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AMERICAN MORNING

Twelve Arrested in Britain Terror Plot; South Korea on High Alert After Live-Fire Military Exercises; Winter Storms Pounds West Coast: A Look at the Korean Showdown; Vick, Eagles Deliver "Miracle"; Pentagon Monitoring Korean Crisis; Cell Phone Addiction

Aired December 20, 2010 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning to you. It is the 20th of December. Thanks for joining us on the Most News in the Morning. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us. We have a lot going on this morning. We want to get you caught up on what's happening overnight.

At war's door, South Korea on high alert after conducting a military drill. Its neighbor to the North, threatening retaliation. This morning we're live in Seoul, South Korea where tensions are very high right now.

ROBERTS: California slowed to a crawl. By the end of the day, there could be 10 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada. And there's a lot of concern about possible mud slides, as well. The latest on the extreme weather that is walloping the west coast this morning.

CHETRY: For Eagles fans, it certainly was a Christmas miracle at the Meadowlands. Quarterback Michael Vick leading an incredible fourth quarter comeback. They were down 21-10. We'll talk to a former NFL player about Vick's MVP performance. It was actually 31-10 they were down. The latest milestone on his long road back.

ROBERTS: Up first this morning, though. A developing story. Police in Britain arresting 12 suspected terrorists in early morning raids in several cities. They say it's part of a large-scale counterterrorism investigation.

CHETRY: Following the latest developments for us this morning, CNN's Dan Rivers. He is on the phone in London this morning just outside of Scotland Yard. What did you learn this morning, Dan?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, this is a significant operation we're being told by a security source with knowledge of the operation. Five of the men were arrested in Cardiff in Wales, four in Stoke, three in London, their age between 17 and 28 years old. And they've been arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation, or instigation of an act of terrorism. They were detained by unarmed officers at dawn this morning and are being held in police stations in London, in the northwest and in the west midlands. This is being described as a large scale pre-planned intelligence-led operation involving several police officers.

When I pressed the source on what was the target or method of this supposed alleged act of terrorism. He said at the moment they're not discussing that but did point up that in previous raids, sometimes they've gone in before they know exactly what the target is or what exactly these men are going to do. He points it to an operation back in 2009 -- operation pathway in Manchester where they simply didn't know exactly what the target was but they felt they had to go in and arrest these men.

Now, in that particular case, 11 of them were released without charge subsequently. So that wasn't a particularly successful outcome for the security forces here. In this case, these 12 men remain in custody at the moment. We're waiting to try and get some more details.

ROBERTS: Dan, of course, last week, we had the warning out of Iraq from Al Qaeda in Iraq that terrorists were going to target the U.K., Europe and the United States. Do we know if this is any way connected to that threat?

RIVERS: We don't know. We understand that all of the men (INAUDIBLE) are all of Pakistani descent. We're not quite sure yet if they are British citizens of Pakistani origin or if they are indeed Pakistani nationals. We're being told fairly clearly there are no links to that attack in Sweden a few days ago. This is a completely separate inquiry.

But to give you an idea of the sort of level of evidence that previous investigations have gone through, for example, I was pointing to "operation overt," which was the liquid bomb plots on airlines that first was uncovered in 2006. In that particular case, 26,000 exhibits were uncovered, 102 properties were raided, and 14,000 gigabytes of information found on computers.

So, that's the kind of level of complexity of operations they felt within the path. It sounds like this is going to be on a similar level in that we've got 12 different individuals now in custody. As I say, we'll probably get more information today at the moment. We just simply don't know too much more about the target or the method of delivery.

CHETRY: All right. Well, Dan, I know you'll be working your sources this morning. We'll check in with you throughout the morning. Dan Rivers for us on the phone from England. Again, 12 people arrested in early-morning raids in several cities, part of a large- scale counterterrorism measure in the U.K. And we'll continue to follow that this morning.

Also new this morning, the whole world watching, a Korean Peninsula edging closer to the brink of war. Overnight South Korea conducted live fire exercises near the very same island that the North attacked last month.

ROBERTS: Seoul is going ahead with the drill despite the North's warning that it will strike back. Our Kyung Lah is live. She's in Seoul, South Korea. So what happened during these drills? Was there any threat of retaliation from the North during the actual exercise?

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, during the exercise, we didn't hear anything from the North. But in the hours leading up to this exercise, John, we heard very loudly from the North that they would retaliate up to the exercise. It was 94 minutes that this drill was going on, this was a nation, South Korea, that is, preparing for such an attack. The government issued a take cover order for five border islands affecting some 8,000 civilians on those islands telling them to get into bunkers -- bunkers that could withstand any sort of missile attack from the North.

Over South Korea, we saw over the peninsula fighter jets that were scrambled to have a bird's eye view with eyes to the North just in case the North did indeed decide to attack. But at the end of the day, a region that today was poised in a possible miscalculation tipping this country into a war and the region right with it, it did not happen. South Korea's president saying that the drills were justified, fair and successful -- John, Kiran.

