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American Morning

Sandusky New Child Sex Charges; Clinton's Take on Gingrich; Booted Fliers Blame "Bully" Flight Attendant; Vote ON Financial Watchdog Nominee; Serial Killer May Be Targeting Sex Workers in New York; Video Released of Firefight in Afghanistan; Salvation Army Donations Up This Year; Dazzling Donations to Salvation Army; Interview with Bill Clinton

Aired December 08, 2011 - 08:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Jerry Sandusky trying to make bail again.

I'm Carol Costello.

The ex-Penn State coach facing new child abuse charges, and they may not be the last.


They may have butted heads in Washington but Newt Gingrich earning praise this morning, from his one-time rival, the comeback kid, Bill Clinton -- on this AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: And good morning to you. It is Thursday, December 8th.

CHO: Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Alina Cho, along with Carol Costello. Glad you're with us on a Thursday.

Jerry Sandusky could be let out of jail again today. Police arrested the ex-Penn State coach yesterday on sexual assault charges involving two new accusers.

COSTELLO: Yes, and one of those accusers says his cries for help were ignored.

Jason Carroll live for us in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Good morning, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you. Inmate number 11-1079, that is the number that Jerry Sandusky is being held here at the Center County Correctional Facility. He has not posted bail yet, and he continues to deny all the allegations.


CARROLL (voice-over): For the second time in two months, Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant former football coach at Penn State, was hauled away in handcuffs, facing charges of child sexual abuse. In a new grand jury finding, two more alleged victims identified as number 9 and 10, claims Sandusky abused them as children.

Both accusers say they met Sandusky through his Second Mile foundation. They claim he took an interest in them, inviting them to his home for meals and on outings and gradually engaged in sex acts with him.

Alleged victim number 9 was between 11 and 12 years old when he first met Sandusky in 2004. He testified that over three years, he often visited Sandusky's home and slept over in a basement bedroom. There he says Sandusky forced him to perform oral sex and tried to rape him at least 16 times, at times succeeding.

The victim testified that on at least one occasion he screamed for help knowing that Sandusky's wife was upstairs, but no one ever came to help him.

Alleged victim number 10, a foster child, says Sandusky had oral sex with him and fondled him in a pool on the Penn State campus. Sandusky's attorney denies the new allegations.

JOE AMENDOLA, JERRY SANDUSKY'S ATTORNEY: I have no doubt what he's maintained from the outset of the first allegation involving accuser number 1, he's maintained his innocence. He's maintained his innocence all the way through.

CARROLL: The new charges follow what prosecutors say follow a similar pattern Sandusky followed with the other eight victims identified in a previous grand jury report, grooming them with money, gifts and taking them to Penn State games. The new accusers say Sandusky often told them he loved them and not to tell anyone.


CARROLL: And bail is set at $250,000. If Sandusky is able to post bail later today, he'll be under house arrest and will also have some sort of an electronic monitoring device as well. The next legal hurdle for him is next week. That is Tuesday. That will be a preliminary hearing -- Carol, Alina.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Jason.

CHO: All right, Jason. Thank you very much.

New developments in the Syracuse sexual abuse scandal. One of the former coach Bernie Fine's accusers is taking him to court. Zach Tomaselli is his name. He plans to announce a civil suit today. It comes after a New York prosecutor said the statute of limitations prevents them from criminally charging Fine in two other alleged abuse cases.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Gary Tuchman, the D.A. says before Fine was fired, he was trying to get the coach away from young people.


BILL FITZPATRICK, ONONDAGA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Before the feds got involved in this case, I met with Bernie Fine's lawyer and with Bobby Davis' permission, I suggested the following scenario. I said, look, I have proof that Bobby Davis is telling the truth. The lawyer didn't seem surprised by that. Bernie Fine needs to acknowledge that Bobby is telling the truth. That's important.

Bernie Fine then can say all the lawyerly things that he wants -- you know, I'm trying to go into counseling, and I want to save my marriage, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That's irrelevant to me. He's got to affirm those things and he's got to resign from his position at Syracuse University, with the knowledge that we're going to continue to investigate him. And the lawyer and I, you know, went back and forth, and we were fairly close to a resolution with those stipulations.


CHO: Now, Bill Fitzpatrick also made a point of saying the allegations by Fine's two original accusers were credible.

