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Protecting Grounded Air Travelers; General's Orders: Don't Get Pregnant; Health Reform Clears Hurdle

Aired December 21, 2009 - 14:00   ET


MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a quick look at some of the stories we're pushing forward this hour.

The Senate health care reform bill. One major hurdle down, two smaller ones to go. Democrats hoping for a final vote Christmas Eve. Just a few minutes ago, in fact, the American Medical Association came out in support of this bill. Republicans slamming the Democrats for pushing the bill through in the middle of the night, despite growing public opposition.

We are waiting word on a Brazil's chief justice on a New Jersey father's custody case. He's expected to rule today on David Goldman's fight to get his son back from the boy's extended family in Brazil, although we're hearing the ruling might happen tomorrow now. Last week, the high court blocked a lower court's ruling that gave Goldman custody.

And a U.S. general ruling that his soldiers may get pregnant nor get anyone else pregnant. We'll be pushing this story forward in just a moment.

First, though, you're heading somewhere, but nowhere really all that fast. You find yourself stuck on an airplane maybe hours on end, and you really don't know how long you're going to be stuck there. If there's one thing the weekend blizzard once again reemphasized for us, it's just how vulnerable we can be as air travelers when the bad weather and maybe, you might say, the inconsiderate carriers collide, leaving passengers fending for themselves.

Sometimes you don't have food, you don't have water. Maybe you don't have access to a working bathroom. One of the most notable cases was what some called the flight from hell four months ago.

That was Rochester, Minnesota. Passengers on that Continental Express Flight 2816, they sat overnight in a cramped plane because the ground crews wouldn't allow the plane to the gate. A very similar story, in fact, this weekend out of Baltimore.

Passengers bound for Jamaica say they sat on the tarmac for seven-plus hours. They say they weren't offered a drink, they weren't offered snacks.

Well, apparently not anymore, or at least by the summer, the transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, is laying down the law on the airlines. Secretary LaHood joining us now to talk about some new protocols. He joins us live from snow-covered Washington.

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for your time.

And I'm sure you have been stuck at some point, like all of us, on the tarmac, wondering when you would be flying off to your destination. So I'm just curious what you think about this new policy that will be in place about 120 days from today.

RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, this is our policy. We're putting it into effect in 120 days so that passengers will know they will not have to sit on an airplane for more than three hours. And if they need food and if they need water, the airline has to provide it within two hours of the time that they are on the plane.

The pilot will have to go back -- safety will be number one. But if it's allowable, the pilot will be allowed to go back to the terminal. People can rebook, they can go home, or they can decide what they want to do.

LONG: OK. You said for two hours, then they will get some access to some water and some food. When you say food, are you talking something substantial to eat or just a little snack to tide you over?

LAHOOD: Talking about peanuts, pretzels, some kind of a snack to tide you over, or water -- and water, both. We know people have sat on planes for a long time with nothing. Some have fainted, some have gotten sick. And this allows for food and water.

LONG: OK. So this is, again, for domestic flights, not international.

LAHOOD: That's right.

LONG: And when we're looking at three hours, how did you come to that three-hour window?

LAHOOD: Because we think that's a long period of time. And people become impatient, particularly when no one is telling them what's going on, they have no idea why they are being delayed. And we just thought three hours was about the right time.

LONG: OK. What about exceptions? There will likely be some sort of exceptions.

LAHOOD: Well, there are no exceptions. The only exception would be if the pilot decides that for safety reasons, the plane cannot go back to the terminal.

If the terminal is shut down for some safety reason, or if the air traffic controller tells the pilot he can't go back, that would be the only reason. There are no other exceptions except for safety.

LONG: OK. So, what if some passengers find themselves stuck on a plane, on the tarmac, for three hours, 20 minutes, three hours and 30 minutes, after 120 days from now? What type of punishment could there be, and who would be punished?

LAHOOD: The airline would be punished, and there would be a $27,500 fine per violation. That manes if there's 120 people on the plane, it's 120 times $27,500. That's a violation. And the airlines have to report that, and I guarantee you if they don't, the passengers will.

LONG: So, again, it's the airline, it wouldn't be the pilot or the copilot.

LAHOOD: It's the airline. I assume it could be the pilot or somebody. Somebody from the airline has to report that. And it has to be posted on their Web site also.

