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American Morning

Last Debate Before Iowa; With Friends Like These; Congress May Avoid Government Shutdown; Star Quarterback To Star Witness; Crashed Drone was Looking for Nuke Sites; Arizona Sheriff Accused Of Racial Profiling; Deal To Prevent Govt. Shutdown; Wisconsin Governor Facing Recall; "Cold Shutdown" Achieved in Fukushima

Aired December 16, 2011 - 06:00   ET




GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- job creation back in Texas, so, am I ready for the next level? Let me tell you, I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.


ALINO CHO, CNN ANCHOR: A Hail Mary from Rick Perry on the final debate before the Iowa caucuses, and the two frontrunners trying to convince voters they're the best Republican to face President Obama.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Another government shutdown averted. Now to the business of saving you $1,000. Time running out for Congress to extend a popular tax cut.

CHO: And from Russia with no love. Vladimir Putin is suggesting John McCain is nuts. McCain responds on Twitter saying, Dear Vlad, was is something that I said? On this AMERICAN MORNING.

COSTELLO: And good morning to you. Happy Friday, it is December 16th. Nine days until Christmas. Can you believe it?

CHO: Have you done your shopping?

COSTELLO: I have two presents bought.

CHO: And that means no. Good morning, everybody. I'm Alina Cho along with Carol Costello on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Up first, GOP candidates going deep into the playbook during the last critical debate before the Iowa caucuses, the frontrunner, Newt Gingrich playing defense on his conservative values and his electability.

Mitt Romney stood by his business background playing it safe and Texas Governor Rick Perry realizing it may be the fourth down threw this Hail Mary pass.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: There are a lot of folk who said Tim Tebow wasn't going to be a good NFL quarterback. Well, he won two national championships and that looked pretty good. We are the national champions in job creation back in Texas. Am I ready for the next level? Let me tell you I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.


CHO: Best line of the night. Jim Acosta live in Sioux City, Iowa. Jim, I'm going to stop with the football references. Good morning. Tell me how did last night go?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Good morning. Well, Newt Gingrich found out what it's like to be the frontrunner heading into the final weeks before the voting begins in these primaries.

He was hit early and hard by his fellow candidates there on the stage. First among them was Michele Bachmann. She went right after Newt Gingrich pretty early on in the debate on the issue of Freddie Mac. And the fact that Newt Gingrich took a lot of money from the housing giant advising them just before the housing crisis last decade. Here's how Michele Bachmann put it.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was trying to see these two entities put into bankruptcy, because they, frankly, need to go away, when the speaker had his hand out and was taking $1.6 million to influence senior Republicans to keep the scam going in Washington, D.C. that's absolutely wrong.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The easiest answer is, that's just not true. What she just said is factually not true. I never lobbied under any circumstance. I never went in and suggested in any way that we do this.

BACHMANN: You don't need to be within the technical definition being a lobbyist to still be an influence, peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, D.C. to get them to do your bidding.

GINGRICH: I only chose to work with people whose values I share and having people have a chance to buy a house is a value I believe still is important in America.


ACOSTA: That was a tough moment for Newt Gingrich, because, you know, to get up there onstage and say that you share the values of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that did not go over well with conservatives.

He was able to redeem himself over the course of the evening, if you follow a lot of tweets from a lot of conservative activists. They did like the way Newt Gingrich performed later on in the debate.

But Mitt Romney, he got very lucky last night, because his record of changing positions on issues that conservatives care about that was not really challenged that much during the course of the debate.

He had scorched Newt Gingrich all this week on a variety of issues, but didn't do so last night, and so that kept Newt Gingrich off of his back.

But at the very end of the debate, Governor Romney was challenged on his record by one of the moderators, and here's how that went.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not believe in discriminating against people based upon their sexual orientation. Some people are due. I had a member of my administration, my cabinet who was gay.

I had the potential to fight for anti-discrimination in a way that would even better than Senator Kennedy as a Democrat was expected to do so.

At the same time, Chris, in 1994 and throughout my career I've said I oppose same-sex marriage. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He personally as governor issued gay marriage licenses. I don't think that is an accurate representation of his position of saying tolerance versus substantively going by the laws.

