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CNN NEWSROOM

Payroll Tax Cut Hits Stalemate; Home Sales Even Worse than Thought; Faith Leader Asks Bachmann to Quit; Obama, Paul Surge in New Polls; Penn State Students Face Riot Charges; New Pilot Fatigue Guidelines; Care for the Dying; Special Deliveries Gone Wild

Aired December 21, 2011 - 09:00   ET

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


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: We're just crossing the top of the hour here and the clock is literally ticking on your money. Your taxes are going to go up in 10 days unless your lawmakers come to the rescue.

Yes, if they fail, however, the typical American paycheck will shrink by about $1,000 over the next year. But here's the thing, folks, both parties want this. They agree that there should be an extension of this tax holiday. The problem here is that House Republicans refuse to settle for the two-month band-aid, the two-month extension that's already been passed by the Senate. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: Our House GOP negotiators are here and ready to work with their counterparts in the Senate.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: He's not Lucy, I'm not Charlie Brown. We're not falling for that football stunt, again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: OK, Lucy and Charlie Brown? That's what we've come to now, Kate. It can be silly season up there sometimes. But it is just getting more and more silly, it seems. So is this just all for show and eventually what people want to know whether or not this is going to get done, is it?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a good question. And right now there's no clear answer, to be quite honest, as it seems both sides at the moment are more dug in than they -- than ever before. As you said, the House rejected the Senate compromise that two-month extension. The House rejected that yesterday. That compromise the Senate passed over the weekend.

Speaker Boehner was just announced he'll be meeting with the negotiators that he has appointed to kind of do -- go to conference to hash out the differences. He'll be meeting with them a little later this morning, but they will, at this point, be negotiating with themselves since Senate majority leader Harry Reid has made it clear that he will not be reopening negotiations to try to extend the payroll tax cut for a year until the House moves to pass this short- term extension of two months.

As one Democratic source put it to me, T.J., we handed the football to the House and House Republicans fumbled it. So in the meantime, both the House and the Senate, all the rest of the members, they're not in town.

HOLMES: OK. The pressure is going to have to come from somewhere. Yes, the clock is pressure, but also the American public is right now tied up into the holiday plan and family and shopping and all this stuff, but they're still paying attention to this. And when they hear their taxes are going to go up in a matter of days if something isn't done, that is real pressure. And there's also frustration.

I want you to listen or our viewers, to listen to Republican Senator John McCain and I'll ask you about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is harming the Republican Party. It is harming the view if it's possible any more of the American people about Congress and we've got to get this thing resolved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: You know, that's pressure, as well. Given that now it seems that President Obama has the upper hand when it comes to a tax issue.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's absolutely true. I mean, it's not unexpected that House Republicans are going to get heat from congressional Democrats, as well as the White House. But maybe unexpected, especially these days that House Republicans are also taking heat from not only Senator John McCain, but other Republican senators, as well, who said that the House's move yesterday to reject the Senate compromise was irresponsible.

Add to that that just this morning the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page and influential conservative voice is coming out criticizing House Republicans. Here are a couple of snippets. This says, "Given how he," that would be Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, "and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate we wonder if they might end up re- electing the president before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest."

It goes on to say, "At this stage Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday, quickly."

Still, T.J., we have to remind our viewers while miracles can happen up here in the 11th hour, there is no clear endgame in sight at the moment.

HOLMES: We're starting to use the word miracle, that's what it's going to take now, huh, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I guess so.

HOLMES: We'll check in with you again. We'll be talking to Kate and other folks in D.C. throughout the next couple of hours.

Four minutes passed the hour now, I want to turn back -- turn to the housing market now. You know how bad it's been over the past couple of years? Well, how about this? Those bad times were actually even worse than we thought.

Christine Romans, of course, part of our CNN Money team. We're learning more about the housing market and it ain't good.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it's interesting because we're getting some new information about the housing market. At 10:00 we're going to get from the National Association of Realtors, that's the big trade group, the big lobby for the housing industry. We're going to get some revisions going back to 2007.

They now say that they undercounted how many homes were sold, meaning that the bust was even worse than we thought. That's the bad news. The bust was worse than we thought. But the good news is, in the very near term, T.J., we've been seeing little signs of life in what has been an almost lifeless housing market and I'll tell you what, they're looking for new home sales up about 60,000 from October.

