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U.S. Drones Attack in Pakistan, Killing 15; Italian Prime Minister Left the Hospital; New Jersey Main Arrives in Brazil After Winning Custody of Son

Aired December 17, 2009 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Here now are some of the other stories that we are watching right now.

Pakistani officials say as many as 15 people are dead after several U.S. drones attacked an area near the Afghan border. Those same officials say seven of the dead are militant fighters. A separate drone attack in the same North Waziristan area killed two people. The U.S. has not confirmed either strike.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi left the hospital this morning with his face covered in bandages. Berlusconi was attacked earlier this week by a mentally-ill man who hit him with a small statue. The Italian leader broke his nose and two teeth. The injuries are keeping him from attending this week's climate summit in Copenhagen.

He's in Brazil and hoping to finally bring his son back home. A New Jersey man is trying to put an end to a five-year-long international custody battle. He arrived at Rio de Janeiro this morning after a Brazilian Appeals Court granted him custody of his nine-year-old son.

CNN's Jason Carroll brings us up to date.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, David Goldman says he has flown down to Rio de Janeiro at least a dozen times when a Brazilian court has ruled in his favor. This time he's hopeful it will be the last time.


CARROLL (voice-over): The decision by a Brazilian Appeals Court was unanimous, but there was no celebrating, not even the hint of a smile on the face of David Goldman.

DAVID GOLDMAN, GRANTED CUSTODY OF SON: I've been down this road for five and a half years. Until I'm on the plane with Shawn and the wheels are up, I can only be hopeful.

CARROLL: The ruling upheld a decision this summer that ordered his nine-year-old son, Shawn, to be returned home with him to New Jersey. But the homecoming could face one more roadblock. The family of Shawn's now deceased mother is expected to file an appeal with Brazil's supreme court today. But Goldman supporters are cautiously optimistic the ruling will stand. REP. CHRIS SMITH (R), NEW JERSEY: Remember this is an abducting family. They're kidnappers. And yet they have had - but they come from a very high-powered legal family in Rio de Janeiro so they have had a great deal of sway with the court.

CARROLL: The custody battle has now spanned five years, starting back in 2004, when Shawn's mother Bruna Bianchi, brought Shawn to Brazil for what was supposed to be a two-week vacation. They never came back. She eventually remarried an then died last year during childbirth. Her family has taken up the fight to keep Shawn in Rio, arguing it would be traumatizing to remove the boy from the home where he's been raised.

Here in the United States, Goldman's fight has been taken up by secretary of state Hillary Clinton and it's that international pressure that some say would make this ruling stick.

ROBERT ARENSTEIN, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: I think the justices are on their toes trying to do the right thing because the world is watching this case. This case is being watched by the entire world.

CARROLL: A case that won't be over until this father watches his son board a plane home.

GOLDMAN: My emotions are in check. I'm focused on doing what I can to comfort my son.


CARROLL: Secretary Clinton releasing a statement saying she appreciated the assistance and cooperation from Brazil and she hopes the long legal process is finally over. Representative Smith from New Jersey, who you saw in the piece there and has been working with the family, says the Brazilian high court will take up the appeal today.

The supreme court could grant a stay, once again delaying Shawn's return, or, Heidi, allow Shawn to be returned to his father while the appeal is decided. Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Jason, thanks so much. Again, we will be watching that story throughout the day right here on CNN.

Meanwhile the climate talks in Copenhagen, optimism cools, passions boil over. Police and protesters going up against each other at the global warming conference in Denmark's capital. Hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested inside the conference.

One Danish official says there is little hope for a comprehensive deal on greenhouse gas emissions. The reason? Negotiations between rich and poor countries grew divisive and dead locked. President Obama leaves tonight for the talks. He is to be joined by more than 100 other world leaders.

Let's talk more about these protests for a moment and the growing dissatisfaction that is rippling inside and outside of the Copenhagen summit. What are the concerns and what are the possible compromises? CNN's Phil Black breaks it down for us.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Danish police haven't shown a lot of tolerance for protesters during the climate talks. But they didn't hesitate when hundreds of people tried to break into the conference center to hold their own people's forum. They used batons, tear gas and pepper spray to move the crowd.

But in some cases the protesters fought back. There were heated scenes inside the center too. The number of activists allowed inside is being dramatically scaled back each day as more world leaders arrive. The activists aren't happy. This group from Save the World had the necessary credentials but security refused to let them past. So they sat down and refused to move.

The United Nations climate chief Yvo De Boer tried talking to them.

