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Oregon's Mt. Hood Rescue Conditions; Berlusconi Attacked; Tiger Woods' Latest Finding Jobs in 2009; Houston Elects Gay Mayor; Disney Feature First African-American Princess; North Korean Cargo Plane Seized; Italian Prime Minister Hospitalized

Aired December 13, 2009 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Punched in the face and rushed to the hospital, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is attacked after a rally.

And tragedy and frustration on Oregon's Mount Hood. One climber is dead, two others missing. And avalanche fears are slowing the search. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM, where the news unfolds, live this Sunday, December 13th. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

So, we begin with an attack today that left Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stunned and bloody. He was punched in the face while signing autographs right after a rally in Milan. A 42- year-old man with a history of mental illness was taken into custody and Berlusconi was taken to the hospital.

Paula Newton will be joining us momentarily from London on more on what took place and how in the world this person was able to penetrate security around the prime minister there of Italy momentarily. You see right there new images coming in of a very bloodied Berlusconi there. Again, he is in the hospital and is expected to be there overnight.

And now to today's other top story, in this country, one climber is dead and two more missing on Oregon's Mount Hood. The body of the man who was found dead yesterday, 9,000 feet up, the 11,000-foot mountain, rescue crews are using a helicopter to look for the other climbers, but the ground search has been suspended for fear of a possible avalanche. Officials say three teams will go up the mountain as soon as the avalanche danger subsides. That could be later on today or tomorrow.

Jim Strovink is a deputy with the Clackamas County sheriff's office. He's joining us now by phone. Jim, thanks so much for being with us. Did I pronounce your last name properly?

JIM STROVINK, CLACKAMAS COUNTY: You came very close. It's Jim Strovink, Clackamas County office here at Mount Hood in Oregon.

WHITFIELD: Excellent. Thanks so much. All right. Give me an idea about the search, the weather, how the two are working together or not.

STROVINK: Well, as you know, the search has been hampered because of the avalanche conditions. WHITFIELD: All right. Are you still there?

STROVINK: Hello, yes.

WHITFIELD: OK. OK. All right. It looks like we lost that we will try to re-establish that as soon as we can.

Meantime, let's check in with our Jacqui Jeras right now in the weather center. And give us an idea, Jacqui, what the weather conditions just might be for the searchers there in Mount Hood. I think we are getting ready to hear from him that it is certainly a very difficult thing, in part because of the avalanche warnings.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. And you know, that has a lot to do with the temperatures, which have been warming up in the area and the frequent snowstorms that we have had in the last week. So you get these layers of snow pack and then if you get a little melting, that can create a little crusty, icy layer and that allows different levels of snow to start shifting and cause that threat of avalanche.

You know, we do have a moderate risk, basically, in that area for the avalanches, below 7,000 feet. Now, the body that was found was up there around 9,000 feet. So a little bit higher than that. We got a very short window before our next storm system moves on in and we think that the visibility is going to go down again, probably by Monday night and we will start to see more snowstorms come in here.

It is going to be a warmer system, so snow level does go as high as 8,000 feet, but as I mentioned, they are going to be up there and the snow levels and the higher up you go, the stronger the winds are. And so, that is going to create some visibility problems as well.

I just want to give you a little idea of the area that we are talking about, if you are not familiar with it and show you a Google Earth animation. There you can see Mount Hood, which is east of the Portland area. It's the biggest mountain in this chain, it is actually a dormant volcano.

And the height of this mountain goes up to about 11,000 feet. This is very popular with hikers. It was supposed to be a relatively easy climb, kind of semi technical, as they call it. And they were going down the Reid glacier area, which is also a similar area, where a few years ago, we had a tragedy here with three hikers.

So this is certainly one area where people who like that extreme type of hiking like to go in here. Weather conditions tonight are going to be very chilly. They were down in the 20s last night, looking at similar conditions for those temperatures tonight. But watch for the gradual warming. That avalanche threat moderate today but it's going to go higher, we think, by Monday night into Tuesday.

WHITFIELD: Oh, boy, all right. Thanks so much. Making a very tenuous search there. All right. Jacqui, I appreciate that.

Meantime, let's go back to our other top story. This one taking place overseas, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, stunned and bloodied. He was in Milan shaking hands with people there, even signing autographs for people who had turned out for a rally, and then you see the result right there.

Very bloodied because one person apparently reached in and actually took a punch at the prime minister there, cutting his face there, becoming very bloodied. He is now in the hospital, we understand, for at least a night.

