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Economic Rebound Falters; Holiday Health Risks

Aired December 22, 2009 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: The Senate moves up its big vote on health care reform. Lawmakers are showing the stress of voting at odd hours just days before Christmas.

And why the holidays can be deadly. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains why you are more likely to have a heart attack this Friday than any other day of the year.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First this hour: holiday snapshots of a still uncertain economy, this two years after America plunged into recession. The government is now reporting that the gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of just 2.2 percent from July through September. Now, that is lower than an earlier forecast for economic growth during that period.

But I want you to check this out as well. Sales of existing homes, they're on the rise. They jumped 7.4 percent in November, after a big increase just the month before. And the housing report helped push up those stock prices. The Dow Jones industrials closed up 50 points. That's the third straight day that is on the rise.

Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, he is standing by.

First, I want to bring in our senior political correspondent, Gloria Borger, to explain some of this.

It's been almost a year since the president took office amidst this economic disaster. How does the public see this? What do they believe is happening?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right now, the public doesn't really feel very good about the economy.

We asked the public about the economic conditions today, Suzanne. And 80 percent of them said they're poor. That's fully eight of 10 say that they're poor. Now, if you look back a year ago as you see here in this graphic, 93 percent thought that the economy was in bad shape. So, maybe things are heading a tad in the right direction, but it's still not good news.

MALVEAUX: Do they think it's going to get worse?

BORGER: Well, this is what's interesting about the American public. The American public is optimistic. We -- we asked them what economic conditions are going to be like one year from now. And 58 percent, a significant majority, said they think they're going to be good. Now, 43 percent still said poor. But at least, again, the public seems to have a glimmer of hope about what's to come in the next year.

MALVEAUX: Ali, I want to go to you. Obviously, talking about the housing market, why did we see this big jump in home sales last month? Is this something that we believe actually is going to last?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are a few ingredients that are specific to the month of November which probably caused these home sales to be higher than normal.

First of all, the obvious one is that home prices are low. It's affordable to buy a house now. And people are pretty sophisticated. They figure things are going to get better in the future. Why not get in now, particularly with these low interest rates, under 5 percent or around 5 percent if you have good credit and you want a 30-year fixed mortgage. So, that's pretty good.

But the added -- the added sweetener here was the fact that the federal government has offered a tax credit to first-time homebuyers, people who haven't owned a home in the last few years. There's an expectation of course that's come to an end or will be coming to an end. So, people were rushing to buy those houses. And you could see in the numbers that there were a disproportionate number of first-time homebuyers in there.

But that doesn't mean that it's a trend that's not going to continue. The fact of the matter is people probably think they can take a little bit of their financial life into their own hands if they buy a house at a time that that house might appreciate over the next few years.

MALVEAUX: Yes, but, Ali, you talk about these federal tax credits as well as lowering the interest rate from the government here. If that didn't happen, what would this picture look like? The government intervention, was that really important?

VELSHI: Yes, look, one doesn't know what would happen if the Fed hadn't -- the Federal Reserve hadn't intervened with $1.3 billion -- trillion dollars -- I'm sorry -- which is what has resulted in these low interest rates. Hard to tell what would have happened without that.

But that first-time homebuyers credit has really acted like cash for clunkers did on cars. It really motivated people to get out there. So, it's kind of surprising that under $10,000 would motivate that many people to buy a house. The median value in the United States is $173,000. But it did have that effect. It got a lot of people out there.

And the bottom line is while existing houses don't create the same jobs that new houses create, obviously, because you're not constructing it, it does generate momentum in the economy. People have to furnish those things, buy appliances, and invest a little money, and build things out.

It has had a dramatic effect. The government intervention has caused a lot of this housing activity.

MALVEAUX: And, Gloria, obviously, the president is under a lot of pressure from Americans to create more jobs. But Republicans say, hey, look, you have really got to lower the federal deficit here. What is the public's priority?


BORGER: Well, the public wants to keep that recovery going that Ali is talking about. That's what they're concerned about. They're concerned about jobs.

And when we asked what is more important for the Obama administration to do, economic recovery or reducing the deficit, you see economic recovery 57 percent, reducing the deficit 40 percent. Now, that's up from where it was a year ago, because people are more and more concerned about the deficit because we're spending a lot of money.

But, right now, they want to see people being employed.


BORGER: And they want to see this economic recovery moving. And they know that it's going to cost a lot of money, right, Ali?

VELSHI: That's going to change the minute somebody sees taxes going up. That -- all of a sudden the deficit will become a very, very important thing. But, for the moment, yes, getting jobs I think is probably the priority.

MALVEAUX: Good point to both of you. Thank you, Ali and Gloria. Appreciate it.


MALVEAUX: President Obama is promising community bankers that he's going to cut the red tape so they can step up their lending and help local businesses grow. At the meeting at the White House today, the president struck a friendlier tone than we certainly had seen before during recent talks with the heads of those mega-banks. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What precipitated the crisis on Wall Street don't apply to these smaller banks. Most of them are very supportive of the idea of financial regulatory reform.


