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Israel Halts Bombardment of Gaza; Past, Present and Future Presidents Have Power Lunch at the White House; Dr. Sanjay Gupta Under Consideration as Surgeon General; Oprah Opens Up; A Look at President- Elect Obama's Trillion Dollar Stimulus Plan; Report Criticizes Billions in Lost Tax Dollars
Aired January 7, 2009 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking news. Israel opening up supply lines into Gaza, halting fire for three hours, after the bloodiest day of the Middle East war.
Plus, paging Dr. Gupta.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to show you something that has really not been seen before.
ROBERTS: The president-elect asks Sanjay to serve to help America make healthy choices on this AMERICAN MORNING.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: And good morning to you. Thanks very much for joining us. It is bright and early Wednesday, January the 7th. Good morning.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and nice to see you. And, you know, we begin with breaking news right now. We're reacting to international pressure.
The Israeli military saying that it will halt its strikes against Hamas for three hours each day in Gaza to allow much-needed aid into the war zone. Meantime at the United Nations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is pushing for the right cease-fire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: A cease-fire that returns to those circumstances is unacceptable and it will not last. We need urgently to conclude a cease-fire that can endure and that can bring real security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: And we'll be following that throughout the morning.
Also, new concerns over the staggering level of the government's deficit. President-elect Barack Obama warning it could hit a record high of $1 trillion for several years making the U.S. unattractive to investors. Barack Obama promising to cut government spending to grow the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Even if we did nothing, that we have close to a trillion-dollar deficit, even if we're on the current path that we're on and we know that we have to then implement a set of fiscal measures that deal with the medium and long-term, so that we have a sustainable path of economic growth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: And President-elect Barack Obama also looking to a familiar face here at CNN for an important position in his new administration. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is under consideration for the post of U.S. surgeon general. Sanjay is also an assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine and the associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
ROBERTS: Well, returning now to our breaking news out of the Middle East and as we speak, Israel agreeing to temporarily halt its attacks on Gaza to allow much-needed aid into the region. The lull in firepower happening right now and will continue for the next three hours.
Israel's decision to help the hundreds of thousands of people caught in the cross-fire comes one day after the deadliest attack in its 12 days of fighting.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour is live in Jerusalem. She's working her sources getting the latest for us on the ground there.
And, Christiane, what do we know about this temporary lull in the military operation? How often do they plan to do this and then we'll talk a little bit more about the cease-fire in a second.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, there is a statement from the IDF, the Israeli military, that they will respond to these concerns about a humanitarian crisis by temporarily halting fighting to allow the supply of humanitarian aid and fuel into Gaza.
Now the modalities have still not been fully and finally announced, but they will be shortly and know the precise timing. But what seems to be emerging is that on several days, different days, different sectors of Gaza will have the air strikes and ground bombardments halted so that residents in those different sectors can access medical and food and other humanitarian supplies.
There is not (ph) fighting or any kind of Israeli campaign on the whole of Gaza. It is happening in sections and again, what is envisioned is not a global pause but pauses in sections for several hours per day to allow the civilians to get the much-needed humanitarian aid and fuel that they need. There's shortage of electricity, food, medicine, water and the like -- John.
ROBERTS: Well, on a broader scale, Christiane, Israel's cabinet meeting today to consider a cease-fire plan backed by the United States. Where does that stand at this point?
AMANPOUR: Well, we're sitting in Jerusalem, which is where the security cabinet is ongoing right now. We apparently are told that we will hear precisely the situation right after it's concluded. But this cease-fire debate centers on what's being going on between Egypt, France, the United States and obviously Israel and the other parties, centering fully and squarely on stopping the smuggling and the routes from Egypt into Gaza and how to work that out. That will be something tangible that Israel can show to its people for this ground campaign, and it also apparently is meant to address the final and full opening of humanitarian corridors, and access in and out of Gaza, which apparently will also allow Hamas to resolve one of its outstanding issues as well, which is stopping the strangulation and the siege that's been going on of Gaza over the last several years.
ROBERTS: Christiane Amanpour from Jerusalem for us this morning with the latest on the situation there. Christiane, thanks so much.
CHETRY: All right. Well, Ali Velshi joins us now. He's "Minding Your Business" this morning. And so, we're getting a look at this budget situation. President-elect Barack Obama saying brace yourself because we could be looking at a trillion-dollar deficit.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
CHETRY: And not something that's going to be taken care of soon.