Paula Newton, who is in London is able to join us right now to fill us in on what we know about this suspect, the person who is currently in custody for throwing this punch. Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): His name is Maximo Catalia (ph). He is in custody still right now. He is 42 years old. Police confirmed to CNN, that he has a psychiatric history. That he has been in and out of psychiatric care. In terms of a motive, absolutely nothing so far.

What is interesting here though, Fredricka, is he didn't just sucker punch him with his fist, he clearly had something in his hand. It might have had some type of religious souvenir, but there's absolutely no indication that he had acted in conjunction with anyone else, but that he acted alone. This is going to raise a lot of questions for Italian security.

You know, beyond all of his personal and business scandals right now, Silvio Berlusconi is a prime minister at war. He just agreed with President Barack Obama to send another 1,000 troops from Italy and while this may be a completely rare event and something that is unique and out of the ordinary, you have to ask yourself what was going on in security? This was a real kind of partisan rally and perhaps security didn't really have an indication that there would be any kind of a threat.

I just want to remind everyone, Fredricka, this is a 73-year-old man. So, you know, imagine what it would be like, he tried get out of a car, just to make it clear that he was doing OK, but you could see he was visibly shaken and any one of us taking a hit like that in the face would have definitely felt it but to be knocked off your feet as a 73-year-old, quite extraordinary really.

WHITFIELD: Right. Very stunned looking there. But at the same time, back to the security issue, clearly security was prepared for him to have that kind of face-to-face time with people there, signing autographs, everything seemed to be going OK, but somehow, there was a hole in that security that this person was able to get so close, that they were able to throw this punch or that nobody could see that there may have been something in this person's hand that could have been used as weapon.

NEWTON: Absolutely. And I think if you review any tape of leaders, you can see security and you can see how many are around them, you can see them surveying the crowd just before a leader is going to get to them. So normally, they will be surveying the crowd a couple of feet ahead so that they can see, they can see people's arms, they look in their hands and they may try and keep someone a little away. They think someone is slightly looking a bit threatening, clearly this just came out of nowhere.

But Fredricka, again, that was friendly rally. This wasn't anything where people would have expected, security would have expected there to be people protesting against Silvio Berlusconi and they might have been lulled by that just because - as I said, he had just given a very partisan speech to a friendly crowd in Milan. The prime minister, Fredricka, we should add, will stay in a hospital now until at least tomorrow.

There are reports that he has broken two teeth. That he has fractures to his upper lip, both inside and outside, may required stitches and he perhaps may have slightly fractured his nose.

WHITFIELD: All right. Paula Newton, thanks so much. Security not just being scrutinized over the protection of the leader of this country but now the leader of Italy as well. Appreciate that.

All right. Let's talk about something else that many people can't seem to stop talking about, we are talking about Tiger Woods and the sex scandal. One of Woods' major sponsors now, the global consulting and outsourcing company Accenture has just announced it is severing ties with Woods. The firm says Woods is no longer, I'm quoting here now, "no longer the right representative in light of the circumstances of the last two weeks."

Yesterday, another sponsor, Gillette, says it will be limiting Woods' role in its marketing program and also yesterday, we reported incorrectly that Kellogg was a Woods' sponsor and may be severing its dealings with the golfer. Kelloggs is not and never has been a Woods' sponsor.

All right. Now apparently, we have news as it pertains to what is taking place out of Washington, D.C. and Capitol Hill. The U.S. Senate passed a trillion dollar-plus spending bill. It includes increased budgets for vast areas of the federal government. The vote was 57-35. It now goes to President Obama for his signature.

All right. It has changed its name but the military contractor once known as Blackwater is still generating quite a bit of controversy. We will talk with Suzanne Simons, the author of "Master of War."


WHITFIELD: All right. New unrest in Iran, where police today surrounded the campus of Tehran University, trapping hundreds of protesting students inside. The students claim the government fabricated images of the burning of photos of the founder of the Islamic republic. Iranian state television has repeatedly shown the pictures, burning images of the founder is illegal and there are calls for those responsible to be punished.

A new wrinkle could impact international efforts to halt North Korea's nuclear program. A plane carrying some 35 tons of weapons from North Korea has been seized at an airport in Bangkok, Thailand. At least five people are under arrest. Thai authorities say the plane contained explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and parts for surface- to-air missiles. U.N. sanctions aimed at halting North Korea's nuclear program also bans the country from selling or buying conventional weapons.