MALVEAUX: There are about 8,000 small and community banks across the United States. Together, they have assets of less than $5 billion. But here's why they're important. They make more than half of the loans to small businesses under $100,000.

Well, over on Capitol Hill, members of the Senate will not have to work late on Christmas Eve after all. Their big vote on health care reform has been scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on Thursday. Now, there's been a lot of talk it would have happened later in the evening. It has been an incredibly hectic week for the senators. They have been working strange hours, including a vote early this morning, another hurdle toward reform that was cleared.

Here's our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, this time of year, senators and their aides are usually long gone, home with their families for the holidays. The fact that they're still here working around the clock on a highly partisan issue like health care has made the atmosphere feel like anything but Christmas cheer.

(voice-over): The sun was barely peeking through when senators dragged themselves back in for this day's odd-hour vote.

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: Good morning. Another day in paradise.

BASH: Sarcasm from a punchy senator, hardly rare during this marathon health care debate colliding with Christmas. Sometimes, you do still see this, a gentlemanly gesture even across party lines. But, inside, tensions are flaring.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't know what's happening here in this body, but I think it's wrong.

BASH: Nerves are raw.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I don't think we should be wishing misfortune on any of our Senate colleagues on either side of the aisle.

BASH: This senator expressed his frustration with a Christmas poem.

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS: 'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Senate, the right help up our health care bill, no matter what was in it.

BASH: The Democratic leader made this appeal.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I would hope that everyone would go back to their gentlemanly ways. I have said to a number of people, Rodney King, let's just all try to get along.

BASH: Some rancor is fueled by fatigue. Signs of exhaustion are everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Section 2717 of the Public Health Service Act.

BASH: From the clerks forced to read a nearly 400-page amendment out loud...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know where I am.

BASH: ... to the Senate majority leader's 1:00 a.m. blunder.

REID: These are some of the reasons the AARP, the American Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- I'm sorry -- American Association of Retired People.

BASH (on camera): Is the reality that the House is going to have to -- to get it back through the Senate, the House is going to have accept much of what you're doing?

REID: No matter how many ways you ask the question, you are going to get the same answer. We are focused on passing this bill in the Senate.

BASH: Despite all of the tension and exhaustion, Republicans won't allow that final health care vote until the morning before Christmas. It's not that they think they can stop Democrats from passing health care. They just believe delaying it is good political strategy for next year, an election year -- Suzanne.


MALVEAUX: Thank you, Dana.

Now that the Senate health care vote is set for 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, President Obama may be able to start his holiday vacation a little earlier than he expected. He had vowed this morning to stay in Washington as long as the senators did.


OBAMA: I will not leave until my friends in the Senate have completed their work. My attitude is, is that if they're making these sacrifices to provide health care to all Americans, then the least I can do is to be around and provide them any encouragement and last- minute help where necessary.


MALVEAUX: The president and his family are expected to spend the holidays in Hawaii, though the White House has not provided details about the final plans.

Iran tells the U.S. and the world, we're not afraid of you. Iran's president blows off a deadline over its nuclear program, using words like -- quote -- "Who are they anyway?" And how much are you worth to cyber criminals? Your identity is worth about 10 bucks and you could be helping them steal your identity when you're on the Internet.


MALVEAUX: A combative world leader blows off a serious deadline, effectively saying, who's afraid of the United States or the world? Apparently, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not. He is thumbing his nose at the threat of a punishment over Iran's nuclear program.

Want to go straight to our White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

Hey, Dan, what do you have?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Obama administration has been trying to rein in Iran with diplomacy. But Iran keeps resisting. President Ahmadinejad said that he does not welcome confrontation, but that he won't surrender to bullying. We will have more on that later, but right now let's go to some breaking news.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

MALVEAUX: I want to go directly to Brazil, the international custody case over David Goldman. This has been in the news for quite some time, this over the battle of his son for five years.

We understand that the Supreme Court there ruled in his favor.

I want to go to Congressman Chris Smith, who is with the Goldman family, to talk about what this means for the family, for David Goldman, the ability for taking his son, Sean, potentially home.

What do we know at this moment?

REP. CHRIS SMITH (R), NEW JERSEY: Well, we know the chief justice ruled in a way that says that Sean ought to be with his father.

We're trying to ascertain any additional details as to when. The key question has been when. Of course we're encouraged by this. We don't know if it's over yet, but we are very much encouraged. And I hope that this is a binding order and not something that someone somewhere else can throw another monkey wrench into.

MALVEAUX: All right, you are with the Goldman family. Is David Goldman aware of this? How did he find out?

SMITH: I'm standing five feet away from him and he is very encouraged. But he has had so many setbacks that we're waiting to see what the full details are. But it is encouraging.