COSTELLO: Dramatic new gains by Republican candidate was all but forgotten until just a few weeks ago. We're talking, of course, about the House speaker, the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

CHO: That's right. According to new CNN/"TIME"/ORC polls, Gingrich now leads in three of the first four nominating states. That's South Carolina, Florida and Iowa, and over in New Hampshire, where the former Massachusetts governor has a vacation home, his backyard, if you will, Romney leads Gingrich now by just nine points.

COSTELLO: And the former House speaker spent some time with our Wolf Blitzer. And while Gingrich may be upbeat about his surge in the polls, he's not ready at least publicly to presume he will be the nominee.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is it too early to say it's yours to lose?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. Well, I mean, it's either Romney or mine. We're the two in the sense --

BLITZER: What about any of the other candidates?

GINGRICH: Well, we're the two frontrunners. I think this is a fair thing to say without diminishing anybody. The both of us have different kinds of strengths, but Romney's a very formidable opponent.


CHO: Just yesterday, I spoke to Newt Gingrich's one-time political rival, we're talking about former President Bill Clinton. I asked the former president for his take on Gingrich's surge in the polls, as well as what he thinks of the former front-runner Mitt Romney and also Jon Huntsman.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Somebody -- one of the -- some -- one of the journalists reminded me the other day that when all of his staff left and he was, you know, tanking out, I predicted that he would have another run, that he would come back. And I had honestly forgotten it, but the guy said I've got it on tape, I remember when you did it.

He is, first, resilient. And secondly, he's always thinking, and he's got a million ideas. I mean, and some of them are good, and some of them I think are horrible. I mean, I thought in that last debate, he had the most responsible position on immigration. He was the only guy that didn't just totally jump in the tank with this -- with the Tea Party -- send them all home, yesterday, never mind what they have done, never mind how many taxes they have paid, never mind whether their kids are in the schools.

And then the very next day and he says, and by the way, we ought to amend the Constitution so I can abolish the Ninth Circuit. It's too liberal. I don't like it. We just get rid of it, and there's a federal judge over here in another state I want to fire because he made a decision I didn't like.

So, you know, he has good days and bad days, and we'll just have to see what happens, but he'll certainly make it entertaining.

CHO: Do you think he's the strongest in the field?

CLINTON: I don't know. I don't know. But -- in both our party and in theirs, very often the strongest person for the nomination is not necessarily the strongest person in the general election, and it's a mistake to underestimate Governor Romney because of, you know, he's performed well in all these debates and he did a lot of rather impressive things as governor of Massachusetts.

I wish -- I don't think he ought to apologize for that health care program. It's working. Their inflation rate in health care costs has been less than the rest of the country since they offered (ph) that, and their health outcomes are better, and they have the highest number of insured people in the country. So, I wouldn't be apologizing that if I were in his position, and I think that it's just hard to say who is going to win.

The only one who hasn't really had a run yet is Huntsman and I think a lot of him. You know, he's actually qualified to be president. So, it's going to be interesting to see whether he gets his run.


CHO: Always fascinating to hear what former President Clinton has to say about the political race. Jon Huntsman, by the way, will be a guest on "JOHN KING, USA" tonight. You can catch that interview at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

COSTELLO: And we're learning what the former head of MF Global, Jon Corzine, is expected to say when he's called to testify in Washington later this morning. According to Corzine's prepared remarks, he will apologize to all those affected by his firm's rapid collapse. But he does not appear as though he's going to take responsibility for MF Global's failure.

CHO: Corzine is expected to address the missing estimated $1.2 billion in customer money saying, quote, "I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date."

COSTELLO: Let's head to Atlanta now and check in with Jacqui Jeras and some nasty conditions across the country this morning.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is, but only 40 percent of the U.S. has snow on the ground right now, Carol. So, if you live in that 60 percent area, consider yourself lucky, and that includes New York.

But check out the pictures we have for you from Tennessee. This is yesterday. Some light snow came down in the Memphis area and started to melt off and created kind of a slushy mess. And in North Carolina, the wind really kicked in with the system, and you can see that snow blowing across the roadways and making them even icier.

