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American Detained in Cuba; Christmas with the Obamas; Dems Struggle Over Limits to Insurance Payouts; Congressional Black Caucus Versus Obama; Winter Weather
Aired December 12, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news. An American worker detained in Cuba. There are reports the worker is a government contractor. New concerns of home-grown terror. Five Americans arrested in Pakistan. Emotional interviews from the Virginia community who say they knew them best. A scary new report that may make you want to put down that water you're about to drink. You wouldn't believe the chemicals they found. We'll break down a city- by-city report on the safety of your drinking water. And inside the White House at Christmas. You think you argue over Christmas presents? Wait until you hear what the president and the first lady are doing. They're doing the same thing.
Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. We begin with breaking news out of Cuba tonight. We are learning that an unnamed U.S. citizen has been arrested. It is not clear what the alleged offense is. The U.S. State Department says the man was detained one week ago, and "The New York Times" reports that he is a U.S. government contractor working on behalf of the Obama administration.
Now, according to the newspaper, he was in Cuba distributing cell phones, laptop computers and other communications equipment. The Obama administration has made overtures to Havana to improve relations, so it's not clear what impact this arrest might have, if any. Now, the U.S. does not -- does not -- have full diplomatic relations with Cuba, but something lesser than an interests -- called an "interests section." U.S. diplomats in Havana are trying to learn more about the arrest. And we'll bring you more information as it becomes available here for you on CNN. Make sure you stay tuned.
Five young American men allegedly on a mission to be martyred. We're following new developments on the story out of Pakistan. Well, today the men are being questioned by local police for their suspected terror links. A Pakistani official says the Muslim students made contact with a Taliban recruiter in an effort to join insurgents there. All five were picked up this week in the town of Saragodha. Now, but this morning, they were shifted to the eastern city of Lahore. The men are all in their late 20s and early -- late teens, I should say, and early 20s and they're residents of the D.C. suburbs.
That's where the leader of their mosque is struggling to come to terms with these allegations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ESSAM TELLAWI, MOSQUE LEADER: We'd love for things to go back to the way they were. We were a very happy community. I still imagine -- I still, you know, in my memory, see them just walking in the mosque and praying with us. And I want them to come back and pray with us, for things to go back to home (ph), inshallah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: FBI agents have been granted access to the men, and officials in the U.S. and Pakistan expect them to be deported home. But Pakistan could hold them while prosecutors here prepare charges.
An American member of al Qaeda says the group is not responsible for a string of bombings in Pakistan that have killed hundreds. Adam Gadahn, known as Azam the American, offers condolences to the victims' families in an on-line video. He says al Qaeda was framed for the attacks and that American and Pakistani forces are to blame for bombings which have killed 500 people since October. Gadahn is on the FBI's list of the most wanted terrorists.
There's a strong possibility that your tap water is contaminated. An environmental group says drinking water in 45 states and the District of Columbia has been contaminated with unregulated chemicals which pose a major safety concern. Coming up at 5:45 Eastern, we'll hear from an environmental health researcher. You need to know what to do, and we will get answers for you then.
To Washington now, where everyone, it seems, is backtracking on a loophole that Democrats added in private to the Senate health care bill. The provision puts a cap on how much insurance coverage you can receive in a single year, and it caught the eyes of advocates for cancer patients. CNN first reported the loophole yesterday, and it didn't take long for the White House and congressional staffers to respond.
Here's our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: If you're a citizen of the United States and you get sick, you ought not to be shoved into bankruptcy.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a frequent call of top Democrats as they push to overhaul the nation's health system. One of the ways they have said they would protect Americans was by stopping an insurance company practice of limiting a patient's insurance coverage both over a lifetime and annually. In November, the House passed a bill that would do just that, but in the bill now up for debate on the Senate floor, under the section that plainly states "no lifetime or annual limits," it says insurance companies may not establish unreasonable annual limits. That one word, "unreasonable," opens up a loophole for insurance companies to cap annual benefits.
(on camera): What does unreasonable mean?
STEPHEN FINAN, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: We have no idea. And that is part of the problem. KEILAR (voice-over): At midday Friday, when we talked to the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network, they were up in arms about the change, worried it would cost patients.
FINAN: A stage three colon cancer case can cost over $200,000. That's obviously a lot of money. What happens if the annual limit is $100,000?
KEILAR: We asked Senator Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health Committee.
(on camera): I mean, what is this going to mean for, say, the colon cancer patient whose bills top $200,000 a year?
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D-IA), HEALTH COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, again, one of the compromises we had to make -- we do have no lifetime caps, and we put in there no unreasonable annual caps.
