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Tax Cut Deal Full Court Press; Interview With Kentucky Senator- Elect Rand Paul; Elizabeth Edwards Funeral on Saturday; Vote Occurring Now on Capitol Hill On DREAM Act; Cyber Revenge Attacks By WikiLeaks Supporters

Aired December 8, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now, hard lobbying and a dire warning from the White House trying to get Democrats in line behind its tax cut deal with the Republicans. I'll talk about all of that and more with the Senator- elect Rand Paul, a darling of the Tea Party movement. Would he vote for the compromised deal if he could?

Also, possible revenge for perceived injustice. We're learning more about cyber attacks on major companies who cut ties with WikiLeaks.

Plus, details of the historic launch and splashdown that could change America's space missions forever.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The White House is engaged in a full court press right now to win support from Democrats for the tax cut compromise President Obama hammered out with the Republican leadership. For the second day in a row, the Vice President Joe Biden was on Capitol Hill where he got an earful from Democratic lawmakers who are so angry over the deal to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

At the same time, the president's senior economic adviser gave a dire warning. Larry Summers says failure to pass the plan would significantly increase the risk of a double-dip recession.

I talked about the controversial compromise and more with one of the new breed of Republicans who will be joining Congress next month, Rand Paul, the senator-elect from Kentucky.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Bowling Green, Kentucky, the senator-elect from Kentucky, Rand Paul.

Senator-elect, thanks very much for coming in. SEN.-ELECT RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: I know you can't vote during this lame duck session, you won't be a United States senator yet, but what do you think? Do you support this compromise that President Obama has worked out with the Republican leadership on extending the Bush-era tax cuts?

PAUL: Well, I think the most important thing government can do right now for the economy is to extend the Bush tax cuts. I would be for extending them permanently, so that's my first problem with this.

The other thing is, one of my biggest concerns is the deficit. So, I think if you're going to extend and add new tax cuts, you should couple them with cuts in spending. Instead, we're coupling them with increases in spending, and I think that's the wrong thing to do.

BLITZER: Because this whole package is going to wind up costing $8 or $9 billion, there's nothing paid for in all of these aspects of this deal. So, the bottom-line question, if you could vote, would you vote yea or nay?

PAUL: Well, I'm leaning towards, you know, what Senator DeMint has said. He's concerned that they're bringing back, you know, the estate tax. Right now, the estate tax is zero, and I kind of like that, but the new estate tax under this legislation will be 35 percent, I don't like that. And I also don't like that we're coupling it with increases in spending.

So, my inclination would be with the current package, and I haven't seen all of the details of it, but my inclination would be to say that you really shouldn't cut taxes and increase spending. If you want to cut taxes, you should cut spending, also. So, I'd be leaning against voting for it.

BLITZER: And I assume you don't like the extension of the unemployment benefits because none of that is paid for either?

PAUL: Well, what we have to decide as a country is that, you know, we have an unemployment insurance program and it's sort of works and sort of paid for through about 26 weeks. If the society and if everyone wants to have it at 99 weeks, which is extraordinarily long and extraordinarily expensive, they should say, well, we're going to have to increase taxes to pay for it.

The problem is that if you increase taxes to pay for 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, you're going the stifle employment and make unemployment worse. So really, we're in a catch 22 here.

But I don't think it's a good idea to add to the debt. You know, we started this program pay as you go. And this is what Senator Bunning stood up on was if you're going to add spending, you have to cut spending somewhere. Let's make difficult decisions, but let's just not pile on new spending without paying for it.

BLITZER: This compromise the president worked out with the Republicans, he's deeply angered many of his liberal Democrats, the base of his party. What does this compromise, to you, say about President Obama?

PAUL: Well, I actually think that President Obama is going to turn out to be fairly pragmatic with the new Republican Congress. I think they want to get it through now because they think the more compromise they'll get with more Democrats in the House and more Democrats in the Senate will be better for them, but I think it does show --


BLITZER: You mean more Republicans?

PAUL: Yes, right. There'll be more Republicans in January, but right now, there are more Democrats, and I think the president sees this as the time to have the compromise.

But I think the president will turn out to be someone who may, you know, take Bill Clinton as his model. And after 1994, Bill Clinton did work with the Republicans. We got welfare reform. We actually got more fiscally responsible government.

And I really have always said, and people have given me a hard time for this, but I think divided government sometimes works better because there's more debate, there's more discussion, and maybe will have more of the difficult decisions on cutting spending.

