Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Iraq's Green Zone Handover; Israel Operation will continue; Obama and an Economy in Crisis

Aired January 01, 2009 - 08:00   ET


JOE JOHNS, CNN CO-HOST: Kiran, the man picked to replace Barack Obama in the senate is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to force certification of his appointment. Roland Burris is facing a number of roadblocks on his way to Capitol Hill. He was thrown into the middle of the Rod Blagojevich circus when the governor appointed him to the empty Illinois senate seat. Blagojevich is facing corruption charges for allegedly trying to sell that same seat.
One smoke-free city seeing a dramatic drop in heart attacks. A government study says hospitalizations dropped 41 percent in the three years following a smoking ban in Pueblo, Colorado. Doctors say it's a stunning glimpse into the effects of second hand smoke; something responsible for 46,000 heart disease deaths each year nationwide according to the CDC.

Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, says her daughter and future son- in-law are, quote, "Working their butts off as new parents." She told, they're also finishing school and working at the same time. Palin's 18-year-old daughter Bristol, gave birth over the weekend. She also told the Associated Press, that Bristol and the father Levi Johnston are not high school drop outs despite what some media outlets are reporting.

The New Year bringing with it a new administration, President- elect Barack Obama heads back to Chicago today to prepare for the transition now just 19 days away. And one of the early tasks of his incoming administration will be handling Iraq.

Just a few hours ago, Iraqis took control of the heavily fortified green zone. The area is surrounded by massive concrete walls and razor wire that houses the Iraqi government, the international coalition and most embassies.

The hand over of the four square miles in the heart of Baghdad is a milestone towards Iraq regaining full sovereignty.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is live in Baghdad. And Jill, how significant is all of this, really? Put it in context?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Symbolically, of course it's important. And you'd have to say legally, it's really important. Because that ceremony that we saw today was the physical manifestation of something that is very important; what is going to be going on with the use of U.S. troops and that Iraqi Sovereignty.

The ceremony today, was the official handover of security in the green zone to the Iraqi side. And that is the first step in this security agreement that was signed in November between the United States and Iraq. That's the so-called status of forces agreement that governs how U.S. forces are going to be used.

And as one general told us essentially, they now, the U.S. troops, are going to be doing only what the Iraqi government asks them to do. After that ceremony in the green zone, we had a chance to talk with General David Perkins. And he explained how all of this is going to work.


GEN. DAVID PERKINS, U.S. ARMY: We will continue to partner with them, but the Iraqis will be in the lead. When you come to a check point, the Iraqis will check your identification. They will make the decision if you come in or go out.

We will continue to be there to provide some technical capability, to provide some mentoring, but you will see less and less American forces and more and more Iraqi forces. And they have the majority of the responsibility for making those key decisions which determines the security of their capital.


DOUGHERTY: And there was another handover also in the green zone today a little bit earlier in the day when the building, which is actually a former palace -- the Republican palace of Saddam Hussein, where the United States had it's embassy, that was turned over to the Iraqis.

And now, the diplomats and some of the security, including the military who were there, are going to be moving over to the new American Embassy which is built in another part of the green zone -- Joe.

JOHNS: So, Jill, is the green zone really more secure than other places outside it and do you think it's going to stay that way?

DOUGHERTY: Well, on the one hand, it is. On the one hand, it isn't.

On the on hand, it is because it is secure. There are check points all over the place. Six major check points. You have all sorts of military on both sides in and out of that zone.

But on the other hand, it does present a target. And so you've had some shelling, some mortaring and you'd have to say that the hope -- and they will be evaluating this in three months how this all works -- the hope is that they will be able to turn that into a place where Iraqis can come in and out freely. That it will be secure and that in turn can spread to other parts of Iraq.

JOHNS: Jill Dougherty in Iraq, thanks so much for that.

CHETRY: Well, along with the war in Iraq, President-elect Barack Obama will have to deal with renewed violence in the Mideast when he takes Office.

Right now, the situation is showing no signs of letting up. Israeli air strikes tearing through the skies over Gaza for a sixth straight day now. And Hamas is refusing to back down as well as there are surveillance video capturing one of the rocket attacks deep inside of Israel.

Palestinian medical sources say 400 Palestinians have been killed. And Israel is saying that four Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rocket fire.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in an ambulance center in the Israel town of Sderot. And Paula, Hamas rockets still being launched in the air. What is the status of the Israeli mission? I know a big part of it was to try stop that rocket fire.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right Kiran, well, I'm coming to you from Sderot, the ambulance center, this is the nerve of trying to cope with these rocket attacks here. They just had a red alert not so long ago, a couple more rockets landing here in Sderot, just about a mile north of Gaza.