We're going to get those big revisions but then yesterday we also saw some new home construction, housing starts that was much stronger than anyone expected. There's activity, signs of life in condo development, and also in apartments and building permits. Also more people were asking for -- filing for building permits that they had thought, up about 6 percent there.

You get very low interest rates and you have an economy that may be slowly healing, so you're seeing a little bit of activity there. Now what I should say is about the foreclosure activity, that still remains very, very brisk, too.

You know, T.J., there are some million people who are at least 30 days late on their mortgage. Six million people right now are late on their mortgage. And in November, about almost half, about 46 percent of all homes sold in November were distressed properties. They're either short sales or they were -- you know, bank-owned properties. So you still have a lot of this foreclosure backlog to slog through. But in the next 50 minutes or so, we're going to get a better, clearer picture of just what the state of the housing market is -- T.J..

HOLMES: All right. We'll wait for it. Christine Romans, thank you. As always.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HOLMES: I want to turn back to some presidential politics, in particular happening in Iowa. This morning there are some political intrigue involving the presidential candidates and the conservative group that could have a lot of influence in the upcoming Iowa caucuses.

The president of the Family Leader is now backing long-shot Republican Rick Santorum. That's not all, though. Bob Vander Plaats asked Michele Bachmann to get out of the race. Here's what she told us on "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR, "AMERICAN MORNING": There was a big endorsement that was up for grabs in Iowa this week from the Family Leader. They didn't end up actually endorsing anyone. You know, the reports said that they did. But the Family Leader didn't. But the leader, the guy who runs it, Bob Vander Plaats, we're going to talk to him in about half an hour, did end up endorsing Rick Santorum and there are these reports -- I just want to hear from you -- that he phoned you and asked you to get out of the race?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that's true. And there'd be no reason for us to do that because we've always polled above Rick Santorum. Plus, the momentum has shifted tremendously this last week after the last debate. We -- I also have the endorsement of the former leader of the Family Leader Council and I have the endorsement of the head of Concerned Women for America here in Iowa, as well as over 100 pastors.

I have probably the strongest level of support of any other candidates here among the evangelical community in Iowa and we had a caravan of pastors traveling across Iowa last week letting people know that I am the best candidate on these issues. So we have a very widespread level of support plus, Glenn Beck has said that he would be voting for me. So we have a lot of support all across Iowa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Let me bring in our Shannon Travis, new resident in Des Moines. He has been there covering this for quite some time.

Shannon, this sounds like -- this back and forth sounds like there's real concern that some of these -- Christian conservative candidates are going to start to split some of that vote in Iowa, it might leave an opening for somebody like Mitt Romney, and that would make a lot of them happy.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: And that's exactly the point, T.J.. These conservatives are very concerned about two things. One, they want to beat President Obama, no secret there. But they also want to oust Mitt Romney, keep him away, deny him the Republican presidential nomination.

So to that end, they are basically trying to rally around who they feel is one conservative candidate in the Republican race that could take Romney on. And that's really what most of this is about. Vander Plaats going to Michele Bachmann according to her and her campaign and ask her to either merge her campaign with another or to altogether drop out.

Now we want to note that Bob Vander Platt says that he didn't exactly ask Michele Bachmann to drop out and he basically had a conversation with her and other candidates around this idea, again, of picking one candidate, coalescing around one candidate and to take on Mitt Romney and -- so that conservatives can support -- T.J..

HOLMES: All right. Shannon, we're going to check in with you again, but he's our guy in Des Moines. He's been in Iowa for quite some time. Knows what's happening there. Thank you so much. We'll see you again.

And a new CNN poll showing all this is going on the Republican side, the president's numbers are on the rise.

Our deputy political director Paul Steinhauser here with me now. This is some good news. They have been waiting on these numbers to bounce back a bit, and what's behind it?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I think what's behind it what you were talking to Kate Bolduan about. That battle on Capitol Hill between the Democrats and Republicans over extending that payroll tax cut.

You know, I think the Democrats and the president are getting the better of this political battle. Take a look at this. This is the approval rating for the president. And look where it is right now, T.J.. Look where it was last month. Forty-nine percent up from 44 percent. The disapproval, down six points from 54 percent to 48 percent.

