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Senate Debate Up; Connecting the Dots on Ft. Hood; Fort Hood Massacre Red Flags Were Missed

Aired November 21, 2009 -   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Heated debate in the U.S. Senate as the Democratic health care bill moves one step closer to clearing a critical hurdle. Hello again, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield and you're in the CNN NEWSROOM. It's a number games in the U.S. Senate today and it appears Senate Democrats, are actually winning.

There are $848 billion health care bill faces a key procedural vote four hours from now. They need 60 votes to advance the measure to a floor debate and they clinched that number earlier this afternoon when two key Democrats, and they were holdout for a long time, announced that they'll actually vote yes to moving the measure forward.


SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: After a thorough review of the bill, as I said, over the last 2 1/2 days which included many lengthy discussions I've decided there are enough significant reforms and safeguards in this bill to move forward, but much poor work needs to be done.

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: I will vote to support - will vote in support of closure on a motion to proceed to this bill, but madam president, let me be perfectly clear, I am opposed to a new government administered health care plan as a part of comprehensive health insurance reform and I will not vote in favor of the proposal that has been introduced by leader Reid as it is written.


WHITFIELD: So the vote is actually set for tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is live on Capitol Hill. So Dana, those two Democratic holdout yes votes ensure the bill will indeed advance to the floor debate even though both of them kind of prefaced (ph) it by saying I may be in favor now, I may not necessarily be later?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The short-term answer is yes. Short-term meaning the vote that's going to take place four hours from now. That was the question about whether or not they would, because we knew they had big problems with this bill, whether or not that they would put those aside for now and make the point, as they both did in lengthy statements that they might not love the way this bill is devised. They might actually really oppose a lot of things in here, like, for example, the public option, but they feel that there is enough good that they want to at least take the time and have the opportunity to amend it and to change it. So in the short term, the answer is yes, but, you know, it is very clear from their statements that it is going to be very, very tough for the democratic leadership to find 60 votes ultimately which they will need ultimately to pass a health care reform bill, even just taking the public option alone that really divides Democrats. They were clear they won't vote for it if it has that in there.

WHITFIELD: So what are the highlights of this bill, Dana?

BASH: Right, when we talked about the public option, that is in there. It allows states to opt out. But beyond that, the overall cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office is $848 billion. And they said that it would cover 31 million Americans who are currently uninsured. But this doesn't kick in until 2014, and even then the analysis is that 24 million still uninsured, would still be uninsured already by 2019.

In terms of some specifics, it will mean for Americans, most Americans would be required, it would be a mandate, to actually get health insurance or pay a fine, and when it comes to businesses, because as we know most of us get our health care through our employers, businesses with 50 or more employees would have to make sure that they have insurance for their employees, or also likely would pay a fine.

Thos are some of the highlights in here. There's a lot more, and you know, a lot more that Republicans are like pointing out that they believe is what they call fiction in terms of what democrats say this will do for Americans and health care.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dana Bash on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much for this rare Saturday session, still unfolding.

All right. Again, the key test vote on the Democratic health care plan is expected in about four hours from now. We'll take you live to the Senate chambers when it happens, 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

All right. And you know, we're trying to make sure that you guys feel good about going into this holiday season, because what it also means is that you end up spending a lot of money trying to get all those gifts or plan et cetera for the holiday season. Well, we're getting your questions answered by the Dolans.

They're with us and they are fired up and ready to go. There they are in West Palm and we already have a ton of questions for you, Ken and Daria and we know you got some great answers, right after this.


WHITFIELD: Oh, money can either make you really happy or really depressed. Right? Whether it's how to consolidate debt or perhaps trying to figure out if know is the best time to buy a home or a car. Well, we actually have some answers to all of these questions, and that's why we turn to these guys. They know, I don't have the answers, they do. Personal finance experts, authors, radio talk show host. They do everything, Ken and Daria Dolan are with us again. Good to see you, reporting for duty.



WHITFIELD: So on, you get tons of questions from people all the time.


WHITFIELD: We're going to answer some of those before we also allow you to answer some questions that we've been receiving on my blog, Josh's blog and Facebook. So let's begin with this one.

KEN DOLAN: Fire away.

WHITFIELD: OK. The Dow crossed 10,000. Is now the time to get back into the stock market to recoup my losses during the past 18 months?

KEN DOLAN: No. Next?



WHITFIELD: Just that simple?

DARIA DOLAN: Let's amplify this just a little bit. Actually, anybody asking, should I get back in now, the answer is definitely no, because what you should be asking is, if you got back in, say, in the spring or the summer of the year, should I be getting out now? That would be the yes answer.

