up.

Thank you, Gerri. Great tips, as always.

WILLIS: That does not surprise me. Thank you.

HARRIS: Christmas, as you know, is next week, but many holiday plans are literally up in the air. A possible British Airways strike has many passengers rethinking their flight plans.


HARRIS: Lawyers for British Airways are at London's high court right now. They're trying to stop a major crew strike planned for next week.

CNN's Adrian Finighan is outside the courthouse.

And Adrian, look, why the strike? What do the workers want?

ADRIAN FINIGHAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they want is new pay conditions, basically. They want the company to play their game. Tony, this is all about the powerless financial state that BA finds itself in. It's losing $2 million dollars a day. In the first six months of this year it lost a whopping $485 million. It needs to restructure the way that it pays people, it's working practices to get back to profitability. And in November it introduced new working practices and new contracts for workers.

The workers were unhappy, they felt that those procedures were forced upon them so they're threatening to strike over the 12 days of Christmas. And what's happening here in this courtroom behind me is that BA pulled the union into court to try to stop they strike. On a technicality they say that the strike ballot, which had 90 percent support from union members, had irregularities and should not be valid.

So we'll wait to find out as to whether that strike ballot is declared valid or not to see whether this strike goes ahead. And if it does go ahead, as you said, I mean, up to a million Christmases could be ruined as passengers face disruption. They won't be able to take the trips that they've planned

HARRIS: Yes, and you know, Adrian just listening to you, it made me think of something else here. Is there mistrust here between management and the crews here? Is this a case where the union just doesn't believe the figures? The circumstances that management finds itself in?

FINIGHAN: Absolutely, Tony. I mean relations between management and staff at BA are at rock bottom at the moment. A lot of people here in Britain cannot believe the union is threatening to do what its doing. The attitude is that people are lucky to have a good job. I mean, cabin crew at BA are paid pretty well, compared to people in the rest of the industry earn already. And in a recession where thousands of people who have lost their jobs, BA staff are lucky to have them. They shouldn't be threatening to disrupt the Christmas of millions of their customers.

HARRIS: And Adrian, bring it home for everyone here. What should passengers do if they're holding BA tickets right now?

FINIGHAN: That's a difficult one, Tony, because until we know whether this strike is going to go ahead or not there's not a lot that anyone can do, unless, of course, you've got a flexible ticket and you can actually change the dates. Until we know whether the strike is going to happen, we don't know what the airline is going to offer passengers. So you've just got to hold on and hope for the best.

I spoke to one guy this morning out at Heathrow Airport who wasn't willing to wait. He paid almost double the fare that he paid for his ticket to Warsaw so that he could get out to Poland to enjoy Christmas with his wife and kids whether there's a strike or not. He recons that having two tickets for two different airlines is better than having one that he doesn't know is going to get him to his destination.

HARRIS: Yes. And obviously not everyone can do that, so the court decision is huge. Adrian Finighan for us. Adrian, good to see you. Thank you.

I've got to tell you the strike could potentially affect, as you just heard from Adrian, about a million people. Including Nicola Kirkbride and her family. As Jim Boulden tells us, they might miss her sister's wedding.


JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 'Tis the season for jingle bells and wedding bells in climes warmer than our own, like Cape Town, South Africa, where Lily Kirkbride's aunt will be getting married. She's meant to be flying out on Christmas Eve with 15 other family members on British Airways.

NICOLA KIRKBRIDE, BRITISH AIRWAYS PASSENGER: It means we won't all be together for Christmas, which the children obviously are looking forward to. My sister won't have her mother and father or family around her on the day of her wedding. Most of her wedding party are actually going with British Airways. So they're there in Cape Town, we're here in England. It's going to be a complete disaster, basically.

BOULDEN: Those not willing to be held to ransom have already sorted out a backup. A family of four are due to fly out on BA to Miami on December 23, returning on January 2. They paid $4,800. And now they just spent another seven and a half thousand dollars for new tickets on Virgin Atlantic, flying out on Christmas Day, the only flight available, which means they'll miss Christmas in Miami.

Even though it's the cabin crew who has put down their tools, the head of the airline will be seen as the Christmas Grinch for staffing changes that triggered a strike vote by Unite, the union that represents cabin crews.

WILLIE WALSH, CEO, BRITISH AIRWAYS: This is a massive overreaction on the part of Unite to what are minor changes introduced by British Airways and I would strongly urge Unite to stand back.

BOULDEN: Now BA says the ballot isn't valid and is looking into an injunction to stop the strike. Clutching at straws maybe, but as the heat stays on BA, other airlines are moving quickly to capitalize.