CHETRY: Kyung Lah for us, thank you.

In just about 10 minutes, we're going to be talking to Gordon Chang, author and expert on tensions between the North and the South. We're going to get his take on just how dire the situation is on the peninsula this morning.

ROBERTS: And at 6:30 Eastern with nearly 30,000 American forces permanently based in South Korea, the U.S. has a huge stake in that region. We'll talk about with our Barbara Starr who's live at the Pentagon this morning.

CHETRY: Meantime, a huge winter storm ripping through the west coast this morning. Up to 10 feet of snow could fall in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range. The National Weather Service says that traveling at high elevations today will be next to impossible. And from San Diego to Los Angeles, the concern there, flash flooding -- flash floods slowing freeways to a crawl. Areas affected by wildfires earlier this year are considered prime targets for mudslides.

We're getting a closer look now at that west coast storm and also the rest of the nation's weather. Rob Marciano in the extreme weather center for us this morning. Ten feet, I mean, they're used to snow in the Sierra Nevadas, but wow.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And on top of that, some of the (INAUDIBLE) sites up there, that automated weather observation sites have recorded wind gusts over 150 miles an hour at a number of locations up and down the Sierras. From the southern Sierras to the northern Sierras, so this is a beast. And we haven't seen a system or series of systems like this since back in 2005. So the moisture plume is in place. As a matter of fact, it goes beyond Hawaii. So this is like the super duper pineapple express and it continues to pump moisture into central, northern and southern California. And I think southern is going to be the focus here as we go through time.

Here is the radar. A lot of moisture coming into the entire western half of the country from Seattle all the way down to San Diego. And we've seen upwards of a foot of rain in some spots in SoCal. Some of the higher population cities have seen anywhere from two to six inches of rain with more rain on the way obviously there, especially from Bakersfield back through Santa Monica, in through Los Angeles and San Diego. So slides, landslides and mudslides are going to be the main concern here as we go through the next 48 to 60 hours.

Back to the east, boy, we had a near miss as far as a huge nor'easter that could have walloped the east coast over the weekend. That's good news but bad news as folks who live in e4astern Mass are dealing with some cold and some snow today.

A lot of stuff going on, guys. We'll talk more about this two systems later on in the broadcast.

ROBERTS: And sounds like you didn't quite escape the cold that's going around, Rob.

MARCIANO: I'm battling it, baby. I'm battling it.

ROBERTS: Good for you for coming in this morning. Thanks, Rob.

CHETRY: Feel better.

Well, extreme weather making travel in Europe a nightmare this morning. Thousands of passengers have been stranded at airports in Germany and England. Only seven flights were able to leave Heathrow yesterday. And widespread cancellations and delays are expected throughout Europe today. Southern England could also see several feet of new snow today. In France, Lady Gaga had to reschedule her concert because her tour trucks were not allowed on the snow-packed roads.

ROBERTS: This morning, the Senate is going to be back at work trying to hammer out a new nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia. START hit a snag yesterday when key Republicans insisted they needed more time to study the deal. It calls for resuming mutual inspections of American and Russian nuclear arsenals and it would limit both countries to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers each.

CHETRY: And a bill that gives health benefits to 9/11 first responders could finally pass the Senate this week. It's gaining support among Republicans now that Democrats trimmed more than a billion dollars off of the price tag. Supporters are hopeful that the measure will pass by the end of the week once the Senate finishes debate on the START treaty.

Well, one man's miracle is another man's nightmare. Certainly a nightmare if you're a Giants fan. That's how things played out at the new Meadowlands stadium last night where Michael Vick led a stunning fourth quarter comeback by the Philadelphia Eagles. They scored 21 straight points, ended up tying the game. And just when it seemed sure to go into overtime, the Giants inexplicably punted to the Eagles DeSean Jackson and that was all. He was actually surprised himself. He ran it all the way back to a game-winning score just as time ran out. It was a heartbreaking game that most Giants fans would like to forget. But a stunning comeback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

ROBERTS: A lot of people who were there and they said they just could not believe what happened.

Green Bay Packers threw a scare at the New England Patriots last night. Came down to the final play. Packers quarterback Matt Flynn got sacked and the Pats survived winning 31-27, improving their record now to 12-2. They clinched the AFC East and appear likely to get home field advantage in the playoffs.

CHETRY: Coming up, we're going to have more on the growing tensions in South Korea. What does it really mean? And how will the North react to the South's live military exercises? Is the Korean Peninsula on the brink of war? We're going to talk to an expert about where all of this is heading.

ROBERTS: Not exactly politics as usual in Ukraine where a dispute between their ruling and opposition parties turned into a bloody brawl in the parliament chamber. Several lawmakers ended up in the hospital. We'll tell you what triggered that violence.

CHETRY: Also, if you still have some last-minute shopping to do, there's a few days now until Christmas. Your smartphone may help you save money. We'll show you how coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Thirteen minutes past the hour. Back to the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The South just wrapping up live fire exercises from an island. The same island that was shelled by North Korea last month. The North Koreans vowing that it could ignite a war.

