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Your O.J. Their Livelihood; Reid Racial Remark; Showtime in Detroit; Showing Safety in Kids' Movies

Aired January 11, 2010 - 09:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: The news continues on CNN with Heidi Collins in the "CNN NEWSROOM" -- hi, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, guys, and good morning to you, everybody. It's a busy day in the NEWSROOM. Here's what we have working on for you.

Right now, frozen fruit: Florida's citrus industry really taking a one-two punch from these uncommon cold temperatures. We'll get an update for you on that.

And also Reid's racial remarks: what the senate majority leader has said has some Republicans calling for a demotion. We'll get to that as well.

And also, thinking about buying or selling or just plain worried about your home's value. Well, we're going to get this real deal from three realtors across America.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. It is Monday, January 11th, and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM on CNN, the most trusted name in news.

COLLINS: The brutal cold spell that's chilled much of the east for more than a week now is still hanging on.

Here's what we know. A hard freeze watch has been in effect overnight for the northern part of Florida, and some citrus groves in that area already sustained substantial damage from temperatures in the 20's early yesterday morning.

Five deaths, two in Georgia and three in Vermont are being blamed on accidents on partially pr frozen water.

Let's go down to Rob Marciano at the weather center to talk a little bit more about this.

Boy, it has been unbelievably tough. How much longer are we going to see this cold sticking around?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, well, one of the reasons it stuck around so long -- and we obviously had that reinforcing shot last weekend. But there's is so much of the nation that has snow cover. It's over 50 percent of the country has snow cover so that acts kind of keep the air refrigerated basically.

And we don't see the moderation or the warming of the air mass as that we typically would see after a cold snap.


MARCIANO: Let's take a live shot of Orlando, where, of course, west of town is where they have a lot of orange groves. Bright sunshine warming up the groves right now, WESH, thanks for that shot. But right now temps are at or slightly below the freezing mark.

Freeze watches in effect again, Heidi, for tomorrow morning for much of Florida, and then I think we're going to be done with this at least for the next week. So...


MARCIANO: We're slowly breaking out of it.

COLLINS: Yes. Boy, sure hope so. All right, Rob, we'll check back a little later on. Thank you.

MARCIANO: All right. You got it. Thanks.

COLLINS: Now I want to get to the cost of all of this cold. Subfreezing temps in Florida's citrus groves could mean big losses for farmers and a higher price for your OJ.

Martin Savidge following the story now from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The prolonged, brutal cold is taking a toll on the sunshine state, and John Arnold is paying it. He's surveying the impact night of below freezing temperatures have had on his family's citrus orchards in central Florida. A slice with the knife delivers the news.

JOHN ARNOLD, FARMER: This is ruined. It's our lives there.

SAVIDGE: Arnold puts his lost at $500,000. Statewide, according to those who monitor the citrus industry, the damage is substantial but so far not catastrophic. It will take weeks to determine what it may mean for consumers.

Florida is also the nation's second largest producer of strawberries, which were close to their peak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There've been very little harvesting because of -- nothing can ripen in this type of weather.

SAVIDGE: Like the citrus crop, it's still too soon to tell. And that cost of the cold adds up in other ways, like this fire that's swept through 20 units of an apartment building in Jacksonville, blamed on a fireplace being used for heat. Floridians will also pay for the cold in their next electric bill. Saturday night, Florida Power and Light set an all-time record for consumption, shattering the previous one set in the summer of 2005.

And then there is the impact on tourism. One week is not a season, but many tourists will go home with less than warm memories. Like Lisa and Brian Gregg from Wisconsin.

LISA GREGG, TOURIST: Palm tree is the only reason I know I'm actually here, and the ocean.

SAVIDGE: But not everyone is unhappy with the cold. Scientist Frank Mazzotti is downright excited by it.

FRANK MAZZOTTI, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: This could be a game changer.

SAVIDGE: For years, he has battled the non-native python which is upsetting the balance of nature in the everglades. The cold may not kill them all, but it could set the snake back quite a bit.

MAZZOTTI: What nature has done with this extended cold snap and with the rainy weather that we've had has provided with an experiment. There's no way that we could have created this on our own.

SAVIDGE: You could call it slither lining to an otherwise bitter cold.


COLLINS: Marty, joining us now from Ft. Lauderdale this morning.

Curious, Marty, anybody out on the beach this morning? Looks pretty bare.

