Return to Transcripts main page
Obama Names Cyber Security Czar; American Dad Awaits Custody Decision from Brazilian Court; Art College Making Bowls to Help Feed Homeless
Aired December 22, 2009 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... because it's going to take time, I'm actually being generous. They're, like, "OK, that's too much." She called me the same day and told me that they only -- they were only willing to give me $5,000.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mauck is now staying with friends because she doesn't want to go back to her condo.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't feel secure because I know that somebody out there has access to my door.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: This -- both the realtor and the company hired to remove the stuff from Mauck's condo say they have no idea where any of it is. But they're looking. As for Mauck, she is getting a lawyer.
We are pushing forward with the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM with Tom Foreman in for Kyra Phillips in Washington, D.C.!
Good to see you, Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Tony. Good to see you, too.
Pushing forward on online security. A cyber veteran logs back on at the White House. We'll look at who this gentleman is and the Internet threats he'll need to knock down.
Getting knocked out can have long-term fallout for NFL veterans. The consequences of concussions and the researchers who are recruiting players to donate their brains.
And quite a change from balmy Cuba. An inside look at the Illinois prison that could house Gitmo detainees. Plus, new protests over that plan.
If the United States has a soft underbelly, it may well be a place that attackers tried day and night to expose and rip open, and that's cyberspace. A year ago, President-elect Obama was told to secure cyberspace, and fast. Today, President-elect Obama did that. Today, President Obama named the man who will guard the door. Howard Schmidt is the new White House cyber security coordinator or cyber czar, if you like those kind of titles. The announcement was made via e-mail. How appropriate.
Schmidt's czardom is vast. Pretty much every agency of government has come under cyber attack at some time of another, including the Pentagon. A successful attack could stop transportation; freeze finances; knock out water, sewer, and electricity, the stuff of nightmares.
Mr. Schmidt has been in the military, law enforcement. He's worked in private business with big-time firms like Microsoft and eBay, and he's no stranger to the White House either.
Parry Aftab is our Internet security expert, coming in via Skype.
Perry, it sounds like this could be the right guy for the job. What do you think?
PARRY AFTAB, INTERNET SECURITY LAWYER: Well, he's certainly somebody who's been around for a while. He's well known. And he's good at forming teams. I think this job is going to require a lot of that.
FOREMAN: What do you think the fundamental thing is that he has to do first?
AFTAB: I think the first thing he's going to have to do is an inventory. He needs to find out what every agency is going to be doing and how they're going to be doing it. He needs to bring together the other experts who will help him do this job to get a handle on some of the new data breaches that we're seeing, like the new reports like Citibank and some of the other banks this morning.
FOREMAN: It seems to me, Parry, that one of the potential pitfalls for him here is the very thing that happened with homeland security when it first began. It was simply so vast that there was a sense that it really couldn't manage all of that at once. And I can't think of anything more vast right now than looking at cyberspace. How do you get your hands around something like that?
AFTAB: Well, what you do is you bring together a lot of people who know everything about their own piece of the world. I expect -- and I've been working very closely with Howard, over the years, I may be one of those people. But I think that what he's going to do is call up everybody and say, "What do you think? What do we need to know? What are the gaps, and how can you help?"
And by putting together enough people, a cyber brain trust, in effect, to be able to tackle this. But Howard's been in every different part of government, from working with the FBI to being at the Bush White House. He's -- he was at Microsoft and eBay. He knows a lot and keeps his thumb in a lot of the different enterprise and industry issues. He even headed McAfee's cyber crime initiative that I was part of. So I think he's a good person for pulling it all together and finding the other people who can be part of the puzzle.
FOREMAN: You know, Parry, one of the complaints after 9/11 was that essentially there was a failure of imagination. There is certainly no shortage of imagination on the part of hackers out there who want to attack our computer networks in this country.
Let me ask you a very simple question. Do you think that we face the genuine prospect of sort of a systemic shutdown or collapse of our computer network if we don't significantly raise the barriers to the people who are trying to attack it?
AFTAB: Well, I think we need to recognize hackers. We're seeing a lot of foreign governments who have their own people who are trying to infiltrate and jeopardize everything across the United States from our businesses to our -- to the government itself.
