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12 Men Arrested in Britain For Suspected Terror Plot; South Korea Drill Ends Calmly; Europe's Winter Woes; Charging Your Way to a Free Trip With Rewards Cards; Tensions on Korean Peninsula; Michael Vick as a Pet Owner; Money Resolutions for 2011
Aired December 20, 2010 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. 7:00 here in New York City. A shot at Columbus Circle this morning. It is 26 degrees right now. A chilly start to the workweek. A little bit later, we're looking at a high of 34. So, barely above freezing today.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: That's another one of those typical New York winter days even though it's not quite winter yet, right? Another day or two where it's just kind of cold and windy. Thanks so much for joining us. It is Monday. It is the 20th of December. This is AMERICAN MORNING. I'm John Roberts.
CHETRY: I'm Kiran Chetry. We want to get you caught up on what happened over night.
South Korea on high alert this morning. Their military exercises come to an end, but the threat of retaliation by the north still very real. Our own Wolf Blitzer is in North Korea traveling with New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, who is trying to hammer out some sort of diplomatic progress. We're going to talk to Wolf live.
ROBERTS: Large scale intelligence operation in Britain. That's 12 terrorist suspects in early morning raid. Police say the arrests were necessary in order to ensure public safety. A live report from London on this developing story just ahead.
CHETRY: And the weather paralyzing parts of the pacific coast, a nasty winter storm promising to bury California in snow in some of the northern parts of the state, rain, and even mud in the southern parts of the state, the rainfall tally in L.A. close to 4 inches in four days. And more record-breaking rains have southern California residents on high alert for mudslides, the Sierra Nevada mountain range, as well. They are pulling out the -- they're measuring in feet instead of inches today.
ROBERTS: We begin the hour, though, on one of the most dangerous parts of the world where more than 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed. This morning South Korea is on high alert after a military exercise not far from the island that North Korea attacked last month.
CHETRY: The drill taking place despite a threat of retaliation from the North. Our Wolf Blitzer joins us now on the phone from Pyongyang, North Korea. He's been traveling with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Give us an update on the situation there, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, it looks sort of encouraging right now, Kiran, because the North Koreans have issued the statement suggesting they're not immediately going to retaliate going into the South Korean drill. It looked like the North Korean military would retaliate, issue some sort of military response. But at least for now they're saying they're not going to do that.
Bill Richardson is with me here in Pyongyang. Our flight out of here was delayed because of incredibly bad fog. So we're stuck in here for another 12 hours or so. But let me get his reaction to what's going on. Governor Richardson, are you encouraged, discouraged, what do you think about the latest development?
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NEW MEXICO (via telephone): I'm very encouraged, because the outcome is a good one. We kept pressing the North Koreans not to react, telling them they would be viewed in a positive way after their terrible actions with respect to the sinking of the ship and the killing of civilians and increased uranium capacity.
And maybe we had a little impact with them. The South Koreans were able to flex their muscles. So hopefully this will open a new chapter in North/South Korean legal conclusions that will lead to a negotiation where North Korea ends the nuclear capacity, South Korea preserves their security, and the United States is able to be the honest broker.
BLITZER: All right, so there you have it, Kiran and John. If, in fact, the North Koreans do not respond militarily, that would be significant. This is a time when the North Koreans have responded with such restraint. If, in fact, that continues, that would give another indication that maybe the North Koreans are ready to resume some sort of dialogue with South Korea and the United States and ease this crisis.
But the crisis are still there for now. Let's see what happens in the coming hours.
ROBERTS: Hey, Wolf, just a couple of points here. In terms of the retaliation, Gordon Chang from Forbes was with us just a little while ago saying the north wouldn't retaliate while South Korea was at a high state of military readiness, that it would wait until South Korea had its guard down. I'm wondering what the governor thinking about that.
And also, he mentioned that North Korea sunk this warship. They never admitted to that.
BLITZER: They never admitted to sinking the warship. They have always said that somebody else did that, although the U.S., South Korea, most of the rest of the world believe a North Korea torpedo sunk that warship back in march killing 46 South Korean sailors.
Let me ask the governor if he wants to respond to that. Some experts are suggesting, governor, that maybe the North Koreans want to wait until the South Koreans ease their current state of alert before they retaliate. Do you think this is the final word from North Korea? Or they could retaliate in a few days?
RICHARDSON: Well, my sense is that with the other actions that they've made after our negotiation, one, that they would allow IAEA inspectors -- not inspectors, actually, monitors to come in and look at the Pyongyang facility, that the North Koreans would sell the fuel rods, the spent fuel rods. That would be an arms control measure.