SAVIDGE: Well, Heidi, I -- this is an idealic scene here. Look, you've got the palm trees swaying in the breeze. You've got the surf rolling in. The blue sky of Florida -- let me just shatter that illusion.


SAVIDGE: I've got jut about every pierce of warm clothing I've got in my closet on my body right now.

Temperature here is in the 30s. The windchill is much colder than that. And the wind actually, if it had been blowing off shore or blowing actually, you know, on shore, it would have a moderating impact on here, but it's not. It's blowing for the northwest.

Right down the peninsula, it's gaining no heat whatsoever.


SAVIDGE: It's still very cold. And as you can tell, the beaches are deserted. I mean people come out, they come walk, they come to have their picture taken, but how do you tell folks that you're down in Florida when you're wearing a hat and scarf and gloves? It just doesn't fit.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. All right, Marty, we'll continue to watch this story from where you are. Thank you.

Congressional Democrats are back at work today on health care reform. It's looking more and more like the so-called public option we've been hearing so much about for months now, really, won't be a part of the reform legislation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicating she'll back off the public option as long as the reform package is affordable, has accountability and provides access for more Americans.

Republicans are calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now to step down from his posts because of a few racial remarks about President Obama. The comments appear in a book that goes on sale today.

And CNN congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, joining us now live from Washington with more on this story.

Brianna, good morning to you. Let's start with exactly what the majority leader said here. Pretty unbelievable.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, pretty unbelievable. Back in 2008, Heidi, in this book "Game Change." The book said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was wowed by then Senator Obama's rhetorical gifts and he said that Obama would succeed in part because of his, quote, "light skinned appearance," and speaking patterns with, quote, "no negro dialect unless he wanted to have one."

And these are the comments that are at the heart of this. They're being called insensitive and regrettable by Democrats, racist by Republicans -- Heidi.

COLLINS: So President Obama has said he accepted an apology from Harry Reid, but a few Republican leaders are now calling on him to step down from his position. They say there is a double standard here.

KEILAR: That's right. The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele. He says that when a Democrat says something racist, an apology will make up for it, and that's not the same standard for Republicans.

And then you have Senator Jon Kyl. He's the number two Republican in the Senate. He says that in 2002 when then majority leader, Trent Lott, had to step down after saying that if Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 on a platform that was all about keeping segregation alive and well -- Lott said that had Strom Thurmond been elected, the country could have avoided some of its problems over the years. And again, Lott stepped down over that. He faced a whole lot of fire on that. Republicans are drawing an analogy to what Reid said, but Democrats are saying that this is apples and oranges, and at that time, President Bush did not come to Lott's defense, Heidi, which is pretty interesting. Here you have President Obama who is very much at-bat for Harry Reid.

COLLINS: Yes, well, dynamic, obviously very different. What about the Congressional Black Caucus? What do they say?

KEILAR: And Senator Harry Reid had to apologize to so many different people. Civil rights leader including the CBC. The chairwoman of the CBC, Barbara Lee, she called the remarks unfortunate. But she said that Reid's record provides a stark contrast to Republicans who she skewered.

You know, she said for blocking legislation that would benefit poor and minority communities, in particular, she targeted Republicans' unanimous opposition to the Democrats' health care reform effort which Reid of course is leading -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. But then that being said, Reid is facing obviously a very tough reelection year. I mean there have been talk about issues regarding him being able to get his seat back before this happened.

KEILAR: That's right. It's hard to say exactly how this is going to affect that. It certainly doesn't help. That's what we can say. Poll numbers show that when you stack Reid up against two Republican challengers, Nevada voters are leaning toward the Republicans, and significantly so 10 months out from a very tough election day, Heidi.

Harry Reid needs to be doing himself a favor, and with these comments, he most certainly is not.

COLLINS: Brianna Keilar, on Capitol Hill this morning. Thanks so much, Brianna.

The father of the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Northwest passenger jet has been invited to U.S. capital. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father is invited to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The retired Nigerian banking executive had contacted the U.S. embassy in Nigeria with concerns about his son. No word yet on whether or not he will appear.

President Obama says the buck stops here when it comes to protecting our nation's security, but two influential senators say that's not enough. They want somebody to pay the price for missing signals about that Christmas day bombing attempt.

Also, kicking tires and checking under the hood. Detroit opens its annual auto show, but is the motor city's glimmer gone?


COLLINS: Two prominent senators want more accountability in the wake of that failed Christmas Day bombing attempt. A young Nigerian man is accused of trying to set off explosive device as the Northwest Airlines plane approached Detroit.

