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American Morning

Obama Delays Vacation Over Senate Health Vote; BlackBerry Blackout; Identity on Sale for $10; Census Bureau Publishes New Population Statistics; New Law Prohibits Loud Commercials

Aired December 23, 2009 - 08:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. It's Wednesday, December 23rd. I'm Carol Costello in for Kiran Chetry.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes, sitting in today for John Roberts. Here are some of the big stories we'll be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

From Capitol Hill to the White House, Democrats ready to celebrate the win on health care reform. The Senate's final vote set for tomorrow morning. They should have the 60 votes they need to pass the bill before Christmas. We'll have a full breakdown from the White House next.

COSTELLO: A massive BlackBerry blackout, the second in less than a week. The service is now mostly restored. We're live with who was affected and what exactly the device maker is saying about that outage this morning.

HOLMES: Also, continuing our series, big stars making big impacts, Madonna this time. She's talking for the first time about her new $15 million mission in Malawi. Our Alina Cho with a rare one- on-one, something you'll only see right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

COSTELLO: But first, this hour, in a time where millions of Americans are in airports, flying home for the holidays or away on vacation, a terrifying landing to tell you about for some passengers on an American Airline jet overnight.

Flight 331 left Miami and was headed for Kingston, Jamaica when it overshot a runway while trying to land in bad weather. The accident just happened, oh, just around 10:00 last night, Eastern time.

These are brand-new pictures just in to CNN. You can really see how scary this accident was, the plane skidding off the runway and slamming into a fence. And I don't know if you can see, but you can clearly see a crack on top of the plane toward the back of the fuselage. Part of one of the wings also sustained some damage.

One hundred fifty-four passengers and crew were on-board. More than 90 people went to the hospital, some with broken bones, back pain, and bumps and bruises. Four people treated overnight for more serious injuries. We'll keep you updated on this story as we continue to get information. HOLMES: Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, after months of bickering and bitter debate, the end is near -- at least in the Senate. Senate is going to take a final vote exactly 24 hours from right now on its version of health care reform, a rare Christmas Eve session.

Sanjay Gupta and our Washington team working all sides of this story. And there are still plenty of hurdles for Democrats after tomorrow's vote.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The tricky thing here is that Democrats want this entire health care bill done and to the president by the State of the Union, that's going to be an immensely tight schedule. There is little more than a week between the time the Senate comes back in session and when the State of the Union is likely to happen.

So, you got to expect there will be some negotiating to take place over this break or an early return from the break. Either way, the pressure is on Democrats to get this resolved fast.


HOLMES: And our Dan Lothian is standing by for us at the White House on this still-developing story.

A story, Dan, seems like it's been developing forever. But, man, I can imagine the president supposed to be on the beach in Hawaii somewhere right now and he's still stuck in D.C. because of these guys in the Senate.

Did he pick up the phone and try to nudge them to get this thing done so he can get out of there?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He is stuck here with all this snow around him. So, you know, cold weather instead of that warm sunshine.

But, yes, the president has been, you know, working this and remains very optimistic that he will get this bill to sign, although the White House really staying away from any specific deadlines as to when that will happen. But top aides are saying that they feel they have the momentum to get this done, and, you know, that the president will remain engaged in the process.

Now, they realize that there are some hurdles to jump over here, as Jessica was just talking about. They still have -- those two bills from the House and the Senate have to be merged. The president may not get -- it doesn't seem likely that he'll get that public option, but aides say that the president will deliver most of what he promised to the American people.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the role that he and his team have played up to this point has gotten us to the point where, in all honesty, health care's not a matter of -- health care reform is not a matter of "if." Health care reform now is a matter of "when."


LOTHIAN: What's interesting is that the president did not lock in his vacation departure time until the Senate locked in when they would be taking that vote. The president is saying that he wanted to be here on the ground to see the process through to the end, to provide any help and any encouragement that he could.

So, once that vote time was locked in, then the White House announced that the president, the First Family, will be taking off to Honolulu some time tomorrow morning, T.J.

HOLMES: Some time as soon as that last vote is in, as soon as they hit 60.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

HOLMES: Wheels up, huh?

LOTHIAN: That's right.

HOLMES: All right. Dan Lothian for us at the White House -- thanks so much this morning.

COSTELLO: Another developing story we're following this morning, a major e-mail outage. Go check your BlackBerry to see if you're getting e-mails because you may not be. Several million people in the western hemisphere were not getting their e-mails last night and into this morning. BlackBerrys from the United States and South America, even overseas, are useless for hours. Service went down yesterday -- oh, around 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. I think it was only restored a few hours ago.

This is another black eye for BlackBerry, the second outage in a week.

Our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff joins us now.

And, Allan, why? Why did BlackBerry service go out to so many people?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It's still a mystery but it's tough times for the crack-berry types, like yourself.

COSTELLO: I almost had a nervous breakdown.

CHERNOFF: Yes, right. Well, you and many others.

But the company is saying you can now come down from your mountain tops, stop sending smoke signals, the service is back. Hooray! But for eight hours, starting at about 6:30 Eastern Time yesterday evening, North America was without BlackBerry service. It was the electronic age equivalent of a blackout, a BlackBerry-out. It's times like these that separate the users from the addicts, those who can calmly put the BlackBerry down and step aside, and those who erupt in fury, Carol.