But we have a lot of talented people in government. The Department of Defense has some of the best hacker-grade experts out there. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) There's a lot of challenge; don't underestimate people within the United States. I think by pulling us all together, both the big enterprise companies whose job it is to protect the work world, and the others, I think if you pull us all together in one giant cyber row, I think we're going to be OK. But it's important that we never let down our guard.
FOREMAN: One last question about that. You raised the notion of governments being involved in this. It's easy for many of us to think of hackers as being sort of like the old cuckoo's egg story of years ago, a small group of rogue folks, but really, this has been become much more the purview of governments conducting espionage and attacks on each other this way, hasn't it?
AFTAB: Absolutely. Cyber (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We have people who are in the field. We have a lot of people who are at risk. We're at war, and there are a lot of people on the other side who have good technology skills who'd like to find out where we're deploying people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at any time. They'd like to take down the industry. They'd like to take down our financial infrastructure, and we can never let down our guard.
We're a country that is struggling right now. We've got people in harm's way. It's important that we make sure that the cyber security is as important as on the ground with our defenses.
FOREMAN: All right. Parry, thanks so much for joining us. I think we may have been trying to take down your signal there on Skype a few times. It was a little hit or miss, but thanks for joining us and giving some insights into this.
If you want to find the cure, you look inside the disease. That's one way that people go about it in medicine. And it kind of works in computer security, too. If you can breach it, chances are you can also protect it. You just have to figure out how. CNN's homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, has been looking into how the feds already have been looking for a few good hackers to aid in this enormous task now facing the cyber czar. Take a look.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hackers, hunkered down in hoodies and headphones in a cutthroat competition to gain control of computer systems and keep others out. Here, it's legal, a game called NetWars with more than 1,000 people playing online. It's part of a cyber security talent search, based on the premise that someone who can exploit a system knows how to protect it.
ALAN PALLER, THE SANS INSTITUTE: It would be silly for us to sit back and say, "Well, we don't want to teach people to hack." We're not teaching them to hack. We're finding the ones who are good, and we're giving them a chance to get better.
MESERVE: Dan Crowley, who goes by the handle infonaut (ph), acknowledges a lot of hacking is done in the shadows for money or mischief.
DAN CROWLEY, NETWARS CONTESTANT: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, check your spam folder if you don't believe me.
MESERVE (on camera): So, what's the intention to do it in the daylight?
CROWLEY: Well, for one, you don't get thrown in jail.
MESERVE (voice-over): And you do make contacts. The reward for his performance here? A pocket full of business cards.
CROWLEY: There's a gentleman here yesterday from the New York state police.
MESERVE: Making those connections is one of the goals of the competition.
PALLER: We're hoping we can rapidly -- radically increase the speed with which these talented kids get into the workforce.
MESERVE: Right now there is a disconnect. The winner here is a part-time student looking for a job. Another sells grapes for a vineyard.
MATTHEW BERGIN, NETWARS CONTESTANT: It's kind of a waste of talent I guess but...
MESERVE: The Chinese military reportedly holds competitions to cultivate its computer talent. The exploit of Chinese hackers have contributed to the belief that future conflicts will be largely fought with a mouse, a keyboard and code. The former director of national intelligence says right now, the U.S. is wide open to attack. MIKE MCCONNELL, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The nation is at strategic risk, and unless we find these youngsters, develop their skills, offer them opportunity, offer them education, and then enlist their help and support and skills in combating cyber attacks, the nation will have catastrophic consequences.
MESERVE (on camera): McConnell calls the cyber challenge useful, but not sufficient. Estimates are the nation needs 20,000 to 30,000 people with advanced offensive and defensive cyber skill. Right now it has only about 1,000.
Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.
FOREMAN: Jeanne Meserve on the front lines of really a new battleground for the United States.
And, you know, Citigroup might be interested in hiring the winner of that competition, if a report we heard today is right. You heard Parry mention it a moment ago. Pick up the "Wall Street Journal," and you can read how the FBI is looking into a huge cyber attack on Citibank, a gang of Russian cyber criminals reportedly making off with tens of millions of dollars.
"The Journal" says the attack was found out over the summer, but the safe might have been cracked a year before that.
Citigroup says there was no breach. No money was taken, no customer data stolen, and there's no investigation by the FBI. So, I guess we'll find out as time goes on.
In other news, a New Jersey father trying to get his son back from Brazil. He's had a lifetime of disappointments crammed into just a few years. Today could be the day he gets his boy back. But, David Goldman has heard that before. That's coming up.