All right. More controversy to tell you about now involving the security firm formerly known as Blackwater. The Associated Press reports the CIA has cancelled a deal allowing the company to load missiles on predator drones in Pakistan. The "AP" says CIA director Leon Panetta canceled the contract earlier this year and shifted the work to government personnel.

This latest report follows one last week, that Blackwater operatives joined CIA agents in so-called snatch and grab raids in Iraq several years ago. So, trying to make a lot of sense of this for us. joining us right now, CNN executive producer, Suzanne Simons. She is also the author of "Master of War, Blackwater USA's Eric Prince and The Business of War." All right. A lot of moving parts here, once known as Blackwater, but people still know them as Blackwater?


WHITFIELD: The CIA has been very angry but now even angrier. Why?

SIMONS: Well, an article came out about a week ago in "Vanity Fair" magazine in which Mr. Prince who was paid by the CIA for covert operations and assisting normally really with security at a lot of CIA sites came out and decided to do a lot of talking all of a sudden. He was very upset.

He had felt like an article that had been leaked earlier to the "New York Times" was sort of outing him. He compared himself to Valerie Plame, and so he went a little further and actually kind of outed himself, if you will, and gave a lot of detailed information about programs that he is really not supposed to be talking about.

So, a lot of people inside the building are furious. They say that a lot of the things he has been claiming are nothing but embellishments. He is certainly not running CIA missions. He is not planning the CIA missions. He is working solely in a support role.

WHITFIELD: And so now Leon Panetta is even saying, OK, we are going to think a little. We're going to look a little deeper here about the relationship with Blackwater and other contracts with the government. They now want to dig and see if there are any other improprieties or perhaps - or I guess investigate whether Blackwater has taken advantage.

SIMONS: Right. Well, they want a full-on review, basically. Now, Blackwater's relationship with the agency started in Afghanistan in the very early days of the operation in Afghanistan. And they were guarding facilities there is and it grew from there and over the years, you know, it started entailing many other operations and things like that but yes, this week, Director Panetta is so outraged at what's been going on, and now he is saying, look, we need every single contract, not only from Blackwater, but anything involving Eric Prince to be reviewed.

Now, Eric Prince works, of course, under many different names. Blackwater changed its name to Z, Presidential Airways. He has contracts with not only the CIA but the Department of Defense and of course, the Department of State, which is the one that brought him so much trouble in Iraq.

WHITFIELD: So, there are other contractors out there? That's not the only agency that has been supplying them? Now there is some concern about whether Eric Prince's, you know, latest, I guess, interviews or even the relationship between Blackwater and the U.S. might jeopardize other contractors. In what way?

SIMONS: Well, a lot of people...

WHITFIELD: ... their safety?

SIMONS: Exactly. A lot of people are very worried that when you are working, and especially in these very high-pressure situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and in different places in the Middle East, now people are going to say anyone who works for Blackwater must be working for the CIA. Therefore that is really putting a target on their back and it's not really fair to a lot of the, you know, men and women who are out there doing the jobs.

So they are concerned about, you know, putting them in harm's way just for the sake of talking. There are also, you know, if you think about it, there's always a knock-on effect. I mean, Blackwater is a private business. So in a way, they need to sort of worry about their image and what's out there, but with the military and with the CIA and intelligence operations, talking can get you killed.

So, there is really a very fascinating line that you're walking here but you know, frustration over Blackwater and how they run their contracts was not new. In my book, I wrote a lot about a Department of State e-mail, which I printed large parts of in the book, where the contract officer was just going off on these guys like, if you don't stop talking publicly, if you don't stop going out and talking about the operations, you are going to be welcoming congressional hearings and that is the last thing they want and now that is what we are seeing.

WHITFIELD: Maybe the direction we are going. All right. Suzanne Simons, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

SIMONS: My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: All right. You think you paid too much for your teenager's cell phone? Wait until you see the bill that one father actually got. We will talk about that in the chat room.


WHITFIELD: All right. This is the moment we have decided to call the NEWSROOM the chat room. Jacqui Jeras is here with me now. We have got some interesting kind of, I guess kind of social media, interesting water cooler conversations out there, beginning with a lot of things that I guess parents can identify with, this big cell phone bills for their kids?

JERAS: We have heard plenty of stories I'm sure, from parents, you know, saying, I give my kid a cell phone and the bill is just astronomical.

WHITFIELD: Emergencies.