LONG: All right. Secretary LaHood, thank you so much.

LAHOOD: Thank you.

LONG: Again, telling us about this new policy taking effect 120 days from today to protect you and your rights when you're flying.

Thank you so much.

LAHOOD: Thank you.

LONG: You join the military, you know some of your freedoms will be restricted -- clothes, haircut, politics, et cetera. Well, a U.S. general has gone ahead and actually restricted reproduction. Soldiers in his sector of Iraq -- male, female -- face punishment if they are involved in a pregnancy. It seems like this would open up a legal can of worms.

Joining us now from Washington, military law attorney Eugene Fidell. He's also the president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

Thank you so much, Professor, for your time. We appreciate it.


LONG: When you first heard about the development with this policy in place led by a major general in northern Iraq, what was your reaction?


FIDELL: My reaction...

LONG: That laugh.

FIDELL: ... was that this was going to be terrific material to teach in my military justice class at Yale Law School.

LONG: OK. So, what exactly are you teaching when you look at this policy that has been in place now for a little more than a month?

FIDELL: Right. What it is valuable for, I think, is highlighting the intersection between the kind of personal autonomy that all Americans are used to and demand, on the one hand. And on the other hand, the obvious interest of the military in preserving good order and discipline. And those two forces sort of interact or intersect in General Cucolo's order.

LONG: Now, you have to look at the basics of military law when you look at this new policy. How can the military actually create this policy and make pregnancies punishable?

FIDELL: Well, the military does have the right to issue what are called general orders. These are orders issued by a senior commander, and they are binding on those who are subject to that individual's directions.

And some of these orders may invade areas of personal autonomy that you or I might assume were it nobody else's business in the civilian community. But in the military environment, they are very much the management's business.

For example, things like what kind of inoculations do you have to get -- anthrax? That's a matter of personal choice if you're a civilian. But if you're in the military, the management can instruct you and require you to have that done.

LONG: A moment ago you mentioned the major general who crafted this policy. He oversees an area that includes Kirkuk, Tikrit, Mosul and Samara. I want to highlight what he has said recently about this policy.

"I've got a mission to do. I'm given a finite number of soldiers with which to do it, and I need every one of them. So I'm going to take every measure I can to keep them all fit and with me for the 12 months we are in the combat zone."

What is your reaction to what he has to say about why he is instituting this policy?

FIDELL: It doesn't surprise me at all. Obviously, they had some number of pregnancies that were occurring there, and obviously you want to take care of your GIs who become pregnant. But that then creates a vacancy that has to be filled by somebody, because we don't have a lot of GIs kind of milling around. They are all there for a purpose. So I actually do understand quite clearly why the general issued this order.


LONG: Well, you also mentioned the number of pregnancies possibly happening in that area. What is it that you think exactly led to this new policy that's been created?

FIDELL: I assume there was an uptick in pregnancies, and they just, on some level, got sick and tired of having to evacuate people and then have vacancies they weren't able to fill. Remember, the military -- even though enlistments seem to be adequate -- is stretched kind of thin. We've demanded extraordinary work from the National Guard and from the Reserves and from the active component of the military. And every person who's not there that should be there creates some kind of hardship for somebody else. So, I do understand what the impulse must have been.

LONG: OK. You say you understand the impulse. You understand what their motives are. But when you look at reproductive and civil rights, are they being potentially violated?

FIDELL: They are being violated if you apply the standards of the civilian community. But in the military environment, those standards get -- they morph and they get qualified.

What is, for example, a reasonable expectation to privacy in the military? It's much different from what you or I would expect.

Other aspects of personal conduct, you show up late. Well, that's no big deal in the civilian community, probably. In the military, that's a very big deal.

So things do vary. Another illustration is military officers are forbidden under criminal kind of punishment to speak contemptuously of the president or other high officials. In the civilian community, everybody does that to their heart's delight. That's the meaning (INAUDIBLE).

LONG: Certainly a different environment for those that are serving overseas.

And just quickly, how do you enforce this?

My apologies. It seems we're having a bit of difficulty with that connection there via Skype.

We were joined by a Yale professor, also a military law expert on this new piece of -- a new policy, I should say, that is, in fact, for U.S. troops serving in Iraq.

