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American Morning

New Poll Numbers: Clinton Leading in New Hampshire; CIA Tapes Destroyed Raises Questions; Rescue at Sea: 14-year-old Girl Airlifted; Jamie Lynn Spears Pregnant

Aired December 19, 2007 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Shayna was two weeks pregnant when she fell. She found out when she was being treated at the hospital.

CHETRY: The baby boy is fine. Shayna says she still has some aches and pains, but she is thankful to be alive.

ROBERTS: Just incredible. We've got some important stories coming up for you right now. The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

Where they stand. Brand new presidential poll numbers. Who has momentum on their side with the election year just days away?

Interrogation questions. A new report says at least four top White House officials knew something about the destroyed CIA tapes.

Plus, saved at sea.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had an opportunity to serve an American citizen. She was very ill.


ROBERTS: Sailors rescue a teen girl from a cruise ship. An amazing story of teamwork and grace, with minutes to spare. Why they may have saved her life, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning to you, again. Thanks for joining us on this Wednesday, the 19th of December. I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: I'm Kiran Chetry. Brand new developments this morning. The case of the destroyed Al-Qaeda interrogation tapes. Critics want to know why and the judge is going straight to the White House for answers. "New York Times" reporting in this morning's edition that at least four White House lawyers including the former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, and White House Counsel Harriet Miers were in on the talks with the CIA over whether or not to get rid of those tapes. A federal judge has set a hearing for Friday. The top Republican on the House intelligence panel says that he may also push for subpoenas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE VICE-CHAIRMAN: There were misleading statements that came to the intelligence committee from the community regarding these tapes. You know, we have a constitutional responsibility to do our job and to hold the community accountable for the work that it has done or the work that it has not done.


CHETRY: And justice department says that a court proceeding could disrupt its own investigation into the destroyed tapes.

ROBERTS: Brand new poll numbers in campaign '08 released just an hour ago. The new CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire shows that Hillary Clinton has regained a substantial lead in the granite state. She now has 38 percent support, that is 12 points ahead of Barack Obama. A week earlier the polls showed them to be in a virtual dead heat. John Edwards, still third with 14 percent.

Over on the Republican side, Mitt Romney still leads with about a third of likely primary voters supporting him. He's got 34 percent there, up a couple of points. John McCain is second with 22 followed by Rudy Giuliani with 16, and Mike Huckabee holding on with about 10 percent. Not going up at the same rate of rise as he was in the state of Iowa and in South Carolina.

A sneak preview of Rudy Giuliani's new Christmas ad for you. It's going to be released later on this morning. In it we see a lighter side of the Republican presidential candidate in front of a Christmas tree talking about how he doesn't have enough time to go holiday shopping so he's buying everyone the same gift.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Probably a fruitcake or something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fruitcake? What?

GIULIANI: It will be a really nice fruitcake with a big red bow on it or something like that. I'm Rudy Giuliani and I approved this message. Merry Christmas, happy holidays!


ROBERTS: So Rudy Giuliani jumps in with the Christmas ad blitz. We're going to see what he says about that ad later on today. He's going to be joining Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room" this afternoon for a rare one-on-one interview. In fact, Wolf's entire edition of "The Situation Room" today will be from the road with the CNN election express, starts at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 p.m. Pacific.

And Mike Huckabee is defending his new Christmas ad. He's poking fun at critics who say that a white bookcase in the background of the ad looks remarkably like a cross and was designed to be a subliminal message.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That was a bookshelf behind me, a bookshelf. And so now I have these people saying oh, it was a subtle message there. Actually, I will confess this, if you play the spot backwards it says, "Paul is dead, Paul is dead, Paul is dead."


ROBERTS: Reference, of course, to the Beatles controversy of the 1960s, when people thought Paul McCartney died. Huckabee said the spot was done at the last minute and that he ad-libbed it. It will air in the early primary states of Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, time now to check in with Alina Cho. She's got some of the other stories making headlines this morning. Hi, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Kiran, John. Good morning to both of you. Good morning, everybody. New this morning.

Reports of a pretty large earthquake overnight in Alaska. It was a magnitude 7.2 quake, and it happened just after 4:30 a.m. Eastern time. Now the epicenter of the quake was deep underground and offshore so no reports of damage or injuries. A tsunami warning was issued but it was quickly canceled.

President Bush will sign a major energy bill today. It includes the first increase in auto fuel economy standards in 32 years. Cars will now have to get 35 miles to the gallon by the year 2020. Today's standard is 25 miles a gallon. The new law also phases out those standard incandescent light bulbs, you know, the ones we've been using for more than a century. Beginning in 2012, you have to buying more energy-efficient bulbs.

A major victory for President Bush. The Senate has overwhelmingly passed a $555 billion spending bill. The massive federal budget includes $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, without those timetables for bringing the troops home. That was a major sticking point. Today the House is expected to follow suit and approve the revisions which also funds every government agency except the Pentagon, until October of next year.