I think the fact they took those two responsible actions after we talked to them shows maybe they're moving into a new chapter of recognizing that they've made a lot of mistakes, that they've done some atrocious things, and now maybe they want to reengage. That's my hope.
You never know what they're going to do. They're very unpredictable. My sense is that they have decided not to respond militarily for now, but I think that is good news. And I think the next step should be talks, negotiations, dialogue.
BLITZER: And they are open, John and Kiran, according to Governor Richardson, to establishing this U.S./South Korea/North Korea military commission as well as the hotline between the North and South Korean military.
But as Governor Richardson says, it's way too early to draw any final conclusions. The North Koreans can be rather unpredictable and this is a very, very dangerous part of the world.
CHETRY: It sure is. Wolf Blitzer for us. Glad we had a chance to hear from Governor Bill Richardson, as well. Thanks so much.
And now to the unrelenting storm in southern California. You can't see the ground in parts of waterlogged Bakersfield where they've been dealing with two days of rain. The city is offering more than 10,000 sandbags in an effort to try to keep the rising water at bay.
ROBERTS: The weather out west is just, for a lack of a better word, nuts. Our Rob Marciano is checking the forecast right now. Rob, in some parts of the Sierra they've had 15 feet of snow?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, we may very well get there, officially nine feet so far, but we've got another storm coming or another pulse of moisture heading into the Sierra. So I think, yes, by the time this is done, there'll definitely be some areas that have 15 feet of snow on the ground.
Here it is. There is the moisture. How much rain have we seen so far? Well over a foot in some spots of California, especially in some of the hillier areas. But in places like Los Angeles and just up the road, down the road in Santa Monica, they've seen three, four, and five inches with more rain on the way.
As far as the snowfall, there you go -- Mammoth Lakes, 108 inches. But with that came 160-mile-an-hour winds. It's not like you're up there cutting traction in the powder because it's not fit. It's just dangerous weather at the high elevations, as well.
The entire western half of the country, you go west of the continental divide and everybody is getting a piece of this action, most of it focused on right now southern California and that's where we fear we'll be the most affected over the next 48 hours in the form of potentially some landslides.
Meanwhile, east coast not too bad. You guys got lucky this weekend, didn't see much of a snowstorm. Eastern parts of Massachusetts seeing a snowstorm right now. It's 35 degrees in New York. Pretty much what you've had for the past couple of weeks you'll have again today.
CHETRY: Cold and windy, those are the two words. Rob, thanks so much.
MARCIANO: All right.
CHETRY: Across the Atlantic, Great Britain and much of Europe is also struggling with extreme winter weather. They have freezing fog in some places, geet of snow in others. The travel on the ground and in the air has come to a screeching halt in many places. We're going to be getting a live report from Heathrow Airport coming up in a minute.
Also, we're following a developing story this morning in Britain where police arrested 12 suspected terrorists in early-morning raids in several cities.
ROBERTS: They say as part of a large-scale counterterrorism operation. CNN's Dan Rivers is live in London for us. He's outside Scotland Yard for us.
And Dan, when we talked to you last hour, the police were not giving up any kind of description of a plot. Have they given any more information on that yet?
DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. I've gone back to several sources, and there is no more information that they're giving us about what the alleged target of this operation was. Here's what we know, though -- 12 people arrested, 12 men, three in London, they're all age ranged from 17 to 28 years old. They were arrested after dawn raids this morning by unarmed officers.
This is being described as a large-scale, pre-planned, intelligence-led operation I understand being led by the security service MI-5 here. No real further details being given apart from this is not linked to those attacks in Sweden earlier this month.
We're trying to get more details about what is supposedly getting targeted here. I don't get the impression there's any U.S. connection in terms of targets, but we should find out more later today.
CHETRY: All right, Dan Rivers for us this morning. Thank you.
ROBERTS: The Senate's going to be back at work this morning trying to hammer out a new nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia. START hit a snag yesterday when key Republicans charged Democrats of attempting to sneak the measure in at the last minute. They insist they need more debate before a vote is taken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: What is your position on approving the treaty?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I've decided I cannot support the treaty. I think the verification provisions are inadequate, and I do worry about the missile defense implications of it. I think taking more time with this, rushing it right before Christmas strikes me as trying to jam us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: START calls for resuming mutual inspections of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. It would limit both countries to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers apiece.
