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Winter Storms Strike Both Coasts; Prison Escape Resembles Movie; Judge Demands Explanation for Destroyed Interrogation Tapes; Secretary Rice Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq; Critically Ill Teen Rescued by Navy

Aired December 18, 2007 - 13:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Tell it to the judge. This week it's lawyers' turn to argue about the CIA interrogation tapes that no longer exist. A federal judge in Washington is all ears.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also, it is a jail break straight out of Hollywood, by way of New Jersey. But the story is not even over yet.

Hello, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen, in today for Kyra Phillips at CNN world headquarters right here in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Happening right now, when the CIA destroyed those interrogation tapes from 2002, was it violating a court order? New today, the federal judge who issued the order wants to know.

Judge Henry Kennedy ordered administration lawyers to show up and tell all at a hearing on Friday. In 2005 Kennedy ordered the administration to hold onto evidence of any alleged abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Five months later, the CIA destroyed tapes that showed two terror suspects being interrogated, apparently harshly.

The Justice Department says those suspects were not held at Guantanamo, but lawyers for detainees asked for the hearing, fearing more evidence is being destroyed.

We'll dig into this issue in just a few minutes with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

NGUYEN: Also, bracing for the onslaught on one end of the country. Look at this. They are digging out on the other end. Heavy rain, snow, and brittle winds are all part of the mix as a wave of Pacific storms takes aim at the West Coast. And, after a blast of wintry weather on the East Coast, the problem today, coping with the cold.

Our Chad Myers is in the CNN severe weather center, joining us.

You've got your hands full on both coasts.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and a couple storms still to come yet. Those are the ones we're worried about. The ones that have moved through the northwest, this is pretty much done now for Seattle and points eastward. But now the rain has slid down into central and southern California.

Don't have any rain yet in L.A., but it's coming, and not really enough to make a big dent in your drought but enough to maybe make some of those mudslide areas get a little bit loose later today. Don't expect anything. We're just going to watch it, though, a half inch of rain expected.

There's the rain and snow now, away from the main populated areas into the ski resort areas, and onto the plains where they actually could use some of that rain. There's some rain still in Seattle, but it's just about done for you now. The dry air is just to your west. Now, in a couple days there's another storm headed for you.

The main bulk of the rain is headed down to San Francisco. There's a live shot from San Francisco. You can basically see nothing, a couple of buildings there, and then nothing in the background. There should be all kinds of buildings there in the background. KGO, San Francisco, our affiliate there, showing us how gray those skies are, even a few airport delays, obviously, at the airport there.

Now, we'll take you down farther to the south where the rain now is finally moving, getting at least close to about Oxnard right. The rain showers, though, as you move on up, the farther to the north you get the heavier it's been. Then it will slide down later on today with a couple showers into L.A.

The weather in the east is about done. Literally, it is. But the weather in the west is just getting going. Looks like it's going to be three to four inches of rain here. But that's the Sierra. It's not going to be rain. It's going to be all snow. Snow piling up feet high.

Take a look at this feet -- or I don't know, whatever this is. Look at all this. Can't even walk on the sidewalks, because the snow is so deep on the side. They're walking in the streets here. This is Portland, Maine.

Remember, if you are out there, you have a fire hydrant on your street, that's in your street -- maybe it's on your property -- you better dig it out, because the fire department needs to get to that in case your house, anything happens to it, anything around there. So it's one thing we always did in Buffalo when it snowed, is always dig out your fire hydrant so that they don't have to do that when they get there

NGUYEN: Yes, that could slow things down. All right. Chad, thank you so much.

MYERS: You bet.

NGUYEN: Well, this month's flooding in Washington state is still causing problems, and Governor Chris Gregoire is calling on the federal government to double the number of counties eligible for flood relief to 12. Gregoire says the state is ready to get to work preparing roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. Gregoire says more than 4,000 storm victims have registered with FEMA for disaster assistance.

LEMON: Well, if it weren't so criminal, it might be comical. Two inmates in a New Jersey jail somehow got hold of heavy wire, a 10- pound steel wheel, bikini pin-ups, tape and more, and they used them to slip away from a high-security cell block.

Well, they've been on the lam for about three days now, and CNN's Jason Carroll breaks it all down for us.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jose Espinosa was looking at 17 years for manslaughter. Otis Blunt was facing robbery and weapons charges. Together they hatched a plan: to chip their way out of doing hard time.

TED ROMANKOW, PROSECUTOR, UNION COUNTY, NEW JERSEY: I'm angry that two prisoners would escape a secure facility, and not even know when they did it.

CARROLL: Guards noticed both inmates missing from their high- security cells at the Union County jail at 5:15 p.m. Saturday. They found this metal wire and say they believe Blunt used it as a tool to chip away a hole into Espinosa's adjoining cell. Then they used it to chisel an 18-inch wide hole from Espinosa's cell to the outside. The holes were concealed with pinup posters.

