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Senate Set For Initial Health Bill Vote; Lifting the Cuba Travel Ban; Simplifying Credit Card Contracts

Aired November 20, 2009 - 09:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Continue the conversation on today's stories. Go to our blog at That's going to do it for us. Thanks so much for being with us this week. We'll see you back here on Monday morning.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: The news continues, though, on CNN with Don Lemon in the CNN NEWSROOM. Hi, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you very much, John and Kiran. Good to see you. Here's what we're working on today.

Women and health screenings. Another new set of recommendations from experts. This time, cervical cancer.

Oprah is moving on. This morning, the titan of talk reveals her plan.

And a decision on troop levels in Afghanistan. A White House official reveals the president's timing.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Don Lemon. Heidi's off today and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We're going to start now with the queen of daytime talk. Fans are buzzing, millions of them this morning. In just an hour from now, Oprah Winfrey is expected to announce her show will leave the air in 2011. The powerhouse broadcast is now seen in 145 countries around the world and here to set the stage for the big announcement, we want to go now to CNN's Kareen Wynter. She joins us now from Chicago with the very latest.

I hope it's not freezing there. I was just there yesterday, it's a little bit chilly. So what's going on here? The world is buzzing about this, Kareen.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Buzzing is not the word, Don, good morning to you.

You know, how much of a surprise does this really come, right? You know Oprah's been interviewed recently and she said this is a decision, Don, with regard to the future of her show that she would have to make eventually.

She said it would be one she'd, of course, have to give a lot of thought to and put a lot of prayer in and that's exactly what's happening. She's not the only one responding this morning. But also fans are right outside Harpo Studios where "The Oprah Winfrey Show" is taped and right around the corner fans has been lined up all morning long waiting to get inside for today's, really, historic taping when Oprah Winfrey will make that big announcement as to what lies ahead, what will her future bring?

And that will be coming a short time from now. But for now, fans say, you know, they just want to enjoy Oprah on this platform for her -- really her remaining days.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm surprised, I think, but I think it's a great opportunity for her and I think she's going to do very well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shocked. I had no idea. I thought for sure -- I mean, Oprah is just synonymous with Chicago and with Obama being from Chicago, I just didn't think she'd ever leave. But I'm really excited, living in California, it will be great for us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're from the area. We kind of heard some rumblings that, you know, maybe something was going to -- you know, that she was probably going to stop her show in a couple of years, so it wasn't a complete surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She brings a lot of people here and people together. She's obviously great for Chicago. She -- you know, she's a great advocate for Chicago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's going to be really exciting for her. I mean I'll miss her a ton here, but California's amazing, I love it, and I think she'll have a great time.


WYNTER: And one thing to keep in mind, Don, is that Oprah, partnering with Discovery Health, will be launching her brand-new cable channel some time next year, so that leaves many to wonder, will she perhaps be bringing this show there and starting it or having some sort of creative input?

So, again, some small window there for many fans who are saying, you know what, we don't want you to close the door altogether on, you know, what they've grown and loved for the last almost 25 years.

Also, I want to read to you a statement that the president of Harpo put out yesterday to staffers. And this also gives you a little bit of insight as to where things may go for Oprah Winfrey.

"If you think that the last quarter of a century has been something, then don't touch that dial. We plan to make history in the next 20 months and beyond." Meaning, Don, translation here, we want to not just go out with a bang ratings wise, but you know what? There is something that lies ahead in the future for this queen of talk -- Don? LEMON: Yes. And so far, Oprah staffers have downplayed whether she's going to put the show on her own network. But you know, listen, Oprah's always been a ratings juggernaut. What about in terms of the show over the last year? What has it been like, Kareen?

WYNTER: You know, that's an interesting question. Of course, viewership hasn't been what it's been. You know, it's not what it was 10 years ago, but, you know, she has had a good season, this fall season, for example, her -- the numbers have looked quite good.