The U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq will be staying there for at least one more year. The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to approve the extension. That means the more than 150,000 troops in Iraq will stay there until the end of 2008. Now, the overwhelming majority of those troops, of course, are American. Iraqi officials say they hope the troops can leave a bit sooner.

And a major disaster in Pakistan to report a passenger train packed with an estimated 900 people derailed overnight. The "Associated Press" is reporting at least 56 people were killed, dozens more were injured. Rescuers are actually using metal cutting equipment to reach those trapped among the passengers, a large wedding party. The cause of the crash at this early stage, of course, is still under investigation.

So we're watching this and watching a lot of other stories, too, including a major announcement by the transportation department later today to ease congestions. We'll have more on that in the next half hour.

CHETRY: All right. A lot of questions as to whether or not we'll feel as air passengers.

CHO: Yes. We hope we do, of course.

CHETRY: Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: Well, we're also following extreme weather this morning. Utility workers in Oklahoma working to restore power to more than 88,000 homes and businesses, more than a week after a major ice storm. President Bush declaring seven counties a disaster area. The order means state and local governments can now receive federal funds for cleanup and repair. One power company says all electricity is expected to be restored by late tonight or tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the pacific northwest bracing for another round of winter storms. A high wind warning now in effect for the Oregon coast. Forecasters say snow and heavy rains could cause more mudslides. Folks are also dealing with severe flooding.

And that same system is bringing winds up to 45 miles an hour across the Sierra Nevada mountain range, blasting regions there with several feet of snow. The storm making driving treacherous, but it's also helping to relieve drought conditions that they've been dealing with in the area.

Our Rob Marciano is at our weather desk tracking extreme weather this morning. And, you know, what it's like up there in northern California, they got to stop and put the chains on the tires as they head through the sierra range.

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You don't want to do it, you can pay a chain monkey to do it for you. Either way, you're not going to get up the hill unless you've got some traction devices, especially with all the snow that's falling not only there but up to the cascades also.

Here's the plume. Check it out on the satellite imagery, where a strong storm is now moving into the pacific northwest. The center of it actually is right about there. It will head into Vancouver Island, but you see the strong plume of moisture that's be heading into parts of the area that don't really need the moisture anymore.

Two to three feet expected. Winter storm warnings and heavy snow warnings up for the cascades from the Canadian border all the way down to the siscues (ph) as well. And in the lower elevations it's falling on the form of rain from Seattle down I-5 to Portland and to the coast range. And this is the area that got flooded badly with the last round, so we're watching that for potentially more on the way of mudslides.

Speaking of -- these are the amount of rain moving into the L.A. area last night. We do have some video out of Malibu, where folks were getting a little bit nervous especially with the burned out areas preparing for the potential for mudslides, and the rains came down last night. In some cases, over half an inch to a full inch of rain and in southern California, that is a lot of rain in a short amount of time and it was certainly enough to make people nervous and slow down on the roadways there.

Good news at least right now, we're not hearing any word of any official sliding of land. Quick peek to the northeast, you've got a little bit of moisture heading your way but it shouldn't be too big of a deal. Only extreme northern New England should pick up any sort of accumulation with this system. Kiran, that's the latest from the weather desk. Lots of action today.

CHETRY: Sounds good. All right. We'll check in with you in a couple. Thanks, Rob.

MARCIANO: All right.

ROBERTS: You know, all that snow and freezing wind in northern California is making things difficult for crews searching for a missing family, about 100 miles north of Sacramento. Police say that on Sunday a father and his three children pulled their car over to the side of the road and went into the mountains near Chico to find a Christmas tree. They have not been seen since. The mother of the boys says she's very worried.


LISA SAMS, MOTHER OF MISSING KIDS: Freddy did call the pastor at our church and asked for a Christmas tree stand and so they were assuming that they were going to come before they got the tree, but they never showed up. So they just assumed that they didn't need it and that was the last anybody heard of them.


ROBERTS: Rescuers say they did find the family's car, but there are no signs that anyone returned to the vehicle -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, your "Quick Hits" now. And the parents of American Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh are asking President Bush to commute his sentence and set him free. He's spending 20 years behind bars after he was captured in Afghanistan.

His mom says he converted to Islam and went to the country to fight for the Taliban against the northern alliance. But the father of Mike Spahn, a CIA officer who was killed in the prison where Lindh was captured, wants him to serve the full sentence saying Lindh had a duty as an American to come to Spahn's aid during the riot and didn't. President Bush is ordering a major reduction in the nuclear weapons stockpiled by the U.S. The White House says that the reduction will cut the nuclear arsenal to less than a quarter of the size since the end of the Cold War. It's believed there are nearly 6,000 warheads deployed or in reserve.

And Hillary Clinton reopens her lead against Barack Obama in New Hampshire. We have more analysis of the latest polls that just came to us about an hour ago, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

And also, to the rescue, a fire captain risking his own life to save a little spaniel who have gotten -- fallen through the ice, nearly drowned in a lake. We're going to show you how it all turned out, coming up.