Thank you so much for your perspective and your expertise. We do appreciate it.

FIDELL: You're very welcome.

LONG: The Senator majority leader really got what he wanted very early this morning, 1:00 in the morning, ad an end to the debate. Perhaps a new beginning of a new era in health care reform. Republicans say the reform bill will reshape the nation all right, but not in a good way.

What do you think? We'll find out.


LONG: If you look at the Capitol, you have happy Democrats, you have angry Republicans, all of them a bit sleepy after a 1:00 a.m. party line vote to end debate on the Senate's health care reform bill. It was just last hour we brought you live coverage of the news conference in Washington with the American Medical Association endorsing this legislation.

Let's bring in CNN's congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

So, what is the next step for this bill, Christmas Eve?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, there are going to be some procedural votes ahead of that. In fact, that one this morning, Melissa, was a procedural vote. It was such a big deal though because it required 60 votes to pass, unlike the vote that we're going to be seeing probably on the evening of Christmas Eve, which is the actual vote that will pass health care reform through the Senate. That only requires 50 votes.

So that's the next thing that wraps up business here in the Senate. But after that, there's a whole other gauntlet that needs to be run.

Remember, the House passed its bill back in November. It is very different from what the Senate is expected to pass on Thursday. So the House and the Senate will have to hash out those differences, come to agreement on what a final bill should look like. Presumably, both of them pass it out of the House and Senate, and that is what will end up on President Obama's desk.

But a lot of differences to work out. In fact, quite a chasm, I guess you could say -- Melissa.

LONG: Well, let's highlight some of those differences that you mentioned that still need to be worked out. You look at abortion and also, of course, the public option, the government-funded option.

KEILAR: Yes. These are two of the really big sticking points.

We have not seen the end of abortion being a really fiery issue, and that's because there is language in both the House bill and the Senate bill that restricts insurance coverage of abortion. But it's actually tougher in the House bill. And in fact, this has all to do with Democrats, some of whom are against abortion rights.

There is a key Democrat against abortion rights, Bart Stupak, in the House, who has said that the deal brokered in the Senate just isn't acceptable, it isn't strict enough. So that's going to be one issue.

And then the other one is, yes, that public option, the government-run insurance plan. This is a huge chasm that needs to be bridged. The House bill has a public option; the Senate bill does not have a public option. And that's going to have to be worked out before they can sort out a bill to send to President Obama.

LONG: At the top of this report, senators were up very late into the night. I assume you were as well? KEILAR: Actually, I had the luxury of waking up in the morning at about 4:00 to cover this.

LONG: Oh, what a luxury.

KEILAR: So I actually did miss the vote, so I had to catch up on it early this morning.

LONG: Well, clearly, you caught up. All right. Thank you, Brianna.

The most recent CNN poll suggesting the Senate health care bill has gained some support since early December. Forty-two percent in favor now, 36 percent then. Opposition has fallen to five points. Most of those polled said they would see no change at all, 37 percent anticipating change for the worse.

The family of actress Brittany Murphy says she had fallen ill in the days just before her death. The 32-year-old had flu-like symptoms and authorities confirmed prescriptions were taken from her Los Angeles home.

She died yesterday morning after collapsing in the shower. The L.A. County Coroner's Office planning an autopsy today. Determining the cause of death could take weeks.

Digging out. Record snowfall certainly could take a long time to dig out. We had that weekend blizzard ushering in winter and causing headaches for so many holiday travelers.


LONG: Let's get to the top stories on this Monday.

Prison time for the 85-year-old son of the late New York philanthropist Brooke Astor. Anthony Marshall was found guilty of raiding the family estate of millions of dollars. Marshall will spend one to three years behind bars.

Fewer detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison today. Over the weekend, American authorities returned a dozen men to their home countries, including Afghanistan. There are now under 200 detainees remaining at that soon to be shut prison camp.

And police in Poland say five people are in custody for stealing the infamous sign at one of the most notorious Nazi death camps. Police say they recovered the sign from Auschwitz that reads, "Work will set you free," although it was cut into three pieces. Police say the suspects have some criminal backgrounds but they're not suspected of being neo-Nazis.


LONG: Now, the snow, while it may be good for skiing, it certainly kept millions of people at home this weekend, away from the shopping malls. If you still have some last-minute shopping to do, I don't think you're not alone, and you actually may get a few extra hours.

Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange to help you shop until you drop -- Susan.


Well, that big winter snowstorm that Chad was talking about means that the clock has been reset for us millions of procrastinators. Retailers happy to oblige.

Some retailers are bumping back online shipping deadlines due to the storm. You can order today, still get your gifts delivered in time, or at least that's what the promise is. extended its cutoff for standard shipping to today. is offering free shipping through today.

At brick and mortar stores, well, some Target locations on the East Coast will be open longer due to last weekend's weather. Some Macy's will be open around the clock, although that was already planned. And stores could make up for the lost sales in the next few days. After all, there are four shopping days left -- Melissa.

LONG: Well, you look at when this storm hit, it was a very important weekend for the retailers. Really, supposed to be the busiest shopping time of year.

LISOVICZ: That's right. Everybody talks about Black Friday. It kicks off the shopping season, but, typically, what we have been seeing is the final Saturday before Christmas is the single busiest day. Super Saturday, if you will.

Sales can hit $15 billion. Some stores probably missed that number. We'll have preliminary numbers out tomorrow.

Why is that? Well, malls up and down the East Coast closed because of the weather, or they certainly shut down earlier. East Coast is very important to the retail industry. It can account for more than a quarter of sales for national retailers.

But let's face it, many folks are finding their way around it. They're either going to shop later this week, or some folks shop late Friday and early Saturday. And that's why parking was indeed a problem.

We should also mention some people never left home and clicked on their computers. Online shopping Friday and Saturday jumped 24 percent from a year ago. So they'll make up for it -- Melissa.

LONG: People were stuck in their homes, they decided to shop anyway.

LISOVICZ: Make it productive.

LONG: Do you find yourself to be an online shopper, or do you still like to go to the brick and mortars? LISOVICZ: A little of both. It depends who it's for and what it is -- Melissa.

LONG: Got it. Thanks, Susan.

LISOVICZ: Thank you.

LONG: If you're like me, most people, you may use it several times a day, every day. Maybe every hour. But could it be putting you at higher risk for cancer? One lawmaker is pushing for warnings.


LONG: Can your cell phone give you brain cancer? The debate raging on.

At least two lawmakers that we know of are pushing for warning labels on their mobile devices -- San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Maine State Representative Andrea Boland.

Boland, in fact, says some 950,000 people in her state use cell phones, and that's really just one state. More than 270 million people have some kind of cell service in the U.S. last year alone. That's more than double the number of cell phone users from just nine years ago.

Representative Andrea Boland joining us on the line right now by phone to talk about her plans.

I have to ask, are you on a landline or you calling us from a cell phone?


LONG: You are on a landline. OK.

You have a cell phone. I know that. So tell us why this is something that you have become so passionate about.

BOLAND: Well, I have become passionate about it because I have just learned a whole lot more than I knew maybe six months or so ago. And I am really appalled at what the danger is to our children particularly.

LONG: So you say you have learned. What have you learned in the last six months?

BOLAND: Well, I have learned that there is an increased risk of brain cancer and other ailments from the use of cell phones, particularly holding them close to your head or your body. And the risks are greater for children and pregnant women -- to the fetus -- than they are to the rest of the population. And that if we don't do something quickly to alert folks to the need to alter the way they use a cell phone, then we could be facing really a pandemic.

LONG: Andrea, let me share some comments from those in the wireless industry and those that work in medical research.

John Walls, who's a representative of CTIA Wireless, says, "The peer reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose a public health risk." And then the National Cancer Institute releasing this statement: "Although research has not consistently demonstrated a link between cellular telephone use and cancer, scientists still caution that further surveillance is needed before conclusions can be drawn."

So there's really no concrete evidence at this point. What are you saying? Better to err on the side of caution?

BOLAND: I'm saying that there is a lot of concrete evidence and you only need to look -- for instance, the European Parliament and many other countries who have already issued warnings and advisories to their populations on it.

LONG: I know you are pushing forward for this discussion early part of the new year in your state.


LONG: What are you hoping to have come out of the discussion and how robust do you expect this potential change to be when it comes to putting warning labels on cell phones in your state?

