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American Morning

Israel in "All-Out War"; Movie Theater Shooting; Madoff Scandal; Kennedy Meets the Press; Bailout Bucks for GM & Chrysler

Aired December 29, 2008 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And it's one minute after 8:00 here in New York. A look at the top stories this morning. Pressure now building along the Gaza strip. Israeli tanks are gathering troops and mobilizing.
Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying his nation is now in a, quote, "all-out war with Hamas." And right now the fighting continues from the air. Israeli warplanes pounding the Palestinian territories, wiping out a prison, tunnels and part of an Islamic university. Palestinian medical sources say the death toll has now topped 300.

This morning crews from several states are converging in Michigan to help restore power to more than 400,000 people. Wind gusts topping 60 miles per hour downed power lines and trees across the state. Officials say it may take several days before service is restored.

Also this morning, we're learning more about Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's defense strategy against impeachment. His lead attorney says he plans to submit the president-elect's internal report, which revealed there was no wrongdoing between Obama's transition team and the governor. In the meantime, a lieutenant governor of Illinois says that he's certain Blagojevich will be out of office in less than two months.

Returning to our breaking news in the Middle East. Israel says it's now in an all-out war with Hamas. Israeli troops and tanks growing in number along the Gaza strip as the fierce air assault escalates now to a third day.

Some 300 air strikes since Saturday aimed forcing Hamas back into a cease-fire. The attacks have flattened a major prison, smuggling tunnels and hit the campus of an Islamic university, and it's also been deadly. More than 300 reportedly killed. The airstrikes also provoking outrage across the Arab world. Hundreds appeared at a large demonstration in Syria.

Protests were also held in Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. And despite growing international appeals for calm, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak says it's now in an all-out war, design to send a clear message to Hamas.


EHUD BARAK, ISRAEL'S DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): We want peace. We have stretched our hands in peace many times to the Palestinian people. We have nothing against the people of Gaza, but this is an all-out war against Hamas and its branches. The restraint that we have demonstrated is the source of our strength when it is time to fight.


CHETRY: CNN is on the ground in the region. Paula Hancock live for us along the Israel-Gaza border, and joins us now.

Paula, what are you seeing right now?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Well, Kiran, it's very clear that this operation is ongoing. We're still hearing Israeli airstrikes hitting different targets in Gaza. Now this is as close as we can get to Gaza. The Israeli government isn't allowing us inside. They are not opening the crossings to allow us inside, but certainly we have our sources inside who say that they haven't seen this kind of devastation for years.

This is a very substantial operation that Israel is carrying out, trying to stop the rocket attacks from Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups into Israel. Now what we've been seeing, that's Gaza City you're looking at there. We've been seeing many Israeli airstrikes across that area. I can hear a drone overhead at this point. They are taking coordinates, taking all the details that they need from the air for the airstrikes to come in.

Now, we're not seeing a ground operation, but that's yet. We have seen a lot of tank movements. We've seen tanks moving towards the border, and then heading north towards where some of these rockets are being fired still by militants. And we've also seen some bulldozers moving into place. Obviously, they would be the first in in any ground operation. As you heard, Barak has made it very clear that he thinks there needs to be troops on the ground inside Gaza. He'll put them inside Gaza.

And also the area where we were, a little earlier on, we got moved from, and that's now a closed military zone. So it's possible there is a ground operation on the way but I'm not sure if you can hear it in the distance. There's still airstrikes going on -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And what is the -- I guess, the best case scenario, the end game for Israel if it's able to militarily take out Hamas, and certainly still has the political ramifications to deal with and also growing Arab outage over what has been seen, the video of the carnage being run non-stop on Arab television?

HANCOCKS: Well, that's the thing, Kiran. It's very easy to start a war, but it's much more difficult to end it. Now for Israel, the ideal scenario would be to take out Hamas completely, to have a Gaza that was Hamas-free. Maybe the Palestinian authority and Fatah could take over it again. But in reality, that is practically impossible. Hamas is Gaza. There are Hamas installations everywhere you look in Gaza.

And certainly, from the Palestinian point of view, there are still 1.5 million residents living in this tiny piece of land. And some civilians are getting caught up in this violence. Israel's only targeting Hamas installations, but it's so residential and so densely populated inside there, that inevitably civilians are being hurt.

So Israel really needs to be very mindful of that, and many countries across the world have said they need to be mindful of that and try and limit the number of civilian casualties. But as I say our sources on the ground say they haven't seen anything like this in years. There are complete buildings being wiped out. Half a university being wiped out as well -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Paula Hancocks for us along that border, thank you.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: The new violence in Gaza may well continue into the next administration, but for now, the president- elect is deferring to the White House. And President Bush is blaming Hamas for breaking the peace. CNN's Elaine Quijano was live in Crawford, Texas, for us this morning.