Now, the good news is this is such a fast-moving system, it's out of here, just about for everybody except for extreme northern parts of Maine. You've really got to be off to the east of I-95 to get any of the snow or rain. And so, we're just left with the cold and that's going to be one of the big stories over the next couple of days, are the cold temperatures that are going to be left behind this front. And to add insult to injury, a secondary shot of cold air already making its way into the Upper Midwest.

It's going to bring a little light snow for you maybe over towards Omaha and Des Moines, but not a big deal for you. Ahead of that system, we do have some freezing fog by the way that includes you in Memphis still and down into parts of Mississippi. So, be aware of that today.

Now, what that cold air is going to do here the next couple of days as it continues to push on in, it's going to move over those Great Lakes. And so, that's warm still. The lakes are very warm, and so when that happens, yes, the lake-effect snow machine begins to kick on in.

So, this is going to be kind of a moderate event now and heading into the weekend. We could see a good ten inches of snow, lee of the lakes, so be aware of that. Otherwise, everybody else is just cold and sunny anyways.

Thirty-seven in Chicago, 44 in New York, guys. But that's kind of an early start. We're not really going to warm up much more than you are, unfortunately.

COSTELLO: That's OK. We realize now it is December.

CHO: That's right.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Jacqui.

CHO: Thank you.

Coming up, three women -- this story is incredible. Three women, total strangers, kicked off an AirTran plane in Palm Beach. They claim that a flight attendant was acting like a bully. Call it reverse air rage. We're going to talk to one of the ladies kicked off the plane, next.

COSTELLO: And new clues this morning in the search for a possible serial killer. Coming up, what police say they found while securing a beach near New York.

It's 11 minutes past the hour.

CHO: And this isn't a movie. This is real war on the front lines, taking fire and casualties in Afghanistan. We'll have that story for you next.


CHO: Welcome back. It's 16 minutes after the hour.

Three women, total strangers, until they all got booted off an AirTran plane. It happened in West Palm Beach, Florida. They say they were escorted back to the terminal, get this, by two armed deputy sheriffs, and the women blame, a quote, "bully" flight attendant for their bizarre ordeal.

We're joined now by Carol Gray. She's one of the woman tossed off that flight and Janet Libert, editor-in-chief and publisher of "Executive Travel" magazine. Good morning to both of you. Thanks for joining us. So, Carol, you were one of the three women kicked off that flight.


CHO: How did it all start?

GRAY: Started with the passenger behind me who I didn't know. She asked the flight attendant to please not squish her bag, and he was sort of moving them around rather aggressively, and he -- he made some comment to her, and she said you don't have to be rude, and he paused for a minute, and I said my seat is broken, and he looked at me and said I'm not talking to you now, and then, eventually another woman across the aisle said, this is ridiculous. Why are you being this way? CHO: So, you were all three kicked off the flight?

GRAY: Immediately, immediately.

CHO: What did this flight attendant say to you?

GRAY: He immediately said you're off the flight.

CHO: And then, when did the armed deputies come in?

GRAY: First, the customer service from -- from Palm Beach came in, and then, these two policemen came in.

CHO: What were you thinking at that point?

GRAY: The policemen -- well, I couldn't believe it was even happening. I mean, I just said come on. This is ridiculous. Let's make this work. Let's go, but he was adamant.

CHO: Wow.

GRAY: Customer service went to the pilot and said these women have done nothing, and he said if -- if they're on the plane, I'm walking, and the pilot said, then I'm walking, too. So, they came back and said, you know, you're either -- we're either cancelling the flight or you're off.

CHO: Now, AirTran rebooked you, obviously, on another flight. They gave you two free tickets. Is that enough?

GRAY: Well, I think they flatter themselves to think we'd want to fly AirTran again. I mean, really. I mean, they all admitted that we did nothing.

CHO: Janet, you know, obviously, this is an unusual situation. I mean, have you ever heard of anything like this happening before? I certainly haven't.

JANET LIBERT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & PUBLISHER, EXECUTIVE TRAVEL MAGAZINE: You know, what happened on Monday was highly unusual and certainly a terrible experience for those involved, but it's very, very rare. There's 700 million enplanements in the U.S. today, and less than 0.1 percent of passengers are asked off a plane, so it's incredibly rare.

