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Thomson, Illinois, Debates New 'Neighbors'; The Economy & The Deficit; Preparing for a Trip Into Space

Aired December 22, 2009 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, this hour, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani gets back on the stump for someone else. He plans to endorse Republican Rick Lazio in next year's governor race there. This apparently means Giuliani won't run himself.

And a man accused of gunning down an abortion provider cannot use the necessity defense. A Kansas judge made that ruling just minutes ago in the trial of Scott Roeder. Roeder has confessed to shooting Dr. George Tiller in May, saying that it was "necessary to save unborn children." A lot to talk about there.

The economy hasn't been exactly kind to Thomson, Illinois. The good news today is it's getting a stimulus. The bad news is it's from Guantanamo Bay wearing jumpsuits.

About 100 terror detainees will be sent to the underused state prison in Thomson, and a debate is now going on about the question of whether or not these jobs from upgrading the prison and increasing security are worth the potential risks.

Cheryl Jackson has been at a public hearing down the road from Thomson in Sterling, Illinois, and she joins us now.

So, Cheryl, what are people saying about this today?

CHERYL JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, you have people on both sides of the issue.

If you look over here, you can see protesters are already lined up ready to go into this public hearing where commissioners are going to decide whether or not to close Thomson prison and resell it to the federal government. Now, some people are saying this is a great opportunity. Other people are saying they do not want alleged terrorists in their neighborhood.

So, here we are, people on both sides of this issue, people upset on one side and people happy and thinking it's going to help their economy on the other.

FOREMAN: So, Cheryl, you got a tour of the facility there in Thomson today. What did you see? What did you think?

JACKSON: Well, you know, Tom, we went inside there and we got a good idea of what it's like to be in a supermax prison, doors locking one after another when you walk from one place to another, high fences with razor wire all the way through, signs warning you to sit down if you hear gunfire. So, it was a good look at what a maximum security prison looks like, and even for a layperson, it looks a prison that's very highly secure.

Now, you know the Obama administration has promised to put another perimeter fence around it, and also to take the medical facilities and make them so that the prisoners never need to actually leave the prison. So, some people saying we don't alleged terrorists in our neighborhood, other people saying they won't be in our neighborhood, they'll be in the prison.

FOREMAN: All right. Well, thanks so much for joining us with the latest out there, and hope the continuing debate goes well as it winds down. Thanks so much for your time.

American cyberspace now has its own czar. President Obama named Howard Schmidt White House cybersecurity coordinator. The announcement came in an e-mail. Schmidt's long resume is a mix of military service, law enforcement and information security in the private sector. He was also a cybersecurity adviser for President George W. Bush.

Grow the economy, cut the deficit? What's more important for your bottom line, and what do you think about this battle over bucks -- your bucks, that is?

And as we ring out the new year, we're saying good-bye to some old friends, brands and products we won't be seeing again, gone in 2009. Focus: sports drinks. We hardly knew you.

Also kodachrome film fading out to black.

And Circuit City stores pulled the plug.

And, of course, Saturn, a great success story at one time, hit a dead end.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: The Senate is on track to pass its version of health care reform after a bitter partisan fight. Democrats this morning cleared the second of three procedural votes on the sweeping $871 billion measure voting again along what was strictly party lines. The third and final procedural vote is set for tomorrow, and if Democrats clear that hurdle, the final vote is expected on Christmas Eve.

Any Senate bill would have to be merged with the House version, of course, and that could spark some tough negotiations. There's a lot of agreement between the two, but there's also, still, some pretty sharp disagreements.

Democrats boast that their health care measure would trim the federal deficit. So, what's more important, cutting the deficit or growing the economy? CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger joins me with some new poll numbers.

Gloria, what do most Americans think about the economy right now?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as you can probably guess, Tom, they are pretty worried about the American economy. When we asked them about economic conditions today, fully eight out of 10 said that the economy is doing poorly.

However, when you look back to 2008, a year ago, 93 percent said the economy was doing poorly. So, actually, things seemed to be heading in the right direction, although they are still pretty lousy.

There is some good news here though, and that is that Americans remain optimistic. If you look at our poll, we asked people what economic conditions would be one year from now. And 58 percent said that they thought economic conditions would be good, 43 percent thought it would be heading in the wrong direction. So at least there is a sense from the American public that we may be getting back on the right track.