And this to remember: eight years later, we're still taking off our shoes at the airport. On this day in 2001, passengers and crew of American Flight 63 tackled Richard Reid, as he tried to detonate his shoe bomb in mid-flight. He's now doing life at the supermax federal pen out in Colorado.
FOREMAN: For football players, both professional and not, love to recall their glory days. But what if they can't remember them? Now the NFL hopes to find out why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He told you he was going to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) FOREMAN: For five years David Goldman has fought to get his son back, and several times he's actually won. But after every joyous flight to Brazil to pick Sean up, a somber solo flight home. It happened again last week. A pre-Christmas reunion put off by a Brazilian judge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GOLDMAN, FATHER OF SEAN (via phone): I've been doing this for, I don't know, an agonizing over five years now. And time and time again I come down here, to bring home my son, and -- and I get the same thing. And just the plain, simple fact that Sean and I should be together is not happening. It is very, very sad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: David Goldman is still in Rio today, awaiting the latest decision from the courts there. Just to recap this whole story in case you haven't kept up with it, Sean Goldman was kidnapped by his Brazilian mother, David's wife, back in 2004. She remarried and then died during childbirth, and Sean has been with his stepfather ever since.
Joining us from Atlanta with all the latest, Rafael Romo, CNN senior editor for Latin American affairs.
Rafael, what do you think?
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR EDITOR, LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS: Well, Tom, it's been an emotional roller coaster for David Goldman. Last week a lower court unanimously upheld the decision ordering that Goldman's son, 9-year-old Sean, be returned to his father.
Goldman was ready to pick up his son last Thursday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when a Brazilian supreme court judge said the feelings of the boy needed to be considered and reversed the lower court's decision, leaving Goldman waiting.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court's chief judge -- judge said he was getting ready to decide on the case but kept everybody waiting by postponing the decision until today. We're still waiting, but this morning the attorney who represents the boy's maternal family in Brazil said that they're ready for anything.
The statement sent to CNN by e-mail says that "Sean's family reiterates that we will continue to take all measures to preserve the well-being of the boy. The international pressure led by U.S. Representative Chris Smith and spokesperson of the American embassy, Ms. Orna Blum, represents an undue interference with internal affairs of Brazil and, as such, deserves strong opposition."
New Jersey Congressman Smith traveled to Brazil to support David Goldman in his efforts to bring back his son to the United States before the holidays. Now, Tom, it's an open question whether Goldman will be able to do so. FOREMAN: This has been such a long saga, Rafael. Now is this the end of the road at this point? If the chief judge of the Brazilian supreme court makes its decision, is that it?
ROMO: Not necessarily, Tom. Under Brazilian law, the parties involved in this dispute still have the right to appeal the decision and ask for further review.
Brazilian courts consider this a custody case and say they need to take into account the testimony of the boy before making a decision.
David Goldman and his attorneys, however, say this is purely an abduction case. And the boy must be returned to his father immediately.
Sean's Brazilian mother took him to her country, as you'll remember, for what was intended to be a two-week vacation, then divorced Goldman and kept the boy in Brazil. She died in childbirth last year. It's a very emotional and a very long, long story for David Goldman, Tom.
FOREMAN: Amazing story, really. Thanks for keeping on top of it, Rafael. We'll check back with you as time goes on, I'm sure.
After a lot of wheeling and dealing, the Senate is still on track to pass its health-care bill on Christmas Eve. Democrats this morning cleared the second of three procedural votes, voting again on what was strictly along party lines. The third and final procedural vote is set for tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: We are truly closer than ever to bringing security and stability to our health-care system, to providing real reform that American families, businesses and workers so desperately need. The finish line is in sight. And all the groups standing behind us know it. And now we know with certainty we have the will to cross it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Any Senate bill, of course, will have to be merged with the House version, and that could spark some tough negotiations. There are significant differences between them, even though there's also a lot of agreement. So we'll see how that plays out.
Enough with politics for right now. What would the Senate's health-care plan mean for you and your family? You've sent us an awful lot of questions. We appreciate those, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta will answer them this hour.
Plus, saying good-bye to a fallen teammate. Chris Henry is laid to rest today by family and friends and the Cincinnati Bengals.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) FOREMAN: Let's look at some of our top stories now.
