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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

Tax Compromise Heads to Senate; Berlusconi Fights to Stay in Power

Aired December 13, 2010 - 14:00:00   ET

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


MAX FOSTER, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: Tax breaks for the rich. President Obama's big compromise heads to the Senate.

Too, Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister, fights to stay in power.

And the queen of talk shows is tourism gold. Oprah's big bucks business trip down under.

I'm Max Foster in for Richard Quest. This is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

Hello to you.

Critics say this plan defies economic logic. Hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when the U.S. deficits will probably top $1 trillion next year. Europe's monetary policymakers would quake at the very thought. But others say cutting taxes makes the rich richer and everyone spends more.

On tonight's program we break down the two sides of a very heated economic debate and the possible consequences as well.

Now, right now, in Washington, U.S. senators are starting to debate President Obama's controversial tax compromise. Mr. Obama's deal with the Republicans was struck earlier this month. It would allow the president to continue federal unemployment benefits. The catch, though, for him is Bush-era tax cuts would be extended for even the very wealthiest Americans. In a closed meeting on Thursday House Democrats said they wouldn't even consider the deal in its current form.

It is expected to gain the support of 60 senators today. That is needed to proceed to a final Senate vote. The clock is ticking to get the deal passed. Tax cuts are said to expire at the end of year. If a compromise isn't reached by then everyone will be paying more come January. Now, Dana Bash joins us from Washington to explain the politics behind this because a lot of economists will be looking at this and thinking it is quite bizarre. But this is a political story, isn't it?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. And, you know, I think in fairness it really is both. Because I think in the Senate you mentioned the fact that we do expect that this first test vote to go forward and that probably ultimately in the United States Senate this tax cut package will actually pass. Part of the reason why Democrats in the Senate have told us that they are warming to it is because independent economists have said that they actually believe that ultimately this will be good for the middle class.

Let's just show you-you mentioned some of the items, but let's just show others that are in this very broad, very big package. It's not everything but it is a lot of the big ones.

It is an $858 billion tax cut package. As you said it extends all Bush era tax cuts for two years. That is in fact breaking the president's promise and his campaign not to extend tax cuts to the wealthy. But he's doing it for two years it costs $330 billion. Also the Democrats are getting a big one here. A promise to extend unemployment benefits for hard-hit Americans, jobless Americans, obviously, for 13 months. That would cost $56 billion. And also a one-year payroll tax holiday. That means that people are going to get 2 percent less; 2 percent less of taxes on Social Security and Medicare. That is $112 billion.

And then, this is another biggie, the estate tax exemption. That is something-one of the reasons, Max, why Democrats are so upset because there is an exemption up to $5 million for an individual estates. It's $10 million for families. And that is something that many Democrats have said, you know what, this is like pouring salt on our wounds. This is much too much of a giveaway to the rich. That is something that people looking forward to the House, expect that to be hotly debated.

FOSTER: Yes, it takes one to the question, what do you think will happen when it does get to the House?

BASH: It really is to be determined at this point. House Democratic leaders just had a meeting, Max, just moments ago. And they came out saying that it is not totally set yet. But many House Democrats-House Democratic leaders, pardon me, have said over the past 24 hours or so, despite the mutiny that you described earlier, that did happen, in the House, among House Democrats last week, saying there is no way we are going to take this package to the House floor in its current form. Despite that, they are looking for ways to in fact bring it to the House floor, with some changes. And I think that is state tax revision. That is something critical to look at. Democratic leaders are saying that is the one thing they are going to try to change.

The question, Max, is if they are able to change that, meaning make it less generous to wealthy families, and wealthy individuals, how much will that hurt the whole overall chances of this deal going through. Vice President Biden came up to Capital Hill last week and warned, big changes won't mean the deficit is compromised. And it will mean ultimately the tax cuts will go up. I think that just in reading the tea leaves, from House Democratic leaders this morning, they realize ultimately that is not something they want to be responsible for. So they'll figure out a way to make this work. But the clock is ticking. All of these tax cuts expire at the end of the year (AUDIO GAP). As you said earlier, it is important to emphasize, almost every American will see a tax increase if they don't figure this out.

FOSTER: OK, Dana Bash, thank you very much indeed for that. Well, U.S. plans to extend tax cuts comes as much of the world is going in the complete opposite direction. Here in the U.K. the value added tax is about to rise from 15 to 20 percent. And that will take effect in January. Ireland's 2011 budget also includes a rise in sales taxes as well as an extra form of income tax. The universal social charge, as it is being called.

In France earners in the top tax bracket will see their income tax rise from 40 to 41 percent. And in Japan the country's economics minister is called for an incremental rise in sales tax to help bring down the national debt.

The Obama tax compromise comes at a massive cost, of course. Moody's warned today that if the proposal is approved it would bring the U.S. closer to a debt downgrade. Maya Mac Guineas is the director of the fiscal policy program at the New America Foundation think tank. She joins us also from Washington.