KEILAR: But what does that mean?
HARKIN: Well, that's going to be developed by the secretary of Health and Human Services.
KEILAR (on camera): After this story aired on CNN the White House and key congressional staffers spoke with the Cancer Action Network and agreed to close this loophole. But now, without the caps, Democrats find themselves in the difficult situation of trying to keep down the costs of premiums for all Americans, the very reason why they put this loophole in the Senate bill to begin with.
Brianna Keilar, CNN, Capitol Hill.
LEMON: All right, thanks to Brianna. So caps on coverage, a public option -- there's no shortage of complex issues in the health care debate. Let's talk more about this with Paul Starr. He's a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton.
Good to see you. So when you hear "unreasonable," and you know, "lifetime caps" or what have you, people get concerned. You know that. So then how did this loophole get in here in the first place? How did this happen?
PAUL STARR, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Well, the Senate is obviously trying to keep down those costs. I think this was a very poor way to do it. But look, this is a measure that's going to add health insurance coverage for more than 33 million Americans. It's going to raise the standard of coverage for millions more. So the Senate is trying to do all of that at a reasonable cost. And the Congressional Budget Office has told us that this bill will reduce the deficit over the long run, so it meets those fundamental criteria.
LEMON: So you're not surprised that this loophole made it in?
STARR: Well, I am surprised, and I'm glad that they're going to close it.
LEMON: OK. All right. So listen, with all this talk about the public option and what have you, in your estimation, as someone who knows about this, professor of sociology and public affairs, how important is a public option, if at all, to this legislation?
STARR: I don't really think it is critical to the legislation. I do hope that the Senate negotiators can come up with a compromise. I like the idea of there being a buy-in to Medicare for people age 55 to 64. I think -- we've got about four million people in that age bracket, many of them in poor health, many of them in desperate financial situations. I think it would be great if they could buy into Medicare.
But this cannot be allowed to hold up a bill that has so many other benefits for Americans. Look, we have often passed social reforms that were imperfect at the beginning, and then we've improved them over time. The Senate and the House need to reach some resolution, some compromise. There's a great deal of good that they can do with this legislation, and then let's fix some of the problems with it.
LEMON: What is it -- you talked about some of the problems. So if you can tell me real quickly if you have a couple problems that you think should be jettisoned, and what absolutely needs to stay in this bill in order for it to make a bill that should be supported?
STARR: Well, I think the critical provisions of the bill are the creation of the new health insurance exchanges that are going to tremendously increase the opportunity for health coverage for people who now buy insurance individually or in small businesses. It's going to give them a much better price. There are subsidies in there that are going to make coverage affordable for these many millions of people who now don't have it. Those are really the essential aspects of the bill.
And one thing that I am troubled by is the very slow timetable that the Senate has adopted. Most people will not see benefits under this until 2014, and I think the House schedule is a bit faster. I hope that, eventually, they have come to agreement on that.
LEMON: All right. Paul Starr, professor of sociology at Princeton, we appreciate it. Thank you.
We will move on now and talk about the story that it seems everybody is talking about, Tiger Woods. And with Tiger Woods taking an indefinite leave from golf to work on his personal life, one of his major sponsors said today it is phasing him out of its advertising. Gillette says this does not mean it is severing ties with Woods altogether, but he will be phased out of its ads and public appearances. Gillette declined to say when those ties would be renewed.
Woods announced yesterday he is taking an indefinite leave to work on his marriage, acknowledging recent reports of infidelity. We will have much, more on the Tiger Woods situation right at the half our with our guest. His name is Brian Murphy (ph) of Yahoo Sports. He offers some very interesting information.
African-Americans cheered when President Obama was elected, when candidate Obama was elected. So why is the Congressional Black Caucus giving him a hard time? We'll find out.
And also ahead, growing marijuana legally? That is a question. We'll visit a Colorado pot farm for you, and we'll take you inside of that.
You can join us also on Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace or iReport.com. We welcome your comments.
LEMON: With jobs at a minimum, it is the African-American community that is hit hardest, and the Congressional Black Caucus is challenging President Obama to do something about it. Dayo Olopade guest is a Beltway reporter. She writes op-eds for Theroot.com, a daily on-line news magazine from an African-American perspective.
Good to see you, Dayo. So there...
DAYO OLOPADE, WASHINGTON REPORTER, "THE ROOT": Thank you.
LEMON: Yes. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the president. What's going on? And why?
OLOPADE: Well, there was a rather dramatic incident on the Hill this week when several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, led by Maxine Waters, staged a boycott of a certain key vote out of the House Financial Services Committee. They basically said that, We want more money in there for these hard-hit communities of color that we represent, and if we're not getting it, you're not getting our votes. And so Barney Frank acceded to their demands and put a lot of new money into this package that passed on Friday.
