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Presidential Push for Climate Deal; Insurgents Steal Video; Turning Tables on the Economy; Scientists Crack Cancer Code

Aired December 18, 2009 - 09:00   ET


CHETRY: Anyway, Ed is -- there's always an open door for you to come back. And any one of those company would agree because you are wonderful and you really personify team spirit, dedication, and we absolutely love you. The reason our show is as smooth as it is every day is because of Ed, so he'll be missed.

ROBERTS: Show me up at Sam Adams there. We'll see you in Massachusetts, Eddie. All right, take care.

CHETRY: He's shipping up to Boston. And our executive producer is telling us to shut the heck up, too. I can hear that.

ROBERTS: Continue the conversation on today's stories. Go to our blog at

CHETRY: That's right. And right now here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins.

Hey, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Kiran, good morning to you, everybody. We have a lot going on in the CNN NEWSROOM today. Of course, we are talking first about this presidential push at the climate change summit. There you see President Barack Obama. Time is running out, though, to make a deal over global warming.

And also this morning, seeing red over blue laws. You know what those are, right? In much of the country where you live can always affect what you can do on Sundays. Obviously, businesses who say those restrictions based on religion can be a real godsend.

Also Christmas comes early for many holiday travelers. Airfares are suddenly falling. Will they ring in a cheaper new year?

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Today is Friday, December 18th, and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, President Obama seizes the world stage and scolds world leaders. As the climate change summit winds down now, time runs out for a new deal.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Ed Henry joining us now with the very latest from Copenhagen.

Good morning to you, Ed. ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Heidi. You're absolutely right. The clock is ticking here and the president sleeping on Air Force One as he flew overnight Thursday into Friday to get here to Copenhagen.

We're just a few hours on the ground. I can tell you that as soon as he got here he ripped up his schedule. Was supposed to have a one-on-one meeting with the Danish prime minister, instead decided to head into what essentially became an emergency meeting with almost 20 leaders from some key countries like China, basically trying to break the logjam here.

And after that private meeting the president then went public with what you -- as you noted was some pretty tough talk, basically telling his fellow leaders it's time to stop posturing, it's time to act.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time for talk is over. This is the bottom line. We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it, and build upon its foundation.

We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be part of a historic endeavor, one that makes life better for our children and our grandchildren. Or we can choose delay.


HENRY: Now let's talk specifics. The president basically in the speech laying out a three-part proposal, three-part proposed deal, basically saying, first of all there should be mitigation. That means that these leaders should agree to cut carbon emissions.

Second, he wants China to show that they're going to be more transparent and actually show that they are following through on these commitments, something the Chinese have refused to do so far behind closed doors.

And finally, talk about money. The president saying that the U.S. and other big powers will contribute to a global fund that China has been pushing for, to help developing countries, the poorer countries around the world deal with the effects of global warming.

I can tell you there was a private meeting the president had after this public speech with the Chinese premiere. White House officials, after this, are claiming that there was a little bit of progress, a little bit of common ground found in this meeting, and they're still hopeful of cutting a deal.

But I've spoken to other officials close to these talks who say that at best right now it's pretty rocky -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, and when we talk about the stakes for the president domestically, we keep talking about health care and how high those stakes are for health care reform. But internationally the stakes are pretty high regarding this issue of global warming and getting some sort of deal out of this.

HENRY: It is. And there's another comparison to health care, which is that when you talk to environmental groups who've been lobbying for a strong deal here, they worry that just like in health care where we've seen the reform bill in the Senate water down to the point that liberals and the president's own party are concerned, it's not really health reform.

Environmental groups, likewise, here in Copenhagen are now saying they're concerned that the president and the other leaders will be so hungry to sign a deal -- any deal...


HENRY: ... before President Obama heads home. That it might be really watered down, the president put more pressure on himself by not coming at the beginning but instead coming in the final hours here.

And one final note that's interesting is, the president is supposed to leave in a couple of hours, but White House officials are now saying his departure from Copenhagen is TBD, as in "to be determined." That suggests he may stay a little longer to do some more lobbying if he thinks it's close enough that he might be able to help -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Wow. Very, very interesting. All right, Ed Henry, we'll stay in close contact with you. We sure do appreciate your report live out of Copenhagen this morning.

HENRY: Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: In the background of the climate change talks, efforts to hammer out a nuclear arms treaty between the U.S. and Russia. Later this morning, President Obama is due to meet with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev. Optimism for a deal has been up and down in recent days.