CHETRY: Well, a measure that would have granted legal status to undocumented citizens who enlist in the military or who go to college did not make it through the Senate. Republicans blocked the DREAM act over the weekend, saying it was simply an amnesty bill.
Supporters say it would have allowed young people to reach potential to become taxpayers and to not be taken to work in other countries.
ROBERTS: Former pro cyclist Floyd Landis reportedly wore a wire to help the feds in their investigation of illegal doping in cycling. "The New York Daily News" quote sources who say Landis wore a concealed recorder and a video camera during a meeting last spring with designer and cycling team owner Michael Ball.
Landis and several members of Ball's racing team were teammates with seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. Landis has accused Armstrong of doping and was stripped of 2006 tour de France title for using illegal drugs.
CHETRY: Well "Tron, Legacy," 28 years later, a sequel in the making, a triumphant debut. It was tops at the box office, earning $43.6 million. Just in case you're wondering when the original "Tron" was released in July of 1982. People are talking about heroes -- unsubscribe, please. Anyway, which film was the highest grossing at that time?
CHETRY: Did you see it this weekend?
ROBERTS: No, but I saw the original. And I thought the original was great. It was real cutting edge.
CHETRY: There's a whole new audience, and people still loved it.
ROBERTS: And Jeff Bridges is still around and agreed to be in the sequel too.
CHETRY: A whiteout in Great Britain and across Europe leaving airports packed with stranded passengers. No one's getting in and no one's getting out. We'll have a live report coming up.
ROBERTS: There are a lot of attractive offers out there when it comes to credit card travel rewards, from double miles to big sign-up bonuses. But are these really cards worth it? We're minding your business.
CHETRY: Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles certainly working some magic Sunday, at least in the fourth quarter. Everyone's talking about this morning the miracle finish by Philadelphia. It's 12 minutes past the hour.
ROBERTS: It's 15 minutes after the hour. Frigid winter storm taking hold across Europe leaving little opportunity for travel this holiday week. In Paris, the city's busiest airports are expected to scrap 30 percent of their scheduled flights today.
CHETRY: Germany's Frankfurt airport has enlisted close to 500 people to help them de-ice planes around the clock to try to help travelers get where they're going. And it's a pretty dismal outlook at London's Heathrow airport, as well. That's where our Ayesha Durgahee is standing by live this morning. So they -- they're not completely grounded, are they?
AYESHA DURGAHEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they're not. John, Kiran, aircraft have been taking to the skies in the last few moments. And the mood here at Heathrow, the world's busiest international airport, has gone from one that was helpless to hopeful as passengers have been watching aircraft take off and looking at the departure board and seeing if they can keep ticking off the scheduled flights that are taking off. And that they will be able to board their flights and continue their onward journeys and finally start their holiday.
But there have been disruptions, stranded passengers, and aircraft over the weekend. But it looks hopeful now where Gatwick airport is saying that they are open for business and they hope to be fully operational. But even though it is sunny, its looks can be deceiving because the temperatures are still below freezing. And I think it's starting to snow as I'm speaking right now.
But for this very reason, the airport operates at BAA who runs Heathrow airport. They are cautious not to overpromise on how many flights will actually take off today and have only said that a handful will be able to take off. But because aircraft and passengers have been stranded for the best part of two, three days now, the backlog will take a long time to get through. So it will be a slow and steady process getting the aircraft and crews back into place as well as getting the passengers with the right bags on the right planes to take off to the right destinations. ROBERTS: Ayesha Durgahee for us this morning. I've got to tell you, Ayesha, that winter blanket of white behind you is just such an unusual scene to see there in the U.K. Thanks so much. We'll talk to you a little bit later on this morning.
CHETRY: Well, a big pet food recall to tell you about stretches across 19 states. The Kroger Company recalling several of its brands because they may contain -- it's Kroger, sorry -- they contain a toxic chemical called aflatoxin. Sorry. The affected products are Pet Pride Cat Food, Kitten Food, Old Yeller Chunk Dog Food, Kroger Value Cat Food, Kroger Value Chunk Food. Kroger says to contact your vet if your pet ate any of those brands and is acting sluggish or is reluctant to eat.
ROBERTS: Gasoline prices on the rise again. The average price for a gallon jumped by more than seven cents over the last two weeks. The national average now just under $3 a gallon. Compared to a year ago, drivers are paying nearly 40 cents more per gallon.
CHETRY: Coming up, Michael Vick and the Eagles, they kicked into high gear. Waited until the fourth quarter against the Giants Sunday in a miracle finish. Certainly a kick in the teeth to the Giants fans.