But more generally, there has been something of a rift between some of the members of the CBC, particularly John Conyers, and the White House over how best to run (ph) not only the jobs issue but the health care, as well as war spending.
LEMON: Before I move on, is this a generational thing, do you think? Is this old politics versus new politics?
OLOPADE: I think, in a certain sense. I think you'll be hard pressed to hear the White House come out and say, Here, we're going to give jobs to black people, because that's not the style of governance that the president campaigned on and has governed with.
I think that it's more likely you'll hear the president talk about improving and expanding access to community colleges, improving police efforts, improving the economy for all. And I think he's come and said that. He's come out and said that, Look, we're trying to lift all votes, and you know, I'm the president of the United States, not the president of black America. LEMON: Well, you know, that's legitimate, and you know, rising tides, as you say, lifts all boats. But if black people, African-Americans are suffering disproportionately, are the worse for suffering, what's wrong with saying, I'm going to come out and help black people because they're suffering the most? Maybe that's a better question for the administration.
OLOPADE: Right. I mean, I think the Congressional Black Caucus members have stressed that criticism has been based on the fact they are targeting their efforts toward a certain racial group are misguided. What they're trying to do in this jobs debate that will happen next week is say that, We want 10 percent of whatever the bill is, whatever the money is coming out of the Congress -- we want 10 percent of that to go to communities of color, to people who are beneath the poverty line, the hardest hit areas. And because the unemployment rate is nearly double what it is for the rest of the nation in the black community, that kind of policy effort will naturally take care of some of the issues that you're seeing and the crisis and misery in black communities.
LEMON: Well, let me get in here, Dayo, and I have a -- if you can answer a couple different questions for me, several I want to get to, so if you -- as quickly as we can get to them. Depending on who you talk to at the CBC, some people say that he's being -- they're being too hard on the president, others saying not hard enough. Which is it?
OLOPADE: Well, I think that they're trying to exert their influence.
OLOPADE: I mean, we've seen throughout this whole health care debate the way Blue Dog Democrats have been able to, as a caucus, seriously, you know, tip the scales on the way the health care debate has gone forward. I think the CBC, after a year of pretty ineffectual policy management, have really stepped forward with this particular victory, and all of them were quite pleased about it this weekend, and say, Look, you know, we're going to do more.
LEMON: As you said...
OLOPADE: We're going to be a caucus that's going to have an effect on this debate.
LEMON: As you said, they're trying to exert their influence, but can the Obama administration or can the president ever really live up to the expectations put on him, you know, by the black community and probably by the members of the CBC?
OLOPADE: Well, I think yes and no. Obviously, from just a sort of symbolic perspective, both the president and first lady take very seriously the way that they are role models for black America. But I don't think black Americans or the president really expect his election to be some sort of -- some cure-all for a lot of the pernicious problems that affect lots of Americans, particularly communities of color. LEMON: Now, what about the black community? Incredibly supportive, right, of the president. Any reason to expect that might be changing or could change?
OLOPADE: Well, I think time will tell. Obviously, the economy is something that's on everyone's mind. It's something on the mind of the CBC members as they head into the elections next year. And it's something that the black community, as it relates to, for example, the war, have not always been traditionally supportive of war efforts as other communities in America.
And so not only are they folks who very frequently fight these wars but have not traditionally supported the kind of spending. And I think that a lot of the CBC members pointed out that $30 billion towards the war in Afghanistan is, you know, just a fraction of what's being asked for in this jobs bill, so...
LEMON: And it is -- all voting blocs are interesting, but it's a very interesting voting bloc, I think, African-Americans, because I think African-Americans are actually more conservative than most people think they are.
OLOPADE: That's right.
LEMON: And most people would probably think that they're liberals, the larger community, and most African-Americans are not. Hey, listen, great information, Dayo Olopade, really appreciate it, with "The Root" on line. I'm going to get you back because I like -- I like what you have to say, OK?
OLOPADE: Nice speaking to you, Donald. Call back any time.
LEMON: OK. Have a good day.
LEMON: Happy holidays to you.
OLOPADE: And to you.
LEMON: And when it comes to gift giving, who does the better job, President Obama or the first lady? And one word describes the weather in much of the country, and that is cold and -- well, two words -- cold, frigid -- we can -- icy. We can do three words, Jacqui.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, pick your adjective.
JERAS: But yes, it is cold across much of the lower 48. And we've got winter weather and one of the best iReports I've ever seen. You don't want to miss it, coming up in next in your forecast.