ROBERTS: Thirteen minutes after the hour. It's a hazard wintrous spaniel in distress in a frozen pond. This is on Lake Winona in Minnesota. The dog fell. A fire captain came to the rescue. A delicate operation since the rescuer weighs just a little bit more than the victim and was in danger of cracking through the ice himself. The fire department says two other dogs also went in the pond but were fortunately able to climb out on their own.

An AMERICAN MORNING update for you now. A life and death situation for a 14-year-old girl who ruptured her appendix all aboard a cruise ship off of the coast of Mexico. The aircraft carrier the "USS Ronald Reagan" sent helicopters to air lift her to the carrier for emergency surgery. Mission accomplished. Laura Montero is expected to make a full recovery.

Joining us is our CNN chief ship surgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And, Sanjay, what could have happened if she wasn't air lifted as quickly as she was?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the biggest concerns with appendicitis, which is inflammation of the appendix, is that your appendix in the surrounding intestines can actually rupture and that spreads bad bacteria into the abdominal cavity and eventually that could get into the bloodstream causing sort of body-wide infection known as sepsis. That could potentially be fatal, John, so it's a real concern.

A couple of things we know. Obviously, some of the video you saw there, but actually had to sort of lower a basket from the helicopter to get her up. It was sort of a real rescue, if you will. They also did something important. They started her on antibiotics actually while she was still on the ship before they started the operation to try and ward off any impending infection as well. Those two things obviously very critical towards her well-being today, John.

ROBERTS: Sanjay, we've all heard the stories of people getting stomach illnesses aboard these cruise ships, rotavirus, norovirus --

GUPTA: Right. ROBERTS: Norwalk virus, other viruses like that. How do you know when it's not just a virus and when it's something really serious like appendicitis?

GUPTA: Right. I mean, there are some overlaps. I mean, you can have nausea. You can have vomiting. No appetite is a cardinal symptom. Now, you're just not hungry at all with appendicitis. That obviously can be the case with stomach flu as well.

The biggest difference, John, is the very characteristic pain that often is associated with appendicitis. It's right lower quadrant pain so literally patients will point to it. They'll say it hurts right here as opposed to the stomach flu, where if you start to develop pain it's usually later in the whole course of things and it sort of more of the diffused abdominal pain. But it can be tough to tell, you know. If you're in a hospital you can get a CAT scan. You can get an ultrasound. You get your white blood cell count checked. Those are two things to help make the diagnosis.

But you're right. It's a very good point. Out on a cruise ship, it can be a little bit more difficult.

ROBERTS: Yes, one very lucky young lady. It's just amazing that this aircraft carrier in the neighborhood and swoops into the center.

GUPTA: 911 the Navy.

ROBERTS: Yes. Sanjay, thanks. We'll see you again soon. Lots of other topics to talk about this morning.

GUPTA: All right.


CHETRY: Well, some brand new poll numbers released this morning. The CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire, showing on the Democrat side Hillary Clinton regaining a substantial lead, now with 38 percent of the vote, 12 of the support, 12 percent ahead of Barack Obama.

Earlier the poll showed them in a virtual dead heat. That was just a little while back. Now, let's take a look at John Edwards. He's at 14 percent, dropping just slightly from the last time the polling took place at the beginning of the month.

And on the Republican side, Mitt Romney still leads with about a third of likely primary voters supporting him. And also John McCain in second, with 22 percent followed by Rudy Giuliani at 16 and Mike Huckabee holding on with about 10 percent.

Joining us from Manchester, New Hampshire is Bill Schneider. Good to see you this morning. Taking a look at some of the issues behind the polls. It's interesting because on the Democrat side when it comes to the issues voters say that they believe Hillary Clinton will do the best job on all of the big issues to them. Why are they rallying so strongly behind her message? BILL SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she is ahead on all the issues here in New Hampshire. She has a strong organization but her lead is greatest on those bread and butter issues, on health care, which has shot up as a major concern, just in the past couple of weeks here in New Hampshire.

Health care, the economy, Social Security, those are her best issues. She's ahead on Iraq and terrorism as well, but her lead is a bit smaller. It appears that the shift towards bread and butter issues is propelling Hillary Clinton into a bigger lead.

CHETRY: All right. It's interesting, though, if she is sort of on the same page as many people with those issues, why isn't her lead higher?

SCHNEIDER: Well, because there's beginning of a shift. It's only begun in the past couple of weeks and also there have been some questions about whether, about her personally. A lot of people say she's not as likable as Barack Obama and some of the other candidates. They're not sure they can trust her as much.

I think personal qualities have been a difficult problem for her, and she's beginning to get over it. She's recruited family members. She's been running ads so that voters will get to know her better. Even though she's been on the national scene for 12 years, she feels they don't really know the real Hillary Clinton.

