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Cleanup in Denver After Major Winter Storm; Defense Secretary Robert Gates' Trip to Iraq

Aired December 22, 2006 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone.
You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Tony Harris.


Heidi Collins is off today.

HARRIS: For the next three hours, watch events happen live on this Friday, the 22nd day of December.

Here's what's on the rundown.

WHITFIELD: Denver's snow slog -- machines moving mountains of snow. The airport scrambling to get stranded passengers home just in time for the holiday.

HARRIS: Their murders captivating Britain. Now police formally charge a suspect with killing five prostitutes. He's in court today.

WHITFIELD: Trump this -- Rosie and "The Donald" -- I know you love this, Tony -- trying to one up each other. Their feud escalating. Media coverage not dimming. Insults fly right here in THE NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: At the top this morning, Denver digging out. Planes could start flying at the city's airport later today. Not soon enough for holiday travelers stranded by this week's big blizzard.

Pattie Logan is in Denver with the very latest.

Not only is the traffic, all of the travel halted, but, Pattie, Christmas shopping stopped cold.

PATTIE LOGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly did stop cold. But it is going to get red hot again, I'm sure, today. They are opening the malls early, 8:00 a.m. for some, 9:00 a.m. for others. So they really hope that the holiday shoppers are going to go back out in force after missing a couple of very critical days in their season before Christmas.

The big story today, recovery. "What A Mess!" That's the headline on "The Denver Post." And it is a mess. We have drips from the plowing, black snow everywhere from getting it up and off of the roads. In my neighborhood this morning, there were mazes four feet on either side from the snow blowing and shoveling that took place on the sidewalks and in the driveways.

So people are just trying to get back to normal today. The highways are all open. The major thoroughfares are open. They're working on the side streets primarily, at this point. Parking lots are being cleared so businesses and malls can get back to work. Hotels downtown, where we are, are full of stranded travelers. That has been an economic boon for them. But they -- at this hotel right here -- say they have about a third of their guests are people that are waiting out the storm and hoping to get somewhere in the next couple of days.

And they say it will be days. They are hoping to open the airport around noon today. A couple of runways are cleared. They are clearing them with all sorts of plows. There was an army of plows out there all night and this morning, still working to get the snow.

They are hoping to take care of all those people who have been stranded out there. It's certainly been a rough couple of days for holiday travelers.

HARRIS: Yes, you're right about that, Pattie.

You know, you were talking about the malls a bit ago. It is one thing for the retailers to hope in that when they open the doors that people will be there.

But do they have a real reason to expect large crowds?

LOGAN: That's debatable, because the governor has said, again, if you don't really need to travel, don't get out, because the plows are still doing their work. The roads are very icy and snowy so they're not encouraging travel.

But for those procrastinators, they're certainly going to have to get out there.

And I have heard of Larimer Square, which is not far from here, downtown, offering some incentives to bring holiday shoppers down -- free parking for the weekend and also some early sales. So they're trying to get people out.

HARRIS: We like the sound of that.

Pattie Logan for us in Denver.

Pattie, appreciate it.

Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, Tony, just looking at Pattie's live shot and then at the other views of Denver this morning, it looks pretty placid. Chad Myers is in the Weather Center.

But are looks deceiving?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, it looks awesome.

WHITFIELD: Yes, I like it.

MYERS: It's going to be the best weather in the country for a while if you like to go out and play in the snow.

Here's a live shot from our affiliate KUSA out in Denver. This is actually the I-25. And you think of I-25 as a north-south road. But right at this point, right at Colorado Boulevard, it kind of turns toward the west-northwest. And that's the front range there. You can even see Indian Peaks Wilderness Area back there if you use your imagination. A beautiful shot there.

Turn the camera around and use our affiliate KMGH and you see an absolutely stunning sunrise there, as the sun-comes over the front range. The sun-will be -- there, you can darken it up there for us.

Thank you, guys. You've been -- you guys were paying attention there at KMGH out in Denver, Colorado. Thanks, guys. It's been a busy couple of days.


WHITFIELD: Reporting tonight back on Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates heads home from a fact finding mission to Baghdad. He'll talk to President Bush this weekend.

CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, traveling with the Secretary.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrapped up his three day tour of Iraq and headed back to Washington armed with conflicting military assessments about the advisability of a surge of additional U.S. forces to bring violence here in Baghdad under control.

ROBERT GATES, INCOMING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The situation here in Baghdad, obviously, is difficult. Yesterday I told Prime Minister Maliki that we are committed to the success of the Iraqi government.