For example, the Whitney Houston interview, and oh, you can't forget Sarah Palin, the interview earlier this week, Don, that had just about everyone talking. Well, that was her highest rated show since the Osmonds appear back in 2007. So you know, talk about a woman who still has staying power in this business, it's definitely Oprah Winfrey.

LEMON: Yes, and if there's any slip in ratings with Oprah, I mean, you know, when you're at the top there, everybody would die for those ratings, even the ratings that are believed to be slipping, right?

WYNTER: Exactly.

LEMON: All right, we'll check back. Thank you so much, Kareen Wynter. So good to see you.


LEMON: Let's talk more about Oprah Winfrey.

She's excelled both on and off camera. For more than two decades, her broadcast has dominated as TV's top-rated talk show. During that time, she's amassed a net worth of -- get this -- $2.7 billion, almost $3 billion. That estimate is according to "Forbes" magazine, that was earlier this year. Winfrey has often cited her own humble beginnings as her reason to give back. Her charity, the Angel Network, has built 60 schools for children in 13 countries.

We want to turn now to the fight over health care reform. The arena, the Senate. And here's what we know right now. Majority Leader Harry Reid has planned a vote on Saturday night on bringing the Democrat' bill up for debate there. Republicans say they'll try to block that move and that would force Reid to round up 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. If Reid is successful, debate on the bill would begin after Thanksgiving and could last for weeks.

Republicans are attacking the bill as a collection of tax hikes, Medicare cuts, and heavy burdens on state governments. But even Democrats are divided over hot-button issues in the House and Senate plans.

CNN's Dana Bash has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senate Democrats just unveiled their health care bill and they're already celebrating. Yes, that's a V for victory sign. But this feel-good rally masks huge challenges that lie ahead. Flash points that divide Democrats in the House and the Senate like taxes to pay for health reform.

The House passed bill taxes all Americans making $500,000 or more. That's a nonstarter with many Senate Democrats, so their plan taxes high-cost insurance plans. But many House Democrats oppose that.

REP. JOE COURTNEY (D), CONNECTICUT: It's a huge problem.

BASH: Democrat Joe Courtney says a tax on so-called Cadillac health plans would really hit working class Americans, especially union members.

COURTNEY: Certainly, the impact on households will be Chevy drivers, not Cadillac drivers.

BASH: Then there's immigration. House Democrats prohibit illegal immigrants from using taxpayer money for health care. The Senate Democrats' bill goes further, banning illegal immigrants from buying any insurance, even with their own money. Angry Hispanic caucus members vow to block that from a final bill.

REP. LOUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: That seems to me to be mean- spirited, to be a dehumanizing point of view. If they have their own money, and now the taxpayer dollars are going to be used, why don't we allow them to provide it?

BASH: And there's abortion. The House Democrats' measure bans abortion in a government-run plan and in private insurance accepting taxpayer money. The Senate bill is less restrictive, allowing the HHS secretary to decide whether abortion would be covered in a public plan and permitting abortion coverage in private plans, as long as taxpayer money is separated out.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: This is a health care bill, it's not an abortion bill. In keeping with what the tradition has been in our country for more than 30 years.

BASH: Anti-abortion Democrats in the House disagree.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it will be -- make it much more difficult for the bill to ultimately be passed.

BASH (on camera): Abortion restrictions similar to what's now in the Senate bill were originally considered in the House, until anti- abortion House Democrats said they would vote no after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said they wanted more constraints on abortion coverage in the health care bill, while the powerful Catholic bishops say that they will release a letter describing their position on the Senate bill on Friday.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


LEMON: All right, Dana, thank you.

In the market for a new home? Experts say now may be the time to buy, well, it's depending on where you live. CNN's Christine Romans in New York with more on finding a dream home.

So, Christine, homes are getting more affordable? Maybe a good Christmas present, huh?



I don't know if we can afford that. No, look, we're talking about affordability of homes. And because of the big decline in home prices, in some metro areas, homes are getting more affordable.