CHETRY: It's interesting because it's very split on the Republican side actually. You have for Giuliani, it looks like the GOP voters think that he'd be the best at terrorism, yet McCain would do best in handling Iraq and then Mitt Romney would do best when it comes to immigration and the economy. So it seems in this place, there really is no frontrunner when it comes to the issues on the GOP side.

SCHNEIDER: Well, it depends, of course, on the issue. Giuliani's signature issue has always been 9/11 and his ability to handle the terrorist threat. John McCain has talked a great deal about the war in Iraq and has supported the president's policy, which is still popular with Republicans.

But on those same bread and butter issues which have become more important to Republicans, that's Mitt Romney's strong suit. He's a former corporate executive and a good manager who managed the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. So the same thing is happening on the Republican side. The concentration on domestic bread and butter issues seems to be helping Mitt Romney's stay in front.

CHETRY: You're right because even in those situations he has a higher percentage. I mean, nearly 50 percent of those GOP polled said that they think he would do best on the economy. So he's running away with at least that issue.

Bill Schneider taking a look at the polls for us, senior political analyst, thank you.


ROBERTS: Another late night funnyman is heading back to his desk. Your "Quick Hits" now. ABC'S Jimmy Kimmel will return to the air waves on January 2nd. That's the same day as NBC's Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. Kimmel said that returning is difficult while his writers remain on strike but it does save the jobs of all the members of his non-writing staff.

And as we told you yesterday, the Magna Carta went up for auction. And this morning, it has a new owner for the price of $21.3 million. The buyer, David Rubenstein. He's a former member of the Carter administration and also cofounder of a private equity firm. This particular copy of the Magna Carta was written 710 years ago.

The latest numbers on home foreclosures. We'll tell you how things are looking in your state. That's coming up.

And did the White House break the law? A court now wants to decide. That's just one new twist involving those erased CIA interrogation tapes. Another one involves former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. We're talking to an expert about it all ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Twenty-three minutes past the hour. Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business" looking at some new foreclosures numbers out, down from last month. Does it mean we're stemming the bleeding a little bit?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But up from last year the same time. This is a mixed number, brand new numbers from realty Track about foreclosures in the United States.

Take a look at this. Down 10 percent from October. Now, that is significant because it is the first time we've had a double-digit percentage decrease since April of 2006, so that introduces some good news. But still up 68 percent from November of 2006 and there's definitely a feeling that as we get into 2008, there will be many more mortgage resets so not out of the woods just yet.

Tale a look where -- this is the worst situation. Once again, Nevada tops the list, one in 152 homes being foreclosed there. Then Florida, Ohio, Colorado, California. California has six of the top 10 foreclosure cities, in fact, so this story remains the same.

Just for your information, take a look at where the lowest foreclosure rates are. Vermont. I mean, look at the difference in these numbers. We're going from one in 152 to a place like Vermont, one in 51,000. Vermont, West Virginia, South Dakota, North Dakota and Mississippi are the bottom five states, as we would describe them in terms of foreclosure rates. So it is not great news yet, but it is at least hopeful that the foreclosure numbers are down. This is not a trend, and we can't use one month.

ROBERTS: What function of the level of development in those states? VELSHI: Well, yes. The states exactly match where you see jobs, where you see growth. I mean, the states where we've got job problems are the states where we're seeing foreclosures -- Detroit, Cleveland and then you look at Florida, Arizona and California, where there was a lot of speculative buying. You're seeing those house prices come down.

ROBERTS: But we're finding that there's some people this year don't have many financial problems. You get a bonus this year?



Did you get a bonus?

CHETRY: I don't think so.

ROBERTS: Some employees -- someone employees of Goldman Sachs are certainly getting a bonus. $12.1 billion dollars worth. It's a record for the Wall Street firm. When you include salary and benefits for the year, the number swells to more than $20 billion. And if it were spread out equally, each worker for the firm would get $661,000. A little something extra in their packet at the end of the week. Of course, not everyone is paid equally.

Some reports say CEO Lloyd Blankfein made $70 million this year. However, get this, spokeswoman says that his bonus won't be set until a board meeting later on this week.

CHETRY: Ali, you're over there smirking. Spread it out evenly, it'll be $600,000.

VELSHI: Yes. By the way, the total package at Goldman is about double what you'll see at some of the other investment banks and of that money, let's say you called up that $660,000, about 60 percent of that is the bonus. So their salary makes up about 40 percent of that. So that's what we're looking at. It's a very strong bonus.

ROBERTS: I love the fact that Blankfein made $70 million, and they haven't yet figured out how much his bonus is.


ROBERTS: Well, that brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Are the bonuses at Goldman Sachs justified? They make a lot of money, but is it outrageous? Over the top?

Cast your vote at Right now, 22 percent of you say yes, it is. That's all of the Goldman Sachs employees. Seventy-eight percent say no. We'll continue to update the votes throughout the morning.

CHETRY: $400,000. Actually, it's mind-boggling for most people.

VELSHI: Yes. I can't figure out how many Christmas cards you're sending out. I can't send that out.