FOREMAN: Well, Gloria, let me ask you a question about this. There is no question that part of the big political fight next year is going to shape up over this notion of, how much do you stimulate the economy, how much do you control the deficit, and how will these two feed off of each other?

What are you hearing in the polls about that right now?

BORGER: You know, that's a real political conundrum right now, because in order to get out of this mess we're in, we have been spending an awful lot of money. The more money we spend, the more people are concerned about the deficit. So, if you're a politician, you're asking yourself, which is more important, jobs or the deficit?

We asked that question to people, which is more important for the Obama administration, recovery or reducing the deficit? And you see there that people believe, 57 percent say, it's recovery first, reduce the deficit 40 percent. Now, reducing the deficit is up 11 points from where it was a year ago, so you see this growing sense among the American voters that, wait a minute, we do have to get this deficit under control, but they still believe, first things first, get everyone back to work.

FOREMAN: Yes, I think the numbers may be a little off there, or it looks like it's nine percent, but, nonetheless, a big change.

Let me ask you a question before we move on to the next question about that very issue. Obviously, the deadly combination for the Democrats in the Obama administration would be if they spend all of this money and there simply isn't enough bounce back in the jobs by end of summer. Then people are going to say, we just spent a fortune. Now we have a massive deficit and we still don't have the jobs.

BORGER: Yes, and that's why you hear the president, for example, talk about health care reform in terms of reducing the deficit. I mean, it's a little counterintuitive, right, to say we have to spend $1 trillion in order to reduce the deficit in the long term?

He's trying to get that point across with health care, as well as with everything else, because the more jobs you create, the more money that goes into the federal till, the more taxes people pay. So, he has to keep singing that same song to people to say you have to invest and spend in order to get the long-term rewards.

FOREMAN: And obviously, this isn't hitting everybody in the country in the same way right now, depending on what ethnic group you belong to, what your educational background -- everything is different. You had some interesting numbers about how black Americans feel about their job prospects right now.

BORGER: We do. We asked the question, "Do blacks have the same chances as whites to get jobs that they are qualified for?"

And you see that 50 percent of African-Americans say they don't have the same chances as whites to get jobs they're qualified for. But I would also tell you, Tom, that when folks did this kind of polling back in the 1990s, African-Americans felt worse about their job prospects than they do right now. So, there is a little bit of good news in that, although, clearly, that number is not where it should be.

FOREMAN: Yes. And I think, Gloria, in three or four months from now, all we're going to be talking about is, did the job count come up to a level that gives Democrats some pad or gives Republicans an opportunity?

BORGER: Yes, there is a midterm election in the offing in 2010, and it's going to be about the economy.

FOREMAN: Yes, no kidding.

All right. Thanks, Gloria. Good to have you here.

BORGER: Sure.

FOREMAN: A medical emergency unfolds right in front of two emergency workers. It's got all the makings of an American hero story, but it ended up in tragedy. The two EMT workers suspended pending an investigation.

They were getting coffee at a Brooklyn cafe, employees say, when a pregnant woman collapsed. They allegedly waved off cries for help, saying, "Call 911." The woman and the unborn baby later died. As you can imagine, the city is outraged.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYNTHIA RENNIX, VICTIM'S MOTHER: They ignored it totally. They said, "Call it in."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call it in? RENNIX: "Call it in. Call 911."

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: There is no excuse whatsoever as far as I can see. I don't know what kind of burnout you could have. Try just not being a decent human being.

JEFF SAMERSON, EMT & PARAMEDICS UNIT: She called in and she told me there was a patient that was ill. She didn't have an ambulance. She didn't have equipment. She does not work in the field as an active EMT on an ambulance. She is a dispatcher. She works for emergency medical dispatch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So she's a dispatcher. And what about the other one?

SAMERSON: The other one is also a dispatcher. These are people that are not the field, that have not had patient contact in years with patients, and they did the best they could.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: We obviously have to learn more about that as time goes on, but the New York Fire Department says, "All of our members have taken an oath to assist others in need of emergency medical care."

Well, a special mission to the International Space Station kicks off next year. The crew, American and European astronauts, and a Russian commander. We've got exclusive, unprecedented access to their training.

CNN is counting down.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: He's a freshman Democrat, but he is already switching teams. Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith is becoming a Republican today. The Democrats hold a sizeable majority in the House, but we'll have to see how he plays out as he moves over there.

After a weekend of travel chaos in parts of the U.S., another storm for holiday travelers to worry about.