President Obama said last week ultimately he was responsible for the nation's security, but Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman say somebody has to pay.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: The National Counterterrorism Center, something went wrong. That's the place we created after 9/11, it served us very well, but it did not in this case. So if human errors were made, I think some of the humans who made those errors have to be disciplined so that they never happen again.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: People should be held responsible for what happened. And we can't go back to the old Washington kind of routine. We're all responsible so therefore no one is responsible. Someone's got to be held responsible.

Second of all, I don't think the president's action matched his rhetoric when we send this individual to a civilian court. That person should be tried as an enemy combatant, he's a terrorist. And he's -- if we're at war, then we certainly shouldn't be trying that individual in a court other than a military trial within -- to have a person be able to get lawyered up when we need that information very badly, I think betrays or contradicts the president's view that we're at war.


COLLINS: The president has ordered changes in the intelligence system intended to correct the weaknesses and errors found in a review done after the incident.

Passengers on a United jet are describing their frightening moments onboard after the pilot told them they needed to brace for a crash landing. The plane was making its final descend into Newark airport on Sunday morning when part of its landing gear malfunctioned.

All 48 passengers curled into those crash positions we have all seen demonstrated while the plane's electricity was shut off. The pilot landed the plane on just two wheels, and the passengers said he did it smoothly.

Have you noticed gas prices creeping back up again? Prices at the pump have jumped 14 cents now over the past two weeks. And that's according to the Lundberg survey. The average price nationwide, $2.74 for regular self serve.

Speaking of cars, it is showtime in Detroit. And the North American Auto Show kicks off there today and after a crippling year for the industry, automakers are trying to put their best foot forward now.'s Poppy Harlow is live for us in Detroit this morning.

Good morning to you, Poppy. What's the hope there this year?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. I'd say in a few words the hope is to have a year that is any better than 2009 was. Just the show just kicked off about an hour ago. A lot of press there inside.

You've got foreign automakers, U.S. automakers all showing off their newest vehicles. And what's very interesting about this year, Heidi, is there are a host of very high-profile lawmakers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is here right now, transportation secretary Ray LaHood.

Why? They want to see what the $80 billion in taxpayer money that went into this industry last year to save it from falling down completely. What that is going for.

Also what's very interesting, I just talked to one of the men at the held of General Motors, and he said we do think we will be able to pay back the U.S. government, but at least -- at least -- Washington is no longer neglecting us, meaning the U.S. auto industry, and Detroit as they did before.

Take a look.


HARLOW (voice-over): As the Detroit auto show kicks off this week, the U.S. auto industry can't put 2009 in its rearview mirror fast enough. U.S. auto sales fell by nearly three million units compared to 2008 and nearly 200,000 jobs were lost in the industry.

While buyers are tight fisted in the showrooms, the government was loose with its lending, doling out more than $80 billion to rescue automakers and the companies that lend to them.

The biggest recipient, General Motors.

CHRIS ISIDORE, SENIOR WRITER, CNNMONEY.COM: The best that most automakers could say about 2009 is that they survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the millions, upon millions...

HARLOW: Once the largest industrial company in the world, GM hasn't turned a profit since 2004 and was forced into bankruptcy by the government.

ISIDORE: GM had to get much smaller if it was going to survive. There are hopes that the four brands which are left will be well- positioned. But GM's never going to be able to dominate the marketplace the way it once did. HARLOW: Chrysler also dipped in and out of bankruptcy, then went to Italy, in economy class. Its ticket bought by Fiat with financial aid from the U.S. government.

Ford was bruised but not broken. It's the only one of the big three that didn't take a bailout. Sales were tough but trades in were hot, especially those sponsored by the government's Cash for Clunkers program.

More than $2.8 billion was kicked back to owners of gas guzzlers. And as we roll into the new year, analysts expect more restructuring. And that could mean more job losses unless sales find the accelerator.

ROBERT SCHULZ, AUTO ANALYST, STANDARD & POOR'S: For the domestic automaker certainly there's not an end to the restructuring. It might not be quite as dramatic, probably won't be as dramatic as what we saw in 2009. But there's still the product makeshifts that are on going.


HARLOW: All right, and it is, of course, Heidi, that product makes it so important here. What we're seeing a ton of electric cars, a ton of hybrid cars, and Heidi, I got to say very, very stiff competition from China, Korea, those foreign automakers...


HARLOW: ... that are obviously doing much better than in the U.S. Heidi?

COLLINS: Yes. They sure are. All right, Poppy Harlow. Thank you.