CHETRY: Oh, speaking of which, I ran out. 125, gone. I'm sending my husband to the store as soon as he wakes up to get some more.

ROBERTS: He doesn't know about it yet.

VELSHI: He may have just found out.

CHETRY: Probably not, he's probably still sleeping. All right. Ali, thanks.

Well, how about this one. Britney Spears' baby sister now having a baby. Sixteen-year-old Britney Lynn Spears telling "OK!" magazine that she's 12 weeks pregnant. The father, 19-year-old, Casey Aldridge, her boyfriend. Spears is saying that she was scared especially to break the news to her mother who was very upset at first, but she says she plans to raise the baby in Louisiana so that her family can have a formal life. She's the star of the popular Nickelodeon show "Zoey 101." When asked what type of message her news sends to teens about premarital sex, Jamie Lynn said, "I definitely don't think it's something you should do. It's better to wait."

And still ahead, you're watching the most news in the morning. There's a man who has to face the camera every day, but his face is changing right before his eyes. Dr. Gupta on TV, one TV reporter's battle with vitiligo, a skin disease that affects millions.

And an unannounced announcement that we expected this morning. It will be unveiling the government's plan to try to fix problems caused by airport delays. How will it work? We're going to have a preview. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING."


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Pretty picture this morning of WAAY in Huntsville, Alabama. Right now it's 47 degrees, a high of 56 degrees, and they're looking at some showers today, which would of course be a good thing. They're dealing with some, the lowest rainfall they've had since the 1800s. So dealing with some problems with drought conditions there. Maybe the showers will make it better.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN, ANCHOR: To the best of my recollection that is the first time we've shown Huntsville, Alabama.

CHETRY: The home of the?

ROBERTS: NASA space camp. Of course.

CHETRY: Well, welcome. It is Wednesday December 19th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROBERTS: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts.

A major victory for President Bush today. The Senate overwhelmingly voted for a $555 billion spending bill late last night. The massive federal budget includes $70 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and it does not include any time lines for bringing the troops home. Today, the House is expected to approve the additional war spending. The bill funds every government agency except the Pentagon which gets its own appropriation bill, until next October.

CHETRY: Well, in just a few hours the U.S. transportation secretary will unveil some steps designed to improve air travel over the holiday season. The announcement is said to include plans to ease congestion in the New York area by summer. The plan to shift some flights to off-peak times but for now the federal government reportedly will not impose a reduction in the number of takeoffs and landings.

New details revealed in the murder of a pregnant woman in Ohio. Prosecutors say former Khanton police officer Bobby Cutts, Jr. confessed to a friend that he killed his girlfriend, Jessie Davis and her unborn daughter. Court papers say that he led police to a remote location where the body was found in a bed comforter. Police say Davis's 2 1/2-year-old son provided them with the first clues. They say he told his grandmother, "Mommy was crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy's in the rug," the day that police were called to her home.

ROBERTS: It's 32 minutes after the hour. A growing controversy in Washington over destroyed Al Qaeda interrogation tapes. The "New York Times" is now reporting that at least four White House attorneys, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, were in on talks with the CIA over whether to destroy the tapes. A judge has called a hearing on Friday to see if the White House broke the law by destroying those tapes. Here now live from Washington is George Washington University law professor John Turley.

Jonathan, good to see you. What do you make of the story in the "New York Times" today that at least four high-ranking people in the administration were in on these discussions?

JONATHAN TURLEY, G.W. UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: You know, John, just when you think the scandal can't get worse, it does. I mean, this is a very significant development, because it shows that this was not just some rogue operator at the CIA that destroyed evidence being sought by Congress and the courts. It shows that this was a planned destruction, that there were meetings and those meetings extended all the way to the White House, and included Alberto Gonzalez, who would soon become attorney general and Harriet Miers, who would become White House counsel. That's a hair's breath away from the president himself.

ROBERTS: Let me just get you to focus in on that point. It's a hair's breath away from the president, the offices are just down the hall, actually upstairs from the Oval Office. Does it, through inference, extend or perhaps even conversation extend to the president? TURLEY: I think it's more than an inference at this point, which is one of the reasons there's a call for special prosecutor. There are at least six identifiable crimes from obstruction of justice to obstruction of congress, perjury, conspiracy and false statements. What is often forgotten, the crime of torturing suspects. Now, if that crime was committed, it was a crime that would conceivably be ordered by the president himself, only the president can order those types of special treatments or interrogation techniques.

ROBERTS: So this hearing coming up on Friday, dissect it for us. What will happen? What does it mean?

TURLEY: Judge Kennedy is obviously not taking the advice of the Justice Department, that told him not to interfere. He went ahead and then called a hearing and I think that's a signal to them that he doesn't view this as interference. Remember in June 2005, he ordered that all evidence of interrogations, abuse, or torture of detainees be preserved. The Justice Department has adopted a very technical excuse for destroying the tapes. They say that his order referred to Cuba and these interrogations didn't occur in Cuba. But you're not supposed to lawyer-down these types of preservation orders. Courts don't understand when the government destroys evidence. Particularly evidence that was sought by congress and other courts. So it's not going to be a good day for the Justice Department.

