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AMERICAN MORNING

Officials Working on 48-Hour Truce in Gaza; Blagojevich appoints Roland Burris to Senate seat; Cubans celebrate 50 years under Castro; Crime in NYC rising; Obama's golf game critiqued

Aired December 31, 2008 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CO-HOST: All right, it's one minute past the top of the hour. We are the morning's top stories -- the countdown to 2009, you know, body warmth may be the key to survival in Times Square tonight. New York City is expecting up to a million people all crammed into just a few city blocks with wind chills in the single digits. Snow and ice could be mixed in with the confetti with a winter storm on the way.
The Pentagon is reporting a sharp drop in military deaths in Iraq this year. 309 U.S. servicemen and women were killed there. That's down 66 percent from last year. Officials credit the drop to the U.S. troop surge and improved Iraqi security.

Kevin Bacon and his wife Kyra Sedgwick are the latest victims of alleged ripoff artist Bernie Madoff. Bacon's publicist says the couple invested with the man accused of the biggest scam in Wall Street history, but didn't say how much they lost.

We begin, though, with a dramatic and unprecedented showdown over the replacement for President-Elect Barack Obama's former Senate seat. Yesterday, in an act of defiance, embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich named a lobbyist and longtime politician to fill the very Senate seat he stands accused of trying to sell.

Blagojevich insisted it was his duty to fill the position and in fact, state law mandates it even though Senate Democrats are saying they will block any replacement he names. Blagojevich appointed 71- year-old Roland Burris. He was the first African-American to hold statewide office in Illinois when he served as comptroller back in 1983. Earlier on "American Morning," I spoke to Burris about the situation he's in now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Yet, today, there's this firestorm of criticism about this particular appointment, now this dream appointment must put you in a very uncomfortable position.

ROLAND BURRIS (D) FMR. ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it doesn't. Because I don't look upon the governor's problems as the -- as my problems. I look at the governor problems as his problems. He'll have to deal with that. And the governor is still the governor of Illinois.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: CNN's Ed Lavandera is covering the story. Ed, he says he's not in an uncomfortable position, but boy, this morning there are certainly a lot of people saying that they will not accept this appointment from this governor. And it's about this governor, not about this appointee.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And I think there's a lot of people across the state of Illinois who feel like they've been put in an uncomfortable position. You know, the governor has said yesterday that he is doing this because it's in the best interests of the people of Illinois, but his critics are saying nothing could be farther from the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The chutzpah shocks even the most passionate critics of Governor Rod Blagojevich.

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D) ILLINOIS: To not fill the vacancy would be to deprive the people of Illinois of two United States senators, to deprive the people of Illinois of their appropriate voice and votes in the United States Senate.

LAVANDERA: Blagojevich's lawyer had said the governor would not fill Illinois' vacant Senate seat, but there he is now, scandal- tainted governor, standing by his pick to become the next Illinois senator, Roland Burris.

BLAGOJEVICH: Please don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man.

LAVANDERA: Burris is a former Illinois attorney general, who ran against Blagojevich for governor in 2002. The two quickly became friends. Burris was a key member of the governor's transition team. Some Illinois politicians describe Burris as a Blagojevich crony who has spent years working as a lobbyist. Between his wife, his firm and himself, he's donated about $15,000 to Blagojevich's campaigns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The evidence has been presented is pretty appalling.

LAVANDERA: But just a few weeks ago, Burris said the governor should be removed from office. He's not saying that anymore.

ROLAND BURRIS (D) FMR. ILLINOIS ATTONREY GENERAL: I am humbled to have the opportunity and promise the citizens that I will dedicate my utmost effort as your United States senator.

LAVANDERA: The appointment sent shock waves across political circles in Illinois, many expressing dismay, outrage and one Republican official says the governor is a very confused person.

LT. GOV. PAUL QUINN (D) ILLINOIS: It's time that he get the message, the people of Illinois will not tolerate his antics any longer. JAY STEWART, ILLINOIS BETTER GOVT. ASSOC: This is really to some degree theater of the absurd. This is Governor Blagojevich thumbing his nose at the rest of the world.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

LAVANDERA: And, you know, Christine, at the end of the press conference, the only lone voice of support for this appointment so far came from Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush who emerged from the crowd at the press conference yesterday and said basically he would support the appointment because Burris would be the only African- American in the Senate. Rush as well an African-American congressman from Illinois. And as the governor left the press conference, he basically looked at reporters and said don't Lynch the appointee. So, this sense of racial politics has been injected into this already bizarre situation.

ROMANS: All right, Ed Lavandera. Thanks Ed.