VELSHI: Right, and that's the big deal. A deficit is the shortfall between what the government takes in, what the government spends on an annual basis. The debt is the accumulation of all of those deficits.
Take a look at where the national debt stands right now. That is trillions, $10.6 trillion. It's hard to even get the whole shot into that.
The deficit for this year projected for the year 2009 is $1.4 trillion, so you can see we've got $10.6 trillion. You're adding $1.4 trillion, so you get to $12 trillion. You keep on going. That's the shortfall.
And President Obama is saying -- President-elect Obama is saying that we can see trillion-dollar-plus deficits or shortfalls for the next few years and that's the issue with not just a recession but in an economy where you are taking in less money than you are spending.
The idea is you want an economy where enough is going on that lots of people are employed, lots of businesses are running and they are all paying taxes and as a result of that, the government is getting more revenue. But in a weak economy, fewer people are paying taxes. They're paying less tax because they're earning more money, both businesses and individuals, and as a result, the government tends to be giving money out in the terms of these tax cuts that we're seeing.
So if we give out $500 to every individual and $1,000 to a household, and those business tax cuts, that's going to add up to some $350 billion. Well, that's taxed on to the deficit.
The idea is if you stimulate the economy, people will spend. Spending will create tax revenue and the government makes it. That is not anywhere near reality.
The last time we had a surplus, which means no annual deficit, was during the Clinton administration. We still had a debt, but we were well on our way to entirely eliminating it, and that's the issue here. We've got a lot of debt.
ROBERTS: Yes. I remember in 1999 and 2000, there were meetings that were being held on how we handled monetary policy, when you have no debt.
VELSHI: Right. Yes.
ROBERTS: Well, we took care of that debate, didn't we?
VELSHI: It was a short-lived thing. The thing is back then though, we were on track to continue for many years without a deficit, without a debt. We're not anywhere near that now.
CHETRY: And what changed in a nutshell?
VELSHI: Well, that's a good question. There are a lot of things.
CHETRY: All right. Write a book.
VELSHI: There's no nutshell -- there's no nutshell here but what I should tell you is the danger here is that it used to be that our debt was held by American bond holders.
VELSHI: Now it's held largely by countries, non-U.S. countries. That in itself may or may not be a problem. The issue is it's like you going to your bank manager and thinking that you're having a one- to-one conversation and it's a level playing field. It's not. The bank manager has a better position than you do.
When other countries own your debt they have more influence over you than you perhaps do over them. So when the United States wants to tell certain countries we think you should do this or not do that or have cease-fires or treat your people better, they'll say, you know what, don't worry about it.
CHETRY: Don't make us collect.
VELSHI: Yes. Don't make us collect.
CHETRY: All right.
ROBERTS: What's $1.4 trillion is a percentage of gross domestic product, do you know? It's probably eight percent or something like that? VELSHI: I don't know (ph).
ROBERTS: Then let's get back to this territory.
ROBERTS: All right. Thanks, Ali.
A historical gathering at the White House today. President Bush hosting a lunch for President-elect Obama and the three former presidents, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
CNN's Elaine Quijano is live at the White House for us to be a fly on the wall in that meeting today, huh, Elaine?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. Won't you just love to do that? Good morning to you, John.
Well, the White House says it's the first such gathering of its kind since 1981, a meeting both historic and symbolic.
QUIJANO (voice-over): For the second time since the election, President Bush and President-elect Obama will meet in the Oval Office. Afterwards, they'll join all three living former presidents in the Rose Garden. Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These are leaders who only understand what it's like to be in each other's shoes, and none of us can put ourselves in their shoes.
QUIJANO: Though their ideologies differ, they're members of an elite club of past, present or future commanders in chief. Their meeting comes against the backdrop of continued crises, painfully familiar to presidents throughout history. Ahead of the White House meeting, Obama addressed the ailing U.S. economy.
BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We know that we're going to have to spend money to jump-start the economy. We know that even if we did nothing, that we have close to a trillion-dollar deficit, even if we're on the current path that we're on.
QUIJANO: And the crisis in the Middle East is also at the forefront.
OBAMA: The loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern for me.
QUIJANO: But analysts say the Obama requested meeting is largely symbolic.
ALAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: There's obviously not going to be time for these presidents to recount in great detail the travails and triumphs of their administrations.
QUIJANO: Now after meeting in the Rose Garden, the presidents will head to their private lunch. Dana Perino says they'll likely talk about their personal reflections on life inside the White House -- John.