The latest sign from Russia's foreign ministry says the deal could be struck within hours.

A late-night vote puts the Senate one step closer to paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The vote after midnight closed the debate on a $636 billion spending measure. It provides money for the wars, but also includes an expansion of benefits for millions of unemployed Americans.

A final vote on the spending bill could come as early as tomorrow. And voting on the spending measure clears the way for the Senate to focus on the health care debate.

To Pakistan now. At least 12 people are dead after a car bomb exploded near a police compound. It happened in northwest Pakistan where troops have been battling militant fighters. Twenty-eight others were injured in the blast and the area's police chief tells the Associated Press the suicide bomb exploded just as police were leaving a mosque after Friday prayers.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen is in Iraq today. He's there to talk about withdrawal plans for U.S. troops. Mullen was asked about reports that Iraqi militants had hacked into video from unmanned U.S. drones. He said it didn't cause any significant military damage.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is joining us now live from Pentagon with a little bit more on this.

Elaine, good morning to you. So remind us how this whole security breach happened and, maybe even more interestingly, the reaction to it.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, what's so interesting, and frankly what some people find so disturbing about this, is how this happened in the first place. All it basically took, Heidi, was some inexpensive software that anyone can download off the Internet.

In particular we're talking about a program called SkyGrabber. Take a look. This is made by a Russian company. It sells for as little as $25.95 on the Internet. And basically what it does it allows users to take advantage of unprotected communications links.

Now as the "Wall Street Journal" first reported yesterday and as U.S. officials confirmed to CNN, insurgents used that program, basically, to intercept live video feeds from U.S. predator drones that were flying over Iraq.

Now a senior Defense official, as you can imagine, obviously very hesitant to talk details, but insisted that this is a problem that's an old issue for the military.


QUIJANO: And that has been addressed and one that has been fixed. In addition, another U.S. official said, Heidi, that American troops, American combat missions were not compromised by this breach -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. So then what's this all about? What's the takeaway from this being that it has happened and it has happened before, too?

QUIJANO: It has. And that's another thing that experts say is really disturbing as well, because the U.S. military has had this knowledge of this particular problem. In fact, I talked to one expect yesterday, Heidi, who said look, you know, they've known about this.

This is what happened in Bosnia. And even more recently, there was a CIA report back in 2005 that said that Saddam Hussein was suspected of doing the exact same thing, basically looking at video that was coming in over U.S. installations in Iraq after these Iraqi hackers were able to essentially do the same thing, intercept some of the information that was being brought in by some drones over Iraq. So bottom line here, Heidi, this is certainly not a new problem for the military. And experts are saying frankly that something should have been done sooner.

COLLINS: Yes, I guess the big question remains, how sensitive the information and what was Saddam Hussein and also in Bosnia able to do with the information that they got.

QUIJANO: Yes, well, you know, the experts say the problem here is, even if they didn't do anything with it the fact that they had it in the first place is a huge problem because what it means is that in the future other groups know that they'll be able to basically puncture through whatever layers of security existed.

Obviously now the military is saying that they have taken steps to insure that this doesn't happen again, but at the same time what they point to here is the fact that they should have been keeping up with this all along. Why wasn't the security sort of baked into the process from the get-go?

They say look, it's like a criminal, basically, being able to listen in on a police scanner, and they liken it to the fact that that criminal might not actually do anything at that moment, but just knowing that they have that ability to hear what police are saying, where they are going, that in and of itself is a huge vulnerability -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Elaine Quijano, we will be watching this story and the fallout from it. Thanks so much.


COLLINS: A much-watched international child custody case is on hold once again. American father David Goldman went to Brazil to get his 9-year-old son again after a court upheld his custodial rights again. But as he arrived, a Brazilian Supreme Court justice halted that reunion ordering a new review of the case.

New Jersey congressman Chris Smith has been working to help Goldman get his son back.


REP. CHRIS SMITH (R), NEW JERSEY: Justice could have done the right thing, he chose poorly and unwisely. This has become a major embarrassment to the Brazilian government.