So, this is day six. All that Israel has done with these tremendous amounts of air strikes, just 20 today, already. It hasn't stopped the rockets and these militants, including Hamas are managing to get these rockets further. We know that some have landed in place Beth-Shava (ph) which is almost 25 miles away.

So certainly, This is one of the reasons why Israel is saying no cease-fire at the moment. It does not think it has done enough. The question everybody is asking is, is the grand operation next? They said no to the ceasefire. The Israeli Prime Minister said this is only the first stage.

So it stands to reason the second stage could be a grand operation. But certainly, yesterday, we saw a dreadful weather there was a torrential rain in this area. That many military experts say that will put the grand operation on hold. But as you can see it's brilliant sunshine today. Does this mean that the troops are going to go in? Kiran.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Paula Hancocks for us in Sderot, the Israeli town there not to far from Gaza, thank you -- Joe.

JOHNS: Kiran, on top of all the issues President-elect Obama faces overseas his biggest challenge remains here at home. Issue number one, the economy. The President-elect and Democrats in Congress plan to hit the ground running working feverishly on an economic stimulus package and recovery plan.

With job layoffs a-ballooning, federal deficit and tight credit market.

Ed Henry is looking at our economic crisis.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kiran and Joe, after a quiet New Year's here with family and friend in Hawaii, the President-elect is jumping right in to try to sell his plan to fix the economy.


HENRY: While keeping one eye on the crisis in Gaza, President- elect Barack Obama is now returning to the mainland to focus on the issue that propelled him to Office, the economy, which is why the transition team is kicking off the New Year by sending Congress a recovery plan in the neighborhood of $775 billion.

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Economists rarely agree but on this score, there is overwhelming agreement that we need a robust and sustained economic recovery package.

The greater threat to our economy lies in doing too little rather than not doing enough.

HENRY: Transition aids say the goal is to get the bill signed into law as quickly after the inaugural as possible to get the new President a quick victory while also giving the economy a shot in the arm.

The emerging plan includes billions for back logged transportation projects to beef up construction jobs and improve the nation's infrastructure. As well as modernizing crumbling public schools. To create jobs while also investing in education.

REP. BARNEY FRANK, CHAIR. FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: If we don't do this, it will cost us even more. This economy is now in the worst shape since the Great Depression. And if we do not respond in a very firm way, it gets worse and worse and feeds on itself.

HENRY: But Republicans are making noise about slowing the stimulus plan down. Because they are wary about the price tag especially on top of a series of government bailouts.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, (R) VIRGINIA: I think most American taxpayers now are sort of scratching their head, and wondering when all these bailout stuff is going to end and probably thinking, when is my bailout coming.

HENRY: To overcome the opposition, aids say Mr. Obama is considering plans to travel the country to sell the economic plan quickly after being sworn into Office.


HENRY: Mr. Obama is moving quickly to sell the plan because there's no time to waste. This will be the first real test of the new President's clout. Kiran, Joe.

CHETRY: All right, Ed Henry for us thanks.

Well, brand-new this morning, a pricey statue that was stolen from disgraced money man Bernie Madoff gets returned. But wait until you hear about the scathing note that was left on it.

And Cuba at 50, five decades ago, Fidel Castro rose to power in Havana and began a testy relationship with Washington. We're live in Havana with a look back and what the future may hold.

Its 10 minutes after the hour.


JOE JOHNS: Christine Romans is here "Minding Your Business." Who made off with the money?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Who made off with the money? It's funny we're talking about who made off with the $10,000 statue at Bernie Madoff's Palm Beach Estate with -- I'm told -- $9.4 million, in case you were wondering? Bernie Madoff had a $10,000 statue of two life guards, like copper statue, I think and the police told us that it disappeared on September 22.

Now it has reappeared with a little note on it. You can't really --

JOHNS: And what did the note say.

ROMANS: AP has read the note and it says, "Bernie the Swindler." Lesson -- return stolen property to rightful owners.

JOHNS: Wow. Too late.

CHETRY: It was almost like a fortune cookie.

JOHNS: Yes, I know.

ROMANS: So that $10,000, we're saying what's the big deal. A $10,000 statue and a $9.3 estate. But now, it's come back with a message. That's interesting.

The Palm Beach police don't have any clue or leads.

JOHNS: The Riddler took it.

ROMANS: The Riddler took it, that's right. And now speaking of -- what are we going to call it, the riddle of what we're going to call what happened in 2008? We're asking all of you, our viewers what to call it.

We got some interesting responses. Maxwell called it "the great awakening."

CHETRY: I like that one.