(WEATHER REPORT)

FOREMAN: In the new year, Expedition 26 will blast off far from the snow for the International Space Station. On the mission, an American and European astronaut with a Russian commander. They recently got together in Houston, and they talked about this mission in an exclusive interview with CNN's John Zarrella.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Claustrophobic? Don't even consider it. There's no wiggle room inside the Soyuz spacecraft. CATHERINE "CADY" COLEMAN, ASTRONAUT: And we're always in the same seats. Cullen's (ph) on the left, commander in the middle, and I'm on the right.

ZARRELLA: This is the Expedition 26 crew. For two days next year, as they hurdle towards a rendezvous with the International Space Station, the Soyuz will be home to Cady Coleman, Italian Paolo Nespoli, and Russian commander Dmitri Kondratyev.

It's rare catching all three in the same place at the same time. The training schedule is brutal.

CMDR. DMITRI KONDRATYEV, EXPEDITION 26: We have some days (ph) with Paolo and Cady in (INAUDIBLE), with Paolo a few weeks ago and with Cady maybe one month ago.

PAOLO NESPOLI, EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY ASTRONAUT: What gets me worse, I think, is the constantly changing of training environment and, on top of that, being jetlagged.

ZARRELLA: On this trip to Johnson Space Center, the three met together for the first time with their flight director and his team.

COLEMAN: But you should realize that both Dima (ph) and I had that training, and Dima (ph) is somebody who lives, eats and breathes robotics.

ZARRELLA: With their flight less than a year away now, planning for the six months they will spend on the station is taking shape. Nespoli spends time in the virtual reality lab. Here, he gets a feel for what it feels like lifting a large mass in space.

There's also a lesson for Cady and Paolo, simulating with computer animation...

COLEMAN: Going to manual, blue to blue.

ZARRELLA: ... the capture of a cargo carrier using the station's robotic arm.

Just as critical as polishing their skills, solidifying a bond.

KONDRATYEV: As for me, I've enjoyed every moment (INAUDIBLE).

COLEMAN: Good answer.

ZARRELLA (on camera): Do you think you will say that after six months in space with her?

KONDRATYEV: I hope I will.

(LAUGHTER)

ZARRELLA: Getting along is important. You can't bring much from home to keep you busy during downtime. Get this -- the limit for personal items is a measly two pounds. Dmitri is packing family pictures and CDs. Paolo calls himself a minimalist.

NESPOLI: Maybe a kilo is too much, or two pounds is too much or something. I don't know. Maybe not. We will see. I still have no good answer for that.

And if you have any suggestion, I will take it.

COLEMAN: I'm probably going to bring my flute.

ZARRELLA (on camera): Bring your flute?

COLEMAN: That's probably about two pounds right there.

ZARRELLA: OK.

Dima (ph), you're going to have to put up with listening to her playing the flute now.

KONDRATYEV: Sure, of course.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Their selection to fly together, purely random. Now, permanently linked, the crew of Expedition 26.

John Zarrella, CNN, at the Johnson Space Center, Houston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: John Zarrella does such a nice job reporting on all of this, and you can watch John's exclusive series and more each and every day on the most news in the morning, CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," weekdays, beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern with John Roberts and Kiran Chetry.

You really don't want to miss that.

Let's look at the top stories now.

In Washington State, two sheriff's deputies were shot and wounded in the same county where four officers were killed last month. The latest incident involved domestic violence between two brothers. The deputies killed one of them. One of the deputies is in critical condition, the other stable.

Near New Orleans, mourners at a funeral service 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 what appears to have been a domestic dispute. His death is helping save lives, however. His organs were donated to at least five other people.

Same-sex marriages and adoption by gay couples now legal in Mexico City. It's the second major Latin American city to legalize same-sex marriages. Buenos Aires was the first by court order, but the first same-sex marriage there has been delayed by a legal fight.

Before they face the weapons of their enemies, they have had to make it past this. We'll take you to a special site where the best of the best are pushed to the very limit to see how they will do.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: In this hour yesterday we first brought you a story that is creating quite a bit of talk around water coolers in the country today. A U.S. commander in Iraq has prohibited pregnancy among his troops, both women who get pregnant and men who get a fellow soldier pregnant.

Well, that general is speaking out today. Let's have a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. ANTHONY CUCOLO III, U.S. ARMY: I made an existing policy stricter. And I wanted to encourage my soldiers to think before they acted and understand their behavior and actions have consequences, all of their behavior.

