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Afghanistan Exit Strategy; Fighting the Taliban; Roman Polanski's New Confinement; Kyoto Protocol; Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Aired December 06, 2009 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Next in the CNN NEWSROOM, President Obama visits Capitol Hill to talk to Democrats about the health care reform bill.

Afghanistan exit strategy. What did the president really mean when he said troops will start to withdraw in 2011?

And now Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick returns to Atlanta to take on his former team, the Falcons. Hearing both boos and cheers will his dog fighting conviction stand in the way of any gains on the field?

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM where the news unfolds live this Sunday, December 6th. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We're watching two big stories concerning the president of the United States. Brianna Keilar is on Capitol Hill covering the health care debate. And President Obama's rare visit to Capitol Hill this Sunday. And Kate Bolduan is at the White House where the administration is defending Mr. Obama's new plan for Afghanistan.

So let's start with the health care debate. It's unusual for the Senate to convene on a Sunday. Even more unusual for the president of the United States to visit Capitol Hill. So both of these things happening today as the administration pushes the Senate to pass a health care bill before Christmas.

CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar is on the hill. Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, President Obama came here to Capitol Hill. He met with Senate Democrats for about an hour behind closed doors. And when he came out, he told a mess of us reporters that that was not a negotiation, that was a pep talk.

Clearly the president up here trying to inspire Democrats, trying to get them to set their political differences aside and move forward with health care reform as it faces a really tough battle right now in the Senate. Listen to what senate majority leader Harry Reid said about what President Obama told those Democrats behind closed doors.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now people are going to look back at what this Congress did. And each time they see a child being able to go to the doctor when they're sick or hurt, seeing someone that just because they lose their job, they don't lose their insurance, someone who gets diabetes doesn't mean a lifetime of not being able to get insurance, that's what this legislation's all about.


KEILAR: And another Senate Democrat who was in that meeting and who has thrown his support behind the plan said President Obama was inspiring in a way that no other person could be. So it sounds quite a bit like a kumbaya moment. But this is, of course, Fredricka, where we insert that record scratch sound and say, wait a second. Guess what a couple of moderate Democrats, key Democrats, who have big issues with this health care reform plan, guess what they said.

Senator Mary Landrieu who is very concerned that a government-run insurance option would lead to a government-run takeover of health care said the policy needs to be right. So she clearly was not completely swayed by this pep talk.

And then Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, another moderate Democrat who has big issues with the abortion language in this health care reform bill, he said to some of us reporters, "for those of us who have made a decision to support - or for those who have made a decision to support this bill, he was persuasive." That means Senator Ben Nelson, who has not made a decision yet, not persuaded by this meeting, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So does a Christmas deadline seem realistic even if there is still some work to be done? We heard Harry Reid say, you know, there's a narrowing of the gap, but still we're not quite there.

KEILAR: You know, it's hard to tell if they're going to be able to meet that deadline. You can't really say one way or the other at this point. But behind the scenes, there are about a dozen Democrats, some of them on the left, some of them towards the middle, some of those moderate Democrats and they're trying to work out a compromise on that sticky issue of the government-run insurance plan.

What exactly should it look like so that Senate majority leader Harry Reid can get the 60 votes that he needs? Some of them are hoping to have an agreement on that tonight, Fredricka. And that group is actually meeting behind closed doors as we speak. Unclear if they are going to come to an agreement, whether they come to one tonight that could have an effect on that Christmas deadline. So we will certainly be watching as this day moves on.

WHITFIELD: All right. Brianna Keilar, thanks so much from Capitol Hill.

And just before we heard from Harry Reid, Republicans continue to criticize the health care bill. Senator John McCain says the bill will help drug companies and other medical providers, but it won't help the American people, he said.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: When we talk about these deals, who is it that's left out of the deals? The American people. They're the ones that are left out. Good example, the deal that pharma cut, which was reported on the front page of several newspapers around America, that in return for their support of the legislation, the administration would oppose drug reimportation from Canada, which prescription drug prices could be as much as 50 percent lower, and would oppose competition for Medicare recipients by the pharmaceutical companies.