It appears that the administration, Elaine, is handling this very much as it did the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, and that's pretty much hands off.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hands off right now. President Bush certainly getting updates on the situation. As you know, he's of course at his ranch here in Crawford, Texas, getting those updates from his top advisers by phone and by secure video. Those advisers include his national security adviser Stephen Hadley, as well as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But we have not seen President Bush all weekend.

In fact, the last time we saw him was back on Friday, when the president arrived here in Texas aboard Air Force One. Since then, the White House has been making its statements through its spokesman Gordon Johndroe who over the weekend said Hamas was nothing but a group of thugs, and said that Israel will do what it must in order to defend itself. So the White House, again, clearly pinning the blame on Hamas for this latest round of violence. But we have yet to hear from the president himself on camera about the developments.

Aides say they are continuing to monitor the situation on the ground very closely, and certainly, things could change. The president doesn't have any events on his public schedule right now, but if things do escalate, it's very possible that we might see the president feel compelled to come out and make an on-camera statement. So, again, just sort of wait and see mode right now.


ROBERTS: Elaine, to the best of our knowledge, the Israeli military action thus far has been confined to airstrikes but they are amassing troops and tanks along the border. What's the Bush administration saying or at least officials saying about Israel calling up its reservists and at least keeping open the option of a ground assault? QUIJANO: You know, it's really been radio silence on that point interestingly, John. I posed that very question to an aide over the weekend, and obviously, they are well-aware of all the speculation that that move is prompting about the possibility of a ground invasion. And yet they are making a point not to comment on that particular development. So we'll wait to see what happens.

That in and of itself, of course, raising questions. Is the administration aware of some plans that might be set in motion soon? We just don't know. They aren't responding to that question or not commenting on that development about the Israeli cabinet agreeing to call up those reservists. So we hope to learn a little bit more right now. Spokesman Gordon Johndroe is scheduled to have a briefing in just a few hours, and certainly that will be one of the questions like that will be posed to him.


ROBERTS: Looking forward to an answer on that point. Elaine Quijano for us in Crawford, Texas, this morning. Elaine, thanks so much.

CHETRY: It's hard to believe, but the man accused of running Wall Street's biggest investment scam is officially a victim of theft himself, although, on a much, much smaller scale than many of his build investors. We're going to find out what was stolen from his South Florida mansion.

And you might expect to get hit with popcorn but certainly not a bullet. Gunfire at the movies. The latest on the moviegoer who police say shot another man after a fight over talking. Ten minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: 12 minutes after the hour. Christine Romans here "Minding Your Business" this morning, talking about Bernie Madoff, who made off with an awful lot of money according to some people.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's absolute -- those are the allegations. That's absolutely right. And that's why there's big securities fraud case against him. And we will have -- he has until Wednesday to tell a judge exactly what he has, where it is and all of his property, his lines of credit, his investments, his real estate -- all of this stuff, he has until Wednesday to come up with it, and some of the sort of like forensic accountants are saying I don't know if he can do it by Wednesday, you know.

CHETRY: But does this going to help people possibly recoup some of their money or at least find out where they may go?

ROMANS: This is the very first step trying to figure out just what -- what is out there and what exists. And then add this mystery is so crazy even this weekend, a report that the Palm Beach police are telling us that indeed he was a victim himself of a theft. A 4-foot tall lifeguard statue sitting next to his pool disappeared worth some $10,000. It just walked away one afternoon. The property manager said it was there, and then suddenly it wasn't.

It's two lifeguards sitting next to each other. I don't know who the artist is, but the Palm Beach police say they have no leads, no suspects and no tips. But certainly, there's a little bit of irony this morning that so many people are trying to figure out what happened to the $50 billion they thought that was being -- he was managing, and --


CHETRY: And you know, it's also interesting, the plot thickens about this situation because there are people who are now suing their money managers, who say that I was paying you to manage my money and instead you just handed it all off to Bernie Madoff. No one complained when they were getting big returns, but now they are seeing that this is a lot -- the tentacles spread wide.

ROMANS: I would be furious if I found out that the guy that I was -- or the woman who I was giving my money to, and I was getting decent returns wasn't actually managing my money but had handed it off to somebody else. There are people who didn't even know that they have invested in Bernie Madoff, who are saying now that they've been victimized.

ROBERTS: Remember we had Mort Zuckerman from U.S. News & World Report on. His charitable trust was invested with Madoff. And apparently, the money manager who invested with Madoff took all of the money. I think it was $30 million in this case. It's part of a $1.8 billion pot. And just said, here you go, Bernie, take it all.

ROMANS: And then think about the people --

ROBERTS: No diversification.