We look at this number, the approval rating, a lot. It's an indicator of, you know, the president's re-election chances and go to the next number, as well. This is interesting, as well. These are hypothetical matchups. The president versus some of the leading Republicans. Look at this one, the president versus Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and look where it stands right now. The president with a seven-point lead in a hypothetical matchup.

Last month, look at that. Romney had a four-point margin. In the other matchups, as well, you see the president gaining strength.

But T.J., remember, the election 11 months away.

One more number I want to share with you. This is brand new out of Iowa. This is Iowa State/Gazette/KCRG poll. Remember, we're less than two weeks away now from the caucuses. Look at this. Ron Paul on top spot at 28 percent, Gingrich at 25 percent, Mitt Romney at 18 percent, Rick Perry, the Texas governor at 11 percent.

Thirteen days to go, T.J., in Iowa. Who knows how it's going to end up.

HOLMES: All right. Paul Steinhauser, with the latest numbers for us. We thank you, as always. Our next political political update is coming your way in one hour. And a reminder, for all the latest political news, you know the spot, CNNPolitics.com.

Eleven minutes past the hour now. Let me turn to some weather and a blizzard that's hammered the Central Rockies and Southern Plains. Tapered off of it but several states are bracing for heavy snow today. Winter storm conditions shut down highways in five states and reports say at least seven traffic deaths are being blamed on the weather.

Our Rob Marciano is here.

Rob, a lot of people traveling this week.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

HOLMES: A lot of people, taken to the skies, taken to the roads. People want a white Christmas, but it can get ridiculous.

MARCIANO: And you know, it's catch 22. You try to bring them a white Christmas and the folks who are traveling don't like it so much.

HOLMES: Yes.

(WEATHER REPORT)

MARCIANO: T.J., in a few minutes, we're going to talk about the two planets that NASA discovered yesterday or announced that they discovered.

HOLMES: OK.

MARCIANO: More on that later in the program.

HOLMES: Got some life out there? Did they find life yet? Hit me up when they find the life. All right?

MARCIANO: Might be a while.

HOLMES: All right. Rob, thanks. We'll see you here in a minute.

Well, we're 13 minutes past the hour. Penn State students heading home for the semester. You know they're wrapping up now heading home for break, but the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal, certainly still on a lot of people's minds. We're going to be talking about the healing process and how the break could help them.

We'll be talking to the student body president, that's next.

Also ahead, this was a story that just made me sad when I heard it this morning. And a lot of you all have been reacting to it, as well. This should never have to happen. A U.S. soldier has to pawn his Purple Heart for some extra cash. However, the medal will not be for sale. It's just going to wait for him there. We'll explain. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Well, at 16 minutes past the hour.

Give you a look at some of the stories making news across country.

Ten Amish men and two Amish women have been indicted in federal court in Ohio on hate crime charges. Samuel Mullet Sr. leaves a breakaway Amish group police say he and other suspects held down several other Amish men and women, and cut off their beards and hair.

Also in Michigan, a U.S. soldier on leave from Afghanistan needed some extra cash for the holidays. So he pawned one of his two Purple Hearts. Several people heard about this story and now called that pawnshop and even gone into the pawnshop asking to buy it so they can give it back to the soldier. The pawnshop's owner, however, said it's not for sale. He's keeping it on display and said he will keep it safe until the soldier comes back for it.

Also, Vernon Macklin of the Detroit Pistons is playing Santa Claus in Virginia. He grew up there and said he had to go without Christmas gifts on a few occasions when he was a child, didn't want that to happen at kids at this preschool, so they all got gifts. And you can see their reaction there.

Well, let's turn now, 30 Penn State students going to court today facing charges relating to last month's riot in State College. The students took to the streets after the board of trustees announced the firing of head coach Joe Paterno. In some crowd flipped over a news van. You're seeing some of that video here.

Paterno, you'll remember, was fired amid the whole Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

T.J. Bard appealed, I should say, for calm after that rioting. The undergrad student body president is joining us, once again, joins us via Skype this time around.

Good to have you back with us. Good to check in with you.