I've had a consistent strong record of standing up for the values of this country. Not discriminating. I had no discrimination policy in my office. But we're not talking about discrimination. We're talking about changing the basic values of our country.


ACOSTA: So that was a tough moment for Mitt Romney, but overall, a lot of folks who watched that debate last night felt that he really won this debate, because he came out of this unscathed while Newt Gingrich's chief rival here in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina really got dinged up last night.

And we're actually at a steel factory here in Sioux City where Mitt Romney will be later this morning. Interesting that he'll be here because this is a state he hasn't competed all that much in.

But if you look at the latest polls, he has a serious chance of winning this state, guys, and that would really shake up this race -- Alina.

CHO: Eighteen debates, 18 days until the Iowa caucuses and 11 degrees where you're standing this morning. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

ACOSTA: I can feel it.

CHO: I'm sure you can. Thanks a lot.

COSTELLO: If ears muffs -- whole bit. Thanks, Jim.

I think there were plenty of attacks last night and it could all be giving President Obama ammo for the fall campaign. CNN's senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein wrote about that in the "National Journal" and he joins us live now. Good morning.


COSTELLO: OK, so we heard the back and forth between Gingrich and Bachmann over his work with Freddie Mac. How does Gingrich get out of that one? Was his answer satisfactory?

BROWNSTEIN: Probably not. You know, this was not the most -- I don't think the most compelling debate we've had. It was kind of lower on energy. Seemed perfunctory at times, but it did reaffirm I think the basic dynamic that has governed this race all year.

I mean, there have been two central phenomena in this race. One is that, Mitt Romney has not been able to expand his support beyond 25 percent or 30 percent. I don't see anything happened last night that would help him do that.

And the other big phenomena in this race is that no one has been able to lastingly consolidate support from that more conservative roughly two-thirds of the party that is skeptical of Romney.

And what you saw last night was Newt Gingrich, I think, really facing challenges in holding that support. He had made progress in the last few weeks in polls and try to pulling that vote together, but the attacks on his work for Freddie Mac, I think, were pretty effective.

And you kind of felt as I watching I kind of felt like I was watching Rick Perry dealing with the in-state tuition for illegal immigrants a few months ago.

None of these consecutive aspirants to be kind of the Tea Party alternative to Mitt Romney has been able to hold that supportive part because several of them have not seemed consistently conservative enough.

And I think those kind of vulnerabilities were exposed for Gingrich last night and we've seen that from a whole bunch of conservatives voices in the last week kind of raising alarms about him as the right alternative to Romney.

COSTELLO: The national journal came out against Newt Gingrich in a big way.

BROWNSTEIN: National Review actually. COSTELLO: National Review, I'm sorry. And Mitt Romney while he didn't go on the attack against Newt Gingrich last night, certainly during the better part of the week, there were many attacks coming from the Romney camp.

And Gingrich admitted that he got thrown a bit by some of those Romney attacks. Let's listen to what he said last night. Newt Gingrich I mean, again, this is from Fox News.


GINGRICH: I sometimes get accused of using languages too strong. So I've been standing here editing. I'm very concerned about not appearing to be zany.


COSTELLO: So, he tried to get over that, you know, Mitt Romney called him zany, which is a strange word to use anyway, but it's a perception that a lot of Republicans have of Newt Gingrich.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, two separate things here. First, I think as we talked about Gingrich's biggest problem in the race are doubts about his temperament and whether he's capable of being both a candidate -- an effective candidate and certainly in effect the president.

And many of those doubts are deepest among the Republicans who served with him as speaker. He was very effective as a guerrilla leader leading the Republicans to the majority in 1994.

A lot more trouble as speaker, as manager of the House and I think those doubts could be a big part of his challenge. But you know, he's also making a very conscious decision last night, I thought, as Mitt Romney has been challenging his conservative credentials.

In 1994, when Newt Gingrich was leading Republicans back to their majority, promulgating the contract with America, Mitt Romney as a Senate candidate said he wouldn't sign it and also that same year distance himself from the Reagan, Bush record.

I mean, this is certainly a comeback for Newt Gingrich when Mitt Romney says he's an unreliable leader of the conservative cause. But at the moment, Gingrich is choosing to basically say I'm going to float above the fray.