So who got damaged by that deal? Certainly not the pharmaceutical people. But the American people did.


WHITFIELD: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell criticized President Obama's decision to exclude Republicans from today's meetings. He says that shows how partisan the process has become. But again, it was Harry Reid who spoke after the Republican's response. And Harry Reid responded to that saying "my disappointment is that we haven't had a single statement," from Republicans saying they want to work together to help in that bill.

All right. So the other big discussion in Washington today, Afghanistan. Every since President Obama declared that the U.S. will begin a withdrawal in July 2011, there has been disagreement over what that really means. Administration aides tried to offer some clarifications today.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is at the White House with more on that. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fredricka. Well, top administration officials including the secretaries of state, defense, top generals and advisers came out in force today making the case for President Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan and that troop increase of 30,000 heading over to Afghanistan.

A major topic, though, today. The July 2011 date of transitioning U.S - beginning to transition U.S. forces out of Afghanistan, and it seems they're still having a hard time explaining that. Listen here.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Where's the end of the ramp? If its beginning is 2011, where's the end of the ramp? Is it 2015? 2020?

GEN. JAMES JONES (RET.), NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The end of the ramp will be predicated on exactly how much progress we're making.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CENTCOM COMMANDER: There's no time line, no ramp. Again, it's very important to note as many have observed, this doesn't trigger a rush to the exits.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR: Now, ramp or no ramp, Defense secretary Robert Gates said very clearly that this date, July 2011, is not a date certain. He says it is a conditions-based balance of sending a signal, a strong signal of resolve committed to succeeding in Afghanistan, at the same time sending a very strong signal of urgency to the Afghan government that they need to step up to the plate and take over responsibility for their own security. Nevertheless, the 2011 date proves to be controversial for both the left and the right. Listen here.


SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: I'm afraid the president's idea, which is to set a date where we may start withdrawing troops, gives nobody anything they want. It doesn't give the Afghan people a belief we're actually leaving. It doesn't give the American people any confidence that we have a plan to finally end this.

MCCAIN: To send the message that you are going to leave at a certain date is not the way to convince the enemy that you're there to beat them.


KEILAR: So, Fredricka, the big question does remain. We hear from elected officials. But how does the American public feel about this? Well, a new CNN opinion research corporation poll that was just released suggests that a majority, 64 percent, agree with the president and his new Afghan strategy and believe that U.S. safety and security are at stake here.

But, at the same time, it is very interesting. It seems Americans remain skeptical of chances of success here. Less than four in 10 of those polled believe that the president's goals in Afghanistan will be reached. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kate Bolduan, thanks so much at the White House. Appreciate that.

So as additional troops are deployed to Afghanistan, they'll face a number of challenges, right? Well, chief among them, training Afghan forces and battling Taliban insurgents. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is in Bagram, Afghanistan.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We are continuing to travel throughout eastern Afghanistan, having a look at the security situation on the ground. We went to a location about 30 miles outside of Kabul, the capital. This is an area called Logar province. I was there a year ago. And the security situation was so dire you could not walk the ground. Everyone traveled in the U.S. military by armored vehicles, heavily armed troops.

Today it is a different place. We were able to go with a security detail, but on foot. On patrol through a very busy marketplace talking to shopkeepers, looking at produce, stopping along the way. This is an area where a small number of U.S. troops have worked with Afghan National Police and have had some impact. They've been able to at least drive the Taliban and the insurgents out of this one area, and as a consequence, it is a thriving marketplace, business is growing in this region.

But that's not to say that there aren't problems in eastern Afghanistan. Commanders estimate there are as many as 4,000 insurgents in this four-province area. They have seen foreign fighters. They are seeing IEDs that are larger and more deadly. When the additional U.S. troops come to Afghanistan, a number of them will come here. They're expected to heavily focus on training those Afghan forces so they can do a better job of eventually taking over.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Bagram.


WHITFIELD: And our Christian Amanpour had an exclusive interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. We'll have a bit of their in-depth chat about the future of Afghanistan in about a half an hour from now.

Was Amanda Knox the victim of anti-American sentiment? We'll tell you what some people are saying about her murder conviction in Italy.