BOLAND: Well, you know, I expect -- I have had a lot of support for this and I think that it's really a matter of do we care enough about our children to trouble ourselves to put a warning label on devices that could cause them harm? And so that question will be answered by the Maine legislature. And if that happens then we'll have warning labels so that people at the point of purchase can be alerted to the fact that in using them, they need to just keep them away from their head and their body for the safest use. And the same thing as they pick up a phone because, of course, that packaging will be thrown away.

And there are several ways to accomplish that, by using a wired earset, putting it on speakerphone, not having it on all the time when you're not using it. Just various things like that. Just holding it away from your head by six inches decreases the exposure by a factor of 10,000. So it's not a lot of trouble to go to take some of these measures. We're not trying to ban the phone.

LONG: Right, just offer warnings.


LONG: Andrea Boland, from the Main House of Representatives, state representative from the state of Maine, thank you very much. We appreciate your time in sharing some of the little nuggets that you do to try to keep yourself safe since you are fearful of possible radiation from your cell phone, thank you.

BOLAND: Yes, my pleasure. Thank you. LONG: Also, the big worry about cell phones, as I mentioned, radiation. There is a cell phone industry saying that the best way to track how much is emitted by each of these phones is to look at the SAR number, it's the specific absorption rate. Now it's not a ranking of whether they're safe or not, but it is a quality level that the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, looks at.

So we did a little checking. Cell phones with the highest SAR measurements -- Motorola v195s, Motorola Zine ZN5, Motorola Rival, Kyocera Jax s1300, Motorola VU204. OK, those are the highest. Then these are the lowest levels, we have Beyond E-Tech Duet 8, Samsung Eternity SGH-A86, Samsung Blue Earth, Samsung SGH-4800, and the Samsung Soul.

I know there are a lot of names, lot of numbers there, but you can find a link to these specific cell phone rankings on our blog. I'm sitting in here today for Kyra, you can find it online at

Who stands to win, who stands to lose in the health care reform bill? And which side do you find yourself on? We have a breakdown.

And little children, plenty of questions for Santa this time of year. The 6-year-old daughter of one of our iReporters, Percy von Lipinski scored a no-holds barred interview with Mr. Santa Claus himself. Listen to what little Ava's inquiring mind wanted to know.


AVA, JUNIOR REPORTER: When did you meet Mrs. Claus?

SANTA CLAUS: It was a long time ago. We have been together for a very long happy time.

AVA: How many elves do you have?

CLAUS: Last (INAUDIBLE), I believe it was about 83 on the day shift and we're down to about 60 on the night shift. You know, vacations this time of year, retirements.

AVA: OK. If people don't have chimneys where do you go?

CLAUS: Oh, there was always some sort of air transfer system to get into the buildings and houses these days. They are quite modern, so it's easier without chimney. Yes, air transfer. Great way to go.

AVA: What country do you go to first?

CLAUS: I go to Australia first. It's warm and I spend a lot of time in the cold and I like to get the warm places first and then work my way back.

AVA: From the North Pole, this is Ava reporting for CNN iReport.



LONG: As health care reform is winding toward passage in the Senate we want to take a look at some of the bill's winners and some of the bill's losers. Alison Kosik is in the CNN Money Newsroom in New York.

So Alison, who do we have coming out ahead and then who really seems to be taking a hit with this one?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Melissa, one clear loser is definitely the indoor tanning industry. It got burned as the Senate bill adds a new 10 percent tax on those services, which could wind up raising an estimated $2.7 billion over 10 years.

Now on the flip side, cosmetic surgeons, they came out looking pretty darn good. Senate leaders dropped a proposed 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic procedures. People were calling this "botax" you may remember.

Of course, not a big surprise, the tanning industry is not happy about this. It says the tanning tax just transfers a tax from rich doctors to struggling small businesses.

Another industry that's not celebrating today, generic drug makers. They failed to overturn a provision that lets brand name companies sell certain biotech drugs for 12 years before facing competition for generics.

But companies that administer drug benefit programs like Medco are winners in this. There some speculation, Melissa, last week that senators may tax these pharmacy benefit managers, but that hasn't happened yet -- Melissa.

LONG: What about Americans that have deeper pockets? A lot of democratic reform proposals have really looked to raise taxes for them. When it comes to this bill, are they taking a hit?