But when I get there, I'm going to propose a bill that will have $500 billion for the spending cuts because you have to start doing it and nobody has been willing to do it. No one is brave enough to put the spending cuts on the line. We're going to lay out $500 billion worth of spending cuts in January and see if anyone is brave enough to say, yes, let's go ahead and do it.

BLITZER: You're going to have a major vote at some point next year to raise the debt ceiling otherwise, the country will go formally into bankruptcy.

I want you to listen to what the president said this week when he was asked about commitment from Republicans to raise the debt ceiling.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll take John Boehner at his word that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States' government collapse.


BLITZER: They're going to have to raise the debt ceiling above the $13 or $14 trillion, where it's hovering right now. Are you with John Boehner when he said to the president, no one is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse?

PAUL: I think they've always presented this as a false choice, a Hobson's choice, if you will, where they say either you raise the debt ceiling or we shut down government.

My question is, is there not an in between solution where you say, let's not raise the debt ceiling, but let's only spend what you have?

So, I'm going to introduce an amendment when the time comes or even before that says spend only what you have. So, basically, we bring in $200 billion a month or more, which is about $700 billion a day. It's not like the government would have to shut down if we spent only what we took in.

Let's have an austerity program and starting when the debt ceiling has to go up, let's say, we're not going to raise it, but we're only going to spend what comes in so we don't have to raise it.

BLITZER: Will that might be a long-term solution, but in the short-term April, May, June of next year when the debt ceiling end, you're not going to have time to start cutting hundreds of billions of dollars by then?

PAUL: Well, we're going to introduce, in January, $500 billion worth of cuts. And if people are serious about not wanting to raise the debt ceiling, which I am, then you have to have cuts. And so, we're going to introduce $500 billion of cuts in January.

BLITZER: What if that legislation you're introducing fails and it doesn't get the votes?

PAUL: Right. I think we'll have to cross that bridge as we go forward.

I guess what's great about never having held office before is that I'm new enough to think that we can change the world, and I'm not going to accept them just simply saying, oh, it's never been done that way and it can't be done.

The way they've been doing things in Washington hasn't been getting us very far. They've been running up the deficit to the tune of $200 trillion in a year. I think the American people are ready for some difficult choices.

And some people will not get money that they've always wanted to get and they consider to be free that it comes from the federal government, they will have to do without it because it's not there. They're borrowing it from China or printing it up. These are both bad problems for us as a country.

BLITZER: We're out of time, but what I hear you saying is you will vote against raising the debt ceiling whatever?

PAUL: Well, what I'm going to do is to propose another alternative. I don't want to shut the government down and I don't want to ruin the full faith and credit of the country. I think there's another choice, and it shouldn't be an either/or. And I think maybe that's a false presentation of choices. And I'm going to try to see if there's a third way that says we spend only what we have. BLITZER: Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky, thanks very much. Good luck.

PAUL: Thank you.


BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more now with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, who's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent who caucuses with the Democrats from Vermont, he was furious with this plan from the left. And today, we just heard Rand Paul, he doesn't like it from the right.

What's going on here?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Wolf, it's maybe an indication of things to come. It's kind of the new reality here which might be an old reality. In the old days, which you and I remember, bipartisan deals were struck and people on one wing of one party and one wing of another party might have opposed with, but there was a substantial majority for it, and so it passed. We may be seeing that come again.

Now, I think this can't be a one-off. And what the president has to do is in his State of the Union make this a sustained effort and talk about phase two, the next step, OK? We've spent $900 billion. This is effectively a stimulus program. There was something in it for everybody. What are we going to do about deficit reduction and what are we going to do about tax reform and what are we going to do about entitlement reform?

If he does that, he may be able to get good majorities in the Congress if folks like Senator Paul want to work with him.

BLITZER: Well, from what I could see from Senator Rand Paul was saying --


BLITZER: He's a darling, as you know, leader in the tea party movement.


BLITZER: I think it's fair to say he's soon going to be a United States senator, he's telling Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, I don't (ph) necessarily going to vote for increasing the debt ceiling, although, we heard the president say John Boehner gave him his word on that, that they would go ahead and raise the debt ceiling.

We also heard him say, I don't like this deal that the Republican leadership has worked out with the White House on extending the Bush tax cuts. He could be a real headache and others of the tea party movement for the Republican establishment?