COLLINS: Here's a look now at how this case has progressed. If you can follow all of this. In 2004, Goldman's Brazilian wife took their son to Brazil for vacation but then did not come back. She later filed for divorce. And in 2005 a Brazilian court ruled the boy was wrongfully taken from the United States but did not force his return. In 2007 the boy's mother remarried. She died last year during childbirth. In February of this year Goldman went to Brazil to get his son -- to get custody back. And he got to see his son for the first time in five years, in fact.

Well, since then the U.S. government has been pressuring Brazil to resolve the case. A court order in June gave Goldman joint custody but the Brazilian's Supreme Court stepped in and ordered a review.

We'll continue to follow that story for you here.

Meanwhile spinning out of the recession. Our Ali Velshi is on the "Road to Recovery" with the story of a former trucker turned DJ.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Spinning out of control if you're just on any road in the northeast over the next day and a half. We're talking about a major snowstorm that's going to be affecting everybody from, well, Richmond to Boston. We'll run it down when the CNN NEWSROOM comes right back.


COLLINS: Turning the tables on the economy. A former truck driver is surviving a bad economy by spinning tunes as a DJ.

CNN's chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is live in Savannah, Georgia now on the "Road to Recovery."

Love this story. Hey there, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Heidi. You know, you and I have talked this week about some solutions that are more simple than others.


VELSHI: This is a guy who has been in the trucking business for a while. That worked against him in the economy and he went back to one of his hobbies. He was a DJ. He decided he'd do that full time. Listen to his story.


TORVIN PRISTELL, "DJ TAP": My name is Torvin Pristell.. I go by DJ Tap. I got into deejaying about eight years ago and I do it on and off just as a hobby mostly, and now I do it full time because the trucking business didn't really work out for me.

The gas prices went so high and everybody was paying $4 a gallon for regular, and everybody's complaining about that, but we're paying like $7 or $8 for diesel. I saw this guy at fuel depot, and this guy was a full grown guy, a beard -- a guy's guy, and this guy was crying because he had to fill his tanks with this fuel like $6 or $7 a gallon.

What broke the camel's back for me was one of my semi's got on fire. I was making maybe $1,000 a week to nothing. So all I had was the -- I had a bunch of DJ equipment so like well, I'd get back into DJ again since the economy was bad and people were needing to save money, they were booking deejays instead of booking a band, because they're going to save a couple of hundred dollars.

And that's really how I made a big comeback. And I'm excited about it. It's a new start for me and, you know, I think things are going pretty well for me.


VELSHI: Now, Heidi, DJ Tap says he's enjoying it so much that even when the economy comes back he's not waiting to get back in the trucking business. He actually likes the DJ business. He sadly did not have a gig last night, otherwise we could have shown you some his handy work -- Heidi.

COLLINS: That would have been cool. All right, Ali, thanks so much. On the "Road to Recovery," Ali Velshi, Savannah, Georgia.

Boy, speaking about recovery, already trying to figure out how this weekend is going to go and how everybody is going to be able to recover from it because there is a major winter storm brewing all along the east coast. And Rob Marciano has been following it all morning long and has the latest now.

All right, Rob, where are we at?


COLLINS: OK. Very good, Rob. Thank you.

A major cancer breakthrough. Science has unlocked the genetic code for two types of cancer. Why this discovery could bring new hope for cancer treatment.


COLLINS: Time now to check some of our top stories this morning.

A Florida man got out of prison 35 years after being wrongfully convicted of rape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am now signing the order, sir. You are a freeman. Congratulations.


COLLINS: James Bain says he's not angry. He was freed after DNA evidence proved him innocent. Bain spent more time in prison than any other inmate who was eventually freed by new DNA test. The 54-year- old now says he wants to travel.

An Oklahoma judge is reviewing a controversial abortion law today that could lead to every procedure being catalogued online for anyone to see. The law which would take affect in 2011 requires doctors to fill out a questionnaire documenting race, marital status and educational background of their abortion patients. They also have to ask why, but they don't have to include the patient's name.

Supporters say it sets up a database that could help prevent future unwanted pregnancies. Opponents call it an invasion of privacy.

And we are talking about this story on our blog this morning. What do you think about posting information online about women who have abortions? Go to and let us know what you think. I'll be reading some of your comments coming up next hour.


COLLINS: A major breakthrough to tell you about. Scientists say they have cracked the genetic code of two common types of cancers, skin and lung cancer. And that could transform how cancers are diagnosed and then treated.

Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is here now with more on this.

Good morning to you, Sanjay.


COLLINS: So how did researchers do this and then why is it so important?