We talked so much about the campus coming together and students needing to lean on each other to heal. But now, you're coming up on this Christmas break.

I mean, how much of this you may need to get away from each other and get away from campus and get away from it all a little bit?

T.J. BARD, PENN STATE STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT: Yes, this break is really, really crucial for the students at Penn State. It's been great have each other up on campus in the State College community, to lean on one another through all of this. But I think so much of it now is being able to be home, be with our families, be out of that bubble that is Penn State up in State College and really reflect on what has happened and start the steps to move further towards closure and moving forward as a student body, again.

HOLMES: T.J., how do you think families and friends back home can help in that healing process? Do you imagine a lot of people want to go home and continue to talk about it, maybe just a different group of folks? Or just want to go home and forget about it for a little bit?

BARD: I think it's kind of both ways. I think it depends on the student. I know up at school we encouraged a lot of conversations to go on between students. I think that's the best way for us to really kind of think through what has happened and really just help each other in the healing process.

And I think going home, I know, me personally I have sat down and had conversations with my family. It's been really, really important to have their support and their guidance and they bring unique perspective on it because they weren't up in State College and they weren't at Penn State when all of this were happening. So, they have an outsider's perspective, which is really a beneficial thing, too.

So, I have been urging the students to do what's best for them. If it's talking with their friends and family at home, definitely do that. Or just kind of sneaking away and just forgetting about it as much as they can. That's also a very good approach to it.

HOLMES: Do you fear the university will forever be tarnished in that when people hear Penn State they'll react negatively? Of course, they can get over that over time, but is there a fear that people will forever associate something negative with Penn State University and even that symbolic Nittany Lion?

BARD: I really hope not. I think it's obviously a fear for a lot of students, but I'm really encouraged by the support of the entire nation that has really put a lot of their weight behind the students and the alumni that they know that this isn't a reflection of Penn State in general. It's just the actions of a few.

And I think we had 157 years of history at Penn State, of great things, great accomplishments and I hope that the world really sees that and not the scandal that has transpired the past month and a half.

HOLMES: All right. T.J. Bard, another step in that process of healing on that university for the campus, for those students, in particular. But you enjoy that holiday break and I'm sure I'll talk to you down the road.

BARD: Thanks, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. We're 20 minutes past the hour now.

We're going to turn to airline travel. A lot of passengers concerned about just how their pilot is feeling. Of course, well, after a lot of delays and a lot of airline opposition, the government is now set to issue new rules on pilot fatigue. We're talking to an aviation safety expect to see what the new rules could be and could they help us all.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Well, every now and then, you hear about a commercial pilot stopped at security or pulled out of the cockpit for being drunk. You don't often hear about tired pilots being grounded. A fatigued flight crew is actually more common and just as dangerous.

But today, the FAA will announce new guidelines on pilot fatigue. Something the airline has actually been fighting for years.

Todd Curtis is an aviation safety analyst and founder of airsafe.com.

We have been waiting a few years on these guidelines. We'll get to them here shortly. What took so long?

TODD CURTIS, FOUNDER, AIRSAFE.COM: Well, it takes a long time to work these things off because in the aviation world. You can't change one rule, one procedure without affecting a lot of others. And this is something the government and industry had to work out over time.

HOLMES: Are we going to see something groundbreaking here, or is this just going to be another step in the process and we'll continue to reevaluate and maybe some more changes are coming down the road?

CURTIS: This is revolutionary change.

HOLMES: Yes.

CURTIS: They're not making a change in the amount of rest, for example, a pilot would have. They would do things like coordinate the rules between different types of flying. So, they'll be less confusion on the part of pilots and on airlines as to what constitutes a rest period.

HOLMES: OK. What can we expect to see here, though? Suggestions that they'll just add to the amount of time the pilot has to rest between shifts. I mean, what are we expecting here?

Like you said, not going to be anything major here today.

CURTIS: No, but what you just said is pretty much one of the major features of this. That is that there will be an increased period of rest before a pilot has to report for duty. They'll be differences in the rules as to what constitutes duty time that a pilot can fly or can, for example, operate a simulator or other things that are not going to be very obvious to the passengers.

HOLMES: Why would the airlines fight this?