BORGER: Exactly. These Republican leaders are not going to have it easy. If you look at speaker-elect John Boehner, John Boehner, half of his new people coming into Congress, 34 of them, have never served at all in political office. Completely new to politics. You look at senator-elect Rand Paul, tea party person, doesn't want to spend any money, and Mitch McConnell and John Boehner were around in 1995 when Newt Gingrich made some mistakes and decided to shut the government down.

John Boehner does not want that to happen again. He knows what happened to the Republican Party when that happened. He's going to have to talk to his new members as is Mitch McConnell and say, look, we want to get some deficit reduction out of this, and may not be the $500 billion that Rand Paul was talking to you about.

We want to get some deficit reduction when we do the debt ceiling, but it may not be as much as you want. And it is going to be test of the purity of the new members, the new Republican members, because if they want to remain pure, they're not going to get a lot done.

BLITZER: And we remember what happened in 1995 after the Republican shut down the government, it helped set the stage for President Clinton to be reelected in 1996.

BORGER: To be reelected and that could happen all over again for Barack Obama if he seems like the adult here.

BLITZER: We'll see if that happens. All right. We'll see what happens. It's going to be fascinating no matter what.


BLITZER: All right. Gloria, thank you.

Ever wish the good old days were around when everything seemed to be so much cheaper? Jack Cafferty is here. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: With the gasoline expected to reach $3 a gallon soon -- actually, it's already there in some parts of the country, California for one -- unemployment stuck just under 10 percent, not to mention the added expenses of the holiday season, easy to see while a lot of Americans are feeling strapped for cash these days.

But in a piece titled, "Are Americans as Poor as They Feel?," takes a look at the cost of living today versus 30 years ago, and they find that a lot of things are not as expensive as we think and that many items actually cost less in relative terms today than they did in 1980.

For example, the piece suggests nominal income has increased more than overall consumer prices. The price of many daily expenses, things like food, even energy have increased at a slower pace than overall consumer prices.

Now, on the other hand, the cost of big ticket items and things like education and health care, well, they've more than doubled, and we're talking about big bucks here when it comes to college tuitions and health insurance.

Researchers have also found that compared with the 1970s, more families now have two full-time incomes, but the change in lifestyle adds new costs. Got to have a second car. Got to pay for day care. In fact, after an average two-income family makes its monthly payments, it can now have actually less money leftover even though both the husband and wife are working.

And finally, there are additional costs today that people didn't have to account for decades ago including buying computers and software and internet and cell phone service and video games and on and on and on.

Anyway, here's the question: Do you feel poor? Go to Give us your thoughts.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.

Sarah Palin and MasterCard both are among the targets of an apparent cyber war launch by WikiLeaks supporters. Details of why they're being singled out. Stand by.

And the mission heralding a new era of the U.S. space program. How this launch is now making history?

And a simple new blood test now available can reveal a potentially, potentially deadly red flag. Details of a major advance in the fight against the leading cause of death in the United States.


BLITZER: We're awaiting for votes on Capitol Hill on a bill that would impact the lives of millions of people who entered the United States illegally but have no choice in the matter. It's called the DREAM Act, and there's huge controversy surrounding it.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us with details. Mary, what's at stake here? What's going on?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this bill would pave a way towards legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. when they were children. They say they shouldn't be punished for a decision they didn't make, but this bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate.


SNOW (voice-over): With this fate on the line, 24-year-old Felipe Matos of Miami spent the day with his eyes glued on Washington awaiting the outcome of the vote of the DREAM Act. The legislation would grant citizenship eligibility to young immigrants like Felipe who entered the U.S. illegally under the age of 16 and who have completed two years of military service or two years of college.

Felipe has put a lot of effort into getting it passed.

FELIPE MATOS, SUPPORTS DREAM ACT: I am nervous. I just -- it's such a strange feeling that right now, there are, I don't, hundreds of people in Congress that are about to debate whether or not I'm going to have freedom for the rest of my life.

SNOW: Freedom to get a Social Security card or driver's license. He came to the U.S. when he was 4. His mother was ill, and he was sent to live with relatives. He's won top honors in the state of Florida. Now, he takes a bus 2 1/2 hours to go to a local college which is a 20-minute car ride away. He recently walked from Miami to D.C. to bring attention to people just like him.

And that includes 18-year-old Lucia Allain of New York.


SNOW: Lucia spent her day watching C-span and on her phone. She came to the U.S. when she was 10 from Peru, and she wants to become a journalist.

ALLAIN: I'm afraid. You know, last night, I was crying with my mom, because I don't know what to do if this doesn't pass. It'd be a nightmare for me.