This is not the time to get in. I don't - I won't say that we've create a new bubble in the stock market, but it now is not the time to start jumping in. It's sort of the train's about to pull out of the station.

KEN DOLAN: Let me say one thing, Fred, for sure, though. People don't confuse investing in the stock market with stopping to contribute to your 401(k)s and your IRAs and your 403s.

WHITFIELD: That's still a big old yes.

KEN DOLAN: Yes, by all means.

DARIA DOLAN: But don't choose the stock funds as your choice for those.

KEN DOLAN: Don't choose your stock funds as your choice for those.

DARIA DOLAN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: There you go.

KEN DOLAN: I was saying, continue the contributions still but go into the guaranteed side. Go into the guaranteed or as close to guaranteed option as you can. Don't stop contributing.


KEN DOLAN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And this question/comment, with all the current world political and economic unrest is it too late to buy gold in light of the current run-up in price? That gold - that gold -

KEN DOLAN: I got my gold girl here.

WHITFIELD: OK. You got it right here and hold on to it.

DARIA DOLAN: You know, I kind of laugh because there's so many gold commercials on the air now. And have you ever noticed how all the spokes people have all owned gold for 10 years? Right?

KEN DOLAN: 10 years.

DARIA DOLAN: God love them, but the point being -

WHITFIELD: Hold on to those bars of gold anyway.

DARIA DOLAN: I probably have owned gold for 10 years. So with us, it's the truth. I would like to buy some more and I keep waiting for a pullback. So I have not pulled the trigger on the latest rally, but I'll tell you, the way we're spending money hand over fist, I think there's a big upside to gold, but you've got to understand it can go down quite rapidly at it's a very volatile commodity.

KEN DOLAN: And no dividends are paid on, Fred. The answer is hedge against inflation and against all the world, political and economic unrest. We have no problem with a lot of people doing five percent in gold just as that sort of hedge.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right. A lot of people are just like this person who says, you know, I'm in over my head in debt, and not making any headway. I'm paying down my balance. Who can I call to help? Is it as simple as just calling the credit card agencies or is there somewhere else that they should be turning?

KEN DOLAN: A lot of people are not very successful. We can talk about it perhaps another time, Fredricka, but a lot of people are not successful calling these people, hello, at the credit card companies.


KEN DOLAN: But people like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, nonprofit,

WHITFIELD: What can they do? KEN DOLAN: Yes. As a group, rather than Ken and Daria going in because we're just over our head in debt, what they can do and others like them. We're not doing a commercial for them, take an awful lot of people who really, really need to negotiate with the credit card companies and do it on mass, Fred. But it is very, very difficult to get a debt erase or lowered that you made.

DARIA DOLAN: And you can find a local office of theirs by going to their web site,

KEN DOLAN: Yes, just put in their zip code.

DARIA DOLAN: Which if I'm not mistaken is based in Atlanta.

KEN DOLAN: You can put in your zip code.

WHITFIELD: And you still have to take real precaution or be careful about those whole consolidation kind of groups, right? That ends up being a rip-off?

KEN DOLAN: It really is.

WHITFIELD: Am I right on that?

DARIA DOLAN: Absolutely right.

KEN DOLAN: We can get your debt reduced. And if you haven't paid your - the other one is if you haven't paid your taxes for five years - first of all, if you haven't paid your taxes for five years, you should go to jail.


KEN DOLAN: My opinion is just be careful who is going to get your credit fixed. Your credit card balances down. Just be careful.

DARIA DOLAN: That's why we recommend the nonprofit National Foundation for Consumer Credit.

WHITFIELD: OK. We talked about holiday spending or saving, in the last hour and really on the minds of so many people and this, too, from someone who says, you know, to get a few dollars together for the holiday, I'm actually thinking of selling some of my unwanted gold and silver. Jewelry. Who can I trust to give me a fair price?

DARIA DOLAN: I tell you-

KEN DOLAN: You see it on TV, they're all over the place.

DARIA DOLAN: Everywhere because with the price of gold being above $1,100. $1,040, I think now.


DARIA DOLAN: You know, I got this jewelry, never wear it. When I got divorced from a lousy guy. Let me unload all this garbage from him, and it's very tempting. I walked into my gym last week and in the back room at the gym they had a guy there who was appraising people's gold, but -



DARIA DOLAN: But know what the spot price of gold is before you start doing this.

KEN DOLAN: Let me say something.

DARIA DOLAN: Know what the -

WHITFIELD: Do you trust that outfit when you saw that? Wait a minute. This is - my gym? Someone's back here with a little scale now weighing gold? Wasn't that weird?