ROMANS: And think about the people who give the fees. So they are accepting, what, two percent of the assets for their fee to manage it, and they're having somebody else manage it and getting fees all the way down the line. So, there are a lot of wealthy people and individuals and charities and foundations who are really ticked off here and still trying to just kind of figure out what happened.

ROBERTS: It's going to take a long time to unravel.

ROMANS: And Wednesday, if we even get an accounting of where -- of what he has. If there is an even complete accounting by Wednesday. The mystery will certainly deepened.

CHETRY: And perhaps when the dust settles, just like we talk about with the mortgage situation and the mortgage-backed securities and all the things that were happening with the investment banks, maybe this will change the way that people are doing business, and maybe cause people to be a little bit more careful.

ROMANS: One thing that people are very furious about is that he's sitting in his multi-million dollar mansion on house arrest right now, while a lot of people are completely out of money, you know. ROBERTS: One thing that never changes over the millennia, greed.

ROMANS: That's true.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Christine.

This morning tanks are rolling, bombs are falling, and Israel's air force moving deeper into Gaza. We're live on the front lines covering the fighting, and the possibility of what could become a wider war.

And pipe down or pay. Police say one moviegoer shot another one over talking too much at the movies. Now one has a mug shot and the other one has got a bullet in his arm. We'll bring you the very latest on this bizarre case. 15 and a half minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Well, it's 17 minutes past the hour. We're going to fast forward now to some stories that will be making news a bit later today. Right now, Israeli tanks are gathering on the border of Israel and Gaza. They could go in for a ground offensive today.

Over the weekend, Israeli airstrikes killed over 300 people according to the Palestinian medical sources injuring hundreds of others. While earlier today, Palestinian rockets killed the second Israeli since this offensive began.

At noon today, a special committee investigating the possible impeachment of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will reconvene. This panel announced yesterday that it will not subpoena advisers to President-elect Barack Obama and that would include Obama's incoming chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel.

And we're hoping to hear more from police and prosecutors in Philadelphia today about a very bizarre story. A man accused of firing a gun in a crowded movie theater. He's suspected of shooting a man because the people he was with wouldn't quiet down. CNN's Susan Candiotti is working the story for us this morning.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, good morning. You're in a movie theater, people start making noise, it's really annoying. What do you do? A Christmas night shooting at a movie theater in Philadelphia has a lot of people wondering how to react.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Christmas night at the movies in south Philly seemed like fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How old are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven, but I look a lot older. CANDIOTTI: A mom, boyfriend and her three teenage kids went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," but the on-screen drama nearly turned deadly for one moviegoer. Keyia Banner tells CNN the theater was packed and her family was laughing at the show, when this man told them to pipe down. She told him to back off and her son verbally defended her.

KEYIA BANNER, VICTIM'S GIRLFRIEND: He threw the popcorn on my kids. The whole bucket of the popcorn he threw it on my kids. And next thing you know, he's swinging.

CANDIOTTI: Banner said her boyfriend stepped in front of her children. And a shot rang out hitting her boyfriend in the arm. He's no longer in the hospital.

CNN affiliate WPVI called the sources saying suspect James Cialella told police he shot in self-defense. Police cannot confirm it, and are unable to say Cialella has entered a plea or remains jailed.

BANNER: Who brings a gun to a movie theater? I don't understand that.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): Would you say that this man simply snapped?

DR. J. BUZZ VON ORNSTEINER, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, see, I don't look at psychological situations like this with a person just snapped. I kind of don't believe that.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Psychologist Dr. Buzz Von Ornsteiner said when something like this happens the anger has been building up like a boiling kettle.

ORNSTEINER: It starts to steam, and then without any intervention, without any good coping skills, without any logical or reasonable solutions, it just kind of explodes.

CANDIOTTI: We asked moviegoers how they handle noisy people around them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I usually turn around and tell them to be quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I try to ignore it, usually, unless it gets really bad, then I might change seats.

CANDIOTTI: Dr. Buzz says if that doesn't work, tell management.

ORNSTEINER: Let them handle it, they're the professionals.

CANDIOTTI: Good advice for movie fans worried about another flare-up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The movie shouldn't be that important. I think that maybe it does make me a little bit more scared maybe to say something to someone.


CANDIOTTI: The accused shooter in Philadelphia faces several charges including attempted murder.




ROBERTS: Kennedy talks.


CAROLINE KENNEDY, JOHN F. KENNEDY'S DAUGHTER: I was dismayed by my -- by my voting record.


ROBERTS: The woman who wants Hillary Clinton's Senate seat on the hot seat. What Caroline Kennedy revealed in her first big sit- down interviews. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: 23 minutes after the hour now. Caroline Kennedy intensifying her campaign for Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be vacant Senate seat. She is speaking to reporters now, laying out her agenda, and taking on the critics who are questioning her qualifications. CNN's Deborah Feyerick is following all of this for us, and she joins us this morning.