Former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, reportedly will not run for governor or Senate in his home state. Next hour Giuliani expected to endorse Republican Rick Lazio in the governor's race. Lazio is a former congressman.
Near New Orleans, funeral services are underway for Cincinnati Bengals player Chris Henry. Henry died last week from massive head injuries after he fell out of the back of a pickup truck during an apparent domestic dispute. His death is, however, saving lives. His organs were donated to at least five people.
It could be six weeks before we know the exact cause of actress Brittany Murphy's death. An autopsy has been done, and the coroner is awaiting the results of toxicology tests. Authorities say it appears that Murphy died of natural causes just days after coming down with flu-like symptoms. She was only 32 years old.
Dozens of deaths blamed on the severe winter blast that has Europe in its grips this Christmas week. Heavy snow and freezing temperatures have disrupted travel plans across that continent. Airport closings have stranded thousands of passengers and highways; no better with the drivers stuck in the snow, and some, as you can see there, much worse.
For Eurostar, a break after a few chaotic breaks. The railway connecting Brussels, Paris and London is finally running again. The first train left Paris this morning after service was suspended over the weekend because of the severe weather. Seventy-five thousand passengers were stranded on both sides of the English Channel. That's a backup to deal with in any continent or in any country.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.
FOREMAN: Here in the U.S., lingering trouble from the big weekend blizzard on the East Coast and now a storm in the Midwest for the holiday travels to worry, about, too.
Chad, you're checking all of this down in Atlanta for us. I'm getting a little bit of the back side of the storm at my house. I keep having to shovel as the plows come by and close my drive again.
MYERS: I love that when they do that. They make that nice big pile right there in your driveway. So you think you can get out, and that's the icy stuff.
MYERS: And what do you do if you are trying to figure out whether your road that you're trying to take is a mess, you can logon to Traffic.com, sponsored by Naviteq.
Traffic.com right there. There's New York City. If you can't figure it out, I'll try to draw it for you. There's Manhattan all the way down there. And there's the East River, New Rochelle, and so on and so on. So we're looking for the right spots, looking for the red lines. Across Bronx not doing all that well right now. I'll take that red line off so you can see.
And there's that little icon right there. That's -- that's on the Bruckner (ph) right there. What does it say? Click on it. Accident, severe impact. Click on it again, it will tell you which direction and all those kind of things.
So it's a great, handy little tool if you're traveling and you don't know if you're traveling through Baltimore or D.C. You can go to all those cities all the way down 95, 80, 76. All of the big interstates are on there, and those little traffic speeds are on there, as well. You can see how fast or how slow you're going to get to Grandma's house.
FOREMAN: That's really a great suggestion, Chad. You know, a lot of people forget that, but I started doing that at home, and it makes a huge difference to look around and see what's on there.
MYERS: You know, if you're on the BW (ph) Parkway, and you're driving toward D.C., and you can go left, right, or straight, and you see that the outer loop of the beltway is a mess, well, don't go that way. Take the inner loop and go the other direction, because you're going to end up on the other side of 95 anyway, right?
So it could really be a headache saver for you as the kids run out of DVD time on their batteries in the backseat.
FOREMAN: Well, here's another shortcut for you. The outer loop of the beltway is always a mess. But thank you, Chad. I lived there enough to know.
FOREMAN: Thank you. We'll talk back with you a little bit later on.
MYERS: Thanks, Bud.
FOREMAN: This is going to be such a tough time of year, particularly for people in need who deal with just really difficult problems all the time, but particularly in the cold weather when the holidays are upon us.
CNN's photojournalists here have put a really special effort into looking at giving this holiday season, through a special series called "In Focus." They're showcasing what Americans are doing to give back to their communities.
Photojournalist Jeremy Morehead (ph) brings us the story right now of an art college in D.C. where feeding the hungry really is an art form.
REV. JOHN ADAMS, PRESIDENT, SOME.ORG: I'm making a wonderful bowl to help raise money for feeding hungry people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trim the excess off.
ADAMS: We're a working college here at the Corcoran Art Gallery. Very first time I'm making a bowl in my life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I get some fresh clay.
ADAMS: And in March, we'll sell these bowls for our Empty Bowls event to help support feeding the hungry.
Hunger is in our midst here in the nation's capital. We have 9,000 homeless people. SOME serves well over 1,000 meals a day to people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.