WHITFIELD: The Senate finance chairman could find himself in the middle of an ethics investigation. Democrat Max Baucus is coming under fire for recommending his girlfriend for a U.S. attorney position in his home state of Montana. The woman later withdrew her name. Baucus says the move was an open and fair process. Republicans are calling for an investigation.

An American college student, Amanda Knox, convicted of murder in Italy may have some high-powered help in her corner. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state is worried that anti-American sentiment tainted Knox's trial. She plans to share her concerns with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Knox, who is from Seattle, is now serving a 26-year sentence.

Our Paula Newton spoke with her family in Italy.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After an emotional visit in prison with their daughter and sister, Amanda Knox, the Knox family emerged to say they would fight on.

EDDA MELLAS, MOTHER OF AMANDA KNOX: We told her she's going to get out of here. It's going to take a little longer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: she's innocent. She's innocent. She will come home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of a night did she have?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She had a rough night.

MELLAS: She had a lot of support when she got back to the jail. Everybody there, the inmates and the guards were all taking great care of her. They care a lot. Thank you.

NEWTON: But it was the pain of another family that resonated the day after this controversial verdict. As Meredith Kercher's siblings and parents said they were satisfied with the convictions.

LYLE KERCHER, BROTHER OF MEREDITH KERCHER: It's not time, you know, it's not time for celebration at the end of the day. It's not a moment of triumph. As we've said before, at the end of the day we're all gathered here because, you know, our sister was brutally murdered and taken away from us.

NEWTON: Amanda Knox and Rafaelle Sollecito were convicted of not just her murder, but savage beating and sexual assault. The verdict was read dispassionately as Knox slumped in her chair and sobbed. Only to emerge outside to shouts of "assassin" from bystanders.

The Knox family says the jury failed to acknowledge the lack of physical evidence linking their daughter to the murder. But the prosecutor told CNN despite all the criticisms leveled at him and the Italian justice system, the conviction stands and should be respected.

GIULIANO MIGNINI, PUBLIC PROSECUTOR (through translator): It is an appealable conviction. And we will see all this in appeal. But convictions must be respected by all.

NEWTON (on camera): While the Knox family maintains that a character assassination by the media helped convict their daughter, that same media scrutiny could now work in their favor as even some Italian editorials are now calling for a review of this murder investigation.

Paula Newton, CNN, Perugia, Italy.


WHITFIELD: Let's talk about sports now for a moment. Michael Vick played football in Atlanta today. He was a former Falcons player. Now he is playing for the Philadelphia Eagles. Well, for the first time since his conviction on dog fighting charges, he was back in Atlanta. So did he deserve the reaction that he actually got? We'll talk it over later on in the chat room.


WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories right now.

Violence in Athens, Greece, as police crash with protesters on the anniversary of a fatal police shooting. Greek authorities say a university dean is in intensive care after being attacked. More than a dozen police officers have been injured and more than 230 people have been arrested.

And the lead singer of the Indy rock band "Weezer" was injured in a bus crash in up state New York. Rivers Cuomo taken to a hospital in Amsterdam, New York after complaining of rib pain. The driver said the bus slid on ice before landing in a ditch.

The maker of this season's hot toy denies claims the Mr. Squiggles hamster contains high levels of a chemical which can cause health problems. A company statement says, "we are disputing the findings of Good Guide, and we are 100 percent confident that Mr. Squiggles and all the other Zhu Zhu toys are safe and compliant with all U.S. and European standards for consumer health and safety in toys."

Still a couple of weeks away from the official start of winter. But much of the nation is already shivering with unseasonably chilly temperatures, not to mention snow, which some people welcome. Welcome, that is. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is tracking all of it right now. Some folks like that snow, especially in December.


WHITFIELD: It really puts you into the holiday spirit.

JERAS: I'm one of those people.

WHITFIELD: Me, too. We didn't get any snow. We just got cold.

JERAS: I know. There were flurries at my house, actually.


JERAS: Yes. Friday morning.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. Okay. We got zero.

JERAS: Sorry to hear that. Lots of time. It's an El Nino year. I'm telling you, we're going to have a major ice storm or major snowstorm in the Atlanta area.