MCINTYRE: Gates found popular support for the idea from a select group of low-ranking U.S. soldiers who serve on the front lines. And CNN has learned at least some mid-level commanders support the idea, as well.

One American Army general told CNN in private: "It would make a real difference in Baghdad. It would help set conditions for a political solution." The officer, who commands troops in Baghdad, said the option currently getting serious consideration calls for five U.S. brigades and three Iraqi brigades to be sent into Baghdad early next year. That would provide a surge of roughly 30,000 troops, including the several thousand Iraqi Army troops.

The most senior commanders here continue to express reservations about the concept, fearing unless a surge is linked to a clear military objective that helps Iraq take control, it will only be a temporary success and ultimately counter-productive.


MCINTYRE: Mr. Secretary, as you were talking now, we can hear the crackle of gunfire in the distance, the sound of explosions, war planes roaring overhead.

Do you think a surge of additional U.S. forces in the short-term could help bring some of this violence under control?

GATES: I'm quite confident that what I've heard from the (AUDIO GAP) of their plans this week that we will be able to -- that together and with them in the lead -- we will be able to make an improvement in the security situation here in Baghdad.


MCINTYRE: Gates says he never discussed specific troop numbers with Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, and insists he has not made up his mind if a surge is the way to go. But Gates will be able to report to President Bush that opposition to the surge option is not universal among U.S. commanders and that if he adopts it, the president can say what he's doing is what some generals think is best.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, Baghdad.


HARRIS: This is a test, only a test. The military draft getting a dry run. The selective service system plans what it calls a readiness exercise. The agency wants to check the machinery just in case Congress and the commander-in-chief decide a draft is needed. The test would begin in 2009. A spokesman says this does not mean selective service is gearing up for a draft and the White House insists it not considering a plan to reinstate compulsory service.

WHITFIELD: On Capitol Hill, faith and fury.


REP. VIRGIL H. GOODE, JR. (R), VIRGINIA: I do not apologize and I do not retract my letter. That letter stands for itself and I support the letter.


WHITFIELD: You know what they're talking about?

Well, one lawmaker stands by his words. Another vows to stand by his religion. The politics of faith, in THE NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: They fought in Iraq. Now another fight for U.S. Marines, this one in a military courtroom. That story ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: And here we go, people -- celebrity smack down. Round two.


WHITFIELD: More words, a little less love. Let's get ready to rumble. It's Donald versus Rosie, right here in THE NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Snap, crackle and pop coming to a TV set near you. An old tradition facing a new challenge -- high def, high drama straight ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: And CNN tonight, the challenges, struggles and revolution that became Christianity. "CNN PRESENTS: AFTER JESUS, THE FIRST CHRISTIANS." Don't miss it. That's tonight at 10:00.


WHITFIELD: OK, we've been looking at Denver for how many days now?

HARRIS: Yes, a couple of days.

WHITFIELD: OK. Well this is a sign of progress, because this is at the Denver International Airport. You're looking at what it takes to clear all that snow from the runway so that perhaps they really can start taking off today, midday, Denver time, as planned after all.

HARRIS: Look at the blower sort of kicking up that mountain of snow there.


HARRIS: A little arch of snow.

WHITFIELD: That is a lot of snow.

HARRIS: That is a lot of snow.

WHITFIELD: We're talking over two feet.

HARRIS: That's a better shot. That's a better shot there.

WHITFIELD: Yes, now you can really get a good vantage point.

HARRIS: Hey, Chad, can you see this?

MYERS: I can. You see that thing over to the left, that thing that looks like a runway covered in snow?


MYERS: That's a runway covered in snow still.


MYERS: They've got a lot more to do out there. They're trying to get two up and running by noon local time, and they're doing a really good job of it. But then you have to get the urea (ph) down, as well, because you still can't land on that. That's still too slick...


MYERS: That snow was so light as it came down and none of it was getting packed down as other planes were landing on it. You still have a very slick surface down below there.

But that is impressive. I mean the guy actually said it looked like the Army Corps or the Army's going into Iraq as a -- just a line after line after line of vehicles. And that's kind of what that looks like. I'm...


MYERS: ... going to war. Boy, they are going to war on that snow out there.

WHITFIELD: Well, you know, folks inside, you know, if they have a view, you know, from one of the terminals, they're like cheering.

MYERS: Right.


MYERS: But, you know, that's...

WHITFIELD: Maybe we are really going to get out of here.