I'm going to be the positive candidate. And I think last night, he needed a little more contrast because he spent an awful lot of that first hour on the defensive about his conservative credentials, in particular, his consulting work for Freddie Mac.

COSTELLO: Right. And I don't know how I feel about endorsements, really, but this is an important one that came out this mornig. The South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, she reportedly endorsed Mitt Romney today. How big a deal is that? BROWNSTEIN: I think a medium deal. I mean, she's having her own problems within the party there. I think endorsements in general are overrated, but it does reflect what we're talking about, the larger phenomenon.

Newt Gingrich has done almost the impossible. He's made kind of the conservative intelligence. They feel they have to rally around Mitt Romney. They've had enormous doubts about.

And you're seeing I think Nikki Haley is part of this general drum beat of the "National Review," "The Weekly Standard," a whole series of former members of Congress.

There are a lot of leading Republicans who are leery of Gingrich's nominee for variety of reasons, mostly view as kind of unpredictable and volatile. I think Nikki Haley is a reflection of that.

If Newt Gingrich wins Iowa, he is a very strong favorite to win South Carolina no matter what Nikki Haley says, though.

COSTELLO: OK, before you go, and Alina, you can weigh on this too. "The Washington Post" was complaining about the buzzer at last night's debate. So let's look at Jon Huntsman. He's running out of time. Let's watch.


JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When we're strong, we project values of goodness that transform and change people like no military can. It used to break my heart sitting in Beijing, the second largest embassy in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two dings in that one. Governor Perry --


COSTELLO: I don't even know what that noise was. Actually, "The Washington Post" had good suggestions to, you know -- for what to use instead of that. Maybe Jim Morrison Crooning "This is the End." My only friend, the end.

CHO: I mean, kind of make sense. It was kinder, gentler debate. It was a kinder, gentler buzzer.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. You know, after more than a dozen debates that perfunctory feel I had watching last night, they could have buzzed it a little earlier. I didn't see the candidates were quite as engaged as they were earlier and obviously, coming into a lot of similar ground.

But one quick point on the substance of the debate, the other thing that wasn't good for Gingrich, again Bachmann and Rick Perry did well.

And to the extent they revived in Iowa and fragment that conservative vote that he's been -- that Gingrich has been consolidating that helps Romney potentially if Gingrich is brought down to the point where someone else does win the state.

COSTELLO: We're going to talk much more about this debate. Ron Brownstein, thanks as always for joining us. Good morning.

CHO: Never a dull moment.

We're just hours to spare. It looks like there may be a deal to avoid a government shutdown. Now this is the eighth time we have reached this threat just this year, but last night several Democratic sources told CNN they have reached an agreement that will fund the government through October of next year.

Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on the deal later today. The politics are still holding up a number of other important issues including, of course, the payroll tax cut, extending unemployment benefits and an increase in payments to doctors who provide medical services.

And it is because of that debate over those issues that Congress is again working on this last-minute deal to avoid a partial government shutdown.

COSTELLO: From star quarterback to star witness. Mike McQueary expected to testify today at a preliminary hearing for two of his former bosses at Penn State.

Tim Curley, the ex-athletic director and Gary Schultz, a former university vice president, both are charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse in the Jerry Sandusky case.

Susan Candiotti live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this morning. So what can we expect in court today, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be a very important day for the state, because the state is expected to put on Mike McQueary as a key witness to try to prove these charges of perjury and failure to report a case of alleged child abuse against these two Penn State officials.

It's a very important part of this case, because the state is going to issue more or less a mini preview of what's to come. They have to prove to a judge there is enough evidence that a crime was committed through the testimony of Mike McQueary and some others.

COSTELLO: So, Susan, how are they going to prove that?

CANDIOTTI: Well, of course, his testimony will be very important, and we're going to hear from him, if he indeed takes the stand, for the first time some details other than a broad overview of what he told the grand jury.

We are expected to hear what Mike McQueary said that he saw back in 2002 in a locker room at Penn State when he testified that he saw a boy about 10 years old being -- allegedly being raped by Jerry Sandusky.

And furthermore, that he went on to tell Coach Joe Paterno about it as well as these two Penn State officials and yet nothing, apparently, was done. And so how will they go about doing it?