And right now Governor Rod Blagojevich's pick has an uphill battle. The Democratic leadership is warning it will not seat anyone appointed by the Illinois governor. A statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said their action is not against Roland Burris, but rather the integrity of a governor accused of trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat. Illinois secretary of state has come out against the appointment as well saying he will refuse to certify it.

JOHNS: And with Democrats challenging the appointment, there are a lot of unanswered questions. For that, we turn to CNN's legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Good morning and happy New Year to you.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hi.

JOHNS: Well, the story Christine just read, can Senate Democrats do this? Is the Senate's power unlimited when it comes to seating a senator appointed in this way?

TOOBIN: Good question. Not entirely clear. The article one of the constitution says that the House and Senate can control their own membership, the requirements for membership in their bodies. But what does that mean? It is not an unlimited power. There's a famous case from 1969 in the U.S. Supreme court where the House of Representatives tried to strip Adam Clayton Powell, a famous congressman from Harlem, of his seniority, tried to keep out of the House and the Supreme Court said the House couldn't do that. That was an abuse of the House's power. So, the question of how much power the House and Senate have over their own membership is somewhat of an open one and I don't think anyone knows for sure whether Harry Reid can follow through on the threat to keep him out.

JOHNS: It's sort of a -- isn't there a due process question in there? I mean, this guy hasn't had a hearing. This governor hasn't been convicted of anything, I mean hasn't really even been charged and already the Democrats are looking at this whole thing and saying forget about it. TOOBIN: I'm actually not sure it's really a due process question, because, you know, he is innocent until proven guilty of a crime.

JOHNS: Right.

TOOBIN: That means he can't be put in jail. But you and I can be fired without being convicted of a crime. You lose a lot of responsibilities in a political environment if you are simply charged. And, you know, that governor yesterday, the guy at the press conference, he's out on bail right now. So, the idea that he can continue to govern normally I think is folly and it's not -- and there's no reason pretending that.

JOHNS: So what happens, you go to court? That's where it all ends up

TOOBIN: I think in the best political and legal tradition what's going to happen now is a lot of delay. The Democrats are going to refer it to the Senate Rules Committee. They're going to have a study. Basically I think what the Democrats hope happens is that the impeachment process in Illinois catches up and Blagojevich is eventually forced out of office relatively soon. And then Pat Quinn can go to Burris and say, look, let's have a clean break. We're going to appoint someone new and that I think is probably what the Democrats hope for, not some Supreme Court fight over whether Burris can be the senator.

JOHNS: There's also this issue of the secretary of state and whether that certification should happen of this appointment. Does that make any difference at all?

TOOBIN: I think that is not something that's going to stop Burris from serving. The real issue is the Senate, because the Senate does have some constitutional power here, but the question is, can they punish Burris, who clearly has done nothing wrong here, for the sins of the guy that appointed him.

JOHNS: That's the question. I mean if you look at Burris, he has a pretty clean record, right? The only sin he's committed is being tainted by the governor who put him in.

TOOBIN: Well, I think it's maybe a little more than that. Maybe it's ambition, maybe it's being used, maybe it's associating yourself with a political figure, Blagojevich, who literally has no support in the state of Illinois and has essentially ceased to govern. Maybe that -- I think that's a political accusation you could lob at Burris. But, clearly, he's not done anything unethical or illegal.

JOHNS: Got it, Jeff Toobin as always, happy New Year. See you out on Times Square?

TOOBIN: No, I don't think so.

ROMANS: All right, before we ring in 2009, we're taking a look at the biggest business blunders of 2008, so many to choose from. We brought Stephanie Elam by to "Mind Your Business" just ahead.

But five decades ago, Cuba as we know it, came into being 50 years after Fidel Castro took over the country. We'll look back at that historic moment.

But, first, Australia ringing in 2009 just about 10 minutes ago. Happy New Year down under.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: What a crazy year 2008 was for the business world. Stephanie Elam is here to tell us the big business blunders of 2008. There's so many to choose from, how did you ever pick?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I didn't. I asked the people at cnnmoney.com. They picked them. But I can think of a couple off the top of my head, we can probably all do that. It really should not be a surprise that there are that many.

JOHNS: Madoff made of the year, sorry.

ROMANS: I know (INAUDIBLE) major financial scandal. He's only the punctuation mark on the end of a crazy year.

ELAM: At the end of the year. So as I was saying the folks at cnnmoney.com were able to come up with nearly two dozen dumb business moments and while there were many, a couple of things that probably stand out involve the nation's troubled auto makers, so let's start there.

ROMANS: The road trip from hell, right?