YVO DE BOER, U.N. CLIMATE CHIEF: I think if we can get that process moving we can still get a result out of this conference. But we're at a critical moment in the process.

BLACK: It didn't go well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were here at 7:30 in the morning. Come on.

DE BOER: I have been reasonable throughout my three years in this job, trying to create - all right. Goodbye.

BLACK: Activist groups are increasingly frustrated because negotiations over a global strategy to deal with climate change are going badly. () is one of the Danish politicians moderating the talks. She gives a grim assessment of their progress.

(on camera): Last night you used the f word, failure, acknowledging that it is very much a possibility here. How likely do you think that is given where we're at right now?

CONNIE HEDEGAARD, FORMER PRESIDENT, COP15: Well, I still believe that we can do what we came for, all of us, but what I want last night that time is really short and now people must show a will to compromise. Even the strongest pressure cannot get us off the hoop when it comes to solving specific issues where so far there are huge disagreements.

BLACK (voice-over): World leaders have begun addressing the conference, giving a further indication that the strong feelings that have resulted in deadlock.

PRES. ROBERT MUGABE, ZIMBABWE: We are the developing world. We of the developing world are drowning. We are burning, indeed we are the tragedy that climate changes have turned out to be for the larger half of mankind. Yet the we never caused that crisis. BLACK: The president of the European Commission believes two countries are holding up progress.

JUAN MANUEL BARROSO, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: I think the big emitting countries is they have to do some move, honestly, because this is a global challenge that needs a global response. So I believe that the United States of America and China, of course with different capabilities and different responsibilities, should do some move.

BLACK (on camera): Financial developing countries bigger emissions cuts for the west, a system to ensure everyone lives up to their commitments. These are just some of the unresolved issues here. It's hope that as more national leaders arrive, the pressure will build and the deadlock will break. At the moment, it's a lot to hope for.

Phil Black, CNN, Copenhagen.


COLLINS: CNN tonight, 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 a CNN YouTube climate change debate tonight at 11:00 after "AC 360."

Reynolds Wolf joining us now from the severe weather center. Because we have rain to talk about in the southeast and then cold in the northeast. And that makes for nasty, nasty travel conditions.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No question about it. And not just for people who are experiencing air travel today, but people on the roads. It's going to be a tough time for them, especially in places like Buffalo, New York, where they're going to have some lake effects, snowfall activity.

But the farther south you go, we make the transition from snow to rain and rain is really the big story. It has been the big story in Texas. And now we anticipate some of the rain that we have towards Houston and back in New Orleans to continue its march off to the east.

And right ahead of that frontal boundary, that area of low pressure. So places like say Birmingham, Alabama, and eventually spots like, say, back over towards Montgomery, Macon, even Atlanta, you're going to see scattered showers and possible storms later on tonight. Not severe thunderstorms, and certainly there's going to be a chance of rumble of thunder. That's going to come later on.

For the time being, for cities like Atlanta, it looks pretty good. A few scattered clouds here and there. Enjoy the sunshine though because we can anticipate those big changes to come calling for other parts of the southeast. I'm talking about you Carolinas, even back up in parts of Tennessee. You can expect the increasing clouds and a chance of those showers.

Meanwhile let's go back to the weather map. And as we do so, breezy conditions for parts of the central Rockies. If you're taking that drive say from Denver, southward to Albuquerque, right along parts of i-25, you're going to have some windy conditions right through those high mountain passes. Same deal may be expected through parts of the Cascades.

And I'll tell you we may see some scattered snow showers up in Mt. Hood, even parts of say Mt. Shasta before the day is out. And relatively nice day for you in parts of the Great Lakes. Could see some snow forming up in parts of the upper peninsula.

So what does that going to mean for you travelers today? Well, you can expect a few delays at the New York metro airports, all of them. Same deal in Philly and Boston. Check this out, you may be waiting anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. In Houston, New Orleans, rain and low clouds for you. San Francisco, fog and low clouds might keep you stranded for about 15 to 30 minutes. It's not too bad.

If you're doing some driving in south Florida along Alligator Alley, keep those windows down and the air conditioner too. It's going to be feeling great, mainly 70s. Tampa same story with 71. That is a look at your forecast. As always, we've got more coming up straight ahead.


WOLF: Let's send it back to you, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. All right. We'll check in later. Thank you, Reynolds.

WOLF: Indeed.

COLLINS: Hope for the holidays. A major mortgage company issues a reprieve for homeowners on the brink of disaster. We'll have all the details in a moment.