Well, in part, they'll try to put on testimony that might include the testimony of Joe Paterno. Now, because of the state of his health, he might not appear in person, but they would certainly enter into the record what Joe Paterno told the grand jury about what McQueary told him.

COSTELLO: So will defense attorneys have a chance to cross- examine the witnesses?

CANDIOTTI: They certainly will, but they are limited as to what they can ask these witnesses about. For example, they're not allowed to test someone's credibility at this stage in the proceeding, but if a judge is convinced that there is enough evidence to move forward to trial, then he will agree to do that, and agree that this should go forward to a trial stage.

COSTELLO: Susan Candiotti reporting live from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this morning. Thank you.

Fifteen minutes past the hour. Other top stories this morning.

Army Private Bradley Manning facing an arraignment hearing today at a military base in Maryland for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents that wound up being published on WikiLeaks. Manning is charged with 22 counts of violating military code ranging from theft of records to aiding the enemy. He could get the death penalty if he's found guilty.

CHO: It's sentencing day for former baseball great Barry Bonds on his obstruction of justice conviction. Jurors back in April found Bonds was said to be evasive in his testimony to a federal grand jury investigating illegal steroid use by athletes. Prosecutors want baseball's homerun king to serve at least 15 months in prison. Lawyers for Bonds have asked the judge for probation.

COSTELLO: Just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, is Iran more on the matrix than we thought? Iran now claiming it hacked into one of the most high tech drones in the U.S. arsenal and brought it down.

CHO: And hundreds of Florida A&M students protesting Florida governor Rick Scott. They are angry over his comments on the recent hazing and fraud scandals. We're going to show you how all of that went down just ahead.

COSTELLO: And actor Christian Bale getting roughed up by Chinese security at the home of a prominent human rights activist. That was followed by a car chase. Feels like it was right out of the movies, right? And only CNN was there. We were along for the ride at 16 minutes past the hour.


CHO: Welcome back.

Author and essayist Christopher Hitchens has died after a long battle with cancer. A self-described militant pundit, Hicthens had been a contributing editor to "Vanity Fair" for the past two decades. CNN's Piers Morgan tweeted Hitchens was, quote, "the greatest literary provocateur of my lifetime." Christopher Hitchens was 62 years old.

COSTELLO: An NFL player is under arrest this morning for trying to set up a drug ring. Chicago Bears wide receiver Samuel Hurd caught in an undercover sting, a five-month investigation that started back when he was playing for Dallas. The complaint states Hurd met with an undercover agent at a restaurant in Chicago where he allegedly tried to buy a quarter of a million dollars worth of cocaine. Officials say Hurd claimed he was already selling drugs in Chicago and wanted to distribute even more. If convicted, Hurd could spend 40 years in prison.

CHO: The top secret U.S. drone that crashed in Iran was looking for nuclear sites. That's what a military official is now admitting to CNN. Up until now the U.S. government's story was that it was only keeping an eye on the Afghanistan border.

So could the U.S. also change its story about how it went down? Last night, Erin Burnett asked former Homeland Security Chief of Staff Chad Sweet whether Iran has the technology to hack into something so sophisticated.


CHAD SWEET, CO-FOUNDER, CHERTOFF GROUP: I think the proof in the pudding will be in whether they can put up or shut up. We'll see. Secretary Panetta has stated clearly that we'll continue to operate the program along the Afghan/Iranian border. So they'll have to be able to demonstrate they can replicate this.


CHO: Iran claims it captured the drone by hacking into its GPS systems, but the U.S. still insists it was a technical glitch, quote, "on our end."

COSTELLO: Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, are the cell phone bans for drivers really effective? One insurance group says, no. We'll tell you why.

CHO: He has an extensive background on judging women on their looks. Now, Howard Stern is going to have a - have to look a little bit deeper. Let's just say that. We'll have details of his new television gig.

It's 22 minutes after the hour. We're back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Twenty-five minutes past the hour. "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Stocks break a three-day losing streak thanks to upbeat reports on both the jobs market and manufacturing. And this morning, U.S. stock futures are also trading higher.

That of the IMF, Christine Lagarde says the European debt crisis is not only unfolding but, quote, "escalating." She also warned the current crisis cannot be resolved by one group of countries.