CHO: It is incredible, and, I mean, three women, all about the same age, don't know each other, perfect strangers. I mean, the odds of this happening, as you mentioned, incredibly rare. Given what has happened though, I mean, in this situation, what is your right as a passenger?

LIBERT: So, any time anyone gets on a plane, buys an airline ticket and gets on a plane, they are now under the contract of carriage of that airline.

CHO: So, you don't have any rights? LIBERT: So, in essence, no. The pilot, the flight crew, they are ultimately responsible for the safety of the passengers, and then, they get to choose who gets on and who is asked off.

CHO: But Carol, I mean, are you considering taking any action, filing a lawsuit? Have you spoken to anyone about this? Have you spoken to the women, the other women?

GRAY: Oh, I've spoken to the women. The head of customer service, Earl Williams, has called me once, never returned the calls. I'm just not very impressed with all of that. No, I don't know what I'm going to do. I just don't want to be put on the no-fly list.

CHO: It has been a couple of days since this happened. I mean, do you feel -- are you less mad? Are you more mad, you know, I mean --

GRAY: We were more sort of dazed by it. We just couldn't believe that he'd so quickly decide that we're off the plane. In a matter of minutes, he decided that.

CHO: Right. You know, I -- I find it interesting, too, Janet, when you look at these types of situations, you know, who could forget that JetBlue flight attendant who had just had it, grabbed two beers and went down the slide and, you know, I mean, has it come to this? I mean, are flight attendants really under that much more stress than they were before?

LIBERT: So, anybody who has flown recently knows that flying is a totally different experience these days. Flights are incredibly full. Airlines are looking to make profits so they're charging you for lots of incidentals.

So, it's really a different kind of an experience, and ultimately, the flight crew is responsible for your safety, but they're also being asked to do so much more, negotiate with passengers, sell on board, maintain a nice atmosphere, represent the airline. So, flight attendants are really asked to do so much more than they ever have been asked to do in the past.

CHO: Well, and frankly, because, you know, passengers now are bringing their bags on the plane, because they don't want to pay the baggage fee. And so, you're dealing with not just the passengers but also all of that baggage as well. So, I mean, I understand that they're under a lot of stress, not to excuse what happened necessarily.

LIBERT: Right.

CHO: Now given that, you know, Southwest Airlines which owns AirTran did release a statement. We want to put it up on the screen there. They said, quote, "As we do in situations such as these, we will review the reports, have one-on-one conversations with our involved employees and take away any key learnings that we might uncover." What do you think about that? GRAY: Well, I think they ought to take some comments from these people sitting around us, because everybody was just floored that he could -- he had the power to do this, and he did it so quickly, and for so little reason.

CHO: It is incredible. I mean, I have to say, got my attention. Janet, one more thing?

LIBERT: I will say, not to defend airlines because customer service really is an important point, but what AirTran actually did for the customers went above and beyond what is required of an airline. Really, in essence, what an airline, if they ask you off a plane, the only thing they're required to do is refund you the money. They don't need to re-accommodate you or give you anything free.

CHO: Carol doesn't sound so happy about that because she may have to give away those tickets.


GRAY: I don't want those tickets.


LIBERT: I appreciate how horrible it must have been.

GRAY: Sure. But to be bumped off the plane and then have the head of customer service in Palm Beach say, you really didn't do anything wrong, and also, for the policemen to say that we hadn't done anything wrong, and they weren't able to cool down the flight attendant.

LIBERT: You know, as a frequent traveler, I think one of the things that's really important to recognize that once you're up at 35,000 feet, you're in an airplane, there's not so much that you can do.

CHO: Right.

LIBERT: So, an airline wants to make sure there's no potential bad feelings, any potential security risks before they take off, so that's I think what happens a lot today. It doesn't happen very often, but that's a consideration when --

CHO: Well, it doesn't make carol and these other two women feel any better, certainly. You still look a little bit jolted, Carol. So sorry that this happened to you. We'll be following and tracking what happened and what the airline says in the coming weeks, so thank you both for joining us this morning.

Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, former President Bill Clinton talks about Chelsea's evolution from first daughter to network reporter. Twenty-three minutes after the hour. We're back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: It's 26 minutes past the hour. "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Can the market's three-day winning streak hold? Right now, U.S. stock futures are trading pretty flat, but a lot of volatility in the markets given what's happened in Europe.