COSTELLO: I called I.T. and said, what's up with this?

CHERNOFF: That's right. At one point last night, Research in Motion estimates none of its U.S. customers had Internet access. They were also unable to send or receive e-mails, regardless of which phone company they use. Especially frustrating customers -- there are 32 million of them -- is the fact that the outage, the second in the past six days -- it happened on Thursday as well.

Still no details on what exactly caused the outage or this morning's disruption. Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerry, says, though, it apologizes for any inconvenience experienced by customers. And by 2:45 this morning, BlackBerry was back up.

But the bottom line here is that, you know, for a lot of people, this is a total addiction and for others -- well, you can see it as a ball and chain and, all of a sudden, it's cut and you're free. At least for eight hours.

COSTELLO: I was actually using mine for work. I honestly was.


COSTELLO: But the most disturbing part about it is that BlackBerry went out a few days ago and there was no explanation from that outage.

CHERNOFF: You know, the information super highway can have traffic jams, too. I mean, right? We have problems with almost every service and why not, also, on the BlackBerry? Look, they're not perfect. RIM has had problems for many years. This is not an isolated incident, it won't be the last probably either.

HOLMES: We could all use a break sometimes, fellows.

COSTELLO: Whatever.

CHERNOFF: Think of it as a break. Think of that as an eight- hour vacation.

HOLMES: All right. Allan, thank you, buddy.

COSTELLO: Stories this...

HOLMES: Yes, other stories this morning, once we move past that.

Well, it's a five-year custody battle here. This New Jersey dad, David Goldman, some developments in the story now -- one step closer, we're told, to bringing his son home. Yesterday, Brazil's chief justice ordered the relatives of his 9-year-old son Sean to hand the boy over. Sean was taken by Goldman's ex-wife to her native Brazil. This was back in 2004. She then divorced Goldman, remarried, but died last year in child birth.

COSTELLO: A massive dust storm being blamed for three deaths and a highway pile-up in Arizona. Six other people were seriously injured. This big blowing dust blinded drivers on Interstate 10, near Phoenix. Between 30 and 40 vehicles were involved in a series of fiery crashes and many of the injured suffered burns.

Now, that same storm system could make holiday travelers late to the party. Storm is expected to bring heavy snow and ice in parts of the West, Midwest and Plain States right through the Christmas weekend. South Dakota has declared a state of emergency ahead of this fast-moving storm.

COSTELLO: Oh, that sounds so scary.

Rob Marciano, tell us more.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: States of emergency are always a scary thing. There were a number of them with this last snowstorm that rolled through the east coast. This one, I think, the attention shifts a little bit farther to the west, energy now coming out of the Rockies and into the Plains, snowing from Denver to just west of Kansas City. And you noticed there's a lot of blue and a lot of green on the map -- that means mostly rain. Most of the snow will be west of the line from Kansas City to Chicago. But in those spots, we could see six to 18 inches pile up.

Travel today, Denver, Chicago, these are your problem spots. Houston, Dallas and to a lesser extent the New York area, which will see sub-freezing temperatures today, but temps will warm up as we get closer to December 25th as this storm approaches from the west. Mostly rain, I think, in the bigger cities that got all that snow over the weekend -- T.J. and Carol.

HOLMES: All right. Rob, we appreciate the updates this morning. Thanks, buddy.

COSTELLO: A quick click in just $10. We'll show you just how easy is it for cyber thieves to steal your identity.

It's seven minutes past the hour.


HOLMES: It's 10 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Ten past the hour now, and that means it's time for an A.M. original.

But first, we do have some new stories we want to tell you about this morning.

COSTELLO: We do. Nearly 5 million doses of H1N1 nasal vaccine are being recalled because the spray appears to lose strength over time. Federal health officials say that the majority of the affected vaccine has already been used and they say the nasal spray was strong enough when it was distributed in October and November, so people don't need to get revaccinated.

HOLMES: Major General Anthony Cucolo dialing back his new policy making pregnancy in the war zone a punishable offense. Now, he says he would not jail a soldier for getting pregnant or getting another soldier pregnant. Four women disciplined under his command so far have received letters of reprimand.

COSTELLO: The Los Angeles County coroner says he is furious over a report that was leaked about the death of actress Brittany Murphy. Officials are looking into how the celebrity Web site TMZ obtained information about prescription drugs contained in the report. The 32- year-old Murphy died Sunday after collapsing at her home in Hollywood.

HOLMES: Most of the east coast was snowed in this past weekend, so online shopping, as you might expect, saw pretty huge bump. But watch one, one false click and someone else could be in control of your life.

Our Mary Snow found a guy who found that out the hard way.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Matt Marquess recently checked the Twitter account he keeps for work, he was surprised to find messages written about him.

MATT MARQUESS, VICTIM OF CYBER HACKING: Here's a tweet from one of my friends that says he's wondering why Matt Marquess is tweeting about ladies underwear, which I thought was pretty funny.