ROBERTS: So is this really more than anything, Elaine, meant to show a big club, the current, the next and ex-presidents club? They're all getting together sort of in this, you know, I guess discussion, as opposed to there being separation between them? It's just sort of really showing solidarity for the office.
QUIJANO: Well, you know, Dr. Lichtman certainly seems to think so and again, he pointed out that this is president-elect who ran on a platform of change and transcending the tone here in Washington. And he says by having all of these presidents come here to the White House just days before inauguration, that certainly meant to send that kind of message, John.
ROBERTS: All right. Elaine Quijano for us at the White House. Lots of news coming out of there today. Elaine, thanks so much.
CHETRY: Well, we've been paging Dr. Gupta here at CNN for years. Now it's the Obama administration that looks to be paging Sanjay. We get the latest on the big news about our own top doc.
Also, Oprah's very public admission about her recent weight gain. We're going to see her new plan for the new year to slim down and get healthy, and also some tips from her trainer that could help you, too.
It's 10 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Oh, my goodness I'm tearing up here. Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning."
President-elect Barack Obama may be turning to CNN to fill a key leadership position in his administration. Our own chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, says he's been approached about the post of U.S. surgeon general.
Jason Carroll is following the story and joins us live. Our little boy is all grown up, Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All grown up and he's also on the cover of all -- look at this -- the cover of "The Washington Post," "USA Today," "The Daily News." He's on the front pages of all of these things.
Obviously, you know, he knows health care. He knows health care policy, an obvious choice. The transition team was impressed with Dr. Gupta's experience in government, his communication abilities and his medical skills.
According to sources Dr. Gupta went to Chicago to meet with the president-elect last November. Dr. Gupta is CNN's chief medical correspondent and he appears many times here on CNN's AMERICAN MORNING. In 2003, he not only reported from Iraq and Kuwait, he ended up putting his medical skills to good use.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I was in Iraq covering the military's Devil Docs medical team. In moments, I would go from reporter to neurosurgeon.
(on camera): They don't have neurosurgeons on this particular medical unit, at least this far forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: That's just a sample from one of the reports that Dr. Gupta filed, when Dr. Gupta was an embedded correspondent with the U.S. Navy's medical unit. He worked alongside them performing several brain surgeries. When he's not busy in the field, he is fulfilling his medical duties in the hospitals.
Dr. Gupta is a staff and faculty member of the Department of Neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. He regularly performs surgery there, and at Grady Memorial Hospital, where he's associate chief of neurosurgery.
Obama's transition team also liked Gupta's past government experience. In 1997, he was a White House fellow and a special adviser to then First Lady Hillary Clinton. The surgeon general serves as the country's chief health educator informing Americans how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury. The position can be a controversial one.
Former surgeon general Richard Carmona told a congressional panel, top Bush administration officials suppressed health reports on issues like stem cells and sex education in favor of politics.
CNN released a statement on all of this saying, "Since first learning that Dr. Gupta was under consideration for the surgeon general position, CNN has made sure that his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health care policy or any matters involving the new administration."
Obviously, the next question, what's Sanjay going to do? We're hearing he's seriously considering.
CHETRY: Well, you know, I mean, there's no question just about what an impeccable person he is, I mean, all around. Just a wonderful guy, humble, brilliant, and we're certainly going to miss him if he, indeed, does take this position. But you know, he has a lot to offer. He's practiced what, you know, what it is that he preaches. He talks about being fit and he lives that lifestyle as well.
CARROLL: Yes. More true than many times out in the field out covering Hurricane Rita, things like that -- a true professional. So we wish him all the best in whatever he decides to do. CHETRY: Right. All right. Well, we are going to miss him if he goes though, that's for sure.
And also coming up in our next hour, we're going to be speaking with former surgeon general Richard Carmona who, as Jason said, served in the Bush administration from 2002 to 2006 about what exactly the role is of surgeon general. Will it be changing under the Obama administration and what are some of the top health and public health issues that we'll be facing this next administration?
Well, we're also watching the expected announcement of President- elect Obama's choice for chief performance officer. It's a newly created position that will work to create efficiencies in the federal government when it happens.
You can see it live on CNN and CNN.com. Certainly that's the position we're going to need as we look at these mounting deficits.
Seventeen minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: Oprah's brave admission for a new year. Straight talk from the queen of talk about her embarrassing weight gain. How she plans to get healthy, and new tips from her trainer that can help you, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, weight gain especially when it's in the belly area is a reflection of stress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."
ROBERTS: Coming up on 21 minutes after the hour, welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning."
Oprah Winfrey getting back on the weight loss wagon after a very public fall, and she is using her talk show to discuss her latest struggle.
Alina Cho here with the skinny on all of this. Good morning to you.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. You know she's really brave for coming out and speaking out about it. It must be very difficult. Good morning, everybody.
You know you may recall that about a month ago, Oprah very publicly admitted in her own magazine, "O," that she had tipped the scales at 200 pounds, the dreaded 2-0-0 as she called it. Now, in her most candid comments yet, Oprah is speaking out about it again on her own show saying all the money, fame and attention in the world and none of it matters if you can't control your weight.
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: Please welcome Tina Turner.
CHO (voice-over): Oprah says she hit bottom a year ago when she had to go on stage with Tina Turner and Cher.
WINFREY: I was embarrassed and I wanted to be anyplace other than there. I want' going to do it. I wasn't going to do it.
CHO: And so she says she tried to keep it a secret.
WINFREY: Here I am one of the most visible people in the world, trying not to be seen.
CHO: She says photo shoots for her magazine became embarrassing, with stylists trying to help her conceal the weight. But after months of hiding it, Oprah is putting it all out there, posing next to a smaller version of herself and once again opening up about a very painful and personal subject.
WINFREY: I am mad at myself. I am embarrassed. I can't believe I'm still talking about weight.
CHO: It's been a public struggle for decades. Remember this? That was 20 years ago, skinny, size 10 Calvin Kleins, pulling 67 pounds of fat in a wagon. Just four years later, the pounds were back on, and Oprah tipped the scales at more than 230 pounds. She eventually got down to 160 pounds, but says she started feeling sick.
WINFREY: The moment I heard I have a thyroid problem I just thought well, I don't even know how you fight this. I felt completely defeated and I think OK, that's it. I give. I give.
CHO: Then it got worse. Oprah says she was put on medication that literally sucked the life out of her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her obesity became an excuse that she could hide behind. Oprah took it one step deeper. She hid behind her hormones.
CHO: It got so bad her long time trainer asked if she was depressed.
WINFREY: What? Me? Depressed? I can't be depressed. I know what depression is. I'm not depressed.
CHO: You know, Oprah says that conversation with her trainer and long time friend, Bob Green, was a turning point in her life. She says 2009 will be the year hope, not fat wins. It is about finding balance, she says. And Oprah, by the way, says she doesn't want to be thin anymore. She just wants to be healthy, strong and fit. And the way to get there, John, she says, is to find that balance. You know, she's being pulled in all different sorts of direction. She's so public. She's so famous, but she actually told her personal assistant listen, we have got to put me on the priority list again. And she thinks that that's the way to -- that's the road to recovery really to losing weight and finding balance and being healthy again.
ROBERTS: You know, I'm a firm believer that you have what's called a set point in terms of your weight with your body and you get a range of every five pounds within that. So if you tried to be extra thin, you're going to fail and then you're going to yo-yo diet. You're going to --
CHO: Well, and remember when she wore those size 10 Calvin Klein jeans back in 1988, I mean, she admitted very publicly later on that she lost that weight by being on a liquid diet for four months.
ROBERTS: But she went way beyond what she should.
CHO: And that wasn't -- that wasn't realistic. I mean, she really had a 70-pound, you know, sort of weight range and that is not healthy but she's been very candid and very brave about it. And you know this is something that everybody goes through. A lot of people go through it.
ROBERTS: We'll see how she does this time around.
ROBERTS: Alina, thanks so much.
CHO: You bet.
CHETRY: Well, the new world "trillion." Will President-elect Obama's massive stimulus plan be a boom or bust? And how much money will it really take to turn the economy around?
And we're monitoring breaking news this morning. Right now, there is no escaping the front lines of the brutal conflict in the Middle East. We'll hear from two people on opposite sides of the border, both fearing for their lives.
It's 24 and a half minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Well, with less than two weeks before the inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama is facing a harsh reality. His economic recovery plan could saddle the nation with a mountain of new debt and he's also warning the deficit could run over $1 trillion for years to come. So what if his recovery plan doesn't jump-start the economy? Does Obama have a Plan B?
We're "Minding Your Business." CNN's Jim Acosta is live in Washington this morning with more.
Hi there, Jim. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kiran. You know, the government is starting to sound like "Buzz Lightyear" to infinity and beyond. A different Illinois Senator, we should mention, Everett Dirksen was once quoted as saying, "A billion here, a billion there. Pretty soon you're talking about real money." Not in the Obama's plan, try trillion.
BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: All right. We've got everybody?
ACOSTA (voice-over): Get ready for the "t" word. By most estimates, Barack Obama's stimulus plan, once it passes through the Congress, could approach the $1 trillion mark. That's a trillion, a one followed by 12 zeros, a thousand billions, a million millions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NATIONAL ARCHIVES)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: That the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: As "The Wall Street Journal" points out, in today's dollars that's more than what this country spent on the new deal.
NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
ACOSTA: The race to the moon. And the atomic bomb. Only World War II cost more than $1 trillion.
ALICE RIVLIN, FMR. BUDGET DIRECTOR: A trillion dollars is a lot of money, but the economy's in deep trouble, and I think they really need to do something big.
ACOSTA: Clinton administration budget director Alice Rivlin says the Obama plans investments in infrastructure and tax breaks should get the economy moving, emphasis on the word "should."
RIVLIN: It's possible that the stimulus plan will not turn around the economy quickly. In fact, it's very probable that that is true.
OBAMA: Well, you know, I don't want to get into particular budget numbers.
ACOSTA: While the president-elect has yet to give his plan a price tag, he insists it will be pork-free, no congressional pet projects.
OBAMA: We're not having earmarks in the recovery package, period.
ACOSTA: Some liberal economists worry Mr. Obama is being too cautious and say the stimulus package should be bigger, even if some of it is wasteful.
DEAN BAKER, CENTER FOR ECONOMIC POLICY RESEARCH: My big concern is that it's not as large as we really wanted. That we need to spend money we would like it to be spent as well as possible. It's better that some of it be wasted than we be sitting there with higher unemployment rate.
ACOSTA: Conservatives would rather see more tax cuts and ask where does the spending end?
PAT TOOMEY, PRESIDENT, CLUB FOR GROWTH: You can't go -- you can't keep spending $1 trillion a pop and say, well, let's just try again then what do they do next? Maybe then they'll get around to looking at the tax side of the equation.
ACOSTA: Then there's the other trillion-dollar question of the day, the new administration's budget director says that's the expected size of the federal deficit when Barack Obama is sworn in to office right at the very beginning, Kiran.
CHETRY: And the back and forth about the amount of the debt is one thing but also, the other question that was raised by some economists, how quickly can this work? I mean, that's the other big if.
ACOSTA: It's a huge if and a lot of economists are saying let's be realistic, it can't happen right away. Not all of these projects we're talking about are shovel ready. And so we're going to be shoveling a lot of money out the door here hoping that something will happen. I talked to one economist yesterday, and he says, well, if this plan doesn't work, we can always have another. When does it end? That's the question.
CHETRY: All right, Jim Acosta for us this morning, thanks.
ROBERTS: To our top story now, 31 minutes after the hour. Breaking news right now, the conflict between Israel and Hamas taking a dramatic turn. Israel has temporarily halted its attacks in Gaza for the next three hours to allow much-need humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Joining us now two people on the frontlines of this brutal war. From the Gaza strip, Ramzy. We're withholding his last name for security reasons. He's a 27-year-old who works with students and has been pod casting about his experiences there. And in Sderot, on the Israeli side of the border, 26-year-old Noam Bedein. The Sderot Media Center, which documents life and rocket attacks in the Israeli town, which really is ground zero for all of those, because some rocket attacks emanating from Gaza.
Ramzy, let's start with you. We have just begun or you have just begun rather this three-hour pause in the military action there to allow humanitarian aid through. Just how dire is the need there?
VOICE OF RAMZY, PALESTINIAN BLOGGER: Can you say the question again, please?
ROBERTS: I said how dire is the need for humanitarian assistance there in Gaza, Ramzy?
RAMZY: Well, the people ever since it started, the people are so afraid to go out because of the constant bombing by the Israeli aircraft and artillery. And that was said, the people are so afraid to go out and stock on food. Also before the supplies started, we had been under tight things here for the past two years so the food supplies and medicine supplies have been very short on supplies for the past two years. So the humanitarian situation is very grave absolutely, and it has become more grave after this has started, because the crossings are closed and the humanitarian aids are not frequently let in into Gaza.
ROBERTS: Noam Bedein, let's hear from you, on the other side of the border there in Sderot, which is about 2-1/2 miles away from Gaza City. There have been so many rocket attacks on that city. We saw President-elect Barack Obama when he was a candidate in Sderot back there in the summer of last year talking about those missile attacks.
But what I wanted to ask you about the scenes that we've seen coming out of Gaza of children who have been casualties of this operation here. You know, as difficult as this situation has been there in Sderot, when you see these pictures of children who have died in this military operation, what thoughts run through your mind?
VOICE OF NOAM BEDEIN, ISRAELI BLOGGER AND PHOTOJOURNALIST: Of course, (INAUDIBLE) we're not speaking from a bomb shelter. (INAUDIBLE) Sderot, we just had a rocket attack just a couple of minutes ago, and therefore we're standing over here.
Let me talk a minute about -- talk about the images coming out these days around the world that are very obviously upsetting images according to everyone, according to the Israelis. The one important thing (INAUDIBLE) to make the difference over here, again, Israel's always said about every single casualty, civilian casualty of the children and women in the Gaza strip, but it's understanding one thing. Sderot, (INAUDIBLE), the southern part of Israel became the only place in the entire western world where we have rockets and missiles being fired daily upon civilian populations in order to hit the civilian population.
It is the most difficult thing today for Israel to be dealing with terrorists that are using -- that they're really using civilian population as their human shield. We're talking about probably 97 percent, OK 97 percent of these (INAUDIBLE) targets according to the Air Force commander of Israel are being targeted, are being fired from among the civilian population in Gaza.
Meaning the rockets are being fired behind the homes, behind the (INAUDIBLE) area, behind the neighborhoods. Just yesterday, the rockets are being fired from inside the school -- U.N. school in the Gaza strip. So if Israel wants to have their own (INAUDIBLE) targeting their targets in Gaza and hitting any kind of target, civilians are their target, are going to have to get injured or killed, that's what Israel has to deal with.
I mean, you know, what other choice in Israel do we have today? For the past two years, we had two cease-fires between Hamas and Israel, the first cease-fire having over 350 or so attacks toward Israel, not even one Israeli army response, and the second cease-fire that this ended on the 19th of December, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, within 450 missiles -- 415 missiles (INAUDIBLE).
ROBERTS: There's no -- there's no question --
BEDEIN: Any other in western democracy would tolerate even one rocket.
ROBERTS: Well, there's no question, Noam, that it is a difficult situation on both sides of the border there. We're getting a view of it from people blogging: Noam Bedein, who's blogging from Sderot, and Ramzy as well, who's blogging from Gaza City. And we'll check back in with them from time to time here during thing crisis as it progresses.
CHETRY: All right. Well, rockets from the war zone, the mangled metal, the damage they do, Anderson Cooper shows us from the front lines. It's 36 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Breaking news right now. Israel's assault to eliminate the Hamas rocket threat is temporarily on hold to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. But since Israel's fierce campaign started 12 days ago, Hamas has still managed to fire off dozens of rockets into southern Israel. They may be primitive, but Anderson Cooper shows us they're still deadly.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, along the border with Gaza and most Israeli towns, you can find a police station that has a collection of rockets that have fallen in that town over the last couple of months.
This station has a -- some rockets that fell here. You can see it's pretty -- it's hand-made essentially. It's got welding here. The lines are not all that straight. A rocket like this could be made relatively easily, the police say, in someone's home or kind of a makeshift factory. These Qassam rockets have a range of about nine miles.
Far more deadly are the Grad rockets. This is one of them. Police told me this one is most likely made in China. It's clearly made in a factory. Has got a range of about 24 or 25 miles, and is actually smuggled in underground through tunnels from Egypt. That's one of the -- been the prime targets of Israeli airstrikes over the last week or so, knocking out those tunnels. And just about all these rockets. And you can see what happens to them when they land, they impact in different ways. But they're filled with fuel. They're also filled with shrapnel like this, ball-bearing sometimes or metal that have grooves cut into it. Upon impact, each of these little diamond- shaped grooves will explode out, and each piece can be deadly. Just over the last month alone, this is how many rockets this one police station has collected in the town of Ashkelon.
ROBERTS: Anderson Cooper following the situation there, the crisis in the Middle East.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been asked by team Obama to be a candidate for U.S. Surgeon General. But what's the high-profile job really entail? A former Bush administration surgeon general is with us live to explain. It's 41 minutes now after the hour.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Africa, a continent of nearly 1 billion people, but only about 5 percent have Internet access. So, for those people in Africa and others in remote areas, O3b Networks has a plan.
GREG WYLER, FOUNDER, O3B NETWORKS LTD.: 03b stands for the other three billion who are not on the Internet today.
PHILLIPS: Fiber optic cables that connect most of the world to the Internet are pretty much nonexistent in remote parts of Africa. So 03b is taking its technology to the sky. The company plans to launch 16 strategically-placed satellites into orbit. As the satellites circle the earth, they will pass Internet signals wirelessly. 03b says by 2010, it hopes to provide inexpensive Internet access to billions of people in remote parts of the world.
WYLER: What 03b is designed to do is to bridge the gap between the rural, the remote, the regional, the metropolitan and urban areas to level the playing field so they all have equal access.
PHILLIPS: Wyler says the technology opens up a new world of information, business opportunities and education.
WYLER: Children in these markets can develop applications and tools just as if they were in the U.S. or in Europe.
PHILLIPS: Kyra Phillips, CNN.
ROBERTS: 45 minutes now after the hour. Let's get a check of the weather forecast for this Wednesday. Rob Marciano down there in Atlanta.
We've got lots of rain here in New York today, Rob. What else is going on?
ROBERTS: All right. But as long as it snows in the right place, it's always OK. Rob, thanks so much.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right.
ROBERTS: Fitness guru Richard Simmons appeared on AMERICAN MORNING a couple of days ago, and we thought things got, well, let's say, just a little unusual at the end of the interview and it turns out, we weren't alone in that thinking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": (INAUDIBLE) tomorrow night at 11:00. Here it is. Your moment of zen.
RICHARD SIMMONS, FITNESS GURU: If you really love you, you won't hurt yourself with food and with inactivity.
CHETRY: I love Richard Simmons. Thank you. Oh! My God! My God! Let's take a break. Thank you, Richard.
SIMMONS: Cinderella, it fits! Everyone, let's have a ball!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Did he just snap or what happened?
CHETRY: I -- well, he's Richard Simmons. He came in here and he was just bouncing off the wall.
ROBERTS: Richard Simmons -- foot kisser.
CHETRY: Apparently. But he wouldn't let go. He would not let go.
ROBERTS: It looked like he wouldn't.
ROBERTS: You obviously washed your feet because he didn't want to let go.
CHETRY: The other good news is that I had an emergency pair of bike shorts underneath my skirt, because it could have gotten ugly.
ROBERTS: That's -- hmm.
CHETRY: Too much information?
ROBERTS: Just a bit. CHETRY: You just never know if you're going to trip in the studio. You know what I mean? You've got to be covered.
CHETRY: I hope that's not the next moment of "Zen."
Well, he thought that getting shut out of the Senate was tough. Then Roland Burris tried to cross the street. Jeanne Moos on the "Burris Circus." That's 48 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Roland Burris turned away from the Senate but he's going to try again today. He's actually meeting with the Senate leadership later on today. A horde of reporters, though, followed his every step at the Capitol. So while Burris was refused a Senate seat, he had a front row seat to his very own media circus. Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Instead of being sworn in as a senator --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please raise your right hand.
MOOS: Roland Burris was raising his right hand to hold on for dear life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see it's quite a mess here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was chaotic, it was crazy, and in fact, one cameraman slipped and fell.
MOOS: His colleagues helped pick him up. Burris himself almost went down at one point. There's a name for what Burris got caught up in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another chaotic scrum.
PAUL COURSON, CNN PRODUCER: It's a scrum is what we call it inside the media.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go that way now. Everybody (INAUDIBLE) push this direction.
MOOS: Named after a rugby scrum says CNN producer Paul Courson.
COURSON: All the team scrums the ball to try and regain custody of it.
MOOS: Only in this case, Burris was the ball the press wanted custody of.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He frankly looks a little bit frightened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it is sort of a frightening thing.
MOOS: It began as Burris arrived at the Senate entrance, continued inside on CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are showing you these pictures via broadband.
MOOS: The kind of grainy footage usually reserved for war zones. Actually the thing that showed up best was the ornate Capitol floor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm trying to make out who we're seeing there. Can't quite tell.
MOOS: Visibility wasn't so hot outside either. Time to wipe that lens.
(on camera): Roland Burris has expressed no doubt whatsoever about his status.
ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS SENATE APPOINTEE: I'm a United States senator.
MOOS (voice-over): A what?
BURRIS: I am now the junior senator from the State of Illinois.
MOOS: Who says?
BURRIS: I am the junior senator according to every law book in the nation.
MOOS (on camera): OK, besides the law books, does this have anyone else's blessing?
BURRIS: What the Lord has ordained.
MOOS: If you say so.
BURRIS: I am the senator.
MOOS (voice-over): But not even many senators are worthy of this big a scrum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spectacle, the circus rolling into town.
MOOS: He finally rolled out in the safety of a van. You know the mausoleum Burris has built himself in a Chicago cemetery, the one where there's still room left to add more accomplishments, well, he may not be able to write senator yet, but he could one day rest in peace having survived a Senate scrum.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
ROBERTS: How can innocent people get out of Gaza now? The three-hour humanitarian corridor, as the violence hits a new high. Today, the view you haven't seen.
Deep down, underground, man on hands and knees crawl with fuel, guns and fury, inside secret war tunnels.
Plus, how do you misplace $26 billion, and what's worse, it's your money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: $60 million here, $100 million here, $300 million there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Lost taxpayer billions. Where did all the money go? You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."
ROBERTS: It's five minutes now to the top of the hour. With just 14 days left in the Bush administration, Congress is getting in its last licks, this time over taxpayer dollars being wasted by the billions.
There's a new report out, critical of the Bush administration for not keeping your money from going to the wrong places. CNN's Joe Johns is on the money trail for us.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, it's a report from the last Congress, and it's a final kick in the pants for the Bush administration.
JOHNS (voice-over): A report prepared by the democratic staff of the house committee on oversight says that since 2001, the Bush administration has failed to implement more than 13,800 recommendations made by inspectors general, the watchdogs of various federal agencies, costing taxpayers almost $26 billion.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: When you have thousands of recommendations that can add up to billions of dollars, it seems to me they ought to be taken seriously.
JOHNS (on camera): Keeping them honest, what it means is that the government never went after billions of dollars of your money, that somebody else got, somebody who probably wasn't supposed to get it.
(voice-over): The report says that $2 billion could have been saved just by cutting off social security disability benefit payments to people who were able to work. Then there's the $837 million in overpayments that the Pentagon handed out for military telecom contracts. And don't forget Hurricane Katrina, the report cites $16 million in questionable costs for a single base camp. SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: You have $16 million here, $100 million here, $300 million there. Pretty soon you've got billions and billions of dollars that we could be saving.
JOHNS: The White House attacked the report as a hyper-partisan hatchet job telling CNN literally in the last minutes of the 110th Congress, it appears the partisan democratic staff has dumped out an incomplete report, whose facts, the White House says, aren't exactly factual. A top Republican on the House Oversight Committee said that while the report looked to him like one more attempt to pile on George W. Bush, it still raises serious accountability question.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: It's a party shot. It's popular to kick somebody on their way out the door, but I'm going to take it along with Chairman Towns that there are 13,000 issues that we're going to follow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Not entirely by accident, Senator Claire McCaskill, a former state auditor, is calling on the incoming Obama administration to beef up inspections for inspectors general.
John and Kiran?
ROBERTS: Joe Johns reporting for us this morning. Joe, thanks so much.
It's coming up now on two-minutes to the top of the hour. And happening right now, Israel halting air strikes for the first time in almost two weeks. The all-out war on hold for the moment so supplies can reach the suffering civilian population in Gaza.
Israel has agreed to a daily three-hour window to allowing humanitarian aid and fuel. The decision follows a deadly attack yesterday that killed dozens of people taking shelter at a United Nations school.
Our next president is warning of trillion-dollar deficits for years to come. Barack Obama said his budget aids warn him that he will inherit huge deficits following the government's multibillion- dollar financial bailouts. His plans for new spending and tax cuts to jump-start the economy could pile on to that. Obama said that Washington will have to embrace real budget reform to stop the deficits.
Past, present and future presidents at the White House today. President Bush will host President-elect Barack Obama for the second time since election day, and they will be joined for lunch by former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
A family filing a $25 million wrongful death claim after an officer allegedly shot an unarmed man in the back and killed him on New Year's Day. A video of the incident in the San Francisco subway went viral yesterday. Witnesses say 22-year-old Oscar Grant was cooperating with police, when the shot went off. The Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority is investigating.