ELAM: That's a good place to start. But first you got to go and fly there first. The CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler sat before Congress pleading for a multi-billion dollar bailout just hours after they arrived in their swanky corporate jets. Not a good thing. But when they returned to the Hill a few weeks later they all came in company hybrids, which all right, it sounded like you learned your lesson, but making things a bit uncomfortable, Chrysler chief Robert Nardelli, he drove up in a Dodge Aspen hybrid. It looks like a pretty comfortable ride, but too bad no one else will be able to get on. The vehicle's being discontinued.

JOHNS: Lovely.

ELAM: ... lost their jobs. It wasn't just the car makers this year. Microsoft bid nearly $45 billion for Yahoo! That was considered a dumb move because it was a whopping 61 percent premium over Yahoo's stock price at the time. What's even dumber, Yahoo! turned it down.

ROMANS: Yeah, that's what shareholders are not happy with that.

ELAM: Some job changing at Yahoo! because of that. Now if you have more dumb moments you want to hear about, like, oh, the Ponzi scheme of Madoff and the SEC not being able to pick it up or perhaps the accidental release of Steve Jobs' obituary when he's alive, you can always check out cnnmoney.com.

JOHNS: That's incredible.

ELAM: I'm still sticking by my favorite one being the nearly $1,000 application on the iPhone app store that was just basically a glowing red jewel that people actually bought before Apple took it back (INAUDIBLE) .

JOHNS: Was that before or after the stock market went --

ELAM: I don't know when it happened in occurrence to that, right.

ROMANS: The stork market went down this year? I totally missed that story.

ELAM: I haven't looked at any of my statements, have you, like 401(k)s? I'm lying. I do have to check.

ROMANS: What I love about the Bernie Madoff scandal though, we cannot -- the SEC getting 10 years of specific warnings and failing to follow-up on them and the SEC now saying now we realize that we overlooked a few things --

ELAM: A lot of things that happened during good times, no one pays attention to them, it's when things turn sour that all these things come to light here.

ROMANS: Stephanie Elam with just --

ELAM: Happy New Year! Starting tomorrow we have a whole new year of these to find.

ROMANS: We have annual returns that maybe won't go down 40 percent.

ELAM: Please no.

ROMANS: Fifty years ago, the Cuba of today began. We're looking back at the last five decades of the communist country's history and the bitter relationship between Havana and Washington.

But there's plenty of drink and merriment counting down to midnight, but you want to ring in safely. Ring in 2009 safely. We'll have some important tips for you ahead, 15 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: The Cuba as we know it today began 50 years ago. Fidel Castro came in to the capital, Havana, with his guerrilla rebels on New Year's day 1959 and after a vicious house-to-house battle against the government. So, after five decades under the rule of the Castro brothers, what does the future hold for this small island nation? Our Havana bureau chief Morgan Neill is live from the Cuban capital this morning. Good morning, Morgan.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Joe. That's right, preparations here are really in their final stages as Cuba gets ready to celebrate 50 years of the revolution, the main act we're expecting to see in the east of the country in Santiago de Cuba, a good ways from the place where we're expecting to hear President Raul Castro deliver an address on the anniversary of 50 years, 50 years in which a lot of things have changed here, including the very word revolution has taken on a new meaning.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

NEILL (voice-over): In Cuba today, when someone refers to the revolution, often this is what they mean, the country's aging, established government. Change is something that happened long ago. After 50 years, peoples' hopes for the revolution's future are hardly revolutionary. I hope that it continues to move forward says this student, because this country needs developed. We're really behind.

More opportunities, says this man, the economy and in transportation. But there was a time when the goals were much loftier. In the first days of 1959, when Fidel Castro and his bearded rebels rolled into Havana on tanks and other captured vehicles, they talked of sweeping changes, an end to corruption, justice for the poor and independence from foreign domination.

Fifty years later, their achievements are a mixed bag. The government often points to free health care as a measure of its success. Cuba is a global medical power, nobody can doubt that says this public health official.

Also touted by the government, education. Literacy rates are among the world's highest and access to higher education is widespread. But students question why they can't travel freely and why their access to the Internet is so limited.

Most Cubans can barely make ends meet. While the government blames the U.S. embargo, critics say it's just bad management. They say the gains of the revolution have come at too heavy a price. Dissident groups say Cuba holds more than 200 political prisoners, a charge the government denies. Television, radio and newspapers are all controlled by the state.

Cuba marks the 50th anniversary of the revolution with a new president. Raul Castro officially took the reins last February. But this year, he's faced three devastating hurricanes, rising prices for food imports and plummeting prices for nickel, one of Cuba's most important exports.