I consider the male soldier as responsible for taking a soldier out just as responsible as the female soldier that I lose. And to ensure a consistent and measured approach in applying the policy, I'm the only one who passes judgment on these.

I mean, I decide every case based on unique facts. I take recommendations from the chain of command. But I'm the only one that decides on these cases. In the very few cases I've handled thus far, it was actually a male soldier who got the most severe punishment, because he committed adultery and fraternization, as well as made one of my female soldiers not employable by impregnating her.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

FOREMAN: The general says that despite the threat of court- martial, he had actually seen (ph) locking violators up.

You know, the thing is, military people have to live with a different view in many ways and deal with all sorts of rules and test their mettle all the time. Before they are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, U.S. troops have to go out and try their skills in the most realistic training grounds in the world.

And our T.J. Holmes takes us now to the Mojave Desert and shows us what they go through. It's the war before the war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm think I'm going to take (INAUDIBLE) from here.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, it was shaping up to be a very bad day. As the convoy wound its way through a desert canyon, it comes under attack from insurgents perched in the surrounding mountains. The soldiers eventually fight their way through to a suspected insurgent hideout. They're forced to clear the village building by building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in there! Get in there!

HOLMES: There are casualties. But this isn't Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, move, move, move!

HOLMES: Or Afghanistan. This is California. And before heading to war, many soldiers come here to the Mojave Desert, where training is anything but basic.

This is the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, billed as the most realistic training facility in the world.

CAPT. SCOTT STEPHENS, 1ST BRIGADE, 3RD INFANTRY DIVISION: I will tell you what. They get it so doggoned close here, I had to kind of close my eyes a few times and remind myself, hey, this is just training and this is just -- we're in California.

HOLMES: When it opened 30 years ago, the NTC was meant to prepare soldiers for conventional warfare against primarily a Soviet threat. Times and enemies have changed, and so has the NTC.

COL. BENNIE WILLIAMS, 1ST BRIGADE, 3RD INFANTRY DIVISION: It's actually no comparison. When I first came out here as a young lieutenant in 1985, the entire place was a desert. But, over the years, NTC has done a great job in adapting to what our forces are geared towards and what the current fight is.

HOLMES: The California desert provides an ideal natural terrain...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go into the building.

HOLMES: ... for the Army's own version of a Hollywood production, complete with props, special effects, and actors. We spent a week in the desert with the 1st Brigade out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, for their training rotation before deployment to Iraq. Colonel Gregory Sierra is one of the commanders of the 1st Brigade.

LT. COL. GREGORY SIERRA, 1ST BRIGADE, 3RD INFANTRY DIVISION: You're there. When you're on a mission, the conditions have been set appropriately by the National Training Center that it puts people in the -- you're in Iraq. Mentally, you're in Iraq, and that's what we want. When we go out on a combat patrol when we get to Iraq, and my guys are going outside the wire, it won't be the first time because in their mind they already did it here at the National Training Center.

HOLMES: The training area is the size of Rhode Island. The military has set up authentic replicas of Iraqi towns like this one, the streets crawling with role players. Some are Iraqi American actors and others are Fort Irwin-based soldiers who live out here and stay in character for weeks at a time while units train.

The training is fluid, evolving based on the unit's performance. For example, soldiers got a tip that this town's mayor was being targeted by insurgents, but soldiers didn't move quickly enough to provide protection. The mayor was assassinated as he walked outside of his house. Security forces then went after the assassin, running into this building. Turns out, the building was booby trapped.

A hard lesson taught by this man.

SPEAKER HIDDEN IDENTITY, "THE OSAMA BIN LADEN OF THE NTC": It is always good to take pride in your work.

HOLMES: We are not allowed to tell you his real name or face, but his nickname, though, "The Osama bin Laden of the NTC."

SPEAKER HIDDEN IDENTITY, "THE OSAMA BIN LADEN OF THE NTC": I am the head insurgent basic equivalent to someone like Osama bin Laden where I control the network, I feed out information and tell them to do missions, and I am kind of hunted almost.

HOLMES: He is a 24-year-old soldier from Maryland who has become the most hunted man in the Mojave. He has been here a year and he's never been caught.

T.J. Holmes CNN at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Fascinating stuff there. Tonight on "THE CAMPBELL BROWN SHOW," T.J. continues his special series, "War Before the War." You're going to meet civilians who are crucial parts of all this training. That is tonight at 8:00 on CNN. Don't miss it.