Sex, violence, smoking. Parents don't always like what they see in the movies, of course, but is Hollywood starting to set a better example for your kids?


COLLINS: Checking our top stories now. This is actually just coming into our newsroom here at CNN.

Six troops are killed in an intense fire fight in southern Afghanistan. Three of the service members are Americans. U.S. military officials say they were caught up in a fire fight with militants during operational patrol in the southern part of the country. Word of their deaths comes to us from NATO.

In Angola authorities have arrested two people in a machine gun attack on the togo national soccer team that left three people dead. And Angola News Service said the two men were captured at the same location where the bus carrying the soccer team came under fire. The suspects are said to be members of a separatist group that has claimed responsibility now for that attack.

Aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he won't resign. Republicans say he should step down for remarks he made about Barack Obama during the presidential campaign.

The authors of a new book quoted Reid as saying, Mr. Obama as a black candidate had a good shot thanks to his, quote, "light skin looks and lack of negro dialect." Over the weekend President Obama accepted Reid's apology and so has the Black Congressional Caucus.

And that brings us to today's blog question. We're asking you to fill in the blank once again for us. Harry Reid's comments were, dot, dot, dot. Tell us what you think and how you feel about those comments.

Again, the apology happened on Saturday. You can you read a little bit more about it on the blog. You just go to Tell us what you think and then I'll go ahead and read some of those comments coming up a little bit later in the show.


COLLINS: Another huge weekend for James Cameron's "Avatar." The sci-fi adventure was number one in the U.S. for the fourth weekend in the row with more than $48 million. It's already well past the $1 billion mark worldwide.

The studio hasn't said how much "Avatar" cost to make but it was more than $300 million by many estimates.

Adults understand that movies like "Avatar" are fantasies, but when it comes to kids, is Hollywood sending them the wrong message about what's safe to do?

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now to talk more about this.

So there is this new study out there, Elizabeth, that actually looks at scenes with dangerous contents in movies that we see out there in the theaters. Actually some improvements to report by way of how they're marketed to kids.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Exactly. What kind of behaviors are being showed.

I don't know if you've had this experience, but you go to a movie with your kid, and they showed, let's say, somebody in a car and they're not wearing a seat belt. And you feel like yelling at the screen, what are you doing?


COHEN: Kids are watching this movie, you shouldn't be showing something like that.

Well, over -- here's something I got the feeling that they were doing better. I was screaming at the screen less often and now the study, what it points out, is -- it's done by the Center for Disease Control, looked at 67 movies and found that yes, they are getting better. Take a look at this movie, for example. This is a 2005 movie, with Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo, called "Yours, Mine and Ours." And you'll see in a minute that the children on this boat are all wearing life vests.

Now that may seem like a small thing, but what this means is kids see these things and then they know that the next time they are in a boat they really ought to be wearing one. It becomes the norm to wear that.

So that is good news. Now the study found this wasn't the only behavior that's getting better in movies. They also found that personal floatation devices worn more often, seatbelts worn more often in movies, crossing at crosswalks rather than at random points in the streets, more commonly seen in movies, kids are wearing bicycle helmets now more in movies than they used to.

So all of that is good news.

COLLINS: Now, if we can just talk about the sexual content of...


COHEN: They didn't study that. That's a whole different question -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. So is the study saying that on average most movies are doing better? I mean they're really sort of adhering to these safety messages.

COHEN: No, sadly it's 50/50.


COHEN: So 50 percent of them were like what we just saw, but 50 percent of them were still showing unsafe behaviors like someone being in a car without a seatbelt.

COLLINS: Yes. Yes. All right, so what should parents do if they're watching a movie and there are some, you know, flagrant violation of what we've been telling our kids, you know, since the day they were born regarding safety.

COHEN: I'm going to answer that question with an actual example. So this is a movie that Ice Cube made and it's called -- I keep forgetting the name. "Are We There Yet", there we go.

So you'll in a minute that Ice Cube is riding a horse and he's not wearing a helmet, which of course you're supposed to be wearing an equestrian helmet.

COLLINS: And don't do that right next to a train.

COHEN: Right. Next to a train is bad. And then look at this, he gets thrown. Now, Heidi, what's interesting is he walks away from this. So if you see this with your child, you can see, hey, he walked away, but you know what, if that were you and me -- look, there he is walking. If that were you and me in real life, we can be paralyzed or even worse. Like in the movies, they're OK. In real life, not so much.