LEMON: Hallowed ground decorated for the holidays in honor of our fallen troops. The rows of white headstones at Arlington National Cemetery are now dotted with Christmas wreaths. An army of volunteers placed the decorations this morning. In all, 15,000 wreaths were laid, all donated by the Worcester Wreath Company, I should say, in Maine. That company is in Maine. The same company started the annual tradition in 1992. Very nice. Very nice. Very nice.
Jacqui Jeras, a little chilly at Arlington, a little chilly around the country today.
LEMON: It's winter.
JERAS: This is meteorological winter. That was a mouthful. Because it officially arrives, right...
LEMON: Had a little trouble myself today.
JERAS: ... what is it, the 21st, 20th, 22nd?
LEMON: For the first day of winter?
JERAS: Yes. It's coming.
LEMON: Either 21st or the 22nd, yes.
JERAS: Yes. So it's right around the corner, but...
LEMON: Did you put your tree up yet?
JERAS: I did.
LEMON: You did?
JERAS: Yes. Did you?
LEMON: Can you come and help me? Can you help a brother out? I haven't done it.
JERAS: I'll help you decorate. You carry the tree. Deal?
LEMON: All right.
JERAS: A lot of people getting in that holiday spirit, though, whatever it is that you celebrate, because there's been so much snow. Finally, we got a good dump, and you know, all week long, you know, Sunday, then again on Wednesday, and then the lake effect snows kicked in. And we still have some snow out there.
And one of the best iReports I've seen out of these storms in the last week from Buffalo, and I want to show this to you. And listen to the winds howling in this thing. Oh! Unbelievable. This is from Brandon Sparks. He lives in Buffalo. He said at his house, he had between a foot to a foot-and-a-half of snow, that drifts were over five feet high. He shot this video on Thursday in when blizzard conditions, and as you may have heard, lots of problems on the New York State Thruway, More than a hundred people were trapped in their cars because the winds were blowing so strong that they had to shut down the interstate there. So hours of blizzard conditions.
Those lake effect snow machines finally shutting off. But they are turning on the snow in parts of the Southwest. Check out these pictures that we have for you out of California. This is in the Blue Canyon area, where they had just some light snow, for the most part, so to speak, yesterday. And this was the first storm in a series of two. And today, number two is blowing on through, and you are getting much heavier snow, much poorer visibility. You definitely have to have the chains on if you're trying to travel. I wouldn't really recommend it throughout the Sierras.
Take a look at the radar picture here. You can see the snow. You know, we could get up to four feet in the higher elevations here. Into the valleys, we're looking at the rainfall. So tough travel for you in San Francisco, and we're concerned about the burn areas, as well, outside of Los Angeles for some of that flooding.
Winter storm warnings and advisories are posted across much of the West, even Portland getting in on some icy conditions, winter storm warnings for you here in Salt Lake City, and that storm will be on the move so it will be one that we're going to be tracking throughout the week.
Now, the Southeast, this is really just a rain event, but as you head up into the mountains of north Georgia, on up through the Carolinas, you're going to start to see a little bit of a wintry mix begin to move on in.
The big picture, then, for tomorrow looks like this. Continued windy and wet across parts of the West, and then our Southeast storm heads up the coast, but not a major system for you here, just staying clear and cold across the Plains -- Don.
LEMON: Jacqui, I have a Tweet that's just for you. It's from CMV420 (ph), and it says, Don Lemon, burr (INAUDIBLE)
LEMON: So that's right.
JERAS: That's a good adjective, too.
LEMON: Who gives the best presents, you or your hubby?
JERAS: We're both good. He -- I probably give better presents -- or no, he gives better presents. I just can't keep a secret. That's my problem.
LEMON: OK. Watch this next story with me, will you?
JERAS: OK. LEMON: OK, Jacqui. Jacqui's been talking about the snow and the frigid temps. Of course, it's looking a lot like Christmas, and that means holiday shopping, right? So first lady Michelle Obama says her favorite gift as a child was a dollhouse, right?
LEMON: Live picture of the White House right now. And there are sure to be some goodies under the tree from the president this year, right? In an Oprah Winfrey primetime special airing Sunday, the first couple tease each other about who gives the best gifts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: Is there a greater pressure to give a good gift when you're the president, or can you get away with a lesser gift when you're the president?
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Sorry. Busy.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know...
MICHELLE OBAMA: What are you going to get me?
BARACK OBAMA: ... I've been giving some...
MICHELLE OBAMA: You should feel...
BUSH: ... good -- good gifts.
MICHELLE OBAMA: ... pressure.