COLLINS: Fed chairman Ben Bernanke is up for another term as Fed chief. The Senate banking committee is meeting right now to consider Bernanke's nomination to a second four-year term. We'll give you a live look now. If approved, the newly named "Time" magazine person of the year would still have to be voted on by the full Senate, of course. But that probably won't happen until next year.

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan is appearing on Capitol Hill today. He will be testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and government affairs committee. Susan Collins there. The committee is looking at the country's economic future. They are also hearing from the heads of the Senate budget committee.

There is help coming for thousands of troubled homeowners from one of the nation's most bailed out banks. CNN's Poppy Harlow is in New York now with more on this. Hi there, Poppy. What's the very latest here?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Sure, Heidi. This is Citigroup, their mortgage division coming out late last night saying, listen, we're going to suspend foreclosures for 30 days for about 4,000 people. It starts tomorrow. When you add it all up, this is about 20 percent of Citi's total lending portfolio.

Now, there are some qualifications here. It only applies if your loan is owned by Citi mortgage. So if you make payments to Citi but somebody else owns your loan, sorry but this doesn't apply to you. You need to know that. Also, Citi says in its press release and we're trying to find out more about this, Heidi, but you need to meet certain other criteria so we want to know exactly what that is.

But this comes at a point when by all accounts really the Obama administration's efforts to modify mortgages have really fallen short. When you look at the numbers only about four percent of troubled borrowers have gotten those long-term help under the administration's foreclosure preventive plans and Citigroup has enrolled about 100,000 people in the program but Heidi, this is unbelievable, only 271, 271 of 100,000 of those modifications have been made permanent. That's according to the Treasury.


HARLOW: At the same time, Heidi, I want to be fair here. I talked to a bank executive this week who leads one of the big banks and was in that meeting with President Obama on Monday. And he said the paperwork that we the banks get from Treasury is about three- quarters of an inch thick and most people can't get through it or get it done right. So their modifications don't go through and that's a major problem. The banks seem to want less complex paperwork to get these things done, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. We've heard that before.


COLLINS: The House of Representatives is also trying to deliver some help in time for the holidays and we're talking about the jobs creation bill that was passed last night.

HARLOW: Yes, I mean, it's a big deal. It's $154 billion bill that was passed through late last night. $75 billion of that money would come from the TARP money which we heard President Obama pushing for. He'd spend it on infrastructure spending, also helping states prevent layoffs. The other $79 billion would go to what is being called an emergency safety net spending fund.

That would, most of it, Heidi, we should be clear add to the deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But what are we talking about in terms of where that money would go? Again, it's all about unemployment, extending those unemployment benefits and also extending Cobra's health care subsidy among other things.

So it's passed the House and it now goes to the Senate. Unfortunately for a lot of folks that need the help the Senate is not expected to take it up until next year. So we'll see if it does pass the Senate. We'll give you more details on that bill. You can check out this story. We'll try to pull it up for you.

Oh, we don't have it. It's on CNN


COLLINS: There's been a lot of discussion about that, whether taking the TARP money for jobs creation should be done. It's probably a political question.

HARLOW: If it's - yes, and if it's even legal. So, yes, we'll see.

COLLINS: We're watching. Thanks, Poppy. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: You got it.

COLLINS: Holiday frugality. Well, a new CNN opinion research poll finds that nearly half of all Americans plan to spend less on gifts this year than last. Are you spending less this year? Buying different things in fact? Go to my blog at and let us know what you're up to.

Having a baby and choosing the way you want to deliver that baby. We'll tell you how to get the birth you want.


COLLINS: Time now to check some of the top stories that we're following this morning. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry is dead. The five-year NFL veteran was badly injured yesterday in a car accident. Police say he fell out of the back of a pickup truck during a domestic dispute. They are investigating.

He hadn't played in six weeks after being put on injured reserve. Henry had several run-ins with police during his early years in the NFL, but coaches and teammates said he really seemed to have turned things around this season. Chris Henry was 26 years old.

Roy Disney has died. The nephew of Walt Disney is credited with revitalizing the company with some of its most popular animated films of the last 30 years, like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King." He battled stomach cancer for the last year. Besides working in the family business for 56 years, Roy Disney was also a philanthropist donating millions of dollars to schools, theaters and hospitals. Roy Disney was 79 years old.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi left the hospital this morning with his face covered with bandages. Berlusconi was attacked earlier this week by a mentally ill man who hit him with a statue. The Italian leader broke his nose and two teeth. The injuries are keeping him from attending this week's climate summit in Copenhagen.