COLLINS: Yes. And then first they don't chase a train with a horse, right?

COHEN: Right. Because you'll lose. Right. Exactly. Not to mention the fact that you could get hurt. Exactly.


COLLINS: All right, Elizabeth Cohen. Thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

COLLINS: It could be a huge victory for supporters of same-sex marriage, or it could reaffirm the ban that California voters wanted. Proposition 8, it's going on trial in San Francisco today.


ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: Some new signs of recession is abating overseas, and that is boosting markets right here in the U.S., as you might imagine.

Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange now with a preview of the trading day this Monday.

Good morning to you, Susan.


A strong report out of China is helping to boost sentiment here as the opening bell rings. Chinese exports jumped by about 20 percent in December. China makes a lot of things and it makes more things if there is demand for them. That follows more than a year of decline and shows that recovery is on track in China.

It's also sending oil prices above $83 a barrel today on the sense that the global economy is improving.

And if China is making more things, that may bode well for Alcoa. The aluminum maker kicks off corporate earnings season with its report after the bell. It's expected to swing to a quarterly profit. We'll also hear from Intel and JPMorgan Chase later this week.

New year, new banks failure. The bank failure tally beginning again. The first bank to fail in 2010 is Horizon Bank in Washington state. Rival Washington Federal Savings is assuming all deposits.

Last year 140 banks failed, the most since 1992. And finally, Heidi, it's never too early for a beer, or at least a beer merger. Heineken is buying the beer-making operations of Mexico's Femsa. You may not know that name but you may know this name, Dos Equis?


LISOVICZ: Tecate? Sol?


LISOVICZ: For more than $7.5 billion for the price tag, it will cement Heineken's position at the world's second largest brewer.

And we've got a rally brewing in the first minute of trading. The Dow, the NASDAQ, S&P 500 each up by about a third of a percent.

Next hour, Heidi, we'll be talking about the January effect now that we've got the first trading week of the new year behind us.


LISOVICZ: What it could me for our portfolios? Looks good, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. I'll take it. I have to say before you I left you go that might quite possibly be the worst Spanish accent I have ever heard in my life.


COLLINS: It sounded Scandinavian. Anyway, we'll try again next hour. Susan Lisovicz, thank you.


LISOVICZ: You've got it.

COLLINS: There is no room for modesty these days when you're checking in at the airport. But how about privacy? Some people are worried about that. Turns out, those TSA full body scanners can store your very personal images and critics say the government wasn't upfront about that.

Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has a CNN exclusive.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The images produced by whole body scanners don't leave much to the imagination. But the Transportation Security Administration has said repeatedly, even on its Web site, your privacy will be protected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The system has no way to save, transmit or print the image. MESERVE: A 2008 press release says the machines have zero storage capability, but a TSA document written just three months earlier spelling out requirements for potential manufacturers said the machines had to have the capability to capture images of non- passengers for training and evaluation purposes.

The procurement document was recently obtained by EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: We think it's obvious the machines are designed to store and record images.

MESERVE (on camera): The TSA has been lying?

ROTENBERG: Yes, I would use a more polite word if I could, but it would be less accurate.

MESERVE (voice-over): The document specifies that to protect privacy during passenger screening, there will be no storage or exporting of images. But EPIC fears that the ability to save images during the test mode leaves open the potential for abuse by insiders and outsiders.

The document says the machines must have hard drives for storage and USB ports and Ethernet connectivity that could allow downloading of images.

An unspecified number of users including TSA headquarters, maintenance contractors and so-called super users have the ability to export raw image test data and can also change the 10 privacy settings built into the machines.

ROTENBERG: I don't think the TSA has been forthcoming with the American public about the true capability of these devices.

MESERVE: TSA officials tell CNN yes, the machines can retain and export images when they are at TSA testing facilities, but it says those functions are disabled by the manufacturer and machines are delivered to the airports without the capability to store, print or transmit images.

The TSA says there is no way for someone in the airport environment to put the machine into the test mode or change the privacy filters. The TSA says all images are deleted from the system after they are viewed by a remotely located operator, and it says the machines are not networked and cannot be hacked.


COLLINS: And Jeanne Meserve joining us now from Washington with more on this.

So, Jean, first off, what is the worry here? Some of these images are saved and then they might be abused in what manner?

MESERVE: Well, OK, they're saved the TSA says only during the test phase. This would only be at TSA laboratories. But what EPIC worries about is that somehow there might be some way to reactivate that storage capability and the ability to export the images.

