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THE SITUATION ROOM
Deadly Storms Sweep Through Midwest; Keeping Terror from Times Square; Airport Screeners Under Fire; Health Reform Battle to Reignite
Aired December 31, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, GUEST HOST: Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, happening now, it's midnight across most of Europe, where people are ringing in the new year. Let's start in Paris. Thousands of people are welcoming 2011 around the City of Lights, including the Eiffel Tower.
Just north of there, a live look at the Dutch capital of Amsterdam, thousands of people celebrating with the new year's fireworks show and rock concert.
In neighboring Denmark, you're looking at the live fireworks display and the partying that's happening in the capital city of Copenhagen.
And here in the United States, Times Square is already packed. Security is tight, as we are six hours away from the dropping of the ball.
We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We are also following deadly severe weather this hour. At least six people are dead and more critically injured in a series of storms and possible tornadoes that swept across the Midwest, from the Gulf Coast to Illinois. The small town of Cincinnati, Arkansas, is among the hardest hit.
Our CNN's Martin Savidge has more on the devastation. Martin, tell us what happened here.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, a lot happened, and it happened incredibly fast, according to the eyewitnesses. Now, the governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency as large portions of his state were devastated by the bad weather, as were portions of the northern part of Arkansas. Thousands are without power. It's safe to say this is not the way may people in that region expected to be spending their New Year's Eve.
(voice-over): Fueled by unusually warm winter weather, a suspected tornado carved its way across three counties in northwest Arkansas early this morning, leaving behind a deadly New Year's Eve disaster. The small town of Cincinnati, Arkansas, population 100, took the brunt of the blow, as these first shaky images reveal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in the house. I woke up. My wife woke me up and said, Something's going on. It sounded like a freight train coming right over top of us. Out whole house started shaking. The windows started busting out. And then it was gone. I mean, just like that, it was gone.
SAVIDGE: The storm wiped out homes, barns, businesses and lives, killing at least three. It also took out the town's fire department when the roof fell on the fire engines.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is getting me is that it'll hit this house, and then there's one right next door, you know, just across the way that's still standing. And this is the worst I've ever seen. It's really hard. You see people standing on their porches, crying and going through stuff, and the stuff you never think you'll really see.
SAVIDGE: Emergency officials say a dozen people were injured in Cincinnati and surrounding areas. Rescuers were hindered by downed tree limbs and power lines. Three other people were killed in Missouri when the same storm system farther to the north plowed into the southern and central part of that state. In suburban St. Louis, a suspected tornado pulverized this subdivision in Sunset Hills. Matthew Edberg (ph) and his wife took shelter in a local business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard windows, couple of doors broke through, a lot of heavy rain. Thankfully, it was real fast, so we didn't hear or see much.
SAVIDGE: It was the speed and the power of the weather system that left many in awe.
MAYOR BILL NOLAN, SUNSET HILLS, MISSOURI: It's incredible, absolutely incredible. Cars overturned, trucks overturned. It's kind of hard to believe that such a thing could happen to our city.
SAVIDGE: In parts of the South and heartland tonight, instead of counting down to the new year, they will be counting their losses and blessings.
SAVIDGE: And the weather in those devastated areas has fortunately either died down or moved on. Hard to believe that really just a week ago, we were talking about cold and snow, although that is part of this same system that is now starting to flow into those hard- hit areas -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: All right, Martin. Thank you very much. Have a safe holiday.
SAVIDGE: Thank you. SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Meteorologist Chad Meyers -- he's tracking the deadly weather for us in the CNN Severe Weather Center in Atlanta. Chad, tell us about these storms. Obviously, they were very fast moving. Do we know where they're headed?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. They are headed to the east. That's typical. And really, to the northeast. That's the way the jet stream is pushing them right now. There's a cold front in parts of the Midwest that's pushing cold air behind it. And all this red, that's all either all blizzard or winter storm warnings from Minnesota through parts of the Dakotas back into Nebraska, as well. The big weather was in the warm sector -- 65 degrees in Atlanta. It was 64 degrees in St. Louis before the weather moved through there. Now the temperatures are going down. In fact, between Kansas City and St. Louis for a while, the temperature difference was 40 degrees -- 40 degrees colder in St. Louis.