BARACK OBAMA: You get some nice stuff. Here's the general rule. I give nicer stuff than I get.
MICHELLE OBAMA: No way!
BARACK OBAMA: Absolutely.
MICHELLE OBAMA: I gave you good gifts last year.
BARACK OBAMA: Oh, come on. Please. You know...
BARACK OBAMA: You know, it's like Mother's Day and Father's Day.
BARACK OBAMA: You know? You can count (ph)... MICHELLE OBAMA: We're talking about Christmas.
BARACK OBAMA: But -- but that...
MICHELLE OBAMA: Don't become distracted.
BARACK OBAMA: That principle applies generally.
WINFREY: So you're a good gift giver?
BARACK OBAMA: Where did you get this nice little...
MICHELLE OBAMA: This was a gift.
WINFREY: Was this an anniversary?
MICHELLE OBAMA: Anniversary.
WINFREY: Anniversary. Nice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So what do you get the man or woman who has everything? By the way, Jacqui, Bo, the White House dog, isn't left out. The first lady says just like the rest of the family, he gets a stocking, too.
LEMON: That airs on Sunday. What do you think? Who do you think gives a better gift in that family?
JERAS: Oh, gosh, I have no idea.
LEMON: Yes. I'm a good gift giver.
JERAS: I'm sure they're both great at it, actually.
LEMON: When I'm not being a "bah, humbugger," I'm a good gift giver.
JERAS: All right you?
LEMON: Sometimes I just -- you know...
JERAS: Thoughtful or just expensive?
LEMON: No, no. Thoughtful. Thoughtful.
JERAS: Makes a difference. LEMON: We should probably move on. We'll see, Jacqui.
LEMON: Who gives each other a better present, me or you?
JERAS: Probably you because I'm not getting you one.
JERAS: No, just kidding!
LEMON: All right, we've gone off the rails here. Thank you, Jacqui.
LEMON: Love you, too.
The world's most famous golfer is taking a break from the links due to sort of personal problems. He wants to sort them out. Tiger Woods has got a lot to deal with. He is admitting now that he cheated on his wife. We'll check out the latest for you.
LEMON: U.S. diplomats are trying to find out why an American was arrested one week ago in Cuba. The "New York Times" says he is a U.S. government contractor who was distributing cell phones, laptops, and other communications gear. So far, the man's identity has not been made public, but he apparently works for a company in suburban Washington called Development Alternatives, Inc.
The Obama administration says it will work to close a loop hole in the Senate health care reform bill. The provision allows insurance companies to place caps on annual benefits. The loop hole was added by someone, it's not clear who, during a meeting of Democrats in Majority Leader Harry Reid's office. CNN first reported the loop hole yesterday.
Are you turning on the tap for a glass of water? Well, you might want to turn it off. An environmental group says there are hundreds of pollutants contaminating water in many of the nation's big cities. Water that can kill millions of people. In just a few minutes we'll hear from an environmental health researcher about what you can do to protect yourself and your family.
One of Tiger Woods' major sponsors says it is phasing him out of its advertising to support his goal of privacy as he works on his personal life. Woods announced yesterday he is taking an indefinite leave from golf to try to rescue his marriage. And for the first time, he acknowledged infidelity. Gillette says its decision does not mean it is severing ties with Woods all together. but he will be phased out of its ads and public appearances. The company declined to say when those ties would be renewed.
Our Randi Kaye has more on Woods' troubles. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
RANDI KAYE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It wasn't exactly sudden death, but Tiger Woods seems to have lost this round. His troubles began the day after Thanksgiving with a mysterious one car crash at 2:30 in the morning just feet from his own driveway, he hit a tree and a fire hydrant. His wife used a golf club to free him from his badly mangled SUV. A neighbor called 911.
DISPATCHER: OK. Can you tell if he's breathing?
CALLER: No. I can't tell right now.
DISPATCHER: OK. All right. We do have help on the way. What color is this car?
CALLER: It's a black Escalade.
KAYE: Tiger seemed to hope silence would make the story go away. It didn't work. Days later, he released a statement apologizing for, quote, "transgressions," in very carefully worded comments on his web site that never mentioned the word "affair." That statement was released the same day this cover story in "US Weekly" magazine hit news stands. In it, Las Vegas cocktail waitress, Jaimee Grubbs, alleged a nearly three-year affair with the golfer. She told the magazine they met in a night club when Woods tapped her on the shoulder. And that he recently left her a voicemail warning her that his wife may be calling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIGER WOODS, PRO GOLFER: Hey. It's Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor. Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: It didn't end there. More women came forward. Cocktail waitresses, a lingerie model, even former porn stars, all alleging to have had a relationship with Tiger Woods. But the golfer stayed silent until Friday night when he admitted his, quote, "infidelities" in a statement.