KEN DOLAN: Please, Fredricka, I say this. Deal with a local jeweler in your mall, or wherever you live, that's been there for a while, that if there's a problem that comes up that he or she is there, not some place, and I don't know all the gold buying - I don't know any of them. I don't care about any of them.

DARIA DOLAN: Never, ever send it off in the mail to them.

KEN DOLAN: I like the idea of going into my local jeweler with whom I've done or might do business in the faucet, laying it on the counter and going from there. Because they're not going anywhere.

WHITFIELD: Yes. That's true. And this from your My wife and I are first-time home buyers, in light of the $8,000 tax credit for first time home buyers and bargain basement home prices across America, should we buy now?

DARIA DOLAN: Boy, I'll tell you -

WHITFIELD: Should you take advantage of that deal?

KEN DOLAN: That's a good one, Fredricka.

DARIA DOLAN: That's the trillion dollar question. It is my firm belief that there's a new leg down to come in real estate prices nationwide, because we're starting to see, because of the job situation, a lot of the prime mortgages begin to teeter and -

KEN DOLAN: Two million homes are on the brink of foreclosure now.

DARIA DOLAN: Exactly. So that's not going to help the situation for floors on real estate. So what may look like a bargain now could be even a bigger bargain then. With that said -

WHITFIELD: And there is an extension on that $8,000 credit?

DARIA DOLAN: Yes there is.

KEN DOLAN: Exactly right. To make first for the deal and to go to contract by July 1st, which is really nice.

DARIA DOLAN: With that said, if you can afford the house, if it's a good deal relative to what the deals are now, in a good neighborhood, et cetera, and you're going to be there for the long haul. Not, buy it now and move -

KEN DOLAN: Or flip it. Yes.

DARIA DOLAN: Then you know, start getting your feet wet. Take a look around, and at least consider buying.

KEN DOLAN: And understand that May 1st and July 1st deadlines.

DARIA DOLAN: Will be going lower, I'm afraid.

WHITFIELD: OK. We're getting a lot more questions and comments by way of our blogs, Facebook, Josh Levs, his and mine. Let's bring in Josh into the equation now.

KEN DOLAN: Fire away, Josh.


WHITFIELD: OK, Josh, what else do we have for the Dolans?

LEVS: They're coming like crazy.

WHITFIELD: Unload on them.

LEVS: Talk about personal finance, first thing a lot of people talk about is jobs. Let's go straight to this question that we got here, and this comes to us from Steve. We're going to open it up for you. It says, "I've seen the market begin its climb. When will we see the job market rebound?"

Now before you guys answer that, this one comes from Lee. Sorry. Take a look. Anyway, take a look at the screen behind me and that's good. Go to the screen behind me. I want to talk about this job when the job market will rebound. But take a look here. Because we did have this story here from CNN Money that says jobs will return in 2012. Some analysts saying that. What do you guys think? Any shot 2012 will bring a jobs recovery?

KEN DOLAN: There's no doubt, Daria will dive in on the exact answer, Josh, but I want to say one thing, the recovery of America has to be led by two things. Job creation, job recovery and the housing recovery. But it's a good question.


LEVS: No jobs until we see the real housing recovery.

KEN DOLAN: As good start, Josh, yes.

DARIA DOLAN: And there's so much pending legislation that could come back to bite businesses. There's not going to be any hiring until we find out the lay of the land on taxes, health care, costs et cetera.

KEN DOLAN: Small business credit still tight.

DARIA DOLAN: At the very least I think CNN Money is spot on with predicting nothing until 2012.

KEN DOLAN: And that's a start.

DARIA DOLAN: But with the caveat that what comes in 2012 is going to be -

WHITFIELD: God, it's a long time to hold out.


KEN DOLAN: It is, Fredricka.

DARIA DOLAN: It's going to be a very different job market. Some jobs are gone forever.

LEVS: Yes. And we're seeing a change in the industry.

KEN DOLAN: That's the problem. Not like, well, I'll get my job back because business is better I'll get it back. Millions of job, gone forever. Either technologically or they've gone overseas never to be seen again.


LEVS: More on that. At your web site, also on Let's go to the second one (INAUDIBLE). I want you to see this one from Lee. It's interesting because we're talking a lot about credit cards, how to handle it. You guys have a question there, is this "Can you please share some tips on negotiating with card companies to reduce the amount owed?" Talk to me about that. A lot of people hear a lot of things. What should you do when you get -

WHITFIELD: Something else about Lee, which is found really interesting is talking about this huge credit card debt that he discovered his elderly mother had and unbeknownst to the family, so they all want to pitch in and help, but it's difficult to do and mom has been, you know, taking advantage of cash advances. She's on a limited income. So it happens to a lot of people.