JERAS: Yes. Only. Like that happens. But this is absolutely amazing. A California man added his 13-year-old son to his cell phone bill thinking, $50 a month I can handle it. He is unemployed, by the way, just so you know. He gets his first month's bill -

WHITFIELD: One of the first things to get let go.

JERAS: I would think so.


JERAS: Guess how much? Did you look?

WHITFIELD: In the thousands?

JERAS: Way up there. There it is. $21,000.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. I would think that is a typo. I would hope that is a typo.

JERAS: Could you imagine?


JERAS: So he is obviously shocked and horrified and blames the cell phone company which by the way basically has no comment. Investigating.


JERAS: But I did a little bit of math on this one to try and figure out - say it was 30 days and not sure what month the bill was, say it was 30 days, there's like 43,200 minutes in a month. So divide that by half, right, so that would be like the equivalent of being on the phone the entire month and being charged 50 cents a minute.

WHITFIELD: There was - there was - unless he's got one of those phones that sometimes accidentally redials someone.

JERAS: Oh, that could be.

WHITFIELD: You could be sitting down or it's in your bag. It happens.

JERAS: Or paying a lot for texting. WHITFIELD: (INAUDIBLE)

JERAS: Oh, yes. I dial all the time. I will hear ringing from my phone, like, hmm, what's that? It is me calling somebody. Somebody calling me.

WHITFIELD: Something else that is now available for your reading pleasure when you go to the New York or perhaps you're in New York, you pick up the issue, a new columnist that is now on staff there remember the name Ashley Dupree.

JERAS: Oh, yes.

WHITFIELD: Made famous because of the former New Jersey Governor Eliot Spitzer scandal? Well, now, she is a writer, kind of like the new Carrie Bradshaw.

JERAS: Right. It's like a "Sex in the City" column. Relationships and sex.

WHITFIELD: People ask their questions and she answers them and I think -

JERAS: There she is in all her glory.

WHITFIELD: Sunday edition is the first - I don't know, is she happy about that kind of image? That is - OK. Whatever. Anyway...

JERAS: Former career.

WHITFIELD: Today is the first posting of her column, people ask questions, everything about, you know, what should I buy for my wife, you know, as an anniversary gift. Others ask advice about their girlfriends and all that kind of good stuff. You will just have to check out the New York to find out more about that.

JERAS: Now we know what the qualifications are.

WHITFIELD: Sometime there are - sometimes there's a life after the life that makes you famous.

JERAS: We wish her luck.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jacqui Jeras, thanks so much, in the chat room with us. We'll see you again later on with a bigger weather picture.


WHITFIELD: Crazy stuff out there.

JERAS: Yes, lots going on today.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks, Jacqui. Appreciate it.

All right. Well, full-time jobs are indeed hard to come by. So, perhaps temp work is the answer. We will try to find out if it will work for you.


WHITFIELD: So, which of the nation's unemployment rate in double digits, job creation is becoming a greater priority for the Obama administration. CNN's Kate Bolduan is live in Washington with more on all of this. So what is the president's chief economic adviser, for example, saying about all these?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They sure had a lot to say today, Fredricka. Ahead of President Obama's meeting with bank executives Monday, his top economic advisers are laying out a very strong message for Wall Street. Listen here.


LARRY SUMMERS, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: They don't get in some cases, that they wouldn't be where they are today as they certainly wouldn't be paying the bonuses they are paying today if their government hadn't taken extraordinary actions for firms that have benefited from taxpayer support to be complaining about the government burdening them is, frankly, a bit rich.

CHRISTINA ROMER, PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: There is just a fundamental disconnect, right? Now, the American people had to take extraordinary actions to back up Wall Street. It was the right thing to do because we are all linked to that, but you know, now Wall Street's doing a whole lot better and main street is still suffering.


BOLDUAN: And Fredricka, you can expect that will very much be part of the president's message tomorrow. We talked about this. Mr. Obama is scheduled to host chief executives from some of the country's biggest banks to discuss ways to increase lending, particularly to small businesses, but the banks say it's not as easy as the White House is making out to be.

They argue they are being told to lend more but at the same time, being told to be much more careful as Congress is considering sweeping change to the financial regulatory system. Other items on the agenda for tomorrow, Fredricka, according to White House advisers, financial regulatory reform. We've been talking about that preventing more foreclosures and compensation practices. The Obamas have taken steps recently to really clamp down on those big bonus and pay for some Wall Street executives.