Virgin Atlantic is adding larger aircraft to long-haul routes to accommodate BA passengers. VMI has just put an advert in one of the national newspapers, reassuring passengers they don't have to be grounded by BA's labor troubles. Meanwhile BA is working out an emergency schedule where short-haul flights will be ones the most affected.

MALCOLM TARLING, BRITISH ASSOCIATION OF TRAVEL AGENTS: Cancellation due to industrial action (INAUDIBLE). If, however, you are forced to abandon your trip due to delays, then some policies will cover you in those circumstances. But the key here is to talk to the tour operator, the air carrier, that's their responsibility to make alternative arrangements. BOULDEN: And as BA prepares to put its planes to bed, passengers wait to see if their flights and Christmas plans will be cancelled.

Jim Boulden, CNN, London.


HARRIS: Health care reform. The president says we're nearly there, but with the public option and Medicare buy-in out of the picture, what's left in the bill?


HARRIS: Time running out for Senate Democrats trying to pass a health care reform bill by Christmas. The scramble is on to lock in the 60 votes needed to pass it on.

Let's get to it right now live on Capitol Hill, CNN Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, good to see you.

What type of health insurance will people get under this bill as it's currently configured?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, under the Senate bill, we're talking just about the Senate bill, which is not going to include a public option in the end, as we now know that government-run insurance plan. What it does do is it expands Medicaid.

So for Americans -- poor Americans -- who even now, they maybe don't qualify for Medicaid, some of them will qualify for Medicaid. And then as you get a little farther up the pay scale, still low-income Americans and some Middle Class Americans, what they are going to get is government subsidies, Tony. We were talking about this yesterday. Basically a coupon that will help them purchase private insurance that they right now cannot afford. Some of these subsidies are going to be pretty hefty and pick up a large chunk of what they would have to pay in order to get insurance, Tony.

HARRIS: All right.

And people are required under this bill to get insurance, right?

KEILAR: Yes. Under the Senate bill there is what's called an individual mandate and that says -- and this is how they get everyone insured because they essentially force people to -- by saying, you have to get insured or you're going to pay a penalty.

This is something that's also in the House bill, Tony. But then there's not a requirement in the Senate bill that tells employers that they have to provide insurance for their workers. There are some incentives, but it's a little stronger in forcing employers to do that in the House bill rather than this bill before the Senate right now.

HARRIS: Yes. And, gosh, one more quick one here.

How does this bill sort of tighten up restrictions on insurance companies?

KEILAR: I think this is one of the ones that's so interesting to people, especially as maybe they have insurance now and you kind of hear some of these nightmare stories about people maybe applying for insurance and they're denied because of a pre-existing condition.

This bill says to insurance companies, no, you cannot do that. It also says you cannot drop people because they get sick. And then there's another insurance industry practice, Tony, which is putting coverage limits in place, telling someone that when you hit a certain amount, a certain dollar amount of coverage, either over the course of a year or your lifetime, that's it, you're on your own, you're paying out of pocket.

The bill as it stands right now in the Senate says no annual -- pardon me, no lifetime coverage limits.


KEILAR: It doesn't actually tackle that annual limit, but this was a big uproar last week when it came to light and White House officials, Congressional officials have made it clear certainly to advocates for patients that in the final bill that President Obama would sign, they will make sure that it will not have those coverage limits.

HARRIS: That issue brought to light by our very own Elizabeth Cohen last Friday right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill for us. Brianna, appreciate it. Thank you.

Got to tell you, debate over health care reform won't end with the passage of a Senate bill. Efforts to get a House-Senate compromise measure could get really messy without a government-run insurance option. Prominent House Democrat Anthony Weiner discussed it earlier on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Does it make sense then to just go ahead with the bill and vote for it if it doesn't include a public option or Medicare expansion?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, look, I don't believe that you should let the perfect be the enemy of the good and unlike some people in this town, I actually want to get health care reform passed.

But when we go into a House-Senate conference, one of the things a lot of my colleagues are going to be asking are, what are the things that we can do to improve the choices consumers have. Make some competition for the insurance companies. I'm not prepared to say that we should throw out the whole process, but I have to tell you something, we are at a point, you know, there's an expression that a camel is a horse created by committee. If you look at what is created in the Senate, a horse would look like a giraffe or elephant because it's gotten so far away from the principles that we wanted.

But remember, we are going to be covering millions more Americans, we are going to be protected from our insurance companies' abuses. So it's not like there aren't good things happening but this bill has certainly gotten worse.


HARRIS: I never heard that expression, a camel is a horse created by committee. All right. CNN tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, the President says health care reform is on the verge of passing Congress, but at what cost? Democrat Barney Frank takes on Republican Ron Paul. That's tonight at 9:00 Eastern on "LARRY KING LIVE."