So let's get right to it, show you where it's going. The biggest weather right now from Jackson, Mississippi, to Hattiesburg. Every one of the boxes, the red boxes, means that tornado watches are in effect, which means some storms may spin. When you hear the word "warning," it means I'm warning you. That's the next step up. That means a storm is spinning near you. And there are a few of them right now that are spinning across parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
That will continue to move to the northeast all night long. Now I'll go back up here to where the weather was earlier, and good thing it's settled down a little bit. It has moved through St. Louis. There was damage around St. Louis, especially on the southwest side of the city, near Fenton. And then the weather is moving up toward Indianapolis. It may be strong to severe there.
But it appears the energy right now has moved away from the north. I don't think we're going to get a lot of weather, big weather, on the northern part of the storm. But certainly, there will be an awful lot of weather all the way from Memphis southward, and keep right on going. That's all the way down to Louisiana, as well, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Stand by. I want to bring in Missouri governor Jay Nixon, who's joining us live on the phone. Governor, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Can you tell us, what is the situation, what is the scenario on the ground there? Are there -- has everyone been recovered? Are there people that are unaccounted for or missing? What do you know?
GOV. JAY NIXON, MISSOURI: Well, first of all, it began late last night. We have a line of very severe storms. You just talked about tornadoes, high winds. We've been in constant communication with our state emergency management officials.
Earlier this afternoon, I declared a state of emergency, and that gets us moving forward. We had -- this line came across. It hit Rolla (ph), significant damage at Fort Leonard Wood. Also very lucky that the dormitories there that there destroyed didn't have soldiers and their families in them. They were away for the holidays.
I talked to General Quantruck (ph) this afternoon. But we did provide search and rescue down there and are continuing to go through the homes to make sure -- we have three folks that have -- three females that have already been confirmed as killed, one -- another one very, very, very fragile at this moment, and injuries all across that line.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Are you setting up any shelters for the displaced? Can you tell us about those folks who need help now?
NIXON: Oh, we have shelter down in Rolla, and then at the Fort Leonard Wood also. On the fort, there's a shelter there. We're concerned about the temperatures dropping tonight. It was 65 today. It's going to be in the teens tonight. We have 8,000 out of power still. With that temperature dropping, we want to have these shelters available so that folks can go someplace to keep warm if they -- especially if they don't have electricity.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Chad, do you have a question for the governor would you like to ask?
MYERS: Governor, you know, when I went to school -- this was 25 years ago -- Missouri really wasn't part of tornado alley. It was kind of a hole in the middle of a donut. But now it seems like your state is just getting it one storm after another.
NIXON: It really -- it does. In the last few years, we've -- not only do we get tornadoes, I mean, we get ice storms. We get floods. And that's why our emergency management team is up and strong, and also our faith-based initiative. I mean, many of these shelters, many of that sort of stuff is part of a significant initiative we've had to include members of the faith community to help us to provide the meals, to provide the other help. And then our disaster folks are very good.
So we'll be traveling tomorrow. I'll personally be going to Sunset Hills, and we're going to be down to Rolla, taking with us the highway patrol, the National Guard and other state public safety officials to get eyes on what the situation is, to make sure that we protect Missourians as we move forward.
MYERS: Governor, the wind chill's going to get down to near zero in some parts of your state. You have a lot of work to do.
NIXON: We really do. We're very concerned about that tonight. When you -- especially with 8,000 out of power. That's why we're opening up these shelters. That's why we're -- we have FEMA up now at level 2 and are in constant communications with all emergency management folks there, and will be all night. I'll start my morning tomorrow morning by getting a solid briefing as to what additional needs we are (ph) before we hit the road and go out and put eyes on the challenges.
But we take the challenges we had today very seriously and understand that recovery, as well as getting folks back to home and power back is important.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: All right, Governor, thank you so much for joining us. We certainly hope that people are safe there in your state. We appreciate it.