The number of C-sections in the United States is on the rise. One in three babies is born via cesarean section. And women who want vaginal births sometimes have to fight to get them. In this week's "Empowered Patient," CNN's patient advocate Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now with some advice on how you get the kind of delivery that you want. So this seems surprising to me you have to say, wait a minute, I'd like to do this the way we're supposed to.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The way it was intended. Exactly, you do have to fight sometimes. And really one of the bottom lines is doctors don't like being sued. They just don't like being sued. You know what, as they say, you don't get sued usually for doing a cesarean section, so C-section rates are way up, 30 percent, when the Centers for Disease Control says they really should be more like 15 percent.

COLLINS: Yes, so back in October you actually told us about a woman who had a story here where she was in the hospital, she was insisting that she have a C-section when she didn't really need one. So this is sort of linked here. Did she have the baby, everything go OK? What happened?

COHEN: It's a very happy ending. This woman was actually pregnant. She was about seven months pregnant when her doctors said you know what, the hospital said that you're going to deliver at, will not deliver you vaginally. You are going to have to have a C-section because she'd had a prior C-section.

And she said, "uh-uh, I do not want another C-section if I can avoid it." She said "I obviously want my child to be safe." And she said "I'm going to find a hospital that will deliver me vaginally." So she, three weeks before her due date, moved six hours away from her home and you can see the product. Little baby Marcus Anthony, seven pounds 13 ounces. She said it was the easiest birth ever. She delivered vaginally. She said she pushed once. And she said oh, my goodness, they wanted to cut into me and here I had the easiest delivery vaginally that she's ever heard of.


COHEN: Yes. So she feels like she proved her point and she got the delivery she wants.

COLLINS: Yes. Definitely. And the cute baby too.

COHEN: And the cute baby too. Right, exactly.

COLLINS: So if you're an expectant mom, what exactly can you do to get the delivery you want? I mean, we always talk about this birth plan and having this plan. Then the first thing they tell you is whatever you have planned, it's never going to go that way.

COHEN: Exactly. You know what because you'll have a plan with your doctor, but there's an excellent chance your doctor is not going to deliver you.

COLLINS: That happened to me.

COHEN: Right. It happened to me too.

COLLINS: I'm still mad, by the way. He was skiing. COHEN: He was skiing. (INAUDIBLE) Exactly. But so many women have that story. So you can have the greatest plan in the world that you went through with your doctor, but you know what, when you get to the hospital, it is a whole different deal. You may end up having delivery room discussions about how you're going to deliver this baby.

So I talked to some midwives (INAUDIBLE) and doctors and said how do you get the delivery you want if you want a vaginal delivery and your doctor says I think you ought to have a C-section. You need to ask the doctor is this an emergency or do we have time to talk? Some C-sections really are an emergency. You're going to die, the baby is going to die, you don't want to have a discussion.


COHEN: But most of the time it's not. Most of the time it's not, so you can say to the doctor I get it that you want me to have a C-section but is this an emergency or not. You can ask what would happen if we waited an hour or two. That's another good question to ask. And then you can also ask are you sure the baby is too big for me to deliver, because sometimes that's the reason. Sometimes doctors will say, and I know I have many friends where they were told this baby is way too big for you to deliver and the baby turns out to be seven pounds or something like that.

Are you sure this baby is too big -

COLLINS: Yes, but I feel bad for first-time moms because, boy, a doctor looks at you, you're there, you're in the moment and he says we need to do a C-section. I'm glad that you're doing this and empowering people because I don't know if too many that would say hold on a second. No, no, no, doctor. My first child, I'm terrified, we shouldn't do a C-section.

COHEN: It is incredibly hard. I know having given birth to four children. it is incredibly hard in that moment to have that discussion. But if that's something that you really want, if you really want a vaginal birth, you need to think about how you're going to do that. And what you really need to think about is finding the right doctor or midwife to begin with.

That's first on the list. But the full list of tips I'll show you where to get those, they're at How to get the delivery you want. And some women want a C-section. Some women want it. So if that's what you want -

COLLINS: I feel us going off into the delivery room drama story.

COHEN: Oh, there are so many.

COLLINS: All moms have them. Absolutely. It's a half an hour special.

COHEN: I feel it.

COLLINS: All right. Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. Thanks, Elizabeth.

Here's a story now, off the beaten path a bit. A charity that's trying to change lives and ease suffering with a simple stove. We'll show you how a few dollars can make a huge difference.


ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: Global warming, heated tempers, cooling expectations, violent clashes between police and protesters have stolen much of the spotlight from the climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Bitter divisions have also complicated the meetings inside the conference, all before the arrival of President Obama and more than 100 other world leaders. So what can they hope to accomplish now? Let's look ahead with CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Suzanne, good morning. What's the stakes here? What are the stakes when the president goes and goes into this knowing that all of these clashes and all of these tensions are at a real high point?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Heidi. I've been speaking with people who are on the ground in Copenhagen this morning as well as White House officials. They realize they're really at a crossroads here because it does look like there's a roadblock with China.

They have been in negotiations the last 48 hours, not really moving in the direction that they would like. We heard from Secretary Clinton, who was saying earlier this morning that the Chinese have to be transparent as well as other nations when is comes to proving that they are in fact going to cut down on the greenhouse gas emissions, and that this in fact is a deal-breaker.

Now, that doesn't mean that they don't have some sense of hope that they're going to be able to move forward, but one of the things that they're talking about is that it is worth it, at the very least for the president to show up and be involved in this the next 24 to 48 hours.

So, it's a rumor coming from actually the summit itself that President Obama would not be attending, that is not true. Robert Gibbs just finished a briefing and made it very clear that the president's plans have not changed, that they are going to move forward here and he is trying to make the case it's not only important about climate change but creating some jobs back at home, Heidi.

COLLINS: Did Gibbs talk about then at all the possibility that the president could come home empty-handed?

MALVEAUX: Yes. We asked that question, whether or not that was a real political liability. We know that the last time he went to Copenhagen, making a bid for the Olympics, he didn't come back with anything. Gibbs responded and said, "Coming back with an empty agreement would be far worse than coming back empty-handed." But, you know, you have to question that because this agreement, essentially, is not even a legally binding agreement, it's not a treaty, it's a political agreement. So, if these guys all get together and say at the very least we believe that we believe we are working towards a treaty, towards an agreement here, that is good enough.

And so they are certainly hoping that everybody signs on the dotted line, including the Chinese, saying we at least intend to go ahead, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, commit to it and commit to some sort of transparency. So, we'll see how that language is worked in there, but this is a very important trip for this president to in fact come back with some sort of tangible political agreement from these nations.

COLLINS: All right. Well, we will certainly be watching as those tensions rise. Appreciate that. White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux this morning.

And now speaking of the environment, a really interesting story. There's a charity out there with a simple mission. Buy fuel-efficient stoves for refugee camps in the Congo. But the goal is huge. Protect the women there from what is often referred to as a pandemic in the region: rape.

Cassandra nelson works with the charity Mercy Corps and just returned from the Congo and has this story for us.

It's nice to talk with you, Cassandra. I know you just came back week before last. I want to put the story out there in the right light because there's some information that people may not know here. Let's talk about how much firewood it takes. I was pretty amazed by the tonnage per day that is required per day in order for people in the Congo basically to eat or to get any type of warmth or whatever it is that they may need. That's something like, what, 169 tons of cooking fuel, which again is firewood, that's needed every day.

CASSANDRA NELSON, MERCY CORPS: Exactly. And that -- really, we're just talking about the displaced population that Mercy Corps is originally working with. So, if you look at the fact that there is nearly one and a half million displaced people in 2009 in eastern Congo and start to do the math, the amount of firewood that's need in that country is incredible.

COLLINS: Yes. And so, then what happens is typically, the women are the ones who go out and get the firewood.

NELSON: Exactly. It really is the woman's job in the Congo culture to be the firewood collectors. And what we see, particularly when there's displacement camps and very large populations of people concentrated, that the environment around those camps gets completed deforested.

And what that means for the women, though, is they have to go farther and farther out into very thick forests alone. Or maybe just with their children, and it's a very dangerous place for them because, unfortunately, it is a country that's filled with men with guns. And we found just a huge instance of women who are raped or harassed or have some kind of violence inflicted on them.

COLLINS: Yes. In fact, you say something like 90 percent of these women who have experienced violence like this.

NELSON: Yes. We did a baseline survey last year and found that 90 percent of the women that we surveyed had experienced some kind of violence or harassment when they had been out collecting firewood.

COLLINS: That's unbelievable. OK, so you come in and say how do we cut down on not only the deforestation but also the violence these women experience, and we're going to come up with a way that will help them not to have to go out and get so much firewood with this fuel- efficient stove?

NELSON: Exactly. What Mercy Corps is doing is designed fuel- efficient stoves that actually require about 75 percent less firewood. And so what that means is essentially that it means 75 percent less time that you have to go out into the forest to collect the firewood to actually do your cooking...

COLLINS: Yes. How does it save so much?