MYERS: Yes, that's all said and good for now, but then in the daylight hours. But you also have to make sure that you get those lights cleared off...


MYERS: ... or just more than that, because otherwise as soon as the sun-sets, you don't have runways anymore because the pilots can't see the lights. So there's still a lot more work to do out there. And they've been working all night long. You just have to think about the number, the inches of snow that they moved. Look at some of the inches of snow now. These are the latest and the greatest numbers.

From Conifer, 42 inches -- or Conifer, if you want to take it like a tree, but if you want to talk like a local; Golden, Littleton, Boulder, two-and-a-half, three feet of snow in many areas. They're pushing it around. Then it got blown into drifts that were four to five feet.

So it is going to be a long day. We'll keep you updated.

Those are great pictures. I love them.

HARRIS: Yes, those are great.

OK, Chad, appreciate it.

Thanks, sir.

MYERS: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: Well, some pretty serious weather-related problems down South. Fighting traffic and the flood waters, guess where?

In New Orleans.


WHITFIELD: Some city streets were underwater yesterday after heavy rains moved through the area. More than six inches fell in just a few hours. Pumping stations closely watched since Hurricane Katrina did work. That's good news. But officials say the pumps couldn't keep up completely because the rain just lasted too long.

HARRIS: And Discovery cleared for landing.

The question is where?

The shuttle, set to return home today, but the weather may not cooperate at the top two landing sites. Showers and clouds are forecast for Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Crosswinds expected at Edwards Air Force Base in California. That leaves White Sands, New Mexico. It has only been used for a shuttle landing once, and that was 24 years ago. NASA has sent equipment there to prepare for the possible landing.

Touchdown in New Mexico-would delay turnaround times.

WHITFIELD: An alleged serial killer is charged in England. Truck driver Stephen Wright is accused of murdering five prostitutes in the town of Ipswich. The serial killing spree has terrified local residents and gripped the media attention in Britain and elsewhere. The 48-year-old suspect appeared in court briefly this morning.

Another man taken into custody earlier was released on bail and not charged. The nude bodies of the five prostitutes were found over an 11-day period earlier this month.

HARRIS: The oath of office, the politics of faith -- one congressman stands by his criticism of a newly elected colleague. That lawmaker plans to use the Muslim holy book at his swearing in.

CNN's Brian Todd with the story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressman Virgil Goode is proud to have the Ten Commandments on his office wall. He's not about to take back what he wrote about an incoming Muslim congressman, no matter who's offended.

GOODE: No, I don't apologize and I do not retract my letter. The letter stands for itself.


KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: My name is Keith Ellison. I'm running for the United States Congress.


TODD: The letter was about incoming Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, who plans to use the Koran at his unofficial swearing in. There are no holy books from any religion used in official Congressional oaths.

Responding to letters from constituents, Goode wrote back: "I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. If American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."

When we pressed Goode on whether he is against Ellison using the Koran at his swearing in...

GOODE: That's the call for the voters in that district in Minnesota on whom they elect.

TODD: That whoever had a measured response to Goode's comments when interviewed by Wolf Blitzer.


KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: But, you know, there might be a few things about Muslims that he might want to know. He might want to know that Muslims, there are about five million in the country, that they're here to support and strengthen America.


TODD: Goode made it clear he couldn't disagree more.

GOODE: I fear that in the next century, we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt strict immigration policies.

TODD: Outrage is pouring in from other members of Congress. When she took the oath, Deborah Wasserman Schultz used a Jewish holy book for her swearing in.

What does she think of Virgil Goode's concerns about a Muslim congressman?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Bigotry is what I think of it. And I think he not only owes an apology to his constituents, but he owes an apology to all Americans.

TODD (on camera): Some members of Congress outraged, others under pressure. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on the House Republican leadership to repudiate Virgil Goode's comments. We tried repeatedly to reach the offices of Outgoing House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Outgoing House Majority Leader John Boehner. Their press secretaries did not return our calls and e- mails.

Brian Todd, CNN, Rocky Mount, Virginia.


WHITFIELD: And still controversy in New York.

Why, Tony?

I know you love to say it. Go ahead.

HARRIS: Celebrity smack down, round two.

Hey, look, did you -- have you heard what Rosie said today?


HARRIS: How about Donald?


HARRIS: I don't know.

WHITFIELD: That's part of the piece.

HARRIS: This is part of the piece. It's coming here.

WHITFIELD: Yes, stay tuned to find out.

HARRIS: And we are Minding Your Business this morning.