Hey, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, John. Well, you know, Caroline Kennedy says she knows she's an unconventional choice to take over Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. Still, she believes she has a lifetime of experience and visibility which will make her an effective senator for New York.

Responding to criticism, she's brushed aside reporters since expressing interest in a political future nearly a month ago. Kennedy answered questions for select newspapers this weekend, even sitting down for an extended TV interview with a local New York City cable station. Kennedy says her mom believed strongly in doing the unexpected, and she tried answering nagging questions about her qualifications.


KENNEDY: There are many other qualified candidates so I'm not saying I'm the only choice. I'm just saying -- I'm just telling you what I bring, and I think that's a lifetime of experience and commitment to public service. It's a deep respect for the constitution and a knowledge of that. It's a work for education for families. I'm a lawyer. And you know, and I think that I have relationships in Washington that I would like to put to work to benefit the people of New York.


FEYERICK: Kennedy talked about her family's history of service, particularly in the Senate, where her uncle Ted Kennedy remains a powerful voice. She was also pressed on the embarrassing question of her voting record, which shows she sat out many local elections.


KENNEDY: I was dismayed by my voting record. There isn't a good excuse so I don't have one. And obviously, going forward I will make sure to correct that. So I appreciate the fact that everybody in the city now knows about my mistake.


FEYERICK: Kennedy stayed away from talking about her personal wealth and said she would be happy to discuss it privately with Governor David Paterson, who will be choosing the next senator. She said it was September 11th, and supporting Barack Obama that moved her to get back to her community and said the economy crisis, health care and education would be her top priorities now. Now there were some questions about her connections to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg's top aide has been working to help Kennedy, a fact that has some Democrats concern. But Kennedy said she was a Democrat through and through, and wouldn't be beholding to anyone.


ROBERTS: Pesky little thing that voting record, right?

FEYERICK: Tricky, very tricky.

ROBERTS: And one of the New York tabloids also today has a big spread on the $50 million estate that she inherited from her mother in Martha's vineyard.

CHETRY: That's what happens when you dip your toe in politics. All of these the things coming out.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. I mean, everybody knew about. That's one of the best real estate purchases anybody ever made, more than 300 acres.

FEYERICK: What's astonishing, and she knows that. She knows that she's luckier than many of these middle class people who are losing everything, but says those are the people she wants to fight for, so that's why she's throwing her hat in.

ROBERTS: All right. Good. Deborah, thanks so much for that. CHETRY: Well, what if you're trapped in a bad marriage in a bad economy -- money and divorce. What couples who can't afford to get out are being forced to do.

Plus, Israel's defense minister says his country is in an all-out war with Hamas. We're going to bring you the latest from the Gaza border live straight ahead. It's 26 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: 28 minutes after the hour now. We're following breaking news in Gaza this morning. Plenty of chest-thumping between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Rockets from Gaza, airstrikes from Israel. Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak says his country is in an all-out war with Hamas. The United Nations says there is panic in Gaza. And Palestinian sources say at least 300 people are dead, including five children with at least 650 wounded. Both sides are making their case in the conflict appearing here earlier on AMERICAN MORNING.


HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: We look at Gaza. We don't see Hamas or Fatah or any other faction. This is not political. We see only a human tragedy. We see people suffering. We see the occupation on the rampage without any checks, without any accountability. And we see the Israeli parties playing politics with our lives. This has been premeditated. It's a plan that was there for a long time, and now they've declared this openly.

GABRIELA SHALEV, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: To deal with Hamas with those terrorists, we have to make them understand that they must stop shooting rockets at Israel. For the last six months and even before that four years, rockets have been fired over Israel. A quarter of a million people in the south of Israel are sitting in shelters and suffering daily. And this has to stop. And this is the main goal of this operation.


ROBERTS: General Motors and Chrysler receiving the first part of a federal bailout today. The price tag on the bailout likely to reach $17.4 billion by the time all is said and done. Under the terms, each will get $4 billion today. General Motors also gets at least one more cash infusion and likely two over the next two months.

Authorities in Tennessee promising to clean up over a billion gallons of sludge and coal waste that spilled into a small town in eastern Tennessee. The by-product of coal power was being held in a retention pond in Kingston, but the wall breached a week ago sending the sludge sprawling across 300 acres and into 15 homes.

CHETRY: What a mess there. Well, is today's poor economy actually keeping unhappy couples together? A recent survey of divorce attorneys found that 37 percent of them have seen a decrease they say in the number of couples seeking a divorce. Some couples simply can't afford the legal fees or living on one income after the split. Jeff Gardere is a clinical psychologist in New York and has seen this in his own practice.

Good morning and thanks for being with us.