ROBERTS: And here to help us understand why the South went ahead with the exercise and what the North might do next is Gordon Chang. He's an expert on the area, author and columnist for forbes.com.

Gordon, great to see you again this morning.

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Thank you.

ROBERTS: So the North going into this live-fire exercise, which seemed to come off without incident on either side, was really rattling the saber saying this could be a prelude to war and, you know, inevitable consequences on the Korean Peninsula. Do you think it's really going to come to that or is this just a lot of saber rattling?

CHANG: Well, you know, I think the North Koreans will retaliate and they will use deadly force. But I don't think they'll do it until the guard of the South Koreans are down. So essentially, you know, they're not going to do it now when everyone's really looking at them. I think what they'll do is they'll wait three or four months and then do something really horrific.

ROBERTS: And then what are the consequences of that?

CHANG: Well, I think then the South Koreans probably will have to retaliate. We will see some sort of cycle. Because after the shelling of the South Korean island which you just mentioned, it really energized or it just -- the South Korean population was just enraged. And not only just the conservatives, but also the progressives. And essentially what happened is that they all decided that this was really enough was enough and that something had to be done about North Korea.

CHETRY: And so, what can be done at this point? I mean, is this all-out war? And if so, what are the consequences?

CHANG: I think one of --

CHETRY: Do we get dragged in the United -- as the United States?

CHANG: Yes. I think one of the things the United States should do is really redirect its diplomacy away from the United Nations and away from China, because, as we saw yesterday at that emergency session, the U.N. cannot do anything right now because of China's opposition.

And what we should really do is look at our friends, South Korea and Japan, and I think there are a number of things that we could do in terms of enhanced sanctions that really would get the attention of not only the North Koreans, but the Chinese, as well.

ROBERTS: At the same time, Gordon, that all of this is going on, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is -- is over in North Korea on an unofficial visit --

CHANG: Right.

ROBERTS: -- because these things could never be sanctioned like that. And he's talking with the North Koreans, and they appear to be ready to make some concessions on their nuclear program, including inviting inspectors back in to see the brand new enrichment facility that they have construction.

Is -- is there a chance Richardson could move the ball forward here, do you think?

CHANG: Well, there is a chance. But, you know, for instance, the North Koreans allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency back into Yongbyon (ph) where that plant was really doesn't mean very much because everybody thinks that the North Koreans have three or four more facilities, and -- and the North Koreans have not allowed inspectors into there.

CHETRY: A bit of a shell game in terms of that.

CHANG: It's a bit of a shell game. And so, you know, there are positive aspects with what Bill Richardson is doing. But, on the other hand, when you look at those agreements, we really got to see how they're going to work out on the details because we've gone down this road before with the green --

CHETRY: Right. And --

CHANG: -- with the North Koreans about their plutonium.

CHETRY: And what you said caught my attention as well, because we've gone down the road of sanctions before, and I -- how can increased sanctions really make a difference if China's not onboard?

CHANG: Well, China can always make up for our sanctions. But there are certain things that we can do that China cannot really counteract. So, for instance, in 2005 the Bush administration put into place financial sanctions and we cut North Korea off from the global financial system and that really did hurt the regime. And -- and China can't really do anything to remedy that.

So there are things that we can do that can hurt Kim Jong-Il and could have an effect in terms of pushing him in the right direction.

ROBERTS: Gordon Chang, it's always great to see you. Thanks for dropping by this morning.

CHANG: Thank you.

CHETRY: Good to see you. Thanks.

Well, coming up, what really happened to Amelia Earhart? It's an age-old question, it seems. Well, scientists hope that bone fragments found on a remote island will end the 70-year-old mystery surrounding her disappearance.

ROBERTS: And political fisticuffs in Ukraine, a wild brawl in the parliament chamber puts several lawmakers in the hospital and left many others with cuts and bruises. They were throwing chairs, they were doing it all. We'll tell you what triggered the outburst, coming right up.

It's 18 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Twenty minutes after the hour now, and some of the stories that got us talking in the newsroom early this morning.

Bone fragments that were found on a remote South Pacific island could solve -- could solve -- the 70-year-old mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart. She's famous, of course, for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, but also for her disappearance as she attempted to circumnavigate the globe in 1937.

Scientists are hoping to extract DNA from the bones to determine if they are Amelia Earhart's remains.

CHETRY: The mystery continues.

ROBERTS: It does. CHETRY: Well, Democrats at work -- actually, it was democracy at work. They weren't Democrats. It was in the Ukraine. It was a brawl erupting in parliament last week. Now we have the video of it. They were throwing chairs, punches.

Opposition deputies slugged it out behind the speaker's chair with members of the ruling party. They were protesting a criminal investigation against the leader of the Ukrainian opposition party, and boy, things got ugly. As we said, people ended up in the hospital, not just with cuts and bruises, but some were pretty hurt.