Stephanie Elam is in for Ali Velshi.

She is here now with a preview -- Stephanie, good morning.


That's right, I'm going to tell you about G.M. currently the world's largest automaker. But it's got some competition for next year. I'm going to tell you who's gunning for that number one spot, coming up in THE NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Look at this, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Love that.

HARRIS: Hard at work, over time. Over time just in time for the holidays. Someone's going to get paid.

All right, so, Fred, you had to blow it...


HARRIS: You had to push it...


HARRIS: You have to plow it, OK, and then you ultimately have to haul it, all of that snow.

WHITFIELD: God. Oh, that's a lot of snow.

HARRIS: Isn't that something?

WHITFIELD: Yes. Two feet of snow just in Denver alone. Of course, more than that in the outer lying areas and further north.

HARRIS: Has your little man -- your little man has never -- has your little man seen snow?

WHITFIELD: No, no, no.

HARRIS: He hasn't seen snow?

WHITFIELD: He hasn't seen snow.


WHITFIELD: He will love it when he does.

HARRIS: I spent a lot of time in Cleveland, and as I look at this picture of all this snow, I'm feeling -- feeling fortunate to be in Atlanta.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it's very warm.

HARRIS: To business news now.

Toyota and General Motors, two automakers seemingly headed in different directions.

Stephanie Elam is Minding Your Business -- Stephanie, what are you talking about this morning?

ELAM: Well, Tony, it seems that G.M. which has been the number one automaker in the world, is getting a bit of a challenge. And it's coming out of Japan, on behalf of Toyota, which has given out its estimates for how many vehicles it's going to make for next year.

Now, this -- they're looking at 9.42 million vehicles that they will be making...


ELAM: ... for this coming year coming up.

Now, right now, they expect to make about just over nine million. So that would be an increase of just 4 percent from that.


ELAM: Now, to compare that to G.M. as far as their outlook for 2007, they haven't given us one just yet. But for 2006, they're looking at about -- making about 9.14 million. So already they were kind of neck-and-neck at this point.

HARRIS: Well, let me -- so, clearly, then, Toyota has overtaken Ford in the number two spot? Is that correct?

ELAM: Oh, yes. We're seeing this progression.

HARRIS: OK. So -- and is General Motors vulnerable here, based on the numbers that you're talking about?

ELAM: They are vulnerable. And part of the reason that they're vulnerable is because you can look at one very happy company and one very strategically troubled company, and that would be Toyota looking at growth. They're building more plants. They're actually ramping up their production of vehicles. And one thing that's really helping them out is that they have the hybrid, the Prius, which has helped their numbers.

Well, at G.M. you have this restructuring. Last year they lost $10 billion. So they're mired in closing down plants and cutting back on their production, and that's really hurting them.

HARRIS: How about the -- what is the -- what's the hybrid story here? Is that really -- how big a story is that for Toyota?

ELAM: It's a big story, mainly because part of the reason why G.M. is being hurt so much is because of the sales of SUVs and trucks. They were really lighter than expected. And part of that has to do with the fact that we've seen those high oil prices. That's a huge issue.

So, therefore, a lot of people are trying to find their ways around it, because they still need to drive. And so they're going to the hybrids.

HARRIS: So what is the -- what's the outlook for G.M. moving forward? Any way to know at this point?

ELAM: They're still looking at a loss. I mean so far they're posting a loss now. So G.M. is definitely in trouble here and they're trying to turn their ship around.

But as you know, when you're that far in, it's hard to turn gears.

HARRIS: Yes, I know you're right.

ELAM: Yes.

HARRIS: Stephanie, Merry Christmas to you.

ELAM: Merry Christmas.

HARRIS: Happy Holidays. Happy Kwanzaa and everything else that we celebrate at this time of the year.

ELAM: Very good.

To you, too.

HARRIS: All right.

WHITFIELD: And this is a form of celebration this holiday season.

HARRIS: There you go. We are going to continue to watch this. I mean this is an important exercise. They really need to get at least a couple of these runways clear today so folks can make it to their holiday destinations. So they're blowing it, hauling it, pushing it, snow plows working over time right now to try to clear these runways, to get those thousands of stranded passengers on their way out of Denver...

WHITFIELD: Ooh, now that's looking good, because now we're seeing a little asphalt.

HARRIS: That's a shot, huh?

Here we go, finally.


HARRIS: We'll have the story in THE NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: A little blacktop on the tarmac.