WHITFIELD: We're in for a brutal winter. I just have that feeling.

JERAS: It's going to be really brutal in the southwest here in the next couple of days and heading into the plains and feeling a little responsible last week and I said good-bye, hurricanes. Hello to the snowstorms. Bring them on. Well, here they come.

WHITFIELD: That's right. One after the other.

JERAS: It is. You know, you can kind of see the beginnings of this one here out in the Pacific. That is going to be moving in by tonight and developing into a major winter storm and bringing blizzard like conditions to many people. More details on that in just a second.

But first I want to tell you about what's happening now. There you can see the snow showers across the plain states. And this is a walk in the park compared to what you're going to be seeing when that Pacific storm heads your way. The snow heaviest right now along the state line of Nebraska as well as Kansas. We got a tower cam we want to show you out of the Omaha area, to give you an idea of what it's been looking like.

If you stare at that poll right there you can really see how the snow is coming down horizontally. You can see anywhere between three and five inches of snowfall in the Omaha area. 26 is your temperature. 17 is your wind chill. Those winds are gusting. 16 miles per hour. Winter weather advisory. There you can see the snow. You can really see it on that one.

Winter weather advisory for today. And then a winter storm watch for your storm which is going to come in late tomorrow night and continue through Wednesday. We could be using two hands to count the snow that go round. So enjoy this three to five for today. Look at all the warnings and advisories which have already been set up for this upcoming storm. One to two feet can be expected in the Sierras. We're going to get snow developing late tonight and continuing through tomorrow.

In addition to all of the snow, we are expecting to see some incredible winds. In fact, gusts could be approaching 60, 70 miles per hour. So blizzard like conditions will be expected. We'll be tracking this storm throughout almost the entire week. That's how long it's going to take it to get up towards the Great Lakes.

WHITFIELD: Wow, and if it keeps up, maybe they'll have a white Christmas, huh?

JERAS: Oh, yes. It could happen, yes.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right. Thanks, Jacqui. Appreciate that.

All right. President Obama plans to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in 2011. So what does the Afghan government say about that. Our Christiane Amanpour got an exclusive interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.


WHITFIELD: All right. Politicians do almost anything to get elected. But once in office all bets are off. So how is President Obama stacking up to his campaign promises on Afghanistan. Our Josh Levs takes a hard look.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We definitely are going to need a couple of additional brigades.

We need more troops there. We need more resources there.

Part of the reason I think it's important to end the war in Iraq is to be able to get more troops in Afghanistan.


JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More troops, more troops. We waned to see how specific he got. What specific promises he made and whether he's keeping them. And one of the best places in the world to look at this is this right here. The Obamater. It's from where they keep track of hundreds of promises he made on the campaign trail.

Joining us from politifact, in fact, from the Obameter, Angie Holan who has been following the president's Afghanistan promises. Hey there, Angie.

ANGIE HOLAN, POLITIFACT: Thanks for having me, Josh.

LEVS: All right. Let's do this. This is what I want to do. I want to start off with a sound bite in which the president made a very specific promise about Afghanistan. Then you'll tell us if he fulfilled that or not. Here's the sound bite.


OBAMA: As president I will deploy at least two additional brigades to Afghanistan to reinforce our counter terrorism operations and support NATO against the Taliban.


LEVS: Angie, the Obameter says.

HOLAN: The Obameter says promised kept. This happened earlier this year when Obama made a major speech and ordered those extra brigades and they did go over. So he made it a promise kept.

LEVS: The next one I found really interesting. Because you talk about NATO. And here you don't exactly say the president has fulfilled this promise yet. Talk to us about that one.

The NATO promise is to lift the restrictions on NATO troops. These are troops that belong to other countries, our allies. And there have either been restrictions on reluctance to send additional troops. Now we've rated this in the works. Because the Obama administration is making efforts on this. There have been a lot of diplomatic efforts. And other countries have said that they're open. So this one is in the works.

LEVS: It's in the works from you guys means that you've seen him take some steps toward fulfilling it. He hasn't done it yet. But you think he's done enough that he's going the direction of actually fulfilling it.