In a speech this week, he warned Cubans, who earn the equivalent of less than $20 a month, to prepare for belt tightening. The accounts don't add up, Raul Castro told the national assembly. Two plus two always makes four, never five. You have to (INAUDIBLE) realism and adjust the dreams to the true possibilities. Tat pragmatic approach, a far cry from the idealism of the early days of the revolution led by his brother.

JULIA SWEIG, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think that the celebrations of the 50th anniversary are also marked by a real sense that sustaining this experiment and institutionalizing it is going to require major, major lifting in a very short term by the people running the country today.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

NEILL: And that in turn could mean adapting. It could mean making changes to deal with the new environment. But ironically enough, change really isn't a strong point of this revolution. Joe?

JOHNS: Thanks so much, Morgan Neill, in Havana for us this morning.

Tomorrow, on "American Morning," we'll look at the long- standing political standoff between Cuba and America and whether relations could thaw in the future. Christine?

ROMANS: Joe, 2009 just hours away and the crowds will be gathering in Times Square. Tips on how to ring in the New Year safely from New York City's top cop. It's 22 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: That's a live look at the scene that will look, you know, pretty different come tonight, midnight thousands of revelers expect to pack Times Square and you can bet security will be a major concern tonight. So, what steps are being taken in the big apple to keep all those party people safe? Are there concerns of a terror attack? Joining me now is NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. Thanks for joining us.

RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: Frankly, what keeps you up at night when you have New Year's eve rolling around with potentially a million people in Times Square, all those people, a lot of security, but what keeps you up?

KELLY: Well, we have a lot of experience in doing this. We have major events of course in Manhattan all year long and we have this every year. So, there's no specific threats. You'll see lots of uniformed police officers, lots of police officers there who won't be in uniform. We urge people not to bring packages, backpacks, certainly no alcohol. We'll have a very aggressive DWI enforcement program.

ROMANS: Sure.

KELLY: And, you know, we urge people to take mass transit. It's going to be a happy, peaceful, festive event.

ROMANS: Sure. And that balance has been pretty incredible since the September 11th terrorist attacks, the ability to balance the festivities with the security and I'm sure there will be security that we won't be able to see to the naked eye. What will we see? KELLY: You'll see lots of uniformed officers. As I said, you'll see some of our equipment that will be on display. We have a sky watch towers that we have in various locations. We have radiation detection equipment.

ROMANS: Right.

KELLY: We have biological detection equipment. What you won't see officers in plains clothes. We have what we call a counterterrorism overlay. We'll have a lot of observation posts that will be manned. We have our helicopters in the air.

ROMANS: It's been just a month since the terror attacks in Mumbai, where just 10 individuals, they think, it looks like now about 10 individuals were able to just absolutely wreak havoc in that city for more than a day. When you look at an event like that, does it change the calculus for you for New Year's eve and for other mass gatherings in New York City?

KELLY: No. I can tell you what happens overseas obviously concerns us. We sent people to Mumbai. We got very specific information as to what happened there. We'll make some adjustments, some adjustments that may not -- the public may not see, but we're also looking at our -- our plans. And, you know, we've learned from Mumbai. We've learned from every event that happens overseas.

ROMANS: Is it a coincidence or just like that there hadn't been another terrorist attack in New York City?

KELLY: Oh, I think an awful lot of hard work has been done to protect this city and to protect the country, by the Federal government, by certainly local resources as well. So we've done a lot. We believe that we've done more any other city that I'm aware to protect ourselves.

ROMANS: We know the security experts talk about the transition period being vulnerable for national security. How does anything change for you as we await the new administration this time? Is it particularly more dangerous or do you every day treat the -- you know, treat each day with the same kind of set of threats?

KELLY: Well, there's no specific threats. But I think the current administration, the Bush administration, has paid an awful lot of attention to the issue of transition.

ROMANS: Right.

KELLY: They've worked with people who will be assuming positions in the new administration. They've made certain that the career individuals are in the deputy position spots in major Federal departments. So, a lot of focus has been given to that issue.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, the hypothetical, we worry about the hypothetical about a Mumbai-style attack or some sort of terrorist attack we don't understand or something terrible happening on New Year's eve. But we know the economy is weak. We know there's been an increase in robberies. We know about the property thefts and the petty thefts that come along with a weak economy. How are we dealing with that? That's something that happens every day and we sort of anticipate.

KELLY: It does happen every day. But crime is down again in New York City. We're down 4 percent this year.

ROMANS: Are you concerned a weak economy is going to be a problem?

KELLY: I think it's something we have to pay attention to. We've had weak economies in the past and yet crime continues to go down in New York City, but it's certainly something that we have to be concerned about.

We have seen an uptick in bank robberies, but to a certain extent we think the banks are responsible for some of that because they haven't really paid attention to doing some of the things we think will help protect them.