And the current debt crisis in Europe is taking a toll on the credit worthiness of at least six global banks. Ratings agency Fitch just downgraded Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and several other banks saying they're vulnerable to the economic and regulatory challenges currently facing the financial markets.

Morgan Stanley is becoming the latest bank to slash its payroll. The investment giant announcing plans to cut 1,600 jobs. That's a little more than 2.5 percent of its work force. The cuts are needed to offset a drop in revenue from investment banking and trading.

And it pays to have the corner office. According to a new survey, CEOs at America's top companies received a 36.5 percent jump in pay last year. And if you're wondering who made out the biggest, the best, the biggest, the CEOs in the health care industry.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, those cell phone bans for drivers are useless. According to the institute's research, the bans have resulted in fewer drivers using their cell phones but they have not resolved in fewer crashes.

AMERICAN MORNING back after a break.


CHO (voice-over): Hundreds of students protesting on Florida Governor Rick Scott's doorstep angry over his comments on the recent hazing and fraud scandals. The governor responds with a bull horn. See how it all went down on this AMERICAN MORNING.

COSTELLO: And welcome back. It's 30 minutes past the hour. Time for a check of this morning's top stories.

Just in the nick of time, congressional leaders has struck a $1 trillion deal toll avert a one weekend government shutdown. That deal is expected to be voted on today, though still no agreement on extending the payroll tax cut.

CHO: Newt Gingrich on defense. During last night's debate before the Iowa caucuses, Gingrich defending himself against questions about electability and his conservative record, and for his work at the troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Gingrich firing back that he, quote, "never lobbied under any circumstances."

COSTELLO: Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary is expected to testify today at a preliminary hearing for two former university officials. Tim Curley, Penn State's ex-athletic director, and Gary Schultz, a former university vice president, both men are charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse in the Jerry Sandusky case.

CHO: With less than three weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, candidates like Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are raking in millions in campaign contributions. But they can't compete with Scott Walker.

Now, Walker is Wisconsin's Republican governor. Earlier this year he clamped down on collective bargains rights for union workers in his state. Now, he's facing a possible recall.

And with his job on the line, the cash is pouring in.

To explain all this, Ted Rowlands live in Chicago this morning.

So, Ted, what happened?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what happened was, this anger that we saw back in February and March of last year, it hasn't gone anywhere in Wisconsin. It is still there and Scott Walker now, when you look at number of signatures that have been collected by Democrats, will likely have to win another election if he wants to keep his job.



ROWLANDS (voice-over): It's been nine months since those huge crowds took everybody are the inside and outside of the state capitol. Emotions are clearly still running high in Wisconsin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I call them union pigs. They root in Madison like pigs root in pigsties.

ROWLANDS: Democrats with the support of national labor unions launched recall efforts against nine state senators but say they won't be satisfied until Governor Scott Walker is out of office. They claim Walker used a Republican majority to ramp through anti-union legislation, which voters didn't know was coming and the majority of Wisconsinites don't support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going to need your address.

ROWLANDS: Volunteers have collected more than 500,000 signatures to recall Walker. They need about 40,000 more by next month to force a recall.

Republicans are questioning the validity of those signatures, citing reports that people are signing more than once. This man claimed he signed 80 times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it takes to get Scott Walker out of here, I'm happy.

ROWLANDS: Democrats say they're not worry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are creating a database, and double checking to make sure that we're not counting signatures more than once.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Wisconsin's best days are yet to come.

ROWLANDS: Walker is running ads like this urging people to say no to the recall.

WALKER: The bottom line is, they're going to be some people out there who want to reverse the course of the last election, all I can do is stay focused on doing what I said I'd do when I was campaigning.

ROWLANDS: A lot of the money fueling both sides of this fight is coming from out of state. More than $40 million has already been spent on recalls in Wisconsin, and there is much more to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't seen anything like this before. I think that, you know, Scott Walker is going to have tens of millions of dollars. We're going to do our best to raise as much money as we can.


ROWLANDS: And last night, the Walker campaign announced they've raised $5.1 more million during this last reporting period.