KEN DOLAN: It really does, Fred, especially to the senior citizens where the average credit card balance is higher than the national average. Getting the credit card interest rate reduced is a lot easier if you've been paying on time. But if I owe $10,000 and I sort of like, well, you know, I'd like to get my credit card balance down to maybe $7,000. The credit car company's saying, wait a second, Jack.

DARIA DOLAN: You know, it makes no sense to me because if you can save -- the rational person would say look, credit card company, I can't pay this all back.

KEN DOLAN: You're not going to be able to.

DARIA DOLAN: And I don't know if I could, if ever. Probably never. So why don't we negotiate something that would get some of this money back to you and close the account? But that makes too much sense for creditors.

WHITFIELD: You're having a dialogue with credit card companies, the same ones who were saying we're not going to reduce any, you know, APRs?

DARIA DOLAN: You probably have to hire a pro like the National Foundation of Consumer Credits at the end of the day, because they've just not, not smart enough to bargain yet.

KEN DOLAN: Common sense doesn't enter into it often.

LEVS: I know we've got to tie this up. I just want to end with this one, it's worth it from Michael who says we need to put America bark to work quickly. He says "give the stimulus money to retailers, not the banks." Dolans, in a word, if there's going to be an extra on the stimulus? Who should get it?

DARIA DOLAN: Nobody. There should be no more stimulus. What's out there hasn't been working.

LEVS: There you go. There's our quick answer. Thanks for the -

WHITFIELD: Really? Not working at all? Don't you think -

KEN DOLAN: No. Fredricka. Please.

WHITFIELD: How long have we heard -

KEN DOLAN: The districts -


DARIA DOLAN: Fred, it's - Jerry Maguire. Show me the jobs!

KEN DOLAN: Show me the money.

WHITFIELD: Show me the jobs. OK. I get it. Ken and Daria Dolan, you're fantastic. As always, we love -

DARIA DOLAN: Happy Thanksgiving.

KEN DOLAN: We love you, guys.

WHITFIELD: Happy Thanksgiving. That's right. We love that you are helping.

KEN DOLAN: Congratulations, Josh.

LEVS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: I know back to Josh. Is that not awesome? If you missed it the first time, he's got a new baby in the house. And he helped deliver it.

KEN DOLAN: Well done.

WHITFIELD: Not in the hospital but at home.

LEVS: Thank you. Boom, came out.

WHITFIELD: I know. That's awesome. Congratulations.

LEVS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: See you all soon. Thanks so much.

LEVS: Bye, guys.

WHITFIELD: Of course, you probably have more questions for the Dolans and you can ask them, because they're ready to take on your finance questions. Just go to, send them your questions, they'll answer them. You'll be so, so happy.

Still ahead - for Britain, it's some of the heaviest rainfall on record. They were making a huge transition from money to now nasty weather. Look at the pictures there. Roads, bridges, all of it washed out. Homes and businesses under water and one person died. Much more on that straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: All right. Another look at the top stories right now. Victory for Senate Democrats trying to move their health care reform bill to the floor for debate. The last Democratic holdout, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas now support going forward with debate, that gives Democrats 60 votes. Enough to stop a Republican filibuster. A roll call is set for tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

First to California now, a peaceful and a tense day of protests. Police arrested dozens of people yesterday who occupied a campus building at the University of California. The protests, fee hikes and budget cuts. A 32 percent tuition increase is planned for several University of California campuses.

And high above the earth, is second of three space walks for the space shuttle "Atlantis" crew. Two astronauts worked for several hours today outside the International Space Station. Among other things, they bolted down antenna equipment and moved a monitor.

All right. Some of the heaviest rainfall on record has caused massive flooding in Britain. Jacqui Jeras is tracking it for us and in the severe weather center. Boy, it is incredible.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It really is. You know, over a foot in 24 hours. Kind of similar to what we experienced here in the Atlanta area in September. So when that much rainfall comes down in such a short period of time, unfortunately, this is the result.

This is in the northern part of the U.K. in a town called Cockermouth and two rivers come together here and right where that confluence is, the river came out of its banks, caused massive flooding. 1,300 homes damage and had to be evacuated. They said it's going to be six to nine months before they think these people can get back into their homes. There you can see roads washed out, bridges have collapsed and one police officer lost his life trying to direct people away from one of these bridges that was vulnerable at the time and it did unfortunately wash away along with him on it.