So the fear is that perhaps very private images of somebody's body could end up somewhere it shouldn't be, for instance, on the Internet. The TSA says don't worry about it, the machines are disabled. EPIC is saying prove it to us.

COLLINS: OK. So they're stilling waiting for more proof. All right, thanks so much, Jeanne Meserve, for us this morning.

Is California's ban on same-sex marriage constitutional? That's the question as Proposition 8 goes on trial today in San Francisco. The case began as a lawsuit filed by two same-sex couples.

It's not a jury case. A district court judge will decide the outcome in this. In a controversial move, though, he's decided to broadcast the trial on YouTube.

Here's a quick timeline of the court case that's surrounding Prop 8. In May of 2008, a ruling in California's Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriage. But that window closed in November of 2008, when California voters passed Prop 8.

In May, 2009, the state Supreme Court upheld Prop 8. But under the ruling 18,000 same-sex marriages performed before the ban were allowed to stand.

Jury selection begins this morning in the trial of the man accused an abortion provider in Kansas. Prosecutors have charged Scott Roeder with first-degree murder. Witnesses say he gunned down Dr. George Tiller while he served as an usher during a church service.

Dr. Tiller was one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers. Roeder has admitted to killing him and says he did it to save unborn babies.

It's the time of year when banks start handing out bonuses and that that is bound to be unpopular with some of the public who bailed these guys out with hundreds of millions of dollars.

And Stephanie Elam is joining us now from New York to talk more about this.

So, just how controversial is this going to be for the industry, Stephanie?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It is going to be controversial. The controversy is already brewing at this point already, Heidi. And it's definitely a fine line that the banks have to walk on this one.

They have to keep their employees happy enough that they don't go traipsing off to find jobs in other companies that didn't get bailout money. But at the same time, they know publicly this is not going to read well when you take a look at the bonus pool. In fact, we're seeing that the bonus pool is a smaller percentage of revenues than it has been in the past. It's the smallest percentage ever. But at the same time the dollar amount of bonuses is larger and going back to levels that we saw in 2007 and upwards for some of those people before the meltdown.

Just to give you an idea of what they are saying about this, take a listen to what Christina Romer said this weekend to John king on "STATE OF THE UNION."


CHRISTINA ROMER, CHAIR, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: No one wanted to bail out the banks just for the bank's sake. It's because we know that credit is the lifeblood of a modern economy and without it families can't get loans to buy cars or send their kids to school and small businesses can't get loans. So we know that the financial sector matters.

But at the same time, right, we've had to take these extraordinary actions. And you would certainly think that the financial institutions that are now doing a little bit better would have some sense. And this big bonus season of course is going to offend the American people. It offends me.


ELAM: But the unemployment rate, too, in this country around 10 percent, Heidi, this really is upsetting people. Also a lot of people are saying banks haven't done enough to get credit moving again for a lot of small businesses out there who could go on and actually hire people and help lubricate the economy in that way and get those gears moving again.

So a lot of people are feeling like the banks just really are out of touch with how people feel. They just got rescued and then they're going on about business as usual.

COLLINS: Yes, and some people are also saying that banks, you know, are still trying to be cautious in it, they got burned before. So now they're in this position where they're sort of trying to temper the anger over these bonuses. What are they doing?

ELAM: Yes, there's a few things that they're doing. A lot of employers are finding out that they're getting less cash this time and they're getting more stocks. And for some of those, the higher up you go up the ranks, they have limits on when they can actually redeem that stock for cash. That's one change.

The other things is, you may -- as you may know, a lot of people on Wall Street, they get the bulk of their money through their bonuses. It's not about their base salary, it's about the bonuses. So they work a really hard year for this period. That's the pretty much understanding on Wall Street.

What they're looking to change is that some of these people will see an increase in their base salary so that they get more money throughout the year, so not all of it is tied up in what's going to happen in bonus season.

But obviously, this is a fine one for the banks. Because somebody like Golden Sachs says hey, we've had a record year, and they expect to pass some of that on to their employees. And the employees expecting it as well, but obviously they have to still deal with the public interest on this one.

COLLINS: Yes, all right, Stephanie Elam, covering the story for us. Thank you, Stephanie.

ELAM: Sure.

COLLINS: Well, if you think it's been cold in the eastern U.S. over the last week, just wait until you hear about the big chill overseas.


COLLINS: Checking on our top stories now.

In Iran hundreds of people detained after they protested last summer's presidential election were severely mistreated. That's according to an Iranian fact-finding committee.