WHITFIELD: And what about the overall deficit, how does this administration plan to tackle that?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Well, Obama's top advisers, making very much clear today that job creation is top priority and once they handle that, then they will turn the focus to reducing the federal deficit and they made that very clear today. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, he kind of today had very much the message that many Republicans have, which is that the federal deficit cannot remain on the backburner very much longer. He said on "Meet the Press" that the record federal spending and the deficit, it really threatens the country's long-term viability.


WHITFIELD: OK. All right. Kate Bolduan thanks so much. Well until that happens, meaning until more jobs are created, a lot of folks are still looking for work. So, of course, finding a job at any time is very difficult, but knowing exactly where to look is key. And some are unlocking doors to new jobs by way of temp agencies. We are going to be talking with two people on two different sides of the equation; John Challenger is CEO of his own employment consulting agency, Challenger Gray and Christmas. He is joining us from Chicago. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right, John, we are also going to be joined by someone who is a temp worker in a moment but first, let's talk about whether this is kind of the area in which you need to search, if you are looking for work, might you be delving into those temp agencies first?

CHALLENGER: Well, certainly, a lot of people are and it is not a bad place to look, because some companies are saying that we are going to be very cautious about creating a new full-time, permanent job for fear that maybe things are going to get worse again and many of those businesses still struggling to survive or trying to control their costs, so they are hiring temporary workers, bring them on to handle the new work that is out there, and there is some of that and then those temporary jobs can act like auditions as business gets better and those people prove themselves, they may lead full-time permanent jobs.

WHITFIELD: Yes. I would think that when you go for a temp job, you got to go into this saying, you know what, there just might be some permanency here, and maybe they are just looking at me or other candidates to see who might fill a more permanent position. How do you best approach it? How do you stand out?

CHALLENGER: You want to go into that employer and show him or her exactly the skills, the know-how you have, the experience you have that would allow you to hit the ground running because they have problems right now, they don't have enough workers to do that work and they want to find people that they are not going to have to train too much but that can come right in and do the job. So really showing them how your experience fits just on target is very important.

WHITFIELD: So, what are the industries that rely on temp agencies the most?

CHALLENGER: Well, we are seeing real growth in temporary jobs and some of the industries that have been hiring are energy, health care, education, technology, even banks, with all their problems, some have started to grow again and they were just so thinly staffed, they were decimated in their employee ranks over the last year. They are now beginning to hire temporary workers also.

WHITFIELD: OK. Naima Cherot is with us here in Atlanta. She was living in California, relocated to Atlanta, looking for a better cost of living, looking for employment. So Naima, you went through a lot of different changes, you found a job but then because of the recession, there were layoffs, et cetera, you finally turned to a temp agency. How has it worked for you?

NAIMA CHEROT, EMPLOYMENT, INNOVATIVE OUTSOURCING: Well, it's worked great. I was able to actually get a position in the industry that I was in and I got a bookkeeping position and I have been with that same position for -- ever since March of '09.

WHITFIELD: So you feel like this is going to lead to some permanency?

CHEROT: Oh, yes, I have a great relationship; we have already talked about long-term employment. So far, the relationship has been great.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's great. So that is the upside to going by way of temp work. What are the downsides?

CHEROT: Well, one of the downsides is the benefits. You don't have health insurance, so I've had to get health insurance on my own.

WHITFIELD: And that's very expensive?


WHITFIELD: So, how do you -- how does one prepare themselves perhaps for that, I guess that lapse of time before you can get benefits, you know what would be your best recommendation to people who are looking for work but perhaps inspired by your story to look at a temp agency?

CHEROT: Well, just -- I guess you could say, you know, just keep the faith, keep looking and the thing about working for a temp agency, too, is that you kind of can expand on some of your experience because there's so many -- there's a lot of different things that positions that they do offer. So, if you're wanting to get into maybe something else, like, you know, administrative or for me it was bookkeeping but there were a couple other things that I could of possibly could have done as well.

WHITFIELD: Excellent. Well, all the best to you.


WHITFIELD: Continued success. Naima Cherot thanks so much, John Challenger thanks to you as well. I appreciate it.

CHALLENGER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Thanks, and best of luck to everybody out there looking for a job. Think about that temp agency maybe that would be a great entree into something permanent.

All right. Dangerous conditions for California motorists now we will tell you how they are coping when we check our top stories.


WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories now, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will stay in the hospital overnight for observation because of those wounds you see right there he was actually hit in the face today, hit by someone's punch after a political rally in Milan. Police are now questioning a 42-year-old man who they say has a history of mental illness.

And Thai authorities say they have seized a cargo plane loaded with weapons from North Korea. At least five people were arrested at the airport in Bang Cox. Thirty five tons of explosives, rocket- propelled grenades and parts to make surface-to-air missiles were inside. U.N. Sanctions aimed at halting North Korea's nuclear program also bans the country from selling or buying conventional weapons.

The University of Alabama's crimson tide is riding high today. 'Bama Tailback, Mark Ingram is this year's Heisman Trophy winner. He is the first Alabama football player to win the Heisman. Ingram also is the third straight sophomore to win college football's most prestigious award.


MARK INGRAM, 2009 HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER: I want to thank my family, my mother and my grandparents are sitting right there, and my father, been a great influence on my life and I love him to death.


WHITFIELD: Aw. Ingram will lead his team into the national championship game at the Rose Bowl come January.

Severe storms brought a frightful night to many in southern California. Motorists were stranded for a time north of Los Angeles when a mudslide closed part of the highway. And residents in the Los Angeles foothills are returning home this afternoon. They fled last night because of fears heavy rainfall would trigger mudslides in their area next.

We will check in with our Jacqui Jeras. Pretty nasty weather out west, but also let's talk about some of the Gulf States. New Orleans is also in, I guess in a lot of water.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, they had quite a bit of flooding last evening that subsided now, so a little bit of good news. The North Bay, you guys have a terrible storm there, lets go ahead and show you these pictures right off the bat, the Pittsburgh area. You know, doesn't look like much, and then, wow, did you see how that car just wiped out there on very slick streets? We had freezing rain in the area, anywhere between a tenth of an inch to .2, and while that doesn't sound like much, you can see that glaze of ice on the roadways and what kind of an impact that has, numerous accidents all across the state.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike shut down for a while. We also had issues on Interstate 78, temperatures starting to warm up, oh, gosh, see that every time it just makes you cringe, doesn't it? There you can see that driver did get out though and was safe. Now, we are still looking at a little bit of light freezing rain across parts of the northeast. The advisories across Pennsylvania has expired but you get up into the Allegheny's, you still might see a little bit of that wintery mix and then we are looking at parts of upstate New York, just south of Albany. And even into parts of northern New Jersey that is going to be the concern over the next couple of hours.

Temperatures are trying to warm up a little bit, we will check it out here in the Boston area, 39, 40 degrees there, New York City looking at temperatures there about 48 degrees. Here is Philadelphia for you, in that area about 46. You head further on off to the west there is Altoona at 38 degrees. So it is, you know, kind of within that borderline range. And just keep in mind, bridges and overpasses always ice up first.

OK, now on to California, our other storm here that brought the record rainfall, the mudslides yesterday and very heavy snow into the Sierras. You can see this system starting to dwindle out a little bit and just a few light showers for the rest of the afternoon and that's it we have got some much better weather in the forecast for you as we kick off the workweek. If you are trying to travel, what a mess here, with our western storm and our eastern storm both, the worst of it New York City, JFK, and Newark, look at that over two hours there, Philly delays, Atlanta delays, because of low clouds and fog. Tomorrow we will be watching, just quiet down in the southwest, but picking up again, you mentioned the flooding in New Orleans yesterday, Fredericka, tomorrow, they could see more of the same.

WHITFIELD: Oh, no, that is a drag.

JERAS: I know.

WHITFIELD: Thanks Jacqui.

Well, little princesses everywhere turning out for the latest Disney movie. We will show you how they are celebrating this Disney first.


WHITFIELD: Well, some say the latest Disney animated movie is a dream come true. Others say it is about time. We are talking about "The Princess and the Frog" features Disney's first African-American princess and it is this weekend's number one movie at the box office, bringing in $25 million.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is exactly the answer. You must kiss me.


WHITFIELD (voice over): Disney's latest fairy tale release, "The Princess and the Frog", has hundreds of little fair maidens flocking to theaters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just really want to see this movie so badly.

WHITFIELD: More than 400 kids and adults from this brownie troop showed up for a special screening in Atlanta.

DESIREE ROBINSON-PHILLIPS, COORDINATOR PARENT, BROWNIE GIRL SCOUTS: We have close to 500 African-American princesses, princes, mothers and some fathers here to celebrate a monumental moment in Disney history. More than 70 years it took to get us to this moment and we are thankful for the fact that finally, we have an African- American princess.