More rain in the forecast today in northern Great Britain. Unfortunately, they could see another two inches on top of what they already have. Now, we don't think we'll quite get two inches of rain here in the U.S. but we could certainly see some amounts approaching an inch or so. Some of the heaviest rain in the nation along the i-10 quarter. We're specially focusing in on south central parts of Louisiana where that heavy rain continues to come down. So it's going to be a rough ride on i-10.

Houston is going to be cloudy and misty conditions. You're starting to dry up a little bit. But watch as the system pulls off to the east throughout the weekend. So places like Birmingham and Atlanta, that haven't seen much of rain today, you're going to start to get in on that action tomorrow.

Our other big weather maker is in the Pacific northwest. Yes, I know. Another storm. Just what you wanted to hear, right? So here's the rain beginning to come down as well as snow in the higher elevations and we're just getting started. We're going to see the heavy snow coming overnight tonight and in a six-hour period you can see as much as maybe 10 to 20 inches of snow in the higher elevations and to go along with it in the coastal areas here of Washington and Oregon, we may see winds gusting up to 65 miles per hour.

Hey, you know what? This is the kickoff to the holiday weekend for a whole lot of people who have all of next week off, and so travel conditions outside of the two areas I mentioned looked really, really good. So things look great across the east as well as the upper Midwest as well as into the southwest and the best news I can tell you all day Fredricka, woo-hoo. No travel delays.

WHITFIELD: That's a nice Saturday of travel.

JERAS: I know.

WHITFIELD: We know it's all going to change tomorrow, Sunday. It always does. That's OK. We're just going to live in the moment and be happy right now.

All right. Thanks, Jacqui.

JERAS: Sure.

WHITFIELD: All right. To Capitol Hill. Momentarily one senator says too many red flags were missed before the shootings at Ft. Hood. We'll look at what's being done to connect the dots now.


WHITFIELD: All right. Before I update you on this massacre at Ft. Hood, the investigation, let me just tell you that on Capitol Hill, a rare Saturday session for the U.S. Senate, and about four hours from now, really less than that. About three and a half hours from now, members of the Senate will be voting on a health care proposal bill.

They'll be voting on whether to go forward on debate and as far as we understand, it appears as though there are the 60 votes needed in which to get that kind of green light. Officially that will happen at 8:00 tonight Eastern time. We'll be carrying that live.

Meantime, if want to hear the debate, the discussions that are going on right now on Capitol Hill in the U.S. Senate, you can go to and watch that video streamed live as you see right there at the bottom of your screen. You can watch it at

Meantime, let's talk now about the massacre at Ft. Hood and the on- going investigation in San Antonio, Texas. We understand a bedside hearing is taking place today for the suspect in the Ft. Hood shooting rampage. It will take place in Major Nidal Hasan's hospital room at Brooke Army Medical Center. Hasan's civilian attorney says his client's commanders have already placed him in what is considered pre- trial confinement. The hearing will determine whether that's appropriate. Hasan who is shot by police officers during the rampage is charged with 13 counts of murder.

Making sure an incident like Ft. Hood never happens again at any U.S. military base. That's what U.S. senators hope to achieve with a series of hearings. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut heads the Homeland Security Committee and he wants to know if someone could have connected the dots in this case and what might have been done.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Congress is interested in this from a preventive point of view. Was something missing in the behavior of people that work for the federal government and the rules that guide that behavior? Whether in the Justice Department or in the military, that will help us prevent a soldier from wreaking the havoc and pain and death that Dr. Hasan allegedly did at Ft. Hood.


WHITFIELD: The Pentagon also ordered a preview and a review of its policies aimed at preventing a similar attack.

All right. Congress is looking for accountability after the Fort Hood shooting spree. One senator says there were warning signs and red flags galore on in Nidal Hasan, the accused gunman. Here now is CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): More indications that potential safety nets may have either broken down or were never in place to prevent Nidal Hasan from allegedly murdering 13 people at Fort Hood.

At the first congressional hearing into the shootings, discussions on what may have been the failure of law enforcement, military and counter-terror officials to communicate with each other, even though it was discovered last year in a Hasan had corresponded with a radical Muslim cleric.

Former Homeland Security advisor Fran Townsend, a CNN contributor, indicated some restrictions on the agency's cooperation are just too unwieldy.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: That the rules become so cumbersome that they're discouraging, so people don't do it.

TODD: General John Keane was commanding general at Fort Bragg North Carolina during the trial of two white soldiers for the murder of a black couple. Keane said after that incident the military took steps to flag racial extremism but never came up with anything like that on radical religious behavior.