Thank you so much for joining us with your perspective. We are talking, here, about tax cuts at a time when debt is increasing. And an economist will look at that and say, that is sustainable. Is that your view as well?

MAYA MAC GUINEAS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: There is no question that it is not sustainable. And as you just pointed out countries around the world are starting to focus on how to get their budgets under control. And here in the U.S. it looks like we're poised to borrow almost another trillion dollars. So its troubling from a fiscal perspective, no question.

FOSTER: But you understand the politics behind this. You are obviously hooked into the political atmosphere there. It is an impossible situation, isn't it? And some economists actually are backing this compromise deal. Do you think they are completely wrong or is it just a different view from yours?

MAC GUINEAS: Well, no, the politics first off, is what it is. It is horse trading, I would say, at its worst. For both Republicans and Democrats are ending up with what they want with no concern for the responsible budget part of this.

From an economic perspective I would agree that in a short term we should be considering more stimulus. But the way you do it correctly is you tie it to a medium and a long-term budget reform plan. So you pass the temporary stimulus now a the same time that you put in place either a full- fledged budget plan, or at least a mechanism to come up with one in the next year. We just had a very effective fiscal commission make a number of recommendations. We should be tying some of those to all of this new borrowing. That would help to reassure credit markets and actually keep any recovery on track as well.

FOSTER: And the credit markets, just as you say, we saw Treasuries gaining, didn't we? Off the back of that negative news about the health care plan. Do you expect there will be more movements in the bond markets if this tax deal gets through the House?

MAC GUINEAS: Well, you know what I expect is that there will be uncertainty in the bond markets. Because in the short-term people are improving their growth expectations for the U.S. because of this massive stimulus package. And I would also say it is not a particularly effective, or well-crafted, stimulus package, but it is massive. But in the long-term we are still on this unsustainable track, or path, and what that means is credit markets don't really know how to analyze the risks in the U.S.

We know we have to make changes, but until we know what they are, it is hard for any recovery to take place, or to reassure credit markets for a sustained period of time that the U.S. is going to get its fiscal act together. Right now, we are kind of doing the easy part, borrowing all of this money. We have yet to come to terms with the difficult part, which is really bringing out debt back down to sustainable level.

FOSTER: OK, Maya Mac Guineas, thank you very much, indeed for joining us from Washington, D.C.

Let's take a look at how your stocks are fairing ahead of that tax vote then, coming in the next hour or so. The Dow is higher. Dow currently at a 27-month high, for the moment. You see it now on the board. Up 0.5 percent, but we'll wait to see what happens after that vote. It is not the final stage in the legal process, but it is a significant one.

Another key vote on this side of the Atlantic could affect the entire Euro Zone, meanwhile. Silvio Berlusconi faces more political pressure, but does a crisis in Italy spell trouble for the economy?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Well, tonight could be Silvio Berlusconi's last night in power in Italy. The Italian prime minister says a political crisis in the Euro Zone's third largest economy is the last thing the country needs.

Mr. Berlusconi fought for his political life in parliament today, speaking to lawmakers the day before he faces a no-confidence vote. Italy has problems with high unemployment, and a deficit that stands at 120 percent of the country's GDP. Mr. Berlusconi said it was imperative he stirred the country through the troubled times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SILVIO BERLUSCONI, PRIME MINISTER OF ITALY: We need decision making. We need everything, but a crisis in the dark.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: So, could it be the ends for one of Europe's most controversial politicians and what would that mean for the Italian economy? Well, Dan Rivers is live for us tonight in Rome.

Dan, you can never write this man off, too soon-don't want to anyway?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, well, they used to call Tony Blair, Teflon Tony. I think the same adjective could be ascribed to Silvio Berlusconi, he has managed to get through all kinds of scandals in the last couple of years, but today promises to be a day of high drama, almost as dramatic as the day perhaps Julius Cesar himself was assassinated in the Senate by Brutus.

It is certainly going to be very interesting to see how this vote goes. It could come down to perhaps one or two votes as Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister fights for his political life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS (voice over): Italian history is littered with reminders of political betrayal. None more infamous that Julius Cesar stabbing by Brutus, now a story Machiavelli would have enjoyed, another political drama. This time a vote of confidence, rather than a dagger, will be the weapon inside Italy's parliament. The potential victim, Silvio Berlusconi.

He survived one such censure in September, and numerous scandals that would have forced out the most hardy political veterans. Allegations involving very young women, accusations he interfered with a witness to protect his business empire, and numerous gaffs. Berlusconi shrugged them all off with a smile.

Now this man, a former ally, Gian Franco Fini, is threatening to bring him down. Wielding a political dagger in parliament by leading a defection against Berlusconi.

FRANCO PAVONCELLO, JOHN CABOT UNIVERSITY: Well, these are very dramatic moments because basically we see the split between two men who have been working together for the past 15 years, very, very closely. Maybe a dagger might be wielded but I'm not sure it is going to end up being the Cesar here. It looks increasingly like Mr. Fini pushed a little bit too much.