ROBERTS: Yes, well, as we saw as far as back as Geraldo getting hit with a chair, it does leave a mark, doesn't it?

This family in Lake Mary, Florida really takes Christmas decorating seriously. I-Reporter USA Isn't Yours sent us this incredible display. The light show last more than a minute and has become quite the neighborhood attraction, as you could imagine.

CHETRY: Pretty cool.

ROBERTS: By the way, if you see something that you want to share, shoot it and send it to us. Go to CNN.com and click on the i- Report stub.

CHETRY: That's a cool, cool house. I like that. And that tree for good measure.

ROBERTS: Not bad.

CHETRY: Well, the folks at JibJab are at it again. You know, these are the guys that have become known for their funny, animated online year-end review songs, and this year they did not disappoint. Their latest video features puppets of President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, so here's a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(JIBJAB YEAR IN REVIEW VIDEO PLAYING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: That's a whole new thing for them. That's great.

CHETRY: Yes, the -- the anime -- the puppets.

ROBERTS: Yes, as opposed to the just the cut out mouths, the one (INAUDIBLE) mouths. Very good, guys.

CHETRY: Well, coming up, everyone's talking about the Eagles' huge come-from-behind victory over the Giants on Sunday, everybody except our Giants fans in here who would like to forget. But we're going to take a look at what it means for their leader on the field, quarterback Michael Vick.

ROBERTS: And developing news on the Korean peninsula, South Korea conducting military drills, live fire exercises despite the North's warning that it will retaliate. Live report from Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

It's been 32 years since the Miracle at the Meadowlands left the Giants at a franchise low. Well, this morning, the Giants have a new miracle to deal with after the Philadelphia Eagles soared -- scored 28 fourth quarter points to beat them. DeSean Jackson's punt return for a touchdown as time expired. This is what you're seeing here, really sealed the disaster for Giants fans and, of course, for the team.

Joining us from Atlanta to talk about the new Meadowlands miracle and the performance of Eagles' quarterback Michael Vick, former NFL running back Jamal Anderson.

Good morning, Jamal. Great to see you.

JAMAL ANDERSON, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Great to see you, too, Kiran. How are you?

CHETRY: Full disclosure, I come from a Philadelphia Eagles family. I married into it. OK? It was not willing on my part at all.

But they had changed the channel. I mean, a lot of my relatives said I can't watch this disaster, they're getting killed and they were quite surprised when they watched the highlight reel. Break down for us what exactly was going on in that game.

ANDERSON: Unbelievable. The Philadelphia Eagles were essentially out of this game, Kiran. I mean, you look at this game up until the fourth quarter. The Philadelphia Eagles were dominated on the ground. They were dominated defensively. In fact, Michael Vick had been pretty much contained.

Then, all of a sudden, the fourth quarter comes and Michael Vick takes off. Essentially puts up al of his stats in the fourth quarter, threw for nearly 250 yards, another 130 yards rushing, and then, of course, we saw the last play of the game. The Giants' punter punts the ball right down the football field to DeSean Jackson, who picks it up right there in the middle of the football field and breaks down the middle, through a couple of New York Giants and into the end zone.

And the most painful part -- right here at the end, he kind of stalls and makes sure he takes all the time so the Giants can't come back. Completing an amazing comeback in the -- in the fourth quarter where they scored 31 points on the Giants.

CHETRY: I mean, what's amazing now, I mean, you can look at the flip side and say the Giants did really well and played a really good game. And, you know, everyone's saying Michael Vick, he's so great. He's so great. Why did he let them get into a 21-point deficit going into the fourth quarter? ANDERSON: Well, the New York Giants have a fantastic defense. I mean, you know, Osi Umenyiora and that defensive line. He's been doing a very good job the past couple of weeks of containing quarterbacks, getting to quarterbacks. And then knew -- we knew that was going to be a difficult thing for Michael Vick. They showed a possibility to get to him when they played in -- in Philadelphia the first time around and Vick and the Eagles were able to beat them.

So it was surprising that they were -- they were able to be as successful, but they followed a similar game plan that the Chicago Bears did a couple of weeks ago against Vick. But look what happens.

CHETRY: Yes.

ANDERSON: Can I just hold this guy for three quarters? You got it.

CHETRY: Right. And this is the interesting thing. I mean, both in his personal life and what you saw in the field. I mean, people had written him off. I mean, he was --

ANDERSON: Right.

CHETRY: -- he was in Leavenworth. He was, you know --

ANDERSON: Right.

CHETRY: -- he was a convicted -- you know, he was a convicted dogfighter. He was the most reviled person in sports. And now he's a winner. He's an MVP contender. It's a redemption story and he sort of --

ANDERSON: It is.

CHETRY: -- lived that out yesterday. I mean, down 21 points. Who would -- who would think that they could come back and then win it?

ANDERSON: No, that's absolutely true. And you think about this right now, Kiran. Here's a guy who was in Leavenworth, like you said. Think of this turnaround the past 18 months, up Friday and in fact today this morning, Michael Vick is leading the Pro Bowl voting, the fan Pro Bowl voting for all players in the NFL.