HARRIS: And he's back from Iraq with an empty Santa sack. Now, a soldier's buddies. He's making it a Merry Christmas for his 11 kids.

WHITFIELD: Whoo, count them.

HARRIS: How about this for a family holiday story?

HARRIS: Don't miss it in THE NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: Ah, it's so sweet.


WHITFIELD: I'd say that Denver is sparkling this morning.

HARRIS: Look at that.

WHITFIELD: Doesn't that look like a...

HARRIS: Look at that. That is beautiful.

WHITFIELD: ... city that is now sparkling?

HARRIS: City scape framed by the mountains.

WHITFIELD: Because finally we can see the city.


WHITFIELD: Or at least some of the Rockies there, because the snow has dissipated and now there's lots of activity at the airport. Activity in the way of clearing off some of that snow from those tarmacs so that these folks -- thousands -- can get on their way.

HARRIS: Was it, 4,700 -- at one point 4,700 people stranded at that airport...

WHITFIELD: Sleeping on the hard floor.

HARRIS: Yes, a day, two days, overnight, right?

WHITFIELD: Miserable.

HARRIS: And now, perhaps, they want to reopen the airport by, what, noon local time.


HARRIS: Chad, that's what? 2:00 p.m. our time. That's the hope. You have to get a couple of runways cleared.


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You have to make sure you don't send a plane out there that eventually has to come back around and do it all over again, come back to the gate because something wasn't right. You know what, there's a threshold here that they want to get by, they want it to be absolutely safe.

HARRIS: That's a beautiful shot.

MYERS: Beautiful shot. Lots of sunshine. The sunshine is going to help enormously. Now, maybe you never get above 32 for the first couple hours of day, but when that sun beats on that black asphalt, that tarmac, just a little bit, you get just enough warmth to really help it all out.

That's what you -- when you are trying to get snow or ice off when it's zero, that is almost impossible, the salt doesn't work. You can't use salt on a runway because you don't want the plane to get corroded by the salt. So, there's a whole separate chemical that they are using there that doesn't cause corrosion. You really don't want rust on your airplane.

WHITFIELD: No, I don't want that.

MYERS: You can kind of understand why they don't want a rusty plane.

WHITFIELD: Right. Let's stay away from that.


MYERS: We have a couple other shots, too. Atlanta is slowed down by about 30 minutes today. We had some thick, thick fog this morning. Atlanta, on the top right. You can see the raindrops on the windshield there on the lens.

And on the bottom, San Francisco, no airport delays so far, but they are not out of the question for today. If we can go back to that shot on the top left, I want to show you the most important part. This is the Denver shot, again.


MYERS: See how much snow they have out of the gate area?


MYERS: That's what they had to work on first.



MYERS: Plowing the runway is the last thing they needed to do, because they need to get the snow away from the plane. So, one, the bags can get in. The planes can move, the tugs can move the plane when they want to. There was so much to pick up, scoop and move, it really was an enormous task for them to get that two feet of snow out of the way.

And five to six foot drifts around some of those baggage carts that we were seeing there.

WHITFIELD: That's amazing.

HARRIS: It is. Chad, as we weave in here, some pictures of New York City, right, and the skaters there. Where is that, that's not --

MYERS: That's Central Park.

HARRIS: OK. Great.

MYERS: That's from the top of our building there at Columbus Circle.

HARRIS: Oh, the Time-Warner Building. OK. As we take a look at these pictures, folks having a great time on the ice there --

MYERS: But that's fake ice, though. Well, it's ice, but there's coils under there that make the ice.


MYERS: It's 54 there, so.

HARRIS: It's 54, there. Right. And that's what I'm getting to. It gives us an opportunity to sort of give everyone a bit of the weather picture there in New York City, and I'm also thinking about the connection to Denver, and the airports, and possible delays. That's a major hub out there for a couple of airlines, there in Denver. I'm wondering if there is that domino effect, that may be hurting travel in New York and people looking to get out of New York?

MYERS: I suspect you will probably hear a year-end financial announcement from United. They had Chicago with socked-in fog. They had Denver unusable. They had San Francisco unusable for a while yesterday. They just had some hubs go down on them and that's unfortunate.

They also know that they want to get the planes out of Denver before they bring any planes in. They're only going to have two runways going, so they will use those for outbound planes for a while; get the people out of the airport, get the planes out of their way so they can even do a better job there in the jet way areas and they will be able to move the planes in later on this afternoon.

HARRIS: Nice. See he weaved all that together, there?

WHITFIELD: I like that.