KOSIK: Yes, and they are definitely going to feel the pinch, Melissa. People making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than 250K are going to wind up paying more taxes under this bill. It raises the Medicare payroll tax almost 1 percentage point to 2.35 percent above these income thresholds. And what this really means is that an individual who makes $250,000 a year is going to pay almost $1,200 in Medicare taxes.

Melissa, if you want to read more on health care reform, go ahead and check out and follow us on Twitter as well -- Melissa.

LONG: Alison, thank you so much for breaking it down. Appreciate it.

Want to get you the stop stories now happening on this Monday. Swift reaction to some new rules designed to protect you when you're traveling in the air. This from the Air Transport Association President James May. Quote, "We will comply with the new rule even though we believe it will lead to unintended consequences -- more cancelled flights and greater passenger inconvenience. In particular, the requirement of having planes return to the gates within the three- hour window or face significant fines is inconsistent with our goal of completing as many flights as possible. Lengthy tarmac delays benefit no one," unquote.

Happening also today in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they are saying good-bye to one of the true pioneers of televangelism. A public memorial for Oral Roberts got underway at the top of the hour from the college campus that bears his name. The 91-year-old died last week from pneumonia.

And if you want your holiday cheer to arrive before Santa Claus shows up, time is running out. The postal service today says today is the last day you can mail first class letters and cards and expect them to get there by Christmas.

CNN photo journalists are showcasing how you are giving to the needy in your community and actually around the world. A Brooklyn bike shop is creating a special kind of ride, not from metal but from bamboo.

Photojournalist Bob Bickel (ph) shows us how these bamboo bikes help the poor in Ghana.


JUSTIN AGUINALDO, BIKE DESIGNER, BAMBOO BIKE PROJECT: My name is Justin Aguinaldo. I am a bike messenger and bike designer.

It's very stressful. There is a lot to worry about, there's a lot to be afraid of. I ride around all day and I wouldn't want it any other way, really.

I have messengered on aluminum. I've messengered on steel. I've messengered on different types of steel. Now I ride a bamboo bike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bamboo bikes are important because bamboo bikes are probably the cheapest way to make bikes. Steel bikes right now are made in China and they are sent to Ghana, for instance. They cost over $100. There's many things that factor into that high cost. Making bamboo bikes locally addresses a lot of them.

I went to Ghana to do some logistics for the factory that we're hoping to start. It was really interesting to see how people lived and to see how the bicycle sort of impacted them.

AGUINALDO: We actually want people to be the engineers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're able to reduce the cost of the bicycle by half. So as the cost comes down, the market just explodes.

If you're on a bicycle you can effectively move five times as fast. I mean, if you actually calculate that out, you get roughly 27 times the area you have access to. Or 27 times the economic opportunity, 27 times the health care opportunities, 27 times the educational opportunities.

AGUINALDO: It's really just making it more stable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe they can sell twice as many goods at the market and then they can increase their income twice as much.

AGUINALDO: We're not giving them fish. We're teaching them to fish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we are giving is the technology that was developed.

AGUINALDO: This is to wrap around the joints.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be able to set up just like a really efficient factory that makes these great bikes for an incredibly low cost.

AGUINALDO: We want them to contribute, not just with labor but also with their ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are giving access to cheap bicycles that isn't dependent on anybody else, it's just dependent on people on the people that make the bikes. That will increase access to bicycles and improve a whole lot of people's standard of living.

AGUINALDO: I really miss my bamboo bike when I don't have it.


LONG: Inspired by his story, we hope you will tune in to CNN Christmas Day for a special expanded look at what your friends and neighbors are doing to help the needy. Our "GIVING IN FOCUS" special begins 1:00 p.m. Eastern right here again on CNN.

They are honoring servicemen and servicewomen with a Christmas celebration at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial today. Every year the people who run the wall memorial fund put up a Christmas tree at the apex of the memorial, a tribute to those who lost their lives in Vietnam and those who are currently serving overseas. Many of those decorations on the tree are cards and ornaments made by schoolchildren from all around the country. And if you would like to contribute just go to Again,

Now imagine four times the anticipation, four times the celebration and four times the tuition. The siblings of a Connecticut family are going Ivy League.