In Brussels, the leaders of France and Germany are expected to urge all EU members to adopt a brand new plan designed to prevent a repeat of Europe's debt crisis.

Even so the debt crisis is far from resolved, ratings agency, Standard & Poor's, placed 17 members of the Euro currency zone on review for a possible downgrade. Germany and France happen to be on that list.

In just a few minutes, we'll get a fresh read on the employment situation. The initial jobless claims report is expected to show that 402,000 unemployment claims were filed for the first time last week. That's up slightly from the week before. Any time that number is above 400,000, it's not a great sign for the labor market.

And this morning, the Senate votes to move the nomination of Richard Cordray forward. He was tapped by President Obama to lead the new financial watchdog agency. Republicans have vowed to block the nomination.

And the government wants your opinion on its new so-called plain English credit card agreements. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unveiled an example of a new form yesterday. It has over 1,000 words. That's compared to the 5,000 words that make up the current credit card agreements.

And coming up, a rare look at combat from a marine's helmet-cam. AMERICAN MORNING back after a break.


CHO: Real war, a rare look at combat in Afghanistan from the marines own photographers on this AMERICAN MORNING.

COSTELLO: It's 31 minutes past the hour. Time for the top story this morning. Jerry Sandusky trying to make bail this morning. The ex-Penn State coach was arrested again on sexual assault charges involving two new accusers. Sandusky faces a preliminary hearing on Tuesday where his lawyer will have a chance to question the accusers.

CHO: The allegations are credible, but too old to prosecute. A New York prosecutor says ex-Syracuse basketball coach Bernie Fine will not be criminally charged with sexually abusing two former ball boys because the statute of limitations has expired. Meantime, a third accuser plans to announce a civil suit today.

COSTELLO: Newt Gingrich making major strides in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and the proof is in the polls. A new CNN/"TIME"/ORC poll shows Gingrich leading in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida, three of the first four voting states. And Gingrich is closing in on Mitt Romney in New Hampshire.

CHO: Meanwhile, there's a significant development in the case of a missing sex worker and what could be a serial killer on the loose near New York City.

COSTELLO: Police are searching Long Island's south shore. They say they found some items belonging to the missing woman whose disappearance prompted a search that turned up 10 bodies. Chris Knowles was on Long Island and joins us now to fill us in on the latest.

CHRIS KNOWLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. She's been missing now for more than a year and a half. Police say they think they are finally closer to finding her. Over the last two days they have told us they found a purse, clothes and a cell phone al belonging to Shannon Gilbert. Gilbert, who is from New Jersey, went missing in May of 2010 after she advertised sex services on Craigslist. Seven months later while searching for Gilbert police discovered the remains of 10 other people, all with ties to the sex trade.

Police believe all 10 of those victims are victims of one serial killer who has been operating on Long Island for 15 years. Police were able to more effectively search the area on Long Island's south shore because the water has receded a little bit. The tide has gone back. They have cut down the brush and all of that exposing newly discovered items.

Gilbert was last known to be in that area after she made an early morning 911 call saying someone was trying to hurt her. She also knocked on a door there and screamed "Help me, help me!" and indicated that someone was chasing her, but then she ran off.

Police say they believe they will find the remains there as well and plan to search that area again today. The weather today, of course, drying out a little bit from all that rainfall we've had in the past day or so.

COSTELLO: So they found things belonging to her.


COSTELLO: But not her body.

KNOWLES: Not yet. They think they are close though, and they think in the -- in the -- that this case is not connected to those others despite the similarities, and here's what that police officer had to say out there in Long Island.


RICHARD DORMER, POLICE COMMISSIONER, SUFFOLK COUNTY: This may be just a young lady ran into the brush in a hysterical state and fell down, and, you know, expired for some reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KNOWLES: Yes. It's really a wild area out there. You have this road that goes along and brush on either side of it, and it's very swampy. Now they have this pocketbook and the cell phone. They're going to dry them both out and see what they will be able to get.

COSTELLO: So they may find something in her cell phone. It just seems strange she's calling 911, knocking on doors yelling help me, help me and police assume she died accidentally.