If their plan sounds a little familiar...


CARROLL: ... that's because that's basically what a character in the critically-acclaimed film, "The Shawshank Redemption" did to escape.

ROMANKOW: I really prefer not to compare it with any movie, although I can understand why you might, because it does -- to a certain degree, it does look very similar to some of them. Except I think in "Shawshank Redemption," they had a better poster on the wall.

CARROLL: In the movie the character crawls through a sewer pipe to freedom. Blunt and Espinosa took a different path. The hole they created opened up to a third floor landing. And once outside, authorities say they presumably took a running jump, 15 feet out, clearing a razor-wire fence and landing 30 feet below.

The duo left a note to a guard, reading, "Thank you, officer, for the tools needed. You're a real pal. Happy holidays." It was marked with a smiley face.

(on camera) There were footprints outside on the ground, both sets of footprints heading in opposite directions. It turns out that Blunt had tried to escape before in September, using the exact same method. Authorities tell us they will not elaborate as to whether or not they have any leads at this point as to where these two inmates might be.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: Let's get you back to our top story today, at least one of them. A federal judge orders Bush administration lawyers to court on Friday, and, he wants to know whether the CIA's controversial destruction of interrogation tapes violates a court order that he issued back in 2005.

Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, joins us now by phone.

Jeffrey, first thing I want to ask you is, what do you make of this hearing?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it shows that Judge Kennedy is one not-very-happy judge. Judges don't like even the possibility of their orders being defied. And he wants an explanation of what the government was doing, whether his order was defied.

And I think in a larger sense shows that the legal setting of the investigation of the destruction of this tape is very much still up in the air, and it's not clear who's going to do first or who's going to do what.

NGUYEN: Let me ask you this, because the Justice Department says that the suspects were not held at Guantanamo. So that being the case, does that mean that this is not covered by the court order?

TOOBIN: Well, that's what they say, and that may well be true. But it is certainly close enough that a judge would want an explanation. I believe that these inmates are now at Guantanamo, so that a technical reading of the order against destruction of the tape may show no violation.

But it's certainly close enough that the judge might well want an explanation, and that appears what's going to go on with this hearing.

NGUYEN: Also, Attorney General Mukasey last week asked Congress to hold off questioning witnesses on this while they do an investigation. Could he be forced to comply?

TOOBIN: Well, that's where things get a little tougher under the separation of powers. The judge -- it would be -- it would be hard for a judge simply to tell the attorney general don't proceed, and after all, the judge doesn't have a team of lawyers to do his own investigation. So, certainly he will probably want to coordinate with the attorney general.

But the issue that is likely to come out of this is -- calls for an independent counsel, because the issue here, as the ACLU lawyers have already made in their paper, is can the attorney general be trusted to investigate the CIA? Can one branch of the executive branch investigate another?

That's -- that's going to be the question that's raised. And the judge's view will probably have some bearing on how that all turns out.

NGUYEN: All right. Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, joining us by phone this morning -- or this afternoon to help us sort it all out.

Also, I want to let you know that our Kathleen Koch will be having some reaction from the White House next hour, so you definitely want to stick around for that.

LEMON: Absolutely. And dropping in unannounced, the U.S. secretary of state with praise and a few admonishments for Iraqi leaders. CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh joins us now from Baghdad with more on a visit that probably took many by surprise, Alphonso.

ALPHONSO VAN MARCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. The U.S. secretary of state jumped on a plane and hitched a ride to Kirkuk in the northern part of this country and then in Baghdad for meetings with Iraq's President Jalal Talabani, as well as other leaders.

A bit of an awkward meeting, perhaps, because at the time when the U.S. secretary of state was in country, there were some 300 Turkish troops to the north of Iraq, had crossed the border, carrying out incursions against what Turkey calls PKK terrorists.

Now what's interesting about this is it is the second incursion in three days by the Turkish military into northern Iraq, incursions that have left at least one person dead. Turkey saying that they're doing what they need to catch terrorists, but at the same time Turkey also says that they planned these attacks with the help of U.S. intelligence.

Here in Baghdad U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not confirm those allegations.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: This was a Turkish decision, and we have made clear to the Turkish government that we continue to be concerned about anything that could lead to innocent civilian casualties or to a destabilization of the north.


VAN MARSH: Now, it's important that Rice also said that Turkey, Iraq and the United States have a common interest in keeping the PKK, again a group that the U.S. and Turkey considers terrorists, from operating in northern Iraq.

At the same time she was congratulating Iraqi officials in moves toward reconciliation to move this country towards democracy and stability -- Don.