ROMANS: They are paying attention now I would say. I would think they're paying attention with five in one day. And tonight you'll be in Times Square yourself.

KELLY: Absolutely, be cold and be there, the only place to be.

ROMANS: Happy New Year.

KELLY: Happy New Year.

ROMANS: Commissioner Kelly, thanks.

JOHNS: Christine, it's 29 minutes after the hour. Here are the morning's top stories.

He was warned not to do it. He was told it would not fly, but the man accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat, he's given it away. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed 71-year-old Roland Burris, by all accounts, a respected public figure, the first African-American to hold statewide office in Illinois. But Senate Democrats said they will block anyone Blagojevich picks.

Kevin Bacon and his wife Kyra Sedgwick are the latest victims of alleged rip-off artist Bernie Madoff. Bacon's publicist says the couple invested with the man accused of the biggest scam in Wall Street history but did not say how much they lost.

And breaking in the Middle East. Israel has said no to a 48-hour truce and is calling up more reserves in its all-out war against Hamas.

The relentless bombing campaign has leveled several government buildings and now claimed 390 lives according to Palestinian sources, but the bombing has not stopped Hamas from sending rockets deeper into Israeli territory. And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is stirring emotions in people all over the world with loyalties to both sides. Dozens of protests took place here in the U.S. and yesterday. Chris (Wallace) was at one of them where insults replaced rockets and missiles.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, Christine, this is just one of several rallies here in Los Angeles and we are seeing scenes like this all over the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): In Los Angeles, one man got into a heated argument when he showed support for Israel at a pro-Palestinian rally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are killers. You are terrorists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I'm a terrorist?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are!

LAWRENCE: Steve Patrick said Hamas started this by firing rockets into Israel.

STEVE PATRICK, SUPPORTS ISRAEL: They have a right to live in peace and they are not being allowed to live in peace.

LAWRENCE: Patrick says Israel should keep targeting Hamas even if some innocent Palestinians are killed.

PATRICK: I don't see any alternatives when they are mixed right in with them.

LAWRENCE: At that same protest, Yossi Khen urged Israel to consider a cease-fire and talk to Hamas.

YOSSI KHEN, GREW UP IN ISRAEL: You don't have to like them. I don't like Hamas.

LAWRENCE: Khen is in California now but he grew up outside Tel Aviv, served in the Israeli army and says Israel is wrong to bomb Gaza.

KHEN: Just because Hamas engaged in a war crime it doesn't mean we have to do a war crime multiplied by ten.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the sidewalk!

LAWRENCE: Across the country tempers flare. Protesters push police barricades. And the fight in Gaza is spilling over into American streets. From Miami to Minnesota, and out west in San Francisco, Americans are taking a stand.

No surprise to see a crowd surge outside the White House gates. But if the president-elect thought Hawaii would give him sanctuary, he was wrong.

As Barack Obama vacationed in Honolulu, protesters let him know the kind of change they're looking for.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (on-camera): Obviously passions aren't quite as heated as they are in the Middle East, but clearly Americans all over the country on both sides are very invested in what happens in Gaza.

Joe, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Chris Lawrence, thanks.

The very lucrative business side of a "Baby Quest," young women selling their eggs to make babies. And they're getting paid plenty of money for that.

And looking back at some of the craziest stories of the year from the shoes hurled at the president to the Sarah Palin calendar. We're counting down the most memorable moments in 2008. It's 33 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: You know, 2008 was filled with a lot of fodder for comedians and late-night talk show hosts, but what will go down as the wackiest, most memorable, you couldn't make it up stories of the year?

JOHNS: Paul Tompkins is the host of VH1's "Best Week Ever." He joins us now. Good morning, happy new year, and thanks for coming in.

PAUL TOMPKINS, HOST VH1'S "BEST WEEK EVER": Good morning and happy new year to you as well.

JOHNS: About this shoe-throwing incident. All right, you look at it, it's comedy. But I mean, why is it funny?

TOMPKINS: It's a shoe. That's what makes it so funny. It's a shoe. I know - I understand in other parts of the world that is a huge insult, but here it's like my girlfriend has thrown shoes at me, you know what I mean.

ROMANS: Not once but twice.

TOMPKINS: Oh yes. Well, you got two shoes, why not.

ROMANS: Why isn't the terrible puns we have in television writing, the other shoe to drop and all that. You know, I mean, --

TOMPKINS: The thing that makes it so beautiful is you sort of have pride in our president's cat-like reflexes. He's so fast. That was amazing!

JOHNS: Yes, boxing or something.

TOMPKINS: Yes. JOHNS: Moving on, the star of the year.