CHETRY: So it's almost like you know a lot of people say and you probably know this in your practice that one of the chief reasons people fight or there is marital discord is about money. What happens when you throw a recession into that?

GARDERE: Well, that's right. That's always been the number one issue in any marriage, are issues of finance, and now that we have this really tough economy we're seeing more and more people fighting about money. Those people even looking for amicable divorces now become very conflicted because they have this whole issue of the upside down mortgage. They can't divide the marital assets, so it becomes a very contentious situation. It's just really tough out there for people who are divorcing or the people who decide to stay together because they can't afford to divorce.

CHETRY: So I guess there's a couple of things going on right now. When you see an economic downturn, do marriages and even you know couples that are co-habitating, is it a more stressful time in general?

GARDERE: It is a more stressful time but what we're finding Kiran is normally in a recession or hard economic times we see divorce rates go up, but in this particular recession we've seen divorce rates start to go down.

In Cook County in Chicago, divorce filings have dropped by five percent. In Miami, Florida, they have dropped by 18 percent which is close to that 20 percent foreclosure rate, by the way, but the last time we actually saw divorce rates actually go up was during the depression, between 1930 and 1935.

So what we're really seeing here when there is a recession, when there are tough economic times and the severity, the severity is very extreme, that's what we tend to see divorce rates really, really start going down.

CHETRY: Yes, this is the interesting thing. So is there perhaps a silver lining in this in that people who may have been willing to throw the towel in are willing to give their relationship, their marriage a second chance? They are forced to do it initially because of the financial situation but it turns out that they are able to salvage that marriage?

GARDERE: I think for a long time people got very comfortable into this whole issue of, you know what, the marriage isn't working, let's move on. Let's go ahead and get a divorce or find someone else. And now people are rethinking that this is really an investment, that this is something that they really need to work on. It's not something that you just can get rid of, so there is that silver lining there. People are working harder to make their marriages work because they just can't afford to break up. CHETRY: This is interesting, so then for the people who both agree, you know what, this marriage is all but over and we have to live together right now until this financial picture changes. You have some tips for trying to do this situation where you're living together even though you both know it's probably over so that seems like a very difficult situation.

GARDERE: I have some very quick tips. I think one of the first things you need to do is look at this as some sort of a business investment. This way that you will use your partner or your soon-to- be ex-partner more as a friend and someone who will help you work through protecting the marital asset which may be the home that you can't sell right now or can stay together long enough to be able to collect rent and do this the right way when you decide to divorce.

Or if you decide to stay together, also look at it's about personal growth. You can work it out. You can get couple's counseling. There are things you can do to make the marriage stronger or even if you do decide to divorce to be able to work out a lot of those loose ends while you're still in that marital home and I think another very important thing is look at rules and boundaries, especially if you're not getting along, especially if you decided that you are going to break up and stay in that home. Protect each other, look at each other's personal space and act accordingly.

And, of course, if there's kids as part that have union, you want to make sure you don't confuse them by having new lovers, boyfriends and girlfriends coming through and so on. So it really is about respect. Whether you stay together or whether you decide to divorce, you can still have a healthy relationship together, something that we never thought that you could do before.

CHETRY: Right, and especially if you have kids you're in each other's lives either way. So, yes, respect goes a long way. Jeffrey Gardere, great to talk to you as always.

GARDERE: Always my pleasure. And I'm staying married by the way.

CHETRY: Good for you.

GARDERE: I can't afford a divorce.

CHETRY: Just kidding. He's happily married, four children, by the way.

GARDERE: Yes, he is. my wife is watching, you better believe it.

CHETRY: One point of contention is he wants more and she does not right now.

GARDERE: That's a whole other story isn't?

CHETRY: Yes, which we don't have time for. John.

ROBERTS: Let's hope that she feels the same way as Jeff does, right.

This morning the father is being called a hero after some quick thinking saved his family from an armed kidnapper. Hear how he was able to trick the gunman when he joins us live. It's a story that you do not want to miss.

And in our continuing series "Baby Quest," we're looking at the ever-tightening restrictions on international adoptions and how one woman says her own perfect little angel practically fell out of the sky. 35 minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: It's a story line that could easily be made into a blockbuster movie. Two gunmen take a bank manager and her family hostage. They had hoped to use the wife to help them rob a bank, but their plan quickly fell apart after the husband was able to outsmart the two armed men and one of them at least is in custody now.

James Spruill is that husband. He joins us this morning from his home in Clinton, Maryland.

James, good to see you this morning. Let me kind of just help you walk folks through what happened. It's 7:15 on Friday night. You're at home. Suddenly your wife calls you and says come here. What was going on?

JAMES SPRUILL, SAVED HIS FAMILY: Oh, I thought she was coming in from work and when she said come here, you know, just normal routine and everything until I saw the gunman had a gun at her head and one had a knife and I was like oh, man, you know, just shocked so I closed the door.