KNOWLES: Let's just say I think it's very good to be skeptical. You know, we report on what they say that they are thinking. We're working off police theories. They were thrown off I think a little bit because there was a body of a man and a toddler found in the same stretch of beach as well. It turns out that that man was dressed in women's clothing and the toddler was actually related to one of the other victims who was, again, part of this sex industry.

CHO: All right, Chris Knowles there with the latest on when appears to be a serial killer on Long Island. Chris, thank you very much.

COSTELLO: It's a rare look at a decade old war. Marines releasing their own personal footage of a fire fight in Afghanistan, one they didn't see coming, one they were determined not to lose.

CHO: Barbara Starr is live at Pentagon with something you'll see only on CNN. Hey, Barbara, good morning.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. Well, it was a three-hour fire fight at a remote outpost in southern Afghanistan. I want you to meet the men of first battalion 6th marine regiment.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They came out of nowhere. I was in a sleeping bag still. So hearing the flare go off, RPG and fires started going off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to the northwest of us across the Helmand river, they have a ridge line up there, and there's caves in the ridge line that they will crawl into, and they engage us from there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as guns and ammo, by the time, like a couple of hours, we probably had 100 still left for 50 cal, and that was it. It just got really bad real quick.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some 30 millimeter grenades hit inside the compound, getting close, real close to a casualty, took a couple casualties. You hear about people being battle tested. This one tested the boys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to get him on the berm as fast as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been one hell of a day. You're thinking, yes, regular patrol any other day. It ain't happening that way. It definitely teaches a lot of people that everybody's got to be ready from now on. You never know what's going to happen from now on. We lost one person to injuries, I mean, who knows what's going to happen next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another day, man. Another day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully those who see it will actually know that this happens. At end of the day, we're the ones out here.


STARR: That video, most of it shot by a young Lance Corporal Jacob Lugosi (ph). All of the wounded have recovered and returned to duty. But listen to what they say. They were down to their last rounds for the 50 cal machine before airstrike were finally called in. Carol, Alina?

COSTELLO: Just amazing, amazing pictures. Thank you, Barbara, for bringing that to us this morning.

People are dropping more than green in the red Salvation Army buckets, silver dollars, gold bars, even diamonds. Find out what other surprises the bell ringers are bring in. That's up next. It's 38 minutes past the hour.

CHO: Plus, I speak with former president Bill Clinton. Find out what he says his daughter Chelsea has done to finally hit her stride. We'll have that interview coming up next.


CHO: Welcome back. It's 42 minutes after the hour. It's that time of year again. The Salvation Army bell-ringers are back, and they are bringing in big donations, more than just hard cash. People are dropping gold coins, even diamonds into the little red buckets. We're joined by Major George Hood, the national community relations and development secretary for the Salvation Army. Major Hood, good morning. Thanks for joining us.


CHO: I understand you've been a bell ringer since the age of 10 and have been doing it every year since then. Congratulations. That's quite impressive. We hear every year about bell ringers finding the strange but incredibly valuable items in the kettle. So what types of things have you found this year?

HOOD: Well this year already we've seen from a $20 gold coin in Ft. Myers Florida, which, by the way is the seventh straight year that someone has dropped one of these gold coins into a kettle in Ft. Myers, to five South African krugerrands and a $5,000 diamond ring. All sorts of things will appear in the red kettles, and it's kind of fascinating to watch.

CHO: The gold coin that you mentioned that's worth $1,400 based on gold prices these days, the note there said "In Loving Memory of Mimi," which is such a nice gesture. A lot of people are wondering what you do with all these valuable items. Do you sell them then for the cash?

HOOD: We do. It's very important we liquidate them into real cash, take them to jewelers and coin dealers and have them evaluated, and they tell us what it's worth, because it's important to understand the money that's raised in the red kettles, in every local community across the United States, that money stays in that community to meet the needs of families there. We can do a lot more with a gold coin by liquidating it and getting it the cash than looking at it in all of its beauty.

CHO: Obviously we don't need to remind people that the economy, you know, we're facing tough times with the economy. Has that impacted you in terms of donations this year?

HOOD: Well, we've seen a very interesting thing take place over the last three years with the struggling economy. The American people are so generous and have placed so much trust in the salvation Army, we have seen a growth in the amount of money we raise in the red kettles three consecutive years.

CHO: Do you know how much you've raised so far?