GUPTA: Well, they were able to do this because they can sequence gnomes much faster than they ever could before. I mean this is something that's exponentially changing.


GUPTA: Remember they did the human gnome and that was...


GUPTA: It took years. Now they take a cancer cell and sequence its entire gnome, trying to find out what's different about cancer versus health tissue.


GUPTA: That's sort of the key to all of this. You find the differences, you can maybe diagnose it earlier, treat it earlier as you mentioned.

COLLINS: And mutations?

GUPTA: Yes, they find these mutations specifically. So with lung cancer and melanoma, with the two they focused on this time, and they found tens of thousands of mutation, so small lung cancer...


GUPTA: ... 23,000 mutations. Malignant melanoma 33,000 mutations. The things I found really interesting here were a lot of the mutations are not going to be that important.


GUPTA: But there are going to be a few that sort of mean everything. They make the tumor cells divide, they make the tumor cells divide, they make the tumors grow. They really are controlling the cancer.

The other thing I thought was really interesting was the idea that our environment changes our genes. So they estimate that for every 15 cigarettes you smoke you cause another mutation in your lung. So that -- you know, that's how you get these tens of thousands of mutations...

COLLINS: Wow. How did they determine that?

GUPTA: Well, it's all based on modeling...

COLLINS: So specifically like that?

GUPTA: Yes, it's also based on modeling. And you know, it's still very early science, but definitely we can affect our genes through the environment.

COLLINS: Wow. Any idea how soon this is actually going to have practical applications for cancer patients?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I think that they're going to try and find some of the mutations that seem to be the key ones for sure. And you know we've seen this before, for example, with breast cancer?


GUPTA: They have breast cancer genes, and there's a drug called Herceptin out there -- people in the cancer community know about this -- that was designed specifically to target some of those mutations. And they'll probably going to do the same thing for lung cancer and melanoma.

But again, you know, what's so interesting is that the advice that you're probably going to get if you have these mutations, stop smoking, stay out of the sun, because we know the environment can affect our genes.


GUPTA: And these are preventable cancers in large part.


GUPTA: So after all the science and some of the advice may stay the same, but better treatments down the road.

COLLINS: Yes. Except for those weird cases of lung cancer...

GUPTA: Sure.

COLLINS: ... that we talked about so many times for people who have never touched a cigarette in their lives.

GUPTA: No risk factors.

COLLINS: Yes. Yes.

GUPTA: Yes. Yes.

COLLINS: All right, wow, this is fascinating. We'll continue to watch it.

GUPTA: I like to bring good news every now and then.

COLLINS: Yes, I like it, too. Darn it. All right, Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: See you.

COLLINS: Blue laws, a red hot issue in states that could benefit from more shopping on Sundays.


COLLINS: On Wall Street the Dow has now fallen for three straight days, but today we have some upbeat earnings reports that could put investors back into a buying mood.

Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange now with details on this.

Hi there, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi. Happy Friday to you.

COLLINS: Thank you.

LISOVICZ: We are expecting a modestly higher open. Two tech giants, Oracle and Research in Motion, posted quarterly results that easily topped Wall Street's estimates. Oracle's revenue also increased following two quarters of decline thanks to an unexpected increase in sales of its computer programs. Oracle considered a good barometer for the tech industry because it sells to so many types of business. Its shares were flying in the free market.

Meanwhile, Research in Motion's quarterly profits surged nearly 60 percent. Its revenue jumped by double digits as well. The BlackBerry maker shipped a record breaking number of phones. Last quarter, 10 million in three months despite stiff competition from the iPhone. It issued a solid forecast for this quarter. RIM shares right now up 12 percent.

Another company, meanwhile, says its plans to help out homeowners since holiday season. First, it was Citigroup. Now Fannie Mae is suspending foreclosures and evictions but just for two weeks, and it starts tomorrow.

Finally, a true Saab story. General Motors couldn't sell its Swedish brand, Saab. So GM will wind it down. Saab will continue. I know it's a sad moment for those of us who love all things Swedish, including Heidi Collins. Saab will continue to honor vehicle war. It's something we also love is green arrows. We're seeing it across the board.

Did you see who rang the opening, Heidi?

COLLINS: I did. But I'd rather hear your take on it.