And, Alina, we have our first lawsuit in this one. They're filing a -- they filed a lawsuit challenges the validity of the signatures and haven't even been turned in yet. So, this battle, this war, continues to rage in Wisconsin. And a lot of people across the country are watching it.

CHO: Well, sure, but, you know -- I mean, which begs the question, Ted, you know, is this a way simply for the opposition to get a lot of attention nationally? Or do they have a real shot at recalling him?

ROWLANDS: Well, they have an absolute shot at recalling him in terms of forcing this recall election. They don't have a candidate yet to put up against him. They want Senator Herb Kohl to run, a lot of pressure for him to do so. He's retiring from the Senate. He hasn't indicated that he will or won't. Maybe you'll see Milwaukee's governor Jim Barrett go after him.

But at this point, the first step of this process to make Walker run for his job again after just one year in office, that seems to be in place. They only need 40,000 more signatures.

CHO: All right. Ted Rowlands, watching it all from Chicago -- Ted, thank you.

COSTELLO: A university scandal lands on the governor's doorstep. Watch.


COSTELLO: Hundreds of Florida A&M students line up on Governor Rick Scott's lawn. They are outraged over his recommendation for -- for university trustees to suspend the school president in the wake of hazing and fraud allegations. The governor got out of bed to respond to the crowd.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Look, hopefully -- hopefully, when this investigation is finished, nobody can question that he's done all the right things. That's what all of us hope. But why wouldn't he put himself and put the university in position, it's clear, there's nobody questioning how thorough this investigation is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's where we have a disagreement. We don't think that's in the best interests of our student body to have a leave of absence of our president. That's where we disagree.

So we -- we are not going to leave until you rescind your recommendation.


COSTELLO: A bull horn at his house. Handy, right?

Last month, the university drum major was killed in a suspected hazing. And just this week, three band members were arrested in another suspected hazing that left a woman badly beaten. Authorities are also looking into possible financial fraud.

CHO: New developments this morning in the struggle to contain Japan's nuclear disaster. Power officials say a cold shutdown has been achieved at that crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Experts say it's merely a symbolic milestone and could be years, even decades, before total containment and cleanup is complete. Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul, South Korea, for us.

Paula, good morning.


Well, it certainly is a milestone, but experts are telling us it's not one we should necessarily get too carried away with.

Now, this definition of a cold shutdown of the reactors at Fukushima effectively means that the temperature within those reactors is lower than boiling point. So, lower than a 100 degrees centigrade. So, it is an improvement. It was a goal that TEPCO, the organizers, gave themselves by the end of the year they would have a cold shutdown.

And the Japanese prime minister this Friday evening told his people the situation was now stable, and the reactors were finally under control.

But there have been many experts who are questioning this terminology. Cold shutdown usually refers to a nuclear power plant which has been functioning normally and functioning well, and it also refers to nuclear fuel rods that are in a safe and stable condition.

Obviously, this is not the case in Fukushima. There has been a partial meltdown in a number of reactors. So, some question whether or not this is technically a cold shutdown.

But the fact is, this is a mild milestone even if it is a symbolic.

The prime minister, though, says at least -- it means now they can move on. They can shift their focus from trying to stabilize these reactors to trying to decommission these reactors. And, of course, this process could take decades. Some people say it could take up to 40 years, and that's after they decided what they will do exactly with this power plant, whether they will dismantle it completely.

Now, there is an acknowledgement there is a lot more to do. Unfortunately, this announcement today doesn't actually make much difference to those people who have been forced to leave their homes because of this nuclear crisis. Eighty-eight thousand people are still living away from home, many of them living in temporary housing. Many living with friends and families, not knowing when they can go back or even if they can go back -- Alina.

CHO: Well, when they go back, that will be the real milestone, I suppose. Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul, South Korea, with that update -- Paula, thank you.

COSTELLO: Academy award-winning actor Christian Bale is used to action on a movie set, that is. But Bale experienced real-life drama on a trip to China. The actor traveling with CNN was roughed up by Chinese security when he tried to meet a detained human rights activist.


CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: I think that had we been locals, we would have been roughed up very severely. As it was, being foreigners, they tried to take the cameras and forced us away.


COSTELLO: After Bale and the CNN crew were turned away, Chinese security kept up pursuit. They actually chased them in a car.