ROMANS: The year of great uncertainty, that's Reverend Jan Michael. Dave had two of them, 2008 market meltdown or 2008 market correction. That sounds too peaceful for what really happened. Gary says the "great greed." And Phyllis says the year 2008, "Bushwacked." Interesting. We got a few e-mails from a few people -- more than a few people who wanted George Bush on the list of the people who dropped the ball in 2008. I want to point out; we only had five people on the list. The list could have gone on forever. This is only a three-hour show. How many people can you talk about --

JOHNS: Were all of them G-rated?

ROMANS: Most of them were G-rated. I was hoping for a little something to spice up the morning. But they were all G. We did say it's a family program.

CHETRY: What was the first one again?

ROMANS: The first one was the "great awakening."

It's interesting because we talk about how did we not know? That was the question that we asked when we were in the midst of all this especially in July, gas prices are on all-time high and we're starting to see the mortgage situation unravel. There were a lot of people that just, perhaps dropped the ball with their silence. I guess you could say.

They came crawling out of the wood work afterward and said I knew this was going to happen. There were people -- I really want to be clear that there were a few very well respected voices over the past few years who've been screaming about this, even inside the fed. For whatever reason, people just didn't pay attention.

People are now -- there are well respected voices who are screaming about our national debt, screaming about medical care, social security. These other big problems we have coming ahead. So no one can say, down the road, that we didn't tell.

CHETRY: And we're awake now; the "great awakening."

ROMANS: I want to say for next year without being just completely negative about 2008, mortgage rates are at a 37-year low right now. Mortgage rates are falling. They are at 5.1 percent today. They were more than 6 percent a year ago.

On a $200,000 loan since October, that's $173 a month in savings for people who are -- that's a difference of $173 a month on a $200,000 mortgage.

Things -- I mean, for some people, it's going to be a good year.

JOHNS: But you have to be a saint to get credit.

ROMANS: You're not a saint, Joe? Joe I thought you were perfect.

JOHNS: It's a long story.

CHETRY: And as Christine said, it's only a three-hour show. We're counting down it's only 45 minutes now. Christine, thanks. Steven Spielberg, Jamie Foxx, Halle Berry -- we're not talking about Hollywood's latest blockbuster. We're talking about President- elect Obama's inauguration donor list; a real who's who. So who else is shelling out the big bucks? The answer, just ahead. It's 16 minutes after the hour.


JOHNS: Breaking the ice.

JULIA SWEIG, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: This would be widely applauded by Latin America and globally.

JOHNS: Ending the embargo. Why we should warm up to Cuba before it's too late.

You're watching the most news in the morning.



CHETRY: Welcome back to "The Most News in the Morning."

Fifty years ago today, a bloody guerrilla war ended in Cuba. Fidel Castro rose to power and just a few years later, the U.S. imposed its trade embargo against the Communist nation.

But in spite of that, Cuba has survived. Our Havana bureau chief, Morgan Neill is looking back at the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. And also he has a look at what could lie ahead.


MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: The U.S. trade embargo started in the early 1960s aimed to topple the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro. Instead, the system he and his brother have led is on the verge of outlasting its tenth U.S. President. And the embargo has kept U.S. influence in Cuba at a minimum while others make inroads.

The old Soviet embassy has been busy lately as Russia rebuilds ties with its Cold War ally. China is sending thousands of students to learn Spanish at schools like this one; part of its push of raw materials throughout the region.

And Venezuela has maybe the closest relationship of all with Cuba, built on a firm foundation of oil from Caracas traded for doctors from Havana.

Why does it matter? Some analysts say that what the U.S. does here will be felt throughout the region.

SWEIG: If the United States were to begin to open a new chapter toward Havana, this would be widely applauded by Latin America and globally. And it would give a boost to the Obama administration's claim that it represents turning over a new leaf in beginning to recover American standing globally.

Cuba is very symbolic of that opportunity.

NEILL: That was clear at a recent summit in Brazil where President Raul Castro was embraced by Latin American leaders who urge an end to the U.S. embargo.

There are signs the time may be right for some kind of opening. First President Raul Castro, then his ailing brother, former President Fidel Castro, both said they'd be open to a meeting with the U.S. President-elect.

While few expect to see an end to the embargo any time soon, President-elect Obama has indicated he favors looser restrictions on family travel and money sent back to the island.

Morgan Neill, CNN, Havana.


CHETRY: Tomorrow, on "AMERICAN MORNING," we're going to be taking a look at how Cuba is celebrating its anniversary 50 years after the revolution from where it all began. That's tomorrow on the Most News in the Morning.

JOHNS: As things get better in Iraq, they are getting worse, fast in Afghanistan. 2008 was the deadliest year there since 9/11. Does Barack Obama have a plan to turn it around?