ROBERTS: Boy, as often happens in Washington you pull on a piece of string, in this case a piece of videotape and it keeps unraveling. Jonathan Turley for us this morning. Jonathan, thanks. It's always good to see you.

TURLEY: Thanks, John.


CHETRY: Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, we spoke with a family in Oklahoma who has not had power for ten days and counting after an ice storm. The Barnes family told us that they've bee huddling in blankets to keep warm. They say that their power actually came back on for a short time but it was just a tease. Then the electricity went out again. Brandon Barnes tells us his wife has been on the phone with the power company for days.


BRANDON BARNES, WITHOUT POWER FOR 10 DAYS: From my wife calling on my last four nights, they've been saying 10:00. The first couple times we, you know, we anticipated it but then we haven't seen no changes yet.


CHETRY: The only reason they had light in that shot you saw it was because of our CNN crew that was lighting it for the cameras. The power company says it's working hard and just overwhelmed but trying to get the lights back on for everyone. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAN WHITEFORD, SPOKESMAN, PUBLIC SERVICE CO. OF OKLAHOMA: During the completion of what has been a long and very challenging recovery process, we had over 250,000 PSO customers without power here, when the storm hit on the 9th and 10th. And we have restored power to well over 240,000. Actually, we're just down to the remaining 6,000 or so customers who are still without power.


CHETRY: Crews have also been aggressively trimming trees to try to keep busted power lines to a minimum.

36 minutes past the hour now. Rob Marciano keeping track of the weather for us. Boy, that was a devastating situation, and they were just so overwhelmed, they say that that's why they simply could not get the power back on for nearly two weeks for some of these people.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: You know, when you see it on the ground there, a similar situation in Illinois, last year. I mean, there's just so much timber and power lines down, It's just a task that you can't imagine. So it just takes time, unfortunately, for those folks. It is below freezing this morning in Oklahoma City and Tulsa but temperatures like yesterday will get well above freezing into the 40s and 50s in some cases. So you know, it will warm up this afternoon.

Some showers across parts of the Carolinas and Georgia. A mixed bag heading across the Allegheny and parts of the Appalachians but I think with this next little pulse of energy, we shouldn't see much more than four to eight inches of snow across parts of New Hampshire. Out to the pacific northwest we go, big plume of moisture headed to an area that doesn't need the rain anymore and they're getting big time snows, two to three feet expected across the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington. Winter storm warnings posted there. We take you down the road to Sierra, Nevada, Plaster County, California, just east of Sacramento and San Francisco. Likely this is i-80 heading over Donner Pass, always a slow go, chaining up and getting the traction tires on them. Word out of Alpine Meadows this morning in Tahoe, they got 15 inches of fresh, will probably get some more tonight. Homewood same deal, and that the lower elevations rainfall is the case. We've seen some rainfall across parts of southern California. There was a threat, I suppose there still is, for the next few hours of seeing some landslides in the burned out areas of SoCal. Still a few showers lingering there but they should tapering off throughout the rest of today. John back up to you.

ROBERTS: You know, Rob, I think the snowfalls out in the Rockies warrant further investigation.

MARCIANO: Ooh, I like the way you're thinkin'! On-the-field reporting. We'll get right on that.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to seeing you out there soon. Rob, thanks. More trouble for singer Amy Winehouse today. She was arrested in London yesterday. We'll tell you why, coming up. And it affect 60 million people worldwide but few have to face the camera like this fellow does everyday. A reporter's battle with a skin changing disease.


CHETRY: Well, a TV reporter is now refusing to give in to a disease that's literally turning him a different color on camera. Lee Thomas suffers from something like vitiligo. It's a disorder that destroys pigment making cells in your skin. He uses creams and make- up to cover up patches of skin and have gotten lighter over the years. This is a condition that affects some 65 million people worldwide, 2 million in the U.S.. In fact, here's a look at Michael Jackson before and after. The pop star icon claims it's vitiligo that has caused his well-documented lighter skin. We're paging Dr. Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent in Atlanta. The reason we brought up Michael Jackson is because that's the first that people started to hear about what vitiligo was, even though it's up for debate whether or not you get uniformly lighter.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We don't know for sure. Obviously, I don't know for sure what exactly is affecting Michael Jackson's skin but people do use makeup for example or even various treatments to try and depigment the skin or repigment the skin, if you will, as a treatment. So it may not have been uniform but the treatment may have made it uniform. What's interesting here, Kiran, is think of this as an auto-immune problem. You have these cells in your skin called melanocytes which give you the pigment that give you some color to your skin. For some reason, the body recognizes those cells as foreign and says these cells don't belong here and they start attacking them, and that's why you get this depigmentation, oftentimes starting off patchy. You just saw with Lee Thomas there in some of those pictures and eventually can start to spread over time. So it's called vitiligo. He's had it since he was 25. He's had it for 15 years now.