CURTIS: It's a money thing. When you schedule pilots, that is if you do something that requires more time between flights. In the long run, it means that more pilots have to be hired, more pilots have to be on standby, and more facilities possibly may have to be built to accommodate the increased number of pilots on staff.

HOLMES: All right. Todd Curtis, we will wait for these announcements to come down. I believe we're just about a half hour plus away from this. We'll talk to you, again. Thanks so much.

CURTIS: Thank you.

HOLMES: Well, 2011 may go down in history as the year of people power from the Occupy movement in the U.S., to the Arab Spring in the Mideast. We're looking back at protests worldwide.

Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Well, 2011 draws to a close, the year might be best remembered for protests around the globe. From the Arab Spring in the Middle East, to the Occupy movement in the U.S.

Our Zain Verjee looks back at the moments that we captured that captured our attention. Some of these images, we do want to warn you, are graphic, however.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the year of people power, of revolution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something I've never seen before, a phalanx of men on horseback and on camels.

VERJEE: And bloodshed that doomed dictators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one's going home. No one is going to go home. We're in this until the end, even if it means we're going to die.

VERJEE: It started with one man in one country, Tunisia who set himself on fire when the police confiscated his fruit cart, leaving him with no way to make money. That set off a movement that kicked out long-time president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

A region was gripped with freedom fever fueled by social media, protests erupt in Algeria and then Yemen.

Its leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, seriously injured when his palace was shelled, left the country for treatment, returned, and later gave up power.

Protests in Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan.

Egyptians filled Tahrir Square in the center of Cairo protesting for weekes.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "AC 360": These protests have gone on all day long. It's now almost 5:00 in the afternoon and two hours after curfew has begun. But, still, the square is packed with people and these protests will likely go well into the night.

VERJEE: Their demand, long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak has to go.

By February, he was gone.

REPORTER: Did you ever imagine this would be happening in Egypt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One month ago, I would never imagine. And for me, I'm a young man, and I always believed that my generation would never make any history.

VERJEE: The Arab Spring then hits Libya. The oppositions galvanize to get rid of Moammar Gadhafi.

NATO launches air support, the country becomes a war zone. Tripoli eventually falls.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is an important day especially for the rebels who Gadhafi said would never be able to break his spirit, will never be able to take the city.

VERJEE: Eight bloody months later, the tyrant was dead.

The world's attention now focused on Syria, will it be the next domino to fall? Even with the brutal crackdown of the regime, demonstrators are on the streets.

According to the U.N., at least 5,000 have been killed since March.

Some fight for their freedom, others protest for bread and butter.

In Europe, thousands demonstrate, angry at tough economic conditions. Furious protesters in Greece battle with riot police for weeks against pay cuts and layoffs.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is called a suicide earlier on by the Bank of Greece governor. He said if we don't pass this, the country's gone.

VERJEE: In England, peaceful protests turned ugly. Discontented youth fought with police and looted and destroyed parts of the city.

In September, the Occupy Wall Street movements started in New York and soon gripped major capitals around the world, condemning the wealthiest 1 percent for leaving the other 99 percent out in the cold.

And by December, a glimpse of people power in Russia, thousands marched, rejecting election results favoring Vladimir Putin's party frustrated, too, with corruption and economic stagnation.

2011 shattered and rattled the political orders of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will send shockwaves throughout the region.

VERJEE: Setting in motion a wave of discontent, the promises to watch and to the years to come.

Zain Verjee, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Give you a look at some of the stories making headlines.

The House has adjourned for its holiday break with no vote on the Senate passed two-month extension of the payroll tax cut. With no further action by lawmakers, the tax cut will expire in ten days. In other words, your taxes will go up in 10 days unless something is done.

Also, the U.S. has been in contact with North Korea's government since Kim Jong Il's death. State Department says the talks mostly focused on possible U.S. food aid to the country.

And a Russian spacecraft blasted off today, headed for the International space station. The three-member crew includes a U.S. and European astronaut and Russian cosmonaut.

But, that's not the space news we are really concerned about.

Today, is it -- let me go ahead and bring in Rob Marciano to explain this to me. We have found a couple of earths. All right?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROGOLIST: Earth-like planets.

HOLMES: Earth-like, OK.