A quarterly survey from the National Association of Homebuilders in Wells Fargo shows that in the third quarter, 70 percent, Don, 70 percent of the homes that were sold were affordable. What does that mean, affordable? It means they are median income in your metro area, and the price of your house, you can afford to buy a home and not pay more than 28 percent of your take-home pay on your housing cost, 28 percent of your take-home pay.

That's the rule of thumb. If you're paying more than that, you can't afford that house. So the way that the housing prices have come down has made people able to afford homes in more places. What places? The middle of the country, really. Some of the industrial Midwest, for example.

Indianapolis, 95 percent of the homes sold in the third quarter were considered affordable. The median price of a house in Indy, $105,000. Youngstown, Ohio, median price there, $72,000. Detroit, 92 percent of the homes sold were considered affordable. The median price in Detroit is $84,000.

Now remember, this is really what's really important here. You have to have income. We're talking about affordability for people who have a job, they're comfortable and have confidence in that job that they're going to keep it. They have money set aside. You have to have money set aside for the down payment, 20 percent in some cases. I've heard banks asking for 30 percent, quite frankly. Got to have a 720 credit score or higher.

So if you're in that situation, you've got low-interest rates, tax credits, and home affordability we haven't seen in several years, so that's making it a good situation for buyers, especially first-time home buyers.

That same good situation, though, Don, is poison for sellers, quite frankly. Because 27 percent of sellers in the quarter had to sell their house for less than they put it on the market for. Yes. LEMON: So it is a buyer's market. I can only imagine, I think I know the answer to this, probably the northeast, New York City, and maybe, you know, out on the coast, San Francisco.


LEMON: What are the least affordable housing marks?

ROMANS: You named it. I mean, it's right there, New York, only 19 percent of the homes sold in New York were considered affordable. That means people who live where I'm sitting right now are spending way more than 28 percent of their take-home pay on their housing costs.

The median price in New York City, $425,000, if you're wondering. San Francisco, Honolulu, Santa Ana, California, those are other places where it's incredibly difficult. Still, even after the decline in home prices, even with low-interest rates, even with the first home buyer tax credit, it's still very difficult to afford a home in those places -- Don.

LEMON: Yes. I didn't even see that -- I didn't mean to steal your thunder, but I mean, it's just a guess, New York City, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, whatever, always expensive home areas.



ROMANS: Yes. They are always expensive home areas. That's right.

LEMON: Thank you very much, Christine. Always good to see you.

ROMANS: You're welcome, Don.

LEMON: You know, first it was mammograms, now it is Pap tests. New recommendations are out on cervical cancer screenings and the changes are significant.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. I'm Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center. The weekend is here and Ida is still hanging around. We've got video of where that storm is drenching other folks across the pond. Weather is coming right back.


LEMON: We turn now to Afghanistan. And in Afghanistan, a suicide bomber strikes outside the governor's home in Farah Province. At least 13 people are dead, including a policeman. Twenty-nine other people were wounded. The largely desert province borders Iran. It has been seen as -- seen increased bloodshed as Taliban insurgents have spread west from their strongholds.

The rising violence in Afghanistan underscores the high stakes of the U.S. war strategy there. President Obama is now back at the White House and facing a decision on the possible buildup of U.S. troops there.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, she joins us now with a closer look.

Barbara, any sign that this decision is coming, and when?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Don, as you say, the president to Asia and now back and here we are again still talking about that Afghanistan decision.

Senior administration officials indicating now that it will be after Thanksgiving, after the holiday, when that announcement will be made. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, gave a hint, saying the announcement would be in the, quote, "near future."

What we do know, of course, is that the Pentagon is already planning, even if the announcement hasn't been made, how it will get more troops into Afghanistan because that is so crucial now. It's a land-locked country. Very tough to get in there, very minimal facilities. It all has to go in by air.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates talked a little bit about the challenge ahead.


ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We do not have the same kind of transportation access to Afghanistan that we did in Iraq, where we were able, over a five-month period or so, to bring in five brigade combat teams. The ability of the receiving end, to receive significant quantities of equipment and people in a relatively short period of time is very different than the situation in Iraq.