HOLAN: That's right. We have in the works and then we have our other ratings when he actually gets to fulfillment like promise kept or promise broken.

LEVS: OK. Let's zoom in here. I want to show everyone really quickly. We're going to scroll up to this. You guys have a total of five. These are the next two. You have training and equipping the Afghan army and increasing nonmilitary aid to Afghanistan by $1 billion. Now in each case there you're saying the same thing. You're saying it's in the works because he's taken some steps towards fulfilling these two, right?

HOLAN: That's right. The aid is still pending in Congress though. He has to wait for them on that.

LEVS: He's working toward them. This last one. We may have a screen for you on this. Making U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional or anti-terror efforts. The Taliban has at times used Pakistan to launch attacks in Afghanistan. The president made a promise. How is he doing?

HOLAN: That's right. The administration often talks about Afghanistan and Pakistan as being part of the same issue. We rated this one promised kept. Congress passed the aid to Pakistan and there are process for the Secretary of State to verified that they're helping fight terrorism in those border regions.

LEVS: Yeah. Thanks for that. I keep a close eye on the obameter 2 for 5 so far on the Afghanistan front, none broken. As the president goes, that's not to bad.

That's not so bad. We've got three more years to go, just about.

LEVS: Well Angie we're all going to take a look at this Thank you so much for joining us today.


WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks, Josh.

Well, critics of President Obama have claimed that he dithered on his decision regarding Afghanistan. But the latest CNN Opinion Research poll finds most Americans disagree with that criticism. In telephone interviews earlier this week 43 percent of those questioned say the president did take too much time compared to 56 percent who said he did not take too much time.

As for the end game scenario, just over a quarter of respondents, 29 percent said the U.S. will ultimately win the war. More than half believe the war will end in stalemate, 12 percent think the U.S. will go down in defeat. The poll was conducted December 2nd and 3rd after the president's primetime address.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is responding publicly to President Obama's troop plan for the first time in a sit-down interview. Karzai talked with our Christiane Amanpour during this exclusive interview.


PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan will be there and will make it with or without the help of the rest of the world. It's the rest of the world that needs to be in Afghanistan to bring them some security from the problems that they caused themselves by promoting Islamic radicalism, by promoting fanaticism and radicals for the past 30 years. First against the Soviets and then by abandoning Afghanistan. So I think the west needs to use this opportunity correctly to help Afghanistan and to help themselves.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Karzai, do you think that the U.S. surge will finish the job in your country?

KARZAI: Well, the most important element in the new U.S. strategy on Afghanistan is concentration on protecting the population. And doubling economic assistance to Afghanistan. And also concentrating on the regional aspect of the problem. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Afghanistan welcomes this new strategy, and Afghanistan will do all it can to be a good partner in it.

AMANPOUR: You yourself have said even in your inauguration address that it would take some five years to be able to hand over security to the Afghan forces.

KARZAI: We want to have in Afghanistan in another two years the ability to lead operations and provide security for the Afghan people in many parts of the country. Especially parts of the country where we have trouble fighting terrorism and trying to bring violence down. By the end of five years' term of the current government, we plan to lead operations for the security of the Afghan people in all of Afghanistan, in the whole country. That is our objective. Now, we as Afghans also must try our very, very best to reach that goal. And we hope --


WHITFIELD: Hamid Karzai in that exclusive interview with our Christiane Amanpour. And a friendly reminder that "Amanpour" airs every Sunday at 2:00 Eastern Time right here on CNN.

They call it house arrest. But what a house you're about to see. We'll show you where director Roman Polanski is living as he waits for possible extradition to America.


WHITFIELD: The Swiss government has yet to decide on America's extradition request for Roman Polanski. But the film director has traded his prison cell for some ultra posh surroundings. He's under house arrest at his Swiss chalet. As our Morgan Neil explains that means the surrounding community has become a player in the Polanski saga as well.