Keane was asked another key question, on why Hasan kept getting promoted even when his superiors reportedly had information on his extremist views and incompetence.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) HOMELAND SECURITY CMTE.: Do you think political correctness may have played some role in the fact these dots were not connected?

GEN. JOHN KEANE (RET.) FMR. ARMY VICE CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, absolutely. And also, I think, a factor here is Hasan's position as an officer, and also his position as a psychiatrist contributed to that.

TODD: Most of these security and terrorism experts agreed that Nidal Hasan is likely someone who became self-radicalized, a lone wolf influenced by militant extremists but not directed by anyone to kill. But connecting those dots, before this tragedy one expert said may have been impossible.

BRIAN JENKINS, TERRORISM ANALYST, RAND CORP.: We're just not very good as predicting human violence. We don't have an X-ray for a man's soul.

TODD (On camera): But Brian Jenkins said, looking back, it appears that Hasan had what he called obvious personality problems that he channeled into a deadly fanaticism. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: Crunch time, you are looking at live picture from the Senate floor. A little arm twisting this afternoon and vote tonight on debating the Democrat health care reform bill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Live pictures, right now, of the U.S. Senate in a rare Saturday session. They're trying to determine whether to move forward on this proposal of health care reform, and so far it appears as though they just might have the 60 votes needed in order to begin the debate on this $848 billion Senate health care reform bill.

However, we'll know officially at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, that's when they will vote on whether indeed to move forward. Of course, if you want to watch this wrangling going on, on Capitol Hill go to We are streaming the video live there. The ongoing discussions and debate there at the U.S. Senate.

All right. Among the two Democratic holdouts, until earlier today, were Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln. Earlier they took to the Senate floor and explained, while they may not necessarily be in favor of the bill as it is written right now, they do like the idea of moving forward to debate.


SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, (D) LOUISIANA: My vote today to move forward on this important debate should in no way be construed by the supporters of this current framework as an indication of how I might vote as this debate comes to an end.

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN, (D) ARKANSAS: Although I don't agree with everything in this bill, I have concluded that I believe it is more important that we begin this debate to improve our nation's health care system for all Americans, rather than just simply drop the issue and walk away.


WHITFIELD: As for Republicans, well, they have a solid block of 40 no votes on the Senate health care reform plan.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: This 2,000-page bill cuts Medicare, raises taxes, and raises insurance premiums for the 85 percent of Americans who have insurance.

SEN. GEORGE LEMIEUX, (D) FLORIDA: What I'm afraid is that at the end of the day, where we're going to be in five or 10 years from now is that this is Medicaid for the masses. We're going to turn Medicare into Medicaid and we're going to put everything, basically, on a government-run or a government-regulated program.


WHITFIELD: Of course, the White House is closely monitoring today's Senate session. The president hopes to sign a health care bill by the end of the year. CNN'S Kate Bolduan is live at the White House with a view from there.

So, Kate, the president feeling rather confident that he will have a bill on his desk by the end of the year? That's a question.


That is the question.

I would say he's confident that he'll get a bill on his desk. He's confident he will get a bill, but by the end of the year, meeting that goal by the end of the year? That's still a little bit unclear.

I'm told by a White House aide over here at the White House they are monitoring this debate very closely, and you can be sure that the president is very much being kept up to date on both the debate and the vote count as the day continues. Just last night the White House released a statement praising the Senate bill, that we are discussing right now. Also urging a quick action on it, and calling it, quote, "a critical milestone in the effort to the reform our health care system."

But today's vote, as we've been talking about, Fredricka, is far from the end of the road for this. And you can be sure the White House is watching this closely and we are waiting and looking for any response, reaction and comment from the White House today.

WHITFIELD: I wonder how proactive the president will be on this as well? We saw that, you know, he's become very comfortable with his town hall meetings and having face-to-face meetings with lawmakers about other bills. And now I wonder if he'll be doing the same about this bill?

BOLDUAN: Well, we don't have anything specifically, you know, on the schedule. Think about it this way. This is the president's number one domestic priority. This is at a critical state, everyone agree. This vote and moving forward in this debate. So, you can be sure that the president, and the White House, and his top advisers, will be out there fighting to make this happen, because this is his top priority.

They've put a lot of political capital into this. Be it in public statements, be it in town halls possibly, or behind closed doors. A little bit of bargaining and a little bit of arm twisting. You can be sure that they will be fighting here. And trying to push this debate forward and control the message, and keep the American people listening to their message.

And can you be sure the president will continue to do that with the goal of getting it on his desk by the end of the year. But that timetable, we've said, is a little unclear since this debate has drawn out for quite some time now.