MALVEAUX: How did you learn about this, and when did this happen? Did this just happen? SMITH: It just broke. (INAUDIBLE)

MALVEAUX: I'm sorry. You're breaking up there, Representative Smith.


MALVEAUX: We're going to try to get a better connection with Congressman Chris Smith.

But from what we understand and what he has told us is that there's a favorable ruling coming out of Brazil from the Supreme Court there that would allow David Goldman to be with his son, Sean. This is a custody battle, an international custody battle, that has raged on for five years or so.

Some of the background of this case, Sean, the boy, was 4 years old when his mother took him to Brazil, what was supposed to be what she said was a two-week vacation, that they were going to be taking a two-week vacation there. And what had happened was that she kept her son there and they remained there for some time.

And then apparently, just last year, the mother died. And then it was the stepfather. She had remarried and the stepfather had then taken custody of this American boy who had dual citizenship, Brazilian and U.S. citizenship.

I want to bring in Ines Ferre, who's been covering this story for us.

Can you give us a little bit of background and what does this latest development mean?

INES FERRE, CNN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: Well, definitely, it's something favorable for David Goldman, as we heard Congressman Smith saying, that the judge ruled in favor of David Goldman.

As far as what this means legally, or what could happen next, we know that the lawyer for the Brazilian family has said that they will take any legal action that they need to take. So, we're really right now up in the air as far as what the next step could be.

We know that also the maternal grandmother had sent a letter to the president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, defending the -- saying that the boy, Sean, should stay in Brazil. So, it's really -- this is breaking news right now. We are just trying to find out what the details of this ruling from the Supreme Court justice is and what this will mean for David Goldman and if he can bring Sean home and how soon he could bring him home.

MALVEAUX: Ines, we're going to get to you in just a moment, but I want to bring back Congressman Chris Smith, who is with the Goldman family.

Can you give us a sense of what David Goldman is doing right now? Where is his son, Sean? Can you set the scene for us? What is taking place there?

OK, I understand we have lost the congressman. We're going to get back to him.

I want to bring in legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

And, Jeff, we understand, we're getting some information now here that the Brazilian family who has custody of Sean Goldman and has for the last five years or so is appealing this decision. So, is this the end of this case? Or is this another -- is there more to this process here? Where are we in terms of the custody of this child?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly seems like it's the beginning of the end, if not the end, because it's important to remember that the Brazilian government, the executive branch, the attorney general of Brazil, has been on David Goldman's side.

It has only been this one judge whose ruling today has been overturned that ruled in favor of the boy's Brazilian relatives. So, as I understand it, and I don't want to pretend to be an expert on Brazilian law, there are possibly more appeals out there for the Brazilian family to pursue.

But it's very unlikely that they will succeed. And now it is much more likely that he will be returned to his father.

MALVEAUX: The fact that you have this ruling today, does it give you any better sense of the timetable here? Are we talking about days? I mean, they are in the same country, literally in the same city, I believe. Could he possibly -- could the Brazilian family appeal, and could this happen within days that he could take his son home back to the United States? Because they have all been talking about this holiday season, bringing him back for the holidays.

TOOBIN: Well, and there also has been a proposal that the family spend some time together in advance of any sort of handover.

I mean, frankly, as a civilized matter, given the fact that you're talking about a child, it is probably best for everyone to just do this in a cooperative, rather than a confrontational way, difficult as that might be.

But, as I understand the ruling, it may apply unless another court intervenes in 48 hours. So, this could work very quickly.

MALVEAUX: Is this unusual?


TOOBIN: I think it's safe to say this is unusual, given the magnitude of the attention.

But the whole issue of international custody is not unusual. We have covered stories involving Tokyo, Japan; Korea; children brought from the United States outside the country and having American parents trying to assert American custody law. That's not that unusual. And it's very tragic.

And I think this case illustrates just how difficult it is for an American parent to try to have an American court's rulings enforced overseas. It's very, very difficult, expensive, painful, time- consuming, and the like.

MALVEAUX: OK, Jeff, we're going to get you back in a minute.

I just want to go back to Ines Ferre, who's been covering this story for quite some time.

How significant is this development here? We have been waiting for some sort of verdict. They had said perhaps it would come yesterday. It's now coming today. Do we have a sense that this is -- they are together? Do we know if Mr. Goldman, David Goldman, has actually been able to see his son while he's been in Brazil?

FERRE: Well, this is significant for David Goldman for sure, because in this case the chief justice of the Supreme Court has lifted this stay.

Now, just to give you a little bit of background of what happened here, last week in a unanimous court decision, the court had -- a court in Brazil had said, OK, this child has to be returned to David Goldman, and he has to be returned within 48 hours. He has to be dropped off at the embassy in Brazil.

Now, what happened is that then a justice from the Supreme Court in Brazil put a stay on that order, because he was saying that the court needed to consider whether to hear the child's testimony.