MORGAN NEIL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fresh out of a Swiss jail, Roman Polanski pulled into a new kind of confinement. One that would be the envy of those he left behind at his last address. Released after paying the equivalent of $4.5 million bail, 76-year-old director has been moved to house arrest at his luxurious chalet in the Swiss Alps, as private security guards parole outside Polanski is inside with his wife and children, out fitted with a electronic bracelet and an alarm that will sound if he tries to take it off or leave his property. But there's nothing to stop him from seeing friends or working on film projects. Roman Polanski is just behind me in his chalet there. But as you can see the doors are shut, the windows are shut and the blinds are drawn, we have yet to hear anything from the famed director. In the small sleepy resort town below, Polanski's arrival has brought a crush of media attention during what's normally a slow period.

ROGER SEIFRIZ, TOUR DIRECTOR: It's a very new experience for us and also for the people living here. Because as per today, we were only a resort in the Swiss Alps.

NEIL: There's luxury shops like Prada and Rolex. The mayor says it is not the luxuries that celebrities find most attractive it is the sense of discretion.

ALDO KROPF, MAYOR: Here we are used to a very -- we don't speak to the people when we see them in the street or in the shops. They can move as everyone here.

NEIL: But are people here sympathetic to Polanski?

KROPF: Generally speaking, I would say there's a 50/50.

NEIL: Polanski still faces the prospect of extradition to the United States. The country he fled more than 30 years ago after pleading guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. But the idealic back drop of his latest confinement will add fuel to the fires of critics who say he's never really paid for his crime.

Morgan Neil, CNN, Switzerland.


WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories right now. President Obama is pressing his case for health care reform. He met with Senate Democrats a short while ago on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have been working in a rare weekend session trying to hammer out their differences about the overhaul bill. They are considering amendments to the current legislation package.

The president's top aides are clarifying his new strategy for Afghanistan. Last week Mr. Obama said withdrawal of U.S. forces would begin in July of 2011. Republicans have criticized that. Today defense secretary Robert Gates said there isn't a deadline for leaving. He says the 2011 date is a timetable for transferring security responsibility to Afghan forces.

The death toll from that nightclub fire in Russia is up to 112. Three of the victims were buried today. Dozens of others remain hospitalized. At least four people have been detained by police. They are suspected of violating fire safety rules. Moscow has set aside tomorrow as a national day of mourning for the victims.

Workers at a Lebanon, Ohio, raceway are doing their best to clear the signs of this weekend's tragic barn fire. Two men and 43 horses were killed in the fire. Emergency teams have removed the remains of all the victims and the horses. Investigators don't know what caused the blaze yet, but they don't think it was arson.

A major world conference on climate change begins tomorrow. We'll show you what's at stake exactly.


WHITFIELD: A crime story in New York with an ending few would have actually predicted. A would-be robber was given a second chance by his victim. Now months later that suspect is reaching out to show his appreciation. You'll get a better understanding when you hear from Mary Snow.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): We first brought you Mohammed Sohail's story in June when he showed mercy to a would be robber who came into his store demanding money. The ordeal all captured by surveillance cameras. Sohail grabbed a rifle and said the man began crying saying he needed to feed his family. Sohail gave him $40, a loaf of bread and made him promise never to rob again. Six months later the 47-year-old Sohail says that promise was returned in a way he never imagined. He recently received a letter with $50 inside and no return address.

MOHAMMAD SOHAIL, CONVENIENCE STORE OWNER: What is that? And when I read the letter, that's the same person, you know the guy who tried to rob my store.

SNOW: He read it for us.

SOHAIL: Now I have a good job, making good money, staying out of trouble, and taking care of my family. You gave me $40 and a loaf of bread. Here is the $50. Thank you for sparing my life. Because of that, you changed my life.

SNOW: Did you cry when you got that letter?

SOHAIL: Absolutely. All the time I'm thinking my mom. My mom said; help anybody if anybody needs help.

SNOW: The letter is signed your Muslim brother. And the writer states he's now a true Muslim. During the aborted robbery, the man told Sohail he wanted to be a Muslim just like him. And Sohail recited an Islamic prayer and told him he was converted. While the man's life may have changed, things are also different for this Pakistani immigrant.