CHETRY: And are there effective treatments? Are there anything that people who suffer from this can do?

GUPTA: Well you know, we did a lot of research on this and it varies. I mean, people will say they've had treatments that have worked very well for them. Other people say not so much. What it really focuses on is making a decision either you're going to repigment these areas or again depigment, take away the pigment. If you repigment, oftentimes they give a medication. One of the medication is called Sorelin. You basically take that and you expose your skin to some UV light and it causes that medication to activate in such a way that you get some of that pigment back. Doesn't always work. Depigmentation is exactly what you might think. When you're given a medication to take away some of the pigment to get more of that a uniformed appearance. But a lot of people suffer from this because they can't get either these treatments to work very well for them. CHETRY: And you know, as you said before, it's sometimes misunderstood, people think it's contagious. People think they can catch it and there are questions about how you get it in the first place.

GUPTA: Yes. People called it white leprosy. People think it's cancer or as we mentioned they think it's contagious. It's not any of those things. Obviously, it's an auto immune problem, like many auto immune problems, you know, you can't spread it that way but the treatment is very difficult.

CHETRY: Sanjay, thanks. By the way if you have a question for Sanjay, e-mail us, Sanjay answers your questions every Thursday morning here on AMERICA MORNING.

ROBERTS: Well, more trouble today for singer Amy Winehouse. She was arrested in London yesterday. She was attempting to interfere with a court case involving her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. Fielder-Civil was held in custody last month in connection with an assault on a bartender back in June. British media are reporting that the bartender was offered a huge bribe to drop his complaint and leave the country. Police questioned Winehouse and released her without filing charges. The 24-year-old singer has been dogged by reports of drug use in a flurry of canceled concert dates.

How do you make the opera cool to school kids? Broadcasting it in high definition is just a start. We'll have more of the plan to bring the Met to the masses, that's coming up.

And a dramatic rescue at sea. Strong winds and choppy water leave a Russian freighter stranded and it's up to rescuers from another country to swoop in and save the sailors. We'll tell you how it all unfolded coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Dramatic rescue at sea. These are the pictures that we're showing you right now of 12 Russian sailors who were pulled to safety after the freighter they were in started sinking in Arctic waters. The freighter lost power, struck rocks in a strong windstorm. The weather was so bad that other Russian ships in the area couldn't even risk approaching the vessel. The Russian government then had to ask Norway for help and as you can see, that rescue taking place in some choppy treacherous waters. Everyone made it out OK. John.

ROBERTS: 49 minutes now after the hour, Kiran. Transforming the Metropolitan Opera into a more popular entertainment was always a tough task. But the Met's general manager came up with a couple of ideas to attract a broader audience including Mets at the movies, live high definition broadcasts of opera in select movie theaters throughout the world. And now five public schools in New York City have been selected to air the broadcasts for free. Our Polly Labarre visited one of the schools for the premier broadcast of "Romeo and Juliet."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, we're welcoming the Metropolitan Opera to Grand Street Campus High School.

PETER GELB, GENERAL MANAGER, METROPOLITAN OPERA: In an effort to kind of dispel or break down this image that the Met is some sort of an elitist organization, we have launched a whole bunch of initiatives to connect the Met to a broader public.

POLLY LABARRE, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: You're actually transmitting the free broadcasts to a few selected schools in New York City.

GELB: It's somewhat of a self-interest but we're interested in creating new operas of the future.

LABARRE: When people come in they'll go to whatever letter their ticket is under.

This is more than just watching an opera in an auditorium. This is a whole program. You've got kids involved in every aspect of it.

KENNETH MCLAUGHLIN, TEACHER, THE H.S. OF ENTERPRISE BUSINESS AND TECH.: We have students maintaining and operating the coat room. We have a box office in a classroom and so students are learning the roles of real professional people in the industry.

SUYAPA MARTINEZ, STUDENT: I'm actually a little bit nervous.

LABARRE: Why are you nervous?

MARTINEZ: Because I want everything to go really well. I don't want anything to go wrong. And I hope people enjoy it as much as I will so they can keep coming back.

LABARRE: So what is the feeling been like in the schools? There's been a really big deal, lots of energy?

ELLIOT CAJIJIS, STUDENT: It kind of is a big deal. A lot of students didn't know if they wanted to come to the opera but the minute they saw "Romeo and Juliet," a lot of male students saw the woman on the poster and there was like they wanted to see it so they came.

LABARRE: Tell me the truth, is opera in heavy rotation on your mp3 player?

DENNIS DE JESUS, STUDENT: This is the first time I listened to opera so if I like it would be a good thing for me.

LABARRE: What kind of feeling do you want these young kids in the audiences to feel upon discovering the Met?

GELB: Well, what I'd love for audiences to experience is the excitement that opera can generate and you know, we're very careful about selecting performances and performers who really can thrill an audience, not only experienced opera lovers but people who are inexperienced. LABARRE: What did you think?