NELSON: Well, the way it's designed, it's a highly efficient stove. It's a clay stove. It's made with all local materials. And what we've done is we've trained the people there to actually make the stoves themselves, so it's not something we have to provide to them. They make it...

COLLINS: Yes. We're watching that right now on the screen next to you, just so you know.

NELSON: Okay, oh great. Those are our technicians that were trained on how to make them. We've made about 30,000 stoves so far. And the great thing is they learn to make these stoves, and then they can also start small businesses themselves by making the stoves and selling them, as well as we're distributing them for free to people who can't afford to buy the stoves.


NELSON: It just burns at a very high temperature, and so the wood is completely burned. The old style or traditional style of cooking is just to kind of have three stones and toss a bunch of wood on it, and it's very inefficient. The wood just is never fully burnt and is not very hot.

COLLINS: Yes. Understood. So, have you been able to gather any statistics or feedback on the effect of all of this, and if it's been able to help, not only with the deforestation but also cutting down on this violence against the women?

NELSON: Well, we are actually just about to do our next survey, so -- because we did our baseline survey last year. But what we have found is if we take the numbers and look at 10,000 stoves going out to 10,000 families, cooking over the course of one year, what we're saving is we're saving about 13,000 tons of firewood on an annual basis. That's just for about 10,000 stoves.

So, the numbers are fantastic. And it's one of those programs that is viral in a way in that now that these people know how to make these stoves, they start to build them themselves. They don't need Mercy Corps there to do all the work for them. We train them, and then they can go out and carry this on so it can spread from community to community. So that way, in the long term...

COLLINS: So self-sufficient.

NELSON: ... So a long-term impact.

COLLINS: Self-sufficient is good too. I'm still very interested in how we can measure or find out if the violence against the women, because the women -- they're not having to go back so far out into the forest, is cutting down. Are they telling you, hey, I feel a little bit safer, I'm glad that I'm able to stick around the camp closer because I'm not having to go out so much?

NELSON: Definitely. I mean, one thing I do is I spend a lot of time in the camps talking to the women that use those stoves. And I asked them, I said so what's the biggest change in your life? Do you like the stove? And every single woman I talked to was incredibly happy with their stove, and the number one reason was they said, "I don't have to go out and collect firewood anymore. I feel safe."

And so, the security for the women is really the most important part. I mean. our broader aims are certainly climate change issues and others as well as protection of women. But for the women, it is the protection that is so good for them.

COLLINS: Understood. All right, we'll be watching closely all of these ideas. Cassandra Nelson with Mercy Corps, thanks for your time.

NELSON: Thank you.

COLLINS: The number is staggering. For the first time, a billion people on earth are hungry. A new effort aims to get a billion people to help online. Our Josh Levs is here now with more on that. Hi, Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Heidi. It's so interesting to follow that fascinating segment about helping people in the Congo.

COLLINS: Yes. Very good idea.

LEVS: It's amazing what's going on there.

And what I'm here to tell you about also is something for the World Food Programme to help get food to people all over the world. We know this is a time of year that a lot of people are thinking how they can reach out and help others.

Let's go to this video. I want you to see what's going on online and what's so new about this. This is from the World Food Programme, and these numbers you're seeing are about what people do every minute. Within 60 seconds, you're seeing how many people get online, send e- mails, tweets, use Facebook.

They're saying, you know what? In that same amount of time, ten children around the world die. So, what the World Food Programme has created is called A Billion for a Billion. What they want to do is get a billion people online to help the one billion people who are hungry. And they're asking people no matter what you use, if it's Facebook, if it's Twitter, if you have your own blog, whatever it is, to send out the word about world hunger. I spoke with a representative of the World Food Programme about what this could actually accomplish.


BETTINA LUESCHER, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: There are so many people online. In a nutshell, for example, all the folks who are using these tools, cell phones, computers, if they help the ones who need a cup of food, the billion online to help the billion who are going hungry.

And if you spread the word, if you just do a little tiny bit, if you go to your computer and you tell the story and you spread it and you tweet and you blog and you link up with us, we can really change the world. We can make hunger -- we can eradicate it. It's extremely powerful what the Internet can do.

LEVS: And let's get pragmatic here. What you're talking about is getting the word out in the hopes that the more people that hear about it, the more people will decide to give money. Ultimately this is a fundraising activity.

LUESCHER: It's fundraising and awareness. Fundraising of course, this year has been really hard. We got very, very good donations from government, but clearly not enough. We have huge shortfalls. We had to cut rations all over the world. So, we need new donors, we need more people to know about this.