MARCIANO: You know, this Kepler mission which is a telescope outside of earth has the ability to see light and changes in light has discovered a few planets and been making news, really, the last couple of weeks. This is the rendition of this particular solar system, which has about five planets and a couple of them, namely we're calling them Kepler 20E and Kepler 20F, not very creative, I know.

But the big news with this is that both of them are very close to the earth in size -- 20E is smaller than Venus and 20F is actually the closest as far as the size of earth is concerned.

Let's start with 20F. It's a little bit bigger than earth and that's got folks excited. It's a little bit farther away from that solar system sun or star, but it's really close. It only takes about 20 days for it to go around.

So, the temperature is 800 degrees. That's a little bit toasty. You're not going to find a whole lot of life there.

Kepler 20E is even closer, and because it's closer, the gravitational force, I think there's a lot of volcanic activity in there, probably not a whole lot of atmospheric action going on.

By the way, these are artist renditions. So, this is what we think it looks like. It's not necessarily what it looks like, slightly warmer than the earth -- yes, you better believe it. Temperature over 1,400 degrees. It is slightly smaller than the earth.

So, we don't think these particular planets have life as we know it. The deal is the last time Kepler made news had an earth-like planet that was in the habitable zone. Just close enough from the sun. These are the right size, but a little too close.

We're looking for the Goldilocks and that's when I can call you, T.J., and say, we probably found some life.

HOLMES: Little on the warm side on this, too?

MARCIANO: Yes. Bring your bikini.

HOLMES: All right, Rob, thank you, as always.

We're about 35 minutes past the hour now. I know Rob is going to stick around for this. We got some Snooki news.

Snooki sued. Now, the company she separated ways with earlier this year is now suing her for $7 million.

Your showbiz headline on the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATHER KNIGHT, ROBOTICIST: My name is Heather Knight and I'm a social roboticist. Social roboticist is someone that makes robot that can interact with people in a human way.

When I tell people that I make robots, they're usually like, oh, wow, that's really cool. And when I tell people I make social robots -- usually they're a little bit confused at first and I found the best way to talk about what I actually do is by example.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Well, 38 minutes past the hour now, and one of the "Real Housewives" is now going from reality star to actress.

Let me bring in our entertainment correspondent Kareen Wynter. She is in L.A. for us.

Kareen, hello to you. And is it fair to say all those housewives shows and all the housewives, this one that maybe has gained the most fame and notoriety of all?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And she always brings the drama, so maybe she'll bring the ratings in and people will tune in. We are talking about the show, "Glee." And, T.J., they always seem to get the best guest stars. We've seen Gwyneth Paltrow, we've seen Christian Chenoweth, Britney Spears on the show and now, yes, Nene Leakes. She's going to play a swim coach at McKinley High.

People are going to be tuning for that. Chris Colfer called for Lea Michele. They broke the news during an appearance on Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live."

So, we'll have to see, T.J., how Nene's character gets along with Sue Sylvester, the rest of the McKinley faculty. Hopefully, you know, they mesh a whole lot better than Nene and some of his "Celebrity Apprentice" stars.

And the show hopes that she can help fight off declining ratings. They dipped a little bit. "Glee" still doing well but lost a quarter of its audience last season. So, Nene, she's going to be on there.

HOLMES: All right. So, let's go from one notorious reality star to another. Snooki, the news not so good for her.

WYNTER: Yes, well, this is not good news at all. This is actually a countersuit that we're talking about Snooki and SRG Ventures. They were supposed to team up, T.J., and produced a slew of Snooki-related merchandise.

But in October, well, Snooki sued to get out of the deal. She wanted to have nothing to do it. Saying SRG didn't hold up their end of the deal, in terms of all these branding opportunities that they were talking about.

And now, SRG -- well, they're planning on suing Snooki for that $7 million because, T.J., they say she cheated on them by negotiating with other brands behind their back. It's getting pretty nasty here.

According to "New York Post" which broke the story, SRG, they lined up deals to sell Snooki-style shoes, watches, lingerie. And, T.J., get this, school supplies. Snooki does say she wants to get her degree in veterinary science.

HOLMES: Stop it.

WYNTER: I'm not making this up. I'm telling you, school supplies. Wouldn't that be an interesting items for students as they're whipping out Snooki pencils, she's no idol.