It's an impressive cast of characters; a slew of celebrities that hurried (ph) to put their name on the very exclusive list. We're talking the big donors list for Barack Obama's inauguration day.

It's 21 minutes past the hour.


JOHNS: On the day we celebrate a milestone in Iraq, there are major fears of what's ahead in Afghanistan in 2009. Twenty Afghan police were killed in an ambush today and a record 151 U.S. Forces also died in Afghanistan in 2008; the deadliest year yet. Military officials say it's likely to get even bloodier as thousands more American troops pour into the country.

Joining us now live from New Orleans is CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen.

And Peter, first of all, Happy New Year to you.


JOHNS: We would like to obviously go to the issue of Afghanistan, in just a couple of seconds. But I'd like to sort of start in Pakistan. There are reports, of course, that the Taliban is growing stronger now in Pakistan and you, having covered and looked at this thing very closely, what's you're view? What are you seeing as we enter 2009?

BERGEN: Well, the Taliban is on a recession (ph) on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. And Pakistan, they've taken over much of the tribal areas which is a number of the regions along that border. They're also moving into areas, the so-called settled areas towards some other larger settled cities in the northwest frontier province. And of course, they carried out, you know, last year, they carried out something like 50 suicide attacks directed to the Pakistani government, Pakistani politicians, Pakistani policemen. Unfortunately, it's bad in Pakistan and it's not good in Afghanistan -- Joe.

JOHNS: And in Afghanistan, there's been an estimate, you have heard that estimate that there's a strength of the Taliban, something like across 72 percent of the country. The United States government has questioned whether it's a reliable estimate. Which is it?

BERGEN: Well, that estimate is from the think tank that have a fair amount of work in Afghanistan. They say the Taliban has some sort of presence in 70 percent of the country. I think that's probably pretty reasonable. Having a presence doesn't necessarily mean that you actually control the population or control cities, but, the Taliban has moved up into areas around Kabul. Two years ago, they weren't in at all. They are controlling provinces around Kabul, they're cutting off supplies, NATO both on the Kabul road and also over the border in Pakistan. There's no ability for the Taliban to take over Afghanistan, it's impossible, they are not large enough; U.S. and NATO forces are pretty large.

However, that being said, the Taliban are manning operations in the capitol. It's a very different situation than it was -- let's say -- three or four years ago.

JOHNS: This notion that the United States was considering cooperating with tribal forces is a notion that certainly has made headlines around the world. Why would the United States go there?

BERGEN: I think, Joe, the problem is the lack of security in Afghanistan. The Afghan armies are 70,000 soldiers; 70,000 Afghan policemen or 40,000 cops in New York alone. This is a very large population; 35 percent larger than Iraq. It's got a larger population. Much of it is mountainous.

The Afghan security services are very small and in fact the international presence compared to Iraq is also relatively peaceful. So, given the security short fall, the tribal militias are the best option that exists to try and have some sort of local force in the villages who can prevent the Taliban coming in and taking the place over.

It's not an ideal situation but if you don't want a stand-up warlord-led militias on the other hand, it's kind of what you need to do in the short term while you build up the Afghan army and build up the Afghan National Police.

JOHNS: Peter Bergen, thank you so much there in New Orleans for coming in on this New Year's Day -- Kiran.

BERGEN: Thank you, Joe.

CHETRY: All right well, later coming up on 28 minutes after the hour. A look at the top stories this morning.

Roland Burris, the man picked by Illinois embattled governor to take Barack Obama's senate seat is now turning to the Illinois Supreme Court for some help. Burris wants the court to force the certification of his appointment. Yesterday, Illinois secretary of state refused to sign off on Burris's appointment.

A city with a smoking ban is seeing a dramatic drop in heart attacks. A government study found at hospitalizations in Pueblo, Colorado dropped 41 percent in the past three years following a smoking ban. Doctor's say it's evidence of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

And Alaska governor Sarah Palin is picking up for her daughter and soon to be son-in-law. She told People magazine and Bristol and her fiance Levi Johnson are "working their butts off" and as they race a new born work and finish high school. Palin's daughter gave birth over the weekend.

In just 19 days, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the next president. The Obamas are headed back to Washington after a vacation in Hawaii. Meanwhile, D.C.'s rapidly preparing for the big day, here is a look at the platform on capitol hill. D.C. Police and secret service also preparing for the millions of people who will be coming into town on Inauguration Day. Among the millions, some a-list celebrities from Tinseltown. Obama's inaugural donor list is more like Hollywood.