CHETRY: Right.

ANDERSON: That's more votes than Tom Brady. That's more votes than Peyton Manning. That's more votes than the defending Super Bowl MVP and Super Bowl champ Drew Brees, three of the most popular players in the NFL, three of the top players in all of football. He is leading the Pro Bowl voting.

CHETRY: Right.

ANDERSON: So you're talking about this comeback and what he's been through going from being a pariah. And, in fact, you know, you're a Philadelphia Eagles fan. There were a lot of people in Philadelphia who were angered when Michael Vick was picked up by the Eagles.

CHETRY: Yes. They dubbed (ph) never to watch again. How times have changed.

ANDERSON: Yes.

CHETRY: How times have changed.

Just really quickly, I want to ask you about this brouhaha about the dog situation.

ANDERSON: Right.

CHETRY: The president of the Humane Society came out. Vick was asked in an interview, would you want to own a dog again? And he said some day he hopes he would like to do that.

ANDERSON: Right.

CHETRY: The Humane Society backed it and people are furious. What to make of this?

ANDERSON: You've got to put it in context. Just like he said, some day, part of the -- you've got to listen to what he said -- part of the rehabilitation process, which, in fact, is true, is once again owning a dog and proving that you are capable of owning a dog and housing a dog with your family. He wants to do it for his family. He wants to do it for his children.

And, in fact, part of his rehabilitation process, proving that he was convicted of such heinous crimes against dogs that if he can own a dog again and be a successful owner, completes the full turn around.

He's done everything else on the football field and off the field. So, why not? Down the line, I certainly understand it. So, people kind of relax. He's not talking about getting a dog tomorrow. He's saying down the line.

CHETRY: Still a lot of anger and high emotion around that.

ANDERSON: True. Very true.

CHETRY: You can't take away his game on the field. Jamal Anderson, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

ANDERSON: My pleasure. Thank you.

CHETRY: Coming up in about an hour, we're going to talk more about this. Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society, will be joining us to explain those comments of Michael Vick wanting to be a dog owner.

ROBERTS: And meantime, crossing the half hour, it's time for this morning's top stories this morning.

A new study says millions of Americans are drinking tap water contaminated with a suspected cancer-causing chemical called hexavalent chromium. That is the same chemical, if it sounds familiar to you, that was made famous in the film "Erin Brockovich." The study was done by an organization called the Environmental Working Group. They found the chemical in the drinking water in 31 out of 35 cities they tested.

CHETRY: Do they know if you use a filter if it can take it out or not?

ROBERTS: I'm not sure if it does or if it doesn't.

CHETRY: Pretty scary.

Well, police in Britain arresting 12 suspected terrorists in early morning raids in several cities, part of large scale counterterrorism investigation. Police say that suspects ranging in age from 17 to 28 posed a threat to public safety. There was no word on what the target might have been.

According to our Nic Robertson, they were Pakistani nationals, but not -- Pakistani descent, but not sure if they were nationals or if they were British citizens.

ROBERTS: And the Korean Peninsula on pins and needles this morning. Despite the threat so far, there has been no signs of retaliation by the North after South Korea's live-fire military exercise overnight. Those drills took place not far from the island that Pyongyang attacked last month.

CHETRY: With nearly 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, the Pentagon, of course, has a huge stake in what happens in the region.

ROBERTS: And, of course, they're watching developments very closely this morning.

Our Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon.

And, Barbara, you've been working your sources all weekend. You've got some new information to share with us.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, John and Kiran. If you want to know just how seriously this was taken here at the Pentagon, we have just learned that overnight last night, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, came into the Pentagon and spent a good deal of time here inside the building monitoring the situation as it unfolded. It is very unusual for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to work on a Sunday night inside the building.

That is the level of concern that the Obama administration had overnight about these exercises. I've asked senior Pentagon officials if they now consider it all over and done with. And they say no. That they will continue to watch very closely for any North Korean reaction despite the statements from Pyongyang that it's in their words not worth reacting to.

They have been down this road so many times with the North Koreans. They still believe the regime is unpredictable. They will watch and watch around the clock -- John, Kiran.

CHETRY: So, this confrontation may be between the North and the South, but, of course, as we said, the U.S. has a lot of stake. I mean, would we get into the military aspect of this if forced?

STARR: Well, their hope, of course, is that hostilities do not break out. The U.S. has plenty of fire power in the region.

But the military strategy by the Obama administration so far is to stay out of sight -- to monitor, to try and basically hold the South Koreans' hands behind the scenes saying stay calm, don't, you know, don't go over the cliff on this one. And the U.S. has kept its intelligence and reconnaissance assets up and flying 24/7, satellites, reconnaissance aircraft, watching constantly for any North Korean movements. They haven't seen much of anything out of the unusual in this time frame.

One of the decisions was that the U.S. wouldn't move in with an aircraft carrier or some of the typical things you'd think they might do because they didn't want to be party to any unforeseen provocations. They wanted to keep it as low key as they possibly could -- John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: All right. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon this morning, watching the situation -- thanks. We'll check back with you a little later on.