HOOD: Last year we raised $142 million in the red kettle program. So and I looked at numbers yesterday, and we're about two percent ahead of where we were a year ago at the same time. so it's obviously that the American public still believes in that red kettle program.

CHO: It's nostalgia, too, to a certain degree. I found this really interesting. I remember reading recently that you -- well, I know that you've been accepting online donations for about seven years, but this year you're testing something out new with mobile devices that the kettle ringers actually carry with them in part so that there's no excuse anymore if you don't carry cash with you, right? How does it work?

HOOD: That's right. We're trying to stay on the cutting edge with technology and the device you're referencing is called The Square, and it's a very simple little postage stamp-sized device that you put into your mobile phone, your Smartphone, and you can swipe a credit card through it and make a donation.


CHO: Wow. HOOD: You have to get the app, of course. The app with the Salvation Army Donation Page. When you fire it up, it says how much do you want to donate. You enter the number, swipe your card, and in a matter of seconds the transaction is complete.

CHO: You know, I -- I know that some people know this but some people don't. So just remind our viewers who don't know just a little bit about the programs that these donations will support.

HOOD: Well the program has really fund first of all, the Christmas programs that we do all across the country. We want to make sure that during this very special time of the year that families have food on the table, children have toys under the Christmas tree and that they are able to celebrate Christmas the way most of us do.

The funds that are left over stay in that community, and those moneys are used to fund utility bill payments, making sure that people are eating healthy foods, warm coats for children during the winter, housing, seniors being taken care of, a variety of ministries and programs that we operate throughout the year.

CHO: Well, I wish you the best of luck for the rest of the holiday season. You still have some time to donate, of course. Major George Hood of the Salvation Army, we thank you.

HOOD: Thank you.

CHO: Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, Former President Bill Clinton talks to me about his wife Hillary's plans for the future and whether she may run for president. Also, what he thinks about Chelsea's job as a network correspondent

Forty-six minutes after the hour. That interview is next.


COSTELLO: It's 48 minutes past the hour. Here are your "Morning Headlines".

The Labor Department just announced that 381,000 jobless claims were filed for the first time last week. That is the lowest in nine months, much less than economists were expecting, and some much-needed good news for the labor market. Any time the number is below the key 400,000 level, it shows some growing strength in the job market.

Markets open in just about 45 minutes, and investors are liking that report. U.S. stock futures just turned up sharply. But there's a lot of market volatility right now given what's happening with Europe and its debt crisis.

Jerry Sandusky in jail this morning but trying to make bail after police arrested the ex-Penn State coach yesterday on child sexual assault charges involving two new accusers.

In Washington, the former head of MF Global, Jon Corzine, will go before lawmakers who want to question the former New Jersey governor about the collapse of his brokerage firm. In his prepared remarks, Corzine is expected to say he does not know where the missing $1.2 billion in customer money went.

A court in Thailand has sentenced a Thai-born American to two and a half years in prison for insulting the Thai monarchy. It's a charge that could have landed -- could have landed Joe Gordon 20 years in prison because the king is highly revered. Gordon's attorney says he plans to file for a royal pardon.

It's going to be cold and wet for people living on the East Coast this morning. A storm system is moving from the mid-Atlantic up to New England, bringing with it lots of rain and some heavy snow as well.

And that's the news you need to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING back after a break.


COSTELLO: Good morning, Washington. Good morning, President Obama. It's chilly now, it's 36 degrees. Later on it will be 45, but it will be sunny, so it's a nice day in Washington today.

CHO: Just yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to a former occupant of the White House. We're talking about President Bill Clinton. You know the Clintons have certainly led a busy life since leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and as part of my upcoming "Big Stars, Big Giving Holiday Special" I had a chance to sit down with the former president to talk to him about the ten-year anniversary of his Clinton Foundation.

I also asked him about his wife of 36 years, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and her plans for the future.


CHO (on camera): Secretary Clinton has said she will step down from her position at the end of this term; that she won't run for president in 2016. For the first time in two decades there won't be any Clintons in politics. How does that square with you?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I suppose a lot of the Republicans are cheering, you know. I don't know. I -- first, I'm very proud of Hillary. I was proud of her service in the Senate which she loved. She loved being a senator from New York. I was proud of her campaign for president. And I'm proud of what she's done as secretary of state. And -- and -- but her first love was always what I'm doing now.