SNOW: Expecting a vote in the House by morning, she grew more anxious as the day wore on with no vote, and she knew the bill's chances were tougher in the Senate with critics acquainting the bill with amnesty.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: The bill would reward and encourage the violation of American laws. Americans want Congress to end the lawlessness, but this bill would have us surrender to it. It's really a give-up-type approach.

SNOW: But for Felipe and Lucia, they say educating them will help the country because they will be able to strengthen the workforce and contribute to the land they now call home.


SNOW: Now, a big draw for the supporters of the DREAM Act is that they're eligible to receive in-state tuition at public universities. That measure has also drawn critics, but Felipe and Lucia say they will be very disappointed if this doesn't pass, but if it doesn't, they will continue to fight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Our producers and reporters on Capitol Hill, Mary, are saying that vote in the House and the Senate could happen as early as tonight. Is that what we're hearing?

SNOW: Yes. And it could happen as early as this hour. We're expecting that the House will vote first and then the Senate. And this is a delay, Wolf, because we had expected a vote earlier in the day in the House.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch it carefully. If it happens this hour, we will, of course, update our viewers on what's going on. Mary Snow with that report. Lots of folks are watching anxiously right now.

Credit card company websites under cyber attack right now. First MasterCard, now Visa may be getting hit as well. We're going to tell you who's suspected of doing it and why.

And for years, he's made fun of politicians from his weekend update news desk. Now, "Saturday Night Live" Seth Meyers will do it right to our faces in a high-profile comedy gig. We'll explain what's going on.


BLITZER: The funeral for Elizabeth Edwards will be held Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina. Kate Bolduan is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What else is going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the wife, as you mentioned, the wife of former presidential candidate, John Edwards, died yesterday, as we know, at the age of 61 after a very long battle with breast cancer. Her funeral service will be held at the church where the Edwards family worshipped. Afterwards, she'll be buried at a nearby cemetery next to her son, Wade, who was killed in a car accident in 1996.

And a very hard turn, "Saturday Night Live" veteran, Seth Meyers, well, he has been tapped for a high-profile gig, hosting the next White House Correspondent Association dinner in April. It's a tricky venue with host expected to be politically topical without being offensive, fine line you have to walk. Meyers has had plenty of practice, though, hosting SNL's "Weekend Update."

And some journalists who never miss the dinner might have to this year. They'll be in Britain covering the royal wedding, which is scheduled the day before the dinner. Good tickets to get.

And in South Korea, push definitely came to shove in a heated budget battle. Opposition lawmakers staged a sit-in, just take a look at this, to physically stop the ruling party from passing a financial blueprint they considered too costly, and that led to this confrontation. One lawmaker was reportedly hit on the head by what else? A gavel there in the scuffle, and he has been hospitalized.

BLITZER: They always take their politics very seriously.

BOLDUAN: I always wonder what that would look like if it ever happened here.

BLITZER: It's a live (INAUDIBLE) you can just imagine.

BOLDUAN: We haven't crossed that line yet.

BLITZER: Hopefully, we never will. Thanks very much.

A young American man is accused in an alleged terror plot. The target, a U.S. military recruiting station. We're learning new details. Stand by.

And MasterCard, the victim of a cyber attack, so is Sarah Palin. Are they being targeted by supporters of WikiLeaks? And if so, why?

And Haiti right now already reeling from the earthquake and then cholera, now widespread violence is rocking the country. We're going there live.


BLITZER: An apparent new twist in the WikiLeaks' story. There's growing concern right now that people believed to be supporters of the website, which leaked U.S. secrets, are now launching cyber revenge attacks against perceived enemies, including MasterCard and Sarah Palin who spoke out against the leaks.

CNN's Brian Todd is investigating all of this for us.

Brian, what do we know?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been developing for a couple of days now, Wolf. Some major companies like MasterCard and Visa have gotten their main websites disrupted. Some even shut down temporarily just days or sometimes hours after they decided to stop processing donations to WikiLeaks.


TODD (voice-over): Protesters take to the streets and uprising against perceived injustices from huge corporations. Imagine an online version of this, that's what seems to be happening to a group of major companies who have made moves against WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange.

Experts say a group of unknown online activists operating under the name anonymous are coordinating so-called denial of service attacks against companies who stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks.

Visa is one of those companies. On a Twitter page called Operation Payback associated with anonymous, one tweet says, we are attacking in an hour. Get your weapons ready. The weapon isn't hacking, but simply flooding a website with computers trying to access it all at once. Visa is not the only target.