LISOVICZ: Well, we're not seeing the numbers burned the floor. But it is the cast of the Broadway Show that rang the opening bell. This is the Latin and ballroom dance extravaganza. And among the cast members, a married couple who worked together and danced together. I just can't imagine having a partner that does not step on my toes.

COLLINS: Yes, understood. It's a good, good show, too.

LISOVICZ: Careful now. Careful.

COLLINS: Yes, yes. This is the time of year to be sweet and loving, yes.


COLLINS: All right. Susan Lisovicz, thanks so much. We will check back later on with you.


COLLINS: Several states still have Blue Laws on the books. Those are the laws that restrict what you can buy on Sundays. But as the economy continues to struggle, some states are considering scrapping their Blue Laws to help them stay in the block by generating more tax dollars.

CNN's Christine Romans reports that idea is not without controversy.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: 'Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry, except you can't do this on Sundays in some parts of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the law is an arcane law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a free country and people should be able to do what they choose to on which days. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They still go to church, because I know my church people would go to church.

ROMANS: They're called Blue Laws, and they limit shopping on items from booze to Buicks. More than a dozen states have laws restricting alcohol sales on Sundays, with three including Georgia banning liquor store sales altogether. In several states and counties, you can't buy a car on Sundays, dealerships must be closed.

In most counties in South Carolina, retail outlets can't open before 1:30 on a Sunday unless they are selling necessary items like food or fuel. It's based on a centuries old Christian concept brought over to this country in colonial times.

DAVID LABAND, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, AUBURN UNIVERSITY: Early -- particularly in statewide Blue Laws, actually referenced the fact that, you know, you were not to profane the Lord on the Lord's day, and that you went to church on Sundays. There would be no other work permitted on Sunday.

ROMANS: But Sunday closings have little to do with religion today.

Mack Thurston, owner of Mac's Beer and Wine in downtown Atlanta, it's happy to close his doors on Sundays for other reasons.

MAC THURSTON, OWNER, MAC'S BEER AND WINE: It's a day of rest that I like taking personally and professionally. All we'll do is spread out six days worth of sales over seven, incurring over head costs that we don't have now.

ROMANS: While big businesses with large payrolls have pushed to repel Blue Laws, many small mom and pops need to keep them around as a forced time-out from competition.

LABAND: This is not necessarily a religious thing any longer at least, that there just -- you know, whether it's Monday, whether it's Sunday, whether it's Saturday, or some other day of the week, small business owners in particular just need to have time off and they take that time off.

ROMANS: Blue Laws or not, Truett Cathy, the founder of fast food chain Chick-fil-A had never let his restaurants open on a Sunday. For him it is about religion. God comes before the bottom line.

TRUETT CATHY, FOUNDER, CHICK-FIL-A: It teaches very plainly to Lord rested for a day. When you work hard all week, you need that day.

ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN.


COLLINS: More about faith and finances in a tight economy.

Christine Romans is taking an in depth look, and you can see more on her special, "In God We Trust." Catch it tomorrow night 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

A new strike vote could be coming soon for British Airways employees. The union that covers cabin crew personnel says they are moving quickly for a new vote after a British high court said their last vote was inaccurate. The court barred employees from going out on a planned 12-day strike that was supposed to begin next Tuesday. Employees are upset over new staffing rules. No new strike will be called until after the holidays.

President Obama says time for talk is over. He is calling for a swift action at the U.N. climate change conference at Copenhagen. The president told world leaders that time is running short and the world will have to address climate change that hangs in the balance. He insists any deal must include transparency among nations.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's better for us to choose action over inaction, the future over the past. And with courage and faith, I believe that we can meet our responsibilities to our people, and the future of our planet.


COLLINS: The two-week long conference appeared stalled as late as yesterday, but there seemed to be a little bit of hope after the U.S. offered to help to raise $100 billion to provide resources for developing nations to address their climate change needs.

All right. I also should let you know that this is what we are looking at. Look at it. An amazing sight captured on tape. 4,000 feet beneath the sea. Know what it is?

For the first time ever, scientists have recorded the eruption of a Deep Sea Volcano in the Pacific Ocean. This high-def pictures were presented at a geo-physics conference in San Francisco yesterday.

Beautiful, right?

A submersible robot captured the images during an underwater expedition off Samoa last May.

Well, I guess you could say this is the one time where procrastination pays off. If you haven't booked a flight for the holidays, airlines are now offering last-minute bargain fares.


COLLINS: Here is a quick look now at our top stories today.