Now, today, another justice from the Brazilian Supreme Court has lifted that stay. It's very important. Now we don't know, though, the details as far as whether or not Sean will have to be handed over to David Goldman within 48 hours, or what kind of timetable that we're talking about here.

MALVEAUX: Do we know, Ines, if the court ever heard from the boy, from Sean, 9-year-old Sean, about what he actually wanted to do, if he wanted to stay in Brazil with his stepfather and his Brazilian family, or whether or not he wanted to go back with his biological father?

FERRE: Well, we know that they had heard from psychologists and we know that in the past the court has said that to hear testimony of a child under 12 years old wouldn't really be proper. In many courts, a child that's under 12 isn't really considered to have the capability to make his own decision.

We do know that they have heard definitely from psychologists. The grandmother has said -- the maternal grandmother in Brazil has said over and over that the child wants to stay in Brazil. And she even sent a letter to the president of Brazil today saying that this child should stay because he wants to stay and that he needs his grandmother and that he's been there for so long. MALVEAUX: We know this particular case has gained international attention. We know that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been involved. She's made an appeal for the family. Even President Obama has talked to his counterpart, the president of Brazil. Why is this such a special case? Why has this gained international recognition, do you think?

FERRE: Well, it's just the media around it has been so huge, and especially since Sean Goldman's mother died last year. So, basically once that happened, I mean, this really exploded in the media as far as how important this case has been.

And you saw Congressman Smith has been involved in this, even a senator from New Jersey as well, putting a hold on consideration of renewing a trade agreement that would involve Brazil and that's worth over $2 billion. So, definitely, there's been pressure. And there's been a big media campaign, or a lot of media that's covered this. So, it's gotten a lot of attention.

MALVEAUX: Ines, we're going to get to you in a moment.

I want to go back to Jeff.

And, Jeff, this is an interesting case because Brazil -- I'm sorry -- I'm not going to go to Jeff at the moment. Going to hang on for a sec.

I think we have got the congressman back on the line.

Congressman Chris Smith, can you hear me?

SMITH: Yes, I can, very well.

MALVEAUX: OK. I think we have got a good connection here.

Tell me right now what is going on with the family, with David Goldman. What is he doing? Is he with you now? And...


SMITH: Yes, well, he's 10 feet away. He's with the attorneys, and, in all candor, the people from NBC, who have been very much a part of this.

And, of course, you have, too.


MALVEAUX: Congressman, can I ask you real quick a favor here? Can you put David Goldman on the phone? Is that possible, that we talk to him?

SMITH: Say again? I'm sorry, ma'am.

MALVEAUX: Can we talk to David Goldman? Can you put him on the phone? Can you tell him that CNN is interested in speaking with -- with -- how he's doing?


SMITH: ... a little more information. And that's the truth.

So, he wants to make sure that this is what it appears to be. You know, this may be another stalling tactic in terms of additional filings that might occur after the fact. We don't think that's the case, but, you know, we are very optimistic, but cautiously optimistic that we are in the final (INAUDIBLE) here in this and that this dad and his son will be reunited and jet home to New Jersey.

MALVEAUX: You say that he's speaking with his -- who is he speaking with now?

SMITH: The lawyers who have been handling the case here in Rio and Brasilia. And I am, too. I'm going to go right back to it.

And what we're trying to do is to make sure that -- the key is when now. Good news from -- it is significant that the chief justice of the Supreme Court has ruled in his favor. But we want to make sure that there are no glitches, no -- nothing that could further delay and delay (INAUDIBLE)

MALVEAUX: Well, do you know what he's talking about with his attorneys?


SMITH: ... made it very clear. And I think I want to just emphasize this. He will not be satisfied until he's in the air (INAUDIBLE) en route back to Sean's home and David Goldman's home.

And it's extremely important because the police will have to now, if this is truly is binding, effectuate the transfer of Sean to his one and only dad. And that's David Goldman. There's no stepfather. This has not been a custody (INAUDIBLE) It's a child abduction case from the beginning. And it has only been exacerbated when a man who was not the father actually took custody wrongfully, illegally, unethically, of another man's son (INAUDIBLE) the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

This is the (INAUDIBLE) test case of, in my opinion, of -- this should have been resolved a long time ago -- of child abduction.


SMITH: And we are now hopefully in the final endgame of David and Sean being reunited.


MALVEAUX: And, Congressman, just once again, I know you're standing very close to David Goldman. He's trying to work things out legally with his legal team there to make sure that this is all legitimate, that this is standing firm. Is there anything that he would like to say to the world at this moment? I mean, this is obviously a very big moment for him.

SMITH: He walked by as I was talking and he reiterated again the importance of not until the plane is airborne. And he just said it again. I'm looking at him. He wants wheels up with his son, because...


MALVEAUX: Would he like to make a statement? Would he like to make a statement at this time?

SMITH: He still wants to stay focused on what he's doing. And he will talk at the appropriate time. But, you know, and he would rather I do this. That's why, the reason I'm doing it.