RIVERS: Meaning Fini, who leads the center right party might not get enough votes to force Berlusconi out. And the prime minister is not going quietly.

Speaking in the senate, he insisted Italy would be plunged into a crisis in the dark without his leadership; political instability that could follow his resignation.

(On camera): But aside from all the political squabbling in parliament and the protests outside, there is a much bigger issue at stake, the stability of the Euro Zone. Italy has more public sector debt than Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland combined. The big concern is if Berlusconi is toppled, who will succeed him and will they really have the appetite to drive forward austerity measures in the face of such public opposition. If they don't it could rattle the entire Euro Zone.

(PROTESTORS SHOUTING)

RIVERS (voice over): There is a lot at stake but many Italian voters are tired of the soap opera.

This many says, "We can't take it anymore. It is time for a change. The political stalemate of the past months has not helped the factories or the economy."

This woman says, "I think ousting him is the right thing to do. To show there is another country besides the one he represents every day on TV."

We found one shop window with a concocted newspaper headline, "Cesar's Assassination Retold". So will the papers be full of another tale of friend turning foe and taking out the leader? Perhaps. All of Italy is waiting to see if the Ides of March have come early. Dan Rivers, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Well, stock markets in Italy don't seem too effected by all this uncertainty, would you believe? The FTSE MIB gained around three quarters of a percent today. It has been rallying after hitting a four- month low at the end of November. Since then it has gained around 8 percent.

Italy seems to have flirted with the economic collapse at times during the past few years of course. For more on this I'm joined by Thomas Mayer, he is the chief economist at Deutsche Bank Group.

Thank you so much for joining us here in London.

THOMAS MAYER, CHIEF ECONOMIST, DEUTSCHE BANK GROUP: Good to be here.

FOSTER: The truth is you are kind of used to political chaos in Italy, so at what point does that become worrying for you and the markets?

MAYER: Well, I think the past performance of Italy was much more dependent on the steadiness of the finance minister, Tremonti. And as long as there is the prospect of quickly forming another government, possibly even a government of technocrats, that would continue the rather steady fiscal policies and economic policies of Italy. I think the markets are likely to take this in stride.

FOSTER: So it is your view that whoever actually takes over, actually the economic policy is going to be pretty much the same?

MAYER: I would think so, yes. I mean, Tremonti has a relatively conservative fiscal policy. He has kept a lid on the deficit. And as long as the system continues to support this policy line, I don't think that the markets get too spooked if you have another prime minister.

FOSTER: But he is such a huge figurehead, isn't he, for the country? Doesn't it have any impact on how people view the country in terms of investment, not at all, really?

MAYER: I would think not really. Italy has occasionally had governments of technocrats who, actually, were quite good; both for economic policies as well as for the market.

FOSTER: OK, and that is the big political story, obviously, in Europe, right now. Just as a key player in economic research in this area, what should we be worried about going into next year in terms of the Euro Zone? And countries like Portugal falling and Angela Merkel not stepping in to bail them out?

MAYER: Well, we have a huge economic divergence in the euro area. With last year Germany growing almost 4 percent, and Greece probably contracting by more than 4 percent. So this is going to be a big, big challenge. The other challenge is obviously the euro area sovereign debt crisis. I think that because of this challenge we will see a step towards greater integration in Europe. This will not change the character of the euro area from what I call a limited liability company to one of unlimited liabilities for each other. I think this will be preserved.

But within the context of that limited liability company that the euro area is, I think we're going to see a step forward in order to stabilize the euro and set the stage for the beginning of the winding down of these huge economic divergences. But the latter one, this will take a long, long time.

FOSTER: OK, Thomas, thank you very much for joining us on the program today.

When we return, "Future Cities", and we're back in the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS (voice over): Planning for the future decades ahead. "Future Cities" is in Abu Dhabi and we're back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink. Many of you will recognize this line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner". It was written more than 200 years ago, but still applies to modern-day Abu Dhabi. The emirate may almost be surrounded by the Persian Gulf, but the arid desert, together with sky high temperatures, means it has almost no fresh water to speak of. And with a population that is expected to double in the next 20 years. That means that Abu Dhabi is looking at all the alternatives just to survive. Richard sent us this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST (voice over): Abu Dhabi is a desert city and it's running out of water. Severe shortages are expected as soon as 2012.

(On camera): Natural water supply is becoming increasingly scarce in Abu Dhabi. In addition, the people who live here are amongst the largest consumers of water in the world. So now you see the problem.

RAZAN KHALIFA AL MUBARAK, ABU DHABI ENVIRONMENT AGENCY: The coastal areas of Abu Dhabi receive not more than 18 centimeters of annual rainfall. This is certainly not enough water to provide for the residents of the city.

QUEST: Like any arid region Abu Dhabi has no surface water, no river, no fresh lakes.