Bale was in China promoting his new film, which is China's entry for the foreign Oscar.

CHO: Well, that's one way to get attention.

Meanwhile, Howard Stern, no stranger to a lot of attention, he is returning to television to be a judge on "America's Got Talent." He's replacing our own Piers Morgan on the panel and they talked about handing down some "Stern" judgment last night.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": I read, Howard, that you intend to -- when you say a young contestant appearing onstage, you're going to hold out their mothers and harangue them before their child performs and make it absolutely clear that if you then rip this child's performance to pieces, it's not your fault?

HOWARD STERN, SATELLITE RADIO HOST (via telephone): Yes. If you're going to put your children on television could be judged, which, by the way, I don't know I would do that with my children. I raised three daughters. I don't think that that would be appropriate.

But there are parents out there who think it's a good idea, and you've got to be damn sure that this is a wise decision before you do it, because not only are you putting your kid out there to be judged, but, you know, if a kid really does have talent, you do need time to nurture that talent, develop that talent.


CHO: NBC is actually moving the show from Los Angeles to New York to accommodate Stern who, of course, hosts his Sirius XM Radio show from the Big Apple. The Parents Television Council not happy about having Stern in primetime, saying it was an act of desperation for a flailing network.

COSTELLO: Although what he said was so responsible.

CHO: It was. And a lot of people are going to watch. He has a lot of fans out there.

COSTELLO: Yes, he does.

The Department of Justice going after America's toughest sheriff. The feds say Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is too tough on Latinos, and they're accusing him of racial profiles. Oh, you can bet the sheriff is firing back.

CHO: Two tough guy politicians, Senator John McCain and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in a war of words that got personal. So who called who "crazy"? We're going to tell you what happened.

It's 41 minutes after the hour.


CHO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

I think we need a vodka summit. Senator John McCain and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are in a war of words and it's just getting nasty.

Now, it started when Senator McCain tweeted that the Arab Spring is coming to Moscow, referring to the protests there and allegations that recent Russian elections were rigged. Putin then accused McCain of going crazy because of his time in the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam. Listen.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): He had been he would not just in jail, but was put in a pit where he was kept for several years. Any person under those circumstances would hardly remain mentally sane.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: He said that I was, quote, "nuts," but, and in a way it is a bit amusing, but it's also very serious. My point was, that I have told -- you and I have discussed other times on this program, Arab spring is spreading around the world, to China, to Russia, to every country where there is an oppressive or repressive government, and the people want their freedom, and they want their democracy.


CHO: Well, it didn't end there. McCain then needled Putin with a tweet after his rant that said, "Dear Vlad, is it something that I said?" Carol.

COSTELLO: The U.S. Justice Department is releasing a scathing report accusing America's toughest sheriff, Joe Arpaio, of violating the civil rights of Latinos. Sheriff Arpaio is firing back, calling the report a sad day for America as a whole. Here's more from CNN's Casey Wian.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, often brags about being the toughest sheriff in America, especially on illegal immigration. Now, after a three-year investigation, the Justice Department says his policies and practices are violating the civil rights of all Latinos in this Arizona county.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our expert found that Latino drivers are four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non- Latino drivers. The conduct that he observed involved the most egregious racial profiling in the United States that he had ever personally observed.

WIAN: A blistering investigative report accuses Arpaio's department of the unlawful detention and arrest of Latinos, unlawful retaliation against critics, and discrimination against Spanish- speaking jail inmates. The charges are civil. There's also an ongoing criminal investigation. The government says both have been delayed by a lack of cooperation by the sheriff's department.

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: I do have compassion, but I'll tell you one thing, enforcing the law overrides my compassion. That's at simple as you can get it. I took an oath of office. I am enforcing the state and the federal law.

WIAN: The Department of Homeland Security says it will restrict Maricopa's access to federal immigration enforcement resources. The Justice Department also identified what it called other areas of concern including the use of excessive force against Latinos, lack of adequate police protection in Latino neighborhoods and the failure to investigate sexual assaults.

(on-camera) The Justice Department cites the Los Angeles Police Department as an example of a law enforcement agency that has successfully reformed after allegations of civil rights violations. It has given Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County 60 days to show good faith cooperation or face these allegations in court.