ROBERTS: And just a handful of days left before Christmas. Congress getting busy. The bill still up for grabs just ahead. It's 18 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Twenty-one minutes past the hour yesterday. The Giants just dominated the Eagles for the 53 minutes, the first 53 minutes of the game on Sunday. Sadly an NFL game is 60 minutes long. A lot of Eagles fans had actually turned the channel. They said, you know, they host. However, the last seven minutes, what a stunning turnaround. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick led the shocking fourth quarter comeback by the Eagles. They scored 21 straight points, ended up tying the New York Giants about a minute left. And just when the game seems sure to go on overtime, the Giants inexplicably punted to the Eagles' DeSean Jackson who then took it back for the game-winning touchdown as the clock ran out.
ROBERTS: A lot of Giants were wishing they'd left the game, a lot of Giants fan. Probably the Giants, too, wished that they'd left while they were still 21 points ahead.
Whether it's down the chimney or into the depths of the ocean, Santa leaves no one out. Here's a look at scuba-diving Santa just off of Key Largo. A local dive shop owner plays the part every year creating the photo op to raise money for local children's charities.
CHETRY: Pretty cool. It must be hard to scuba dive with a full Santa suit on, but he does it well.
ROBERTS: There you go. CHETRY: Also, gone are the days when vending machines just sold Coca-Cola, candy. In South Florida, a vending machine actually sells gold bars and gold coins. It's a first of a kind in the U.S. but these "Gold to Go" machines are successes in the United Arab Emirates, in Germany, in Italy, and in Spain.
ROBERTS: Well, the folks at Jib Jab are at it again. You know, the guys have really become known for their funny animated online year-end review songs. And this year they did not disappoint. Their latest video features not just cutouts but puppets of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. So without further ado.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUSIC: You arrived in '09 on a rainbow of hope, but 2010 blew it all up. From Tea Party rallies, the banks going broke. So long to your 2010.
We've got no jobs despite all my spending. We passed health care, they shouted repeal (ph). So Joe went on national TV and said, "It's a real big (Expletive deleted) deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Giving "Sesame Street" a run for their money there with the puppets.
CHETRY: That was a funny Joe Biden moment of 2010.
Well, when it comes to natural disasters, 2010 has been the deadliest year in a generation. Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides, and droughts killed more than a quarter of a million people this year, according to the "Associated Press." The bulk of those fatalities came in Haiti when an earthquake back in January took 220,000 lives.
ROBERTS: Well, you may have one in your wallet right now. You know those rewards credit cards offering generous travel perks? But how much are you really saving with them? Are you saving at all? We're minding your business this morning.
CHETRY: The Senate is back in session this morning. They've been accomplishing a lot as they count down to the Christmas holiday, getting it done. Little time to waste and several issues to be decided. We're going to check in with Dana Bash to see what this lame-duck Congress is trying to accomplish in the 11th hour.
ROBERTS: Coming up now at 27 minutes after the hour. And Christine Romans is here "Minding Your Business" this morning.
CHETRY: She's back.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm back.
ROBERTS: Welcome back. Good to see you.
ROMANS: Thank you. Thank you.
ROBERTS: You might have one of those rewards cards in your wallet.
ROBERTS: Are you really getting rewarded or are you getting ripped? Christine is here to break it down for us this morning.
ROMANS: And guess what, you guys, the credit card companies, they want your business and they're dangling all kinds of new things out there.
CHETRY: Which ones are you talking about?
ROMANS: I'm talking about -- every kind of rewards card you can think of. American Express has one. United Mileage plus Select Visa. There's a Chase card, as well. There's lots of different cards out there that are sending you all kinds of new treats to try to get you to be one of their loyal customers. Among them sign-up bonuses, the United Mileage Plus Chase Select offers 30,000 miles just to sign up. A lot of these cards are giving double miles.
American Express has a card now that will cover your baggage fees, the first checked bag fee for you. Your pet fees to put your pet on an airplane and onboard meals. There are a lot of different, a lot of different treats out there. But I want you to watch out for the tricks, as well, because they want your business for a reason. They're looking for people who have basically high income who are charging up a lot of stuff on their credit cards and who are likely to pay it off in full. And they're going to charge you for that right. They've been raising a lot of the fees for these cards. So take a look at this.
If you're paying maybe $85 a year for one of these reward cards to get all these goodies, after a couple of years you've paid $170 in fees. And if you're getting a $200 ticket in return, you've basically paid for your free airline ticket or you've paid -- Greg McBride over at bankrate.com makes a point as well. He says that frequent business travelers often don't even travel with a checked bag. So the free baggage fees might help the occasional leisure traveler, but not necessarily the road warriors out there who've learned that you want to stay away from a lot of checked bags.