MUBARAK: Natural resources in terms of water do not exist here in the UAE. So we need to find ways in order to acquire that.

QUEST: Almost every drop of drinking water in the emirate comes from desalination, the removal of salt from seawater. The Taweelahbi (ph) Power and Water Station is the biggest in the region.

IRVIN HENRY RAVEST, TAWEELAH ASIA POWER COMPANY: This is the seawater intake, where we take in the water for use in the distillers. For every three cubic meters of water we take in we produce one cubic meter of drinking water.

MARTIN SLATER, TAWEELAH ASIA POWER COMPANY: We can produce 160 million imperial gallons per day of water. I would say that is approximately 25 percent of the production requirements in Abu Dhabi Emirates, itself. Without the number of desalination plants that we have at the moment, with the growing population it will be particularly difficult to meet the water requirements, the public water requirements of the population.

RAVEST: This is one of our potable water tanks where the water we make in the distillers ends up. We have 12 of these tanks. And the 12 tanks is one day's production. From here it is pumped to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

QUEST (on camera): Desalination is horribly expensive on the environment and energy inefficient. And today's goal is to provide renewable, sustainable sources of energy. So now experiments are focusing on the one source of which there are abundant supplies. Well, we're in the Gulf, so yes, it is the sun.

(Voice over): This is a small experimental desalination station run by the Environment Agency. It is using solar energy instead of fossil fuels to power the process.

MOHAMED DAWOUD, ABU DHABI ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY: This is the ground water wells where we are distracting the ground water. It is about 100 meters deep.

This is the storage tank. The water is produced from the reverse osmosis system here inside this container. This is the fresh water here.

QUEST: And the excess saline solution is left evaporate instead of being pumped back into the sea. Over at the commercial desalination plant they are supportive of the scheme, but also skeptical.

SLATER: I don't see that it would be a future for solar desalination in terms of significant production of water capacities. But on a smaller scale I think it would be very interesting (ph), yes (ph).

QUEST: No matter how clean the energy which powers the process there are risks associated with desalination. When relying on the salty sea for drinking water pollution is a constant threat.

RAVEST: We have an oil protection device at the intake to the station. It is called a bubble barrier. And basically it is a wall of bubbles that rises from the floor to prevent any oil spill that might occur coming into the intake.

QUEST: As it stands, Abu Dhabi has currently just 48 hours of emergency water supply. Out in the desert workers started on an ambitious project to build and artificial underground aquifer to increase that.

DAWOUD: What we are thinking now is to store water underground to use it later on in case of emergency.

As a scale this is the first big pilot project in the desert, and in an arid region to inject 7 million gallon a day and to recover 40 million gallons a day, in case of emergency.

QUEST: Storing spare desalinated water is only part of the solution. There are other issues that have to be addressed. This is a city that needs to reduce its consumption.

(On camera): The average family in Abu Dhabi uses 1 million liters of water per year. That means it is the people who need to rethink and change the way they use water.

(Voice over): Everyday Abu Dhabi residents use more than three times the amount of water recommended by the United Nations. So the authorities have come up with these. Little water saving devices, which reduce the flow of water from your tap by a third; 30,000 of these have been fitted so far, across the emirate, in homes, schools, mosques, and hotels.

MUBARAK: We are really looking at engaging with the public at large. Really looking at increasing people's awareness that water does not come cheap here.

SARAH BARTLETT, ABU DHABI RESIDENT: I think there is an increasing awareness now that we need to save water resources. And I think anything that supports the conservation of water in the home, without making too much of an impact on our lives is really a good thing.

QUEST: There is a target to have 3 million people living in the emirate by 2030, which is more than double its current population. So the demand for water shows no sign of slowing.

MUBARAK: Water, certainly, a priority for Abu Dhabi government. And we are addressing it at-in various stages, in a world and in a planet that is getting more resource constrained.

QUEST: For Abu Dhabi, this emirate in the desert, growth and ambition will always be tied to the supply of water. Richard Quest, CNN, Abu Dhabi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: "Future Cities" there, with Richard Quest.

Now, the busiest day in FedEx's history is now underway. After the break we'll be live in Georgia to join in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Welcome back.

I'm Max Foster.

More QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in just a moment.

But first, a check of the headlines.

Swedish authorities say they're nearly certain that Taimour Abdulwahab is the suicide bomber behind the weekend's explosions in Stockholm. He is the only person who died in the blast. Investigators believe his bomb went off prematurely and that he was on his way to a more crowded location.

A shake-up of the top rungs of Iranian politics. Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency reports the finance minister has been removed by President Ahmadinejad. No reason was given for the move. Mr. Ahmadinejad thanked Manouchehr Mottaki for his years of service. He's being replaced for now by Iran's current nuclear chief.

A group of French school kids and their teacher are safe after a teenager took them hostage. French police say the 17-year-old captor entered the classroom carrying two swords this morning. He then held 20 kindergartners and their teacher for all -- or for most of the morning. All of the kids and their teacher were released unharmed after about four- and-a-half hours. The suspect is in custody.

Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, says Italy could face political chaos if parliament on Tuesday votes for a no confidence motion. Center-right lawmakers have abandoned Mr. Berlusconi's coalition government and brushed aside his plea for a compromise and want to force his resignation. The vote in the lower house is expected to be very close.

Now, Christmas is just around the corner. But taking a holiday is the last thing on the minds of FedEx right now. FedEx says this is the likely to be the biggest day in the company's history. They're supposed to ship 16 million packages. That is double the average daily amount and 13 percent more than its busiest day last year. And they expect to ship around 63 million packages this week. The shipments are dominated by books, clothing, electronic and luxury goods -- presents, I would say.

Amazon.com is the world's largest online retailer. It's giving shoppers an extra day, though, to get Internet shopping done. The deadline now is December the 17th if you still want to qualify for free shipping and delivery guarantee by Christmas. And that applies to all purchases over $25. The extension is aimed at boost sales during the key shopping season, of course. They're talking there mainly about the U.S.

Now, online sales aren't just for Christmas. Euromonitor estimates that global online sales will top $308 billion this year. But that figure is expected to almost double to $601 billion by 2015.

Now, as FedEx works through what's expected to be the busiest day in its history, CNN's David Mattingly joins us live from the FedEx center in Marietta, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.

They must be really going through it today.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are. And not so much here at the customer counter, where we're standing now. But earlier today, it was a big rush. There was that big flood of packages that came into their system -- 16 million pieces going around the world in the FedEx system. And that's just that one company.

That makes it their biggest day, the -- the biggest week at the most busy time of the year leading up to Christmas.

Other shipping companies also having a big week right now, up from last year. And it's not so much the economy that's driving this increase. It's the way customers are shopping this year. And it all has to do with the Internet.

Here's what FedEx has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK VOOKLES, SENIOR STATION MANAGER, FEDEX: A lot of it is because people are moving more to e-commerce and ordering stuff online. You know, Cyber Monday was very big. And it's continued on. That and ordering from catalogs and those sort of things have really -- is what's driving the increase.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: In fact, all of the packages that we saw coming into this center today being shipped out to homes are in the Atlanta area -- three, possibly four out of every 10 of those packages was purchased online. And that is a big jump over previous years.

FOSTER: Yes, and a lot of us aren't very well organized. I'm not naming names here, David. But is the general impression that you're getting that we need to be getting those Christmas presents earlier, to get organized?

MATTINGLY: Well, first of all, you want to follow the example of all the people here behind me, the people that are coming in now, getting their packages out now. They're not going to have theirs delivered with any problem whatsoever in getting there in time for the Christmas holiday.

Shippers are saying you generally need to have them in the system by Friday if you want to guarantee de -- here domestically in the U.S. by using the cheaper ground rates.

If you want to spend more, use the air delivery system. That's going to cost more. You can wait later for that. As well as the international shipments from the U.S. to Europe. That will also be available via air. But it's going to cost you a little bit more. And they're saying if you want to get that done, you want to try and get your package in early next week.

So there's still time, but you've got to work on it and make sure you hit those deadlines.

FOSTER: OK, David, thank you very much, indeed.

I think it's a good thing that we're pressured to get organized for Christmas. It avoids that last minute panic, at least.

Now, online retail may be on the rise, but the weather plays a major role in these deliveries actually reaching their destinations.

Jenny Harrison is at the Weather Center -- I know, Jenny, that in Scotland, some supermarkets aren't taking online orders at the moment because they're worried about the snow disrupting things.

Is that a common picture, do you think?

JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I would imagine it would be, actually, Max. And, in fact, there's a new blast of snow and very icy conditions on their way to the U.K. toward the end of this week.

But I think the weather could well be a good excuse for a lot of people as to why their packages didn't arrive.

Let's start in the U.S. We're going to see where more snow followed this morning, as far south as Georgia again. But really, compared to 24 hours ago, the bulk of the snow is farther to the northeast. They're now going to be seeing lake effect snow the next couple of days. In fact, the really heavy snow has pretty much come to an end.

But look at some of these record totals. As you can see here, Michigan is really the state that saw the most, 31 centimeters in Marquette.

So you get the idea as to why there were so many lengthy delays at the airports yesterday, in particular, of course. There were actually hundreds and hundreds of canceled flights.

Now, as we go on through Monday, just a few airports actually reporting weather-related or expect weather-related delays. But, of course, after Sunday, after all those canceled flights, we've got a lot of backlog to catch up on. And the warnings are still out there, but, again, nowhere near as widespread.

But as we go through Tuesday, and we're going to continue to see that cold air coming down from the north and saying most of the snow will be lake effect snow, just kind of pulling away very gradually with that area of low pressure.

You can see it here in the forecast for the next 48 hours. And what you will notice is a couple of very unpleasant nasty days, particularly to coastal areas out toward the west. We're going to see the mounting snow and heavy rains into the coast.