NIXON: Thank you.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Festivities are ramping up in Times Square, and so is the security as New York prepares for one of the world's most famous New Year's Eve celebrations. CNN's Mary Snow is there for us. Mary, tell us what's going on.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, if you look out at these crowds, you can hear them. It's hard to believe that there's about six hours left to go. They're ready to ring in the new year right now.
And you know, when these crowds come into Times Square, they file into areas that are sectioned off by police pens (ph), and once they're there, they're pretty much locked in. If they leave, they lose their spot. This is all part of a massive security plan. We spoke with the New York city police commissioner, Ray Kelly, who told us there's always a sigh of relief when New Year's Eve is over.
(voice-over): As revelers gear up to ring in 2011 in New York's Times Square, so are police. Thousands of officers in uniform and in plainclothes will be on hand for the ball drop in a tradition that's seen drastic changes. Tim Tompkins is the head of the Times Square Alliance.
TIM TOMPKINS, PRES., TIMES SQUARE ALLIANCE: Because the big public safety concern years and years ago was, basically, out of control drunk people. The businesses used to cover up their windows with plywood because it was so out of control. And it really was, you know, a representation of a little bit the disorder that was going on in New York.
SNOW: Now the biggest threat is terrorism. The crowds go through metal detectors and backpacks are banned. Manhole covers are sealed. Police cars and sanitation trucks are used along with concrete barriers to block streets in an effort to prevent car bombs. And throughout the crowds, the police department says it'll be using portable radiation detectors.
COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE: We have response capability. If, in fact, there's a biological attack or radiological attack, we're able to respond, decontamination equipment, work with the fire department to make sure that we're able to do that, as well. So it is a big, complex operation. And you know, you always breathe a sigh of relief when it's over.
SNOW: New York City's police commissioner says there are more also more surveillance cameras in the Times Square area following the attempted car bombing in Times Square in May. There's roughly 400 of them. And what's new this year, they are streaming live into this command center that is monitored by the police and private sector. Businesses, like the Marriott Marquis in the heart of Times Square, closes down to outsiders when police start closing down streets. And they work with police.
KATHLEEN DUFFY, MARRIOTT MARQUIS: We train our staff and do multiple sessions before New Year's Eve to heighten that sense of just report anything you see that is unusual. And we do that every day.
SNOW: The police department says it keeps a watchful eye on terror-related incidents around the world.
(on camera): Is this year any worse than others in terms of threats or concern?
KELLY: No. I would just say that the tempo, as I said, in Europe gives us some pause for concern. But there's no specific threats directed at New York City.
SNOW: And Suzanne, you know, tonight, it's pretty mild. There was a blizzard earlier this week, but it's about 45 degrees out here, which could mean that even more people show up tonight here in Times Square. Right now, the Times Square Alliance says that as many as one million people may pack --
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Wow!
SNOW: -- the area here tonight. And you know, they guess about three quarters of the people who show up here are from all outside New York.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Wow. It looks like the fun's already started, Mary. So have a good time and stay safe. Happy new year.
SNOW: It has.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: OK. Thanks.
SNOW: Thank you. Happy new year.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: One lawmaker is resolving to replace government airport security workers with private security firms. Will 2011 see the end of these TSA screenings in some airports? Plus details of new technological changes coming to the House of Representatives in the new year.
And as we go to break, more live pictures, this from Copenhagen, as the New Year's party continues.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: 2011 could see the end of government airport screeners if one congressman has his way. He and other critics of the Transportation Security Administration want to see the federal workers replaced with private security workers. Our CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has more on this story. Jeanne, tell us what this is about.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, in part, it's about customer satisfaction. This is a heavy travel weekend. We're likely to hear some horror story from somewhere in the country about airport screening. And that passenger discontent, combined with politics and business and security concerns, has reignited the debate.
Should private companies screen airline passengers, rather than the Transportation Security Administration?
MESERVE (voice-over): Put a Transportation Security officer next to a private screener, and you probably can't tell the difference. They wear almost identical, follow the same procedures and use the same technologies. But an influential Republican member of Congress maintains private screeners provide better security.
REP. JOHN MICA (R), FLORIDA: We tested it, and I can tell you the results that came back convinced me and also others who independently analyze this that the private screeners can perform statistically significantly better -- not my words, their words.