Look, there is elite level early boarding privileges with some of these cards, security line access with some of these cards. So weigh very carefully what it is you need from your card because they are aggressively trying to get your business. So figure out what it is you need but realized you're probably paying for it in the end with a higher annual fee.
ROBERTS: How about one of those Delta rewards cards? Because I fly a lot, I got cold soup last night.
ROMANS: There you go. There you go.
ROBERTS: It was --
CHETRY: That was so nice that they served you Gazpacho.
ROBERTS: It was a spicy chicken Gazpacho.
ROMANS: There you go.
CHETRY: But you wanted it cold, right?
ROBERTS: No, I wanted it hot. I was looking forward to the hot soup.
ROMANS: John, every time with the airline experience we can go on for hours, right? But there are some good -- there are some good little perks out there. Just be careful, you'll probably paying for it in the end.
ROBERTS: Yes. Thanks, Christine.
CHETRY: Thanks, Christine.
ROBERTS: Well, we're crossing the half hour now. It's time for this morning's top stories.
Police in Britain arresting 12 suspected terrorists in early morning raids and several cities that was part of a large-scale counterterrorism investigation. Police say the suspects ranging in age from 17 to 28 pose a threat to public safety, but there is no word on what their target might have been.
CHETRY: The Korean Peninsula on pins and needles this morning despite the threats. So far, there's been no sign 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.
ROBERTS: The Israeli army is investigating the stabbing death of an American tourist who was killed outside of Jerusalem. Christine Logan was hiking with a friend at the time of the attack. The friend says two Arab men attacked them with a knife. She says that she survived by pretending to be dead. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
CHETRY: The lame duck Congress trying to get some work done before Christmas. And there's a lot on their plates. Dana Bash is live in Washington this morning. They've been accomplishing more in these past few days than many say they have all session. But they have to work on a couple other key things. The arms treaty with Russia and that could happen sooner than later.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, Kiran and John, the Senate spent all weekend debating the S.T.A.R.T. arms control treaty with Russia. It is President Obama's biggest foreign policy priority right now. Whether he can find the 67 votes in the Senate needed to ratify that treaty this week before Christmas, that's a nail-biter. And yesterday the top Republican in the Senate Mitch McConnell told our Candy Crowley on "State of the Union," he's a no.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST "STATE OF THE UNION": What is your position on approving this treaty?
MCCONNELL: Well, I decided cannot support the treaty. I think the verification provisions are inadequate. And I do worry about the missile defense implications of it. I think if they'd taken more time with this, rushing it right before Christmas strikes me as trying to jam us.
BASH: Now, that second part of the answer that Democrats are trying to jam Republicans by pushing the S.T.A.R.T. treaty now appears to be as big reason for GOP opposition as the substance of the treaty. John and Kiran.
CHETRY: And not only that but they still have a lot of other things to try to accomplish. When does it look like they're getting out of dodge? And how much else do you expect to be done?
BASH: When they're getting out of dodge, that's a great question. But you know, you mentioned, it is quite remarkable how much business Democrats who run Congress still have been doing since the election. Take a look.
So far they have, this weekend, passed the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. They passed the tax cut compromise which the president negotiated with Republicans, and a child nutrition bill, which is one of the first lady's priorities. What do they have left in just a few days left of this session? Democrats are still hoping to ratify that S.T.A.R.T. treaty, send a food safety overhaul to the president's desk and give 9/11 rescue workers compensation for major health ailments.
Now, John and Kiran, it is not a secret why Democrats are doing this. They're trying to squeeze in top-agenda items that they hadn't gotten to before January when they no longer have control of the House and they have fewer seats in the Senate.
ROBERTS: Yes, it's going to be tough to get anything passed the next two years.
Dana Bash for us this morning. Dana, thanks so much.
BASH: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Should Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and convicted dog abuser, Michael Vick be able to get his own dog? He has supporters, but plenty of opponents, as well. But one person on his side is the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle. He joins us live coming up next.
ROBERTS: 36 minutes after the hour. Michael Vick says he wants to be a dog owner again and get it right this time. Many people were disturbed by those comments. But Wayne Pacelle, the head of the Humane Society of the United States is withholding judgment for the moment. He thinks that Vick could do a good job as a pet owner some time down the road.
And now he's under fire for supporting Michael Vick. Wayne Pacelle, joins us now from Washington. Wayne, good to see you this morning. Let me read the quote that provoked all the outrage against you and the Humane Society. It was in an interview with the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" back last Wednesday, you said "I have been around him a lot and feel confident that he would do a good job as a pet owner." Why did you say that?
WAYNE PACELLE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, John, I think essentially what I said is that Michael Vick has that long way to go before he can have a pet. And that was the broader contest of my comments. He's been conducting anti-dog- fighting programs with us around the country. We've still got thousands of at-risk kids in communities across the country. Because the biggest problem that dogs face, one of the biggest problems is street fighting in America's cities.
This was really something that he and I talked about 18 months ago that if he was serious about helping the problem of dog fighting, he had to put boots on the ground in communities to address that problem. So this has been a pathway. He's getting counseling. The next step is for him to interact with dogs in a public setting with our end dog-fighting program in Philadelphia.
And if he hits all those marks I think his two little girls, Jada and London, have expressed time and time again to him that they want a dog. And we think that the jury is still out, but we should be open to that possibility because all of us want Michael Vick to succeed. I would hope that we all do. We want him to have a healthy relationship with animals. We want him to be a good citizen. That's been part of the post prison effort with Michael Vick is to get him to a good place. And that's what we want for everybody in our society.
ROBERTS: After the flare-up of criticism surrounding your original comments to the "Atlanta Journal Constitution," you really laid it out in a much more nuance form in your blog. Saying that you know, after three years of probation, if he hits all the marks, as you said, it may be the sort of thing that could be considered. Here's the way you put it, you said "I do think that if his rehabilitation progresses and he handles the probation period flawlessly, it could be a good thing for Michael Vick's family to have a pet at the end of that process." But Wayne, there are some people out there who say, it doesn't matter. He should never have a dog. PACELLE: Well, we understand that. And I understand it because there's no group that's tougher on dog fighting than the Humane Society of the United States. And we help write the federal law under which Michael Vick was prosecuted. No one was harsher on Vick during that process in the run up to his conviction than me and the Humane Society. But people serve their time and then they need to be integrated back into society.
I think animals have healing properties. And as long as the animals are safe and we can really do anything possible to make sure that they begin to interact with animals in a healthy way. I think it's a good thing for them, it's a good thing for animals. There are animals dying in shelters every year because not enough people are adopting them. We want to promote adoption, of course, to the right people. But there are a lot of issues swirling around here.
PACELLE: My biggest issue is that Vick continue with his schoolwork and church work to reach at-risk kids. He and I have been traveling all over the country. He's been doing a fantastic job. And we're going to continue that to inoculate these kids against the problem of street fighting which is rampant in America, until the Vick case, people have no idea that depth and breath of dog fighting in American culture.
ROBERTS: There are plenty of groups out there, Wayne, who aren't as generous to Michael Vick as you. Lisa Lang from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said this about the prospect of Vick owning a dog. "Just as convicted pedophiles aren't allowed free access to children, anyone who is responsible for hanging, electrocuting, or shooting dogs and who causes them to suffer in other unimaginable ways should never again be allowed access to dogs." They're saying that the level of his crimes were so heinous, that how could you ever let him have a pet?
PACELLE: Well, the Humane Society when it works to upgrade penalties for animal cruelty really urges the inclusion of provisions to deal with psychological counseling. Because there is a disconnect. I mean, there is an underlying problem when you exhibit a total lack of empathy. But the point is that, yes, for a period of time, many states do have these provisions that the Humane Society draw to passage to prohibit pet keeping.
But at some point, these folks - when the court order ends, they're going to be able to get a pet. Because the court order doesn't apply any longer. And we want to begin to rehab folks and work with them so they can hopefully interact with animals. Because, you know, if they're not healthy in their home, they can be unhealthy in their backyard. They can be down the street. We want to have people interacting with animals in a good, safe way. And that's the point. It's easy to just castigate, it's tougher to do the hard work to get to a place where animals and people can really restore that bond that exists between them.
ROBERTS: So you're saying at the end of his probation if he hits all the marks, he's going to be able to have a dog anyways. So better he be educated about the best way to do that. There's another organization out there, Humane Watch. Now this is an organization that you had a lot of disagreements with. They've targeted you. Took out many times, I think this is the 10th time they've targeted you this year but they took out a full page ad in the "New York Times" suggesting the reason why you're willing - you may be willing to cut Michael Vick a break is because of a $50,000 donation that came to you from the Philadelphia Eagles. What do you say to that charge?
PACELLE: Well, you know, the first thing is we need to know the source. Humane Watch is not a humane organization. It's a front group for organizations that are animal abusers. They take money from various industries that exploit animals. And the reason they're targeting the Humane Society of the United States is because we've made gains to combat factory farming, the fur trade, (INAUDIBLE) hunting practices -
ROBERTS: OK. But what do you say about their charge regarding this $50,000 donation?
PACELLE: Everything that this group says is just an opportunistic -
ROBERTS: But you did get a donation, though, correct?
PACELLE: Oh, yes. Yes. Absolutely, John. And we have an enormous set of operations. We got a $50,000 donation from the Philadelphia Eagles to expand our anti-dog fighting campaign in the city. Now, we started our relationship with Michael Vick and his work going around the country talking to kids, before the Eagles even acquired Michael Vick. So the suggestion that somehow we were -
ROBERTS: But when did you get the $50,000?
PACELLE: Oh, maybe six or eight months ago.
ROBERTS: So that was after Vick had joined the Eagles?
PACELLE: Oh, it was after Vick had joined the Eagles but they had started a treating animals with kindness program and they made $500,000 worth of grants available. We said, well, you know, this is going to cost us several hundred thousands dollars to start a new program. But you know, we looked to potential funders, they were one.
But the suggestion that we've changed our position is completely false. And frankly, John, this organization takes - they do know about pay to play because this group takes money from animal abuse groups to attack the Humane Society. Not because they're concerned about our work or policies, but because we're so effective in fighting animal cruelty all over the country.
ROBERTS: I know that you've got a real battle going on back and forth between the two. But we just wanted to clear up that idea of the $50,000 donation. PACELLE: But John, you know, this is a group that works to fight anti-obesity campaigns. They work against anti-smoking advocates. They work against environmental groups. They have a set of dummy organizations to attack their public interest groups. We need to know the source that's my only point.
ROBERTS: Wayne Pacelle for us this morning. Wayne, good to talk to you. Thanks very much.
PACELLE: Thank you, John.
CHETRY: Well, still ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're taking a look at a new movie on DVD. "Prayers for Bobby." What happens when a close-knit religious family, what happens after their youngest son Bobby revealed he is, in fact, gay. Well, actress Sigourney Weaver who plays Bobby's mother in the film, joins us live in our studios.
Also, heavy snow blanketing the Midwest. Record rain and flooding out west. And stargazers getting ready for a total lunar eclipse that falls on a very, very unique day this year. Something we haven't seen in hundreds of years.
Our Rob Marciano joins us next.
CHETRY: And you are probably waking up in Vegas at this hour or you haven't gone to bed yet, but right now it is 54 degrees mostly cloudy a little bit late of showers, 55 degrees so not much changing actually for the highs.
ROBERTS: Yes, not a great day in Las Vegas, but the weather in California is terrible. Nothing short of that. Rob Marciano is tracking it all for us across the country. He's in Atlanta this morning. Good morning, Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. Yes, Vegas actually getting a little piece of this storm, and eventually everybody on the east coast will get a little piece of this storm, but it'll be a whole different monster by the time this happens.
We talk about the "Pineapple Express" that is the moisture tap that goes all the way to Hawaii, this thing even goes beyond Hawaii. So it's beyond - it's even more than that and it's slamming right into California. The moisture flows going perpendicular to the Sierra mountains, and that's when you really start to see things pile up.
So we're going to see more in the way of rainfall today and more in the way of snow. How much rain have we seen? Upwards of a foot of rain so far below the snow line -- above the snow line we have seen upwards of 9 feet, 108 inches at Mammoth Lake. Alpine Meadows 53, that is gorgeous powder, except for the fact it's blowing over 150 miles an hour.
Check this out, Mammoth Lakes, wind gust 164 miles-an-hour, Alpine Meadows in Tahoe, 150-mile-an-hour wind gusts. Lake Tahoe, 60- mile-an-hour wind gusts yesterday. So this is a tremendously powerful storm and it encompasses everybody really west of the continental divine in the way of rain and snow.
And it's a good thing that we didn't have a tremendous amount of fire activity last summer, but even from the 2009 fire season, there's going to be areas that will probably see some sliding because of all of the rain there.
Not a whole lot of action across the east coast. Seeing a little bit of snowfall in the eastern Massachusetts that could have been, but thankfully wasn't. The temperatures in the 20s, rising to the 30s across much of the east coast today. So we're fairly quiet here.
Actually, east of the Mississippi tonight, with a good viewing of the total lunar eclipse and basically between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time and just go out and find the moon, give a howl if you like.
And you'll see a total lunar eclipse of the moon, which we don' won't see for another three years after this. So hopefully you'll get a peak out. John and Kiran back up to you.
ROBERTS: Wind gusts of 164 miles an hour?
MARCIANO: Yes, that'll blow you around.
CHETRY: That sounds like -
ROBERTS: That's amazing.
MARCIANO: We haven't seen a storm or series of storms like this, guys, since 2005. It's got a lot of power with it for sure.
ROBERTS: Wow. All right, Rob for us this morning. Thanks, Rob. We'll check back with you in about half an hour.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's time in office may almost be up, but he'll be back and perhaps in our nation's capital. Hear what he's saying about working with the Obama administration.
CHETRY: President Obama set to sign the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this week. It could actually, though, be months before we see it in effect in the military. So what does that mean for gay service members right now?
ROBERTS: Plus, your teens and their cell phones. They're sending hundreds of texts a day. In fact, one doctor telling CNN your kids are and texting is the new nicotine as part of our series on cell phone addiction. That's all just ahead.
ROBERTS: The New Year's Eve less than two weeks away now. It's the perfect time to get in financial shape for 2011.
CHETRY: Just don't look at your credit card bills from Christmas spending, but our Christine Romans, author of "Smart is the New Rich" joins us with some tips that, of course, all of us can use because no one's doing it perfectly.
ROMANS: Nothing says Christmas like George Michael. I say that every time I hear that.
CHETRY: I love that song.
ROMANS: No one is doing it perfectly and you're right. There are about 13 million people who still have credit card bills left over from 2009 Christmas. That shouldn't be you.
There is a reason why this time of the year there are diet books and financial money makeover books that get pushed to the front of the book stores because we have good intentions and not a lot of discipline.
So this is what you need do right now to have the financial resolutions last all year long.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A budget is how you start. It really is the road map that you're going to follow to get to you the ultimate goal. So take a look and figure out what you spend. I'll tell you most of us do not know.
ROMANS: After that you make 2011 the year to get out of debt, to pay off debt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. This is the year to pay off debt. We saw we had tax cuts expanded, and prolonged so we're going to have more money in our pocket than we thought. So make sure you take that, put it toward your debt.
ROMANS: You need to think about putting away money for a rainy day. If there is one thing we know we didn't put enough away over the past years. Three to six months is what you think.
STACY FRANCIS, FRANCIS FINANCIAL: Yes and that's why a lot of people have ended up with debt. So if we've got our emergency fund here, we want to put in from three to six months of your living expenses.
And once you've done that, then you know that no matter what happens in your life, you're going to have enough cash on hand that you can successfully get through it and not have to touch those Visa cards.
ROMANS: Number four on the list is buy a new home. You think this is a good time to buy a house.
FRANCIS: If you've done this, you've created this fund, you paid down your debt, you have money in the bank, able to put a 20 percent down payment and you have some extra money for those unexpected closing costs or unexpected purchase costs and homeownership costs then now is a great time.
ROMANS: And get your estate documents in place because this is something every family should do and this is something -- a priority for 2011.
FRANCIS: It is. It is. Getting your estate planning documents in place is the best gift you can give anyone for the holidays. Making sure they are taken care of and also by really doing your estate planning you can save quite a bit in taxes so that more money goes to your loved ones versus the pocket of Uncle Sam.
ROMANS: Now here is resolution that's going to put money in your pocket right now guaranteed. If you have a job you're going to have money in your pocket next year, you didn't have this year because of that payroll tax holiday that Congress just passed.
You need resolve now to figure out ways to spend that wisely. If you make $40,000 a year, you're going to have $800 extra on your pay check next year and $80,000 a year, you're going to have $1,600 extra in your pocket next year.
Now is a good time to figure out how to use that money in those things that Stacy Francis was talking about paying down high interest credit card debt, saving money for a rainy day, and maybe putting money aside so you can buy a house one day.
We'll talk in the next hour about other things to do with the payroll tax money that's coming your way because you're getting not a check in the mail, but more money in your pay check next year.
ROBERTS: Looking forward to it. Christine, thanks so much.
Top stories are coming your way right after the break including breaking news to tell you about this morning. Terminal A one of three terminals at Newark Liberty Airport shut down this morning because of a suspicious package.
That's not the main Continental terminal, that's C, but there are still some flights from Continental that go out of there and a lot of other airlines as well. We're following that for you. We'll have the latest coming up in just a couple of moments.