Well, we're in the final week of Christmas shopping now. You just got a few days left. How your smartphone could help you find that last-minute deal you're looking for.

CHETRY: Teens and texting. We know they do it a lot. But could it be harmful to their health? The first part of our series on cell phone addiction.

Thirty-five minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Thirty-eight minutes after the hour now. With just less than a week to go before Christmas, last-minute shoppers are pulling out the stops, and many people are going to their smartphones for help, using application to scan bar codes and compare in store prices to prices online and other brick and mortar outlets trying to find the best deal.

CHETRY: It's pretty cool. I mean, it saves you some of the driving, actually. So, what app fits you best?

Joining us now to break them down is our tech expert and a C- Net contributor, Katie Linendoll.

Good to see you this morning, Katie.

KATIE LINENDOLL, C-NET CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks to you both.

CHETRY: So, there are a bunch of them out there.

LINENDOLL: Yes.

CHETRY: The Find, RedLaser -- Amazon has one now, as well. And what you basically do is -- and we're just going to show it quickly right here. I have my iPhone.

LINENDOLL: Right.

CHETRY: You know, my handy device. And let's say I pick RedLaser. All you do is actually scan -- and you have a Bluetooth system. You actually find the bar code, scan it with your phone -- as you can see, I'm doing it here. And it will show you the product. And then it's searching, it says online and locally. And it'll show you where you can get it.

And the prices range 64 bucks at one place, the SellGuru.com, to about $101 at some place else. So -- I mean, you can really save money if you can figure out where to get these.

LINENDOLL: Yes. And the idea is to really use technology to find the best deals in the marketplace. The one that you're using right there is RedLaser. It's an acquisition of eBay. Six million have been downloaded since it was released.

Just be in a store, find a product, and say, you know what, am I getting the best deal? I'm going to scan it and find out. It will tell you if there's one closer within driving distance to find a better deal or it will tell you online, as well.

And RedLaser's a good example of one that pairs with places like Coupons.com and The Knot. It will also let you know if there's coupons available, too.

ROBERTS: It's great for consumers. Not so good for retailers.

LINENDOLL: No.

ROBERTS: They're driven nuts by these things, aren't they?

LINENDOLL: And actually, Best Buy came out and said, oh, my gosh, we may be taking a hit from this. We're knowing that mobile devices are becoming more and more powerful in terms of our retail shopping experience. So, Best Buy said, oh, my gosh, we need to think about this and they actually paired up with The Find, which is another app.

The Find, actually, when you're in a store like Wal-Mart, it will say, we have better deals for you at Best Buy. So, how crazy is that?

ROBERTS: It knows you're in the Wal-Mart. It knows you might be shopping at a competitor for the same product you can get at Best Buy?

LINENDOLL: Yes.

ROBERTS: Wow. That's a little "Big Brother," isn't it?

LINENDOLL: You have to opt in.

CHETRY: Yes.

ROBERTS: OK.

CHETRY: You have to opt in and asks you, do you want them to know your current location, yes or no? And you can hit "OK." The reason that that does make sense is -- I mean, look, we're talking about three or four shopping days left -- is that, you know, you want them to know exactly where you are if you have to drive to the store and o get it, because they're going to find them in your area.

So, it is really interesting and helpful. Has it made -- has it brought prices down in general in that competitors know I can't really trick people as easily, you know, into paying retail because they know that they can find it a little bit cheaper somewhere else.

LINENDOLL: Yes, it is amazing hour our cell phones are becoming powerful. We'd just named three of the most popular bar code scanning apps. There's RedLaser, ShopSavvy, and also The Find and (AUDIO BREAK) and they're free.

So, it's kind of like, you know what? If I'm in the store, I'm looking for a great price, why not? So, it's becoming powerful and it's just so interesting to note that Black Friday this year -- last year, it was 0.1 percent of people used their phones in terms of retail shopping.

ROBERTS: Point-point-one percent.

LINENDOLL: Point-one. This year, 5.6 percent.

ROBERTS: Wow.

LINENDOLL: So, it's a telltale for the direction that we're going to try to find deals. It's right there.

ROBERTS: Kiran demonstrated RedLaser. You also mentioned ShopSavvy.

LINENDOLL: Yes.

ROBERTS: What does ShopSavvy give you? Because there are all these -- I mean, there's many different apps out there and we're trying to find the best one for you.

LINENDOLL: Yes. I think there's over 600,000 apps right now on the iPhone.

ROBERTS: Oh, my God.

LINDENDOLL: So, it's remarkable to kind of cut through the clutter. ShopSavvy is interesting because what's cool about it -- again, that comparison option to see what the best deals are out there. But you can also create lists. For example, this holiday season I've created a list for my mom, one for my dad, and I've saved them so I know that, at the end of the day, I can go back and see what I've searched through and take the best choice available.