LEMON: And Alphonso, I've got to ask you this, because we've been reporting here that the violence, at least in Baghdad, seems to be down. And I don't know if that has anything to do with the weather or not. Speaking to some folks who have tons of experience in Baghdad say, because it's colder now, maybe the violence is down.

What do you say about that, about that violence being down in Baghdad?

VAN MARSH: Well, that's something that the U.S. secretary of state herself brought up during a press conference in Baghdad just a few hours ago. She gave three reasons for this lull in violence over the last couple of weeks.

She said it has to do with U.S. President George W. Bush ordering a surge of troops in this country about a year ago. She's saying that that has had an effect. She's also crediting Iraqi security forces for being more efficient. She's also thanking Iraqis, so called ordinary citizens, for cooperating both with U.S. troops as well as Iraqi security forces to kind of keep the violence at bay -- Don.

LEMON: Alphonso Van Marsh, thank you very much for that report, sir.

NGUYEN: Here's a question. Where's Rudy? You might be asking that question these days. We're trying to find him and find out what happened to him.

LEMON: A high-flying rescue on the high seas. A teen in trouble gets some help from the Navy.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


NGUYEN: It's 15 past the hour on this Tuesday. Here are three of the stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A federal judge orders Bush administration lawyers to court. It wants to know if the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes violates a court order he issued years ago.

Also new today, Aruban authorities have dropped their case against three young men long considered suspects in the Natalee Holloway case, citing a lack of evidence.

And some people in a northern Ohio town of Vienna are now being allowed to go back home. They were evacuated after a cargo truck crashed into an overpass, killing the driver and rupturing a natural gas line.

LEMON: And Betty, we have an update now on a daring high-seas rescue. Today we have the video from the Defense Department. Illinois teen Laura Montero is in good shape after being air-lifted for emergency surgery to the USS Ronald Reagan. And our Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with the very latest on this.

How's she doing?


In fact, Laura Montero, on board the USS Ronald Reagan, just pulled into harbor in San Diego a little while ago. We hope to bring everyone those pictures as soon as we get them in.

She was with her family on board a cruise ship off Baja, Mexico, over the weekend when she suffered from what appeared to be a ruptured appendix. There was no surgical capability nearby, so they called in this helicopter from the Ronald Reagan. They lowered a basket onto the cruise ship. They lifted her up and brought her, on an emergency basis, obviously, on board the Ronald Reagan.

You see her there over the weekend, being carried off to the surgical suite on board the aircraft carrier, performing emergency surgery on this young girl.

She is resting comfortably. She -- you see her there with her mother after the surgery on board the Ronald Reagan.

Being unloaded today in San Diego. She is being taken, we understand, to a local hospital, obviously, for further treatment.

But the military scrambled, got to helo to that cruise ship and took her away safely for surgery -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you very much for that update.

NGUYEN: Well, he's apparently in the lead but not in the limelight. Where is Rudy Giuliani? We'll ask our Bill Schneider why we haven't heard much from him lately.


NGUYEN: When the Federal Reserve takes action, we're usually talking about interest rates. But today the Fed is proposing a different kind of move.

CNN'S Susan Lisovicz is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to tell us about it and how those markets are faring today.

Hi, there, Susan.



Well, I think if Paul Simon were telling this, he'd say that the rally is slip-sliding away. We've had two days of pretty sharp losses. The bulls tried to take the market higher in the early going, couldn't hold it. We're not seeing much of anything right now, despite the fact that we had better than expected quarterly earnings from Best Buy, the big electronics company, as well as Goldman Sachs.

But both stocks are down sharply. Concerns about December for Best Buy and some slowdown in Goldman's core businesses like mergers and acquisitions weighing on those stocks.

And there you see the Dow, which just turned positive but only by a couple of points. The NASDAQ, meanwhile, is up two point.

More bad news from the housing sector. Housing starts fell nearly 4 percent in December. Housing permits, meanwhile, a good gauge of future activity, hit a 14-month low.

And the Federal Reserve is speaking out about the battered housing sector. Really wants to put an end to these unscrupulous practices, mortgage-lending practices that, really, one of the contributing factors to the crisis we're seeing.

Among its extraordinary proposals today, the Fed prohibiting, or tried to prohibit lenders from giving people loans they can't afford to buy. In other words, not only considering when people are taking out a loan, not only the ability to pay off the low teaser loan but the much higher reset.

Restricting what are called liar loans, which allow people access to loans without disclosing their income, as well as prohibiting or limiting prepayment penalties, which often permit people from moving -- or prohibit people from moving to more affordable loans, as well as prohibiting misleading advertising. Lenders will need to be more careful when using the word "fixed" to describe a rate.