(on-camera): I'm with Mark Rasch. He's a former justice department cyber crime prosecutor. He also helped the hacker who is in touch with the alleged leaker, Bradley Manning, get in touch with U.S. authorities to investigate all of the leaks. Mark, first, we're going to show this anonymous Twitter page. They're basically saying that we're glad to tell you that is down and it's confirmed. Let's try to get to the MasterCard website.

MARK RASCH, FORMER JUSTICE DEPT, CYBER CRIME PROSECUTOR: Sure. What's happening is these people are using Twitter to try to communicate with each other. And so if you go to the MasterCard webpage. Hit enter. What you're going to get is this, which is that they cannot open the web page.

TODD (voice-over): Officials at MasterCard and the online funds transfer service PayPal tell CNN their websites were recently flooded within a day or two of their decision to stop processing donations to WikiLeaks. The site either slowed down or temporarily shut down as a result. They won't say if they believe the perpetrators are WikiLeaks' supporters, but listening to an official from the Swiss Bank PostFinance which also got attacked.

ALEX JOSTY, POSTFINANCE SPOKESMAN: The reason is a simple one: because PostFinance closed the account of Julian Assange, and that was the reason, because of the Internet community around him decided to start the "Operation Payback."

TODD: PostFinance says they closed Assange's account, because he falsely told them he lived in Switzerland. They say no other accounts were affected. As for the credit cards...

(on camera) A lot of people are asking, "Is my credit card affected by this?" If you're a MasterCard holder, especially now during the holidays.

MARK RASCH, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, CYBER CRIME PROSECUTOR: People's credit cards are not affected. Their credit isn't affected. The ability to buy things with the credit card is not affected.


TODD: Also not affected: your ability to pay off your card. You usually do that through your own bank. What is affected, Rasch says, is your ability to apply for a Visa or MasterCard on their Web sites during these disruptances (ph), or if you want to find out where there's an ATM that takes those credit cards. He says also the ability of MasterCard or Visa to communicate with vendors and their investors is affected, as well. None of those services can operate during these disruptions, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sarah Palin is also saying she was targeted?

TODD: That's right. She has spoken out against WikiLeaks recently, and her spokesman just told CNN, quote, "Today we learned they have attacked the Palin family's personal information." Not clear in this case who "they" are. Is it those people from Anonymous? That's not clear right now.

BLITZER: Could these activist hackers penetrate, let's say, the Department of Defense Web site, other government Web sites, and potentially do some damage?

TODD: Mark Rasch says it's much more difficult for them to penetrate these secure Pentagon Web sites, other secure government Web sites, because they're secure. A lot of these attacks were taking place on the open Internet, on, That's a lot easier. And remember, this is simply flooding those sites.

It's a lot harder to do that on government Web sites, but we have learned that the personal office Web page of Senator Joe Lieberman was attacked recently. He's the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. His spokesman says the Senate sergeant at arms thwarted that attack before it did any damage.

BLITZER: Cyber war.

TODD: But they're going after people like him.

BLITZER: It's a whole new world out there.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that.

A 21-year-old American citizen stands accused of plotting to bomb a U.S. military recruiting station not far away from Washington, D.C., in Maryland. Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, she's here in THE SITUATION ROOM, tracking this case for us.

Tell our viewers what we know.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's another allegation of home-grown terrorism, another military target, another FBI sting, another arrest.


MESERVE (voice-over): A jihadi video on the Facebook page of one Muhammad Hussein, along with posts like this: "I love Shaikh Anwar al- Awlaki. I don't care if he's on the terrorist list." A reference to the U.S.-born cleric, now a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Muhammad Hussein's real name, Antonio Martinez. He is a U.S. citizen, 21, a convert to Islam, and he is now facing two terror charges.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. ATTORNEY: The defendant approached three other people and asked them to participate in his scheme. All three turned him down, and one of them actively tried to talk the defendant out of pursuing his plan.

MESERVE: Martinez allegedly plotted to attack this armed forces recruiting station in Catonsville, Maryland, outside Baltimore, discussing shooting everyone inside and burning the building before settling on a car bomb. According to court documents, he mentioned Nidal Hasan, who gunned down 13 at Ft. Hood, and allegedly said every soldier that we see in uniform will be killed on the spot. They will be killed until they stop waging war against Islam. The FBI, tipped to Martinez' plans by an informant, provided a fake bomb. Wednesday morning, when he tried to detonate it, he was arrested.