These are the current temperatures -- minus three in Atlanta, minus nine in Chicago. Then you need to factor in the wind. We're talking about minus 18 in Chicago and still minus 10 in Atlanta.

But a warning is out for the wind chill and it can be anything between five and minus 15 degrees Celsius below zero. And this is how we're going to see through Tuesday those temperatures still were below average. And that's pretty much the thing for the story into Europe.

Now, we had a bit of a (INAUDIBLE) feel out toward the west. The snow is still very evident and has been causing, of course, widespread travel disruption. Current temperatures fairly low, as you can see, and then as we go through the week, a new blast of very, very icy conditions and snow pushing in particular to the U.K.

The U.K. temperatures for the next few days still below average, but not as bad as they were. And then you head across into ctrl and Eastern Europe and particularly today, more so, temperatures 13 degrees below average.

So there's the snow as we go through the next 48 hours. Very heavy rains still through the Med, in particular to the northern sections of the Middle East, and, in fact, Turkey, very heavy snow and rain in your direction.

Now, you can see the accumulations. So the next 48 hours, it will Central Europe seeing the problems because of the snow and then toward the end of the week it will be out toward the northwest -- Max...

FOSTER: Jenny, thank you very much...

HARRISON: -- no excuses for you.

No, well, you know, I've got a very organized wife, as you know.

HARRISON: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRISON: Yes, I do know.

FOSTER: So (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

FOSTER: Jenny, thank you very much, indeed.

Now, the details of your life out on the Internet without you even knowing. Next, we'll hear from an online privacy expert about which aspects of your private life might be public knowledge.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: If you use Twitter, you probably see your fair share of mundane Tweets, perhaps from me, even. They're pretty mundane. But this year, Twitter's top subject wasn't a sports match or a celebrity. It was the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The oil leak and the fallout over BP's response was the top trending topic on the micro blogging site in 2010.

Jim has been looking at the rest of the list that features plenty of this year's business stories. But don't tell me Justin Bieber is not in there somewhere -- Jim.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's in there somewhere, but I think it's very interesting, really, that the Gulf oil spill would be number one. This is the third year in a row that Twitter has put out its list of what trended and what spiked, what really interests people very quickly on Twitter.

Very different, of course, from Google searches, which is just how many people search this word or that word.

So you look at the list here. This is the top 10 overall. So let's look at this. Joss number one.

Number two, the World Cup. Maybe not a surprise for that, because you would have had enormous interest even if it was just for one month.

"Inception," the film, with Leonardo di Caprio, number three.

Haitian earthquake, which would, of course, have been one of the biggest stories not only of the year, but of the decade.

And the dreaded vuvuzela comes in there at number five. I think a lot of people like me probably didn't know what it was and was asking either on Twitter or Google, of course, what in the world this thing is.

Interestingly, you do have the fact that the iPad and Android, these two words came sixth and seventh on Twitter. Now, this is the overall trend. But, of course, with those two came in the top 10. No surprise when you look at technology Tweets, Android and Apple were right at the top.

Nokia does not make the list. I think that's quite interesting, because you don't have companies like -- you know, the BlackBerry, for instance, didn't make the list of the trending words on Twitter.

You did have HTC as number seven. It's probably a company you hadn't heard of this time last year, but the Taiwanese cell phone maker is doing very well this year. And it's interesting to see that HTC makes the top 10 list, Nokia does not.

Well, let's remind you about Twitter, of course. Seventy -- 175 million users. That's 100 more users in 2010 than in 2009. Some 25 billion Tweets, 95 million a day. And it's interesting that Asia overtook North America in unique visitors to Twitter in 2010 -- Max.

FOSTER: You do mean 100 more users than, did you?

BOULDEN: Did I say 100?

A hundred million.

FOSTER: Yes. It's unbelievable, isn't it?

It's still not quite up, though, with Facebook I guess.

But the -- it's a really good barometer of what people are -- are talking about...

BOULDEN: Yes.

FOSTER: It's interesting, the Gulf oil spill, I guess, means that it's being used by the mass -- the mass market, as it were, now, rather than just technologists.

BOULDEN: Well, think of that. Of course, that term wouldn't have existed until April, because why would you type "Gulf oil spill" before this oil spill?

So that's different from, say, World Cup...

FOSTER: Yes.

BOULDEN: -- or vuvuzela.

The other thing is, is that they want to make it very clear on Twitter, they're not talking about the most popular words, because someone like Justin Bieber would be trending all the time. So there wasn't like a necessary spike. And they're looking for, quote, "novelty versus popularity."

So this is where you have, the very interesting that you see something like HTC spiking and a lot of trending very quickly. And that's what they're trying to capture, not just what words are typed most into Twitter, as opposed to something like Google.

FOSTER: And in terms of Twitter as a platform then, it -- it's sort of proved itself, come of age this year. We can tell that from what people are talking about.

We're using it for everything, aren't we?