LONG: It is a CNN exclusive, a year-long series counting down Cady. CNN's John Zarrella has been following NASA astronaut Kathryn Cady Coleman, she is preparing for her trip to the International Space Station this time, actually, next year. John now joins us from Miami with more on her story and her preparations -- John.


You're right. You know, it really is a rare opportunity given to us by Cady and by NASA to allow us the access to go behind the scenes, up close, visit with her and her family, get up close with her training. And we spent a few days with her a week or so ago in Houston, and I've got to tell you, I was exhausted just watching her.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, Cady Coleman is running. While exercising her body, exercising her mind. A Russian language lesson on the run, so to speak.

There is so much to do, a training marathon. This time next year, Astronaut Coleman will be living aboard the International Space Station.

CADY COLEMAN, NASA ASTRONAUT: Now that we are inside a year, it makes me feel like it really might happen after all.

ZARRELLA: At the Johnson Space Center, we caught up with Cady. Keeping up with her is another story. Meeting with the flight directors team...

COLEMAN: I'd like to be at the workstation.

ZARRELLA: ... a session simulating with computer animation capturing a supply ship...

COLEMAN: Good range, capture.

ZARRELLA: ... then stuffed into a spacesuit.


ZARRELLA: The six million gallon pool at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab is as close as you can get on earth to zero gravity. Here, astronauts rehearse spacewalks. On the bottom, segments of the station, an adult version of a kids' play space at a fast food restaurant.

COLEMAN: There is a set of scenarios that we make sure we do so that so we can fix whatever we think are the most likely things to go wrong on the space station.

ZARRELLA: Her son's stuffed monkey goes everywhere with her.

COLEMAN: Hi, Jamie (ph).

ZARRELLA: Well, not underwater. As she's lowered in, Cady jokingly holds her breath. Her dive, six hours.

COLEMAN: I'm doing the second of four bolts, and then I still have caps to go.

ZARRELLA (on camera): This is a mock-up of the International Space Station. You know, the astronauts, they prepare for every eventuality. Say Cady Coleman had to leave the station to fix something outside. Well, if the tether line that holds her to the station were to break -- it's unlikely, but if it were to happen, they even prepare for that possibility and they use virtual reality.

(voice-over): From what's called "the God's eye view," Coleman is seen tumbling away from the station. Her job? Get back without using all the fuel in her jet pack.

COLEMAN: And handrail, so I think we've got structure here.

ZARRELLA: Next, I'm in the VR glasses, too. Cady's job, rescue both of us.

COLEMAN: So we're still spinning around, John.

ZARRELLA (on camera): I'm watching it.

COLEMAN: OK, it's kind of -- I think in real life it would be fairly terrifying.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): You think? Of course, she gets us back alive, but...

(on camera): You pulled yourself through, you left me out here to die. Thanks.


COLEMAN: I did not.


ZARRELLA: Thank so much.

(voice-over): So much to learn. All of this knowledge she needs. Some she hopes never to use.


ZARRELLA: And now we've actually given Cady Coleman a camera, so she'll use that to document her training all over the world and she's writing blogs on the "AMERICAN MORNING" blog site, site. So we're going to be hearing plenty from Cady Coleman during the next year -- Melissa.

COLEMAN: Neat opportunity to see all the preparations. Curious, I know you've talked at length with her, what is she able to bring up to space to the International Space Station? Is there one thing she must have, a comfort from home she says, I must take with me?

ZARRELLA: Yes, do you know what she's taking? A flute. She loves to play the flute. So she's taking the flute.

But, you know, tomorrow morning -- you're only allowed so much and it's not t a steamer trunk. So her and her crewmates are only allowed a little bit. So for the audience out there, if you want to know exactly how much they are allowed to take weight-wise into space, you got to watch "AMERICAN MORNING." Tomorrow morning I'm going to have that answer, but it isn't much.

LONG: And that would be an effective tease. Thanks, John.

You can watch John's exclusive series and much more, as he's already mentioned, each and every day on the Most News in the Morning, CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern with John Roberts and Kiran Chetry.

Ali Velshi is in New York. He is in this week for Rick Sanchez, working on the next hour of NEWSROOM. Hi, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in keeping with John, Melissa, you're going to have to wait till the last hour of NEWSROOM to see what I've got.

LONG: Oh, come on.