Top stories now. Today's move by Iran could heighten tensions in the Middle East. Iran says it's tested an upgraded version of a surface- to-surface missile. The weapon capable of reaching Israel, American bases in the Persian Gulf and parts of Europe.

If you are out of work, a move that could give you a little bit more breathing room. The House is set to vote on extending jobless benefits for an additional two months. The bill would also extent the COBRA health coverage subsidy for another two months.

An 80-year-old sailor is back on dry ground 10 days after he ran into trouble at sea. The Coast Guard rescued the man after he sent out a distress call saying he couldn't fend for himself. The sailboat was found in the Gulf of Mexico more than 100 miles offshore. We are back in a moment.


HARRIS: All right. One of my favorite segments of this show this day, here it is, the biggest lie of the year in U.S. Politics. It's a distinction no one wants but someone is about to get it and you can help decide. This is good stuff.

Our Josh Levs is here to show us how.

And Josh, what are the choices here?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right. First our pants are on fire and then you hold their feet to the fire.

Well, you know what this is. I mean, it's from the fine folks at We follow what they do post there. They're friends of this show. They keep what they call the Truth-o-Meter, where they give ratings on politicians' statements from true, all the way down to pants on fire. And you can see where what they've done. They've pulled out eight quotes from throughout the year that they ruled false or pants on fire and they're are inviting everyone to vote today by 3:00 p.m. Eastern, so the clock is ticking.

One of the candidates for lie of the year, tony, is this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.


OBAMA: That's not true.


LEVS: So Representative Joe Wilson famously yelled "you lie" at that moment. PolitiFact says that while there was a debate over how illegal immigrants would be impacted. There was not enough to make any case that Obama had lied at that moment so they made Wilson's accusation a candidate for lie of the year.

Also a candidate from that same night, though, is this quote from President Obama saying insurance companies should be required to cover preventive care.


OBAMA: Colonoscopies, because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money and it saves lives.


LEVS: Now this is an interesting one because preventive care does help save lives and it is important but PolitiFact says it actually does not save the country money. In fact the Congressional Budget Office says the same thing, that it adds to overall costs.

All right. Let's bang through a few more of the options here for lie of the year. A lot of people are expecting former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin saying that seniors and the disabled will have to stand in front of Obama's death panel so his bureaucrats can decide whether they are worthy of health care.

Also this, Representative Michelle Bachman saying back in October, that the House health care bill then said people can't purchase private health insurance after a date certain.

And finally this one, Tony, from Vice President Joe Biden. Do you remember this? He said that when one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft and then the airlines like freaked out. Well, that was back in April, amid growing fears about H1N1. And I want to tell everyone, we have had some good reporting about what happens on airplanes in terms of your health. You should check it out, But PolitiFact says it doesn't work the way Biden said.

So Tony, a matter of minutes, less than three hours now, for people to vote. It's up until 3:00 p.m. Eastern today. Vote for lie of the year at We're going to keep an eye and see what folks have their choose.

HARRIS: You know, we laugh about that Biden comment. It wasn't so funny when he made it.

LEVS: No it wasn't.

HARRIS: It really wasn't.

LEVS: A lot of people were really upset. And I want to emphasize, there are health concerns about planes but it's not like one sneeze automatically gets everyone in the whole --

HARRIS: When he said it, boy, the phones went crazy.

All right, Josh, appreciate it.

Now, remember the Cash for Clunkers program? Well, Japan's trying the same thing but with a twist that is sending U.S. automakers over the moon.


HARRIS: Another big protest at the U.N.'s climate change conference in Copenhagen and our iReporters are on the scene.

Take a look at these photos on the streets of the Danish capital. Just today they show some of the thousands of demonstrators who gathered in the heart of the city. More than 200 have been arrested so far today.

We know you've got plenty of questions about climate change. Will the 100 plus leaders at the Copenhagen summit reach a consensus on climate change? Will the U.S. take the lead? Get answers in the CNN YouTube Climate Change Debate tomorrow night at 11:00 Eastern after "AC360."


HARRIS: So, Cash for Clunkers expired months ago, but the idea is now popular in other countries. Japan now has its own Clunkers program. There's one big caveat though, and it comes at the expense -- listen to this -- of American automakers. Outrage story of the day. Well, maybe.

Let's check in with Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange. Sounds like it.

Hi, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Tony. Japanese consumers cannot use their Clunkers program to buy an American car. So, that means no Focus or Fusions from Ford, no Cobalts or Equinox from Chevy, GM. No Jeep Patriot from Chrysler. Otherwise Japan's Clunker program, very similar to ours. You turn in a vehicle, you get $1,000 to $3,000 for a more fuel-efficient car. The irony, Tony Harris is that the U.S. clunkers program was a boom for Japanese carmakers. Nearly half of U.S. clunker sales were Japanese-brand cars. HARRIS: I don't get this at all. How important are these Japanese sales to Ford, GM, and Chrysler?