I learned to do a lot of what I'm doing now from her. She loves this stuff. And a lot of what she has done as secretary of state, a lot of that she can continue to do, so I look forward to the next chapter in her life.

I'm very proud of her, and if she wanted to stay in public life I would strongly support it. But you know -- (CROSSTALK)

CHO: Another run for President?

CLINTON: But -- yes but when you get to be our age you get -- it's different, good different, not bad different. And Hillary has got to make decisions about what she wants to do with the rest of her life. And right now I think more than anything else she's bone-tired. I mean, she's done 20 hard years, eight years in the White House, eight years in the Senate, four years as secretary of state, most traveled secretary of state we ever had.

And I want her to be happy. I want her to get some rest and do whatever she wants to do, and whatever she wants to do I'll support her.


CHO: And she must be tired, the most traveled secretary of state. You know we also talked about former President Clinton's daughter, Chelsea who certainly has a lot on her plate now.



CHO: Chelsea, she's taking an increasingly public role, not just with your foundation, with Secretary Clinton as well, and now she's at NBC. How does that feel?

CLINTON: I'm proud of her. I don't know how she's going to do all this. She's teaching at Columbia, she's still involved with NYU where she worked to help them set up their university in the Middle East and she's the chairman of the board of the biggest interfaith group co-headed by a rabbi and imam and she's doing this TV thing and thinking about writing a thesis to get her Ph.D from her old alma mater, Oxford.

So I don't know how she's going to do it all, but I'm really proud of her because she's found her rhythm in life. She likes what she's doing. She believes in it. And that's a good thing. That's what we all want for our children.


COSTELLO: A lot of people wish Chelsea Clinton would run for Congress.

CHO: Yes. There was some talk about it, about Nita Lowey's seat in New York State, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen, at least not yet, but don't count the Clintons out.

COSTELLO: I know. She's got to do that reporter thing first, right?

CHO: That's right, that's right, she actually makes her debut in just a couple of days on NBC, that other network. But you know I was there really to talk to him about his Clinton Foundation, the ten-year anniversary of the foundation, and -- and all of the work he's done.

You know, it's extraordinary when you just look at the numbers, they have impacted some estimated 400 million people in 180 countries. He himself has traveled to 150 countries, 30 times to Haiti. He's the U.N. special envoy to Haiti; he was just there last week.

It was really interesting, you know. I was asking him. I said Haiti, unfortunately, has fallen out of the headlines. How did it look when you were there? He said for the first time, and there are so many times, for the first time it started to look normal so that was really, really encouraging.

COSTELLO: And it also sounds like Hillary Clinton might work with him in his foundation.

CHO: It does. It does.

COSTELLO: They may travel together. We may see them together as a couple more often because we never see them as a couple, right?

CHO: Well, she's traveling all the time. He's traveling all the time, you know, it's hard to be in the same place at the same time. But, yes, he seemed to intimate -- I'm sure she's doing it in a de facto way right now. Anyway, he also talked about being vegan, he is still vegan. He said that the two hardest things to give up were frozen yogurt and cheese, not the hamburgers.

COSTELLO: I'm with him on the cheese part, man. That's my dream to go on a cheese tour throughout the world.

CHO: That's right.

COSTELLO: That interview, by the way, is part of Alina's upcoming "Big Stars, Big Giving Special" which you can catch on December 24th and December 25th right here on CNN.

CHO: Thanks for the plug, Carol.

COSTELLO: Fifty-six minutes after the hour. We're back after this.


CHO: Welcome back. You're looking at a live picture of New York's Central Park. A chilly day today. Today fans will gather there at Strawberry Fields to remember John Lennon. The Beatles and music legend was killed 31 years ago today, gunned down by Mark David Chapman outside his apartment building, The Dakota, December 8, 1980. Another day that will live in infamy.

COSTELLO: Strawberry Fields, if you ever get a chance to visit, it's really touching.

CHO: It is. It is. COSTELLO: People -- you know, they lay flowers -- really nice.

CHO: It's a very peaceful place. It is.

COSTELLO: Very peaceful.

Let's throw it to Atlanta now. Good morning Don Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Good morning to you. Good morning. You have a great day, ladies.