SNOW: But he quickly learned it wasn't a joke. His account had been hacked and he was inadvertently sending out a link to a $500 coupon for lingerie.

MARQUESS: It made me just a little -- a little upset and concerned that somebody was going to get some sort of malicious software or something downloaded on to their machine.

SNOW: Once links like that are clicked, the door is opened for identity theft. And those criminals say law enforcement officials are becoming increasingly sophisticated. To make that point, security software-maker Symantec recently constructed a mock-up of the underground cyber world. It includes what a black market channel looks like where identities are bought and sold.

(on camera): How much is an identity worth?

ROWAN TROLLOPE, VICE PRESIDENT, SYMANTEC: Well, typically a full identity is available online for $10.

SNOW: Ten dollars?

TROLLOPE: Ten dollars. SNOW: And that includes Social Security...

TROLLOPE: Full Social Security number, billing address, current credit card information, and bank account data. So, everything that you need to fully steal someone's identity is available for $10.

SNOW (voice-over): Ten dollars for an identity theft that can cause victims thousands of dollars each. Combating that growing black market is a non-stop job.

Austin Berglas is head of the FBI's cyber crime unit in New York.

AUSTIN BERGLAS, FBI CYBER CRIME UNIT: When we feel safe and secure that everything's locked down, there's someone out there who's spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week, looking for that next -- looking for that next hole.

SNOW: Berglas says one of the biggest trends right now involves ATM fraud, with many of the scams originating in Eastern Europe. He gives this example: let's say 1,000 scam e-mails are sent out with bogus links promising gifts or money. Of that, maybe 10 people click on those links. As soon as they click on the link, a key log is installed to record key strokes, capturing information such as passwords from online banking. That information is sent back to the cyber criminal who puts it up for sale on the black market.

(on camera): Once that information is sold, it's distributed. And here's where law enforcement officials say the next phase of the scam returns to the U.S. Money mules are given fake bank and credit cards with the stolen information, and then the mules cash out those accounts.

(voice-over): While the mule keeps some of that money, the rest is sent back to the original hacker -- in many cases to eastern Europe. But those mules open a door for law enforcement.

BERGLAS: The lowest-hanging fruit for us is the money mules. So when they get pick up at the ATM machine, you know, we'll interview them. We'll tell them how much jail time they are looking at, and they'll wind up working for the FBI and then giving up their sources.

SNOW (on camera): And experts say the economy, both here in the U.S. and in Eastern Europe, is one of the reasons behind the rise in identity thefts, with more people turning to cyber crime to make quick money.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


COSTELLO: Thank you, Mary.

The census and what this means to you. Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business" this morning. She'll join us next.

It's 14 minutes past the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: I don't know why they're not playing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

Welcome back to The Most News in the Morning. It's 17 minutes past the hour. That means it is time for "Minding Your Business."

HOLMES: And something here that I don't think it's an understatement to say that you are geeked up about this story. Literally, you are geeked up.


HOLMES: Who doesn't?

ROMANS: Seriously. I love to look how people move in this country, why they move, how they come in, where there is growth, where the economy -- look, we have new population statistics from the Census Bureau.

COSTELLO: I'm going out and getting my census form right now!

ROMANS: Listen, it's really exciting stuff because this is our country right. It's full of people and everyone is different but there are interesting patterns to watch. We've found some new data for you. This is the last real gauge we're going to get before the big census, the 2010 census.

This is what census is saying about the fastest growing regions in the country. Wyoming population growth up 2 percent over the past year, has about 544,000 people now. Utah has about 2.8 million people. It is up 2.1 percent. Texas -- Texas is the -- there's something big in Texas. Texas is the biggest state in the country, 24.8 million people. It is the third-fastest growing by percentage but it grew almost half a million people over the past year. There's something happening in Texas. The unemployment rate also fell to 8 percent, 70,000 jobs created I think in October, November, even as the rest of the economy was losing jobs. There are some interesting things happening with Texas. It might emerge first out of this recession.

And Colorado has five million people. Its population growth is 1.8 percent. But you can see the fingerprints of the recession all over these population numbers because people simply aren't moving as much. They're staying put and some of the places where we saw fast growth for a very long time -- California, for example, it added I think 381,000 people, but that is some of the slowest population growth for California in a very, very long time. The perception there is that 12.5 percent jobless rate. There's simply high cost of living and not very many opportunities.

The slowest growing states, quickly, Michigan, Maine, Rhode Island. Michigan has lost population now four years in a row. We know that story. So those states are actually shrinking. COSTELLO: "Romans' Numeral."

ROMANS: 308, 212,403 to be precise.

HOLMES: That's got to be the population.

ROMANS: That's right. That's the U.S. population. We were 307 million in July when these most recent numbers were done and now census says by yesterday they think we have topped 308 million people in this country. By the year 2039, in case you're wondering, in case you love population stats like I do --

HOLMES: Who doesn't?

ROMANS: We will likely top 400 million people in this country by the year 2039.

COSTELLO: At least we're still birthing babies.

ROMANS: We are but immigration is the biggest drive and then the descendants of immigrants is still the biggest driver of population growth in this country.

COSTELLO: You've read this report in detail, haven't you?