Our Jim Acosta is talking a loop. He joins us from Washington this morning. Hey there Kim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran ready or not, here they come. You don't need to be a celebrity gossip columnist with sources all over time to know who is giving money to Barack Obama's inaugural.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could be the title of Steven Spielberg's next "Indiana Jones" movie; "Barack Obama and the quest for inaugural gold. Take a scroll to the inaugurations official web site Pick and you'll find Spielberg is just one of the rich and famous contributors to the incoming president being sworn in. Many of the celebrity donations right at the $50,000 limit set by inaugural planners.

Spielberg along with Halley Berry, Jamie Foxx and Sharon Stone. Each gave $50,000. Basketball great, Magic Johnson shipped in $25,000. All that California cash further proof -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the biggest celebrity in the world. ACOSTA: This is a president with star power.

KEN VOGEL, SENIOR REPORTER, POLITICO: We have a celebrity president. There's a lot of electricity in the air in Washington around this inauguration and these folks who give a lot of money are going to get greater access to all of these fun things.

ACOSTA: One thing all that big money won't buy is privacy. Inauguration spokeswoman Linda Douglass says there are "no exceptions. Everybody who has given more than $200 is on-line, and they know that." A continuation, she insists of the campaign's commitment to transparency.

VOGEL: Even if they supported Barack Obama and his presidential campaign they can only give up to $4,600 each. Here the limit is $50,000 and we're seeing a lot more wealthy folks giving that.

ACOSTA: Wealthy people like billionaire investor and activist George Soros. He and four members of his family have given $50,000 each, a quarter million dollars all from one family. The site allows also allows users to see which states are giving most. As of our last check of the donor list there was just one contribution from Hawaii, Mr. Obama's home state. Joe Biden's native Delaware fared only slightly better with three donors.

OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: South Carolina, do believe he's the one.

ACOSTA: You can also find out who is not on the list. Oprah. Noprah.


ACOSTA: And the inaugural committee is trying to offset all of this big money access with something that can only be described as a sweepstakes. Donate just five bucks and have a shot at a ticket to the swearing in. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. I'm digging through my wallet right now, trying to see if I have a $5. Can you spot me?

ACOSTA: I will spot you.

CHETRY: All right.

ACOSTA: I'll buy for the whole staff.

CHETRY: Are you sweet. Boy, generous. You see.

ACOSTA: Happy New Year.

CHETRY: That's his new resolution in 2009. Spread the love.

Thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS: All right. The new year coming up roses right now. Final preparations are under way for the annual tournament of roses parade. Jack Hannah is live to give us a glimpse of one of the floats. And he's got some special guests.

And the wackiest moments of the morning time to make fun of ourselves. Put on your laughing hats. Blooper reels ahead. Oh, no.

It is 32 minutes after the hour.



CHETRY: Well it certainly is a New Year's day tradition. It begins in just a few hours. We're talking about the Tournament of Roses parade. It will be the 120th year this year. Right now, last minute preparations are under way as the floats get ready to make their way down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California. Some spectators actually started lining up yesterday to claim their top spot.

And riding his familiar spot on board the Rain Bird float will be Jack Hanna. He's the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. And he joins us this morning along the parade route with his fellow float rider, Walter Crawford of the World Bird Sanctuary.

Good morning, great to have you with us, Jack. Great to talk to you again this year.

JACK HANNA, HOST, "JACK HANNA'S INTO THE WILD": It's not raining, a beautiful day.

CHETRY: Oh, good thing, you guys. Because the weather is pretty chilly here in New York for New Year's Eve but tell us about the Rain Bird float. You have been on every year since 1999. This year's theme is entertaining expedition. And it's also the intelligent use of water is the mission. So explain that for us.

HANNA: Right. It's entertainment expedition which is beautiful float with like giraffes, and elephants and the cheetah and monkeys and bird. It's just incredible, about 25,000 orchids, 50,000 roses, five waterfalls, 1500 gallons of water, the music and the animals moving their heads all down through there. Of course, rain bird being involved in the largest irrigation company in the world with the recycling of water, taking care of our earth's resources as far as water. It's so important. That's why I've done it for 11 years. I think one reason that Rain Bird has done so well, winning the sweepstakes, number one award in seven out of those 11 years, because of their dedication. Not just to the float, but what they believe in and that's conservation of water in our earth.

CHETRY: And it certainly make s a striking float. I mean, it's absolutely gorgeous to see how they managed to put that together. And we're getting a couple shots of it right now. But meanwhile, live with you is not just your buddy Walter, but this gorgeous bird, Dewey. Tell us about, Dewey.