WHITFIELD: He would like that to be his Christmas present, but we'll see.

BOLDUAN: Oh, yes, he would, Fredricka. I think that's a very good guess.

WHITFIELD: Right. All right. Kate Bolduan thanks so much, from the White House .

The Senate voting on debating the health care bill is expected tonight, at around 8:00 o'clock Eastern Time. We'll take you live to the Senate chambers when that happens tonight.

A plea bargain deal in the case of a woman who cut in line at Wal- Mart. The racially charged case has a lot of people talking.


WHITFIELD: All right. Time to look at our top stories, once again.

Federal prosecutors say they intend to drop charges against one of five Blackwater security guards involved in deadly shooting in Baghdad. The shooting, two years ago, left 17 Iraqis dead and inflamed anti-American sentiment. It also touched off a string of investigation that led the U.S. State Department to cancel Blackwater's contract to guard diplomats in Iraq.

Funeral services are being held today for a man killed in an office shooting spree in Orlando, Florida. 26-year-old Otis Beckford was gunned down earlier this month and five other people were injured. Jason Rodriguez, a former employee of the firm, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection to that shooting.

A woman arrested for causing a scene at a Wal-Mart agreed to a plea bargain to end her trial. Heather Ellis must serve now four days in jail, attend an anger management course, and serve unsupervised probation for a year. The case drew national attention because of racial overturns. Ellis' is black. The customer and police officers she argued with are white.

All right. For women wondering what the latest mammogram recommendations actually mean, hold on. There's much more. Now we're being told to hold off on PAP smears as well.


WHITFIELD: All right. Two major health studies released this week have women wondering what they should do. At issue, how often should women get screenings for breast and cervical cancer. In both studies panels say women need fewer tests and don't need to start getting screening until much late on in life.

First the debate over mammograms, now being recommended to take place after the age of 50. The American Cancer Society tells us they don't like these new recommendations.


OTIS BRAWLEY, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: The task force did find that screening women in their 40s does save lives. It reduces the relative risk of death by 15 percent. They went on to do some calculations. Calculations which, by the way, we disagree with, and they estimate that you have to screen 1, 900 women in their 40s save one life; and 1,340 women in their 50s to save one life. It leaves me to say, what is the number between 1,340 and 1,900 in which mammography screening is no longer beneficial and no longer useful and should not be recommended?


WHITFIELD: Hmm. All right. Not all health experts agree. Cindy Pierson is the executive director of the National Women's Health Network and she supports the new guidelines.


CINDY PEARSON, NATIONAL WOMEN'S HEALTH NETWORK: The important thing is to get basic, good, effective screening to everyone, and to get it often enough so that the things that could cause deaths, in the future, are caught and treated. But not to do it so early or so often that women are actually burdened by more harm, because of starting screening so early and doing it so often, that their almost guaranteed to experience a procedure, a test, even a treatment that they don't need at all.

So it's a balancing of harm and benefit that the guidelines are trying to get to. And that, as a consumer advocacy group, we support.

WHITFIELD: Understandably it's so confusing to so many women because we've all been conditioned to believe that early detection is the key.


WHITFIELD: And if a mammogram is one of the tools in which to make that discovery very early, and so many women have experienced that that's discovery been made in their 40s, if not for the guideline of getting your mammogram by the age of 40, many women feel like you know what? They wouldn't have gotten that second chance on being able to call themselves a survivor. So, how do you --


WHITFIELD: So, how do you now convey this message and convince women that you know what, that is actually the anomaly.

PEARSON: It's a very difficult message to convey. As you say, it contradicts what we've lived with the past 20 years. As a consumer advocacy group what we want is for women to know that there is debate and different points of view. There's not just one simple message and not one set of rules that you will follow if you care about yourself.

WHITFIELD: So, am I hearing from you that the exposure to the radiation, in that 10-year span, from 40 to 50, much greater, to a much greater detriment than it is in that period to, I guess, take a stab at whether or not there is any detection that can be made?

PEARSON: It's true that the likelihood of finding something goes down, as the Doctor Brawley said in that clip you showed, but the important thing to note is that in their 40s, some women will be found to have a breast cancer and treated for that breast cancer that never would have killed them. That might have actually even gone away on its own.

Now, no one who's been treated for breast cancer could possibly believe she was the one who didn't need the treatment. And I wouldn't try to tell a woman that either, but if you look at the big studies, that's what they show. That we're finding and treating things that don't threaten women's lives, and it be would -- on statistical level it would be better to not necessarily even look. Now, we're not telling women, stop. We're telling women, get all the information you can. Learn about why this is now not so simple anymore, and then don't feel guilty about whatever you do.