ROMANS: I love this stuff.

HOLMES: Can't wait to talk to you during the break more about these numbers.

COSTELLO: I can't believe we have to talk about Madonna now!

ROMANS: I'm so disappointed.

COSTELLO: Alina Cho got this one-on-one interview with Madonna. And Madonna's talking about her philanthropy efforts and you might be surprised. It's 20 minutes past the hour.


HOLMES: Twenty three minutes past the hour, that means it's time for an "AM Original," something you'll only see on AMERICAN MORNING. All this week we're shining the light on Hollywood A-listers who are making a big impact. Who could we be talking about this morning?

COSTELLO: I think it is the Material Girl.

HOLMES: It might be.

COSTELLO: Which goes against that nickname doesn't it? Madonna, we're talking about, she's a global superstar and she's building this $15 million school for girls in Malawi. That's just one of the ways Madonna is getting back. In a rare, one-on-one interview, she talked about it with Alina Cho. ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really was a thrill to sit down with her, guys. A lot of people know that Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi, David and Mercy. But few people know just how charitable she is. She really doesn't talk about it that much but she is changing lives in that small African nation ravaged by poverty and AIDS. She is building a school there and for the first time she is talking about it.


CHO (voice-over): She's a woman who only needs one name.

(on camera): So you're Madonna.

MADONNA: No, I'm not.

CHO: Yes, you are.

(voice-over): Madonna has spent most of her life being provocative. But these days nothing is more important than her children, two of them adopted from Malawi, a small African nation where more than a half million children are orphaned by AIDS.

MADONNA: All of those orphans -- I would love to take them all home. Yes, if I could.

CHO: Because she can't and because she's Madonna, she made a documentary about the country.

MADONNA: People always ask me why I chose Malawi. And I tell them, I didn't. It chose me.

CHO: She also founded the charity "Raising Malawi," to help the orphans she can't bring home.

MADONNA: We found and met a lot of people who were sick and dying of HIV and with no medical help and it just felt like a death camp and it was astonishing. And so on the other hand though, everybody that I met was also incredibly brave, so it is a very confusing paradox.

CHO (on camera): It is an interesting dichotomy, because I know that Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa. As much suffering as there is there, there is a certain spirit to the people.

MADONNA: Yes, there is. Because on the one hand I went there and I thought I have to help. I have to save these people and then I thought, wait a minute. I think it's the other way around, think they might be saving me.

CHO: Why do you say that?

MADONNA: Because they help you to get a sense of appreciation for life, for what you have.

CHO (voice-over): A new appreciation for life and a new sense of responsibility. Her latest project breaking ground on a $15 million boarding school, the raising Malawi academy for girls slated to open in 2012.

MADONNA: I never intended to go to Malawi and just sort of dump a bunch of like aid on people and flee the country. It's always been about partnership.

CHO: And she's putting her money where her mouth is. Every dollar donated to, Madonna will match.

CHO: You just said hey...

MADONNA: Match my dollar. Match my 100 grand.

CHO: Make that 300 grand and counting.

MADONNA: My biggest asset as a human being is I would say my resiliency and my survival skills. I'm like a cockroach, you can't get rid of me.

CHO (on camera): That's helpful in philanthropy. Right?

MADONNA: It is. It is, yes. You have to be pretty tireless.

CHO (voice-over): Her tenacity was on display back in 2006 when many people, both in Malawi and around the world, accused her of using her celebrity and her money to buy an adoption. She won. David, now four, calls Madonna mom.

MADONNA: It seems that a lot of the things I do end up being controversial even when I don't mean them to be.

CHO (on camera): Does it hurt your feelings?

MADONNA: Hurt my feelings? Um, I don't know if it hurts my feelings. I think sometimes -- I'm pretty prepared often for some of the things I say and do. I go, I know this is going to freak some people out. But then other things I do, like adopting a child who is about to die, I don't think I'm going to get a hard time for and I do.

CHO (voice-over): Yet, Madonna says she's take the criticism if it means one more child in Malawi gets to go to school, survive and thrive.

(on camera): Do you ever get overwhelmed by all of the work that needs to be done? Because it seems like you help one kid and there is like 1,000 more standing in line.


CHO: And it can be overwhelming.

MADONNA: Yes, it can. Sometimes it stops you dead in your tracks and you think, my God, I can't do this. Then I see the success rate. I talk to the people in Malawi whose lives have been changed and that just helps me and keeps me going. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: A lot of sincerity there.

I asked Madonna, after being in the spotlight for more than three decades, how aware is she today of her celebrity? Is it something she thinks about all the time? She told me I'm aware of it when I'm on the red carpet, aware of it when paparazzi is waiting outside my door and I'm aware of it when I have an opportunity like this to talk about my work.

Guys, a lot of people wonder why Malawi. A couple of years ago she got a phone call from a woman who was born and raised in Malawi and she said, listen, you are a voice. You are a celebrity, do something about this. She sheepishly and embarrassingly said, I don't know where Malawi is. That woman hung up on her and so of course that drove Madonna to take what she calls an investigative trip to Malawi, at which point she said she was just so moved by what she saw that she had to do something about it.