STARR: So what he's really doing here, Don, of course, is laying the groundwork to explain to the American people that when the announcement comes, and it is expected there will be some number of additional troops for Afghanistan -- we don't know how many -- that this will look very different than that surge we saw in Iraq.

This could last an extended period of time to make it all happen. But right now, it looks like the announcement itself will come after Thanksgiving. The troops will be able -- and their families to enjoy their turkey and then wait and listen for the news to come -- Don?

LEMON: Well, President Karzai, Barbara, is vowing to crack down on government corruption and boost security. So do you think the U.S. will wait until they see progress on those two fronts before making a commitment to send more troops?

STARR: You know, this is one of the big questions. If the U.S. is trying to pressure the Karzai government to crack down on corruption and to engage in better governance, have a government that will help the people of their country, do you hold up sending more troops? Do you hold that help hostage, if you will, to making the Afghan government get its act together?

Some people say, yes, you have to hold their feet to the fire. What Secretary Gates is saying is, this is a much more long-term proposition, that the security situation is serious. You can't wait for everything to fall into place. There will be an evolutionary process that all of this has to be done together in the months and years to come -- Don?

LEMON: Barbara Starr, meantime, the world is watching and waiting. Thank you very much for that.

We turn now to our meteorologist, Mr. Rob Marciano. Depending where you are, I mean, you can fly, you can get rain some places, get on a, you know, plane, get some snow, get sun.


LEMON: All right. Rob, thank you very much.

The cost of getting a college education skyrocketing at the University of California campuses. Hundreds of angry students protest, saying they can't take it anymore.


LEMON: Want to check our top stories for you right now.

A suspected U.S. missile strike kills at least eight militants this morning in Pakistan. Local intelligence officials say an unmanned U.S. drone targeted a militant's house in north Waziristan. It happened in the Mir Ali -- in Mir Ali, an area where there have been a lot of clashes between Taliban militants and the Pakistani military.

Next hour, Oprah Winfrey is expected to make it official -- in about 35, 40 minutes -- that her show is going to end in 2011 after 25 years on the air. Now the show airs in 145 countries and is one of the most popular and influential programs on television. So what is next? The Oprah Winfrey Network is expected to debut on cable in January of 2011.

More than 50 protesters arrested at the University of California Davis campus. They were protesting the Board of Regent's decision to increase undergraduate tuition fees by 32 percent. Hundreds also demonstrated outside of UCLA buildings in Los Angeles.

The $2,500 increase will push the cost of an undergraduate education to over $10,000 by next fall. The university system says it's been hurt by state budget cuts.

Students in California, well, aren't the only ones feeling the pain right here when it comes to rising tuition costs. Are you or someone you know being affected by it? We're checking our blog right here. We want you to post your comments on our blog, or you can go to There it is right there.

We'll read some of your comments in the newsroom coming up today between 9:00 and 11:00.


LEMON: Just days after new guidelines for mammograms were announced, women are now being told they don't have to get as many cervical cancer screenings as they used to. Well, the change is included in new recommendations released by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

And joining us right now to talk about all this, CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Good to see you. First and foremost, why the changes?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is an organization that does make recommendations on screenings, from time to time, it's called ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Fifty thousand members, mainly clinicians, they do perform a lot of these exams. And they look at the evidence and try to determine should a screening test be performed and if so how often?

Real quick back in 2003, the last time they made recommendations, at that time they said Pap smears specifically should be performed three years after the first time someone had sex, a woman has sex or 21 years of age, whichever comes first, and then yearly screenings after that.

Now fast forward five, six years later, and the changes are a little bit different. They're saying, first cervical cancer screening, 21, never before that. Every two years after that, between the ages of 21 and 29 and every three years after that.

One thing I should point out, because I already see the wheels turning in your head.

LEMON: Right.


GUPTA: Is that, obviously, we talked a lot about mammography this week.


GUPTA: I don't think that this probably not going to cause the same controversy as the mammography screening did. Because I think with mammograms, what they were really saying is that mammography saves lives, just not enough of them. Here what they're saying is cervical cancer is a really slow-moving cancer, so waiting another year to get the test is not going to make a difference overall.