ADAMS: Our goal is to walk the journey with people, to help people become independent. The holidays remind us of, certainly, giving thanks for what we have.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a nice day.
ADAMS: But also the opportunities that we might have for reaching out to people that don't have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anthropologists say that the earliest bowls were a mimicry of two hands holding together.
ADAMS: I can't think of a better way to participate and feeding hungry people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two hands or a stomach to give, to receive, and to hold and to consume.
ADAMS: That's a very artistic symbol. We're really grateful for this partnership that we have this year. Great artists and great people here that are interested in -- in people in the city.
JEFF HERRITY, CORCORAN STUDENT: I mean, it's representing having nothing, and so I think, prior to it being full, there's so many different things that can go into it.
So, today we're going to make upwards of about 500 bowls. You get the clay centered, and then you start making the bowl form.
It's good to work with our community in any way we can. I mean, not everybody can donate, so this is a great way for people to participate and contribute to an organization.
I think it's just really important as an artist to keep giving back to the community. It's not just a gift for somebody at Christmas. It's a gift for somebody you don't really know. And I think that's what's probably the most important thing, that we're really making this for somebody that needs it.
FOREMAN: Raising awareness and money for folks. Tune in to CNN on Christmas day for a special expanded look at what your friends and neighborhoods all across this country are doing to help the less fortunate.
Our "Giving in Focus" special begins at 1 p.m. Eastern. I'm the host of that show. We taped it up in beautiful Union Station here. And it's only on CNN. Wonderful, wonderful work by our fine, fine photojournalists here, who really deserve a tremendous amount of credit for this.
Well, moving on. Gridiron glory is the stuff that football players crave. But it also leaves many of them unable to remember those shining moments on the field, and the NFL wants to find out why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't give up big plays.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve (ph) give yards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: With all the talk that has been going with medicine in this country, there's a very popular medical clinic that has had success all over, and organizers had hoped to bring it here to Washington, D.C., and potentially offer free medical care to thousands of people. But they've also hit some snags in the process. Brian Todd has that story.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They wait in line outside to come in and wait some more for free dental care, eyeglasses and other treatments.
For more than 20 years, these free clinics have opened for a few days at a time in cities and towns across America, courtesy of a nonprofit group called RAM, the Remote Area Medical and Volunteer Corps. It's run by Stan Brock, who was once a star on the popular network show "Wild Kingdom."
STAN BROCK, "WILD KINGDOM": So who's got number one?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do.
BROCK: OK. Come on down.
TODD: Brock says his clinics have treated more than 400,000 patients, many of whom don't have insurance. For years, he's wanted to come to Washington, and Brock says he thought he had after arrangement to hold a free clinic in January at the D.C. Armory. But he says the D.C 's government has put up some hurdles. BROCK: Well, it is frustrating. You know, it's extraordinary how difficult it can be sometimes to help people.
TODD: Brock says D.C. officials first asked RAM to pay to use the armory, including for each table and chair. He says the D.C. government has since waived some of those fees, but says he's still being asked to pay tens of thousands of dollars for staffing and security, costs they have never incurred anywhere else.
BROCK: And our position is that because we are providing a public service that these charges should be waived.
TODD: Contacted by CNN, one D.C. city official said Brock is blowing this out of proportion, that when and when RAM answers certain questions the cost issue will be resolved.
In a statement, another city official says the Health Department hasn't received assurances "on how RAM will ensure quality oversight of unlicensed doctors and the safety of our residents while receiving services."
Brock says all of his doctors are board certified. He says the unlicensed phrase refers to doctors who haven't been granted permission to practice across state lines, and he says he's gotten a waiver for that from D.C. health officials.
But there are other snags.
(on camera): Part of the concern about RAM's idea to come here extends beyond the armory to health care clinics like this nonprofit that happens to be right next door. The concern here is over the long- term care that RAM's patients may or may not get.
Vincent Keane runs Unity Health Care, a nonprofit that treats more than 80,000 people a year in D.C. He says he applauds RAM's effort but doesn't think the group has done enough to make sure patients gets follow-up care after RAM leaves the city. Still...
(on camera): Isn't it better for them to come and have this clinic than for them not to come at all?
VINCENT KEANE, CEO, UNITY HEALTH CARE: And again, I can't really answer that question. I mean, if I was to say -- for instance, somebody gets diagnosed and can't get the care, are they better off? Probably. They are better off to get diagnosed. But I sure would want that diagnosis to be followed up.