Iran races the stakes over its nuclear program and further defies demands from the United Nations. Earlier today, Tehran said it started making more efficient models of centrifuges and they will be in use in early 2011. The U.N. has demanded that Iran halted the enrichment program for fear it could be use for nuclear weapons. Tehran has always denied those claims. A new version of the health care bill could be seen in the Senate today. Majority Leader Harry Reid has been tweaking the nearly $1 trillion bill in an effort to gain the needed support from his fellow Democrats. But it is still unlikely anything will get past before the New Year.

An international custody battle gets uglier. David Goldman, American father, arrived in Brazil after a court ruled in favor of his custodial rights. But as he got ready to return to New Jersey with his 9-year-old son, Brazil Supreme Court stepped in and ordered yet another review. The case has dragged on now for more than five years.

And are you hacked off about this today? You might be if you tried to tweet overnight. Hackers successfully broke in to the popular microblogging site, Millions were left tweetless, but the problem seems to now have been fixed. Thank goodness!

And hey, some good news. If you waited until the last minute to book a flight for holidays, many airlines are slashing fares significantly. We're talking about deals you would only get when you buy tickets in advance.

So "USA Today's" air and travel correspondent Ben Mutzabaugh is joining us this morning from Washington to tell us a little bit more.

Hey, good morning to you, Ben.


This is an interesting move. What's the take-away here other than being able to get cheap flights and not having any excuse anymore if you don't want to go home and see certain relatives for the holidays?

MUTZABAUGH: Right. If you were telling your mom or your grandmother that you're not going to be home for Christmas because of high fares, you might be out of luck this year. But some people think it's a little bit sign of weakness, obviously. Business travelers aren't traveling during the holiday, especially Christmas week that much, so there is some extra seats.

And this is -- maybe some thinking that, you know, the seats didn't sell as well as airlines had hoped, even though they cut thousands and thousands of seats and flights out of their network. That there are still some empty seats to sell. So they are waiting some these advanced purchase rules.

Now it doesn't mean you're going to get a good deal on all flights, but if you could be creative about when you fly -- I just checked here just a few moments ago between New York and St. Louis, for example, it's about $700 or $800 for a non-stop. If you want to go the 23rd to the 27th, the dates everyone wants to fly, but if you can go over earlier, leave the 21st and may be come back Christmas night or at least in the afternoon, that fair drops to $201 roundtrip if you book right now, even for Christmas.

COLLINS: Wow, that's a $500 savings, right?

MUTZABAUGH: Yes, especially if you're bound to fly by 2 or 3 or 4 people in your party. That adds up.

COLLINS: Sure, the whole family. Yes, I got it.

So do they have to really travel on those certain days? I mean, what if you have something already and you want to change it?

MUTZABAUGH: You know, that's a great question, you know. But what if you already booked your $400 or $$500 ticket, and now you see fares that are pretty close to the flights that you got for $300 to $400 less? In most cases you are out of luck. The one thing you can do is you can call your airlines to, hey, I want to change my tickets to these cheaper ones. We'll probably still ding you for $150 or $100 change of ticket fee. But if that fee is still less than what the cost difference is, say if it's $300 less, you might get it with $150 fee, but still get $150 back in vouchers. It's not perfect, but it's something.

COLLINS: Yes, it is something.

Hey, let's talk about British Airways real quickly. Some news this morning now that there actually could be a new strike vote coming soon for employees that are disgruntled. This probably the best way to put it. What could the effect here be?

MUTZABAUGH: Well, you know, it's really, you know, unfortunately, this is obviously a labor management dispute. And unfortunately, it's going to put, you know, holiday travelers in the middle. And, of course, that's the leverage that the employees are seeking to take advantage of here.

But the short of it is, you know, regardless whether the court -- the British court system prevents the strike, or even if they can push something through, there is some really unhappy workers at British Airways who are very angry at management, and if some of them want to put together even a wildcat strike, there's very little that can stop them from walking away even if there are consequences down the road.

If you are flying British Airways, you're really on tough situation because if your flight is cancelled, you're not going to have many other options to get home for Christmas, but if you book a ticket at another airlines, and your flight ended up by operating as normal, you're on the hook for both tickets. So your flying really is bad.

COLLINS: Yes. And, you know, we have seen this happen with several of the domestic airlines as well, in sickouts and all of that are very effective over the holiday season.