It's not a question of whether lives will be saved or lost, it's just -- it's not necessary because it is a slow-moving tumor.

LEMON: Yes. So you answered the question that I wanted to ask. (CROSSTALK)

Here's the other question I have. Is it -- do these things all come out at once, because we got the thing about mammographies.

GUPTA: Right.

LEMON: Now we're getting cervical cancer, and there's also one, I think, that's going to come out about for men, for prostate exams as well.

GUPTA: That's right.

LEMON: Do they all come out this time of year?

GUPTA: You know I haven't really noticed that before, that maybe they were paying a little bit more attention to it. I don't know. But every five years or so, most of these organizations do release some new guidelines. Sometimes they don't change it all, because the evidence suggests that the guidelines should stay the same, but a lot of times they are tweaked a bit, and I think that happened here.

You know, another to keep in mind, you know, if think about a yearly Pap smear, that's sort of like getting a mammogram every four months, which, you know, because of the slow-moving nature of these tumors. So this kind of makes it a little bit more sense after all that we've talked about with mammography.

LEMON: Yes. So not only are you -- you know, a doctor, but you're a mind reader as well.

GUPTA: I can read your mind, Don.



GUPTA: I could see it right there in your head.

LEMON: Sanjay, thank you. Good to see you.

GUPTA: All right.

ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Don Lemon.

LEMON: Well, you know stocks dropped yesterday for the second day in a row and today could be number three.

We're going to turn now to Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with a preview of the trading day.

Hi, Susan, what do you have for us?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, no major economic reports and the trend is lower, Don. We do have a round of earnings that could influence trading and give us clues about consumer spending, which is so important at this time of year.

Dell's profit was cut in half last quarter because computer sales to big businesses remain sluggish. Corporations and government agencies make up 80 percent of Dell's revenue and Dell's shares were slumping 8 percent in the pre-market.

Gap, ticket symbol -- ticker symbol, I should say, GPS, seems to have found the path to success. Low prices. The retailer's quarterly profit jumped 25 percent because its Old Navy brand is seeing double digit sales growth, but Gap's more expensive namesake and Banana Republic stores are still struggling.

And the bargain hunting is spreading to the dinner table. JM Smucker's quarterly profit more than doubled because of strong results from Folger's Dip Peanut Butter, Hungry Jack Pancakes and those are making me hungry. Smucker's is doing well because more people are eating at home. The company has raised its full-year earnings guidance, but we're not seeing stock prices that are rising right now. We've seen a little bit of resistance at the open.

Don, one more thing. If you're responsible, you -- if you are responsible for bringing the pumpkin pie next week, you better get to the grocery store ASAP. Nestle says it expects a shortage of Libby's Pumpkin pie through the holiday season because heavy rains made it nearly impossible to pick pumpkins during this year's harvest. Pumpkins are a commodity and just like oil and they are in short supply. Which means you're either going to have to go to some other...

LEMON: You can do it -- you know, I still see them out there. You can go it the old-fashioned way if you don't want to go get the can. You can go and get your own pumpkin. It's easy to do that.

LISOVICZ: That's exactly right. And I can see you with the apron...

LEMON: Thanks for making me hungry, too.

LISOVICZ: ... with the apron on in the kitchen, Don Lemon, on Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving.

LEMON: I have done it and I take the seeds and roast them, too. I'll send you some, how about that?

LISOVICZ: OK. I'll take the whole pie, too, while you're at it.

LEMON: Thank you, Susan. All right. Thank you very much.

Missed signals, a security expert reveals what she thinks may have prevented the Fort Hood massacre.


LEMON: On Capitol Hill, the full Senate is getting ready to tackle health care reform. Majority Leader Harry Reid has planned a vote tomorrow on bringing the Democrat's $849 billion bill up for debate. And it's by no means a done deal, as Republicans vow to block it.