TODD: Brock said he's committed to making sure patients get follow-up care. CNN has learned in at least one city, Los Angeles, R.A.M.s' doctors did provide patients with instructions on follow-up car,e and the agencies where they could get it. Brock said time has already run out to arrange the clinic by late January and he may have to take it somewhere outside D.C.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
FOREMAN: It's really has been tough all over. As you probably know, scores of small community banks have failed this year, and the survivors are often being pretty stringy with credit. President Obama is once again telling them once again, hey, loosen up. We'll have more on that.
And a benchmark...
FOREMAN: ... 109 years ago today in Germany, a star was born. A three-pointed star was built, a new car was built by a guy named Daimler out there, a name for a little girl: Mercedes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, hat are the odds?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE; There's no telling. It's an odontoid fracture. Basically, Luther, you broke your neck, and it never healed correctly.
Well, it's hard to predict this kind of thing, but what I can say is that the wrong kind of hit could result in paralysis, seizures, even sudden death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What else is new?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my opinion, he is not medically fit to play. Right now, one-second (INAUDIBLE) tackles and I'm packing my bonus (ph). Then we'll talk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Luther. Have you ever seen an old punch-drunk boxer stumbling around, drooling? No memory what he's done in his life? You want that life, Luther?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: That's Hollywood drama with a fictional player on "Any Given Sunday." You may remember the film.
But it plays out in real life for real pro athletes, too. A 2005 study of NFL players found that those who suffer concussions had five times the rate of cognitive impairment, meaning they had a hard time even remembering those glory days. Retired players are also 40 times more likely to suffer from Alzheimer's than the general public.
Now, the NFL is teaming up with Boston University to study the impact of concussions on the brain. They're donating $1 million, and they're encouraging players and former players, both healthy and those that suffer from some form of dementia, to have their brains donated after they die for purposes of study. Robert Stern is an associate professor of psychology with Boston University and co-director of the Alzheimer's Disease Clinic and Research Program. He heads the department conducting this study.
And Eddie George, many of you may already know. In 1995, he was a Heisman trophy winner, and gives play-by-play on Westwood One Radio, and he's also a special contributor to the Dr. Oz show. Thank you for being here.
Eddie, let me start with you with a very simple question. Are you glad to see the NFL getting more behind this effort to study the impact on players' brains?
EDDIE GEORGE, COLLEGE FOOTBALL ANALYST, WESTWOOD ONE RADIO: Yes, I am. I think it's very important for them to get behind it. Because they have a fiduciary duty to make sure that the lifestyle of the players after they're done playing continues to move on in a positive direction.
For years, I think, you know, they've tried to detach themselves from not being responsible, the game not being responsible for a lot of the ailments a lot of retirees are facing nowadays. And now they are getting behind it and having some heat behind it. They are really trying to say -- show some benefit for saying we're behind it and going to do some studies, and see how they can better put the game, make it healthier for players after their careers are done.
FOREMAN: Robert, we've seen certainly the skill level, the speed, the size of players really move up remarkably over the past few decades. But also the equipment to protect them has improved over that period of time. In the course of this study, will you be looking at all of those things that you analyze what's been happening to the brains of these men playing this game?
ROBERT STERN, ASSOCIATE PROF. OF NEUROLOGY, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: We sure will. Those are the important factors. But we need to clarify that the NFL in their offer to collaborate with us, we're not talking about any specific study. Our center for the study of traumatic encephalopathy at Boston University has been studying this issue in many different ways, and it's great to have the NFL behind us at this point.
FOREMAN: Doctor, let me ask you about what you have learned so far. Is there a sense that what you're dealing with here are people in a high-risk environment who suffer one or two extraordinary events over time, or do you have a sense that this is more a cumulative effect of a lot of low-level and a few high-level impacts over a period of years?
STERN: Yes, that's an important point, Tom. The issue is that we know there's a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy that is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain that's caused by getting your head hit over and over again in younger years.
What we don't know is exactly what that magic combination of hits is. Is it one or two or three big concussions, or is it a combination of concussions and subconcussive blows to the brain? Think about the linebacker or the linemen who every day, every game, every play is hitting their head with that soft brain hitting against their skull over and over again. It might not result in a big concussion or any, you know, real major brain injury. But that repetitive trauma to the brain might be setting things in motion to develop this disease later in life.
FOREMAN: You know, we just had a stat up there a moment ago, Eddie, of 400,000 concussions in the course of a prep season. When you played football, how much were you aware of people suffering really hard hits to the head, or to what degree was it simply a matter of people got hit, it's a tough game? And a lot of times you took a hit to the head that you might shake off and go on home with.
GEORGE: Yes. The problem is you don't know whether you have a concussion or not. You get hit so hard and you may get a ding and it could be a slight concussion. and as football players, you know, we're immune to pain. I mean, we grow up and we're taught to think that pain is a sign of weakness, so you tend to fight through it.
I played nine years without missing a game due to injury, and I've suffered several concussions. And the protocol for that, they take away your helmet if you're not able to -- to follow the signs or they take you through a couple tests to see if you're responsive. If you're not responsive in those situations, then you're not able to play. But it's tough for football players to gauge if they're truly injured or if they're a little bit cloudy and they can fight through that. So, it's very difficult.
FOREMAN: And, Eddie, let me ask you. How young did that begin? Because I remember when I was a kid I played football, high school, that sort of thing, even then -- and we weren't a very competitive team, there was very much the sense of you keep playing, you keep playing. I played half a game one time with a broken hand. I didn't know it was broken, but the coach didn't want to know if it was broken. He said just keep playing.
GEORGE: Well, I don't think it's a lot of pressure, especially on the younger level, you know. It's very unlikely that a kid could suffer concussion, because the velocity and the speed they're playing at is not as great as in college or the professional level.
But if it does happen, you know, I think it would be for the coach's responsibility to make sure that child is okay. It doesn't make sense -- there's nothing -- there's no incentive at that level, especially the prep level, to continue to play, because money's not involved. You know, the only incentive is to win, so it really doesn't make sense for a coach to pressure a young child to continue to play just so he can say that they won a football game.
FOREMAN: Yes, but I'm afraid you know that many of them look at people with career like yours, that's the incentive maybe I can become the next Eddie.
Doctor, let me ask you one last question. When we talk about younger people here -- I think a lot of us when we grew up were surprised to find out, for example, when we talk about skin cancer, that much of the damage occurs when you're quite young, when you think it's no big deal. To what degree should people out there who have kids that are playing these sports be looking closely at the studies that you're doing here today, saying, maybe, yes, they get harder hits later in life, but maybe less hard hits when the brain is still developing are also awfully important?
STERN: Yes, I couldn't agree with you more. And it's hard to disagree with Eddie. But, in fact, concussions are really common in youth athletes. You know, those necks are not as fully developed to be able to protect them from having their brains shaken in their skull.
And so, concussions are really important in the youth. And it's critical for parents or trainers, for coaches and the athletes, to realize that they need to take their brains pretty seriously. And anytime they get those dings or their bell rung, those are concussions. They can't return to play. They can't act macho. They need to be able to sit it out, wait until they're fully recovered, see a specialist to make sure they're recovered before they get back onto that field.
FOREMAN: All right. Thank you very much. Dr. Robert Stern and Eddie George, we appreciate you both being here.
STERN: Thank you.
FOREMAN: The NFL is being changed this way, and as always, go Saints.
FOREMAN: Possible jail fine and possible big fine. Richard and Mayumi Heene face both when they are sentenced tomorrow in Colorado. As I'm sure you know, the two made up a story about their little boy floating away in a makeshift balloon. The Heenes may have to pay back the cost of the rescue efforts, around $43,000.
Rolling up his sleeve. President and Mrs. Obama have gotten their swine flu shots. The president is also urging more people to get vaccinated now that the vaccine is available to the general public. The first daughters got their shots back in October.
And talk about a comeback. Existing home sales have surged for the second month in a row, jumping more than 7 percent in November. Experts say first-time buyers are rushing to get in on the federal tax credit and, of course, take advantage of the low prices out there because the housing depression.
The economy is finally improving, but many Americans have been having a hard time getting a loan. So, President Obama is summoning bank leaders to Washington. Last week, he met with the CEOs of the nation's largest banks, and today the leaders of small community banks heard from the president.
Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with details. Susan, what was the president saying today?
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, the message to small banks from President Obama was the same as what was conveyed to big banks last week. Lend more money.