The group's report says more than 100 detainees were packed into a small room with rapists and other dangerous criminals. The report also says they were not served proper food and left without proper ventilation.

And a late-night reshuffle on NBC brings Jay Leno full circle right back to the spot he held for 17 years. The network has announced it will bring the comedian back to his old 11:35 p.m. time slot after his new 10:00 p.m. show failed to deliver high ratings.

Only problem is "The Tonight Show" with Conan O'Brien currently occupies that spot, of course. No official word yet on what happens to him. The switch is expected to happen in February.

And bringing your own bottle takes a serious twist in Milwaukee. You're looking at incredible surveillance video of a man throwing what's called a Molotov cocktail inside a convenience store. Police believe the attacks was retaliation after two men were arrested for robbing the store. The cashier was not hurt bur several shelves were caught on fire.


COLLINS: Some people in northern California are cleaning up after a weekend earthquake. Watch these shoppers run for the exits when the 6.5 magnitude quake hit on Saturday afternoon. The quake knocked out power for thousands of people. But crews have now restored service to most areas.

We've also got some of your iReports on the quake. Jana Cochrane sent this video from Eureka showing the aftermath of the quake. Wow. No significant damage or serious injuries, though, were reported.

Rob Marciano joining us now with more on the weather situation because there was that earthquake over the weekend, but still people today really talking about the cold and when it's going to end.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's almost like, you know, the East Coast, and everybody was complaining, and then we talk about California, southern California, how beautiful it is this time of year. And you know -- and then you get a reminder, it's not perfect, you know.

COLLINS: It's not even close.

MARCIANO: You've got to deal with earthquakes and forest fires and mudslides and all that kind of stuff. So pretty close as paradise as is Florida, but this time of year or at least this week, not necessarily perfect either.


COLLINS: We want to take a closer look at that global cold with three of our correspondents now. We begin with Matthew Chance in Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As much of the rest of Europe shivers in this freezing weather, I think it's fair to say Russians have a unique attitude towards the cold, rather than let it shut their country down they actively embrace these frigid temperatures.

Its true Russia seems to handle the cold weather much better than elsewhere. It's fleet the snow plows and army of shoveling workers not cost-efficient in more temperate countries, means roads at least in the capital are kept snow free allowing people here to enjoy the coldest winter in some time.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: I am Morgan Neil in Chawton, England and we're taking a looking at how some of the small communities in the U.K. are dealing with these unusually severe weather conditions.

Let me just show you one of the biggest problems authorities are warning about right now. We've seen temperatures rise by a few degrees today and that's led to a lot of this sort of mush you can see. It would seem like good news, but what authorities say is it races a new risk, that of black ice making treacherous roads even worse.

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I am Kyung Lah in Tokyo where it is cold, but certainly not frigid like in other parts of the world, and not so cold that you cannot afford to put on your dressiest Kimono.

Today is the coming of age day, where you people celebrate turning 20, the official age of adulthood here. You can see some of these ladies have thrown on some fur scarves to stay warm. Tokyo is known for mild winters, about eight degrees centigrade, 46 degrees Fahrenheit today, it's so cool, but not so cold but you can enjoy this colorful holiday.


COLLINS: Fur in Japan, but swimming in Russia when it's cold. All right, guys thanks for that.

A vicious beating caught on tape. The man accused of the crime is no ordinary defendant, though; the defense strategy kind of unusual too.


COLLINS: A sheikh from one of Dubai's ruling families is acquitted on some very serious charges despite incriminating evidence caught on tape.

CNN's Stan Grant joins us live from Abu Dhabi now with more details on this. So, Stan good morning to you. Why, exactly, has this man been acquitted?

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Effectively it came down to diminished responsibility, Heidi. We're talking about Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Nahyan (ph) he is the son of a founder of the United Arab Emirates. Sheikh Zayed, his brother is the President of the UAE. Another brother is the crown prince of this region.

This is a story that went to the very heart of the royal family here and strained relations between the UAE and the United States, who normally have a very close relationship.

Now, he was charged with rape, endangering life and causing bodily harm. It all related to a deal that went wrong between himself and an Afghan grain dealer. Now, on the video tape that was released by a business associate of Sheikh Issa, you can see the Sheikh Issa and others torturing this man. Bullets were fired at him, he was hit with a stick, with protruding nails, repeatedly prodded with an electric protrude at one point he was driven over by a car and then salt poured into his wounds.