At his store in Shirley, New York, he displays letters he's received from across the country. Dear Mr. Sohail. No person's ever moved my spirit the way you did. Wow. From an admirer, your biggest admirer. Do you know who Lee is?

SOHAIL: I have no idea. People send me the letters.

SNOW: And some have sent checks. Sohail has said he's received a couple hundred dollars and now offers free bagels, rolls and coffee for several hours during the day and now vows to help others. Would you one day like to meet with this anonymous mystery man?

SOHAIL: Of course. I'd like to see him. If he listening to me, this person, come to my store.

SNOW: While Sohail says all is forgiven in his eyes, the Suffolk County police say this is still an open investigation as they've yet to find the mystery man.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: Wow. All right. That's kind of a springboard for our chat room here. Me and Jacqui Jeras here. That is nice it just really let you know that compassion and forgiveness is rather contagious.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can make a big difference. Absolutely. I think so many people that resort to crime do it for a reason. They feel they don't have any alternative. This guy showed you that there is an alternative. Help each other.

WHITFIELD: That store owner --

JERAS: He's lucky, though, too.

WHITFIELD: Let's talk about something interesting. We see it every holiday season. We're talking about the Victoria's Secret -- it's crazy. A lot of guys are looking forward to the show this evening. But really we are kind of I guess as a show stopping moment is that fantasy bra. This sounds very strange. But, you know, a lot -- look at this thing. It's gorgeous. And this is actually the cheapy end of all the fantasy bras that Victoria's' Secret has done.

JERAS: Due to the economy. It's behind us.

WHITFIELD: That's a gorgeous, gorgeous thing.

JERAS: It is. It's black this year.

WHITFIELD: Last year's -- this one apparently is called the Harlequin. It is actually one tenth of the total carats of last year's black diamond fantasy miracle bra. And what is interesting to here well it's very beautiful because of all the jewels on there. No one actually buys this thing.

JERAS: Ever. They've been doing it for seven years or something.

WHITFIELD: I was always trying to figure out, who? Who buys this? To wear it on the outside, because you spend so much money. But they eventually just kind of take it apart and all these beautiful jewels become rings or necklaces, all that good stuff.

JERAS: Yeah. Madonna would be the only one. She'd probably want it personalized for herself.

WHITFIELD: I guess so. Something else a lot of dudes are talking about today. Maybe some gals, too. The Atlanta Falcons taking on the Philadelphia Eagles. What makes this match-up so interesting is because Michael Vick formerly of the Falcons now playing with the Eagles, back in Atlanta. He got a few boos.

JERAS: Did you watch the game?

WHITFIELD: I did. It was a pretty impressive game. I'm not a huge football fan. But he scored a touchdown. His first, you know, in this season.

JERAS: Two touchdowns, I think.

WHITFIELD: Yes. He threw for a touchdown and he actually made one himself.

JERAS: There were some boos from people. The team owner and two of his players at least gave him a big hug before the game. So he was welcomed by some people as well.

WHITFIELD: There were some boos even though he was one of the first members of his team to come out on the field. You see right there. There all the applause. You see Donovan McNabb there giving him a big hug. A lot of his teammates there of the Eagles. Guaranteed it's on all sports pages tomorrow. Leading all those sports shows today.

JERAS: 34 to 7.


JERAS: So not just a little bit of a win.

WHITFIELD: That's incredible.

Also developing conversations about whether he's be a starting quarterback next year or, you know, what will continue to be -- will he continue to be kind of the backup for Donovan McMabb, interesting stuff. All right. Thanks, Jacqui.

We were all over the map, weren't we? Talking bras, we were talking football. You name it. That's what happens in the chat room.

JERAS: Robbers.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well we are hours away from the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Another wonderful transition we're making here. Negotiators hope to build upon the foundation laid by the Kyoto Protocol. And you've probably heard it and wondered about it. Exactly what does this treaty actually entail? Here now is CNN's Anna Coren.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): More than a decade ago leaders from around the world gather at this building behind me to form what would become the Kyoto Protocol. It' was the first time the international community had come together to tackle the issue of climate change. After ten days of discussion and sometimes heated debate, the treaty was signed on the 11th of December, 1997.