And, of course, we all know that she adopted David and now Mercy this year, her daughter from Malawi. It is something that she thinks about every day because of those children.

HOLMES: And who knew that story? Something that simple a phone call, actually getting hung up on.

CHO: Sometimes that's all it takes really, and it really moved her to go there, you know?

But also a lot of people have asked me, what was it like meeting Madonna? What was it like to sit down with her. She was incredibly warm. She was incredibly friendly. I asked her, a lot of people might say you don't struggle with much. She said well that's ridiculous. I wake up every morning, put my feet on the ground like everybody else, I worry about my 13-year-old daughter wanting to pierce her nose. I worry about sleep deprivation. I worry about cellulite.

Of course, I don't really think she worries about cellulite but she does a lot of yoga but she looks incredible. And really when you talk about celebrities making a difference, she really does put her money where her mouth is. She is matching dollar for dollar every donation that comes in to

COSTELLO: You're going to speak to another powerful woman tomorrow.

CHO: That's right. I'm talking to Martha Stewart. You think about her empire, a TV show, four magazines, 69 books, thousands of products. But there is one project that needs more than all the others. It is a medical center that she built at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for aging Americans. She really did it for her 93- year-old mother who died two years ago. Interestingly enough, she died two months after the ribbon cutting. She calls her mother "Big Martha," the woman who taught her everything, the woman who taught Martha Stewart everything. It was really a moving interview I think and we'll bring that to you tomorrow morning.

HOLMES: Alina, it's been a great week so far. Looking forward to that.

CHO: Thank you! It's been a lot of fun.

HOLMES: Thanks so much. It is now at the bottom of the hour time for us to check our top stories.

Hundreds showing up at a hearing in western Illinois about the plan to bring accused terrorists to their town. The federal government wants to use a super-max prison there to hold detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Supporters say it could bring the town back to life, putting thousands of people to work. Others afraid the town will become a terrorist target.

COSTELLO: Iran's president saying we don't care and we're not afraid of sanctions. He announced his country will ignore a nuclear deadline that the Obama administration said it should take seriously.

The U.N.-backed deal would have Iran sending enriched uranium out of the country to be processed so they won't use it to make a bomb.

HOLMES: Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Senator John Kerry, says she is being treated for breast cancer. The 71-year-old says the cancer was found during a routine mammogram in late September. She will soon undergo radiation treatment.

COSTELLO: The Senate is on track to pass its version of health care reform. A third and final procedural vote is set for tomorrow morning.

But the expected passage of the bill comes after a bitter fight, and some are saying the legislative victory could do serious damage to Democrats in 2010.

Joining me now, CNN's senior political analyst and Republican strategist Ed Rollins and a Democratic strategist Kiki Mclean. Good morning to you both.



COSTELLO: So Ed, let me tee this up for you right now. How much will this long arduous partisan process hurt the Democrats?

ROLLINS: If they're debating health care in 2010 as opposed to jobs, it will hurt them badly. There is a lot in this bill that people don't know about and will over the course of time.

But I think very quickly people are going to want to shift the dialogue to jobs, getting this economy moving again. This health care bill doesn't go into existence until 2014. The taxes come in, some Medicare cuts, some of the bad stuff comes in early, and certainly Republicans are trying to make that an issue.

COSTELLO: But Kiki, some of the good stuff comes in early, too, right? And might that help the Democrats?

MCLEAN: Well, it does. I said to somebody yesterday, if we only get to the very basic issue of not having preexisting conditions limit your access to health care, that's a huge victory for the American people. I think Democrats and people who have supported Democrats understand that.

Look, Ed and I agree, this economy and jobs is the most important thing when you look at a political calculus for next fall. But health care reform plays a role in that economic package, and in fact we're making headway.

And this is also about restoring confidence. If I'm an incumbent member of congress, I already hold my seat, I want to be able to show that I made headway, and I think Democrats are showing that.

COSTELLO: Democratic Congressman Parker Griffith switched parties and he blamed health care for the switch. So are we going to see more of that, Ed?

ROLLINS: You may. We certainly welcome him as our first victory of the 2010 election. And we, in our position, we count any victory on any day with a new Republican.

I think there are 10 or 15 members who are a little bit out of sync with the liberal leadership of the House. And some of them are going to be in jeopardy. I don't think you're going to see a bunch of them switch, but I think some of them could be defeated.

COSTELLO: Kiki, a lot of people are upset about these sweetheart deals that Senator Reid made to get his 60 votes. Might this come back and bite him and threaten his political career?

MCLEAN: No, I don't think that's the case at all. The reality is when a leader goes in to negotiate what the issues are with a particular member of his caucus -- in this case I think people have talked about Senator Nelson and some others -- that's part of the legislative process. They are there to represent their state and do what they believe is right for their state.

So for those elected officials, those members of Congress who have been able to coordinate an issue with Senator Reid, they're going to do well in their home state.

Look, I can remember being the communications director at the Democratic National Committee during the summer of 1993 when one of the most controversial pieces of legislation ever was passed, and that was Bill Clinton's first budget, which in fact led to eight years of terrific prosperity. And at the time there was much handwringing over the negotiations that went on. And a lot of those folks went on to have great careers. In '94 there were seats lost in a big way that weren't really about that bill, because, in fact, when you went in to '96 for the reelection after that, you had terrific prosperity as a result of that bill.