ROMANS: Sarah Palin.

JOHNS: No question.

ROMANS: This calendar, this 2009 calendar that apparently, I mean, she will live on in 2009 as a memorable moment for more than her 15 minutes.

TOMPKINS: Yes. A decade or so. Indeed.

And I think we will still be talking about her this time next year when we are saying I have to buy a new calendar, my Sarah Palin calendar has run out.

JOHNS: What's the funniest thing about her?

ROMANS: Yes, why is it funny?

TOMPKINS: JOHNS: I think that she loved to jump in front of any camera. Even after it was all over, she was still jumping in front of cameras, even if they were slaughtering turkeys in the background, it did not matter. Any camera, in any place, I will get in front of.

ROMANS: That was unfortunate.

TOMPKINS: Unfortunate is a good word to use.

ROMANS: Its' also unfortunate -

JOHNS: One of here favorite things --

ROMANS: one of our favorites -

JOHNS: Today on the show.

ROMANS: The road trip from hell. The road trip from hell to D.C. that I'm sure -

JOHNS: We've been talking about this all morning.

ROMANS: The young public relations college students are going to learn about this particular episode and know never to advise their clients to do it.

TOMPKINS: Which road trip?

ROMANS: The automakers.

TOMPKINS: Oh, yes. Yes. When they took the planes to -

ROMANS: Yes.

TOMPKINS: Well, first of all, public shaming I think is good. You know When Congress shamed the automakers for taking a plane. Our country is built on public shaming, the Puritans, the Salem witch trials. Nobody got hurt except for those women who were drowned as witches, but they did float, so their names were cleared. But just because you make cars for a living doesn't mean planes are no longer practical. You know what I mean, like they should be allowed to fly a plane to D.C. I fear for the boating industry if they are ever in trouble.

JOHNS: Exactly.

TOMPKINS: It's going to be a long trip.

JOHNS: And the aircraft industry is in trouble anyway.

TOMPKINS: Exactly.

JOHNS: Now, the ladies of "The View" is another one of your favorites.

TOMPKINS: Favorites is a bit of a stretch.

JOHNS: OK. I get a snicker out of them.

TOMPKINS: Oh, sure. They got so much mileage out of the - out of the presidential race, the arguing between specifically Elisabeth Hasselbeck and everybody else, because she was the sole conservative on that panel of ladies, and it was just like watching political arguments in your own family. Nobody's mind got changed and somebody ends up crying that everybody else is picking on them. You know, but then I love that Elisabeth retained the courage of her convictions that even though she said for months that Obama consorted with terrorists, as soon as he was elected, that ceased to be a problem.

JOHNS: There's a lot of sarcasm -

TOMPKINS: Yes.

ROMANS: It's funny. Or is it funny, or is it like funny?

TOMPKINS: Well, it's funny to watch these people, are any of them qualified to be bickering about politics on national television. You know what I mean.

ROMANS: Also like my family, for example.

TOMPKINS: Exactly. If there's a camera in your home, you know, wouldn't you be a little embarrassed?

ROMANS: The difference is you can't turn your family off but you can sure turn off other people talking about politics.

TOMPKINS: Exactly. Well, hopefully one day we can turn our families off.

JOHNS: Paul Tompkins.

Yes, well. Maybe you can. Best of luck to you. A happy new year and thanks for coming in.

TOMPKINS: Thanks.

JOHNS: It is now 40 minutes after the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Infertility and another woman's eggs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was paid $7,000.

ROMANS: Pretty, young women who sell their eggs for big bucks. Making babies, making money. The business side of a "Baby Quest." You're watching the most news in the morning.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. More and more women are helping other couples have children. And they're making a nice chunk of change while doing it. Randi Kaye has today's installment of our series, "Baby Quest."

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Joe and Christine. Thousands of women in today's tough economy are earning extra cash by donating their eggs. It pays as much as $10,000. Women who carry a baby as a surrogate mom can rake in even more, 30 grand in some cases.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE (voice-over): At 26, Courtney Smith has lots of bills to pay. She's a wine steward at a high-end Manhattan restaurant but said the economy is hurting business and as a result her bank account. She's already cut back on eating out and cab rides. She'd get a second job, but she doesn't have the energy or the time. So, she plans to donate her eggs. She first did it two years ago when money got tight.

So how much were you paid when you donated your eggs?

COURTNEY SMITH, EGG DONOR: I was paid $7,000.

KAYE: Courtney provided these baby pictures so recipients can see what their child might look like. Once matched, usually with a couple unable to have their own children, donors like Courtney take hormones for about two weeks to stimulate ovulation. A doctor then removes the eggs from the donor's ovaries. The recipient gets the eggs to fertilize them. The donor gets the money.