VELSHI: I thought that was a very effective tease. I'm tuning into "AMERICAN MORNING" to see what's going on.

LONG: I know you have a lot planned.

VELSHI: Never going to pass up an opportunity to talk to you, but the bottom line is I'm going to actually be speaking to Nomi Prinz. Nomi used to be a managing director at Goldman Sachs. She was in some of the highest levels at Goldman Sachs and on Wall Street, and she's written a book. It's fantastic, it's called "It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses and Backroom Deals From Washington to Wall Street."

Why this is interesting, Melissa, is because she's going to talk to us about what has changed on Wall Street in terms of regulation, what's different now than it was when the whole mess started and what can be done differently, because this is still an area of a great deal of outrage to a lot of our viewers and a lot of Americans. Even some of them on Wall Street wondering why pay packets are as high as they are, why the banks aren't lending and why nothing's been done to be prevent another catastrophic failure on Wall Street of the sort that we saw in 2008.

LONG: Certainly an effective title for that book, "It Takes a Pillage."

VELSHI: It is. "It Takes a Pillage."

LONG: Ali, we'll be watching. Thank you. Hey, stay tuned, watch this story, I think you'll get a kick out of this one.

These days college tuition, we all know it's costly. Add on the fact that these siblings you're about to meet have been accepted at an Ivy League institution and I think you can understand this Connecticut family's new financial challenge.

Annie Rourke of our affiliate WTNH explains.


ANNIE ROURKE, WTNH REPORTER (voice-over): The Crouch quadruplets of Danbury laugh and joke and talk over each other, high energy matched only by their high achievements. Last Tuesday, they logged onto their computer...

MARTINA CROUCH, QUADRUPLET: And it just went from there. We just kept logging on and screaming, logging on and screaming.

ROURKE: One by one, each got an early acceptance letter from one of the most prestigious institutions in academia, Yale University.

KEN CROUCH, QUADRUPLET: We were just so happy, because we were afraid maybe one of us would be left out.

ROURKE: With good reason. The quads had done a tour of the Ivy League campus and asked admissions what were the odds.

M. CROUCH: And he said, to be honest we would probably very rarely take four of you.

ROURKE: But each has distinguished themselves in their own way -- Ken is the academic, Martina is an artist, Carol's a writer, Ray the athlete. They describe themselves as competitive, but supportive. So growing up in a pack of four, they had to branch out and fight for their identity at the earliest age.

RAY CROUCH, QUADRUPLET: You probably look at all four of us and see a blend of like a little bit of each of us in each other, but we also just found our own names.

ROURKE: Was there any thought to breaking away and going solo?

CAROL CROUCH, QUADRUPLET: I actually was the only one out of the four who was like, no, we need to separate. We need to go out to different colleges and not see each other anymore.

ROURKE: That idea didn't go over well.

C. CROUCH: Everyone was so mad at me. It was like a big thing.

ROURKE: But fate, good grades and National Merit scores intervened and now all four are headed for New Haven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have made us extremely proud.


LONG: Heading for New Haven, but let's talk money for a moment. Cause if you're wondering just what the family will be facing before the financial aid packages will be decided, consider a year at Yale is $50,550 per student multiply that four kids, again, four years, $810,000. It is getting close to 6:00 p.m. in the Brazilian capital. How much longer does the chief justice need to decide if a New Jersey dad can have his son back?


LONG: You know David Goldman's story. He's already waited more than five years to be reunited with his son, maybe one more day won't matter. Brazil's chief justice was to rule today on Goldman's fight to get his 9-year-old son Sean back from the boy's extended Brazilian family. We're hearing now the ruling might happen tomorrow. It is almost 6:00 in the evening in Brazil's capital.

Now Goldman got pretty close last week, until the supreme court stepped in. He is looking ahead to what will happen once he and Sean are back together at home in New Jersey.


DAVID GOLDMAN, SEAN GOLDMAN'S FATHER: The first step is for Sean and I to reunite, come home, be with family. And I will not do to them what they have done to Sean and me.

I have five years of love to give him. So he's going to get an extraordinary amount. And he's got grandparents and he's got cousins, and he's got familiar habitat that he was once in. And with love and patience, we will heal.


LONG: Of course, we'll keep you posted on the custody battle. Ali Velshi in the next hour for Rick Sanchez.