ROBERTS: So this was a home invasion robbery. These two guys had come in. The plan as we said was because she's a bank manager to get her to go to the bank and help rob the bank. What happened after you saw the two men, one with the gun and one with the knife?

SPRUILL: OK. I closed my children's door because I didn't want them to see it and then after that he ordered us into the living room where he tied me up and he tied my wife up and he had the kids to the side and then he put us all in separate rooms. We was tied up for about 12 hours. So the plan was for one of the robbers to go to the bank while the other one stayed here with us and if the plan didn't go right he was supposed to give him the word, you know, to exterminate us.

ROBERTS: Oh, my god, you must have been terrified.

SPRUILL: Yes, of course we were scared but I was just sitting there and I made up a plan, a hoax, that my aunt was coming over and he was like I'm going to take all of you. So when he took all of us, which is what I wanted, I was riding down the highway and I was speeding hopefully to be pulled over and then as I was driving, the trooper, Officer Cameron, the trooper that came through, he was just starting his shift so what I did was - ROBERTS: Let me set the scene here for folks. So you're driving down the beltway that loops around Washington, D.C., and it just so happens a Maryland state trooper pulls up behind your car so you start weaving back and forth to attract his attention. What happened then?


OK. What happened then was that the gunman had took his mask off so when he was taking his mask off that's when I started weaving, you know, weaving in and out, just weaving and swerving the car and then the state trooper pulled us over so what I did was, I handed him my bank card instead of my license which made him kind of sense that something wasn't right. So I said I can give you my driver's license if I can unbuckle myself from my seat belt.

ROBERTS: Right, right..

SPRUILL: So he let me unbuckle myself from my seat belt that gave me the opportunity, you know, I looked at my son, gave him a look and he moved to the side and that's when I jumped on his -

ROBERTS: You dove into the back seat of the car and jumped on a guy with a gun.

SPRUILL: Yes, I did.

ROBERTS: Unbelievable.

SPRUILL: And I - so I jumped on the back and held him down and said to the officer he has a gun, he has a gun -


SPRUILL: And that's when the trooper responded quickly. He drew his weapon and the backup came and he apprehended his suspect.

ROBERTS: And I understand that the S.W.A.T. team was sent to your house after that but the other guy had left by that time but I mean what an unbelievable act of heroism to leap from the front seat of your car into the back seat of your car and pin the guy down with the gun and try to get the policeman's attention to say help me out here. I mean, did you ever think - I mean what was the calculation you were making in your mind at that point?

SPRUILL: My thing was this. If I would have went to the bank for them to facilitate that robbery with my wife, we wasn't guaranteed to still be here talking - I wouldn't be guaranteed to be here talking to you today. I just thank god that it turned out the way it did turned out because it could have turned out another way which wouldn't have been too pleasant for nobody, my family, you know, everybody.

ROBERTS: Wow. What an incredible story. James Spruill, thanks for joining us to share it this morning, I mean, that's a Christmas that you'll never forget. We hope that the New Year goes a lot better than the day after Christmas did. Thanks for being with us.

SPRUILL: I hope so. Thank you, John, for everything.

ROBERTS: All right. God bless.

CHETRY: That is unbelievable.

Well, we're following breaking news in the Middle East. New explosions just heard as Israel stepped up its assault in Gaza. We're live at the scene. Also international adoptions, it's gotten harder and harder to arrange. We're going to meet one woman who was waiting for an overseas baby to adopt but then found her little angel practically in her own backyard.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. We're following breaking news out of Gaza today. Fresh attacks and more tanks on the move at Israel's border with the Palestinian territories. Our Paula Hancocks joins us live from along that border. And Paula, there seems to be an increase in activity in the last few minuets there.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, certainly in the last few minutes we've seen more Israeli air strikes into the Gaza strip. Behind me you can see Gaza City. This is as close as we can get. Israel won't allow journalists in at this point and it won't open the crossings and certainly what the area that we were before as well, we got moved along from and that became a closed military zone so, of course the question now is there going to be a ground operation? They have moved much of the media back. They have made it a closed military zone. We have been seeing tank movement alongside the border.

At this point it's just patrolling the border, it's not getting any closer, and we've also been seeing a couple of bulldozers getting themselves ready, obviously if there was a ground operation, those bulldozers would be the ones to go in first but we are continuing to see the air strikes, the ground operation aside, and we're continuing, unfortunately, to see that death toll rise. More than 300, according to Palestinian medical sources. Now Hamas is saying that many of these deaths in there are Hamas operatives, but there are many civilians being caught up in this as well. It's incredibly densely populated area.