HANNA: That's a batalary (ph) eagle and Walter has one of the largest bird collections in the world. He's a tremendous breeder of birds. And this bird is batalary and we see them in Africa. Obviously, the theme is Africa on our float. The bird actually rolls like this in the air, like a bowling ball. It's the most amazing thing you've ever seen. Not only that, that beautiful crest and sharp beak there, being a predatory bird. You know, Walter, does a tremendous job holding this bird for three hours in a parade route. I did it with an orangutan once and it ate all the flowers. So' I'm not doing any more orangutan just the birds.

CHETRY: Well he certainly is a beautiful, beautiful bird, to say the least. Tell us about some of the other animals -

HANNA: He sure is.

CHETRY: Yes. One other animals are going to be on the float today with you.

HANNA: Well, this one won't be quite with me on the float. This is a sebal (ph) cat from Africa, since Africa is the theme. And then a magnificent animal, this sebal cat. Isn't that gorgeous? This animal is one of the only cats in the world that can jump eight feet in the air and catch a bird in free flight. Can you imagine how fast that is? The bird lives in the daytime and late in the daytime, its hind legs and front legs are different lengths. It has large ears to hear with. And even if 60 percent of its diet are insects, it follows herds, giraffes, zebras in the bush and then that's how they eat. But this animal has (INAUDIBLE) straight up of any animal in the world.

CHETRY: And is that how big they get? Is that how big they stay?

HANNA: Yes, exactly. They still grow. Look at this now. This right here everyone is a Finick fox. This is the smallest fox in the world. That's full grown. Can you imagine that? This animal can live its entire life without ever drinking water. One of the few in the world. It eats scorpions and worms and all kinds of little animals like that. Its big ears aren't just for hearing, the big ears is for helping it perspire. This has big ears and blood vessels to help the animal stay cool in the Sahara desert in northern Africa.

CHETRY: Oh, that's unbelievable.

HANNA: This animal - this animal here, I like David Jackson, he just threw it on me.

This is a beautiful lemur from Madagascar. This lemur is pre- Simian which means it's pre-monkey and pre-ape. This animal is around way before the gorillas and the monkeys were and it's an animal only from Madagascar and it leaps like about 15 to 20 feet and lives in families.

CHETRY: What a lazy, immobile animal it is. Just kidding. I can't believe that.

HANNA: Oh gross. Look at that. He's licking his nose. Oh, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to put up with it.

HANNA: Come on. I'm glad I don't have a runny nose. He does that as far his ritual of bonding with him. That's not what he's doing.

CHETRY: I love it. Look at those eyes. All right.

You were smart to pick the bird, to take the beautiful eagle to take on the float with you. You might have your hands full with some of the others but as always, Jack, I know that your mission is conservation and protecting animals and protecting their environment. And we love to get a chance to see them. So have a blast today. We'll all be watching, for sure. Thanks for joining us this morning.

HANNA: Well, thank you so much. And happy new year. I know Rain Bird will do well again.

CHETRY: Absolutely. All right. Good luck to you. Thanks, Jack.

HANNA: Thank you.

JOHNS: It looked like he was chewing on his nose, didn't it a little bit there?

Drinking to your health. Is it possible you actually added years to your life during last night's binder? Probably not. Dr. Gupta's here to tell us in just a couple of minutes. It is 39 minutes after the hour.


JOHNS: 42 minutes after the hour right now. Reynolds Wolf is in the CNN Center and he is talking about the weather today. You're looking quite perky and does not seem to be hung over at all.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, no. We can't do that in this business. No question about it. I'll tell you what today certainly a busy day on this January 1st. We're going to be seeing some pretty decent shot of snowfall, especially in the northern peninsula of Michigan. The southern half of the state, you might see some light dusting.

Also, Joe, we're looking for some snowfall in parts of the Pacific northwest. Cascades could see up to a foot, maybe two feet in some of the highest spots. Back in the Beartroop (ph) Mountains into the north and central Rocky Mountains, look for a dusting of snowfall. But fairly mild conditions as far as the desert southwest. With high temperatures today for Phoenix and back over to Dallas, mainly in the 60s and 70s. while Las Vegas in 60 degrees, 61 in Los Angeles. San Francisco with 53. Seattle and Portland mainly in the 40s. But when you get to the high mountains, that's where it's going to be really cold. That snow will begin to pile up. Still breezy for you in Boston. New York, breezy last night. Same story today. 27 degrees will be your expected high. With the chance of those winds really begin to pick up in New York. Expect the possibility of delays. Same story for Boston. For Chicago and Denver, wind also. You'll see a similar refrain for parts of Seattle and Portland mix in with that rain and that snowfall that we mentioned high in the Cascades.

But in Los Angeles and San Francisco, possibly some fog. And that will stick into the mid-morning hours before dissipating and then conditions will be much better for travel. Certainly not a bad way overall for this January 1st. Back to you.