MESERVE: But the Government Accountability Office says it did not notice any difference between the performance of private screeners and Transportation Security officers. During covert checkpoint testing in 2007, both groups failed to find concealed bomb components.
Though both TSA screeners and private screeners use the ever so controversial body imagers, Mica, the incoming chairman of the House Transportation Committee, seized the public uproar over the machines to push for privatization in a letter to airports around the country. The airport authority which runs Washington's two airports confirms it is looking at the issue, as requested by Congressman Mica.
Private screening companies need TSA approval, have the follow TSA protocols and meet TSA standards. And TSA claims it is neutral in this debate. "If airports choose this route, we are going to work with them to do it," says a spokesman. Some independent analysts say there are some advantages to private screeners. They may be cheaper, more considerate of travelers and easier of fire. But ultimately, they say, switching out government screeners for private ones is just tinkering around the edges. They say what airport security really needs is a massive overhaul.
ROBERT MANN, AVIATION CONSULTANT: We really need to step back to square one and examine this from the beginning and perhaps totally replace the process.
MESERVE: Airports have always had the option of using private companies to do screening, but out of more than 450 airports in the country, only about 16 have chosen to do so. And we should point out that Covenant, one of the private companies that provides airport screening, is located in John Mica's congressional district. Suzanne, back to you.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: And Jeanne, is it clear-cut in terms of switching screeners whether or not this is going to help or hurt security?
MESERVE: It really isn't. Separate and apart from the issue of how well the private screeners do versus the government screeners, there's a broader issue here. some people say that TSA was created to bring uniformity to standards across the country, and if you start having different people doing the screening, we may run the risk of having a patchwork system, where there would be gaps. Other people say, however, Hey, listen, even the private companies have to abide by the same standards. They're using the same technology. Everything will remain more or less uniform across the country. It is a debate right now. There is not any decisive answer, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: OK. Jeanne, thank you. Have a great holiday.
MESERVE: You, too.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: The new year is bringing a new battle over health care reform, even as some major changes kick in for you tomorrow.
And she was kicked out of the U.S. Now this provocative Russian spy is speaking out. Wait until you hear who she wants to be like.
And here's the celebration from Moscow. It has been 2011 for two hours now. They are partying. Take a look.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: It was the biggest battle in Washington this year, one that spilled over to the entire country, and now the battle over health care reform is set to reignite in the new year, just as key parts of the law actually go into effect. Our CNN's Jim Acosta has some of the details -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, 2011 might be a bigger year for health care reform than 2010. That's because it will be the year when the Republicans try to take it down. But not before some of the new law's provisions kick in, a few starting Monday.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Hell no, you can't!
ACOSTA (voice-over): In just a few days, the battle will begin. A new Republican-controlled House will try to repeal health care reform even as new parts of the law go into effect. For patients on Medicare, free preventive care, free wellness visits, and in some cases, half-price name-brand drugs. Plus, there's a new requirement for insurance companies to spend more of your premiums on health care, not overhead and profits. But all of it will be on the chopping block for incoming Republican leaders who rode a Tea Party wave of anti-"Obama care" anger into power.
BOEHNER: We believe it'll bankrupt our nation. We believe it needs to be repealed and replaced with common sense reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance.
ACOSTA: Any repeal, though, would still have to get past a Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama's veto pen. Unlikely, to say the least.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, if you're John Boehner, you have no choice but to do this.
MAJOR GARRETT, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": If you are John Boehner, the first thing you need to establish to gain maximum credibility with the Tea Party activists who helped bring you this majority in the first place is to tackle as aggressively as you can the health care law. That's why this is going to happen so rapidly, probably before the State of the Union address.
ACOSTA: Then there are the court challenges. Judges have differed over the law's individual mandate forcing all Americans to get health insurance by 2014. The Supreme Court just might have the final say on whether the law is constitutional.
KEN CUCCINELLI (R), VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is not about health care, it's about liberty.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: It will be up to President Obama to play health care reform defender-in-chief, something Democrats complain he didn't do enough of last year.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the right thing to do, and I'm confident the courts will uphold it.