A Florida fugitive who eluded police for three decades is behind bars. Oscar Richardson is now 61. He was captured at his home in southwest Missouri this weekend where he had been living a false life under an assumed name. Richardson escaped from a work release center in Kissimmee, Florida in 1979. He was serving time for a pair of armed robberies. Richardson is expected to be extradited back to Florida and finish his sentence and he may face additional charges.

For five years he has fought to get his son back and several times David Goldman has actually won, but after every joyous flight to Brazil to pick up his son, Sean, up he has had a somber solo flight back home. It happened again last week, a pre-Christmas reunion put off by a Brazilian judge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GOLDMAN, SEAN GOLDMAN'S FATHER (via telephone): I have been doing this for an agonizing over five years now, and time and time again I come down here to bring home my son and I get the same thing. And just the plain, simple fact that Sean and I should be together is not happening is very, very sad. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: The latest update, David Goldman is still in Rio today awaiting the latest decision from the courts there. It could come at any minute, of course, we will take you there as soon as it does.

To recap, 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 the stepfather ever since. It's quite a story and again, we'll keep you updated on every development as it comes through.

If you have any remodeling on your mind or on your to-do list, you might want to rethink it. We're finding out that home improvements might not improve your home's value the way you think they would. We'll tell you more.

But first, if you've ever stood in the living room surrounded by ripped up wrapping paper after the kids open their presents, you know about the after the holidays cleanup, especially if you have a live tree. That's the thinking behind a new idea in Los Angeles. Our Thelma Gutierrez explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCOTT MARTIN, FOUNDER, THE LIVING CHRISTMAS COMPANY: So the next one you need is a five to six-foot Monterey. Next one is another four to five foot.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So you are probably thinking, it's just is another Christmas tree story, but it is not. It is one of those only-in-Los-Angeles ideas that could eventually be coming your way next Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ramona, you're taller.

GUTIERREZ: Yes, Ramona, that would be the tree.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is maturing. She is maturing. She is becoming a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Child bearing hips.

GUTIERREZ: It has been a year since Ramona last visited the Arquettes in Manhattan Beach.

MALE: This is a really great way for us to enjoy her for three weeks and give her back and make sure she is well taken care of.

GUTIERREZ: You see, the Arquettes don't own her, they rent her.

MARTIN: I hear the sleigh bells ringing, jing, jing, jingling too.

GUTIERREZ: From this guy, Scott Martin the founder of the Living Christmas Company. (on camera): I could go to buy a cut tree for $14, what -- spend $100 and give it back to you.

MARTIN: Certainly it's something that you have to value.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): As an environmentalist and a landscape architect, Martin says what he values is a Christmas without waste.

MARTIN: Love is created by this tree entering the house, but afterwards you drive by that same house and you'd see that same tree kicked by the curb and it is sort of laying there outside for trash.

GUTIERREZ: So a year ago, Martin bought all these potted trees. He launched a website and started offering trees for rent. His business took off.

MARTIN: I tried to price it so that it is comparable to getting a cut tree.

GUTIERREZ: His fleet of delivery trucks run on biodiesel fuel. Martin says 10 percent of all sales goes to local charities, and he expects the profits to grow with the tree.

(on camera): By the time you have a tree that is six or seven- feet tall, how much money has that living tree produced for you?

MARTIN: We are renting it five or six times over, and so that the revenue created from that is well over $1,000 a tree.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): The trees are picked up after Christmas, they go back to lot where they will be cared for till next year.

(on camera): You hear people say, only in Los Angeles would you rent a Christmas tree.

MARTIN: If you have a tree in the front yard and would you cut it down and bring it in your house for two weeks? You wouldn't.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): But the Arquettes don't want a long-term commitment to Ramona either. So they'll have her home for the holidays, then send her away come January 1st without the worry of where she will stay till next year.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Manhattan Beach, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Home sales surged last month, but prices continue to fall from a year ago. That is one of the reasons that sales are going up, and that is pushing down the value of home remodeling projects for the fourth straight year.

Alison Kosik is in the CNNMoney newsroom in New York.

Alison, what are we supposed to take from this? Does renovating just not pay off the way it used to?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. I mean, the harsh reality, Tom, is that people are getting less bang for the buck when it comes to making the home improvements.