What's the status of the airline industry right now by way of employees and how they are feeling about things, the environment? Well, you know, I think we are going to see a lot of things happen in 2010. I mean, right now, there are a lot of situations. Either way, we've had a long festering dispute between two sets of pilots at US Airways from the Old American West and the old US Airways. There has been a lot of discord at American. A lot of these contracts are up for negotiation. So there is some room here in 2010 for management in some of these situations maybe to make some headway. BEN MUTZABAUGH, USA TODAY AND TRAVEL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we're going to see a lot of things happening in 2010. I mean, right now there are a lot of situations we have either way, we've had a long festering dispute between two separate pilots of Us Airways from the old American West and the old US Airways.

There has been a lot of discord at American. A lot of these contracts are up for negotiation. So there is some room here in 2010 for management in some of these situations maybe to make some headway.


MUTZABAUGH: But on the flip side, if things go sour, I mean, we've already heard the threats of strikes at a couple airlines...

COLLINS: I know.

MUTZABAUGH: ... maybe this year, but right now they're just threats. So keep your fingers crossed. And I think at least for the first half of 2010 we're in good shape.

COLLINS: Ok, well, terrific, we sure do appreciate your time. Ben Mutzabaugh, we always love seeing you from "USA Today". Thank you.

MUTZABAUGH: My pleasure.

COLLINS: And Ben came to us from Washington, D.C. today which is one of the areas that is bracing for this winter storm that we have been talking about all morning long.

Rob Marciano is here now with more on that. Hey there Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's a very interesting setup Heidi. And a lot of people are being affected by this right now mostly in the form of rain and severe weather. And as we go through later on tonight and tomorrow, it's going to be in the form of snow.

We're monitoring this video feed coming at us from Broward, County WFOR affiliate out that way which is enduring a tremendous amount of flooding. Fort Lauderdale overnight got over 6 inches of rain in six hours, and totals getting close to a foot in spots. And obviously we have flooding issues on the roadways. And cars are being towed out of parking lots where they are completely submerged in some cases and flooded out. We will continue to watch that; obviously not a good situation there in Broward County, the Fort Lauderdale area.

All right. Temperatures there around the 68, 70 degrees mark. But just north in Atlanta, 36 and raining heavily; and 29 in D.C. 19 degrees in New York City. So when you have a couple storms, one here, and one here, combining to head up to the northeast, that's going to create some problems in the form of that colder air -- or that very, very moist air running into the very, very cold air, which will bring us snow.

Here is your heavy rain across parts of Florida. Also I should mention a tornado warning out for southern Miami, near the homestead racetrack there.

Very heavy rain through Alabama and Georgia; this is all heading to the north. As far as snowfall totals, what we are expecting to see beginning night and lasting through tomorrow in D.C., we could see over a foot of snow in D.C. Outside of D.C., we could see one to two feet in spots.

And then New York and Philly will be next under the gun. They will probably see lesser amounts but nonetheless winds and waves also, blizzard watch posted for parts of Long Island over the weekend.

COLLINS: Ok. You know what? I'm going to give you incredible power and totally put you on the spot right now.

MARCIANO: Is this a selfish question, because I know you are doing some travel?

COLLINS: Absolutely but there will be other people who are heading to D.C. today from Atlanta. Make the trip, don't make the trip? Your call.

MARCIANO: If have you a morning flight tomorrow you may get lucky, but if you have a afternoon flight -- in the afternoon -- pack for at least Sunday. D.C. shuts down in a hurry.

COLLINS: Yes, I know. Yes.

MARCIANO: If they get the 10, 12 inches or so inches that we think they're going to get, it's going to be a rough over the weekend.

COLLINS: Ok. I can get in but I can't get out. Very good. Thanks. I am holding you responsible. Thank you Rob.

MARCIANO: All right. Good to see you.

COLLINS: A new bike, a new game, are toys -- are the usual requests kids have for Santa but one little girl has a pretty tall order. She wants her dad, a soldier, home for Christmas.



COLLINS: The debate over global warming; two different views, both citing science, neither conceding ground.

CNN's Mary Snow talks to two of the most credible experts on opposite sides of the issue. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To get an idea of how Wallace Broecker really feels about climate change, you only need to look outside his office.

He's nicknamed this the climate beast. His point is the climate is angry and humans are provoking it. It's a subject he's been exploring for a long time. So long that Broecker is believed to have coined the phrase global warming back in 1975.