If we just zoom into Gaza City and just to give you an idea from this distance, it is so densely populated and even if you have the smartest bomb in the world and you have a pinpoint air strike attack, it is impossible not to get anyone else involved as well, passersby, civilians that just happen to be living next door. So that's incredibly difficult, but the fire is also coming this way. We know that there's been at least 30 rockets coming these militant groups into Israel and ten mortars and we understand from Israeli security sources are being fired into Israel as well today. One Israeli was killed at Ashkelon about 15 kilometers north.

So at this point Israel is continuing these air strikes, possibly going in on the ground to stop the rocket attacks, but it doesn't appear to have dented the capability of militants to keep firing these rockets. John.

ROBERTS: Our Paula Hancocks there, very close to the border between Israel and Gaza this morning. Paula, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Well, overseas adoptions have been made famous by the likes of Madonna, Angelina Jolie, but more and more couples are hitting a wall with other countries' adoption laws. In our continuing series "Baby Quest" Zain Verjee is looking at the challenges of international adoption.



ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a look at Natalie (Aluce), so small and sweet. Her mother Kelly almost can't believe her eyes.

KELLY: She's just an amazing baby. She's angelic, I look at here and she's like an angel sent to me from heaven.

VERJEE: It took Kelly a long time to get her angel. She thought she would have to travel as far as China.

KELLY: If you are looking for a healthy Caucasian baby, which is my case, that's what I was hoping to have, the sense is that - the consensus is that they are not available.

VERJEE: Is it supposed to be easier to adopt from China?

KELLY: At that time it was very easy. China is very open. The children are healthy. It's not a problem.

VERJEE (on-camera): And for years it wasn't a problem. In 2004 international adoptions by Americans hit a high of nearly 23,000, and now it's fewer than 18,000. Countries which provided the largest number of babies like Russia, Guatemala and China then began restricting or stopping adoptions.

KELLY: I was 45 at the time and I said I just - I just can't do it and I don't know if it's ever going to happen at this point. They kept saying it would, but the wait kept getting longer and longer. It never stopped.

VERJEE: So she took a drastic step placing a classified ad searching for a newborn to adopt and a year ago a pregnant woman called from Pennsylvania. Kelly asked us to use only her first name to avoid helping anyone identify the woman.

KELLY: I had to pinch myself. I was on cloud nine. I felt like I was in a dream because I had worked. This has been a four-year process for me, a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of hope, a lot of emotion, I just couldn't believe it was happening. I was ecstatic.

VERJEE: The process was easier than she could have imagined. KELLY: December of 2007, I found a lawyer and she was born August 20th. So about seven or eight months. It's almost the same time as a natural birth.

VERJEE: So Sam Pitkowsky adopted his children he chose international adoptions because they were fast and the birth mothers couldn't change their minds. Now he says adoptive parents are looking closer to home.

SAM PITKOWSKY, ADOPTIVE PARENTS COMMITTEE: They are turning to domestic adoption because many of the countries have changed their laws and made it much more difficult for them to adopt.

VERJEE: Kelly feels lucky her little girl was waiting for her not far from home.

Zain Verjee, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: Well, congratulations to her for sure.

CNN's NEWSROOM is just minutes away. Richard Lui is at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

RICHARD LUI, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning to you, Kiran. Yes, here's a check of what we're working on in the NEWSROOM, all-out war, Israel's defense minister describes the mission against Hamas. We'll have the very latest from Gaza.

And then auto rescue payout. Two automakers get their first installment today, big bucks and you are paying the bill there.

Plus, shredding the old but not shedding a single tear. Good riddance to bad memories in 2008. We get started at top of the hour on CNN. Back to you, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, Richard.

ROBERTS: Well a holiday prank has become a hot topic inside the beltway. One prominent republican sends out a CD with the song "Barack, the magic Negro" on it. So far, he is completely unapologetic though he has been roundly condemned for it. We'll talk more about that coming up. 10 minutes to the top of the hour.


ROBERTS: Coming up on 53 minutes after the hour. You know, it's not good in Michigan. You've got the problem with the big three automakers, the Detroit Lions went 0-16 yesterday and now they got bad weather there, too.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: So much bad that the power is out, and I think there was kind of planned by mother nature so people couldn't actually watch the Lions play.

CHETRY: Actually, you're right.

MARCIANO: Exactly let's talk about it.

ROBERTS: Mother nature was being merciful, is that what you're saying?

MARCIANO: Exactly. Let's talk about it. We have rough storms over the weekend across the Detroit area, actually across much of Ohio, Michigan, even upstate New York, winds gusting over 60 miles an hour and at one point yesterday we had 230,000 people in the Detroit metropolitan area without power and you're seeing some of the damage here so that will slowly get restored. We've got snow and lots of it across parts of the Rockies, not only the U.S. Rockies but the Canadian Rockies and problems with that. In Fernie, B.C., which is just north of Washington state, we have 11 folks trapped in an avalanche, three were recovered and eight still missing there this morning. So that search is ongoing as record amounts of snow continues to - it's kind of a blessing and a curse, you get a lot of snow to have some fun in and in this case a lot of snowmobilers causing some avalanches and getting caught in them.