COREN: The agreement called on industrialized nations to cut emissions by an average of about 5 percent by 2012. There were disagreements, but it was viewed as an important move by the international community on climate change. But the treaty failed to gain transaction. The Kyoto Protocol depended heavily on the commitments of the so-called annex one countries who were seen at the time as the biggest polluters.

The United States was responsible for one-third of the world's emissions in 1990. But Washington refused to sign, and other key members, like Australia and Russia delayed passing the treaty. So, the Kyoto Protocol sat idle for eight years, it needed industrialized countries to commit to a global cut of more than half the emissions from 1990 levels.

It was only in 2005, when Russia signed on that the Kyoto Protocol officially came into force. Today, with only three years left on the treaty, the EU is the only major player expected to meet their targets. Another shortcoming of Kyoto was that developing countries, like China, India, and Brazil, weren't required to meet the same cuts. The upcoming Copenhagen Summit was intended to pick up where Kyoto left off. The Copenhagen agreements would reflect a growing awareness about climate change and a new world dynamic.

TIM FLANNERY, ENVIRONMENTALIST: We're seeing a big shift in the politics and in the economics and in the business sentiment around this. I'm quietly confident that we'll get to where we need to get to, and as I put it, we've got every reason to be confident but not a second for complacency.

COREN: But at the recent APEC meeting in Singapore, leaders agreed to finding a successor to Kyoto at Copenhagen would be highly unlikely.

Anna Coren, CNN, Kyoto, Japan.


WHITFIELD: The passionate debate over global warming and climate change shifts into high gear this week as world leaders and scientists meet in Copenhagen for the climate conference. But what is the truth about global warming? Beginning tomorrow CNN looks at the science, the skepticism and the secrets around the global warming. Trick or truth?

And at this time of year, you see them everywhere. So what's it like to be a Salvation Army bell ringer? We'll take a look.

(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE): You're in the spirit today.


WHITFIELD: All right. So you see them just about everywhere during the holiday season. Those Salvation Army bell ringers. But you may be surprised at just how close you are to people that the charity actually helps. Here's our all platform journalist, John Cowell.


DIANE: Hello there, guys. Merry Christmas. You're in the spirit today! My name is Diane Eubanks. I'm here working for the Salvation Army. We're taking in donations for the needy, the homeless. Thank you very much. Merry Christmas. I'm homeless. I don't have a job. I lost my job. Thank you so much.

OK. How about right here?

DIANE EUBANKS, SALVATION ARMY BELL RINGER: It was last year at this time that I became homeless. In this Salvation Army, they charge you $9 a night. I got hired as a bell ringer. I'll be doing that tomorrow.

MAJOR ANDREW KELLY, SALVATION ARMY: Diane is an example of somebody who's had a difficulty and is without a home. We're trying to provide a place for her to stay. Then when she learned about the opportunities to ring the bell and make some income we were glad to be able to help her with that.

EUBANKS: Good morning. Good. Trying to stay a little warm.

KELLY: Bell ringers will gather together in the morning.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): That's going to be your -- grab a smock.

JOHN COWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They get assigned to whatever kettle location they'll be.

EUBANKS: It feels good. It feels to help out and it feels good to make money to deposit. Thank you. Do you keep the buckets with you or do they go back here. Thank you. Good to get on the bus and get warm.

COWELL: They get on the vehicles and are transported to those locations. They will be out there and ring the bells throughout the day.

EUBANKS: Hello. Happy Holidays. Thank you. Merry Christmas. Thank you, hon. Merry Christmas. Actually, I don't know if you noticed but if you get a little excited the bell starts ringing a little faster. I feel great. I know that money's going to go towards helping others. Merry Christmas, everyone.


WHITFIELD: I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. In the 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour of the NEWSROOM, Don Lemon will look at how emails are heating the controversary over global warming. He will also report on possible protests in Iran tomorrow and what the Iranian government threatens to do about them.

And do you have any sports fans on your holiday shopping list? Don will tell you about this year's hottest sports gifts. That's all straight ahead one hour from now. Fareed Zakaria "GPS" is coming up next with an in-depth look at the Obama administration's plan for Afghanistan.