So, we want to talk with Jonathan Allen now. He's a congressional correspondent for

Always good to see you. So, listen, walk us through this, Jonathan. The Senate votes Saturday, right, to open this debate, and then what?

JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO.COM: Well, the Senate will vote Saturday to open the debate. If they're able to do that, they'll be able to go home for the Thanksgiving break and come back, and continue debating it on the other side of that.

Then you'll have your sort of basic amendment process in the Senate which can take a lot of times. It could take weeks, might even take months on the Senate floor. And then you've got another set of procedural hurdles if you actually want to try to get the bill passed and take it into a conference with the House.

So, what senators will be doing if 60 of them do in fact line up for Senator Reid, what they'll be doing is just voting to advance this thing to the next part of the process. That said, the Congressional Research Service just did a study that said 97 percent of the bills that get through that hurdle end up making it all the way. And that study was requested by Senator Coburn, who's a Republican, who's trying to prove that this really is a big vote that's coming up.

LEMON: OK. So, listen -- before we get to a filibuster, because Republicans are planning to block it and they're probably -- one way is they're going to filibuster it. So, at what point can Republicans start filibustering Harry Reid's plan?

ALLEN: Well, the thing is, a filibuster is really only when Reid tries to make the attempt to close off debate, the attempt to do this cloture vote to move to the larger debate. And it's only a filibuster when that fails.


ALLEN: I mean...


LEMON: What's going on with -- at what point will they try to block it, and, you know, what are the tactics that they are going to use? Because the president has said that he wants this done by the end of the year. I'm doubtful that that's going to happen, but has it started, I would imagine, right away?

ALLEN: Well, I think they're trying to block it now and I think they'll continue to try to block it. The question is: what -- can they get enough votes for?

I think if this procedural hurdle is passed here on Saturday night, their next tactic is going to be to load this bill down with amendments that are seen as poison pills by some of the Democrats -- things that are broadly popular, but unpopular with the left wing of the Democratic Party. They may be on abortion, maybe on immigration, may be on tort reform, any number of controversial issues. The idea being to try to splinter the Democratic coalition as the thing goes through the Senate so that what you have is a final bill, is something that is unpalatable to the Senate and can't be moved into conference.

LEMON: So, Jonathan, Thanksgiving, obviously, people want to go home. Is this going to help or hurt Harry Reid?

ALLEN: That's the $1 million question. He's had to make some decisions already in unveiling this bill on things like abortion and the public option and he's one of the most endangered Democrats across the country, maybe the most. He's not very popular right now in Nevada, perhaps if he gets this done, that will -- that will be helpful to him and he'll have something to go back home and sell as an accomplishment for the people of Nevada, who, by the way, are experiencing one of the highest levels of unemployment in the country right now.

LEMON: Jonathan Allen, congressional correspondent for -- Jonathan, happy Thanksgiving to you.

ALLEN: You too, Don.

LEMON: All right.

A security expert says a 2008 study on extremism in the U.S. military could have helped prevent the massacre at Fort Hood. Thirteen people died and dozens others wounded when a gunman opened fire at the Texas Army post back on November 5th. Police say Army Major Nidal Hasan carried out that shooting.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a 45-day review of Pentagon procedures.

But, a now-classified military report outlined last night by security expert Shannen Rossmiller on CNN's "ANDERSON COOPER" is raising troubling questions about this.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "ANDERSON COOPER 360": And who was the report written for? And do you know who saw it, or should have seen it?

SHANNEN ROSSMILER, SECURITY EXPERT: Well, OK, the report was written from the military perspective. And it was entitled, "Radicalization of Members of the DOD." And what it was for was for them to have tools within their ranks to spot criteria that showed signs and red flags of radicalization and how to spot those, identify 'em, and then, from there, be able to head the problem off and, so we -- you know, could avoid anything from materializing.


LEMON: Secretary Gates says this review is aimed at finding gaps in military procedures for identifying service members who pose a security threat.

Helping the people or helping the Castro brothers? We'll look at the debate over lifting the Cuba travel ban.