ACOSTA: There are parts the new law polls show the public likes, and parts many Republicans say they'd like to add to a bill that would replace the current law. Of course, that, too, would have to get past the president -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jim.
The annual report by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has been released, and we are finding out what he thinks is the biggest issue in the court system.
And we all know about the Times Square ball, but other cities have some other interesting and even itchy (ph) alternatives.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: The new year is bringing in a new Congress to Washington and some major changes in both chambers following the Republicans' November sweep. In the House, Ohio's John Boehner is poised to be the Speaker, as Democrats fall into the minority, with 193 members to the Republicans 242. And while the Senate remains in Democratic control, their majority is shrinking to 53 lawmakers to the Republicans' 47, leaving neither side with the necessary 60 votes to move legislation forward alone.
Well, the numbers aren't the only thing that's changing in the 112th Congress. Our CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar is joining us to take a look at what else is going to be different. Brianna, what do we have in store?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Technology, Suzanne. Did you know this, that members of Congress have not been allowed to use cell phones or BlackBerrys, laptops, et cetera, on the floor of the House? And you know, I kind of chuckle at this because I know that it happens. We journalists know it happens. You can see the members checking the BlackBerrys sometimes. They'll go up to the mike. They'll have maybe the BlackBerry in their pocket, and you'll hear the feedback from it.
Now, some of them have even live tweeted during, say, the State of the Union, but Suzanne, now it's going to be official that it is OK if it's within reason, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: OK. Now, I understand the key to this rule change is just to change a couple of words, yes?
KEILAR: Yes, a few words but important ones. The rule right now says a person may not smoke or use a wireless telephone or personal computer on the floor of the House. And Republicans are adding a line that says "if it impairs decorum." So I spoke with a Republican spokesman. He told me via e-mail that this definition of what is disruptive of decorum is expected to change over time. But for now, if a lawmaker wants to say -- this is what he said -- read an amendment on their iPad, well, that's going to be OK.
No they can't have their Lady Gaga ring-tone going off in the chamber. They can't be gabbing on their phone there I don't think.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Oh, come on. That's no fun.
KEILAR: Oh, yes right? Come on.
I don't think we're going to seeing anyone Facebooking and playing Farmville on the House floor, but this is a change and am important one. And technology is kind of starting to work its way into this very - this institution that prides itself on kind of decorum and doing things the old way.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: OK. Well, we will see if they are responsible with that, Brianna. We'll see if they're doing online shopping and things like that.
All right. Thanks Brianna. Appreciate it. BRIANNA: You bet.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: We are getting a first look this hour at the annual report by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. In it, he is urging the Senate to quickly fill the vacancies on the federal bench, saying it is causing what he calls acute difficulties.
Now Roberts acknowledges that the politic are at play in blocking judicial nominees. And he says it is urgent for that lawmakers find a long-term solution to what he calls a persistent problem. Roberts also talks about stagnant funding for federal courts, but unlike past years he did not address pay raises for judges.
Let's dig in a little deeper into Chief Justice's annual report, one of my favorite guests, Suzette Malveaux. He's a law professor at Catholic University here in Washington. She's also my twin sister and my favorite guest.
Hey Suzette, welcome back, by popular demand I'll have you know.
SUZETTE MALVEAUX, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: I was like, where is Professor Malveaux? We want her back. We want her back.
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: It is great to be back. Thanks, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Tell us a little bit about the report. What's your initial reaction?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Very interesting. I have to say I agree with Chief Justice Roberts on - in terms of his emphasis on the importance of filling these judicial vacancies. It is absolutely critical. If you look at the number of cases that the Supreme Court considers, it is very few, and so it is really important for the Senate to confirm qualified people in these positions, to do otherwise, I mean, really - you know it's --
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Is a crisis situation?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Really a crisis situation. And no way to run a democracy.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: I noticed the one thing he did not recommend is pay raises. So I guess we should take our cue and not ask our bosses for pay raises either this go around. We'll keep that silent.