HARRIS: That's what Chad Myers does.

Chad, we appreciate it.

MYERS: Thank you, man.

HARRIS: Well, here's the question. Does a brash billionaire Trump a wild card? The ugly exchange between Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell gets even nastier. Swords and egos first clashed Tuesday after O'Donnell mocked Trump for his public forgiveness of a scandalized Miss USA. Trump owns the Miss USA pageant.

WHITFIELD: I can't stop laughing because the hair, the -- that kills me.

HARRIS: The hair thing. Well, but you know, there was nothing pretty about what The Donald had to say about Rosie. Here's a recap from A.J. Hammer of CNN's "Showbiz Tonight."



HAMMER (voice over): It's Donald Trump:

DONALD TRUMP: Rosie is a loser. She's always been a loser.

HAMMER: Versus Rosie O'Donnell:

ROSIE O'DONNELL: I don't enjoy him, no.

HAMMER: And it's getting personal.

TRUMP: She's unattractive in every sense of the word. From a physical standpoint, she looks like hell. Inside, she's far worse than she is on the outside.

HAMMER: Really personal.

O'DONNELL: He annoys me on a multitude of levels.

JO PIAZZA, COLUMNIST, "THE DAILY NEWS": The next thing we know, Rosie is going to tell Donald to meet her out by the bike racks after school.

HAMMER: It's a schoolyard brawl that everybody's watching. And The Donald himself tells "Showbiz Tonight" he's ready.

TRUMP: I learned a long time ago, when you're dealing with a bully, you hit'em between the eyes.

HAMMER: "Showbiz Tonight" brings you the blow-by-blow details of this clash of the TV titans.

NICKI GOSTIN, "NEWSWEEK": It's always fun to see celebrities fight. It's the best.

HAMMER: It all started with Donald Trump's highly publicized press conference, where he proudly told the world that he was not firing Miss USA Tara Conner for her reported heavy partying and underage drinking.

TRUMP: In the case of Tara, she made some very, very bad choices, some foolish choices. Tara is going to be given a second chance.

HAMMER: The next morning on "The View," Rosie went after Donald.

O'DONNELL: There he is, hair looping. Going, everyone deserves a second chance.

He's the moral authority? Left his wife, had an affair, left the second wife, had an affair -- had kids both times. But he's the moral compass for 20-year-olds in America. Donald, sit and spin, my friend.

HAMMER: After going after his hair and his marriages. Rosie hit Trump where it hurts, his business.

O'DONNELL: I just think that this man is like sort of one of those, you know, snake oil salesmen in "Little House on the Prairie." HAMMER: She accused Trump of using his father's money to bail himself out of bankruptcy. She seemed to predict that Trump would take umbrage at her comments.

O'DONNELL: He's going to sue me, but he'll be bankrupt by that time, so I won't have to worry.

HAMMER: Rosie was right.

Donald wasted no time going after Rosie O'Donnell. He's now calling her fat. He's jokingly threatening to send someone to steal Rosie partner, Kelly Carpenter. And, yes, he is threatening to sue Rosie.

HAMMER (on camera): As the Donald Trump-Rosie O'Donnell war of words reaches the boiling point, I decided I needed to go right to The Donald, himself, so he could set the record straight on exactly how he feels about Rosie O'Donnell.

(Voice over): And The Donald was on fire.

TRUMP: You take a look at Rosie's moral compass. I mean, this woman is a disgrace.

HAMMER (on camera): Plan to follow through with your threat to sue her?

TRUMP: Well, you know, taking money out of her big fat ass would be probably something that is very easy. And we probably will follow through with it, yes.

HAMMER: Observers tell "Showbiz Tonight" this is all vintage Trump.

GOSTIN: We all love him but he's incredibly cheesy. And yeah, of course, she's right to call him on that.

PIAZZA: I think he's pretending to be angry, as yet another publicity stunt to get more publicity for him.

HAMMER (voice over): And what does Queen Barbara, AKA, "View" co-host and co-executive producer, Barbara Walters, have to say about this latest "View" controversy, which all took place while she's on vacation?

In a statement to "Showbiz Tonight", Walters, along with "The View" Executive Producer Bill Getty says, quote, "Both Rosie and Donald are high-spirited, opinionated people. Donald has been a friend of "The View," for many yeas, and Rosie, of course, is our enormously popular moderator. We cherish with them both. And hope the New Year brings calm and peace."

On her next appearance on "The View" Rosie only made a brief reference to her Trump dust up.