LEMON: We want to check the top stories for you now.

Vicks Sinex nasal spray is being voluntarily recalled. Procter & Gamble announced the move after finding bacteria in a small amount of the product at a German plant. There had been no reports of people getting sick from the bacteria, but the company says it could cause serious infections for people with weakened immune systems or chronic lung conditions. In the U.S., the recalled product is Vicks Sinex vapor spray 12-hour decongestant ultrafine mist.

Testimony resumes today in a trial of a woman charged with assaulting police officers after a dispute at a Wal-Mart. Surveillance tapes from the Kennett, Missouri store were shown in court yesterday. They did not show much of the alleged confrontation with police.

So, witnesses say, thought, Heather Ellis became verbally abusive after being confronted when she cut in line. Ellis says the case against her is racially motivated. If found guilty, Ellis could face a maximum of 15 years in prison.

And who's more to blame for the recession -- Republicans or Democrats? The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll asked Americans that question. Thirty-eight percent pointed to Republicans, 28 percent to Democrats, and another 27 percent said both parties were responsible. The new poll shows a change from back in May when a larger majority of people blamed the GOP for tough economic times.

We're back in a moment.


LEMON: All right. Let's talk now about lifting the travel ban to Cuba. Back in the news again after a congressional committee held a hearing just yesterday, Congressman Howard Berman, well, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says he is no fan of the Castro brothers, but that it's time to get real about this issue.

Take a listen.


REP. HOWARD BERMAN (D-CA), FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHAIRMAN: Let's face it, by any objective measure, the nearly 50-year-old travel ban simply hasn't worked. The travel ban has prevented contact between Cubans and ordinary Americans who serve as ambassadors for the democratic values we hold dear. Such contact would help break Havana's chokehold on information about the outside world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Our next guest disagrees with Congressman Berman. He feels lifting the travel ban without some concession from Cuba is a mistake. Miguel Perez is a CNN contributor and professor at the University of New York.

Thank you, sir. So, why do you agree with Congressman Berman?

MIGUEL PEREZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's very naive on his part to assume that the Castro brothers are going to change. If we don't get any concessions out of them, Cuba will not change.

We have seen this throughout history. American presidents in the past have tied to be friendly with the Castro brothers, have given them concessions, and in return, we have gotten absolutely nothing.

Why would we want to resuscitate a dying dictatorship? When are we going to start talking about the Cuba people, the rights of the Cuban people, the violations of their human rights? When are we going to stop -- start talking about dissidence, getting beaten on the streets of Havana, political prisoners, democratic reforms?

We need to get some concessions out of the Castro brothers before we actually start talking to them.

LEMON: And when you say it's going to resuscitate the Castro brothers and what they do, you mean by tourists pumping money into the economy -- you think it only affords them to continue with human rights violations?

PEREZ: Look, they have a repression machine that works very well, thank you. And the problem is that tourists from all over the world have already been going to Cuba for many years. They haven't been able to change anything, because the Castro brothers will allow just a certain amount of freedom for tourists to come in, but that's it.

If they think that they are going to lose control of Cuba, they will not allow American tourists to just take over. So I don't understand what makes Americans think that our tourists are going to do -- be able to do what the tourists from the rest of the world have not been able to do when they go to Cuba.

LEMON: I have read that you said that you think this sets a dangerous precedent for the U.S.

PEREZ: Of course it does. Because, again, look, you know, we are betraying our principles. This is a country that has stood for freedom against communism. This is one of the, again, a dying dictatorship, one of the last remnants of the Cold War. People say the Cold War is over. It's not over for Cuban-Americans.

Cuba still looks like East Berlin. We were talking last week a lot about East Berlin and the fall of the Berlin wall. Well, you know, Cuba still has an Iron Curtain around them. And the whole world needs to sympathize with the suffering of the Cuban people, not with the Castro brothers and help to empower them even further. LEMON: Do you not think that because of, you know, our freedom of journalism here in the United States, and by allowing Americans to go in there, that Americans will be able to uncover any of this violations like you talk about and the world will be able to see them more, thereby helping the Cuban people?