Well, certainly, this is of great interest to the world. And if he's ready and when he's ready to talk, we really appreciate talking to him here on CNN.

Appreciate, Congressman, your help as well.

SMITH: Thank you....


SMITH: .. .the story, because this will help. One thing, we had a hearing just a few weeks ago on this, and David was the lead witness.

His case, God willing, will help all the other left-behind parents (INAUDIBLE) 2,800 American children who have been abducted to other nations, including Brazil. And it's time for this human rights issue to get center stage and (INAUDIBLE) begin resolving it. And that's -- we need to really (INAUDIBLE) God willing, this is going to be resolved very imminently (INAUDIBLE) move to other things.


MALVEAUX: OK, Congressman...


SMITH: ... other individuals who have been affected...



Congressman Chris Smith, thank you very much.

I want to go to Jeffrey Toobin once again. And, Jeff, I know that Brazil goes by the international -- follows the international 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abductions. It's international law. It's an agreement that some countries are a part of when it comes to child custody battles, international cases.

And this was a unique case, was it not, the fact that this went on for five years, and that you had this Brazilian family that was rather defiant when it came to the international law, that frankly said that that child should have been returned to his biological father and brought back to the United States? How unique is this?

TOOBIN: Well, it's unique because it, as you said, involved a country that was a signatory to the Hague Convention.

So, it's one thing to have an American custody ruling defied by a country that had not agreed to honor those sorts of rulings. But Brazil is a country that, at least on paper, had agreed to honor it.

And, here, it was also unusual because you had different parts of the Brazilian government pointing in different directions. You had the executive branch wanting to honor the American custody ruling. And you had at least one of the courts saying that the Brazilian family could at least delay the turnover.

It's also unusual because of these very sad circumstances, because his mother, who took him to Brazil, died in childbirth. So you have a tragic situation of a kid who has lost -- who has lost a parent and all the emotions that go with that.

So and you combine all this with the intense public attention, the fact that the major diplomats, from Secretary of State Clinton on down...


TOOBIN: ...have been involved, it's a very unusual case.

MALVEAUX: Jeff, does this mean anything for other international custody battles?

Are we to read more into this than this is an individual case, this is how this is being handled between Brazil and the United States?

TOOBIN: Well, I think it does have broader significance because it shows how these custody cases become major diplomatic irritants between countries. These -- this is a big deal. A major trade deal is being held up because of it, thanks to the efforts of Senator Lautenberg. Chris -- Congressman Chris Smith has held hearings. I mean this is a major factor in American/Brazilian relations. And Brazil is a major and growing important -- a country of major and growing importance in the -- in the world.

So the fact that a single custody case could interfere with relations between two important countries shows how important it is. MALVEAUX: OK, Jeff.

Thank you very much.

I want to go to our own Rafael Romo to see how this is being played out in -- in Latin America.

What is your take on it and what are people talking about when they -- when they hear this case?

RAFAEL ROMO, SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Suzanne, the main problem in this case was that in Brazil, this case was seen not necessarily as an abduction, as it was seen here in America, but as a case of custody. And Brazilian courts were trying to say that they were trying to really identify what the needs of the -- of the boy were. They were trying to have his testimony admitted into evidence in the courtroom so that they could determine -- determine at a later date whether it was possible to do that.

But Goldman said from the very beginning, this was an abduction case, Sean's mother took him to Brazil and it was intended to be a two week vacation, back in 2004, and never came back to this country. Later, she divorced Goldman and Sean has never been returned to the -- to the United States. And this is precisely what he has been fighting for all these years.

MALVEAUX: Is there more sympathy for -- for the Brazilian family, do you think?

Or is there -- is it pretty evenly split, that they understand the kind of -- the tug of war -- the emotional tug of war that is taking place?

ROMO: Suzanne, this boy has been with the Brazilian family for five years. He probably speaks more Portuguese than he speaks English now. He was only four when he left the United States of America. And as you can imagine, the Brazilian family is very attached to this child. We're not only talking about his stepfather, but also about the extended family. We understand that they're -- they're very close together and that most of his childhood has been spent in Brazil. So you can also imagine how this could be very difficult -- very traumatizing for the child, as well.

MALVEAUX: OK. Rafael Romo, I want to thank you very much for joining us -- obviously, Jeffrey Toobin, Ines Ferre, Congressman Chris Smith -- all of you, for providing your insights here. Obviously, we're going to be all over this story. We're going to continue with this breaking news. A Brazilian chief justice ruling in favor the American father, David Goldman, for custody of his son Sean. This is a case that has lasted for more than five years. It has gained international attention. We have had Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, even President Obama, involved and engaged in this case. It looks like it is a favorable ruling for the American family, perhaps an opportunity for David Goldman to take his son home for the holiday.