COSTELLO: Still, there are some who say, Ed Rollins, that these sweetheart deals are unprecedented.

ROLLINS: They are unprecedented. And equally as important, President Obama promised things were going to be different in Washington. I think the public is now seeing that they're not only not different, they're probably even worse.

I think the bottom line is you have two bills, a House bill and a Senate bill. Neither would pass the other body at this point in time.

And as people look at these 2,000-page deals, they start seeing the Nelson deal. Nelson said yesterday, three senators walked up on the floor and said I've now seen your deal, I want it, too.

You can't basically start doing 11 different states as they have and have a national bill when everything is figured out in a certain way that is supposed to be cost efficient and cost neutral. It want be in the end of the day when you give all these sweetheart deals out.

COSTELLO: Might they Republicans blame in part themselves for this, because none of them were going to vote? Didn't they sort of force Senator Reid's hand in making some of these sweetheart deals?

ROLLINS: Senator Reid could have made a sweetheart deal with the Republicans months ago. They could have knocked down walls and let insurance companies deal across state lines. There are a lot of things that Republicans...

COSTELLO: But the public option is out --

ROLLINS: Well, the public option may not be out. It's in the House bill and obviously that's going to be one of the big issues that are going to be debated in the conference. This conference will be a knock-down, drag-out battle royal.

COSTELLO: Kiki, go ahead.

MCLEAN: I have to say, look, there is a lot of finger pointing to go around. The reality is that as of tomorrow we're going to have legislation in both the House and the Senate that we can work with. We've never been that far before.

I'm sort of tired of the bashing and finger pointing. Republicans didn't do much to help this process. In fact, they tried to hinder it. Democrats, there are moments that it wasn't a popular place for them to be either.

I think part of this is what do the majority of Americans want? They want health care reform. There are political battles on the extreme, the birthers, the tea party folks on one end, who don't want Obama to have any victory. There are people on the far left who don't want to see any compromise whatsoever.

But the bottom line is the majority of Americans want health care reform. And if we allow the perfect to get in the way of the good, we will never make progress. And what we've got here is the good, and we're moving forward.

There is no major reform or progress in this country that we've had where there was 100 percent agreement where to go on day one. And the fact we're even to a conference coming in January is a big deal.

ROLLINS: Obviously you've not read a bunch of polls including the CNN poll the last several weeks. This thing is not popular with the country anymore. And obviously as people find more details about it and insurance rates go up, it basically will be less popular.

COSTELLO: We have to leave it there.

MCLEAN: But Americans want reform.

ROLLINS: Merry Christmas.

COSTELLO: Let's cross the partisan divide.

MCLEAN: Merry Christmas.

ROLLINS: We'll debate this in the new year.

MCLEAN: I'll meet you back here, Ed.


COSTELLO: Ed Rollins, Kiki Mclean, thank you very much.

HOLMES: In the holiday spirit this morning.

COSTELLO: It is a beautiful thing!

HOLMES: Folks, I want you to do something here. Leave your TVs at the same volume they are at right now and pay attention to the commercial that's about to come on and see if it's louder than Carol and I are right now.

Loud commercials -- Congress actually getting involved and saying this is a problem. So pay attention to the commercial coming up. We'll talk about it after the break.

COSTELLO: And it's not as controversial as health care reform.

HOLMES: It's 37 minutes past the hour.


HOLMES: It may not be as important as health care, but for millions of Americans it is a huge issue. I'm talking about loud TV commercials, more annoying than effective, some would say.

COSTELLO: They can blast your eardrums out. One congresswoman from California is looking to turn down the volume on loud TV. Here's Louise Schiavone with an "A.M. Follow-up."


SCHIAVONE: Don't deny it, advertisements that are louder than the program in which they appear -- TV commercials like these, for instance -- get on your nerves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time you put on the TV to try to watch a show, and the next thing you get is these really loud commercials.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I usually mute the television.

SCHIAVONE: You might even have thought there ought to be a law. Actually, there might be one soon, approved in the House and awaiting action in the Senate, legislation mandating that TV commercials are no louder than the programs in which they appear.

MARK HUGHES, AUTHOR, "BUZZ MARKETING": This is kind of a dumb bill but I love it. I really do.

SCHIAVONE: Media analyst Mark Hughes says it's obviously not a world class political issue, but for irritated Americans, it rings a bell.

HUGHES: It's important in my household that I don't wake up the kids when they're sleeping and I don't kind of tick off my wife when she tells me to turn it down and then it's high volume.

SCHIAVONE: It's a back-handed compliment, but the bill's author, California's Anna Eshoo, will take it.

REP. ANNA ESHOO, (D) CALIFORNIA: I've never said that this is going to solve huge challenges that face us. I had no idea that people across the country would relate to it and be drawn to the legislation, and, I mean, I've gotten more mail, e-mails, telephone calls saying, at a girl, do it. It might even save my marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The show goes off and the commercials go on, like blasted it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We always have to turn the volume on when commercials come on.