All right, tell us what was the most interesting, or even important significant case last year - Supreme Court?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Hands down the Citizens United. You remember the big campaign finance case right? Where there was a law that said corporations cannot spend money to either support or oppose political candidates. Well, the Supreme Court said that congress got it wrong, basically that that was unconstitutional and that corporations should be treated just like persons, and they should be able to make contributions to political campaigns.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: And President Obama was not happy with this. We saw the State of the Union, he took on Congress, said he didn't like this. And then one of the justices actually said that's not true - or that's not - he shook his head?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Right, right, which was highly unusual. Usually the protocol is the justices don't make any reaction at all. So that was really very different. That was quite a surprise.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Tell us some other significant developments of last year.
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Well, if we look at a certainly the retirement of Justice Stevens. He was there on the bench for 35 years, so the loss of an icon. We had Justice Kagan coming in. She was confirmed. We are not quite sure what her impact will be, because she's recused herself from about half the cases because she was solicitor general.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: And we have got three female Supremes --
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Exactly, right. And we have got three women on the court for the first team in history, which is really exciting and interesting to watch them distinguish themselves from one another to carve out their own reputations.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Big cases coming up to watch this year?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: First amendment. There is a religious group that going around the country that is protesting at funerals. And so - and they are taking the position against the federal government's policy related to gays in the military. So sad circumstances, you had a son who died in Iraq in the war, the family was having a funeral for him, a private funeral, and outside we've got protestors. They have got signs that say things like "god hates the United States" or "thank god for dead soldiers," very hurtful stuff, and the family sued and got $5 million because of the emotional trauma that they experienced.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: What is the question?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Well, the protestors had said that they have a first amendment right to free speech and to protest, so the court is trying to figure out where is the boundary line.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: And this is the same group who showed up at Elizabeth Edwards' funeral because of her own support of gay rights.
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Yes.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: What is another important case that you're watching?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Class actions? There is the largest civil rights class action in American history, the Wal-Mart case. And so you had 1.5 million women nationwide challenging Wal-Mart for pay and promotions discrimination on the basis of gender. Turns out that the question is whether the case should go forward as a class action, right. And I know it seems kind of technical, but class action is really important. You know, sometimes it's the only way you can challenge nationwide, company-wide misconduct. So if I'm an individual maybe I can't afford a lawyer, I might not be able to challenge - be too afraid to challenge my employer or my claims are so small it does not make sense to go forward. So there is strength in numbers. And the class action is sometimes the only way people have their day in court.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: OK. A couple of thing that obviously we have been watching very closely, that is the health care reform and where is that going to go? And a lot of people are very confused about the whole thing.
How does that play out in the courts?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Well, is it is going to be percolating. As you can see, what the big - the big issue seems to be the requirement that individuals have to purchase health insurance if they can afford it. And some people have pushed back and said that's unconstitutional. So the courts are fighting over that. They are wrestling over that. And it's really being teed up to go to the Supreme Court.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Immigration reform?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: All right. In immigration reform you have state laws that are trying to control immigration, the court is looking to see whether or not that is really the job of the federal government and not the states.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: And final question, do you have any resolutions for the Supreme Court justices?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: I would say take more cases. I know, I know it's terrible to say, you know, work even harder. But I say take more cases.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: All right. I say you and I should resolve to work a little less hard.
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: I totally agree with that.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: All right. You have New Year's Eve plans, right?
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Right. I'll see you tonight.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: All right, great.
SUZETTE MALVEAUX: Great.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Appreciate it.
She was exposed as a spy now a Russian spy is exposing a lot more in her first television interview. What Anna Chapman is now saying.
And forget the Times Square ball drop, check this out in Hawaii a fruity alternative that President Obama might be able to see.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Russian spy Anna Chapman is breaking her silence. She is the woman accused of being a sleeper agent in the U.S. Well, now in her first TV interview she promises to reveal some secrets, but also hold some things back.
Well, here is CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, Anna Chapman spoke of how she missed her former life in New York, but when pressed in this interview about her activities in the U.S., she refused to divulge any information saying that she would never confirm even that she work in intelligence. It was interesting, though, to hear what Ms. Chapman did have to say in what was essentially her first television interview since being outed as a Russian spy.
CHANCE: Exposed as a secret agent in the U.S., back in Russia she's a celebrity often exposing a lot more. Now Anna Chapman has appeared on one of Russia's most popular chat shows reinforcing the star status with the first TV interview since being deported from New York in July.