We're going to have all of this and more after this quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: A combative world leader blows off a serious deadline, effectively saying, who's afraid of the United States or the world?

Apparently, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not. He's thumbing his nose at the threat of a punishment over Iran's nuclear program.

I want to go straight to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, for that story -- hi, Dan.


Well, as you know, the United States and its allies, certainly the UN, believe that Iran has much bigger dreams for its nuclear program. They do believe that perhaps they're trying to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran keeps resisting, despite international pressure -- refusing to back down.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): It's Iran's gift to the U.S. And the U.N. -- more defiance. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissing a year-end deadline to swap its stockpile of enriched uranium, which could be used to build a bomb, for nuclear fuel intended for peaceful purposes.

Speaking to supporters, Ahmadinejad said the West can give Iran "as many deadlines as they want. We don't care," then added, "Who are they anyway?"

The White House has been preparing sanctions in case Iran doesn't abandon its nuclear ambitions.

(on camera): So it's clear to the White House now that Iran is not going to back down?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, you know, that's -- that's an Iranian decision. We have offered them a different path. If they decide not to take it, then the American -- our delegation, with the P5 Plus One, will move accordingly.

LOTHIAN: Iran continues to insist that it has no intention of building a nuclear weapon, Ahmadinejad repeating that claim to ABC's Diane Sawyer.


MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): You should say something only once. We have said once that we don't want nuclear bomb. We don't accept it. Finished.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LOTHIAN: Iran's president also shot down a document in a British report purporting to show plans to test a trigger for a nuclear weapon. He says: "They are fabricated and disseminated by the American government and fundamentally not true."

But the U.S. and some of its allies believe Iran is trying to weaponize its nuclear program and that it's time for Iran to live up to its responsibilities.


LOTHIAN: Now, China and Russia have resisted tougher sanctions in favor of more time to let talks play out. What happens next could be crucial.

Meanwhile, Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman, says that the deadline is real and that Iran should take it as seriously as the U.S. is -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Dan.

Well, when it comes to health care reform, the long, brutal battle on Capitol Hill -- it may seem easy compared to selling the American people on the Democrats' plans to overhaul the nation's health care system.

CNN national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is working that story for us.

And I understand that we're going to get back to her in just a moment. So I want to go straight to David Gergen -- obviously, David, we are talking about a lot of different issues. Some of the things that they've been working on trying to get bipartisan support, it has not always been that way, where it has been so fiercely partisan. And the White House is trying to sell this to the American people.

Give us a sense of examples in the past, where you did have both Republicans and Democrats working side by side on some rather contentious legislation.


We all know that the Senate is about to pass landmark legislation -- the most important social legislation in this country since the 1960s. But it also represents a sharp departure from the politics of the past. And those -- that change is very regrettable.

Let's look at a couple of things.

Social Security, the first major landmark legislation with a social safety net. It passed with 76-6 in the United States Senate. But very importantly, of the 19 Republican senators in the Senate then, 14 voted for it. This was a Democrat in the White House, Franklin Roosevelt. And it also enjoyed 89 percent popularity with the American public and overwhelming support from the American press. That was Social Security.

Now let's move on to another landmark piece of legislation -- civil rights, 1964. In this case, it passed the Senate 73-27. And again, the opposition party, the Republicans, voted overwhelmingly for it. Twenty-seven out of 33 Republican senators voted for that civil rights legislation. And it, too, enjoyed majority support.

I might say the Civil Rights Bill of 1965 very similar -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Medicaid and Medicare have been a part of this year's debate, obviously making it very divisive. But that -- that wasn't always the case when -- when they were first being debated, either.

GERGEN: Exactly. The Medicare and Medicaid was part of this tradition of trying to work on big pieces of legislation in a bipartisan way. Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, was in power in the mid- '60s. Here comes Medicare and Medicaid. It gets out of the Senate with 68 votes. Republicans -- 13 out of 27 Republicans voted for it; 63 percent public approval. Think how different that is from what we see today, when there are no -- no people on the other side. It's strictly on partisan lines on both sides. And, indeed, the public is also against the health care legislation -- a sharp departure from what we've seen in the past and, in many ways, a regrettable one.

MALVEAUX: OK. David Gergen, thank you so much for your insights.

When it comes to health care reform, the long, brutal battle on Capitol Hill, it may seem easy compared to selling it to the American people -- the Democrats' plan to overhaul this nation's health care system.

I want to go back to our CNN national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, who's been working that angle of the story for us.

And what are you focusing on -- Jessica?

YELLIN: Well, Suzanne, the truth is, is that it's been such a long, ugly process, it really comes as no surprise that Americans are confused about what they'll get out of health care reform. In fact, the latest CNN polling shows that only 22 percent of Americans believe that the Senate's health care bill will help their families. Thirty- seven percent think it will hurt their families and 39 percent, they think it will have no effect at all.