CHETRY: Yes, some of the list. Another one that's good. Some of them offer you to say it or just snap a picture of it so that if you don't have the bar code --

LINENDOLL: Right.

CHETRY: -- you know, you don't remember, you remember seeing it somewhere, you can actually verbally say it, as well.

But it is really interesting to see how all of this is changing the way that we shop.

LINDENDOLL: Very much so.

CHETRY: Is it -- is it helping us save money, you know, in terms of making sure that you're not getting tricked. It may say it's $61 and the competitor's $90, but they didn't add on the shipping and tax yet.

LINENDOLL: Yes. You're going to double-check those info. What I found really interesting is that I've been in a big box retail location and I said, listen, I have a better deal. It is remarkable to know that you can kind of negotiate and haggle even at those big retail locations. So, you know what? You pop up in your phone, why not ask? I think that's very powerful.

CHETRY: Then you save the gas money.

ROBERTS: I've actually done that shopping for a car.

LINENDOLL: You and me both.

ROBERTS: I can get it from this place for less than what you're selling it. OK.

LINENDOLL: And then they bite, right?

ROBERTS: They do. They bite it. So, you can really use it to your advantage.

LINENDOLL: Yes. Cool.

ROBERTS: We're changing the way we shop for sure.

Katie, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

LINENDOLL: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Well, still to come this morning, Rob Marciano's got this morning's travel forecast right after the break. The weather's still, still terrible in California.

CHETRY: Yes. And texting, a new addiction for teens. Deb Feyerick has the first part of our series on cell phone addiction. Some are saying it's just as serious as smoking or alcohol addiction.

Forty-three minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Forty-five minutes past the hour right now. Time to get a check of the morning's weather headlines. And we got a lot going on across the country. The West Coast also suffering with the snowfalls. Rob Marciano in the Extreme Weather Center for us this morning. Hi, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning guys. Yes, it's pretty amazing stuff happening on the West Coast and Europe for that matter. Of course, we'll focus on what's happening in the lower 48. East Coast looking OK, although, there's a little bit of snowfall across parts of Eastern New England and that could have been worse for sure, but the western half of the country just getting absolutely slaughtered by this system, a series of systems really that have been coming onshore all powered by an upper air low that continues to direct moisture.

That's coming all the way beyond Hawaii is how deep this moisture is and just slamming it mostly into Southern California, but some of the higher elevations in the Northern Tier have seen quite a ton of snow with this and the moisture continues to pile up. Here's what we expect over the next 48 hours. We could see another 2 to 8 inches of rainfall at the lower elevations, and that, of course, will translate too much higher precip numbers at the mountains when we're talking about a snowfall.

All right. Back to the maps we go. Focusing in on Southern California this morning. Los Angeles up through Oxford where we're going to see most of the rain. This will begin to stick a little bit part of the south, and the bull's eye once again back on Los Angeles. So, good thing is we didn't have a ton of fires this past year, but still the burn areas from the year before are going to be susceptible to seeing some slides later on today.

108 inches of snow at Mammoth Lakes. 164-mile-an-hour wind gusts. That is just unreal. Spokane also getting some action. You know, this is an area in Eastern Washington, no stranger to snow. People pretty much know how to deal with it, but even here, they're dealing with traffic accidents. Sliding all over the place in Eastern Washington. So, everybody having to deal with this on the West Coast from the Canadian border all the way down to Mexico.

Meanwhile, it'll be 72 degrees this morning or this afternoon in Miami. Thirty-five in New York. John and Kiran, back up to you.

ROBERTS: Oh, man. When you're sitting on the side of the road there, and you see that pickup truck just sliding down the hill.

MARCIANO: Nothing you can do about it.

ROBERTS: Nothing you can do about it except hang on. Wow. Thanks, Rob.

MARCIANO: All right, guys.

ROBERTS: Unfinished business. It seems like Congress is getting more done during this lame duck session than they did all year. How surprising is that? We're live in Washington with what lawmakers still hope to accomplish before Christmas.

CHETRY: You see the commercials for those airline reward credit cards, double miles, sign-up bonuses, free kirks (ph), but, a lot of those cards come with hefty fees. So, are the rewards worth it?

ROBERTS: And generation text. The number of messages sent by teens today rising to new and surprising levels. That's got many doctors and teachers worried. We'll explain coming up next.

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ROBERTS: Nine minutes now till the top of the hour. If you are the parent of a teenager or even a preteen, then you know cell phone texting is a lifeline to friends.

CHETRY: Yes. Kids are texting so much, they're literally losing sleep because of it. It's raising concerns about their health and questioning whether or not they're addicted. Our Deb Feyerick is here with the first part of her series on "Cell Phone Addiction." The kids talk to each other anymore?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they have totally different relationships online than they do in person, actually. But, you know, parents are really worried. No one knows the long-term impact all this electronic stimulation's having on children's brains. Are they going to have the ability to focus, absorb, process information? Or, really, is this all about the instant gratification and communication?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): How fast can your average 15-year-old text a single line? Let's just say faster than someone not in high school.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mine's not even English.