Will Eckenrode watched from a nearby store.

WILL ECKENRODE, WITNESS: We had no idea what was going on. And the whole parking lot just became swarmed with police.

MESERVE: Last month, the FBI ran a similar sting against a man in Portland, Oregon, who allegedly wanted to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting. According to the criminal complaint, Martinez was concerned that he too, was being set up, but he decided to proceed with the plot, despite multiple efforts to dissuade him.

Officials say the stings are not entrapment.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There are rules that govern them. And they're done very carefully, and the FBI abides by those rules. Law enforcement abides by those rules, but they are an important tool to have.


MESERVE: This is the latest in a lengthening string of domestic terror cases. Authorities say in this case, the public was never in any danger, but law enforcement officials maintain the plot could have come to a very different conclusion if they had not intervened and Martinez had actually found others with similar intent. They do no expect any additional arrests, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still, very, very worrisome. Jeanne, thanks very, very much.

Violent protests in Haiti over election results. It's so bad that U.S. Airlines canceled flights, and a short time ago, the airport was closed. Let's go to Port-au-Prince right now. CNN's Jim Spellman is standing by.

How bad is the situation, Jim?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I got a chance today to go out in the street all over the city, really, and shoot video, and people are just so angry and so frustrated that they were lighting fires to block roads. They were blocking roads with any kind of debris they could find, Dumpsters, anything from the rubble.

And it's a city, already, as you know, that's just been on its knees for the last year since the earthquake. Still tent cities everywhere. And within these tent cities and these encampments, people just feel so frustrated. And when their person, their candidate didn't make the runoff election, they took to the streets, Wolf. BLITZER: First there was an earthquake, then cholera. Now the violence, which seems to be getting more intense. Is that your impression that it's getting worse right now, or is it easing up?

SPELLMAN: Well, the sun has just set here, but during the day it definitely got worse. U.N. peacekeepers were -- were tussling with protesters out front of the election board office. And it really -- this candidate that didn't make the runoff, his name is Michel Martelly. He's a popular entertainer here. But he's a guy that the people here on the street identified with.

They felt like he was one of them, and maybe with him, some hope that the people living in the tents and the encampments know that their voices would be heard, and they'd get some change.

Now they feel, rightly or wrongly, like they've been cheated out of the last thing. And after a year of feeling they've been cheated out of just about everything, you know, I don't know how much more they think they can take, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Be careful over there, Jim. We'll check back with you tomorrow. Our best wishes for those folks in Haiti. They've suffered so, so much.

You may have no history of heart disease, but you still could be at high risk. Now a simple new blood test could tell you and your loved ones. This is information you need to know. Elizabeth Cohen is standing by.

Plus, a rocket launch with potentially historic implications.


BLITZER: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and a new study indicates a simple blood test could reveal a potentially red flag. Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is joining us now with more.

What did the study find, Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is so interesting. Doctors have been using a blood test to detect a protein called cardiac troponin in emergency rooms to see if you're about to have a heart attack. Well, they said to themselves, "What would happen if we used this way in advance?"

So they looked at people as young as 30, and they did a test to see if they had troponin in their blood. And what they found was that 25 percent of them did, and then when they followed those folks for six years, they found that people who had troponin in their blood were nearly seven times more likely to die of a heart-related problem. So that's what they call, in the medical biz, a highly predictive test.

BLITZER: Can anyone go and get this test right now if they want to check? COHEN: You know what? You can't. You can't just go to your doctor and ask for a troponin test. They're not going to have it. But in the years to come, they might, and some of the researchers we talked to said they hope it becomes kind of like a cholesterol test, something you do to, you know, sort of test out what your chances are of having a heart problem.

BLITZER: So if you test positive -- let's say the test becomes more available -- then what? What do you do? Just wait for a heart attack?

COHEN: Right. No, you definitely don't do that. What -- what doctors would do then is they would probably want to do regular echocardiograms on you to get an image of your heart to find out what's wrong, because the test says you're more likely to get a terrible heart problem, but it doesn't say exactly what's wrong with you.

They'd also make sure that you do a good diet and exercise program. They'd be more aggressive about treating any high blood pressure or cholesterol. It would really just put you and your doctor sort of on notice that you are more likely than other people to have a heart problem.

BLITZER: I'm sure a lot of people are going to want to get that test once it's available. Elizabeth, thanks very much.