O'DONNELL: Look who's here today, Kelly. I was afraid to leave her home in case somebody with a come over came and stole her from me.

HAMMER: She indicated she may be done talking Trump.

O'DONNELL: Frankly, here's my comment to him.


HAMMER: Whether or not Rosie really is done talking Trump, we're waiting to see if the schoolyard fight between Donald and Rosie really will become a courtroom fight.


WHITFIELD: All right.

HARRIS: Round, what? Two, three, four? Later this morning.

WHITFIELD: I'm losing count. I don't know. I don't know. Somewhere between two and three. But, yeah, we may progress to four after today.


WHITFIELD: Let's take a look at the numbers because the market is up and running. Well, maybe it's not running. Maybe it's kind of walking, sauntering along, there, with the Dow down 27 points.

HARRIS: Going in reverse.

WHITFIELD: I know. It's all looking yucky. Dow, as I mentioned, down 27 points. The Nasdaq down as well, about 5 points. You see right there on the lower bottom of your screen, 2 points down in the S&P, as well.

Maybe it will look up later on today.

All right, from the sands of Egypt, ancient text that helps explain the development of Christianity. Almost lost, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Snap, crackle and pop coming to a TV set near you. An old tradition facing a new challenge, high-def, high drama, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM

WHITFIELD: I don't know if that stuff is for me.


WHITFIELD: This Monday, 2 billion Christians will celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the beginnings of Christianity, but the earliest chapters may have been lost just in the last decades. Tonight, Liam Neeson, narrates our special, "CNN Presents: After Jesus, the First Christians". Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LIAM NEESON, NARRATOR, THE FIRST CHRISTIANS: Of all the threats to Christianity over the past 2,000 years, perhaps the greatest came in 1945, near the village of Naghamadi (ph), in southern Egypt, where the waters of the Nile dry up into desert sands.

This is where a farmer, named Mohammed Ali, was digging for fertilizer when he discovered a clay jar with 13 ancient books hidden inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within these books, there were over 50 texts, most of which we did not know about before. That can help us understand the beginnings of Christianity, and the development of religion, in some remarkable new ways.

NEESON: But it all nearly vanished in a puff of smoke, when the mother Muhammad Ali was looking for some fuel to make some tea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She found these old books, as he told the story, Muhammad Ali says, that his mother ripped out some pages of papyrus, some precious pages of ancient text, and pushed those underneath her stove and burned the papyrus and had some delicious tea that day. But what was lost in the process we will never know.

NEESON: What we do know is that the surviving books, called the Gnostic Gospels gave the world a compelling, and competing story, of what happened after Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The text of the Naghamadi library making it very clear, that there were a lot of gospels that were composed were composed in the early church. Four were finally selected for the New Testament Cannon, but beyond that there were plenty of other gospels.

NEESON: Other gospels? More than one version of the faith? In fact, there were many. There were even Christians who believed in more than one God.


WHITFIELD: And you can see the two-hour special, narrated by Liam Neeson, "CNN Presents: After Jesus, The First Christians". It airs tonight 10:00 Eastern, and again at 1 a.m.

Food retailers are getting in the holiday spirit. Stephanie Elam is "Minding Your Business".


HARRIS: A welcome sight here. Take a look at this, Fred.


HARRIS: Well, it had to move to get to this point.


HARRIS: Right? Away from the gate, to this point. We have a United Air Lines jet --

WHITFIELD: What? I'm sorry, that runway is not looking finished, so it's going to do what?

HARRIS: It's going to sit there for a while. It's getting ready. I guess maybe it will be one of the first planes to leave --

WHITFIELD: Wait a minute, is it rolling? Or is it just that this chopper shot gave the illusion?

HARRIS: Yeah, but it clearly had to move from the gate. So, you know, clearly this will be one of the first planes.

MYERS: Tony, Tony, Tony, look at the wings. They're covered in snow.

WHITFIELD: OK, that's what I'm saying.

MYERS: This thing is not going anywhere.

HARRIS: So, it's not going anywhere?

MYERS: He's just driving this around.

HARRIS: Oh, man.

WHITFIELD: OK, they're just going from one gate to another or maybe a hangar.

HARRIS: I am so hopeful for those folks.

WHITFIELD: No, because there's something on those wings.

HARRIS: I'm reading way too much into this.


MYERS: Not enough lift with all that snow on those wings, that's for sure. They have the deicing work to do.

WHITFIELD: But he's hopeful there, and that's all right.