But before we bash her, she wants to get her degree in veterinary science. So, maybe she's smarter than we all think.

HOLMES: OK.

WYNTER: School supplies, I don't know how much of a branding opportunity that would have been.

HOLMES: As we se this video of her in a ring fighting. Nothing says education like Snooki, right?

Kareen, always good to see you. Thank you, as always.

WYNTER: Thank you, T.J.

HOLMES: You might want more information on everything breaking in the entertainment world. Make sure you watch our folks on "Showbiz Tonight," 11:00, on HLN.

Christmas not too far away, but, still, coming a little early for two little brothers. Santa is right there when their one wish comes true. You need to see this, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Give you a look at now of the stories making news across country.

Jews around the world celebrating Hanukkah. Group gathered near the White House to light the national menorah. The tradition gets back to 1979 when Jimmy Carter was president.

Also, I know you just ordered something online, sending that expensive gift to somebody for Christmas and this is how it's going to be delivered. Whoop, yes, you see that. This video uploaded on YouTube shows a FedEx delivery guy tossing, of all things a computer monitor, over the gate and, look at this, yes, that's in southern California.

The customer posted this video to YouTube says that computer monitor was broken when he opened it. Well, you don't say. FedEx tells CNN it has taken disciplinary action against that employee.

Oh, look at the little guys. Two little boys they got what they were asking Santa for at the time. They were asking for mommy. Army Reserve Captain Dawn McCracken Bruce surprised her two-year-old and four-year-old sons. This was at a mall, as you see yesterday. She had just returned from duty in Iraq.

And in honor of the holidays, CNN is highlighting acts of generosity for our "Giving in Focus" series. Today we look at hospice care and the dedicated folks who provide it. Our photo journalist Barry Schlegel followed a hospice volunteer in Maryland as she cared for her dying patient.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BONNIE BENEDICT, HOSPICE VOLUNTEER: It's me. Hi.

If I do more in-patient care where you go into people's homes and usually give the caregiver a break.

It's too early for your pills. With each patient it's different. You just have to find out what they're comfortable with.

What do you want to do today? How about your nails?

With Joyce it's that she's not alone in this journey that she's on.

Give me your hand. Which one should we start on?

People are there for her and care about her and want to make her life easier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good afternoon, Montgomery Hospice. Can I help you?

CHRISTIANE WIESE, DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER SERVICE, MONTGOMERY HOSPICE: And I'm looking for volunteers who don't look for fame, who don't look for being important, who don't look for being wanting to be loved. We're looking for somebody who is truly wanting to give back and understand that the person they meet will die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need the oxygen.

BONNIE: You need oxygen, ok.

For many patients, it is the last friend they make in their life.

JOYCE OXLEY: It's people like Bonnie that will bend over backwards and do things for me.

BENEDICT: I now look at death differently as being a part of the whole life process. And I don't think I understood that until I started doing hospice work.

OXLEY: Yes. Wonderful relationship.

BENEDICT: Life is a journey and death is the end of that journey. What we're doing is trying to, as we say in hospice, gentle the journey.

OXLEY: I wouldn't have made it this far without her tender loving care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: You can catch CNN's "GIVING IN FOCUS" special 4:30 Eastern Christmas Day that's hosted by our Tom Foreman.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Well checking some other stories that will be making news today.

At 1:30 Eastern a memorial marking the 23rd anniversary of the bombing of the Pan AM Flight 103 will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.

And then at 2:00 Eastern Time police in Maine will give an update about the search for a 20-month-old girl who's been missing since Friday.

Now also at 2:00 Eastern the Environmental Protection Agency plans to make a quote, "significant announcement". They're expected to give new restrictions on mercury pollution in the air.

And as we get close to the top of the hour we're following lots of developments in the CNN NEWSROOM. Let's check in with our folks; let's start with Kate Bolduan.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there T.J. Well, the latest twist in this payroll tax fight the House has rejected the Senate's short-term extension and the pressure is mounting on Congress, specifically on Republicans. So where does the steering contest go next? I'll have more at the top of the hour.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I'm Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. We hear an awful lot about hazing and bullying, but in the war zone with U.S. troops bullying and hazing each other, a young soldier apparently sent right over the edge. I'll have details coming up.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Alina Cho in New York. He's not a Hollywood star but he is one of the best known names on the planet. He's Bill Clinton. My one-on-one with the former president in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: All right, Alina, you just like us Arkansans don't you. All right, Alina, Barbara and Kate I'll see you all at the top of the next hour. Thanks so much.