I think that integrity is a person's main qualification, she tells the Russian host. If someone can be corrupted, they are not decent, she adds.
Unlike her more low-key colleagues traded in a Cold War-style spy swap between the U.S. and Moscow earlier this year, Anna Chapman has reveling in her notoriety. She's even been given a position in the youth wing of Russia's main political party, fueling speculation that the 28-year-old could follow former spy Vladimir Putin, now Russia's Prime Minister, into politics.
Will you do creative work in the future, she's asked? Just watch television, she smiles. Next year, she promises, I will reveal my secrets.
CHANCE: Well, you might think being unmasked as a secret agent might be a career disaster, but apparently, Suzanne, not in Russia. Back to you.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Thank you, Matthew.
We told you about it yesterday, the Pentagon is closely watching the situation in the Ivory Coast where everybody is trying to get this man to step down, now a drastic development.
And 2010 saw the loss of long time Senator Robert Byrd. He is not the only big-name politician who will be missed in 2011.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Possible military force by several countries against an unstable government. Our Brianna Keilar is back with that and other top stories that are coming into The Situation Room right now.
Brianna, what do we know?
KEILAR: Suzanne, leaders of West African countries are considering a joint military operation to force the Ivory Coast president to step down. Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo says he won last month's election, but most of the international community disputes that. Regional leaders will formally appeal to Gbagbo to peacefully step down next week. A Nigerian official says if that doesn't work, they could move forward with a military plan.
And some grim numbers coming in from Haiti, health authorities there now say more than 3300 people have been killed by cholera over the last ten weeks. Officials say they expect at least 400,000 people will have fallen ill by next October a year after Haiti's devastating earthquake distributing aid and clean water is still a logistical nightmare.
And it was a lackluster end to a roller coaster year on Wall Street today. Many traders took the day off. The Dow and S&P 500 posted small gains, the NASDAQ slipped a little. All three major U.S. indices posted double digit gains on the year.
And an historic night in sports, the record-breaking winning streak of the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team is over and done. After notching 90 straight victories the top-ranked Huskies lost to number eight Stanford -- eight or nine, 71-59 in Palo Alto last night. Earlier this month, the team eclipsed the previous record of 88 wins held by the UCLA's men's basketball team since 1974. But Suzanne, the ladies still hold that record even though it was snapped last night.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: That was amazing. That was an amazing run for those guys.
KEILAR: Sure was.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: While tens of thousands are freezing in New York, we are going to take you to a warm and wild New Year's celebration and show you one Very unusual tradition live from Key West next.
And just 15 minutes away from the New Year in London, we are crossing the pond for the countdown.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK0 SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Well take a look at Hawaii's answer to the Times Square ball drop in New York. Our team covering President Obama's vacation found this at the Honolulu Hotel. This is a giant pineapple that is going to be dropped from ten stories. No word on whether the first family is going to be there to actually see this.
Now over in Fort Clinton, Ohio, there are thousands of expected to see the dropping of Wally Walleye, this is a 20 foot long, 610- pound fiberglass fish. Fort Clinton is the self-proclaimed Walleye capital of the world.
And in Eastover, North Carolina, this is just outside of Fayetteville, they are going to drop a three-foot tall, 30-pound flee. That is right, a flee. The town was called Fleehill until the 1920s.
Now, not to be outdone in Key West, Florida, one bar features its annual drag queen drop. I think we need a little bit of explaining on this One, so we are going to turn to our own John Zarrella who is always down there. He knows how to party in Key West.
Tell us what is going to be happening there tonight, John. You got the winning assignment.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, this is our ninth year down here and Walleyes and pineapples, they got nothing on Key West. We're on Duvall Street here. And it's going to be packed here. There will be about 10,000 people down here. And every year - again, we've been here nine years, but for 12 years Sushi, the drag queen has been up in that red stiletto up there to celebrate New Year. And at the stroke of midnight, they lower the shoe with Sushi.
And of course, we have got some early revelers here already. Look at this - look at these kids are here early. Now, it's New Years and what do you say on New Years?