A possible break in the case of a Hollywood publicist gunned down in the heart of Beverly Hills. The police are now speaking out. Stand by. New information coming in.

And the rocket launch that could mark the beginning for a new era of the U.S. space program.


BLITZER: A new era in the U.S. space program was ushered in this morning with a launch that made history. CNN's John Zarrella has the details from Florida's Kennedy Space Center -- John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a rocket scientist once told me that flying spacecraft was not like flying a 747; they're complicated vehicles. Well, SpaceX, a commercial rocket company, sure made it look easy today.

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral and then put its Dragon spacecraft into orbit, circling the Earth twice, and then returning that vehicle, that Dragon spacecraft, back to Earth, landing and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean about 500 miles off Mexico.

It was the first time that a commercial company had ever done this. Up until now, only five nations in the world had been able to successfully re-enter a vehicle back into the atmosphere.

What this does, Wolf, it sets the stage for commercial companies to begin taking over flying first cargo to the International Space Station, and ultimately flying astronauts for NASA to the International Space Station, thus freeing up NASA to do what it does best: explore the heavens.

Now, at a post-landing news conference, Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, said that the success today was so overwhelmingly good that he believes that one of the next two demonstration flights so far required by NASA might be eliminated.

NASA officials said they would take that under consideration, and what that means is that Musk hopes that by the end of 2011, he will begin flying cargo to the International Space Station. And he says that by 2015, if he gets a contract from NASA to fly humans, he'll be able to do that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John. Thanks very much.

A possible break in the murder investigation of Ronni Chasen. Kate Bolduan is back in THE SITUATION ROOM, monitoring that and some other top stories. What's going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot going on, Wolf. This one especially. Beverly Hills police say the handgun used by a person of interest to kill himself does preliminarily match the gun used to kill Chasen. Police say if Harold Martin Smith is definitively linked to the murder, they believe he acted alone and that his motive was robbery.

Chasen was shot several times while driving through an upscale residential area last month.

And New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will head to North Korea next week. Richardson says the country's chief nuclear negotiator and foreign affairs minister invited him to make the four-day private trip. The governor says while he is not carrying any messages, he does hope to ease tensions on the peninsula. Those tensions soared to a new level after Pyongyang's deadly artillery attack on a South Korean island last month.

And good to know right ahead of the holiday: a new weight-loss pill is one step closer to hitting the market. An FDA advisory committee has recommended the drug Contrave be approved. Contrave is meant for overweight and obese patients with a high body mass index and risk factors like diabetes or hypertension. In clinical trials, patients who took the drug lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. The FDA has until the end of January to grant final approval.

And football fans pay attention, or you probably already know. The University of Florida's head football coach is resigning. Urban Meyer says it's time for him to step away from the 24/7 demands of his job and instead focus on his family. We've heard that before, haven't we? Meyer will coach his last football game for Florida at the Outback Bowl in Tampa on New Year's Day. Good luck to him.

And police in Los Angeles -- this is a travesty -- want to question a person of interest in the theft of nearly all Pete Sampras' trophies. Authorities say the tennis champ's awards and other memorabilia were taken from a public storage facility about a month ago. Among the stolen items, 64 championship trophies, including Sampras' first Australian Open trophy, two Davis Cup awards, and an Olympic ring.

A couple of thoughts on this. If they're in a place -- if they're in a storage area, are they that important to Pete Sampras?

BLITZER: Well, presumably, he's got a good lock on that door. I've got a little storage area, too. I've got a lot.

BOLDUAN: Where's your Olympic ring?

BLITZER: Yes. I don't have an Olympic ring. I don't have any Davis Cup championships. I've got a lot of old junk in there.

BOLDUAN: Not junk.

BLITZER: But still, I feel bad for him.

BOLDUAN: I know. But what are you going to -- obviously, they're going to show up on Craigslist or eBay or something.

BLITZER: I hope they find it.

BOLDUAN: I do, too.

BLITZER: It's sentimental.

BOLDUAN: It's not in my garage.

BLITZER: He's a nice guy, Pete Sampras.


BLITZER: Thank you.

Do you feel poor? Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail.

And a liberal dose of outrage at President Obama from the left. Jeanne Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack and "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: "Do you feel poor?"

T. writes from Oklahoma, "No, I don't feel poor. Even when I was poor, I've never felt poor. We live in a country in which most people have more than they could possibly ever need in life. Many Americans are overweight, overdrawn, over stimulated, overpaid, educated beyond their intelligence, overextended, overindulged and on and on and on. Anyone living in this country who has a car is in the top 15 percent of the world's wealthy."