LEVS: And one thing you can see, actually, is this right here.

Let's zoom back in. We'll end on this. This is the Wall Against Hunger. People who take action as part of this Billion for a Billion can send their information and send in a photo or video about what you are doing. People are sharing their stories. This way, all on the Wall Against Hunger.

All of it is part of the World Food Programme. It's at I posted links for you. Let's show everyone where those are. They're up at the blog,, also Facebook and Twitter. JoshLevsCNN.

If you want to get involved or learn more about this, you want to learn where your money goes, it's very interesting. Check it out. The Billion for a Billion program.

And Heidi, as I was just saying between what you were saying about the Congo and this, this is definitely the time of year a lot of people are thinking how can they reach out and help. A couple great ways right the there.

COLLINS: Absolutely. All right, Josh. Thank you.

LEVS: Thank you.

COLLINS: Now to health care reform. Getting all the Democrats on board, but could there be a liberal backlash? Tell you about it in a moment.


COLLINS: Checking top stories now.

A New Jersey father fighting for five years to get his son back has new hope in the custody battle. David Goldman is now in Brazil after an appeals court there granted him custody of his nine-year-old son. But the Brazilian family of David Goldman's late wife may file another appeal with the Brazilian high court today to keep the boy. We will follow what happens there.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford escapes another impeachment vote. The state's house judiciary committee voted against impeachment but did approve a resolution censuring Sanford. They criticized him for bringing ridicule and shame on the state by carrying on an affair with an Argentinian woman.

Crews are waiting for a break in the weather so they can continue looking for two missing hikers on Oregon's Mount Hood. Authorities told the families it is unlikely they are alive. The threat of avalanches forced crews to suspend the search and they are waiting for better conditions to begin the recovery operation.

We have new numbers this morning on unemployment. For the second straight week, first-time claims for benefits went up. The Labor Department says 480,000 newly unemployed people applied for benefits. Nearly 5,200,000 people filed claims for ongoing unemployment benefits. That doesn't count the millions of people whose state benefits have already run out.

Small businesses take another hit. A new report shows credit is still very hard to get, and that had a big effect on the economy. Susan Lisovicz is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with details on this.

Susan, earlier in the week, this is exactly why President Obama met with bank CEOs.

Susan, we can't hear you. Can we hear Susan? Oh, darn it. Oh, she is messing with the mic. Do we have her now? Maybe not.

All right, so you know what? We'll check back with Susan in just a little while. Check on that audio problem, and we will get to her.

But meanwhile, all of this talk brings us to today's blog question. We're talking a lot about the economy and holiday shopping, how the two affect one another and asked whether you are spending less this year or maybe just buying different things? Necessities over luxury items.

I want to show you this now from Sharon. She writes, "My three adult sons, their wives and I decided to forego gifts to each other this year. Instead, we will splurge on a festive Christmas dinner and give gifts to their children, my grandchildren, in the form of gift cards and contributions to college savings."

From Rose, "We are a family of seven and buying gifts for everyone is going to be impossible. To make sure everyone receives something, we decided to do Secret Santa and set a price limit."

And then from Linda. "This year, my family is not buying a lot of stuff for Christmas. Instead, we rented a cabin in the mountains and will spend Christmas in the snow together."

Remember, we always want to hear from you. Just log on to to share your comments.

Quick break now. We're back in a moment.


COLLINS: President Obama and Democratic leaders want a health care bill done by the end of the year. Here's what we know about the progress. The Senate would need to finish its work this week for a realistic shot at beating that deadline.

There are two stumbling blocks. One concerns a compromise package allowing private insurers to offer nonprofit health coverage. Many senators are waiting for a Congressional Budget Office estimate of the cost of that program.

The second issue, Senator Ben Nelson wants tighter restrictions on federal funding for abortion. Nelson says a compromise is possible.

Full Democratic support for the Senate health care reform bill is no guarantee. First, Independent senator Joe Lieberman vowed to abandon the Democrats over Medicare. Now, there is a threat of a backlash among liberals who want a public option. CNN's Jim Acosta is in Washington with details.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, Senate Democratic leaders are hopeful they'll get all 60 votes, but the danger in the Senate is that you could have 100 Joe Liebermans with the potential to stop everything if their demands are not met. So, the question now for Democrats is whether anybody else wants to pull a Lieberman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA (voice-over): Remember Roland Burris? Appointed to fill President Obama's Senate seat by impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich?

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS: We must not settle.

ACOSTA: Burris has sounded like a spoiler in the Democratic quest for 60 votes to stop a GOP filibuster on health care reform.