I want you to look at something, the average remodeling job costs almost $51,000 this year, but added only $32,000 to the home's value. That's a return on investment of just 63.8 percent, that's down from 67 percent last year.

But on the flipside, there are some jobs that give you a better payoff. Small scale exterior projects are the most profitable at resale, because in this down market, it's about adding to the home's first impression. It's what realtors call curb appeal. I am talking about projects like steel entry doors, upscale siding, and wood deck additions recoup a good chunk of their cost.

So you may not get those dollars back, Tom, but the renovations could wind up making the house easier to sell and that's also a plus.

FOREMAN: Well, that's good to know, Alison, with all of the difficulties people are face out there. But when you look at the sort of market that's out there right now, there really are some that you can focus on. Some remodeling projects are just not worth it, though. Which ones are those?

KOSIK: Exactly. The study found, Tom, that you will make less of a profit if you remodel the home office or build a new sunroom.

Major kitchen renovations are low on the list. That was kind of surprising. Check this out. An upscale kitchen re-do costs almost $112,000 this year, but added $70,000 to the home value, that's just 63 percent of the cost. And at the height of the housing boom in 2005, it was at a 80 percent.

But I want you to remember something, the resell value is not the primary reason that people decide to remodel in the first place. It's usually more of a personal decision, right? In fact, with the housing market so depressed these days, many people have decided to stay in their homes and spruce them up instead of settling for a lower sales price. So if an upscale kitchen is what you want and you can afford it, the advice is go for it. Just remember, when it comes time to sell, you may not get a big chunk of your investment back.

If you want to see more details on this story, go to CNNMoney.com and follow us on Twitter as well -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Good advice there, Alison. Thanks so much.

Top stories now, a Kansas judge says an anti-abortion activist cannot use the necessity defense in his trial. What that means is Scott Ritter who is accused of killing an abortion doctor cannot argue that his actions were simply justified. Ritter is accused of killing Dr. George Tiller at the doctor's church. And the judge also refused to allow a change in venue from Wichita despite all the pretrial publicity. So some big developments in that case. Rolling up his sleeve and leading by example, the president has gotten his swine flu shot. So has Mrs. Obama. The president is 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.

The 107-year-old woman honored by President Obama in his election victory speech has died in Atlanta. Anne Nixon Cooper was born before blacks or women had the right to vote. The president called her the example of the heart break and the hope of the past century. Ms. Cooper died in her home a month shy of turning 108.

It started with a child's question. A little boy wanted to know if all little girls and boys had teddy bears like he did? He was upset by the answer, and so that 5-year-old decided to do something about it. Last year, he gave away 850 bears, and this year he plans to top it. CNN photojournalist Jonathan Oburn (ph) tagged along, part of our "GIVING IN FOCUS" series.

We went to a lot of build-a-bears, but didn't believe that a 6- year-old boy could build 1,000 bears. I think that most people should have a bear. Some people want them to maybe play with or sleep with or something. The stuffing goes inside of this hole, and we put it in that machine and once it is done using it, it comes out of the tube over there. When I was 5 years old, I asked my dad if everyone in the world had a bear like mine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUSTIN MARTIN: I went to a line of Build-A-Bears that didn't believe that a 6-year-old boy could build 1,000 bears.

I think most people should have a bear. Some people want them to maybe play with or sleep with or something.

Stuffing goes inside this little tiny hole in the bear.

We put it in that machine.

And I want someone to use it, and it comes out of the little tube over there.

When I was 5 years old, I asked my dad if everyone in the world had a bear like mine.

QUIN MARTIN: I said, "No, Justin. Everybody doesn't have a bear like you do." He asked me if he could give away all his old bears.

J. MARTIN: He said yes.

Q. MARTIN: And he said, "Well, can I go make some bears?"

J. MARTIN: So, my dad said, "How many?" And I said, "A thousand."

Q. MARTIN: It was his idea. And I'm getting a little choked up right now -- excuse me -- every time I talk about it. Like I said, I can't emphasize how proud I am of him. He's doing a really good job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have kids come in all the time and say, you know, "Hey, I want 100 bears." "I want 10 bears." Or "I want a thousand bears." So we're sort of used to this request. You know? In this case, it was sort of like, oh, OK, so you really want a thousand bears?

Q. MARTIN: Right now we have about 411 bears. With the bears he made today, it's about 460, 470.

We have over a month to make about 450 more bears.