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.


CHO: It's 48 minutes after the hour. Still ahead, the campaign battle between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney has become -- let's just call it a family affair. Their wives are now in the spotlight with Romney trying to keep Gingrich's marital history an issue.

We're back after this.


CHO: Forty-nine minutes after the hour. Here's what you need to know to start your day.


CHO (voice-over): Today, Congress must vote on a last minute deal to avoid a partial government shutdown. Overnight negotiators agreed on a massive spending bill that will fund the government through October of next year.

The last debate before the real battle for the nomination begins. GOP candidates battling it out in Iowa last night trying to pick apart the frontrunner, Newt Gingrich. Gingrich defending his conservative values and his electability.

Penn State assistant coach, Mike McQueary, is expected to testify today at a preliminary hearing for two former university officials. Tim Curley and Gary Schultz charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse in the Jerry Sandusky case. Japanese officials expected to announce a cold shutdown has been achieved at the cripple Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima. That means temperatures in the damaged reactors have consistently remained below the boiling point.

Novelist, Michael Peterson, has been granted a new trial after spending eight years in a North Carolina jail for the 2003 murder of his wife, Kathleen. A judge set him free yesterday ruling jurors were misled about blood-stained evidence by a state investigator.

And in just a few hours, Barry Bonds, will learn his sentence for obstructing justice in a federal investigation of sports doping. Baseball's homerun king faces 15 months in prison but could get probation and home confinement.


CHO (on-camera): That's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back after this.


CHO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. We are less than three weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, and as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney battle it out, we're seeing more of the candidates' wives, most notably, Mitt Romney's wife of 42 years as his campaign looks to play the marriage card. CNN's Joe Johns has that part of the story.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What usually doesn't work very well in a presidential campaign is for some guy to interrupt an event and start shouting embarrassing questions about a candidate's personal life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seems like you have a --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cheating on your wife.


GINGRICH: Other than personal hostility.

JOHNS: But as the velvet glove approach that's harder to deal with, for example, the wife of contender, Mitt Romney, in a living room in Iowa with a few dozen supporters.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: I look back and I think of how my husband has been. The kind of guy you can count on, and that's the personal side of him that people don't know about.

JOHNS: How long has Mitt Romney been married to the same woman? By the time this is over, you might eventually have it memorized. MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been married to the same woman for 25 -- excuse me, I'll get in trouble -- for 42 years.

JOHNS: Presidential candidates love to think of their spouses as secret weapons. And Romney is on the trail now to humanize her husband to try to make him seem more appealing, but her appearances are also a bid for values voters, women voters, and voters for whom trust is a big issue.

ANN ROMNEY: And that he has a strong -- strong family values and that's what matters to him and that's where his world is.

JOHNS: Contrasting Romney with Gingrich who's had a much more complicated personal life.

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: The Romney campaign is almost certainly putting Ann Romney out there to highlight the couple's 42-year marriage and her children and Romney is a family man as opposed to Newt Gingrich who is, right now, on his third marriage.

JOHNS: Not only married three times, but Gingrich has admitted adultery, asked God for forgiveness, and converted to Catholicism, which is the faith of his wife, Callista. She, too, has been seen on the campaign trail but not heard nearly as much.

CALLISTA GINGRICH, NEWT GINGRICH'S WIFE: Newt and I are determined to run a positive, issue-oriented, and solutions-based campaign.

JOHNS: Republican political veteran, Mary Matalin, says some values voters might want to know more about the Gingrich personal story, but for many, it's news that's a decade old.

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR & REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: People have discounted it. They already knew about Newt's marriage history, and they've -- they discarded that as a concern about him.

JOHNS (on-camera): For her part, Ann Romney says she's not trying to compare and contrast her husband's personal life with Newt Gingrich, but campaign insiders have said, they think the former speaker's past personal life is one of his liabilities.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: Ahead in the next hour, new information on that downed U.S. drone. The U.S. military changing its story about the drone's mission, and Iran coming out with a new story, too, on exactly how it brought the drone down.

CHO: And actor, Christian Bale, chased down and roughed up by Chinese police. Find out why in a CNN exclusive. It's 56 minutes after the hour. AMERICAN MORNING will be back after this.