(on camera): Earlier this year Woods hit the billion dollar mark, earning an unprecedented amount of money in his career, including endorsements, appearances, and business relationships with companies like Nike, which pays him an estimated $20 million a year to add his name to their line of golf gear. "Sports Illustrated" reported Woods earned $105 million from sponsorship deals in 2008.
(voice-over): Through it all, Woods' major sponsors have stood by him. Nike released a statement saying, quote, "Nike supports Tiger and his family. Our relationship remains unchanged." Gatorade offered its support in a statement, too. "Tiger and his family have our support as they work through this private matter." But commercials featuring Tiger Woods disappeared from primetime TV. The last one that aired was a Gillette ad on November 29th.
On late night TV, his personal pain became a parody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Earlier today, I had an unfortunate incident with my golf clubs. And I was putting them away in the closet and one of them dropped on top of me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: It may all have become too much. What else would drive the world's greatest golfer away from the game and the glory he's enjoyed for so many years?
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
LEMON: What a mess. Well, while Gillette is phasing out Woods' ads, other major sponsors are considering their options, including AT&T and Accenture. Nike said it supports Woods' decision. And Gatorade said it had nothing to add to a previous statement of support.
The PGA also issued a statement supporting Woods' decision saying, quote, "His priorities are where they need to be and we will continue to respect and honor his family's request for privacy. We look forward to Tiger's return to the PGA tour when he determines a time is right for him."
Joining us now from San Francisco is Brian Murphy, a golf columnist for Yahoo Sports and the author of "The Last Putt, Two Teams, One Dream, and the Freshman Named Tiger."
Good to see you, Brian.
Listen, is this the beginning? Gillette is saying, you know, at his request, we're honoring his request, that he wants to focus on his family. Is this their way of saying, this is the start of maybe to get the ball rolling to get rid of this sponsorship or do you think they really believe that?
BRIAN MURPHY, COLUMNIST, YAHOO SPORTS & AUTHOR: Well, I think what's going to happen in the next few weeks is pretty critical and how the public reacts to his, quote unquote, "indefinite leave from golf." Gillette and Accenture and Tag Hoyer (ph), those brands attached to his image as a leader, are the ones sort of more in doubt than say Nike or Gatorade, because I think they feel like they're safely in the field of, we packaged Tiger as a champion on the golf course, therefore we're sort of safer.
Accenture which deals with, you know, a multibillion dollar consulting firm, saying do you want to lead like Tiger, they have to have a serious boardroom discussion. And yes, as you can see by the greatest and most penetrable athletic figure of our time in full retreat, this is the kind of thing his team is worried about.
LEMON: I've heard attorneys say, sports attorneys and what have you, say these contracts, these sponsorships are iron clad, and having an affair you can't really get rid of him for doing that. but here's the thing. He is saying, Brian, he wants to take an extended leave from golf. And by doing this, is he actually in breach of contract in some way? If he's no longer playing, do they have to hold onto these sponsorships?
MURPHY: I would have no knowledge of the language of those contracts. You do hear about morals clauses in these things but these guys were really in retreat. Reporters have phoned places like Gillette and Accenture and asked about morals clauses and they are clamming up. Your question is a very vital one and relevant one. And that's the kind of thing that is going to be hashed out in boardrooms across the country.
It's really a remarkable fall from grace for the most successful and, like I said, impenetrable pitch man of our time. If there are morals clauses, maybe that's going to knock him...
LEMON: I've heard of morals clauses. and anyone who is a contracted employee will have some sort of clause like that. As long as you're working, as long as Tiger is working, I've heard, as I've said, it's iron clad. But if he is no longer working, taking a leave, maybe he is opening himself up to the possibility these sponsors will say, he's not on the golf course, so we no longer need the sponsorship. Anyway, we'll ask an attorney that. Let's move on.
This is a big problem for the PGA obviously, so really who has more power? When Tiger is on, the ratings are up. Obviously, he sells. The PGA right now or Tiger? They say they support him.
MURPHY: Well, clearly Tiger has the power. He is the PGA tour. Right now, the major unfortunate thing for sports fans, setting aside the sadness of Tiger's private life and his family and his wife and two kids being dragged through this, for sports fans, we wake up this morning thinking, no Tiger on the PGA tour? You got to be kidding me. It's essentially the death of the PGA tour, is what it is. so Tiger holds more power than the PGA tour as far as the popularity of the sport, its TV ratings, its purses, its money. All that stuff is tied to Tiger.