Also, teaser rates, which are -- have been such a huge problem for so many people. That -- those rates could only be used if the much higher reset rates could be disclosed in the advertising nearby. So, it's just a broad-based initiative, and hopefully, it will help out a lot of folks as well as the industry -- Betty.

NGUYEN: You know, when you look at it, it's really pretty amazing to think that lenders were doing these things. Some would even call it deceptive.

LISOVICZ: Deceptive, disgusting, unscrupulous, you name it. But I mean, Ben Bernanke is saying the goal here is really restore consumer confidence.


BEN BERNANKE, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: Our goal is to promote responsible mortgage lending for the benefit of individual consumers and the economy. We want consumers to make decisions about home mortgage options confidently, with assurance that unscrupulous practices will not be tolerated.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LISOVICZ: And by the way, Betty, the public has 90 days to comment on these rules before they, in fact, go into effect. And we, of course, will be following this story.

In the meantime we've got another terrific story for you in the next hour. It's a disturbing story, as well, the United Nations warning food could be in short supply. And this comes at a time when a lot of us know that food prices are on the rise.

And I'll have that story for you in the next hour. In the meantime, I'll throw it back to you, Betty.

NGUYEN: All right, Susan, we're looking forward to that. Thank you.

LEMON: She was there to watch the heart-pounding action of a basketball game, but when the ref collapsed, she did something heart- pounding of her own. We'll tell you how it all turned out.


LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live in the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

NGUYEN: Yes, good afternoon. I'm Betty Nguyen, in for Kyra Phillips today. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, it's not technically considered a steroid, and most drug tests can't detect it. Now two lawmakers want to put some meat behind the law when it comes to the use of human growth hormones in baseball.

Senators Charles Schumer and Charles Grassley are proposing some new tough legislation today. They're calling for up to five-year prison terms for manufacturing or possession with intent to manufacture HGH, for dispensing HGH or for creating or possession with intent to distribute counterfeit HGH.

They're also calling for up to three years for simple possession of HGH without a prescription, and they want to make it a new offense to distribute HGH near a school or college campus.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Bottom line, human growth hormone is known for adding bulk to a ballplayer's body. This legislation would add some muscle to law enforcement officials' authority to police the abuse of HGH. And that's why both the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America have endorsed this bill.

Last week Commissioner Bud Selig called the Mitchell report a call to action, and he promised he would act. He should, and so should Congress. And that's why Senator Grassley and I are here today.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NGUYEN: The report put out last week by former senator, George Mitchell, says HGH has become the drug of choice in Major League Baseball. The report named a string of top players.

And one of the most prominent names in the Mitchell baseball steroid report is Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young award winner. Through his lawyer, Clemens has strongly denied using any performance- enhancing drugs.

But that might not be good enough for the Texas High School Coaches Association. Clemens was supposed to speak at the group's convention next month about what he does to keep in shape. But now the coaches are having second thoughts. And they're meeting today to decide whether to cancel Clemens.

LEMON: Don't ask, don't tell. It's been the law of the land and Pentagon policy for about 14 years, during which hundreds of U.S. troops have been kicked out of the military for being openly gay.

Critics have been up in arms since day one. And while there are no signs the policy is officially changing, the numbers tell another story.

More from CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The numbers tracked by gay rights advocates show a clear trend. While more than 1,200 gays were kicked out of the military in 2001, only a little more than 600 were discharged last year. Is that because of the fewer gays or more tolerance? Jarrod Chlapowski thinks it's more tolerance.

JARROD CHLAPOWSKI, FORMER ARMY SPECIALIST: This is the Will and Grace generation. This is the generation that grew up with the Real World. Being gay is not something as exotic as it had been in past generations.

MCINTYRE: Chlapowski was a soldier for five years, a Korean linguist. He came to terms with his sexuality while in the army and gradually shared the information with fellow soldiers.

CHLAPOWSKI: They all knew I was gay. That wasn't an issue.

MCINTYRE: That is increasingly the case. Commanders, peers turning a blind eye to what is a dischargeable offense, admitting homosexuality.

Back in 1993, when Congress imposed don't ask, don't tell compromise, on President Clinton's Pentagon, the thinking in the military was that if gays served openly, it would undermine good order and discipline but times and attitudes are changing.

GEN. JAMES JONES (RET.), FORMER MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: People can serve and serve honorably regardless where they come from. MCINTYRE: Retired Marine Corps Jim Jones was a member of the joint chief and also served as NATO's supreme commander. Having served with and for marines who he later learned were gay, his views softened over the years.

JONES: I think we should try to keep good people.

MCINTYRE: That said, Jones thinks the don't ask, don't tell policy works reasonably well.

JONES: Sometimes if it ain't broke, you shouldn't try to fix it.

MCINTYRE: And you don't think it's broken in.

JONES: I don't think it's broken.