BOULDEN: And then you look at the term, you -- you go into a Web page and you want to see what's trending. And there are some pages that aren't even media sites. They are news sites. And they have on the top what's trending. And that's where you might get a -- an idea that something is happening and you don't know what's happening because once you...

FOSTER: (INAUDIBLE)

BOULDEN: (INAUDIBLE) service.

FOSTER: Yes.

BOULDEN: And you want to go there and look at it. And, of course, that becomes very addictive for people.

FOSTER: Yes.

Are you addicted?

BOULDEN: No.

FOSTER: I like that.

(CROSSTALK)

FOSTER: I don't know why I asked that.

BOULDEN: Of course.

FOSTER: Thank you very much.

Richard is all over it, of course.

Now, not all Internet users want to Tweet every part of their lives, like Jim. Many are far more private.

But if all the recent document leaks have taught us anything, it's that few things are truly secret on the Internet.

CNNMoney.com's Poppy Harlow challenged an online researcher to find what they could about her. And what they managed to dig up -- dig up actually really shocked her.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, ANCHOR, CNNMONEY.COM: Every day, millions of Americans are getting their backgrounds checked and their private information collected. If you're online and especially if you're on social networking sites, your privacy is at risk.

Yes, I'm a public person. I report on television and I report online. But personally, I'm a very private person.

So I did something I've never done before -- I put myself right in this story to try to find out just how much information is out there about me.

(voice-over): We gave Michael Fertik, the founder of Reputation Defender, my name and e-mail address. His company dug around to see what they could find.

MICHAEL FERTIK, CO-FOUNDER, REPUTATION DEFENDER: You're a very private person. And the average person, the average viewer, is going to be much less private than you, especially in the social media. They don't know that they have been opted in by the machine. Even someone as private as you are, has been opted in in such a way that a system can find out very deeply personal and private information about you, some of which you're not even willing to share on the air.

HARLOW: He's exactly right. They pulled information about my family's health history, that my father passed away at 49 from cancer and other issues just too personal to share. And...

FERTIK: Your religion. We believe and it seemed to be right, that you are Episcopalian.

HARLOW: (on camera): That's right.

FERTIK: And -- which is not something you advertise.

HARLOW: (voice-over): They also got my parents' names, college education and whether I'm married or not. But on other facts, they were wrong, like my salary, current address and phone number. And here's what really shocked me. Reputation Defender came back with words on the Internet that are associated with me. They say it's just because these are things I've reported on as a journalist. But the bottom line, whether the information out there is correct or incorrect, it's being used to make decisions about you.

FERTIK: Whether they want to hire you, fire you, date you, market to you, sell to you, insure you or not. The important lesson to take away is that it would be very easy for a machine to make a mistake about who Poppy Harlow is.

HARLOW: We should note, Reputation Defender did this report for us as just an experiment. The company actually operates solely to protect people's information on the Web.

FERTIK: Anything you share in any kind of social media can and will find its way into a database and ultimately into a score that is going to be the basis of major life decisions about you.

HARLOW: (on camera): It -- it's going to define you.

FERTIK: It's going to define you forever.

HARLOW: (voice-over): In the end, this turned out to be much more personal than I expected. In some ways, it was invasive. But what it showed me is just how much personal information is out there, true and untrue, and many of us have no idea.

In New York, Poppy Harlow reporting.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FOSTER: Well, if you're worried about your personal life leaking online, then here are some things that you can do about it. If you Tweet or blog, you can use a pseudonym to keep your identity private or change the privacy settings so only friends can read your postings.

When you sign up with a Web site, check their terms and conditions for who they share those results with, especially if you save your credit card information with them.

And it might be vain, but searching for your own name online is a good way of knowing what kind of things can be found out about you by anyone. If anything on there surprises you, then it's time to tighten up the privacy settings.

If you want to read more about this or anything else tech related, then do head to CNN.com/tech. You don't have to give us any personal information.

Oprah Winfrey is having an adventure down under. The Australian government is footing the bill for an action-packed week and we'll tell you why its generosity is actually a rather shrewd marketing move.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Australia is welcoming some very special guests this week -- U.S. talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, and an entourage of 300 fans. The Australian government is picking up the $5 million travel bill, though. But it looks like this trip is already paying for itself.

Tracey Holmes joins us now live from Sydney.

You'd better explain why they're paying for this one -- Tracey.

TRACEY HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, it's not $5 million that the government is paying. I think they are footing a total of about $3 million. But there's a couple of million coming from some private sponsors.

But that's not the only thing, because, actually, Oprah has put in a whole lot of money herself, or the Harpo Production team that obviously looks after everything she does.

And already, the Australian government and Tourism Australia, who actually came up with this idea about nine months ago and has been working very hard through that time, really feels that the payoff is going to be almost immeasurable.

We caught up yesterday with the managing director of Tourism Australia, Andrew McEvoy.