SCHIAVONE: A political strategist John Ashford says it's a neat little issue for a time when the big challenges are not so tidy.

JOHN ASHFORD, HAWTHORN GROUP: When Congress can't solve big problems like Iraq and Afghanistan and 10 percent unemployment and how to implement this health care bill they're trying to pass, they turn to small problems, like blasting television commercials.

SCHIAVONE: The bill gives one year to advertisers and production houses to adopt industry technology that modulates and sets sound levels and apply it to television commercials.

Sources at the FCC say that for the most part issues associated with the Internet have been topic a over there, but if Congress sends them a bill to regulate the sound of TV commercials, they'll implement it.

Louise Schiavone, for CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: Severe weather for some parts of the country, unfortunately -- just in time for Christmas. Rob Marciano has all the details for you next.


COSTELLO: Well, it's already snowing in Colorado and it's only going to get worse out west.

HOLMES: And that's no good if you're trying to travel. Now, if you're already there, Rob, that's one thing. People love a white Christmas if you're in the house already ...

MARCIANO: Right, that's right.

HOLMES: ... and you're hanging out. But if you're trying to get somewhere, man, it's just a mess.

MARCIANO: And for those who've maybe traveled over the weekend over to the East Coast are saying, now it's your turn. Because they had a hard time doing it for sure. It's going to affect different people this go-round. It is snowing in Denver right now, you'll probably see six, eight, maybe 10 inches of it.

Ahead of this system that's now ejecting out of the plain out of the Rockies, into the plains, a lot of moisture. We actually had some flood watches out south of Chicago.

Snow Oklahoma City to about Des Moines, that's the snow line. But in those spots we could see over a foot of it falling over the next 36 hours.

So if you're traveling to Chicago, westbound on 94, 90 or 80, or southwest, you definitely want to be aware of what's going on there. Traveling today through Denver, Chicago with the clouds and the moisture, some delays there expected in Dallas and Houston, you might see some delays also.

As far as where this storm system is going to track, tomorrow it heads to the east but it will warming some of these sub-freezing temperatures up and it will be mostly rain by the time you get toward New York.

A quick video, this guys, just want to end with this Santa Claus stealing, never a good thing, a Sun Trust Bank in Nashville. This guy came in a Santa suit with his gun and said he needed to pay his elves and robbed the bank there successfully. So...

COSTELLO: Oh, he's getting a lump of coal, Rob.

MARCIANO: Oh for sure. Stakeouts across Nashville at chimneys everywhere, hoping to find this guy sometime Friday morning.

COSTELLO: They haven't caught him?

MARCIANO: Not -- from what I've read, not yet.

COSTELLO: Oh that's awful.

MARCIANO: I mean, he's Santa. He's a pretty elusive guy.

HOLMES: Well, he blends in at mall and things like that actually.

MARCIANO: Exactly there lots of them out there this time of the year.

HOLMES: All right, Rob. We appreciate it.

COSTELLO: I hope that is a safe (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: Just the thing right -- it's about Santa with a gun just doesn't sit right with you does it?

All right, we told you the good doctor would be back and he's coming up with us again this morning answering your questions about the health care bill.

It's 48 minutes past the hour.


HOLMES: All right, everybody. Welcome back to The Most News in the Morning. It is 10 minutes to the top of the hour. That means it's time to page the good doctor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to be answering your questions about the senate's health care bill.

Dr. Gupta, good morning again, kind sir, let's get right to it if we can.


HOLMES: Now, we got our first question from Karen says, "Once the health care reform bill is signed and complete, how long will it take for its benefits to kick in?" That is a great question. People want to know, is this going to be immediate.

GUPTA: It's a great question because it's not going to be immediate. People think that it's you know, sort of a binary thing. As soon as the bill is signed things start to happen. It's not quite that easy.

Let me just give you a couple key points really quickly here. This idea of not discriminating against people based on pre- existing conditions. For children, this will happen six months after the bill is signed. But for adults it will be the year 2014. That's not something that's going to happen right away; a lot of conversation about that particular issue.

Students' coverage extended. Right now you can be under your parents' insurance up until age 25. That's going to be extended to age 26. That will happen sometime in the year 2010 or about six months after this particular bill is signed.

Let me get to something else. Real quick here and these are another couple of important points -- mandated let's see you'll get mandated individual coverage. This idea that you have to buy health care insurance, T.J., that's something that's also going to happen starting in 2014. And if you don't start buying health care insurance at that point you're going start to face fines and those fines will go up over time, up to $750.

And finally this insurance exchange. We've talked a lot about this, this idea that if you don't like your insurance here you can go buy it from a different place in your state and let them compete for your business. Again around January 2014 if things sort of go as planned right now -- T.J.

HOLMES: And a lot of people will hate to hear that. I mean, that's been a big criticism, we start paying for it immediately but some of the benefits don't kick in until like you say, 2014 on some of these.

Let's go to Greg now another question. He says, "If I already have coverage through my job how will reform help me save money and/or get more coverage?" So does this help somebody who's already kind of taken care of with their coverage?