FEYERICK: For 10th grader, Sarah Matkin (ph) on the right, Sara Marshall in the middle, and April Fluluviak (ph), texting may be as important as talking.

How many texts do you send and receive every day? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably around 200.

SARA MARSHALL, TEEN TEXTER: Definitely about couple hundred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It varies.

FEYERICK: Studies show to the tune of well over 3,000 texts a month for the average teenager. The question now, are teens texting too much?

MARSHALL: It's right by my bed when I go to sleep and right by my bed when I wake up. It's like the first thing I go to.

FEYERICK: Eighty percent of all kids own a cell phone, and the rate of texting has skyrocketed in 600 percent in three years.

Why is it so important for you to know when somebody's trying to reach you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You feel like you're missing something. If someone like texts me, and I missed it, oh, I missed out on the moment.

FEYERICK: Do you sometimes feel your mood's changing depending on how often you're receiving the texts or the speed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

FEYERICK: Like what? Give me some examples?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, like if someone responded, you're like, yay, they responded. But if they respond like two to three hours later, you're like, what's going on?

FEYERICK: Sound addictive? Could be. Doctors say texting and the instant gratification of getting a text back floods the brain's pleasure center with the mood enhancing, dopamine.

DR. MICHAEL SEYFFERT, NEUROLOGIST: Your imaging studies have shown that those kids were texting have that area of the brain light up the same as an addict using heroin. And they will actually describe when I don't have it, I feel bad. I feel anxious or I feel sad.

FEYERICK: So, it's like the new nicotine?

SEYFFERT: That's a good description, yes. And for many, it may well be.

FEYERICK: Brain doctor, Michael Seyffert treats teens with sleeping disorders at this New Jersey Sleep Clinic and has discovered that 1 out of 5 of them are interrupting their sleep to text, triggering problems.

SEYFFERT: With a lack of sleep, they are having a problem performing. They're going from "A" honor roll students to, you know, barely passing.

FEYERICK: That's the worst case.

(LAUGHTER)

FEYERICK: These teens, on the other hand, get good grades and take part in after school activities, though, texting does sometimes get them in trouble.

When was the last time you had your phones taken away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday.

MARSHALL: Today.

FEYERICK: Today? OK, so, basically, within the last 24 hours, you each had your phone taken away from you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

FEYERICK: Their school like many, struggling to contain a growing distraction for students.

TRACEY BAILEY, ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN EDUCATION: Most administrators will tell you that if it's not their single greatest problem in terms of discipline and school management, it's at least in the top three.

FEYERICK: Despite the potential down sides, these parents say texting has become a necessary evil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't answer the phone. It's the only way --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They will (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't do e-mails at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only way to get ahold of them is text. So, I had to actually get text messaging in order to, you know, communicate with my kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Sometimes, they only communicate that way.

FEYERICK: And while the behavior can be addictive, teens like Sarah Marshall say they're confident they can quit cold turkey.

MARSHALL: Maybe I'd have some like withdrawal symptoms. Like, I'd get anxious and like wonder like what's going on, but once I realize that nothing bad is happening, it's fine without my phone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Yes. So, really in the end, it's all about finding a balance before bad habits set in, especially in teenagers because their brain is still developing. So, you have to think of a lot of things.

ROBERTS: They really just can't stand being disconnected, can they?

FEYERICK: And that's what it's about. They feel like they are separate, that they're going to miss information. And really, the question is, is what kind of information is it that's so crucial?

CHETRY: Right.

FEYERICK: Is it about this girl? Is it about that boy? What is it?

CHETRY: I mean, it has to be -- on the part of the parents, as well.

FEYERICK: Yes.

CHETRY: I mean, one suggestion is that the phone gets charged in the parents' bedroom at whatever time at night. I'm not reading your texts, but this phone is going to get charged in my room. And the other thing too is once you shut it off for a little while, your friends are not having to respond. It may be a little bit of a relief for them, too, because they're not having to respond and continuously (ph) to your texts because you're not texting.

FEYERICK: Well, that's exactly right. And I think that's part of it. We have to be able to say, you know what, this text can wait or this e-mail can wait or I'm writing a paper or I'm reading a book, and they don't do that. So, you get these constant interruptions this sort of, you know -- it's like having a commercial going off in your brain like every 10 to 20 seconds.

ROBERTS: And then there was a recent study that showed an association, not a cause and effect, association between hypertexting more than 100 messages a day and other risky behaviors, so that brains being wired (ph) --

FEYERICK: That's exactly right, because it hasn't developed the way, you know, it's got all this stimulation.

ROBERTS: All intriguing stuff.

FEYERICK: It is.

ROBERTS: Thanks so much, Deb.

CHETRY: And we're going to look at more about this tomorrow in the second part of her series. Deb looks at the battle schools are fighting to keep the kids off the cell phones and to keep the kids focused on their studies.

ROBERTS: Top stories are coming your way right after the break. Stay with us.

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