JOHNS: Thanks, Reynolds. It was freezing out here at Times Square, or so I hear but I didn't go out.

WOLF: Smart guy.

JOHNS: It's good to see you. A way to start - Kiran.

CHETRY: You need to go out. You could hear the wind from inside. Unbelievable. Well CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away. Heidi Collins at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. Good morning, Heidi. Happy new year.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Happy new year to you as well.

And we have quite a show today. Here is what we are working on in the NEWSROOM. No new year peace unfortunately in the mideast. More cross border air attacks between Israel and Hamas. We'll take you live to one targeted town.

And 2009 arrives with a shiver as you guys were talking about in much of the United States. And worse for thousands of people in the Midwest. They have no power, which means no heat, usually.

Plus, haunted by a decision. The avalanche survivor who had to leave his friends to die. We'll tell you his story. We get started at the top of the hour on CNN. Back now to you, Kiran.

CHETRY: Heidi, thanks so much.

Well, the real way to cure a hangover, something many of you may probably may need to know right now. Dr. Gupta is here with the secret. At 45 minutes after the hour.


JOHNS: This week, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, brings us his series about what you can do to live longer. Today's focus is appropriately, "Drinking to your health." Sanjay, before we get into how alcohol might help you live longer, let's talk a little bit about how to get through the day after all of the New Year's eve celebrating. Is there really such a thing as a cure for a hangover?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people are watching right now, asking that very question, Joe. Yes, absolutely.

Greasy burrito, or hair of the dog or prickly pear, cactus extract. That's what seems to work. No, well look, I mean, there's a lot of people who swear by these remedies. There's no question that people are thinking about that right now.


GUPTA: There's nothing that's been proven to work. Again, a lot of people think they have their own sort of anecdotal evidence of the things that work. It's worth looking at what actually is causing the hang over. It might surprise some people, but overall, dehydration. You probably didn't drink enough fluids besides the alcohol which is dehydrating. Stomach irritation, alcohol can be just very irritating to the GI tract. You probably didn't get enough sleep and also something known as congeners or impurities in the alcohol.

In a nutshell, the darker the alcohol, the more impurities. The lighter the alcohol, probably the less chance of hangovers. So that's a couple of things to keep in mind. Some of the things that do work that we know have been sort of true, tried and true, just drinking a lot of fluids.

Again, just water or something like that, maybe drinking a glass of water between each drink. You probably wish you knew this last night. Having some bland carbohydrates also to keep your blood sugar levels stable. That helps with a hangover the next day. And also anti-inflammatory pain killers. A lot of people know this. Tylenol is not the answer because it affects the liver just like alcohol. Use some sort of another anti-inflammatory that's gong to provided your best bet. There's a lot of people who researched this particular topic. That prickly pear cactus extract that I was mentioning has gotten a lot of play lately. People talk about the fact that it's a very potent anti-inflammatory that may provide some benefits. Most of all, if you're watching this right now, you're just going to need time probably.

JOHNS: The sure cure is if you don't want a hangover, don't get drunk, right?

GUPTA: Oh there's that, doctor. No question. Yes.


GUPTA: Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

JOHNS: Right. So, now let's talk about living longer. Does alcohol play a roll in longevity? I've read a little bit about this.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, what's interesting if you think about alcohol, it is one of the few substances that does something to your cholesterol levels in your body that hardly anything else can do. And that is It can raise your good levels of cholesterol. There are hardly any medications that can do this. Exercise can help. Niacin can help. But alcohol can raise those levels of good cholesterol and that is a good thing according to al the research that we know today in terms of preventing heart disease, preventing stroke, preventing a lot of those vascular problems.

Also, there's a substance a lot of people have been hearing about called rasberatrol (ph). That is a substance that is typically found in red wine and it's a substance that almost seems to turn back the clock a little bit on ageing. A lot of books are being written about this. This idea that you can take some rasberatrol and start to turn back the clock a little bit, is gaining some credence.

Part of the problem right now, Joe, and this was supposed to go back to the earlier questions that you have to drink a lot of wine to get rasberatrol to be of much benefit which is why some people try to find it in pill form but there is some benefits to alcohol in moderation. Dr. Joe.

JOHNS: Thank you so much, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

GUPTA: Happy new year.

JOHNS: That's right, new year's day, hindsight is 20/20, isn't it? Thanks a lot.

GUPTA: That's right.

JOHNS: Thanks a lot.

GUPTA: Thanks, Joe.


JOHNS (voice-over): The most bloopers in the morning.

PHILLIPS; Nice melons - behind you, there.

ROBERTS: Oh, wow.

JOHNS: We are opening up the video vault. Looking back on our not so greatest moments.

CHETRY: Well recovering. We're back.