It came down to this, though. In his defense he said that he had been taking a collection of various medications and drugs. He'd had an adverse reaction to that. It had caused a violent reaction. He had medical witnesses testify to that as well. And the judge accepted that, Heidi. And that's why he's been acquitted despite five other people who are also charged over this being found guilty.

COLLINS: Yes and we remember this video when it came out; very, very upsetting to watch. Stan, his lawyer now claiming the Sheikh Issa himself is a victim in all of this?

GRANT: He does. Now, they are questioning the videotape, actually, saying that they believe part of it could well have been doctored. They also say that the business associate who released this video and his brother tried to set up Sheikh Issa. That they'd also supplied him with drugs and were trying to extort money for him. In that case his lawyer says Sheik Issa rather being the perpetrator of this crime is in fact one of the victims -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Stan Grant in Abu Dhabi this morning. Thank you Stan.

Well, it's looking like a very busy day in the NEWSROOM. We're following all the stories. We want to get to our correspondents.

First off, Dan Simon for us in San Francisco. Hi Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Heidi.

When you think about the big Supreme Court cases in American history: Brown versus Board of Education; Roe versus Wade. Well, this case involving same-sex marriage has a potential to rank right up there, it's called Perry versus Schwarzenegger; the fight over Proposition 8 in California begins in a federal courthouse behind me in a few hours.

Heidi, we'll have that story at the top of the hour. Back to you.

MARCIANO: I'm Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Severe weather outbreak, as far as cold air goes, again, no. We have stopped the Arctic express, at least for now. We'll tell you how cold it got in Florida last night next hour.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta. Migraine sufferers know that it's very bad to be in a well-lit room when you're suffering a migraine. Now new brain images show why. I'll have that at the top of the hour.

COLLINS: All right, thanks so much, guys.

Also ahead: trying to get a pulse on the housing market. In our snapshot across America we'll see who's buying and where. Also the reality check facing sellers.


COLLINS: Sometimes it's easier to talk about budget cuts on a mass scale, but it is a different story when you start putting faces on the people affected. Our Kate Bolduan has more now from Maryland.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four-year-old Carson Brewster has a rare chromosomal disorder. Her mother Michelle left a contracting job four years ago to care for Carson full time.

MICHELLE BREWSTER, MOTHER: She can't care for herself. You know, we got to change her clothes. She gets food fed through a tube. She's got over 22 doctors.

BOLDUAN (on camera): Twenty-two doctors?


BOLDUAN (voice-over): With $13,000 in out of pocket medical expenses last year alone, Brewster says supplemental funds from the state of Maryland have been essential to her family's financial survival for years. But the economy has struck even this vulnerable segment of the population.

Faced with a $700 million budget shortfall, Maryland cut nearly $30 million from the state's Developmental Disabilities Administration.

BREWSTER: It's ok.

BOLDUAN: For the Brewsters that means painful decisions. The extra help for things like diapers, medication and physical therapy dropped from $2,500 to just $300.

(on camera): What does that really mean for you guys?

BREWSTER: A struggle. A struggle to figure out how we're going to help our -- you know, how to help our daughter and make sure that we have the money to make sure our other children get, too. Mom and dad, me and my husband, we can wait. Our kids can't. That's what it's all about out.

BOLDUAN: Outraged by the state's action, advocates for the developmentally disabled launched a state-wide campaign holding town halls to fight the budget cut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think people realize how this can totally devastate your family.

BOLDUAN: State officials say they understand. Especially in this sluggish economy, every cut hurts someone. But they defend the governor's budget decision.

CATHERINE RAGGIO, SECRETARY, MARYLAND DEPT. OF DISABILITIES: He was able to protect services for people with disabilities throughout most of the budget-cutting rounds. But the choices are getting much more difficult to make. It's not easy anymore.

BOLDUAN: And not easy for states across the country.

A recent report by the Pew Center suggests states' budget troubles are having far reaching impact on residents.

SUSAN URAHN, PEW CENTER ON THE STATES: As the states face increasingly severe budget troubles the public is definitely going to feel it. They'll pay more taxes. They'll pay higher fees.

BOLDUAN: With the $2 billion budget shortfall projected in Maryland for 2011, Brewster says she has no idea what's in store for her family's financial future. She only hopes more cuts aren't on the horizon for her daughter and so many others.

BREWSTER: They didn't ask to be disabled. We're not asking for a handout. We're just asking for a little bit of help. That's it.

BOLDUAN: Kate Bolduan, CNN, Frederick County, Maryland.