PEREZ: Unfortunately, even American journalists, when they go to Cuba, they are forced to play by the rules of the government. There's a lot of American journalists who have come back and said, "Listen, if I didn't do what they asked me to do, they would have kicked me out of Cuba and I wouldn't have been able to report what I really wanted to report."

So even the foreign press is controlled in Cuba; They will continue to be controlled, no matter what.

LEMON: Miguel Perez, thank you so much.

PEREZ: My pleasure.


LEMON: Caught up with a good credit card contract lately? It is not the easiest piece of reading to get through but one man has a plan to keep it simple.


LEMON: A lot going on this morning and CNN crews are working to bring it all to you. (AUDIO GAP) We're going to begin with Kareen Wynter in Chicago.

Hello, Kareen.

WYNTER: Hi there Don, the queen of talk Oprah Winfrey makes a big announcement this morning. I'll have that for you, Don, coming up at the top of the hour.

LISOVICZ: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange where prices are falling and that's not always a bad thing. A new study says housing affordability is near a record high. Don, I'll tell you where you can find a really sweet deal in the next hour.

MARCIANO: And I'm Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Flooding across southeast Texas overnight and it's raining there now and another storm lining up for the Pacific Northwest just in time for the weekend. Weather at the top of the hour -- Don.

LEMON: All right, thanks, everyone.

And if you're planning to travel for Thanksgiving, we can help you out: tips on getting there with less money and less stress.


LEMON: Have you ever tried to read all of the way through a credit card contract? Not easy, is it?

One man has a plan to cut down the contract to one page but as our Jessica Yellin reports, the credit card companies aren't buying it.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Americans swipe their credit cards 58 million times a day. But how many card holders actually understand what they've signed up for?

Some in Congress are trying to get rid of the fine print in contracts like this one.

(on camera): Can you tell me what the annual percentage rate is? What the interest is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't a clue. It doesn't say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would have to give me about an hour. At the end of the hour I would say no.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's too much gobbledygook.

YELLIN (voice-over): To test the point we sat down to read one.

(on camera): For the account of the person to whom we address billing statements.

(voice-over): How long did it take? Stay tuned.

Alan Siegel says it doesn't have to be this way. His company specializes in contract simplification. They've done it for the Internal Revenue Service, major banks and insurance companies.

ALAN SIEGEL, SIEGEL GALE STRATEGIC BRANDING COMPANY: It's designed to be readable and it's totally plain English and we use personal pronouns instead of the party of the first part.

He says government regulators and credit card companies have both resisted simple contracts.

(on camera): Is it possible to have a credit card contract that anyone can understand?

SIEGEL: Absolutely.

YELLIN: How long does it have to be?

SIEGEL: I believe it can be on one side of one piece of paper.

YELLIN (voice-over): In fact, he's created a sample; one page. Here's the interest rate. Here are the penalty fees. His testing shows a tenth grader could understand it. (on camera): Have you shown this to any credit card companies?


YELLIN: And what did they say?

SIEGEL: Panic.

YELLIN (voice-over): Some in Congress think card companies have a stake of keeping their products and their contracts confusing and have proposed a new consumer protection agency that would work to make these agreements less complicated.

The American Bankers Association is fighting it.

NESSA FEDDIS, AMERICAN BANKERS ASSOCIATION: There are other ways to address it rather than having to create an expensive big bureaucracy.

YELLIN: Speaking for the credit card companies, she says government regulators are working on streamlined new rules that will make credit card agreements clearer but she insists credit card contracts can never be just one page; blame the lawyers.

FEDDIS: Those contracts are based on lawsuits that have compelled them to use certain terms, certain words and to include certain information in order to have an enforceable contract. It's the nature of law.

YELLIN: Back to the current complicated contract.

(on camera): Authorization for us to collect the amount of the check electronically or ...

(voice-over): It took ten minutes to read one page; an hour for the whole thing. No wonder so few of us know what we've agreed to.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Washington.