Debra Spar, author of "The Baby Business" said she'd never let her daughter donate. Spar is concerned about the women's health. Ovaries can be overstimulated which she says can be dangerous.

DEBRA SPAR, AUTHOR "THE BABY BUSINESS": It is one woman giving birth to a child who is genetically the child of another woman. It is sales of our most intimate products.

KAYE: Kathy Benardo started a donor agency in Manhattan.

KATHY BENARDO, NORTHEWAST ASSISTED FERTILITY GROUP, INC.: I don't want people to lose sight that this is a treatment for infertility.

KAYE: Courtney was recently anonymously matched with a recipient who will pay her $8,000. The maximum recommended by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine is $10,000. Though some recipient place private ads like this one, offering much more. Bernardo said the number of donor applicants at her agency has doubled in recent months.

KAYE (on-camera): What gets somebody picked?

BERNARDO: Attractiveness is number one, that you have to be attractive, and it's a beauty contest to a certain degree but also education, high test scores, ability in music and sports and things like that.

KAYE (voice-over): Most women say the money is secondary. That it's really about helping others. Courtney says those women are kidding themselves. Would you donate your eggs if you weren't getting paid for them?

SMITH: Personally, I don't think that I would if it was for a stranger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: Most women who donate are under 30 when their eggs are healthiest. Courtney will keep doing it as long as she needs the money, but she does plan to save some eggs to have her own child one day. Joe, Christine.

JOHNS: CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away. Heidi Collins is at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Joe. That's right. Here's a check of what we're working on now in the NEWSROOM, just a few minutes away. The Middle East on edge. Gaza in ruins. Israel rejects a ceasefire and Hamas fires back.

Plus new resolutions for the new year. Your lifelong journey can begin with a single step. Dr. Sanjay Gupta with the keys to a longer life.

And the future is now. 2009 is ushered in on the other side of the world. We're going to get started at the top of the hour right here on CNN. Joe.

JOHNS: Injured in a war zone, cut off from the rest of the world. Dr. Sanjay Gupta knows firsthand what that's like. The struggles for thousands of people in desperate need of medical care in Gaza. It's 47 minutes after the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: There we go. Snowy New York City skyline. Wow, tonight it's our turn, you know, this is the can't-miss celebration, it begins at 11:00 p.m. tonight with Anderson Cooper, Kathy Griffin right here on CNN. We will have live reports from Las Vegas, Key West, you know, where they drop a (conk)ph. New Orleans.

But everybody better bundle up here in New York City, it's expecting to be freezing cold. It looks like right now, snow falling, traffic still moving. But tonight it will be jam-packed. There will be cold people. There will be maybe some proposals, maybe some breakups. Lots of cold feet.

Jacqui Jeras, she's doing the weather for us today. Jacqui, it's going to be cold tonight, isn't it?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: you know, really miserable. If for no other reason it would be fun to tune in tonight just to watch them suffering in the cold. Because we're talking about wind chill indices in the single digits, maybe even single digits below zero and the winds are going to be howling. You know, you look at this map and you think, uh, not too bad, teens, but we're talking about winds still gusting between 20 and 30 miles per hour.

It's going to be feeling like maybe seven at midnight tonight. So, certainly bundle up with the hat and the parka and the scarf and the whole bit. You don't want to have a lot of exposed skin, because it really can be dangerous. You can get frostbite out there, believe it or not.

A lot happening between now and then. Low pressure and a strong cold front moving through the northeastern corridor, is bringing in some hefty snow amounts. In fact, one to two inches at times across parts of upstate New York, pushing into western Massachusetts right now. Winter storm warnings in effect for you form Boston down through Providence, expecting four to eight inches there. And the wind warnings in effect for New York City, to Philadelphia, even into Baltimore, where winds will gust between 50 and 60 miles per hour at times.

Now, that's enough to knock down some significant tree branch, spotty power outages are going to be possible and holiday decorations are going to be blowing all over the place. And if you're trying to get into New York City or other areas of the northeast, you're going to have a lot of trouble doing that. The later in the day that you get, the worse off you will be. The best news I could tell you Christine is that at least the snow should end before the midnight hour.

ROMANS: Well, it sure is pretty, Jacqui. Happy new year. Thanks, Jacqui.

JERAS: You, too.

JOHNS: Christine, hospitals are near their breaking point in Gaza, desperately trying to care for the badly injured. Palestinian sources say close to 2,000 people are injured and many could die because of a lack of basic medical supplies. We're paging Dr. Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent in Atlanta this morning. Happy new year, almost, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And to you as well.