The president met, as you said with a dozen small, community bankers today. What kind of banks? Carter Federal Savings bank of New York, German-American Bancorp of Indiana, Kalamazoo County State Bank of Michigan. The president is pushing banks to lend more, specifically to small businesses.
This year, regional banks issued 36 percent fewer SBA-backed loans than last year. There were also smaller in volume. Twenty-five percent less from last year.
Why is this happening? Well, no surprise. A few years ago, all you had to do was breathe and you could get a loan. So, banks understandably are more cautious. They're boosting their standards. But it's -- but banks also say it's harder to find creditworthy borrowers, because small businesses are, let's face it, struggling in this recession, and have less collateral to put up for those loans, Tom.
FOREMAN: You know, one of the big complaints when he met with the big bankers last week was that to some degree, the bankers and the business community has often said to the president, look, that's fine. We'll listen to what you have to say, but we have to do business our way. Is it any different with these smaller banks?
LISOVICZ: Well, I mean, yes. I mean, you would think so, that the government invested more than $200 billion in 650 banks. So, yes. The president should have some leverage, because they are benefiting from the largesse.
We should say that the tone is slightly different from small banks than the big banks. Even though the big banks, many of them, have repaid T.A.R.P., the president lauded the smaller banks for their support of financial reform, and he said that community lenders are largely not responsible for the risky behavior that crashed the U.S. financial system.
And one last thing, Tom. Let's face it, small business is critical to the recovery of the U.S. I think it is hard for a lot of people to realize that small businesses employ more than half of all jobs in the U.S. So, they really need support.
FOREMAN: All right. Thank you, Susan. We will be hearing that refrain many, many times in the coming years. Thank you for keeping us up to date.
LISOVICZ: You're welcome.
FOREMAN: Just back on the feet after Hurricane Katrina, now the victim of a manmade disaster. A Louisiana church calls off its Christmas giveaway. And you won't believe why. Stick around.
FOREMAN: Stealing from a church is sacrilegious. Stealing from needy kids is just shameful, robbing both once and that is a total what the -- the Louisiana church this you see here was just renovated from Hurricane Katrina, and it was dealt another blow. Crooks broke in over the weekend and stole gifts wrapped up for a Christmas giveaway. Oh, and they took a crucifix for good measure. The cops expect a quick arrest thanks to blood left at the scene, and the pastor found another small silver lining.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR JOHN ARNONE, OUR LADY OF LOURDES CATHOLIC CHURCH: The person just apparently sat on the floor and unwrapped all of the presents, every single one of them with the exception of one that was sitting at the foot of the cross. So, apparently he had some conscious...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Well, I hope it gets better for our friends out there in Violet, Louisiana. The big christmas giveaway was meant to be tonight. Clearly, the pastor had to call it up. Donations are coming in, though, and he hopes to get enough to do it tomorrow. Good luck to all of them.
Less devious than the church robbers, but also less than legal. A New York man who broke into a closed-down parking garage opened it and collected money for folks to park there for two days. The city, however, did not appreciate his entrepreneurial spirit as much as you might think, however, because of course, the city owns that garage.
Stay with us.
FOREMAN: Hard to believe there are only nine days left in 2009, and it has certainly been a year to remember. One of the stories on the radar this year, all of the highlights and lowlights in the airline industry.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Airplanes had their share of serious troubles, including the Air France jet that disappeared over the Atlantic. But there were also some quirky incidents. Worst navigation: the pilots who flew from San Diego to Minneapolis and then just kept flying, overshooting the target by 150 miles before turning back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got distracted.
FOREMAN: Best improvisation: the miracle on the Hudson. One plane, a flock of geese and mind-blowing emergency landing in the Hudson by Captain Sully Sullenberger. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sully was great. He was right out of central casting. He was like the Clint Eastwood of airline pilots. I can just imagine him up in the cockpit, knowing the geese hit the engines and he was like, "Not on my watch."
JOY BEHAR, HOST, "JOY BEHAR SHOW": I don't know if he was really lauded because he was able to land on the Hudson River or he just got a great parking spot in New York.
FOREMAN: That's just a taste of all of the best, all of the worst of 2009. It is a show we do every year at "AC 360" and it's getting a following out there. We hope you will join us when it airs this Thursday, Christmas Eve, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And if it happens to get preempted by the health care vote, it will be on some other times over the holidays. Make sure you check it out. "All the Best, All the Worst of 2009."