And he's pretty impressed already.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREW MCEVOY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, TOURISM AUSTRALIA: Tourism Australia is putting out $1.8 million to bring the "Oprah Winfrey Show" down under. But I reckon collectively, between other state and territory governments, the tourism industry has probably made a $5 million investment. But on top of that, Harpo Productions and their commercial partners would be spending somewhere in excess of $6 million or $7 million.

So it's quite a big show, you know, bringing 202 audience members, a whole bunch of crew, as well as a whole bunch of Australian crew down under to make this program.

HOLMES: Well, there's been rumors that already we've received a value equivalent of, in advertising dollars, $17 million to $45 million...

MCEVOY: Yes.

HOLMES: -- to $62 million.

Do you have a higher offer than that?

MCEVOY: Well, just before I returned back into our country, the number was 30 odd million dollars. So that was three or four days ago. I could imagine that's doubled in the time that she's been here. And I can imagine it will triple. And then next year, they've committed to making at least four hours of Oprah Winfrey television, which will go to 145 countries around the world.

So you can imagine that number is going to skyrocket from here.

HOLMES: Tourism is a huge industry in Australia. We're talking about 2.8 percent of GDP.

How much do you want that to grow by?

And is it possible to keep growing it?

MCEVOY: Yes, tourism is a big industry -- $92 billion in spending in our country, half a million Australians in it, $26 billion in tourism recoups from exports and international visitors. Look, it's growing at about sort of 4 or 5 percent per annum at the moment. And we'd like to think that it could better than that.

World -- world growth last year was zero and we -- sorry, minus 4 percent. And we grew by about 1 percent. This year, world growth looks like it's going to be 6 or 7 and we have to match that, if not do better.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HOLMES: So, you see if anyone thought that Australia was really suffering after missing out on the 2022 World Cup and the tourism boon that that would have brought, forget about that. Oprah has eclipsed (ph) all of that already.

FOSTER: Yes. It's just the most amazing story, isn't it?

And there's a concert which is going to be all star-studded.

What does Australia make of all of this landing on their shores?

HOLMES: Well, look, Australia loves it. And you have to give complete credit to Harpo Productions and -- and, obviously, the mind of Oprah Winfrey. Because what she's done, the entire trip has basically dangled a carrot. No one really knows where she's going to turn up next or what's going to happen next, what can be expected. So there's this mystery.

And the mystery just builds and builds. And today she's got two shows to film here at the Sydney Opera House, 6,000 people at each show, as part of the audience. But, of course, 350,000 people applied for those tickets.

So there will be a mass of people that have missed out. And I can tell you that conversations the last four or five days, no matter where you are, has all been focused on Oprah.

FOSTER: It's absolutely brilliant, isn't it?

It's a bit like when Australia advertised for that caretaker to look after a desert island and we weren't -- we learned at the end that it was all just a marketing trip for the tourism industry. But this seems to work and Australia is getting attention on its natural resources, as a result. And it's doing it again.

HOLMES: Absolutely. And, you know, people probably don't realize, Australia is known pretty much for its agriculture and its mining industry. But tourism is -- is bigger than those two combined. And it's something that Australia has to work very hard on, because, as you can imagine, it can become very passes.

If everyone's heard about Australia, everyone knows about Australia, what's new?

But this has brought a new element to that. And I think it's worked well both ways. Oprah has obviously benefited in her last season of 25 years of doing the show, but also it's most definitely benefited Australia, because her show is broadcast into 145 different countries.

FOSTER: And we're expecting it from a few other countries coming up.

Thank you very much, indeed, Tracey, for that.

Now, we are, meanwhile, keeping a close eye on that ongoing debate in the U.S. Senate. These are live pictures for you. Senators are discussing President Obama's tax plan. It would allow federal unemployment benefits to continue into next year whilst extending Bush era tax cuts for even the very wealthiest Americans. The compromise with Republicans will need the support of at least 60 senators to proceed to a final vote.

We should hear if that's happened within the next few hours. In any event, House Democrats have said they won't consider the bill in its current form.

We'll be back with a check of the market news for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Let's take a look at how the U.S. stocks are faring ahead of that key tax vote in Washington, up .5 percent. It's actually at a 27 month high currently, so I think not too bad there.

As for Europe, it was a generally positive day. The SMI in Switzerland finished exactly flat. But otherwise, green arrows all around as you can see. The French CAC Courant did particularly well today. China's decision not to increase interest rates seems to have put investors in a -- a good mood to start the week.

Over in Asia, the searches in China's benchmark index notched up their highest percentage gain in two months. Investors are, of course, relieved the government is holding interest rates steady despite inflation figures that were much higher than expected.

On Friday, China told banks to hoard more of their cash as a way of controlling lending. That also helps to reassure investors.

All right, taking a look at the -- the big picture, all the main indices did close higher. The Shanghai Composite was a major standout, racking up gains of 2.9 percent.

That is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

I'm Max Foster in London.

Thank you very much, indeed, for watching.

"WORLD ONE" starts right now.

END