ASHLEY BOYCE, STUDENT: I liked it a lot. I never thought the opera would be like that.

CAJIJIS: I think it's pretty good, but I think there should have been some more kissing between Romeo and Juliet.


ROBERTS: And it's interesting to see this new revolution in trying to bring it to the masses. I remember back in the dark ages when they first came out with the subtitles and how big that was. This seems to gain the attention of students when they pipe them to schools, but how is it play with the broader audience?

LABARRE: Sure, Peter tells us that this unleashes a series of innovations to open it up to a wider audience. He uses sort of a sporting metaphor - You just don't just watch the ball game in the ballpark, you watch it on TV. You hear it on radio. You see them in the web. And the Met is now being distributed in all these format. So Met at the Movies is one innovation. They've also opened it up to what they call plaza cast when you have an opening night a bunch of people watch it outside in Times Square and Lincoln Center on the Jumbotron. So, they are doing everything the can to open up, create new ways in to the Met for wider audience.

ROBERTS: That's wonderful, wonderful classic entertainment.

LABARRE: It absolutely is.

ROBERTS: Polly, good to see you. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.

LABARRE: Thank you so much.


CHETRY: A warning about indoor tanning beds. There are new studies showing that sunbeds and sun lamps increase your risk for skin cancer. We're paging Dr. Gupta with details in just a bit.

Also, a big business news item just in to us. Morgan Stanley taking a big hit from the mortgage meltdown. It's already causing the CEO huge money. Our Ali Velshi has the story and how it could impact you ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Four minutes now to the top of the hour. Some big news coming out of Morgan Stanley at this hour. Ali Velshi "Minding your Business." Good morning, Ali. what is this all about?

ALI VELSHI, CNN, BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We have a loss at Morgan Stanley and the announcement that the company is writing down another $5.7 billion in mortgage-related assets. A writedown means that they got assets that are not worth as much. We've seen many of these. Morgan Stanley had already written down $3.7 billion. This brings the new total to $9.4 billion in mortgage-related assets that are being written down at Morgan Stanley. The CEO, John Mack has said that ultimately, I believe in pay for performance, accountability for our results rests with me. So, I told our compensation committee that I will not accept a bonus for 2007. That follows an announcement from Bear Stearns that a number of its senior executives including the CEO will also not be a bonus. So, more bad news from Wall Street. The Goldman report yesterday was a bit of a standout.

ROBERTS: All right, Ali Velshi for us this morning. Thanks very much. Certainly there are some people whoa re getting bonuses this is year.

CHETRY: Absolutely and as always Goldman Sachs, a new record set with that firm. The Wall Street firm paying out $12 billion worth of bonuses. When you include salary and benefits for the year, the number swells to more than $20 billion in payout, in paychecks, in pay. Compensation firm, if you were to spreading it out equally, which obviously you're not but if you would, the average worker there would get $661,000. Of course, not everyone's paid the same. Some reports have CEO Lloyd Blankfein making $70 million this year and a spokeswoman says that doesn't include his bonus. His bonus won't be set until a board meeting later this week.

So good times at some of the firms on Wall Street and not so good times for others. But we wanted to ask you, because a lot of us our jaws dropped when we read that this morning. It's our quick vote, are the bonuses at Goldman Sachs justified or are just outrageous? Cast your vote at Right now, 20 percent of you say yes they are justified and 80 percent say no, and I think there's an asterisk "unless I'm getting it." We're going to continue to update the votes throughout the morning.

ROBERTS: Yes, it would be hard to say it's not justified if you were getting it, wouldn't it?

We're tracking extreme weather in the Pacific northwest right now. It is bringing heavy rain, snow, freezing wind plus mudslides and flooding to parts of four states. A live report and the latest from our weather update desk just minutes away here.

And not sure what to get that special someone for Christmas? How about a medical gift card. Why this is becoming the hot new item of the holiday season. The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

Taking back New Hampshire, brand new poll numbers showing Hillary may have regained her hold on the granite state.

Getting the long cold dark runaround.

BARNES: No hot water and we're doing the best we can.

ROBERTS: One frustrated family talks about the struggle, 11 days and counting. When will the lights come back on in icy Oklahoma. Plus, it starts out as a cold but its far from common. It's just as catching but this can kill you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are at risk of losing patient.

ROBERTS: The virus is causing it and whether you're at risk on this AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Very frightening stuff and our Sanjay Gupta will be weighing in on that in just a few minutes.

Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It is Wednesday, the 19th of December. I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry. We have some brand new developments this morning. The case of a destroyed Al Qaeda interrogation tapes. Critics are asking why and the judge now, a judge who's going straight to the White House for answers. The "New York Times" reporting in this morning's edition that at least four White House lawyers including former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales as well as former White House counsel Harriet Miers were in on the talks with the CIA over whether or not to destroy those interrogation tapes.

A federal judge has now set a hearing for Friday.