Also coming up next hour, someone just invested mega-millions in Twitter. And a lot of people are ticked off because of who in particular it is. We'll explain the conversation coming your way. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Jeff, too many bowls. There are too many bowls.

JEFF FISCHEL, HLN SPORTS: There are a lot of them.

HOLMES: Everybody gets to play.

FISCHEL: If you're breaking a record you're in a ball game.

HOLMES: Just like when you're a little kid, everybody says, yes, we're all winners.

FISCHEL: Yes. And we're learning the bowl names are pretty funky.

HOLMES: Ok. What have you got. FISCHEL: We know about the BCS Bowl, there's the Sugar, the Rose, the Orange; we know those ones. But before you get to January you have to get through some whacky bowl names and sponsorships.

There's the famous Idaho Potato Bowl; they played that one on the Blue Field in Boise. Here's a mouthful, the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl; that's tonight. Bell Helicopter sponsors the Armed Forces Bowl which makes for a long name. And then there's the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman.

And if you haven't heard of the restaurant chain Beef O' Brady's then the Beef O' Brady's bowl sounds really odd. Marshall and Florida International in fact battling it out in the Beef O' Brady's Bowl last night. Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato deep for Andre Dobson. He makes the great catch touchdown. Marshall wins. 20-10. The Thundering Herd are your Beef o' Brady's Bowl champions. They're on the menu too.

Derek Rose is getting a big present under his tree. A new $95 million contract for the reigning NBA MVP. The "Chicago Tribune" says the Bulls will make it official later today. Rose looked great last night in a pre-season win against the Pacers feeding teammates and scoring on his own.

Jay Leno is glad the NBA and Rose are back. And he's giving Kobe Bryant a hard time about his divorce.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: Well, a lot of big basketball news happening right now. Chris Paul moved to the clippers. Lamar Odom has moved to the Mavericks. Kobe Bryant moving into a studio apartment. You know, it's everywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FISCHEL: That's cold.

HOLMES: It is.

FISCHEL: That's cold.

HOLMES: What do you do?

FISCHEL: All right. That's sports.

HOLMES: Jeff, good to see you as always brother.

All right. We're getting close to the top of the hour. If you're expecting something special delivered to your home this week, take a look at this first from Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 'Tis the season for packages. And next time you open one intact, be grateful this didn't happen to it. This was a computer monitor tossed over a gate in southern California by a FedEx delivery man. But then the surveillance camera video was delivered to YouTube and made the news.

And now FedEx is saying, "We have seen the video and, frankly, we were all shocked." But that's not the only drop-off memorialized on YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Handle with care. Yes, just like that.

Ground service. I get it. Ground. You throw the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on the ground.

MOOS: And it's not just FedEx.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can brown do for you?

MOOS: UPS Brown can toss your package underhand. It can toss it overhand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that.

MOOS: It can toss it like a horse shoe. Fences and gates are the delivery man's nemesis. As a driver posted from a delivery point of view, gates are hostile. Don't like it, get rid of the gate. The guys videoing this UPS delivery man compared his technique to loading garbage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think there is anything that is going to be damaged in there? No.

MOOS: It could be worse, at least they're not Ace Ventura. Of all the special deliveries we saw, none was more special than this by FedEx. There were sparks coming off the box and the man who was shooting --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy has no idea that he's pushing an oven.

MOOS: As for the computer monitor heaved over the gate, the person who posted it says the monitor was broken and it's sad because he was home at the time if the delivery man had just rung the bell.

(on camera): I'm sure what you're probably wondering is, does this guy still have a job?

(voice-over): FedEx tells CNN, we have ID'd the employee involved. He is being handled according to our internal disciplinary policies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Federal Express, when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

MOOS: They said "overnight", not in one piece. But now that everyone has a camera, it doesn't pay for the delivery elves to get sloppy.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)