Rick writes, "The vast majority of people in this country are poor, and many more are joining those ranks every year. I used to think of myself as middle class. But at my income level, despite my education, I now face the reality that I don't even merit middle class. I am among the working poor."

Jerry in Georgia says, "You only feel poor if you can't afford those things that you want to have or that you feel entitled to have. If you're rich enough to afford all the basics that you truly need, and you woke up this morning on this side of the grass, you're not poor."

Paul in Florida, "I'm rich. I have no wife. The kids are on their own. No mortgage, car, credit card bills, dog or cat. I live in a trailer on Social Security. The things I don't have are the things that make you poor."

Johnny in Los Angeles writes, "We're a two-income household with less purchasing power than in years past, and we have less time on our hands, because our company needs us to put in more hours. However, when I look at the opportunities for people in other countries who are struggling at levels that most Americans would consider horrific, I still see how fortunate we are to live in this great country."

Kevin in California, "I think a lot of people feel more demoralized than poor."

And Randy says, "No, I'd have to get a raise to feel poor."

If you want to read more on the subject, go to the blog,

BLITZER: Will do, Jack. Thanks very, very much. See you tomorrow.

President Obama is getting heat from a lot of Democrats for his tax compromise with the Republicans. But not this one. Senator Jim Webb calls the tax deal an act of true leadership. He explains why on "JOHN KING USA." That's coming up right at the top of the hour.

But first, a "Most Unusual" reaction to the tax agreement from the president's supporters.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots" coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

In Tibet, Buddhist monks celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of an early Buddhist teacher.

In Mexico, look at this, a model of the Statue of Liberty is submerged by Greenpeace activists to make a point about climate change.

In a public square in Lisbon, Portugal, people gather around an old carousel.

And in Greece, a dog named Sausage, who has appeared in all major demonstrations in Athens, stands with riot police.

"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

'Tis the season to be merry, but apparently not for some Democrats. They're furious with President Obama. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's that wonderful time of the year at the White House. But instead of laughing all the way, people are yelling at the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You might want to defend your own positions!

MOOS: People who voted for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And giving in like you did tonight, Mr. President, is not why we all supported you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pathetic in every conceivable way. There's no hope for Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very disappointed in President Obama. I'm starting to think that I should have voted for Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's such a sap.

MOOS: Hey, keep the sap in the Christmas tree where it belongs.

(on camera): Liberals are being liberal all right. Liberal with their criticism of their president.

(voice-over): The proposed tax cut compromise had Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman saying, "I disagree that we didn't get anything -- we got screwed."

Some supporters are turning on their Web cams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I am furious. I am severely angry.

MOOS: And turning on the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, grow a pair, man. You've got to fight for us.

MOOS: You expect comedians to make jokes.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE COLBERT REPORT": Republicans and Democrats finally showed bipartisanship -- in that Republicans offered partisanship, and the president agreed to buy it.

MOOS: You know it's serious when your left wing addresses you directly.



OLBERMANN: Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got to tell you, Mr. President.

OLBERMANN: Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very disheartening, Mr. President. Why?

MOOS: Some are so disheartened they've changed the president's "Yes, we can," slogan to "Yes, we could've."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Dashing through the snow...

MOOS (on camera): Make that bashing. It's got to hurt.

(voice-over): Comedian Dave Chappelle tweeted, "Obama giving tax cuts to the rich makes about as much sense as giving steroids to the Incredible Hulk."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seems to go from zero to compromise in 3.5 seconds.

MOOS: But not everyone is piling on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bravo, Mr. President.

MOOS: Things are upside down. FOX commentators are defending him.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: These people wanted him to commit suicide, which would have been political suicide?

MOOS: While left-leaning MSNBC commentators are enraged.

OLBERMANN: It is not disloyalty to the Democratic Party to tell a Democratic president he is wrong. It is not disloyalty to tell him he is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wrong.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: What's happening now is that this presidency is at risk of becoming a punch line.

MOOS: President Obama probably feels like punching someone or something.



MOOS: Jeanne Moos... OLBERMANN: Huh?

MOOS: ... CNN...


MOOS: ... New York.


BLITZER: Tough -- tough to be president of the United States. Not easy at all. Remember, you can always follow what's going on behind the scenes here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at

You can also follow THE SITUATION ROOM on Facebook. Go to to become a fan. We hope you do.

That's all the time I have today. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.