Another storm in the Pacific northwest. So avalanche danger remains high there. But notice most of the eastern two-thirds of the country a little bit more quiet today than it was yesterday and temperatures getting a little bit more back to normal after record- breaking high temperatures the last two days, in the 60s and 70s in places. They should be in the 30s and 40s this time of the year. Today a little bit closer to normal. 41 in Chicago. It will be 49 degrees in New York City and 49 as well in D.C. and then tomorrow we got a storm that's rolling across the plains that shouldn't be terribly bad for folks who want to get out and enjoy. A lot of snow. You know let's roll this beautiful bean footage of Maury, the sled dog again.

CHETRY: I love him.

MARCIANO: Because you guys can -

CHETRY: You can talk Labradors into anything. Look at him go.

MARCIANO: And they are happy to do just about anything. They seem to perform very well when the camera is on. Look at the calm and cool and steadiness -

CHETRY: He loves it.

MARCIANO: -- that's in Middleton, Wisconsin, where they had 40 inches of snow and his companion there to greet him and as John pointed out last hour you've got to bring the sled back up if you want to go down again. The stick won't be any good.

CHETRY: I love how he brings the stick, right. Forget the sled.

MARCIANO: Good times across the -

ROBERTS: Now if you attached a string to the stick and attached that to the sled and maybe it will come back -

CHETRY: You'd be in business.

ROBERTS: Rob, thanks so much.

CHETRY: So cute.

MARCIANO: All right, guys.

ROBERTS: 55 minutes after the hour. We'll right back.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Fit to lead. So how did the president- elect wind up with a physique like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got the paparazzi photo that's been seen around the world. How do I get from here to there?

ROBERTS: What it really takes to get those Barack hard abs. Anyone can do it, right? You're watching the most news in the morning.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to pumping up with Hans and Franz, the informative training program for the serious weightlifter.

HANS: Once again, I'm Hans.

FRANZ: And I'm Franz. And we just want to pump you up.


CHETRY: That's Hans and Franz in a classic clip from "Saturday Night Live." You know, it appears that President-elect Barack Obama may have bought into their program. He's been hitting the gym every day for months and judging from that now famous paparazzi photo that made the rounds last week seems to be paying off. CNN's Ed Henry decided to see if he could handle Obama's rigorous routine.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, everyone is looking for a New Year's resolution. So after those paparazzi photos here in Hawaii I thought I'd figure out what it takes to be like Barack.


HENRY (voice-over): Meet personal trainer Mike Sapp who worked with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in his body-building days and has been reading up on President-elect Barack Obama's routine.

I've got the paparazzi photo that's been seen all around the world. How do I get from here to there?


HENRY: Any hope?

SAPP: There is. I mean he's in pretty good shape. So we're going to have our work cut out for us.

HENRY: A combo of cardio and strength training, just like the President-elect who is religious about working out six days a week.

HENRY: 13, 14. Good job.

I've got a long way to go, but just a couple months ago Governor Schwarzenegger mocked candidate Obama's physique.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: And then they are going to go and give him some biceps curls to beef up the scrawny little arms.

HENRY: The "Gover-nator" has since walked that joke back and it's easy to see why. Mr. Obama is clearly in better shape now than he was at the beginning of the campaign. On this Hawaiian holiday, he started every single morning, except for Christmas, at the workout facility at a local marine base dubbed Semper Fit. And that can be an inspiration to millions of Americans trying to get fit.

SAPP: It's going to kill the I don't have time theory right. I mean so if he can make the time and he makes the commitment, then I think, you know, you owe it to yourself to try to get in shape also.

HENRY: So, Mike, how did I do?

SAPP: Arnold would be proud.

HENRY: Really? I'm too shabby, puts new meaning into the term fit for office. John, Kiran.


ROBERTS: All right. Ed Henry this morning, that's a little way to go but he's got the makings there, he's got the raw materials, I think.

CHETRY: I sent him an e-mail and I said you look nice just the way you are. You don't have to worry about it. Don't suffer through the preacher curls.

ROBERTS: You know the one thing that we just couldn't brook though is him in the board shorts with doing a live shot.

CHETRY: All I can say is -

ROBERTS: Rub this all the wrong way.

CHETRY: If he keeps going to Hawaii eventually he'll get a little tan. You won't have to worry about those -

ROBERTS: Those white legs.

CHETRY: White legs.

ROBERTS: Thanks so much for joining us on AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here bright and early tomorrow.

CHETRY: Right now, here's CNN NEWSROOM with Richard Lui.