WALLACE BROECKER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY EARTH INSTITUTE: And I immediately didn't like it because I said -- well, I have written 480 scientific papers. I have written ten books. You mean I'm going to go down in history as the first one to say global warming?

SNOW: The 78-year-old Broecker would rather you know him for his science.

BROECKER: This is one of the great climate archives.

SNOW: Much of his research has been done here, at Columbia University's Earth Institute. This lab contains thousands upon thousands of samples of sediment collected from the ocean floor from all over the globe. Right now, he is focusing on the Equatorial Pacific.

BROECKER: We're trying to understand how the ocean circulated during glacial time.

SNOW: Broecker is a geologist who's been studying the climate of the planet over the last 25,000 years. He avoids specific predictions as most climate scientists do. But he's worried about the trajectory.

BROECKER: I base my fears for the future not on what's happening, but the fact what physics tells us that if we put these gases in the atmosphere we're going to warm the planet. If we're wrong about that, then we are out in left field on everything.

SNOW: Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at MIT is not worried. Yes, he believes there's warming but not a significant amount. On Lindzen's desk you'll see his piece of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize that Al Gore shared with a panel of 2,500 scientists studying climate change. But Lindzen sees things differently from most others on that panel.

In terms of global warming would you put yourself in denier or a doubter column?


SNOW: Why?

LINDZEN: To say a doubter presumes a really good case but you have some questions. I think it is a very poor case. SNOW: So what does he base his case on? Lindzen explains, among other things, he studies data from satellites like these to gauge the earth's cooling ability.

LINDZEN: So we're just looking at what the satellites are saying. They're saying it cools more effectively when you heat it up.

SNOW: He thinks other models rely too heavily on factors that have too many uncertainties.

As for today's melting polarized caps he says the Arctic is already recovering and dismisses projections that the climate is heading in a dangerous direction.

LINDZEN: I hope it goes away. Most of these things have gone away in time. And it's recognized it was a momentary hysteria.

SNOW: As for Lindzen's theory that the clouds and water vapor will help regulate the climate Wallace Broecker says this.

BROECKER: I will give you a five percent chance but we don't sit back and do nothing based on that five percent chance, because there's 95 percent chance that you are wrong.

SNOW: What's hysteria to Richard Lindzen is prudence to Wallace Broecker.


COLLINS: Ahead now, hard times for charities and the growing number of people who now depend on them. We'll look at the holiday struggles of several charities and talk to the people who are running them. It's our snapshot across America next hour.


COLLINS: Story of the day here now: most kids ask Santa for toys and games for Christmas, but one little girl in Georgia asked for her daddy, a soldier, to come back home. Reporter Renee Starsyk (ph) from our affiliate WGCL shows us how Santa delivered.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christmas is the time for believing.

RENEE STARSYK, REPORTER, WGCL: An early visit from Santa quite a surprise for little Bo Bellinger who turned 5 today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And look at your shirt. I love your shirt. It says my dad is a soldier.

STARSYK: Santa found out that's all this little girl wanted for Christmas, a visit from her dad. Tim Bellinger has served in Iraq and Afghanistan off and on since Bo was born. Santa told her wish really hard.

BO BELLINGER, WANTS DADDY HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: I want my daddy home for Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say it again. Let me hear it again.

BELLINGER: I want my daddy home for Christmas.


STARSYK: Minutes later the doorbell rings and Bo's wish is bigger than life. Hugs help erase all the time dad's been away.

TIM BELLINGER, BO'S FATHER: Being able to be here for her birthday, on her birthday, flying in this morning was just incredible for me. It just made my heart tickle.

This is just a moment that Santa will never forget. It's a moment that hopefully the family will never forget either.

STARSYK: And Bo's father told his daughter today he's not only home for the holidays, the best present of all, he's back home for good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a daddy's girl?

T. BELLINGER: She's definitely a daddy's girl.

STARSYK: Bellinger has three other children. He says he's thrilled they're a family once again, but he has not forgotten his fellow soldiers who have died or are still fighting. Those thoughts make this homecoming extra special.

B. BELLINGER: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Can I have a kiss?

T. BELLINGER: Say thank you, Santa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you have a merry Christmas now? Welcome home.


COLLINS: It doesn't get any better than that, does it? Merry Christmas to them.