He really takes pride and interest in every bear. If he doesn't like the outfit, he doesn't think the kid is going to like the outfit.

J. MARTIN: It's delivery day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every student here today is going to get a Build-A-Bear decorated by Justin.

Q. MARTIN: It will be 2,000 bears in two years. It's about him, and it's about what he started. It's kind of become like a little movie.

J. MARTIN: I just like giving the bears out.

Q. MARTIN: As long as he wants to do the 1,000 bears, we're definitely committed to 1,000 bears every year he wants to do this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Tune into CNN on Christmas Day for a special expanded look at what your friends and neighbors all over the country are doing to help the less fortunate, and the "GIVING IN FOCUS" special begins at 1:00 p.m. I hosted it over here at beautiful Union Station just a short while ago, and you'll see it only here on CNN. Please don't miss it, a wonderful show.

Now here is a question for you -- do you know your South Butt from the North Face? That may sound like a joke, but it really isn't. At least one company fears that you might not and they 'd like to do something about it.

You have to wonder, can you see this from the International Space Station? More than 100,000 lights, a 50-foot fake tree, about 30 smaller ones, a Christmas countdown clock, astronomical amounts of Christmas spirit all at one house in Phoenix and an electric bill that you'd probably not see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: As always at this time of day, Team Sanchez is working on the next hour of NEWSROOM, but my friend Ali Velshi is in New York filling in for Rick.

Hey, Ali, how are you? ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Tom, it is my pleasure. I keep running into you for the last couple of days, and I love it.

FOREMAN: Well, we never see each other in person, we just see each other on TV.

VELSHI: I know. I will take it.

Listen, two stories I want to tell you about. One of them is that eight years ago, in December, the U.S. had a force in Tora Bora in Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. Peter Bergen is going to be joining me, he thinks that in fact that was the best chance that the U.S. had to get Osama bin Laden and we're going to talk about exactly what happened in those decisive few days. Why the U.S. didn't move in if it was so is easy to get Osama bin Laden back then and what we can learn from with the new offensive that we've got in Afghanistan.

That is one story. The other one that's fascinating story is a young man in Florida really wants to be a journalist. He really particularly wants to be a war correspondent. School didn't offer the courses and he wanted some experience on ground, so what did he pick? The nearest thing that he could get to that looked like a war zone and he decided that was Juarez, Mexico. We're going to hear his story, the video he shot and we're going to talk about whether that's the best way to become a correspondent. A little dangerous, Tom.

FOREMAN: Thanks so much. When Ali Velshi is on TV, it always a good time to listen, so we hope you will stick with us.

It was an honest mistake, one measly digit off, but it has meant everything to a Las Vegas woman. Her condo was cleaned out, every single thing thrown away as part of a foreclosure. The problem? She's not being foreclosed upon. That would be her neighbor. So make matters worse, she says, she's getting another wrong number from the folks responsible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NILLY MAUCK, CONDO OWNER: I told her, give me $100,000 to $200,000 to replace my things cause it's going to take time. That's actually being generous. And they're like, OK, that is too much. She called me the same day and told me that they were only willing to give me $5,000.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: The real estate company involved says it is working to resolve this situation, but it isn't saying much else. Amazing, amazing story.

Earlier I asked a serious question that bears repeating, do you know the South Butt from your North Face? The logos look pretty similar. Take a look at them right here, if you can. That is what the people at North Face apparel think. So they are not laughing at a teen entrepreneur's tongue and cheek take on their brand. Kasey Joyce from KSDK-TV in St. Louis has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's pink in long sleeve, but that is what I already have.

KASEY JOYCE, KSDK-TV REPORTER (voice-over): Shoppers can't get enough of the South Butt.

BRENNEN WIMSATT, SOUTH BUTT CUSTOMER: I actually saw it on the news, and I was like, dude, I have to get one.

JIMMY WINKELMANN, FOUNDER, SOUTH BUTT: I don't think really anyone in my position would have seen it coming.

JOYCE: Meet the brain child behind the Butt.

WINKELMANN: North Face's whole motto and stuff was why climb mountains and same with companies like Polo and stuff. No one's wearing Polo's stuff and going to actually play polo. I don't know, I just thought it was ridiculous so I started mocking all of them with the South Butt.

JOYCE: And the idea caught on big time. Nineteen-year-old Jimmy Winkelmann started selling a few T-shirts and fleeces in the St. Louis Williams pharmacies. Now they're online and he's shipped orders to every state in the country.