WHITFIELD: With the day view of Disney's first African-American princess, many parents, some even dressing for the occasion, are as excited as their children.

TISHA DESHIELDS, PARENT: I'm excited, you know, I'm excited to share with my daughter so that when she grows up, she will always remember this time that she and mommy dressed up and were princesses for the day.

GENISE HUEY, PARENT: Proud that Disney recognized the importance of having a black princess.

BERT THOMAS, JR., PARENT: Something new that we need to see, something positive for our young girls as well as our young boys.

LAWANDA OBANNON, PARENT: I hope it is a sign of the times and for such a company as Disney to go ahead and be the primary start in something like this I think is great.

WHITFIELD: Images like this can be a boost for a child's self- esteem says one clinical psychologist.

DR. LILY D. MCNAIR, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: The more we see positive images and depictions and portrayals of African-American girls and women, the more girls will see the possibilities for themselves in various arenas of life. Seeing images that look like you say to a little girl, you, too, can do this. You are important enough that we are going to put images that look like you out there.



WHITFIELD: But what do the kids think of the movie? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think thought it was very, very good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like went princess kissed the frog.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. I liked that part.

WHITFIELD: And while not everyone is caught up in the magic of this Disney princess movie, many hope it is seen in a larger context.

MCNAIR: I would not want young African-American girls to think a princess is a means to the end, but to understand that you can be a princess and you can also be an astronaut, a leader, a president, a teacher, and make an important contribution to your world or your community.


WHITFIELD: So of course, we are joined now by a couple of real life princesses, Assata Nikosi and Sky Walker, and Sky's mom, Desiree Robinson-Phillips. Good to see you guys.


WHITFIELD: So you all loved the movie?


WHITFIELD: Tell me why you like it had so much.

SKYE WALKER, 8YEAR OLD: I liked it because it was the first ever black princess and she wanted to run a business like me, too. And she just like me, she is black like me. And my family says that.

WHITFIELD: So you really saw yourself on the big screen there by seeing her?


WHITFIELD: Have you ever felt like that before when you go to the movies?


WHITFIELD: So this was very special?

WALKER: Yes, ma'am.

WHITFIELD: So, what did you like about this movie, going to the movie and seeing what you saw?

ASSATA NIKOSI, 7 YEAR OLD: Well, I liked that it was -- I liked how -- I liked how it was like -- she was the first princess to be -- she is the first African-American princess and -- like it was a little -- the movie was funny and like, the end -- and she -- and -- hmm. And I like the singing and everything, it was pretty good.

WHITFIELD: So you had some favorite parts, didn't you?

NIKOSI: Mm-hmm.

WHITFIELD: What was your favorite?

NIKOSI: My favorite part was when they were going to visit mama Ogi.

WHITFIELD: And what happened?

NIKOSI: Well, first they -- first they -- got to know the alligator and he, like, wanted to play with a jazz band with human people and so he went with them because he wanted to be human, so he wanted mama Ogi to turn them into humans.

WHITFIELD: Oh, excellent. I'm inspired to see the movie now. You guys are giving me a nice picture of what the movie is all about. So Desiree, how special was this for you to help arrange all these brownies, like Assata and Skye to see this movie and many who dressed up and just really made this a fun experience?

ROBINSON-PHILLIPS: This outside of President Obama's election was one of the most fabulous moments that I've ever experienced in my personal life. You know, and my journey, we didn't have an African- American princess. And one of the things -- this started pretty much as an idea to do a birthday party for my daughter and I said, no, it should be bigger than that. So I went to the brownie troop leader, we should take the whole troop; no it should be bigger than this. I went to the Atlanta Chapter of Delta Sigma Beta Sorority and I said how can I open this up to the community? They got on board 100 percent, next thing we know we have 500 people, the movie theater said please stop selling tickets.

We had princes all over the place and the energy and the excitement around this event was phenomenal.

WHITFIELD: So you all helped con tribute to the $25 million that Disney made this weekend, you know, which was a blockbuster for "The Princess and the Frog." But then how do you think this resonates, it goes beyond little black girls and little black boys who are going to go to the movie and see themselves just as Skye was describing, I saw myself on the big screen?

ROBINSON-PHILLIPS: One of the things that I feel is critical for our children, I think that noted African-American psychologist Dr. Kenneth and Mamie Clark proved in 1954, that when African-American children are presented with the opposition of choosing a white doll versus a black doll, the majority chose the white doll, describing it as beautiful, and pretty and nice and the black doll as bad and ugly.