CROWD: Happy New Year.
ZARRELLA: Very good. I do know them, but they are not all my kids. I would never put in that much of a shameless plug for my family but they do great things down here. They have got not only Sushi, but they have got a conch shell drop. They do a pirate wench from a schooner comes down at midnight. They had a dachshund walker earlier today. So it is a lot of fun down here.
And you know, I got the hat on in case we get a freak snowstorm, you know, down here.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Oh yes, we don't think that's going to happen.
John, we've got four years, four years of pictures of you down there. And we want to show our viewers, because you know how to do this. You do it every year. And obviously you have got different looks for each one of those years. You are quite dressed up for some, looking quite dapper. You have gone with the casual look this year, but you have interviewed Sushi, right? You have interviewed Sushi and all those --
ZARRELLA: Yes, and we will interview Sushi again this year.
And this year, Sushi is going with gold and silver attire. And Sushi makes her own dress every year. So, I haven't had a sneak preview, but can't wait to see what shoes she'll be wearing tonight.
And of course on Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin special, we will of course have our interview with Sushi. And be down here for several live hits during the hour and a half show. And it will certainly be great fun down here as it always is.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: The ladies love you, John. I mean I noticed, they expect you down there. I mean, aren't you kind of part of the tradition now?
ZARRELLA: Yes, you know, they kind of gave me the nickname king of queens. I'm not sure what they meant by that. But that was the nickname they've given me down here.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Oh, that's great.
ZARRELLA: I had a little crown one year. It was very nice.
So, I put on the hat so they wouldn't hit me with the crown.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: And what does your family think of all this? They see you every year having a great time.
ZARRELLA: Every year. And they are all down here as well. Everybody comes down to -- first couple of years they didn't, but after they saw how much fun we were having, they came down to enjoy the revelry.
With all these people, look at all these folks down here.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Wow.
ZARRELLA: Where are you guys from?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miami.
ZARRELLA: Miami. Wow. They are from all over.
Where you all from?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: They are from all over. John, we've got to leave it there. We have to leave it there, John. Have a great New Years and have a great time. Have a good one.
ZARRELLA: Back at you, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: London is the next major city in line to ring in the New Year and 2011 arrives in Britain at the top of the hour. Our CNN's Max Foster, he's in the capital for us.
Max, tell us what's going on.
MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the banks of the Thames here are littered with people, hundreds of thousands of them marching away. In the next few moments, their attention is going to be focusing on the rather famous clock tower over there. And when Big Ben strikes midnight, attention will switch to the big wheel here. You may recognize it from previous years. It's going to light up in a most all mighty fireworks display, different company doing it this year, so some concern about that.
Also we have music in the mix. They're going to have a Coventry of music we're told going with those fireworks, Suzanne. So an exciting ten minutes here in London.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: All right. And Max, I understand that the royal wedding is figuring into this. How are they playing into that?
FOSTER: Well, you know, this is the last big parch I guess before the wedding. And that's going to be absolutely huge. At the end of April, everyone in the UK is very excited about that, Prince William marrying Katherine Middleton in Westminster Abbey. It's going to be a proper British state occasion. It's one thing Britain thinks it can do really well. I'm sure it will. Everyone very excited about that.
Mixed in with that, though, is a lot of apprehension about people losing their jobs and public spending cuts. So, they are going into 2011 this year, Suzanne, with mixed feelings I'd say, but very excited about the wedding.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: And anything special or different they are doing this year out where you are for the new year?
FOSTER: I'm sorry, Suzanne I can't catch that, the partying is getting a bit loud.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: OK.
There's a lot of partying going obviously there, Max.
Anything special happening? Anything different this year?
FOSTER: Well, I think you asked if anything special is happening? There's a massive party basically down there, a deejay playing. And the police have closed off the whole area, because literally for a mile around here, it's cordoned off, because there are so many people come down here to celebrate. But they are quite concerned, the police, about the crowd. They are being very careful this time around.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: OK. Well, Max, have a wonderful holiday, a happy new year to you and good celebrations out there in London. Thanks, Max.
FOSTER: And to you, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: All right, great. We'll be right back.