Is it a big deal?

LISOVICZ: No. And so, you know, it's more symbolic than significant. GM, Ford, Chrysler really don't sell many cars in Japan. They don't try to sell that many cars in Japan. Japan is far more fuel efficient standards, about 8,000 so far this year. China, for instance, a much bigger market for Detroit. But, you know, the fact is that they don't qualify under Japan's Cash for Clunkers, and there are a number of people who are all fired up about that.

HARRIS: Oh, yes.

LISOVICZ: Stocks meanwhile, fired up, as well. We've got the Dow, the Nasdaq, S&P 500 each up about half a percent. Couple hours away from a decision on interest rates from the Federal Reserve, Tony.

HARRIS: Yes, yes. Two visits with Susan in the hour. Good stuff.

All right. See you next hour, Susan. Thank you.

LISOVICZ: Thank you.

HARRIS: And here's what we're working on for the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM. A soldier's story: Jason Carroll will take us inside basic training what life is like for new the Army's recruits.

And our Dan Simon is at the brand new Citi Center. We will tell you why some are calling it Las Vegas' biggest gamble.


HARRIS: How about this? Chaplains at your workplace. More and more companies offering employee benefit packages that includes spiritual health care. One of the day's faces of the story, Wes Sullivan, is one of those chaplains.

Our Thelma Gutierrez shows us how the God Squad works.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm chaplain Wes Sullivan, and I'm a spiritual EMT.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm chaplain Jan Spears. How are you today? I love visiting people in the workplace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm chaplain Diana Cisneros and I am a bridge of care to people.

THEMLA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are chaplains for hire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything is fine with your husband?

GUTIERREZ: Some call them the God Squad of corporate America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you get to take that frustration out that you were hoping to do?


GUTIERREZ: Randy Turnbow, an aerospace company CEO, based in Compton, California, says the spiritual well-being of his employees is as important as a good health plan.

(on camera): Are you a deeply religious person?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'd say I am.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): For $10 a month per employee, Turnbow hired Marketplace Chaplains USA, a nonprofit organization that sends chaplains to more than 400 businesses across the country.

(on camera): If economic hard times it doesn't make any sense to have a chaplain on retainer.

RANDY TURNBOW, OWNER, EME, INC.: It does in this way. The businessman usually cares about the bottom line. If your employees are feeling better, they come to work with a better attitude. They work harder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. How's it going?

GUTIERREZ: Wes Sullivan is a former army chaplain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's Darnell doing?

GUTIERREZ: He makes office rounds once a week. Sometimes he hears about work. Sometimes it's life and death.

JOE LIPSEY, EME EMOLOYEE: Five years ago my son, you know, yes, he got jumped on and he was in a coma, so he can't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's all right.

LIPSEY: He can't do. We talked about it, you know, and he told me it's going to be all right. We prayed, we prayed a lot.

GUTIERREZ: Chaplain Diana Cisneros said employees asked her to lead this lunchtime bible study on their time with the company's permission. Despite appearances, she says, she doesn't proselytize.

DIANA CISNEROS, MARKETPLACE CHAPLAINS USA: We're not here to push religion. We're not here to push spirituality.

MICHAEL DOSS, AMERICAN ATHEISTS: You know, they say they are not proselytizing or preaching at them but it really can be hard to know.

GUTIERREZ: Michael Doss is with the American Atheist Movement. He says the workplace is no place for public prayer.

DOSS: Crossing the line between the workplace and church is a very dangerous situation.

GUTIERREZ: Doss said the mere appearance of a chaplain could make nonbelievers uncomfortable, that if employees have problems they should turn to professionals instead.

DOSS: Are they going to give me advice that's going to try to drive me towards faith or Christianity or any of these things to solve my problems?

WES SULLIBAN, MARKETPLACE CHAPLAINS USA: We don't come in and pound somebody over the head and say, I am an evangelist, you need to know Jesus.

GUTIERREZ: Would you have any issue if they did come in and proselytize?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, I would.

GUTIERREZ: You wouldn't allow that to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I wouldn't allow that to happen.

GUTIERREZ: Sullivan said none of the employees are under any obligation to talk to him. And the four years he's been a chaplain here, he said he's gotten zero complaints.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Compton, California.


HARRIS: Faith and finances in a time where money is tight. Christine Romans explores the intersection of how we worship and how we spend, "In God We Trust: Faith and Money in America" airs this Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.