BURRIS: But understand that I have drawn a line in the sand, and I've said that I will not vote for any bill to come to me, especially it it's going to be the final bill that does not have a public option in it.

ACOSTA: Ever since senators stripped the public option out of their version to placate Joe Lieberman, liberal bloggers have cried, kill the bill.

Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean is leading the charge.

HOWARD DEAN, FMR. DNC CHAIR: This is a bigger bailout for the insurance industry than AIG. This is an insurance company's dream, this bill, and I think it's gone too far. It's just a -- it's a shame.

ACOSTA: Dean also accuses Democrats of watering down insurance reforms in the bill. Not so, says Senator Jay Rockefeller, who is firing back at Dean, shame on you.

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: That is so inaccurate. I don't know how to express it but to say that Howard Dean is a doctor. He should know better and he should be ashamed of himself.

ACOSTA: The White House was also having none of it.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think any rational person would say killing a bill makes a whole lot of sense at this point.

ACOSTA: But even Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, a self- described socialist, has said he may not vote to block a filibuster.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I'm not on board yet. At this moment I am undecided. We're working hard to try to make this bill a better bill.

ACOSTA: Despite the fact he condemned filibustering health care last summer.

SANDERS: I can respect people in the Democratic caucus who end up not voting for final passage, but at the very least, they have got to prevent the Republicans from stopping progress in health care reform.

ROCKEFELLER: I know senators don't like to talk about other senators in what they're doing. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I don't mind.

ACOSTA: Senator Rockefeller says it's time for unity.

ROCKEFELLER: You don't want to be the person who brings the whole thing down.


ACOSTA: Case in point, when Senator Sanders introduced an amendment for a single-payer health care system, a measure that has no chance of passing, Republicans insisted on having the entire 767-pages read aloud, a process that could have taken eight hours. Democrats say it was a delay tactic at a time when they fear time is not on their side.


COLLINS: All right, Jim, thanks so much.

And this just in now to CNN. A strike that could have crippled British airways over the holiday season cannot go ahead.

Here's what happened. A judge ruled in favor of the carrier just a short while ago. The union had planned a 12-day strike starting on Tuesday that would run through the holidays. At issue, British Airways' plan to change cabin crew conditions. The union says working hours will be extended, crew levels cut. We're going to be hearing from our correspondent, Jim Boulden, at the high court on this issue in just a couple of minutes.

Now to the front lines in Afghanistan. One of the top U.S. commanders there right now talking to troops about the new strategy and the threats from the Taliban.


COLLINS: Getting a look at the front lines in Afghanistan. Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen is there right now visiting troops at a base in the dangerous Kandahar province. Mullen has been in Afghanistan all week. Earlier, he said the full deployment of President Obama's 30,000 additional troops probably would not be finished until August.

A hero's honor for two members of the Third Special Forces group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They were awarded the Silver Star for their fearless work defending fellow soldiers in Afghanistan. Military officials say they fought off Taliban insurgents while they were under attack themselves.


MASTER SGT. ANTHONY SIRIWARDENE, SILVER STAR RECIPIENT: I think they thought they were pursuing us, but every engagement, there are casualties and just the outcome and the way the guys on the detachment performed, which was amazing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Nine other members of the Third Special Forces group earned Bronze Stars. Six received Purple Hearts, and 25 were awarded Army Commendation medals. Thanks to all of them for their service, of course.

Quickly, we want to get to Michael Holmes for the moment. We've been talking about this British Airways strike and the information that now, a strike apparently cannot happen because a judge ruled in favor of the carrier just a short while ago. Michael is standing by at Heathrow to tell us more about this. Hi there, Michael.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi to you, Heidi. yes, this information just coming out a few minutes ago from London's high court.

British Airways, a little bit of background, they had applied for an injunction against this union action by the union known as Unite of British Airways cabin crews going on strike. Of course, this crucial period of December 22nd for 12 days.

Well, the injunction has been granted. What British Airways had claimed was that some of those who voted in the ballot to go on strike weren't eligible to do so. Now, it wasn't a huge number of people, but it was a legal technicality, and the justice has granded the injunction. So, at the moment the strike is off.

Now, there could be an appeal by the union. At the moment, we have no idea whether that's going to happen or not. We are waiting to hear, Heidi.

COLLINS: At least at this point, it will be easier on holiday travelers. All right. Michael Holmes, we know you're following it closely from Heathrow airport. Thank you.

I'm Heidi Collins. CNN NEWSROOM continues now with Tony Harris.