MCINTYRE: But for gays who want to stay in, every day is the day someone can turn them in. That could drive them out.

CHLAPOWSKI: No matter how accepting my peers were, there could be that one instance where we do not reenlist.

(on camera): Gay advocates say now when the nation is at war and good people are in short supply is the perfect time to repeal the ban. But if change comes it won't come from the Pentagon. Congress instituted the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and only Congress can change it.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


NGUYEN: Well, let's talk some politics now. The front-runners are still in front, but a new USA Today/Gallup poll shows the Democratic and Republican races for president still very competitive. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, four candidates are effectively tied for second place. Rudy Giuliani continues to lead with 27 percent. Hillary Clinton is backed by 45 percent of Democrat and Democrat leaners. That's a modest rise from a poll taken two weeks ago. Barack Obama is at 27 percent. That's up 3 points. And John Edwards is at 15 percent.

Well, Rudy Giuliani is out there, he is campaigning, and, as we said, national polls show he's the GOP front-runner, but he hasn't been in the limelight, at least not lately. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us.

Bill, as we talked about it, Giuliani is still on top in the polls, but he is coming in third in some of the key early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. You've been speaking today with some members of his campaign staff. Are they worried about that?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POL. ANALYST: No. I spoke to his pollster, Ed Goez (ph), here in Washington, and he said that they are running a national strategy. They have the resources to run it. They expect to do well in big states like Illinois, New York, Florida, a key state for them, really a must-win state for them.

So they're not too worried about these early contests where he's not in first place. He's either second or tied for third in those states. They believe they can survive some setbacks in those states as long as the winners in those early states are divided.

Remember that poll you showed showing Giuliani in first place? Everybody else was more or less tied for second. Well, they're hope that will continue to be the case after Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire, that if, say, Mike Huckabee wins Iowa And John McCain wins New Hampshire, and Fred Thompson wins South Carolina, the field will remain divided. Happiness in politics is a divided opposition.

NGUYEN: Yes, that's true. But you know, we do want to talk about those polls, some showing, as you call, a bit of a setback for Giuliani. Why does it not seem like he's resonating with voters, at least some of them.

SCHNEIDER: Well, what we're seeing in the national polls and most of the state polls is that the terrorism issue, which is his signature issue, 9/11, has diminished somewhat in importance over the course of this year.

Now these are Republican voters and their top issues in the campaign for president. As you can see, the terrorism issue is third now on the Republican list behind the economy and immigration. And it's gone down a bit, even since October. So, the urgency of the terrorism issue is a little lower. When I spoke to Giuliani's people their answer was, well, he doesn't just have the terrorism issue; he's also running on his record as mayor, which a lot of Republicans now cite as a reason that they support him. And that's principally domestic issues and crime.

NGUYEN: Well, could this slide have anything to do with the fact that Senator Hillary Clinton is not currently seen as the inevitable Democrat nominee?

SCHNEIDER: Ah, well, I spoke to someone in South Carolina where Giuliani's support has fallen since the summer, and he said what he's seeing in his polling -- this was Scott Hoffman at Webster University. He said what he's seeing in his polling is that as Hillary Clinton looks less inevitable as the Democrat, that is affecting Republicans' choices, because a lot of them were supporting Giuliani, he says, because he was the best positioned to defeat Hillary Clinton.

But if she looks like less of a threat because the race for the Democratic nomination is now much closer, they are beginning to look at other Republican candidates whom they may agree with more, people like Mike Huckabee, so the Giuliani support has fallen a good deal as support for Hillary Clinton and her inevitability looks more in doubt.

NGUYEN: All right, CNN's Bill Schneider, as always, we do appreciate it. Thank you.

LEMON: Let's stick with America Votes 2008. Money and momentum we're going to talk about. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul says he's got both. His campaign says the Texas congressman raised more than $18 million in the last three months of the year, including more than $6 million from a 24-hour Internet drive on Sunday.

Even though he's considered the longest of long shots, Paul tells CNN he has no plans to run as an independent.


REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven't considered that. I have no plans of doing this. And we have this money. We have this momentum. It's so early. We haven't had one vote. So I have no intention of doing that.

We had 57,000 people donate on Sunday and 25,000 were brand new, so there's something very significant going on. And I don't think anybody quite has understood this, but the people are very unhappy in this country, and they are going to be voting differently this time, and that's what this message is telling us.