WHITFIELD: All right. That was Cindy Pearson. Of course, you can get more information on the mammogram guideline changes on our website,

And then there is that other major medical study that particularly pertains to women. This one calls for women to actually get fewer screens for cervical cancer. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains this one.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Screening week, this week, first talk - a lot of discussion about mammograms; and now talking about cervical cancer specifically. But I can tell you right off the top, it is unlikely this will meet with the same amount of controversy we've been talking about all week with regard to mammograms.

And organization known as ACOG, The American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists, about 50,000 members around the country, primarily clinicians. They release guidelines just like this every few years. Last time they did this with regard to cervical cancer was back in 2003. Looking at lots of different data at that point they said that a woman should get a Pap smear three years after the first time she's had sex. Or at the age of 21, which ever comes first, and then get yearly screenings after that.

What they are saying now, if you fast forward five, six years, the first cervical cancer screening, the Pap smear, can occur at age 21 regardless. And it would be two years after that, between the ages 21 and 29, every three years after the age of 30.

Again, this is based on looking at lots of evidence. Many of you at home may wonder what is the difference? Why the slow down in Pap smears? Why the slow down in mammograms? These are really too different cancers.

For example, with regards to breast cancer you can have a breast cancer tumor, a tumor that can actually double in size within several months, which makes a yearly test, perhaps, more important.

With regards to cervical cancer, Pap smears typically detect pre- cancerous lesions and then this is a slow-moving cancer. It can take 10 to 20 years to develop. So, again, after looking at all the evidence, they say it is probably OK to wait until the age of 21 and then go every couple years after that.

Another way of looking at this is if you get a yearly Pap smear based on the rate of growth, it's kind of like getting a mammogram every four months, which everyone seems to think is too frequently.

Again, I don't think this will meet with the same controversy that we've heard about with mammograms but some important news, especially young women out there. There is going to be a response from some of the professional societies, over the next couple of days. As it comes to us, we'll bring it to you.

Back to you, for now.


WHITFIELD: All right. Doctor Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

Risky business, some disturbing connections in the collapse of the U.S. housing market.


The mortgage meltdown and financial crisis that followed; to what extent are credit rating agencies to blame? Our Brian Todd has been looking into it.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Did Wall Street's umpires gloss over some critical weaknesses in the mortgage market right before the financial meltdown? The three top credit rating agencies are accused of giving overly optimistic ratings, like the top designation, AAA, to shaky mortgage backed securities right up to the point many of them failed.

A whistle-blower at the ratings firm Moody's told Congress his group gave some securities inflated ratings that it knew were wrong and --

ERIC KOLCHINSKY, FMR. MANAGING DIR., MOODY'S INVESTOR'S SERVICE: The group the analysts get routinely bullied by business line managers and their decisions overridden in the name of generating revenue.

TODD: Clients like investment banks would shop around to get the most favorable rating. But a representative of Moody's said there was no favoritism or fraud. They were just plain wrong in judging the market.

RICHARD CANTOR, CHIEF RISK OFFICER, MOODY'S CORP.: We were not alone in being mistaken about this. Most observers of the market, I would say nearly all observers of the market, were completely surprised by what happened.

TODD: Officials at the other top ratings firms Standard & Poor's and Fitch also deny wrongdoing. And say they, too, simply misjudged how far the housing market would fall. Credit rating agencies are supposed to rate how strong or weak so- called mortgage backed securities are. Since many of those securities were created from unstable, subprime mortgages, they plunged in value when the housing market collapsed. And the financial system nearly crumbled with them. Mortgage backed securities are created when big investment banks buy a bunch of mortgages from local banks, pool them in portfolios, and sell them to investors around the world.

What affect does the credit rating crisis for those securities have on average homeowners?

PROF. JOHN COFFEE, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL: Until we get the credibility of credit ratings restored, housing finance in the United States is at a total standstill. All of these asset backed securitizations have been paralyzed. They are no longer being done. Unless they are done, small banks really can't finance the demand for housing.

TODD (On camera): Some members of a congressional committee, looking into all of this, also say these credit ratings firms have conflicts of interest. That they're paid by these investment banks that are underwriting the mortgage backed securities to rate those securities, but that the underwriters also want to trade the securities, so they have an interest in higher ratings. All three ratings firms say they are transparent about their operations and that they have built-in fire walls to guard against conflict. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: In the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM what did Democrat do to get the magic 60 yes votes to push the health care debate forward?

And now a debate over when to get a breast exam. What's a woman to do? Making sense of new guidelines.