Now, those numbers are making Republicans giddy because they plan to sell the health care reform plan as an albatross, insist that it's an albatross around Democrats' neck in the 2010 elections. Already, Republicans are targeting a number -- seven different Senate Democrats, calling each of them the crucial 60th vote that's putting health care over the line.

Well, not only seven can be the 60th vote, can they? The RNC had Michael Steele as calling health care reform a "boondoggle." So Democrats have been huddling, Suzanne. And they're not looking to cut deals or buying votes in this huddle. What they're trying to do is figure out the best way to sell health care reform. They're hoping it passes. They're assuming it will pass in the new year.

How do they convince the American people that it's the right thing for them?

MALVEAUX: So how are they going to do that, Jessica, considering a lot of sort of the things that actually take effect don't really happen until 2014?

YELLIN: Right. Exactly. OK. So there's some immediate changes that Senate Democrats and House Democrats will point to. First of all, recision -- these are all things that would take place if the Senate health care bill passes. This will take place right away in 2010, not in 2014. Recisions will be banned. Now, that's when insurance companies deny care just to avoid high cost procedures.

Also in 2010, there will be a ban for insurance companies to exclude kids with pre-existing conditions. And there will also be a new law that will allow kids to stay on parents' health care until they're 26 years old. Right now, if you're 18, you've got to find your own.

Now, some good news for seniors if this passes. In 2010, they'll get $500 more before the doughnut hole kicks in for Medicare and they'll get a 50 percent discount for drugs that they have to buy in that doughnut hole.

There will also be immediate tax credits to small businesses that will increase over the years. And the government is going to set up a $5 billion fund to help get coverage for people who have been denied coverage because of pre-existing decisions.

Again, all that in 2010. But the biggest piece of health insurance reform, the major -- the major health insurance exchanges, they wouldn't come into existence until 2014.


YELLIN: It's a lot to digest.

MALVEAUX: A lot to digest, but very good information -- chock full of information.

Thank you so much, Jessica.

I want to go to Erica Hill, who is joining us now for the next hour -- Erica, what are you working on?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, we'll continue to talk about health care. But we also are following very closely this breaking news which you've been following throughout the hour -- that news out of Brazil coming just within the last half hour or so -- learning the Supreme Court there has ruled in favor of David Goldman in his international custody battle for his son, Sean.

Is that really enough, at this point, for him to finally bring the 9-year-old boy home to the US?

We're going to bring you the very latest on that, again, coming to us out of Brazil.

Plus, a Congressional move most Americans can agree on -- turning down the volume on commercials. Advertisers blasting the sound on purpose to grab your attention. And that's finally grabbing some attention in Washington. New legislation would allow the FCC to prevent the loud interruptions. But not everyone is convinced that your TV's noise should be the government's concerns.

All that coming up right at the top of the hour -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks again, Erica.

Well, going home for the holidays -- a Florida teen who was so badly burned, doctors weren't sure that he would survive. An update on a case that has touched so many people.


MALVEAUX: It's time for the best political team on television.

CNN's senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, Donna Brazile; CNN contributor, David Brody, White House correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network; and CNN's senior political analyst, David Gergen.

Thank you for joining us here.

Obviously, we've got a lot on -- to discuss on the table here. But one of the things is the jobs situation and 10 percent unemployment. I want to break out some of these figures here, because we've heard from the Congressional Black Caucus. We've heard from a number of people in various areas expressing concern about the unemployment rate among African-Americans.

If you take a look at these numbers for November, by race here, overall for whites, unemployment, 9.3 percent. But for blacks, it's 15.6 percent.

If you take a look at those who are 16 to 19-year-olds, those who are just hungry for work, hungry for jobs, among whites, it's 23 percent unemployment. But among blacks, it is 49.4 percent. It's an incredibly high number.

What does this president need to do to address this very serious problem?


But what the president needs to do is ensure that the Recovery Act is targeted to communities that are hurting the most. It's not enough to just say I'm sending money down the pipeline to various states and local governments. Without the president or vice president, someone getting on the phone and saying look, I want to make sure that the money is going into these communities to help create jobs, help create opportunities so that we can get people back to work.

It is true that the African-American community is hurting, the Latino community. But the entire country is hurting because unemployment is higher across the board.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, the White House argument, when you talk to them about this -- because they've come under a great deal of criticism from people in the Congressional Black Caucus, for example, for not paying enough attention to these -- to these alarming numbers.

What the White House will say is that a rising tide lifts all boats and what we have to do right now is get jobs going again in the this country for everyone and that will, of course, affect the African-American and the minority community generally.

But there are lot of people saying, on the other hand, you know, that's not enough. You've got to give them an extra jolt here, because these are the people who suffer the most in an economic downturn.

MALVEAUX: Does the president need to do more specifically to create a jobs program -- a jobs creating program for African-Americans or Latinos who are disproportionately unemployed?