LEMON: Up to the minute updates on all of the day's political stories, go But first I want to tell you Paul says he'll keep campaigning, no matter how he does on January 3rd in the Iowa caucuses. And there it is, CNN political stories, Who's endorsing who, who is surging ahead and who is falling behind? Again, the address is

NGUYEN: Well, Don, I know how much you like your soft drinks, but if you had to pay more for them, would you drink less? That's the thinking behind one big city mayor's proposal to battle obesity. Find out if it's yours, in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: A lot of people are going to stating their opinions on this one. So if you're one of them, take a listen. The mayor of San Francisco wants stores that sell sugary soft drinks to, get this, Betty, pay an extra tax.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta weighs in on this issue.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): No doubt you're going to hear a lot about the San Francisco mayor's new plan to tax a lot of these sugary sodas. At target really is substance known as fructose. It is a high calorie, low-nutrition substance. It is corn syrup, and it's in just about everything. That's the first point. This stuff is absolutely ubiquitous. And it's not particularly good for us. I mean, it doesn't really provide any nutritional value whatsoever.

Those are points to keep in mind, which is why the mayor actually believes that there is a connection between these sugary drinks and the obesity problem in his city, really around the country. That's harder to prove, that there in fact is a link, although a lot of people believe that there is one.

And if you target even further back you'll notice that we subsidize corn in a very big way in this country. There's a lot of excess fructose going on, which is why it's everywhere, because of the corn subsidies, which can date back years, if not decades, in terms of how we actually look at these products.

Now whether or not to tax food, whether or not to tax sodas, that is obviously a more controversial issue. People will say it's very different than a tobacco tax. Tobacco is something we simply don't need, whereas food, whether it's fast food or whether it's sugary drinks, it's something that we consume on a daily basis. This is going to be a subject of great controversy, for sure.

Keep in mind as well that the overall tax will eventually trickle down to us as consumers, eventually offsetting all of the corn subsidies that make these products cheaper, that may actually go up in price because of taxes like this one.

Best bet really is to try and avoid sugary foods. Keep in mind that fructose is in so many different products if you actually just look at the labels, turn those labels over and read them. And if you see fructose in the first couple of ingredients, that may be a product you want to avoid if you can.

Good luck this holiday season. Back to you.


NGUYEN: Yes, good luck is right. You drink soft drinks a few times a week right?

LEMON: Not a lot. But usually -- I don't drink ones with sugar.

NGUYEN: You don't? Really?

LEMON: No. I drink diet. That's probably another problem. That's the whole issue especially with transfats, you know, in New York City. Chicago tried to do it, there was uproar there. What was the thing, the duck, remember that? I forget what that is.


LEMON: And then the smoking ban and what have you.

NGUYEN: There's all kinds. Well, would you pay more, though, since you drink -- I don't drink them, so.

LEMON: I don't drink enough where it would probably even make a difference.

NGUYEN: Really?


NGUYEN: All right. I think a lot of people would, though, because they just got to have that whatever it is, Coke, Dr. Pepper, you name it.

LEMON: But then you can relax after you -- maybe you can't. With all that sugar...

NGUYEN: If you're hyped up after all that sugar?

LEMON: Yes, you might need a massage, right? What do you think?

NGUYEN: Exactly. Speaking of massages, a simple 20-minute back massage could be just what the doctor ordered. That's what I need. A new study shows that a massage can reduce some of the after effects of surgery. Researchers at two VA hospitals studied more than 600 veterans who had undergone chest and abdominal surgeries.

The result, those receiving a massage in addition to pain killers experienced less post operative pain and anxiety than patients who just received just pain killers.

LEMON: All right, if New Jersey is the "Guardin" state, where are all the guards? New details and new questions about that weekend jail break. Very serious. We'll talk to an ex-corrections officer about what went wrong.


LEMON: Boy, look at that. That is one heck of a hole. Did you see that? That's what covered it up. Jail guards in New Jersey are having a heck of a time explaining it. Two inmates are on the lam for a third day now after busting out of a high security cell block. Joining us on the line, author and former prison guard himself, at Sing Sing no less, Ted Conover.

And Ted the big question is, I know you've seen the video here, you've heard the stories, how did anybody do this? We thought the walls in prison, at least I was under the assumption and most people, that it was really thick and virtually impossible to get out. Despite what you may have seen in the "Shawshank Redemption."

VOICE OF TED CONOVER, FORMER PRISON GUARD: You know, I worked at Sing Sing, which has been there a long time and has big thick walls and even metal walls in the building where I spent most of my time, and I haven't been in this particular jail.

But I know that you know, administrative segregation is the section it was in and that's supposed to be extra secure. So this is surprising on a number of levels. Not just the cell wall, but then the fence and the whole sort of supervision. How did this happen in the first place?

LEMON: Yes, exactly. Because you're getting me to another point about whether or not they had help. But go back to those walls again. You were saying, when you were at Sing Sing and from your research as a journalist, that some of the walls have metal in them which would be impossible, really, to chip out of. How thick are these walls supposed to be? Is there some sort of standard for prisons and jails?

CONOVER: You know, there's no uniform standard that you can be certain every prison or jail in the United States has. The American Correctional Association has a set of standards that a lot of systems conform to, but not all. And here and there, even when there are standards, shortcuts have been taken and things aren't as secure as they ought to be.

LEMON: And you never know, maybe they were told that these walls were supposed to be extra thick and metal, or heavy, and then as it turns out maybe someone didn't do it when initially building this. I have to also ask you, there's been some talk about whether or not the guards -- or they had some sort of help. It would appear, I mean, to get out of a prison wall, that that could be a possibility.

CONOVER: Often people who escape have help. And generally it's somebody on the outside who has a car or a ladder or a helicopter or the file they are going to sneak in the birthday cake in the old movies, right?

LEMON: Yes, but this may have been -- I mean these would take drawings or some knowledge of the prison to know that they could get through that wall.

CONOVER: Well, it's a good question. I don't know the answer. I know that the inmate taunted the guards with a note that thanked them for the tools. But the only tools it sounds like could have been torn off of something in the prison. There was a long piece of wire and some kind of metal disc that they used to chip away at the mortar with. It's not necessarily the case that some guard was in on this.

LEMON: And Ted I've got to ask you this real quickly because we're running out of time here. Wouldn't somebody have heard something? Especially if you're -- you'd have to be doing this for day and night in order to get -- to make this happen. Wouldn't someone have heard this chip, chip, chip sound?

CONOVER: Well, yes. The officer, in the right situation, the officer should have heard it. In a lot of prisons and jails, you'd have a snitch who would give up these guys because it's got to take hours and hours and hours. And when neither of those things happens, you can guess that something went wrong.

LEMON: OK, what about safety? Because people are probably worried, you know, or concerned or at least thought about, if I have a prison in my area or near me, should I be worried that something like this could happen?

CONOVER: Oh, man, well, it's always a possibility. It's extremely unlikely, you know. Most prisons are really well run and like I said, there's got to be multiple failures for this to happen. And yet on the other side, you've got this fixed feature of human nature, which is the desire to get out of a box, and some people will just never give up in their quest to do that. LEMON: As we have found out with this story.

Ted Conover, we appreciate you joining us.

CONOVER: My pleasure.

NGUYEN: That is quite story.

Well, she was there to watch the heart pounding action of a basketball game. But the ref collapsed, so she did something heart pounding of her own. We're going to tell you how it all turned out.


LEMON: You're logged on over there, aren't you?


LEMON: OK, well let's -- why don't we check what's clicking with all the dotcomers out there, including ourselves. Some of our top videos this hour, in any language, a boo is a boo. Crowds at the Miss Belgium Pageant jeer the woman who eventually won because she couldn't respond to a question post in Dutch. Dutch spoken by half of the country, just not in her half.

A great place by a high school -- a great play, I should say, by a high school student at a basketball game when a referee collapsed. She jumped out of the stands and performed CPR, then helped use a defibrillator to restart his heart.

And an Arizona dad talks to CNN about coping with his wife's death and the challenges of raising newborn triplets.


LEMON: Their mom died in childbirth. Those stories plus the day's weather, sports and more at

NGUYEN: And back to one of our most popular stories that we heard just seconds ago with Don. A Minnesota high school basketball ref owes his life to a 16-year-old girl. When the referee collapsed at a game last week, the teen jumped out of the stands and into action.

Reporter Joel Fryer of CNN affiliate KARE has the story from the town of Fridley.


JOEL FRYER, KARE REPORTER (voice-over): It's a common complaint among high school students that stuff they learn in the classroom doesn't have much real world value.

LINDSEY PARADISE, PERFORMED CPR: Like, the (INAUDIBLE) factor is like, the number you multiply to this to get that. So, two ...

FRYER: Last Thursday night, 16-year-old Lindsey Paradise poked a serious hole in that argument.

L. PARADISE: I was sitting up -- I think it was about -- I think it was like section five right here.

FRYER: Lindsey and her mom were among those packed in the Fridley gym watching the boys basketball team take on Simley (ph). With five minutes left, one of the officials, 49-year-old Dale Wakasugi (ph), fell to the floor.

JIM MACDONALD, TEACHER-COACH: We've had officials blow out a knee or twist an ankle which you know, you see him taking off on a cart but never, never this.

FRYER: The ref had suffered a serious heart attack. Lindsey ran onto the floor and with help from three adults and CPR training she just finished up in health class, she went to work.

ALYSSA PARADISE, LINDSEY'S TWIN: This is crazy. Like at first when I saw her run down there, I was like you know, get out of there. But, then I realized she knows what she's doing, she can do it.

FRYER: When three rounds of CPR failed to revive him, someone grabbed one of the school's automated exterior defibrillators. Lindsey ran through the steps, and pushed the button.