HARRIS: All right.

MYERS: Hey, we have movement.


HARRIS: That's a start.


HARRIS: All right, Chad.

WHITFIELD: OK, Chad, we will be talking to you again soon.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

All right. Clearly some weather problems there in Denver. Hopefully things will get moving there, but take a look at this. Jumbo jets vanishing in London's famous fog.

WHITFIELD: I don't want to fly out of there right now, either.

HARRIS: No. Heathrow airport socked in. Look at the people queuing. That's what they do, they queue. Holiday travel plans sacked, that story coming up in the NEWSROOM.

And let's get can back to Denver here.

All right, just driving around, great. They're blowing the snow, hauling the snow, doing everything they can make to make the runways clear.

WHITFIELD: I guess the encouragement here is that this is the first time in a couple of days we have seen a plane move, out of Denver, even though this one is not getting ready to take off.

HARRIS: We will update the Denver story with Chad Myers after a break. You are in the NEWSROOM.

We're trying to stay in the clear, people.


All right, Chad Myers in the Weather Center keeping us straight on what is going on in Denver.

MYERS: You know, I love --

WHITFIELD: Because we can use the help.

HARRIS: Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: I love i-Reports. You guys have to see this one. I don't know if you have been able to peek at it or not. A picture of a fire hydrant, well just the top of one.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh.

MYERS: This little seven-year-old boy there, this is -- his name is Philip. This is sent in from Nancy in Superior, Colorado, between two and a half and three feet of snow. She said it just reminds you of a great time to slow down and enjoy the family and enjoy the time.

WHITFIELD: Enjoy the moment. That's cute.

MYERS: That is a giraffe behind him -- no, no, I'm just kidding. That is the family dog, Tornado. And they are enjoying the snow out there. That's really along U.S. 36, right between Colorado and Boulder, where all those cars were stuck for so long on that highway. The National Guard was out rescuing people. Thank you, Nancy. If you have great pictures, go to and send them to us. We would love to get them on the air. You just have to go out and try to enjoy it. (WEATHER REPORT)

WHITFIELD: This one, will really tug at your heart strings. It's a story coming up. He's back from Iraq with an empty Santa sack and now a soldier's buddies make it a very Merry Christmas for his -- count them -- is 11 children. Isn't that sweet?

HARRIS: Great picture.

WHITFIELD: We will have more of that story straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And more troops? The big question on Iraq. The new Defense chief heading back from Iraq, armed with conflicting opinions. Details in the NEWSROOM.

And naughty Miss Nevada losing her crown, and her shirt. What's that all about?

HARRIS: Well, now.

WHITFIELD: As Tony salivates here. Revelations of a beauty queen, later in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: So, this is a test, only a test. The military draft getting a dry run, the Selective Service System plans what it calls a "readiness exercise". The agency wants to check the machinery just in case Congress and the commander in chief decide a draft is needed.

Tests would begin in 2009. A spokesman says this does not mean Selective Service is gearing up for a draft, and the White House insists it's not considering a plan to reinstate compulsory service.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, on that very subject, Dick Flahavan, the associate director of Selective Service, for public and inter- government affairs, is on the phones with us now.

And so, Mr. Flahavan, why do this, if it is not a precursor to a draft?


WHITFIELD: I'm going to ask you if you could start your comment one more time because we missed the first part of it.

FLAHAVAN: Sure. Routine testing of plans and procedures have been done ever since Selective Service stood up back in 1980, so it's just a periodic testing of our procedures to make sure everything -- it will function the way it's planned.

WHITFIELD: And what does that mean, exactly, a routine readiness exercise? What actually takes place?

FLAHAVAN: Well, since the plan hasn't been put together yet, we envision that it would test various pieces of our organization to make sure that information and data flows properly among the various echelons and individual claims by registrants are handled according to our procedures.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So you can understand why folks with young men and women 18 and older may be a little concerned about what is about to happen. How do you reassure American families out there?

FLAHAVAN: Well, I would say a couple of things. One is, if a draft were to be on the horizon, selective service's budget and resources would not have been decormated (ph) over the several years. Number two, there is no consensus in the Congress to re-institute a draft and that's validated by the last vote on the so-called Representative Rangel bill back in 2005 where 402 congressmen in the House voted against reinstating a draft versus two in favor. And, of course, the president and the former secretary of defense have said multiple times draft is not needed for the current war on terrorism.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, we appreciate your time. Dick Flahavan, thanks so much.

FLAHAVAN: Yes, ma'am.