Without Tiger right now, the biggest star in golf is Phil Michelson, who is an attractive star undeniably and has a lot of appeal and charisma.
LEMON: But the not the main...
MURPHY: But he's only sort of half a player without Tiger Woods.
MURPHY: He needs Tiger's rivalry. So Tiger is the man. He's the golden goose. We all want him back. This indefinite leave, who knows when it ends? At the masters in April? The U.S. Open in June? Either way, it will be one of the biggest come-back stories of all time when he does come back.
LEMON: Listen, you write for -- you're a columnist for Yahoo Sports and you cover golf, but you know about professional athletes. This will be my last question to you. Had he not been married, nobody would even care about this would they?
MURPHY: That is correct. Look at the perfect example of what's going on concurrently in another sport in another media circus. Derek Jeter was named sportsman of the year by "Sports Illustrated" this year. Derek Jeter has an incredible roster of starlets and girlfriends that he's paraded around. And Gold bless him...
LEMON: And many more athletes and actors have the same thing, many more than 12 women.
MURPHY: But he's a single man, so nobody really cares. and he can do whatever he wants. Tiger's mistake was building the image of a father and husband and being the pitch man tied to that. A lot of work to be done.
LEMON: Brian, Brian Murphy, Yahoo Sports, thank you so much.
LEMON: Dirty drinking water? Maybe. A new report tells us exactly what's on tap. Believe me, you want to hear this before your next gulp.
And climate change protestors turn up the heat in Copenhagen, marches, riots, arrests. Hear what the ralliers are demanding.
LEMON: A lot of people carry water bottles. We've been told to drink lots of water. I have some here. We always carry a lot of water. Most of us do, right? So the next story is important to all of us. Dirty tap water -- in 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to a new water quality report.
Nneka Leiba is a researcher with a nonprofit environmental group which helped with this study.
And the main conclusions from the water quality study were what, Nneka? What did you find?
NNEKA LEIBA, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH RESEARCHER: We found that the nation's water had at least 316 contaminants, and 202 of these contaminants are not regulated by the EPA.
LEMON: What does that mean if it's not regulated? Is it necessarily harmful?
LEIBA: It doesn't mean it's necessarily harmful but it means they can be in the water at any concentration. and some of these contaminants have been linked to health effects such as cancer.
LEMON: And you said birth defects?
LEIBA: And birth defects and DNA damage, and liver and kidney damage, a whole slew of health effects. We don't want to be exposed to contaminants that cause those.
LEMON: What's the significance of this report? Again, it was just released today. What's the significance?
LEIBA: The significance is that it's the largest data base that shows what's in the nation's water. And the EPA doesn't have such a data base. So people can go and directly find out what contaminants they're being exposed to. and we also have a filtration guide where you can find out what filter can appropriately take out those contaminants.
LEMON: Regular folks -- we'll put up a list of the best and worst cities, but what can regular folks do before we get to -- there's Arlington, Providence, Rhode Island, these are the best. Ft. Worth, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Boston, Massachusetts, those are the best cities, right?
LEMON: Let's see, do we have the worst?
LEIBA: Pensacola, Florida is among the worst, Riverside, California and Las Vegas.
LEMON: Las Vegas; Riverside County, California and Reno. So, then, what then can people do in those places?
LEIBA: People can filter their water. That's what people can do. Then they can go and contact the EPA and demand that the EPA set standards for more contaminants. The EPA hasn't set standard for contaminants since 2001.
LEMON: What about bottled water?
LEIBA: Bottled water is not the answer. We have found that bottled water is more expensive. And there is an issue with plastic. and bottled water is less regulated than tap water.
LEMON: Nneka, where can people go to get this information?
LEIBA: They can go to our web site at www.ewg.org.
LEMON: Nneka Leiba, thank you.
LEIBA: Thank you.
LEMON: Exercising to prevent strokes, who benefits and who doesn't? Dr. Sanjay Gupta has the answer for you.
One more time for you, a look at the cities with the best and worst drinking water as ranked by the environmental group. Go to ewg.org.
LEMON: Exercise is good for us, right? It can help prevent obesity, heart disease, and high cholesterol, of course. But when it comes to preventing strokes, a new study suggests it only helps men.
Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at the benefits of working out.
LEMON: Thank you, Sanjay.
Wolf Blitzer is ahead at the top of the hour in "The Situation Room."
What do you have for us, Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Don, we have lots coming up in "The Situation Room" at the top of the hour.
Thomas Friedman, of "The New York Times," will talk about the president's acceptance speech in Oslo for his Nobel Peace Prize.
Also we're going to go to the White House and speak with Valerie Jarrett. Lots to discuss with her, including the president's new initiatives to try to create jobs.
Also, the two party chairmen, the Democrat and the Republican, Tim Kaine versus Michael Steele. They're here in "The Situation Room."
Now back to you, Don?
LEMON: We'll look forward to that, Wolf.
Before we get to Wolf, we'll talk about this story -- home-grown pot. And it is perfectly legal. The Colorado woman is helping her son grow and sell marijuana. We'll take a trip to their farm.
LEMON: You can really call this the family business gone to pot. A Colorado mom used to flush her son's marijuana down the toilet. Now she's helping him grow and sell it.
CNN's all-platform journalist, Jim Spellman, takes us inside their booming business.
JIM SPELLMAN, CNN NEWS ALL-PLATFORM JOURNALIST: So this is your little marijuana farm?
JASON IRWIN, MEDICAL MARIJUANA GROWER: Yes, this is me and my mother's little marijuana farm. Greenhouse one, greenhouse two.
DIANE IRWIN, MEDICAL MARIJUANA GROWER: I had an Aveda hair salon for years. I sold my salon and moved on to the country.
JASON IRWIN: We started in July, which was really late, because we didn't even get this property until June.
DIANE IRWIN: I gave Jason some money after I sold the salon. And I just trusted him to do what he felt was best to invest the money and help us to get ahead financially. And so one day I was staying with him and he said he was going to open a dispensary, and I said, go for it.
JASON IRWIN: The growers deal with a lot of the poundage which is where the dollars are.
DIANE IRWIN: And then he called me one day on the phone and said, mom, I think we should buy this land. And how do you feel about growing medical marijuana? I said, OK. It was just a faith thing.
SPELLMAN: Your mom -- during the growing season, your mom lived in this camper?
JASON IRWIN: Yes. She also started hanging the buds in here. She did half the harvest in here. She lived in here by herself with no real heat or water in this camper.
DIANE IRWIN: It was -- it was an adventure that I never thought about experiencing. When we finished, it was like now we're bound (ph) close to me, like living off the grid, roughing it.
JASON IRWIN: We got two ounces per plant. Total off of 62 greenhouse plants we got like, I think, 13 pounds. It is a really cheap investment to grow -- to be able to legally grow 63 cannabis plants in a market that has been determined by the black -- by the illicit drug market.
DIANE IRWIN: It was fun. Every morning, I would go out and talk to my girls and pray over them and ask them to provide good medicine for the people that were going to be using it.
So, you know, growing up, I used to bust him all the time with marijuana. And I used to flush it down the toilet or stash it.
I'm in for the long haul. I really do feel like we're pioneers bringing new life to medical marijuana. and it is exciting.
LEMON: OK. There you go. That was Jim Spellman reporting. Very interesting. It's a very interesting sign of the times here, how things are changing.
Let's get your feedback.
One earlier that came in much earlier, don't have it up here, said, "Go ahead and legalize marijuana."
I want to get some of your tweets in. We're talking about Christmas, and Jacqui Jeras and I, "Don, we'll be done in the A.M. thanks for the ask." Talking about when are you going to put your Christmas presents up. "Don Lemon, nope, but I lit our Hanukkah for the first time last night yesterday. I lit my menorah as well. By the way, last night. I said it is much easier than putting up decorations."
"I'll get to it."
"I just happen to be putting up the tree as you asked, Don."
Someone else said, "What was up with the interview with Murphy. The expression on your face of disdain on your face was for who?
Misread my face. No disdain there.
Let's see. Yes, they put it up.
"Don, here's mine. Happy holiday."
Someone sent a picture of their -- we have been getting lots of pictures of the tree. This one is really nice. That's a beautiful picture of the Christmas tree. Love it. Send me more, if you have it, I'll put it on TV.
We're continuing to follow the breaking news out of Cuba. CNN has confirmed a U.S. citizen was arrested there one week ago, not clear what the alleged offense is. CNN has contacted the suburban Washington company that employed him, Development Alternatives, Inc. in a statement to CNN, the president and the CEO's name is Jim Boomguard. He said, this is a quote, "Our prime concern is for the safety, well-being and quick return to the United States of the detained individual."
It's not clear what exactly the unnamed man was doing in Cuba. "The New York Times" reports he's a U.S. government contractor working on behalf of the Obama administration. According to the newspaper, he was in Cuba distributing cell phones, lap tops and other communications equipment. We'll continue to follow this story and bring you more information tonight in our 7:00 p.m. hour and again at 10:00 p.m. eastern.
I'm Don Lemon at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer begins right now.