L. PARADISE: I could see his stomach going up and down after that, so I knew he was coming around again.

DALE WAKASUGI, SAVED BY TEENAGER: God sent her to be there in that place at that time for a reason.

FRYER: Dale Wakasugi left the hospital knowing he owes his life to a simple yet amazing machine, and a teenager who was not afraid to use it.

WAKASUGI: So many things had to happen for me to be alive, and they just all fell into place.


NGUYEN: Yes, they did. Well, the ref says doctors told him his artery was so badly blocked that CPR alone would not have saved him. Luckily, the teenager had learned to use the defibrillator through a youth program with Fridley police. So, good for all of them. Glad to see him still around ...


NGUYEN: celebrate the holidays, especially after that.

LEMON: Yes, and we certainly hope he's going to do OK because ...

NGUYEN: Oh yes.

LEMON: ...not sure he's out of the woods yet. But we'll see. NGUYEN: Not just yet. But hey, he's up and talking, and that's a lot better than he was.

LEMON: Absolutely, OK, now we've got some breaking news concerning fuel efficiency and T.J. Holmes has that for us, he's working on in the news room -- T.J.?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it appears we are going to be getting better gas mileage here in a few years, several years, but the House has now passed a bill and the center piece of this energy bill is that the mileage, the average gas mileage automakers are required for their vehicles will go up 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon. The House has passed this by an overwhelming large at 314 to 195. Republicans join with Democrats to pass this and this will now go to the White House. And the White House has indicated that President Bush will sign this thing.

Now, this has been a long battle on Capitol Hill for quite some time. This is something that the auto industry has even fought for quite sometime. But it appears that this will now happen. These standards will go up and the automakers will be required to get 35 miles per gallon average on their vehicles by the year 2022.

This is said to -- it's going to help save us who buy the vehicles some $700 to $1,000 a year in gas. However, the down side to that, Don, is the automaker would say that by increasing the mileage on these vehicles, they're going to have to increase the prices on the vehicles as well, so we don't know if we're going to end up ...

LEMON: Paying more or less.

HOLMES: all, so.

LEMON: It could be a trade-off, though.

HOLMES: Yes, it could be, but this is certainly a big deal here, a big day. And the president said he'll sign this thing. Other parts of this going to save money as well. But we'll get into that a little later. We just wanted to give you that update, that's the part that people really hear, that headline, 35 miles per gallon.

LEMON: Yes, and $700 to $1,000 as well. All right, thank you, T.J.

HOLMES: All right.

NGUYEN: So, have you heard, an intruder in the Senate?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, if it flies out, I'm going to stop, OK.


NGUYEN: The feathered kind, that is, a bird upstages a news conference. No politician would sit still for that. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Well, an intruder flew into the Senate gallery and secured he was unable to prevent a dirty bomb from dropping. CNN's Jeanne Moos, just joking, sort of.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's shaped like an aviary...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God. It's coming right in front of you.

MOOS: And it contains plenty of bird brains. So what's one more?

There it was, a bird in the Senate -- not to be confused with Lady Bird or Senator Byrd.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We're being overwhelmed.

MOOS: Actually, Senator Byrd was referring to illegal immigrants. But the bird was treated like an illegal, as security chased it with a net in the Senate press gallery, where they hold press conferences. That exclamation came when the bird collided with a ventilation duct. It survived.

Now, chasing a bird around the Senate can't compare with, say, a wallaby chase. Or a herd of escaped buffalo running around on a tennis court. Those heads in the Senate gallery swiveled as if watching tennis.

And it was pretty exciting when photographer Matthew Cavanaugh lured the bird to land on his pinky. His colleagues mocked Matthew as the bird whisperer.

But it turns out...

MATTHEW CAVANAUGH: I crunched up some of a granola bar and put it in my palm of my hand.

MOOS: As the birdie swooped across the Senate gallery, it joined other political flying objects making the rounds -- like a presidential candidate Ron Paul's blimp ...


MOOS: ...and the Hilacopter ferrying Hillary Clinton around Iowa. At least they didn't drop bombs. The second exclamation was when the bird dropped a present on the guy rubbing his head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was pulling for the bird.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a bald guy, so he took it -- it cleaned up pretty well.

MOOS (on camera): How did we hear about this? A little birdie told us -- a lot of little birdies.

(voice-over): A flock of frantic e-mails dispersed from Washington, giving blow by blow accounts.


MOOS: Heads up for Senator Charles Schumer -- though heads were already up looking for the bird.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: But if it flies out, I'm going to stop, OK?

MOOS: That would be an amazing feat -- to stop the loquacious Senator Schumer.

Last we heard, security was chasing the bird down a hallway with a Tupperware container. Someone suggested if we could read that bird's brain, it would be saying "don't tase me, bro."

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.