JOHNS: You've seen this type of devastation before firsthand. What are the challenges that the hospitals in Gaza are facing right now?

GUPTA: Well, you know, one thing that's important to point out, and I have been in this part of the world. I have been in this part of the world during conflict before. Gaza was a place that already had so few resources in order to be able to take care of these patients in hospitals. Hospitals are often built with a lot of redundancy to be able to take care of extra patients should there be some sort of traumatic thing happening in that particular area.

Unfortunately when you have so many patients, the numbers that you're citing, Joe, it is overwhelming to any hospital structure. If you add on top of that the lack of basic resources, including fuel for generators, antibiotics, narcotics, what we're hearing is a very, very high death-to-injury ratio.

So, a lot of people who go in with preventable deaths, people who have injuries that could otherwise be salvaged in some way, we're hearing horrific stories about those patients not being able to be saved. And that's what's happening in this area. That is classic war zone triage.

When you talk about the types of injuries, Joe, and I've seen it firsthand, you talk about the primary blast from an air strike. That's the first thing that happens. The secondary blast is when all the shrapnel and the debris is thrown up in the air and the tertiary blast is when bodies are thrown up against bodies or against walls and enclosed spaces. You get some of the worst injuries there. One of the things that happen is traumatic brain injuries. You can see on the screen.

The brain literally being rattled back and forth in the skull, it has nowhere to go once it starts to swell like that and that's a problem as well that needs urgent medical attention that they're not getting right now, Joe.

JOHNS: You've been talking, I understand, to the International Red Cross. Any sense of whether they've been able to get supplies in?

GUPTA: Well, we've heard they've been able to get some supplies in now. They specifically told us they were able to get a few trucks in. Three truckloads with blood, spare dialysis parts, generators. They've also been able to get a few ambulances in.

This has been somewhat of a difficult proposition for them because some of these precious commodities are also being targeted on the battlefield. And you know even though they are Red Cross, even though they are humanitarian vehicles, they are still in the target zone. They say they have ten tons of supplies ready to go in when they can. They're desperately needed but not able to get in right now, Joe.

JOHNS: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much for that and we'll see you next year.

GUPTA: All right. Joe, thanks.

JOHNS: It is 54 minutes after the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): The president-elect at play.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: if you had to grade Barack Obama -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A "C" plus.

MOOS: A "C" plus?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Average.

ROMANS: Is Obama's swing worse than his bowling? Jeanne Moos rates his golf game.

You're watching the most news in the morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, while we're young.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, sir. Tee off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bet you slice into the woods 100 bucks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, sir, and I never slice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Damn!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, you can owe me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I owe you nothing!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That's a clip from the classic golf comedy, "Caddyshack." President-elect Barack Obama, you know, he has shown athletic prowess on the basketball court, the bowling alley, not so much. But how's his golf swing? Jeanne Moos takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOOS (voice-over): Hawaii, a golfer's paradise, except when the press is watching your every drive, your every toss, your every bite, your every swing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he sucks.

MOOS: You think you could do something for Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I definitely could.

MOOS: Could you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would love to have him in.

MOOS: But unfortunately for this golf pro at New York's Chelsea Golf Academy, Obama's out there, probably bent out of shape at the press scrutiny of his golfing. Something every president has had to endure, golf is a game that doesn't take orders from even the commander in chief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go. Get in the hole.

MOOS: The little white ball ignored the president as did the cat that parked itself in front of President-elect Obama's golf cart and had to be shooed away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cat won't move.

MOOS: At least the public showed him more respect. Obama shushed the crowd so as not to disturb his golfing buddies. About that swing of his, we showed it to our pro. If you had to grade Barack Obama -

CHRISTOPHER STOUDT, GOLD PRO: He'd be a "C" plus.

MOOS: "C" plus?

STOUDT: He's average.

MOOS: Apparently there are issues with his posture and his swing path. He's going out here -

STOUDT: And creating a big loop.

MOOS: And then going like that.

STOUDT: That's pretty good like that.

MOOS: Beginner's luck that soon went bad. Big difference. Like a certain someone in Hawaii. The president-elect did have some nice shots.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Looks pretty good, right? MOOS: When a lady in the crowd yelled, better than your bowling. President-elect Obama agreed, much better. And just as he used body language to urge the bowling ball to say on course, he used body language in vain on the golf ball. So what if Barack Obama's no Tiger Woods, at least we never saw his ball end up in the woods.

As for all those divots. Wait a minute, that's no divot, that's the President-elect's Blackberry. An addiction even stronger than golf. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: I love Jeanne Moos. All right, thanks so much for joining us here on AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

JOHNS: Right now, here's CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins.