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Senate Slowly Moves Forward on Health Care Reform; Parts of England Flooded; A Look at Health Care Road Blocks, Public Option at Center of Debate; The Ultimate Guide to Black Friday; Woman Turns Layoff Into New Opportunity; Swine Flu Down; Dating in the Dark

Aired November 23, 2009 - 06:59   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. We're coming up just shy of 7:00 here in New York. It's Monday. It's November 23rd. Glad you're with us. I'm Kiran Chetry.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans in for John Roberts this morning.

Here are the stories that we'll be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

It's time to start over for senate Democrats and their health care reform bill. Sixty shaky votes, Saturday night may have moved the measure forward, but with no Republican backers and Democrats still divided on this the bill is that may be going nowhere. We could be in for several more weeks of bitter debates.

CHETRY: Also, a violent takedown caught on tape as a San Francisco transit officer arrests an out of control passenger. Now, a police department that's already under scrutiny has more explaining to do after this video surfaced. We're going to show you what happened and now what police are saying about the incidents this morning.

ROMANS: Plus, even with unemployment in double digits, some people are finding ways to turn things around, and this economy one idea, be your own boss. With a little help, it may not be as hard as you think. That's coming up in part one of our am original series, success in sour times.

CHETRY: We begin the hour though with the senate spinning its wheels on health care reform. Democrats were able to do some willing and dealing this weekend to get 60 yes votes to send the measure to the Senate floor for debate. that's one hurdle, but it's clear that the party is divided on many of the details. Brianna Keilar is live for us in Washington, so the process starts all over again just after Thanksgiving.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They're going to begin debate and it is certainly going to be colorful.

And you said it, Kiran, this was just one hurdle that was cleared on Saturday night, a vote just to begin debating this bill on the Senate floor, but a vote fraught with political consequences with moderate Democrats who still have major reservations about this health care bill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 60, and nays are 39.

KEILAR: For a moment Saturday night, it looked like Senate Democrats and their health care reform bill were gathering momentum after months of political posturing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we're asking is have a debate on it.

KEILAR: And prodding from the president.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: To take the baton and bring this measure on behalf of the American people.

KEILAR: The Democrats had their 60 votes, enough to send the motion to the Senate floor for debate, but with so much dissention in the ranks.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET, (D) COLORADO: We need to do a better job at making transparent what things actually cost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're telling people you have buy insurance.

SEN. BEN NELSON, (D) NEBRASKA: I worry about a government-run plan that would be subject to recommendations that's might be applied universally without respect to patients.

KEILAR: It became clear the bill won't fly as written and Republicans looking to slow down the process seized the opening.

SEN. JON KYL, (R) ARIZONA: It might take longer but it would also provide a better result, and most Americans think we should get it right rather than try to hurry it up.

KEILAR: Majority leader Harry Reid got his 60 vote majority, but it's how he accomplished it that speaks volumes. Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana voted yes after scoring a provision in the bill that boosts spending in her state in $100 to $300 million.

Still, with so many Democrats on the fence and no Republicans leaning their way, there are still plenty of hurdles to come for Democrats and this bill.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV) MAJORITY LEADER: The road ahead is a long stretch, but we can see the finish line.


KEILAR: The next step now, debating this bill on the Senate floor after Thanksgiving. And the goal now for passage of a final bill by the House and the Senate slipping now into the new year. Democrats' ultimate goal, get this bill to President Obama's desk before his State of the Union address at the end of January -- Christine and Kiran. CHETRY: I've heard some of them, like Ben nelson, Democratic senator, saying that just because he voted yes to move the debate forward doesn't mean he'll vote yes on the actual bill. So what does that mean for Harry Reid and other leaders who are trying to get this thing passed?

KEILAR: And he's not the only one. Senator Nelson as well as Senator Mary Landrieu who you heard from there, she has the said the same thing.

So what it means for Democratic leaders, especially dealing with these moderate Democrats and Joe Lieberman, an independent who has said they have serious issues or are completely opposed to the public option, it means that Democratic leaders will have to thread that needle.

They're either going to have to make changes to win over some of those moderate Democrats or they are going to have to make some changes to woo some moderate Republicans.

So, bottom line, this bill will see some major changes as they try to scoot by with those 60 votes -- Kiran.

CHETRY: The phone lines will be burning up and people call and try to twist arms, right, after Thanksgiving?

KEILAR: They are, they are.

CHETRY: All right Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

So what is it going to take to get an affordable, responsible Senate health care bill we can afford passed? In just a few minutes, two health care experts break it down for us. Andrew Rubin is the vice president of NYU Langone Medical Center and Michael Cannon is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Others stories new this morning, dramatic video coming out of California, a San Francisco transit officer arresting an allegedly unruly passenger this weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now! Right now!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should get off the train. Please get off the train now. Get off the train.



ROMANS: The BART officer is seen taking the passenger off the train to the applause of the train goers. The video is posted on YouTube. A BART spokesman tells CNN they are planning a full investigation.


LINTON JOHNSON, BART SPOKESMAN: The video was posted by somebody who has jumped to conclusions as to what he believes happened. And we're not saying that that person is wrong or right, but we do need to say to that person and to the rest of the world that we're going to look at all of the facts, not just what you see on the video, and then we'll make conclusion as to what happened.


ROMANS: The suspect, Michael Joseph Gibson, is charged with felony battery on an officer. Police say the officer is unable to work because of cuts and a concussion and has been placed on leave.

CHETRY: And authorities in southern California are saying that a 12-year-old who was attacked by his classmates may have been the victim of a Facebook posting that called for people to target redheads. Facebook page proclaimed last Friday "kick a ginger day," urging students to beat up on redheaded kids.

The 12 year-old was attacked in two separate incident at his middle school. Police say that it may have been inspired by an episode of "South Park".

ROMANS: And an attorney for the Ft. Hood shooting suspect Army Major Nidal Hasan says Hasan is paralyzed from the chest down and doctors believe the paralysis is permanent. The army psychiatrist is recovering from gunshot wounds at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He'll remain under confinement until his court-martial.

Hasan is charged with killing 13 people in the Ft. Hood massacre earlier this month.

CHETRY: Rescuers working around the clock to save lives after the most rain ever recorded in England. People are on rooftops, rivers are overflowing, and bridges like this one being simply wiped out. A total of 12 bridges were closed across one county in England's northwest region.

Local newspapers are reporting some communities could be in trouble for months to come. Nic Robertson has an up close look at the devastation.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In Kevin McNicholas' house, everything on the lower floor has been destroyed. When we arrived he had only just got back in.

KEVIN MCNICHOLAS, COCKERMOUTH RESIDENT: Everything had been lifted and moved around and then dropped again and left covered in sludge.

ROBERTSON: Family and friends are working frantically to clear what they can in case flood waters return. The rain is falling and more is forecast. MCNICHOLAS: It's been difficult. In the first moment, people are down helping, and then they looked after the third night and they are continuing now.

ROBERTSON: A few doors along, grandmother Margaret Bancroft measures herself against the high water mark on her living room wall. Among her treasures, a few photos saved.

MARGARET BANCROFT, COCKERMOUTH RESIDENT: One of the local heroes that was trudging around with his boat yesterday morning rescuing people.

ROBERTSON: For 45 years she says she's lived in this house.

BANCROFT: I've never seen anything like this at all. Never been flooded, you know.

ROBERTSON (on camera): They said, one in 1,000 years.

BANCROFT: Yes, well, I guess I'll miss the next one then.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): And it's not just the grandmother Bancroft who's laughing. Incredibly spirits here seem high.

ROBERTSON (on camera): The tidy up is only just beginning, and for people here they really don't know where they are going to be able to get back in their homes. They're being told right now it could be as long as six to nine months.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to show his support and offered help, $1.5 million additional funds for the flood damage.

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Really, we'll do what we can to help. We'll provide extra help to make sure that that happens.

ROBERTSON: And the town is going to need all of the help it can get -- 7,000 people live in this tiny community. They are coming together to put right what the town's two flood swollen rivers came close to destroying. But the cleanup is only just beginning.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Cockermouth, England.


CHETRY: It's eight minutes past the hour.

Also new this morning, authorities are investigating a radiation leak at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear plant over the weekend -- 150 workers were sent home. Officials say there were no public health risk but the workers are being tested now for radiation exposure.

The unit had been shut down for refueling and maintenance. The plant was the site of the worst ever U.S. nuclear disaster back in 1979. A partial meltdown forced its second reactor to be permanently shut down.

ROMANS: A lawyer for one of the five men facing trial for the 9/11 attacks says all five will plead not guilty. The attorney says the men will not deny their role in the attacks, but will tell the jury, quote, "why they did it."

Critics say the Justice Department's decision to hold a civilian trial gives these men a platform for propaganda.

CHETRY: Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy and a Roman Catholic bishop in his state are now involved in a feud, a public feud over a proposal to expand the nation's health insurance system.

Kennedy, the son of the late senator Ted Kennedy, attacked the church's support of provisions that would prohibit federal funding for abortions. Bishop Thomas Tobin has publicly questioned Congressman Kennedy's faith, saying that if you are Catholic, you are pro-life, and now admits that he asked him back in 2007 not to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.

ROMANS: It was a night of welcome comebacks at this year's American Music Awards. Nine months after Rihanna missed her performance at the Grammys due to an assault but then boyfriend Chris Brown, she was back performing a single from her new album.

We all know Lady Gaga's performances tend to be, shall we say, over the top.

CHETRY: Christine and I were both going to wear that today, and then we saw we were both dressed in it, so we changed.

ROMANS: Yes, exactly. Last night was no exception for Lady Gaga. She's glowing. She's wearing an outrageous body suit. She played a blazing piano.

CHETRY: Wasn't she breaking glass on the piano, too?

ROMANS: I don't know.

CHETRY: There it goes.

ROMANS: The night though belonged to Taylor Swift. There she is. The 19-year-old pocketed five awards, including the biggest, Artist of the Year. So congratulations to Taylor Swift. It's been quite a whirlwind year for her.

CHETRY: It really has. She's just 19 and taking it all in stride. She's an adorable girl.

ROMANS: She sure is.

All right, we're going to talk health care. The health care reform, what's -- how it affects you and what happens next with health care.

CHETRY: What are the issue that's could derail health care reform? From the public option to worries about cost to funding of abortions, we're going to talk about it.

It's ten-and-a-half minutes past of the hour.


CHETRY: It's 13 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

The Senate voted to move forward with health reform, to move forward -- it cleared one hurdle, but the real debate really is just getting started. There are still hotly contested issues that need to be tackled, like the public option, new taxes, and the divisive issue that could trump them all, abortion.

Here to help us break it all down is Andrew Rubin, he's the vice president for clinical affairs and affiliates at NYU Langone Medical Center. He joins me here in New York. Welcome, thanks for being here.

And also Michael Cannon, the director of health policy studies at Cato Institute, is a former policy analyst as well from the Senate Republican Policy Committee. He's in Washington. Thanks for being here as well, Andrew.

So we've talked about there are some big challenges ahead. It has to get through the Senate, it has to merge with the House conference bill.

So let's start with the public option. Two Senators -- we have Joe Lieberman, an independent but caucuses with the Democrats, as well as Ben Nelson said I'm OK to go ahead with the debate, but I'm not sure I can support a bill with a public option. So where do you go from there, Andrew?

ANDREW RUBIN, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: They are going to have to fight this out. Clearly a lot of Democrats, most of the Democrats want a public option and a lot of the moderates don't want it. The bill will work without it, so we're just going to have to see where they settle this out.

CHETRY: What do you think, Andrew -- Michael? Do you think there's more chance of bringing over some moderate Republicans and saying, fine, we won't do a public option, or do you think that it's better to try to get some of the moderate Democrats on board and saying there is still a trigger here, states can opt out?

MICHAEL CANNON, DIRECTOR OF HEALTH POLICY STUDIES, CATO INSTITUTE: I think that they are more likely to get the left wing Democrats in the House to cave on a public option with the so-called public option than they are to get moderate Senate Democrats to go along with one because I think the left wing knows this is really a massive entitlement program, a massive expansion of the entitlement state, probably the biggest expansion of government we've seen in our lifetimes.

And the centerpiece of this legislation is not the so-called public option. It's the mandate that requires every American to purchase health insurance. I think the left knows that if they get that, then they have pretty much gotten what they want from this bill, which is a government takeover of the private health insurance industry.

CHETRY: Really? I mean, one of things that was startling to me is just how low that quote, unquote "penalty" is for not being? It's $95 in the first year, right? And then moves up to $750. There are some people that are going to be making that calculation and saying if something goes wrong, I'll get it then.

ANDREW RUBIN, V.P., NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: You've got to start somewhere and I think --

CANNON: Well...

CHETRY: Well, I'm sorry, let me let Andrew weigh in on that and I'll get back to you, Michael.

RUBIN: You've got to start somewhere and to have the insurance industry in balance, you have to include all these people. I agree it starts low, $95 in the beginning. But, you know, when you're bringing all these uninsured Americans into the pool, $795 is going to go a long way. So I think it's a good start and you have to put this in balance. You have to get everybody into the pool.

CHETRY: Michael, on the same issue about cost as well, you say that between taxing Cadillac plans, taxing some of the Medicaid payroll contributions for people making over -- families making over $250,000 and other things are still not going to be enough to pay for it. You don't think the Congressional Budget Office estimate is accurate. Explain that.

CANNON: No, I think the estimates are accurate for the bill as written. I think the bill as written is unrealistic.

Look, they say they're going to have -- they're going to implement $500 billion of Medicare cuts. But at the same time, they're undoing past promises of future Medicare cuts so that's not credible at all. So that's going to require higher taxes to make up for all the new spending that to which this legislation would commit us and after -- I mean, after the fact that they're not going to be making the spending cuts that they said.

But then the point that you made about the low penalties for not buying health insurance, that means that what that actually means is that, yes, a lot of people are going to drop coverage. They're going to pay the penalty and not insure, so premiums are going to go up because everyone in the risk pool is going to be sicker. And as those premiums go up, people who purchase insurance are going to demand more subsidies.

They're going to demand that the penalties be raised on those who don't purchase health insurance. So this legislation is really a ticking tax bomb, where we are going to have even more government spending and even higher taxes than this legislation portends. RUBIN: Like I said, I think you have to start somewhere. Remember, the $95 is just the first year. And we move people along, you know, fairly quickly in this process. And this bill, yes, it's very expensive but the country has decided we want health care reform. I really believe that.

So -- and there's a lot of moving pieces here. No one provision of this bill is, you know, is inexpensive or works perfectly, but we have to get it started. And I think the mandate will work. I think people want health insurance.

CHETRY: The biggest fight could end up being over abortion in this situation. And, Michael, one of the things that the House did was put in some pretty restrictive language when it comes to whether or not the federal government is going to pay for abortions. The Senate bill, however, is not restrictive. How is this going to work out?

CANNON: Well, either -- I think that both sides are right. When a piece of legislation this massive is enacted, when it injects the federal government into so many corners of the health care sector and people's health care decisions, it's inevitable that the government is going to disrupt the status quo over abortions.

So, either we'll get a situation like the House bill where there are no federal funds for abortion but what that does is it restricts access to private abortion coverage. Or we'll get something like the Senate bill, which does force Americans to subsidize other people's abortions. There's no way to split the baby here. There's no way to prevent one of those outcomes from happening. The status quo cannot, not be upset with this legislation.

CHETRY: How do they reconcile that among Democrats?

RUBIN: You know, I don't know how they're going to reconcile this. People don't -- most people don't choose their health insurance based on whether abortion is covered or not. It just doesn't belong in this conversation as far as I'm concerned. I mean, people are not buying health insurance because there's an abortion coverage.

I know it's front and center now. I hope they found a way to get it out.

CHETRY: All right. I want to thank both of you for your thoughts this morning. Andrew Rubin and Michael Cannon, thanks so much.

CANNON: Thank you.

ROMANS: Gerri Willis and Black Friday shopping deals, how to get the most for your money, how to avoid getting scammed. How to make sure you're not waiting in line for hours and hours and there are only 50 of those things that are on sale that you want. Gerri Willis right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: Straight ahead on the Most News in the Morning, with all of the Black Friday deals out there, you can be sure bargain hunters will be out in force. And things could get ugly but we've got your ultimate guide to Black Friday and shopping.

CHETRY: That's right. And Gerri Willis is here "Minding Your Business." And you've got some good advice for people who are saying, all right. You know, this year I don't have as much money to spend, so what do I do to stretch that dollar for holiday shopping?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: All right. We're all about the strategy this year. Yes, I know a lot of people are anti- Black Friday, but if you have to shop on Black Friday, here is what you need to know. One word, it's going to be completely crazy.

I want to show you some open times for some stores across the country. Wal-Mart, as you know, we've already talked about this today, it's going be open 24 hours. Sale items will go on sale at 5:00 a.m. Toys "R" Us opens at midnight until 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. anymore. We're starting at 3:00 a.m., we're starting for 4:00 a.m., whether it's Old Navy, Kohl's, Sears. You've got to get there early to get the best deals.

CHETRY: The retailers are going all in because they're a little nervous, right, this year, because of the recession?

WILLIS: That's right. Let me tell you that Wal-Mart is going to allow its customers to camp out next to their desired items beginning on Thanksgiving Day. Black Friday special -- good at 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.


CHETRY: That doesn't sound like such a good idea, does it? What are you going to do? Roll your sleeping bag out by the 50-inch plasma?

WILLIS: Maybe.

CHETRY: Put an air mattress up next to it?

WILLIS: Maybe. You want to bet there are going to be some people out there doing it.



ROMANS: We already had a little fight about this. Yes.

WILLIS: All right. So we'll have to get video of that.

CHETRY: Why don't -- I mean, I don't know. I mean, shouldn't it be like at the deli counter, where you ding. You know, whoever gets their first ding, you pull a number. If you have number one through 50, and then you can go back home and don't worry about it. ROMANS: Because they want you to be in there because you're not going to get this stupid TV and you're going to buy a bunch of other stuff you don't need. See, it's like whole -- it's bubble vision retailing.

CHETRY: But does it make sense? This is what I don't understand. So they're going to have you camp out in front of that one item, meanwhile, you could be perusing the store if you didn't have to set up shop. Let them take a ding, they pull a little thing. I'm number five, I get one.

WILLIS: See, that's being too logical, Kiran.

CHETRY: And now I get to go shop.

WILLIS: (INAUDIBLE) something that's really intelligent in the retail environment. That's not where we're going right now.

This is, you know, this is Black Friday. It's crazy. Let's talk a little bit, though, about how to balance in store and online spending. I know Christine is a big fan of online spending.

Obviously, you have to be in the store to get the door buster deal, but the good news here is that you might be able to get that coupon online. But let me tell you, you're going to want to pay attention to the coupons you get online for Black Friday. J.C. Penney right now is offering instant money coupons for Black Friday, but they are only be able to be used between 3:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. So that will be later in the day. Read the fine print.

CHETRY: Where are the better deals?

WILLIS: I think that for a handful of items if you can get in line, if you can get in early, a lot of the door busters will be great. But I have to tell you, you can really do better by going online.

Just one idea here that I want to tell people about. You know when you're online and you're shopping and they ask you for the promotional code and you don't have one, just Google the retailer's name and promotional code into Google, obviously, and you can get the code and you get the deal without actually having been sent anything in the mail.

CHETRY: That's right. One of the good sites for that is We use that a lot.

ROMANS: You told me about that and then I started looking at it. It is really good. It's got every one of them.

CHETRY: It also gives you the percent chance of success. Do you know what I'm saying?

WILLIS: Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING, the shopping channel.

CHETRY: I was trying to help out. ROMANS: I just really -- I really think that people have to really try to be saving their money this year.

WILLIS: That's right.

ROMANS: You know, I think the retailers are still living in 2005, 2006, 2007, and we're kind of like falling into it every time we talk about, oh, you don't get in line. But it's different now. It's really different.

WILLIS: It's different now and the retailers are saying, you know, hey, we're not stocking those shelves like we used to. You have to get out early. But I don't think a lot of consumers believe that and I don't think they're going to fall for it.

CHETRY: All right, Gerri Willis.

WILLIS: You've got time. You've got time. Panic not.

CHETRY: Thank, Gerri.

ROMANS: OK. Coming back, we have Jason Carroll and you're the boss. That means in sour times, there are ways to be successful. Be your own boss.

Jason Carroll -- I guess Jason is going to be his own boss for a week and tell us how it worked out. That's next.


CHETRY: Welcome back, 28 minutes past the hour right now. You know, with all the talk that the recession is over, we're still seeing unfortunately the unemployment rates climbing higher, in the double digits now. And across the nation more than 10 percent, places like Illinois, for example, 11 percent unemployment. California, 12.5 percent unemployment. And a lot of people are saying, you know, I have been looking actively for six months and I can't get anything else.

ROMANS: Look, there are a lot of big companies that have been started in somebody's garage, for example, during a recession. So there's a lot of success to be had down there in the middle of a recession if, you know, you know how to start for yourself.

So we're tracking down stories of people turning things around in a bad economy. Jason Carroll is here with part one of our A.M. original series "Success in Sour Times."

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, it's all about accessing resources. If you know how do that, it can really, really help you.

We met a woman, Ida Petkus. She found a resource, learned how to do something and made all the difference in the world. She's a woman who we met. She was like thousands of others in this country. She was laid off this year, so she hired herself and became her own boss using a little known government program.


CARROLL (voice-over): For five years, Ida Petkus worked in a place where she made a difference counseling victims at a domestic violence center. Then one day last March, they told her it was all over.

IDA PETKUS, ADVOCATE FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS: My position was eliminated because of economic times.

CARROLL: Petkus had built a career helping people and at 53 years old, she wondered what else she was qualified to do.

PETKUS: I remember turning in the key and I said I'll be back for this key, meaning I'll be back. And they said, well, just start your own agency. Don't let being laid off stop you. So that's what I did.

CARROLL: And she did it with the help of a self-employment assistance program, SEA. Petkus founded Tree House Haven in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. It's a non-profit helping victims of domestic violence like this woman who we'll call Sara.

"SARA," DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIM: I was in a very bad way when Ida came to me. And I can sit here and talk about it now with some focus and with some confidence that I have a plan. I have resources and I'm going to make it.



CARROLL (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) the counseling got training and counseling of her own at SCA.

MICHAEL GLASS, DIRECTOR, N.J. SELF-EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: 13 years in existed in New Jersey and we've been pretty much with it since its start. Close to over 8,000 businesses have been created.

CARROLL: The program gives potential business owners free classes in areas such as marketing, fund raising and bookkeeping. The Department of Labor offers the program in eight states. Petkiss began taking classes in August and in just a month Tree Haven had opened its doors. Victims like "Sara" could not be more grateful.

"SARA": The first word that comes to my mind is hope. Ida, my advocate has continued to open the doors for me and clear the way.

PETKISS: I believe that small business is going to make a difference in this economy. I don't want to be medium or large, I want to be smell and I want to help -- I like where I am helping victims.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CARROLL: Well, Tree House Haven sustains itself through private funding. Already, Petkiss has gotten help from Verizon and the Philadelphia Flyers. And if you're out there and you're wondering is this something that I qualify for, well, obviously, you have to live in one of the states mentioned and in addition to that, you got to be receiving unemployment benefits for a period of time.

ROMANS: Right. There are some people who get concerned about taking the unemployment benefits which precludes them from starting their own business but it's not true in many states.

CARROLL: Yes. And then in some situations, it can actually open a door if you know again how to access the right programs.

ROMANS: All right. Good stuff. Important companies, big companies, companies helping people started in tough times.

CARROLL: Tough times, absolutely.

ROMANS: Thanks, Jason.

CHETRY: Also, we want to hear from you. How are you finding success in sour times? If you are, leave us a comment and read more about Jason's story on our blog, And also, tomorrow Jason is going to be showing us another success story. Instead of national chains like Wal-Mart, Costco and Target, we're checking out the new trend of local chain stores. Can a little guy take on the retail juggernauts? That's tomorrow right here on the most news in the morning.

ROMANS: Checking our top stories. A protest at UC Santa Cruz is over but not before students thrashed the place over the weekend. The campus spokesman says 70 protesters took over the university's main and administrative building angry over new tuition hikes. He says some students could face criminal charges or school discipline.

CHETRY: Well, frequent confusion over frequent flyer miles has one senator calling for a federal investigation. Chuck Schumer of New York says that a lot of consumers are complaining because they are losing millions of frequent flyer miles each year. He claims vague rules and also deceptive practices by the airlines. Schumer wants a new set of regulation governing frequent flyer programs that all carriers would have to follow.

ROMANS: And high above earth, two NASA astronauts are about to start the third and final space walk of the shuttle "Atlantis" mission. These are live pictures you're looking at right now. They're due to start in about 15 minutes but we'll now start at 8:18 Eastern time. The mix of jobs today includes hooking up a new oxygen tank to the International Space Station and a few science experiments. The shuttle in space station will undock on Wednesday.

There are positive signs in the fight against swine flu this morning. The Centers for Disease Control says flu-related visits to the doctor are down slightly. But the virus remains widespread in 43 states and is still hitting children and young adults pretty hard. Joining us now live from Nashville is Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Doctor, welcome to the program.


ROMANS: The good news I guess is that the swine flu is now widespread in 43 states. That's the good news, you know, but the bad news is that's still an awful lot of states. And if we have reached a peak as many are thinking, we still have half of the cases of swine flu ahead of us, don't we?

SCHAFFNER: Oh, I think that's exactly correct. We're all grateful that it's trending down but it's still widespread and there's still a very good reason to get vaccinated.

ROMANS: Yes, 43 states widespread today versus maybe 46 states last week. Should we be concerned about these cases popping up here and in the U.K., where some of these cases appear to be -- a few of these cases appear to be resistant to Tamiflu.

SCHAFFNER: Well, that's happened before. And the cases in the United States and North Carolina are being investigated. So far that has not spread. So you and I don't really have to worry about that. We in public health will keep that under surveillance and will let you know if there's something more going on in that regard. But if you needed another reason to be vaccinated, that's another one.

ROMANS: How concerned should we be about what happens to the virus going from here. I mean, a lot of people hear, oh, it's peaked, they start to feel a sense of urgency may have passed. But pandemics go in waves, right? I mean, H1N1 is not going away here?

SCHAFFNER: You're exactly correct. H1N1 is not going away although it has come down. It is going to keep smoldering and then come, December, January, February, we're going to see seasonal influenza take off. H1N1 will be part of that also.

ROMANS: As a doctor, how do you grade the response so far to this public health threat. How have we done and what have we learned from it?

SCHAFFNER: I think we can all give each other an A minus. We've done really very well. Everybody has worked enormously hard. There's been a lot of cooperation and we couldn't have done what we have done five years ago. So we've done pretty darn well.

ROMANS: Let me ask about the vaccinations today. You know, a lot of people with children have been getting them. People in the at risk categories have been getting vaccinations. There's has been the big concern -- has been really there wasn't enough vaccine available. Has the vaccinations helped drive this thing to a peak? Will that help thwart this virus here?

SCHAFFNER: Well, the vaccine is right on target. It should be very, very effective. So as more cases occur, the more people that are vaccinated the fewer cases there will be and will be protected and will protect our neighbors also. So we all of us who haven't gotten vaccinated should do so just as soon as the vaccine becomes available in your neighborhood.

ROMANS: And that's the trick, the vaccine becoming available in your neighborhood. At my pediatrician's office, for example, there are a line of people without appointments, just dropping in every single day, saying, did you get it yet? Did you get it yet? A long waiting list to get it for the first shot and the second shot.

When do you think the grip on supply is going to loosen a bit and people who want to get the shot will be able to get it?

SCHAFFNER: It's coming week by week, by week. There are more doses of vaccine coming in each week. So hang in there, make another phone call. Ask your pediatrician, watch the local newscasts about your public health department when it's available. When it's there, take advantage of it as quickly as you can.

ROMANS: In the meantime, as we get on airplanes and trains and the car to go to grandma's house for Thanksgiving, quick question -- what is number one thing people can do -- I mean, that could be a way to spread this again, what's one thing people can do right now if they are going to be traveling over the holidays and they are concerned about this?

SCHAFFNER: Wash, wash and wash your hands again.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much. Dr. William Schaffner of Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Thank you, sir.

SCHAFFNER: My pleasure, stay healthy.

CHETRY: And wash your hands.

Hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is the key.

Well, still ahead, we've heard about blind dates, how about dating in the dark. Where singles mix and mingle in the dark room to see if they have the right chemistry despite physical appearances. Does it work? Thirty-eight minutes past the hour.



CHETRY: Lady Gaga, "Bad Romance." I don't know if you saw her perform. She was wearing some sort of --

ROMANS: Bad fashion.

CHETRY: Nude body suit with holiday lights on it. Very festive. Anyway, there is a beautiful shot this morning of Columbus Circle. Cloudy, 45 degrees here in New York City. A little later, unfortunately, the week is looking a little dreary. Showers, 49 degrees for a high today.

And welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It is a new twist on blind dating, singles mix and mingle in a dark room, infrared cameras are rolling the whole time.

ROMANS: The idea is to see if their chemistry is a match despite physical appearances and as CNN's Richard Lui tells us, it is shedding new light on the search for true love.


RICHARD LUI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It sounds like a typical blind date, the guy and a girl meet for the first time to spend some time together. But dating in the dark has taken the experience to another level.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're meeting somebody without seeing them, so you're actually meeting them, not what they look like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I did put more perfume on but smell is very important to me. I like to smell good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what happens is the guys are on this side, the girls are on the other side. They can hear each other. They can learn about the other participants but they never see one another. It creates this really exciting festive atmosphere.

LUI: Visually impaired guides who have to deal with this scenario every day, lead the daters through the event.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we help people really connect more with each other than what they look like.

JOHN ZALLER, V.P., CREATIVE & DESIGN FOR PREMIER EXHIBITIONS: It's amazing to see the humility, the respect and the real openness that occurs in an environment where you don't have the prejudice of seeing someone beforehand or seeing who you're talking to. When you're in the dark, all you have is your voice and who you really are to express yourself.

LUI: But not everyone is in total agreement.

JULA JANE, DATING COLUMNIST: We project what we feel 85 percent of that comes out of body language, not in a picture, not what we say, not what we do in the dark but how we present ourselves. And you really have to see somebody face to face, it's that important.

LUI: After spending time in the dark and writing down the names of who they want to see, it's time for the revealing moment. Some daters make connections and some don't but most agree it's still a fun way to meet people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a rough night, I don't know what it was. I actually didn't get any cards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was definitely surprised about how some of them looked, I wasn't expecting some of them to look how they did. It wasn't a bad thing. It definitely wasn't a bad thing.

ZALLER: I've been able to witness a lot of interactions in dating in the dark, and a lot of the conversations that I can just tell are sort of naturally turning into a deeper relationship. A few of those instances I have seen the lights come up and people go, oh, we'll be friends.

However, even in knows cases, I think there's an important lesson learned that there's a lot more beneath the surface.

LUI: Richard Lui, CNN, Atlanta.


CHETRY: A new twist, you know, sometimes being single and dating feels like the old doing the same thing over and over again. So...

ROMANS: Sometimes it's nice to be an old married lady, you don't have to date in the dark.

CHETRY: That's true.

ROMANS: Let's talk about East Coast storms, travel delays. Rob Marciano.

CHETRY: I know, a huge travel week ahead and the weather does not look very appealing for many parts of the country. Rob Marciano is going to break it down for us. 44 minutes after the hour.


ROMANS: Good morning Raleigh, North Carolina. Right now rain, maybe 51 degrees later. Raleigh, I hate to tell you, you could expect some showers, maybe 54 though. Nice morning. A nice, wet morning in Raleigh with the Black Eyed Peas.

CHETRY: Yes. Well, you know, we have so many people planning to hit the road, planning to hit the skies the trains, going to see grandma and going to see somebody for Thanksgiving, and in some cases it doesn't look like the weather is going to be cooperating.

Rob Marciano is keeping track of all of it for us. Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey guys. Yes, we got a couple of things that are going to be developing over the next few days that will usher in nasty weather for some people but not -- not everybody. So it really depends on where you live. It's not going to be one massive storm that engulfs the entire country.

Today, though, the eastern there (ph) especially across the Carolinas, that's where the focal point is today. We had a lot of rain across parts of the southeast over the weekend, in some cases flooding rain. Now, this rain is spreading across Raleigh -- you just saw that live picture -- and up across parts of Southeast Virginia where they -- well, they got battered by remnants of Ida.

This is all moving to the north and the east and will be arriving in DC, Baltimore, then Philly then New York later on tonight and eventually into Boston. A little bit of wind with this and some waves certainly will be pounding the coastal waters, not that you're going to the beach.

That's to say Denver, they are seeing some snow from what was a pretty nasty storm across the northwest. Check out some of the wind damage across the Oregon and Washington coast lines, winds there gusting over 80 miles an hour in some spots. That's obviously taking down some of these old growth evergreen trees and taking down some power lines. At one point over 50,000 people without power across the northwest. A quieter weather pattern shaping up for you.

All right, today's travel, delays expected across the New York metros. Rain will be on the way but low clouds, fog, low visibility, really where it's not raining east of the Rockies today, at least in the morning you'll see problems with -- with foggy travel. Tomorrow the storm out of the Rockies, moves to the east, and I think on Wednesday, the big travel day of the year -- of the week, the storm is going to be into the Midwest -- Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cincinnati. Those are the hubs that I think are going to see a problem.

We will get some cold air behind the system and there will be a little bit of snow, but I don't think it's going to be enough to really slam the brakes, so to speak, on any sort of serious travel ladies (ph). And then Friday, for you guys in New York, looks to be an interesting storm, mostly wind and rain for your travel shoppers.

Well, I know you guys just go on that -- that cheap website. You get all your shopping done that way.

CHETRY: (INAUDIBLE) some promo codes. You still got to do the -- the heavy lifting, you know, with your fingers, online, surfing.

MARCIANO: Well, don't get a blister.

CHETRY: I'll try not to. Rob, thanks.

But if you're one of those people that are packing in the car and getting out there in the wee hours of the morning, trying to get some Black Friday deals, our Susan Candiotti gets a look at how big chains and retailers are trying to step up the safety after a big tragedy last year at Wal-Mart.

ROMANS: And our Jason Carroll went behind the scenes with James Cameron, sitting there with him in the editing room. His big, big opus -- I guess that's redundant. But Avatar -- it's 3D, it's sci-fi, it's unlike anything we've ever seen in the big screen before. Jason Carroll has an inside peek.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: Fifty-three minutes past the hour right now. We're going to fast-forward through the stories that will be making news later today.

Michael Jackson's former doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray, is resuming normal hours, going back to work, according to his attorney, at the clinic in Houston. He also says that Murray hasn't had income in seven months because Jackson never paid him. Murray was at Jackson's home when he died in June and has been the focus of a police investigation around the singer's death.

Well, the man accused of secretly making nude photos of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews will be arraigned in the Los Angeles Federal Court today. Illinois insurance executive Michael Barrett faces one charge of interstate stalking. Prosecutors say Barrett found hotels where Andrews was staying three times last year, rented an adjacent room, altered the peephole, and then shot nude photos of the sports reporter.

At 10 a.m. Eastern, the Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association will release their 10th annual survey on how you may spend cash this holiday season. The retail industry says it's expecting a pretty big turnout, however it may not translate into a profitable shopping season overall. A poll already out says that consumers want to see discounts of at least 50 percent -- at least, before they buy.

And this plays into what we were talking about before, Christine. Is it a new consumer this year with the recession lingering, jobless rates above 10 percent in many, many parts of the country. Can people afford to spend as much as they want to?

ROMANS: Or is it the same old consumer who just can't get any more credit on those cheap plastic cards and so they can't go out and spend like they used to.

Well, the day after Thanksgiving, when it's not recession, is supposed to be a shopper's dream. But as we count down to Black Friday, those doorbusters, you know, they can make crowds go crazy.

CHETRY: That's right, because a lot of times they have a big ticket item like let's say a plasma TV, but it's only offered in limited quantities. So that's why shoppers then camp out for hours before the stores even open.

Our Susan Candiotti showed us how -- shows us how to stay safe when the crowds turn ugly.



If you plan on getting some hot deals this holiday weekend, be careful. OSHA, the agency that regulates workplace safety, has warned stores they better have their crowd controls in place to avoid a repeat of last year's fatal stampede.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): The mad dash for bargains can be funny to watch, but last Thanksgiving weekend in New York, it was horrific. A Long Island Wal-Mart security guard was trampled to death in a stampede on Black Friday, arguably the biggest shopping day of the year.

EMMANUEL MOULTRIE, 2008 BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPER: People were screaming, people coming in the store, passing out, falling out. It was -- it was a horrible sight.

CANDIOTTI: Emmanuel Moultrie took us back to that Wal-Mart. He says when the doors opened at 5:00 AM, an hour later than expected, the crowd surged forward, glass shattered, and guard Jdimytai Damour was caught in a human steamroller.

MOULTRIE: I mean, you had at least seven to eight people on top of each other. You didn't even see him. They was on top of him. And they were stuck because they were squashed -- compacted in there.

CANDIOTTI: Moultrie says he felt like he was swept up in tidal wave, trapped against a vending machine.

MOULTRIE: I said I will not hit that ground because if I hit that ground, it would have been -- I couldn't even get my arms from my side.

CANDIOTTI: Wal-Mart avoided criminal prosecution by agreeing, among other things, to improve crowd control at all New York stores. The giant retailer says it's also voluntarily instituting changes nationwide this week.

Wal-Mart declined a CNN interview. Instead, the company provided a pre-taped statement that said sports and entertainment crowd control experts gave them help.

DAPHNE MOORE, SPOKESPERSON, WAL-MART: We're committed to looking for ways to make our stores even safer for our customers and our associates this holiday season.

CANDIOTTI: Changes may include snaking lines outside and inside stores similar to airport checkpoints and scattering sales items. Some stores will remain open 24 hours starting Thanksgiving Day through the weekend, so when Black Friday sales start at 5:00 AM, shoppers can already be inside, possibly avoiding chaos.

For shoppers up before dawn for doorbuster deals at any retailer, this safety advice from police.

JOHN TIMONEY, CHIEF, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT: If you see pushing and shoving and arguing for no valid reason, you know, you know you have a potential problem right there. And if that's the case, I walk to the end of the line, let them all go in.

CANDIOTTI: Emmanuel Moultrie, who received a settlement from Wal-Mart, says he wouldn't be burned again. MOULTRIE: If you (INAUDIBLE) to a store and you see that's not -- that that behavior's not being demonstrated, you need to leave, fast. Leave fast.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): And as part of this agreement with prosecutors, Wal-Mart paid nearly $2 million to a victim's fund and a community grant. OSHA cited the retailer for exposing its employees to danger when it should have known better. In a statement, Wal-Mart says safety is always a top priority -- Kiran and Christine.


CHETRY: Susan Candiotti for us this morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: Republicans plot their attack strategy on health care reform. We're back with the top stories, the latest on health care in 90 seconds.