GUPTA: Well, I think, I think, the bottom line message for someone like Greg really is that if things probably aren't going to change a whole lot for him. He's probably not going to have an increase in his health care coverage or his premiums. They're probably not going to go down either. If the cost curve of this has bent downward -- eventually -- the health care costs come down, it may affect him.

But the two biggest things that he's probably going to note are that he's not going to have a cap anymore on his expenses. No cap. Before there was language saying no unreasonable caps. But whatever his health care costs are in his lifetime he is not going to be capped on that or for his family.

And also again, no discrimination, so if he were to develop some sort of illness and he had a hard time getting insurance from another employer at some point in his life, he wouldn't have to face that either if this bill goes through.

But again, T.J., as you and I have talked about, this still has to be reconciled with the House, still has to go to the president's desk. So it's hard to say how this is going to play out completely in the long run. But that's an idea and Greg really falls into a category that a lot of people do and are curious about how this is going to affect them.

HOLMES: And you've talked about it. They can get this worked so essentially they're going to have a 2,000-plus page bill to reconcile with another 2,000-page bill off in the House. So you know, we really don't know what's going to be in the final thing. I know you've read them all. So you might have some more reading to do with those...

GUPTA: Carol called me a nerd. But, yes, I did do it. And hopefully -- and hopefully it's helpful.

HOLMES: Well, you're the coolest nerd I know, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. I'm heading back Atlanta today, if don't see you, my friend, have a good holiday then.

GUPTA: You too buddy. Happy holidays.

HOLMES: See you. All right, Carol.

COSTELLO: Isn't a cool nerd an oxymoron?

HOLMES: Sanjay could pull it off. Sanjay could pull it off.

COSTELLO: You're right about that.

Jeanne Moos can, too. She has the story on the apartment literally wrapped up in Christmas wrapping paper.

It's 54 minutes past the hour.


COSTELLO: Welcome back to The Most News in the Morning. It is 56 minutes past the hour. That means it is time for the "Moost News in the Morning".

HOLMES: She's going to do this for us this morning. Jeanne Moos has a story here. Most Christmas surprises you know come gift wrapped. Not quite like this one we're going to show you. You have got to stick around for this one. Shows us what happened when a guy in Chicago left town and made the mistake of asking a friend to look after his apartment.


MOOS (voice-over): If you hate to wrap, try to wrap your head around this. You return to your apartment and the TV, the chairs, everything is gift wrapped from the vacuum cleaner to the clock, to the couch and cushions. From the toilet lid to the toilet brush to the light switch, it's the ultimate holiday prank.

And when the unsuspecting occupant came home, he said the same three words... LOUIE SAUNDERS, PRANKED BY HIS FRIENDS: Oh my God.

MOOS (on camera): Over and over.

SAUNDERS: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God -- almost like a hallucination.

MOOS (voice-over): While Chicago resident Louie Saunders was off on a trip friend, about 16 friends who do improvisational comedy wrapped up his apartment. It took eight hours.

(on camera): Was there anything that was disgusting to wrap?

ADAL RIFAI, PRANKSTER: Probably that bath mat.

MOOS (voice-over): Everything was left exactly as they found it, the towel on the rack, the food in the fridge from butter to brew.

(on camera): They wrapped your beer?

SAUNDERS: They wrapped the six-pack I had in my fridge and they wrapped each individual beer.

MOOS (voice-over): Adal Rifai put video of the gift-wrapped apartment to music on YouTube.

(on camera): That's Louie's shampoo. What's the thing in the tub?

RIFAI: I think there was a towel in the tub so we wrapped it and put it back in the tub.

SAUNDERS: There was a towel laying in my tub?

MOOS: At least when everything is gift wrapped, you've got a nice place to throw the excess wrapping. So how many rolls of paper does it take to gift wrap everything in a studio apartment? About 35.

(voice-over): It was December 13th when Louie walked into his gift wrapped home.

SAUNDERS: I can't live here.

MOOS (on camera): Have you unwrapped yet?

SAUNDERS: Only unwrapping pretty much the necessary items like shampoo...

MOOS (voice-over): Sure, gift wrapped couch is noisy. The place is staying wrapped, at least through the holidays.

(on camera): Did you wrap anything that was already wrapped?

SAUNDERS: I did have Christmas presents for people that they have wrapped and I now cannot find.

MOOS (voice-over): We mean everywhere.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: They did great.

COSTELLO: They did such a neat job, too. Didn't they?

HOLMES: They did. Since 6:00 this morning you've been talking about this song. So we thought...

COSTELLO: It's my favorite.

HOLMES: ... we'd get it for you.

COSTELLO: "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is my favorite Christmas song. I'm happy to get this early Christmas gift from my friends at CNN.

HOLMES: I'm more of a Mariah Carey kind of Christmas song guy. But whatever works for you Carol. It has been an absolute pleasure. I'm glad I got to work with you this one day before I head back to Atlanta.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

COSTELLO: Thank you very much. Same to you and safe travels.

HOLMES: Thank you. Thank you.

COSTELLO: Let's head to Atlanta now and Fredricka Whitfield.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I think "Here Comes Santa Claus" no matter who does it, among my favorites.