JOHNS: A farewell to 2008, you don't want to miss. You're watching the most news in the morning.



CHETRY: Well, you know working the graveyard shift can get pretty wacky around here sometimes. At least that's our excused for the occasional, only occasional blooper that you might see here. Well to cap off the year, we actually put together some of our best and worst moments starting with the hairless, prophet of doom. That's our Ali Velshi. Take a look.



I'm trying to look him in the eye. I really am.

CHETRY: The funny thing is he grows facial hair so fast, that happens in like 20 minutes. I just want to say, In your fight against the man, you got solidarity.

MARCIANO: Right. There you go.

VELSHI: That is hot.

MARCIANO: What a Motley vice that is.

ROBERTS: It was a great job, but don't you ever do that again.

ALI VELSHI, CNN, SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm going to stop talking now. That yellow thing spinning right behind me is driving me nuts.

You background looks way better than mine.

ROBERTS: It's our new nuclear morning.

VELSHI: Look at this thing, spinning around.

CHETRY: They shot you. You look smaller and smaller by the second. I think they're going to gradually zoom out.

VELSHI: Guess who I work for? Guess who I work for?

VELSHI: King of the road.

CHETRY: At least -

VELSHI: I love karaoke, by the way.

CHETRY: Decent music. I'm not coming in with some good news.

VELSHI: Pardon me. Pardon me. Sorry, just speaking to the young lady, I didn't snow she was with you.

By the way, we have a new gas price today. I don't know if this little magic will work again. $3.78. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I usually have to tell somebody I'm going to do that.

ROBERTS: Glasses off.

CHETRY: Yes, by some perspective employers.

ROBERTS: Part of what you just posted there - Bill Clinton was trying to do. Can you imagine?


ROBERTS: I mean that's almost as crazy as eating the coffee, the cat, the jungle cat poops out. You know.

Sorry about the mix up with your car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No problem, you almost got me in my pajamas.

ROBERTS: That would have been fine. Kiran.

I noticed that your ear piece pop there again, Senator.



MCCAIN: You're a very loud guy.

ROBERTS: And we want to thank you for coming in this morning. It's really great to see you. Good luck on the new CD coming out next year, right? Looking forward to it.


CHETRY: Oh, OK. Sorry. I was paying attention. Lost for a minute.

ROBERTS: Instead of just talking and working it out like adults, I simply grab my mug of water and threw it at here.

You get a close up of this here.

CHETRY: Love the gold chain.

ROBERTS: I decided to go ahead with the -

CHETRY: The look is now complete.

ROBERTS: I've always wanted to do that, my fellow Americans, just to see how it feels. I became an American citizen just after 9/11. Unfortunately, Kiran, I wasn't born in this country. So I can't be president. This is as close as I'll get this morning but it's pretty interesting. You know, a lot of fun today at the library.


ROBERTS: Pfff. Everyday, I feel like this.

Hey listen to this because you're going to love this. You probably heard of sleepwalking, sleep eating, even people having sex while asleep.

CHETRY: I've never heard of that. Who wrote that?

ROBERTS: How do you do that? I can't do it while I'm awake.

See, internet of sex. Love my

CHETRY: And it's calling up more reserve as the all-out war with Hamas threatens to stretch into the New Year. The relentless bombing campaign leveled several government buildings.


One of them, Lehman Brother, right behind me. The parent company of Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy as the subsidiaries basically whine down or Lehman tries to sell them all.


CHETRY: Obviously trying to make light of a bad situation, trying to console each other out there.


CHETRY: We actually found out, it was -

JOHNS: Oh, boy. Well, we had a couple of bloopers this morning, too. I don't want to talk about it.

CHETRY: That's the beauty of 2009. We turn over a new page.

JOHNS: We can wait a whole year before we hear about that, again or probably not.

CHETRY: Well, you know what we really have to give a shout out to two of our intrepid associate producers, Grimm (ph) Flannigan and Aperna Sashadre (ph) because they were the ones also editor Matt Arnold for putting that fantastic piece together. You guys, rock.

And we will make it much harder on you next year because we're not going to mess up, anymore.

JOHNS: Shhh.

CHETRY: Right.

JOHNS: President-elect.

CHETRY: Well, it's wonderful seeing you. Happy new year, once again.

JOHNS: Thanks.

CHETRY: To a wonderful 2009.

JOHNS: Yes. Well, it should be.

CHETRY: You deserve a little bit of sleep.

JOHNS: No, save the sleep for later.

CHETRY: Why start now.

Well that does it for AMERICAN MORNING. Happy New Year to all of you out there. We want to thank everyone else behind the scenes who helped bring you this newscast and all of our newscasts all yearlong. Take care.