DAVID BRODY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Well, sure. I -- I -- there's no doubt he needs to do that. I -- I think the problem for the president and for this White House is that the bully pulpit -- and I don't want to say it has been non-existent, but it's a very dicey thing politically for them. I mean the president did not play up the race issue at all in the 2008 campaign. They pretty much downplayed it. And if you attend these White House briefings, which, you know, I know many of us have, I mean Robert Gibbs is -- is running away, to a degree, from the microphone on these questions, because, you know, they don't want to make it a Black unemployment number or a white unemployment number or, for that matter, a Hispanic unemployment number. I mean that -- that's where it gets dicey politically for this White House.

GERGEN: Suzanne, he did not get elected to become a black president. He became elected -- he was elected to be president of all the people. And I think he's been very sensitive to that.

At the same time, we have devastation in our urban communities. It's not just blacks, it's other people who are living there. And it's Latinos and many others. You see these devastating numbers of unemployment. That also means there are high rates of school dropouts, high rates of crime on some of these streets.

I do think that it's important that he have an urban policy, because that's the heart of a lot of our social ill right now. And it seems to me that having paid so much attention to Wall Street -- Jesse Jackson is right, that he now needs to pay more attention to Main Street. And it's -- it has to a critically important part of his agenda and I don't think he should be afraid of becoming an urban president. He is, after all, the first urban president who's been elected in a long time, too. And he understands the problems of the...

BORGER: I think, though, they -- they might argue that he is an urban president, in terms of what he's trying to do, for example, on health care reform. I mean, part of their argument on health care reform is that you're going to cover 30 million people who are now uninsured. A large number of those come from the minority (INAUDIBLE) communities.

MALVEAUX: I want to point out here that in "The Washington Post" here, he said he was going to take on an -- this ambitious agenda. And because he wouldn't have the political capital down the road, this is what -- what he said: "Given how difficult fighting the special interests has been on Capitol Hill, it's clear that if we hadn't decided to make a bold step forward this year, we probably wouldn't have had the political capital to get it done in the future. Sooner or later, we had to take that on, even though we knew it would be politically difficult.

Is this a president who recognizes his limitations, that he has to put forward health care reform right now or it just wasn't going to happen?

BRODY: Well, I -- I -- I think so. I mean I think what happened here is that there was a lot on his agenda. He understood that. And, of course, politically, you're going to have to capitalize in that first year. I mean that's a no-brainer.

But the problem here is that there are so many big ticket items. And these were not, you know, post offices and credit card reform. I mean this was health care and bailouts and stimulus and -- you know, then you -- you give the Republicans a 2010 talking point here, Suzanne, which is, you know, too much big government, too much -- you know, the socialism word creeps up. And -- and this is part of the problem.

The White House will argue that there was really much they could do at this point.

BRAZILE: But, you know, David, the Republicans bear some of the responsibility for the deficit, for the economy, for the state of affairs in this country. But yet they have not shown the leadership to help the president and the Democrats. So the president has used his political capital.

I'll just give one example. The first meeting the president attended after taking office was with the Republican Caucus. MALVEAUX: OK, we're going to have to leave it there.

Thank you so much, everybody, for...


MALVEAUX: ...for joining us you here.

We appreciate it.

Well, you never know just what might happen if you give your keys to your friends while you're away. A guy in Chicago got a Moost Unusual Christmas surprise when he got home for the holidays.

That, when we come back.


MALVEAUX: Finally, a Moost Unusual holiday prank that we just had to show you.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): If you hate to wrap, try to wrap your head around this -- you return to your apartment and the TV, the chairs, everything is gift wrapped, from the vacuum cleaner to the clock to the couch and cushions; from the toilet lid to the toilet brush to the light switch. It's the ultimate holiday prank. And when the unsuspecting occupant came home, he said the same three words.


MOOS: Over and over.

SAUNDERS: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. It's almost like a hallucination.

MOOS: While Chicago resident Louis Saunders was off on a trip, about 16 friends who do improvisational comedy wrapped up his apartment. It took eight hours.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably that bath mat.

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

They wrapped your beer?

SAUNDERS: They wrapped the six-pack I had in my fridge and they wrapped each individual beer. MOOS: Prank ringleader Adel Reifi (ph) put video of the gift- wrapped apartment to music on YouTube.


MALVEAUX: That's Louis' Shampoo.

(on camera): What is the thing in the tub?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there was a towel laying in the tub, so we wrapped it and then put it back in the tub.

SAUNDERS: There was a towel laying in my tub?

MOOS: (voice-over): At least when everything is gift-wrapped, you've got a nice play to throw the excess wrapping.

(on camera): So how many rolls of paper does it take to gift wrap everything in a studio apartment?

About 35.

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

SAUNDERS: I can't live here.

MOOS: (on camera): Have you unwrapped yet?

SAUNDERS: I'm only unwrapping pretty much the necessary items like shampoo.

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

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

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


MOOS: We mean everywhere.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.



Up next, "CNN TONIGHT."