In 2006 that same study was revisited, the same results, Fredericka. What does that mean? As a community, we have not done a great job in terms of self-perception among our children. This is a big step even though it took 70 years for Disney to get to this moment, we applaud them and we thank them. Now we need an African- American prince. WHITFIELD: So you think this could be that impactful, that perhaps if that study were done again maybe a couple years after people have seen this over and over again, DVDs, et cetera, that perhaps that study might change that little girls would grab the black doll in larger numbers and say this represents beauty?

ROBINSON-PHILIPS: When I grew up, my mother only purchased African-American dolls for me and African-American imagery, not to be racist or separatist but because she wanted to build a sense of self- esteem in me. That is the same thing that I wanted to pass onto my daughter and to the brownie troop girls at large that really, your black is beautiful it is regal and it's royal.

WHITFIELD: All right. OK. Well, now we have got Assata Nikosi and Skye Walker both endorsing this movie, "The Princess and the Frog." Desiree Robinson-Phillips thanks so much.

ROBINSON-PHILIPS: And a gift for you, Frederica, your own crown, from brownie troop 10452.

WHITFIELD: Finally a princess. Thank you so much. Good to see you guys, glad you enjoyed the movie.

WALKER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well one of America's biggest cities electing a lesbian mayor. We will talk with Houston's mayor-elect, Annise Parker.


WHITFIELD: All right. Well Houston elects its first openly gay mayor.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The voters of Houston have opened the door to history.



WHITFIELD: A first for Houston and a major victory for gays and lesbians across the country, in a bitterly fought runoff. Houston is now the largest U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor. City controller Annise Parker defeated city attorney Jean Locke yesterday. Annise Parker joins us now from Houston. Congratulations to you, mayor-elect.


WHITFIELD: How do you feel the day after?

PARKER: Well, I am a little tired but very focused on putting together a strong transition team so I can take office on January 4th. WHITFIELD: Give me an idea, the secret to your strategy, how is it you were able to win, in your view?

PARKER: I had a good, strong campaign. I have been elected city- wide in Houston six previous times. The voters know me, the voters trust me, I have a lot of data points on me, and so even though there was an onslaught of bad publicity and negative campaigning at the end of the campaign, voters were able to see past that.

WHITFIELD: Winning suits you well. As you mentioned you have won six times before this is your seventh consecutive win in that city. But in your victory speech, you said you're very much aware of what this victory means, how it falls in line in the history books, but at the same time, you want this to be an opportunity to allow the entire community of Houston to win what did you mean by that and how do you make this a victory for everybody?

PARKER: I understand I'm a role model for my community, but I've been a role model for my community for more than 30 years now. And I understand that for many people, I'm a symbol, but things that make me a good role model for my community are also what make me a good representative for the city of Houston. And I have had now 12 years of on-the-job training to prepare me to take over the reins in America's fourth largest city. I'm ready to lead the city and Houstonians are all in this together. So a good bit of my speech last night was about acknowledging history but focusing on the future.

WHITFIELD: How much did you embrace the potential of that making history or did you feel at a time that that was a distraction from what you wanted your message to be?

PARKER: I did not focus on that at all my -- all of my energy and attention was on the campaign and winning the race. I'm not unaware of the historical implications and have never been, but that was never why I was asking anyone to vote for me and there were some challenging in the campaign in navigating the expectations of my community, the needs of the campaign and try to create the opportunity to talk about the things that I know are most important to Houstonians.

WHITFIELD: And while this is going to be a big job, being the may other of a very big city of Houston, do you also feel like because you are a first, a first gay representative to win a mayoral ship of one of the largest cities in this country that that now puts own a national platform, whether to be intentionally or whether it be by default?

PARKER: If it can help me do a better job of governing the city of Houston, I will embrace that. What I hope this election signals is something larger than me and the GLBT community. It's that Houston is a wonderful, diverse, international city that values people for what they can do more than who they are. And I hope that it helps present a new face for Houston to the world.

WHITFIELD: Houston mayor elect Annise Parker, thanks so much, and congratulations. It feels good to hear that doesn't it? PARKER: It does.

WHITFIELD: Congratulations.

PARKER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: I'm Fredricks Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Don Lemon is up in one hour from now actually. But first, Fareed Zakaria and "GPS" right after this.