(on camera): With just a few days to go before Christmas, it is chaos inside of the pharmacy as everyone is coming in to get one of the hottest gifts of the season.

ASHLEY CARNEY, PHARMACY EMPLOYEE: It has been just like so many people that we don't get time any time to do anything else pretty much except for sell the South Butt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a medium, but it's in green.

JOYCE (voice-over): But is just a parody or piracy? North Face has filed suit against the South Butt. According to the complaint, they say the products are, quote, "... causing confusion, mistake and deception among the general purchasing public." Winkelmann dismisses all that.

WINKELMANN: I just don't understand why I would be of any threat of them with the little South Butt company.

JOYCE: North Face won't comment on the suit, but all of the attention is just fueling South Butt sales.

ROBIN RADLIFF, SOUTH BUTT CUSTOMER: It is hilarious, and hilarious, and why would they sue over that? I just think it's funny. I mean, everyone loves North Face, why not South Butt?

WINKELMANN: When they actually tried to file a federal court case against me, it was like the best Christmas present ever.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: That is Kasey Joyce reporting for our affiliate in St. Louis, KSTK. Winklemann says he offered to sell the South Butt to North Face for $1 million, but no deal. Well, go figure that one. Hard to say.

Well, on more serious matters, a life cut short. Why did Brittany Murphy die? And when we will know about what happened with this young across? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: As the investigation into Brittany Murphy's death gets started, the L.A. county coroner is also launching a probe into who leaked the early details to the media, including the names of prescription drugs found at the actress's home.

Our Randi Kaye has learned much more on this shocking case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The call for help came just after 8:00 a.m. early Sunday morning. Actress Brittany Murphy had collapsed in her Los Angeles home.

(on camera): The L.A. county coroner tells us paramedics found her in the bathroom unconscious and unresponsive. It's reported she may have had the flu, and the assistant coroner told us prescription drugs in Murphy's name were found at the house, but no illegal drugs. The coroner says she's believed to have died of natural causes.

The autopsy is now complete, results expected to be made public in about six weeks.

(voice-over): "Entertainment Weekly's" Lynette Rice.

LYNETTE RICE, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": There was something really delicate about her, it was as if she was so easily broken. There's something so frail and sweet and innocent about her, I think audiences just kind of want to protect her.

KAYE: But it seems that there was no protecting Murphy. As the star rose in Hollywood, the healthy-looking, bright-eyed brunette best known for the roles in "Clueless," "Girl Interrupted," and "8 Mile" began to appear frail and thin. Posing on the red carpet December 1st in her last interview, Murphy looks gaunt.

BRITTANY MURPHY, ACTRESS: I really enjoyed the short film very much.

KAYE: In 2003, a blond skinny Murphy graced the cover of "Cosmopolitan" magazine. In 2005, "Maxim" magazine put her on the cover and called her a sex bomb. That same year, "Jane" magazine asked her about her weight loss and rumors that is was due to cocaine use. The actress told the magazine, quote, "I have never tried it in my entire life. I have never even seen it. I am also way too high strung. I can't take even take Sudafed... I think that my heart would explode."

But the ever shrinking Murphy, who denied having a eating disorder, continued to make tabloid headlines. And just two weeks ago, "Saturday Night Live" parodied a spaced out Brittany Murphy, removed from the web sites after her death.

RICE: She has generated a reputation as being a little bit of a crazy train girl who is about to go off of the rails, whether it's these wild stories of wanting her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut on the diagonal, or stalkers following her and her husband, or maybe even hearing gunshots around her household. But it never has stopped her from getting work.

KAYE: In fact, Murphy had been working since age 9. She had a manager by the time she was 13 and moved to Hollywood with her mother. By 1997, she had become the voice of LuAnn Platter on Fox's animated hit "King of the Hill."

She was engaged twice before marrying her screenwriter husband. In 2003, she dated her "Just Married" co-star Ashton Kutcher. After her death, Kutcher tweeted about it, writing on Twitter, "Today, the world lost a little piece of sunshine. My deepest condolences go out to Brittany's family, her husband, and her amazing mother, Sharon."

Brittany Murphy's parents divorced when she was just 4 years old. Her father told CNN he has not seen his daughter in about eight years, but said, quote, "When she was a little baby, she was cute as a button, I can't believe this has happened."

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: And that does it for us. Thanks so much for being with us.