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Final Vote on Health Care Reform; Family Doctor Shortage; Grading President Obama; A Father's Victory; Saving Orphaned Elephants

Aired December 23, 2009 - 23:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again. Thanks for being with us. I'm Erica Hill in for Anderson Cooper.

Tonight, history in Washington and high drama, as a final vote approaches on health care reform, we'll look at what it took to get this far, what it may take to pass the final legislation and what reform may do to an already weak link in the system, your family doctor.

Also tonight, he is coming home, but after five years in a foreign country with his mother's family, how tough will it be for 9- year-old Sean Goldman to adjust to life in New Jersey with his dad? We're "Digging Deeper".

And a bit later, by popular demand, more of the best of 360, this time with some extra snaky goodness.

First up tonight, though: the countdown to final passage for health care reform in the Senate. After almost a year of debate, months of horse-trading and weeks of bitter partisan wrangling, senators are now staying at work until Christmas Eve for the first time since 1963.

They are sticking around to do something their predecessors have tried and failed to do for nearly 100 years running: pass legislation giving nearly every American access to health care. The time for that, 7:00 a.m. tomorrow.

The "Raw Politics" from Jessica Yellin, who joins us after a day that's already seen lawmakers cast seven votes. Jessica, why seven votes today?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Because that is the Senate style, isn't it? Nothing is simple. So, Erica, most of those votes were Republican efforts to try and stop this health care bill, challenge it on issues ranging from spending to what they consider unfunded mandates, even the constitutionality of the very bill.

Bottom line, the Republicans were making a last-ditch effort to drive home their message that this bill in their view is too costly, grows government too much. But all their votes failed. So now, the Democrats have cleared this path to this biggest and historic vote tomorrow.

HILL: And they did, but there was still a little bit of drama surrounding that timing yet again, which I thought we had finally cleared up once and for all yesterday, apparently not. So what was the drama today with the time movement?

YELLIN: Again, nothing simple. In the midst of their series of these seven votes, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that that 8 a.m. vote they agreed to after much haggling would actually happen at 7 a.m.

Now, these Democrats and Republicans are exhausted and when he said it was going to happen at 7:00, one Democratic senator let out a yelp, basically as sigh of exhaustion that they'd have to wake up an extra hour early to go vote for it.

So Democrats then asked Republicans will you agree to holding the vote tonight, now instead? Republicans huddled but you could see John McCain shaking his head no. This is just a sign of the measure of partisan acrimony that is there right now and it's also a sign of their intense exhaustion. It's been epic.

HILL: Yes, and exhaustion for you, too, we should put out, because you've been working this story nonstop. So what's next at this point after the 7:00 a.m. vote?

YELLIN: Right. What we are going to see next is a big fight. After passage, there will be a fight between Pelosi, Reid and the White House. They call it a negotiation. Essentially, the House version of this bill is very different from the Senate version. They have to merge these bills.

And the question is what will each side give up? Democrats in the House now privately say today they realize they do probably have to give up the public option. That's a big give from liberals, but there are other fights, the abortion language, how to pay for it.

And now, the House is going public, saying to reporters, look, we're not going to suck it up and just accept what the Senate passed so tough negotiating ahead. Expect the White House to get very involved in final negotiations once they're back in the New Year. This thing is far from done -- Erica.

HILL: Far from done and House members already huddling on a conference call today they started talking that out as I understand. Jessica thanks.

President Obama likes to point out that we are all paying to care for the uninsured, with or without a reform bill. It happens every single day in emergency rooms around the country. Covering more people, he says, will lighten that load by enabling them to see and to afford a primary care doctor, but there is a catch here.

Take a look at these figures from the American Association -- the Association of American Medical Colleges rather, which shows we're currently 16,000 primary care physicians short of the number needed in this country -- 16,000 family doctors short. That gap, as you can see, is expected to grow to 46,000 by 2025, just 15 years from now. And that is before health care reform pumps another 31 million patients into the system.

I asked 360 MD, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, about this earlier tonight. Here's his take.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The real goal here is not to simply get people more cards, more health insurance cards, but to actually get them care. And if they can't get a doctor, in this case a primary care doctor, who's going to be the first step, that's really going to mean that that's going to be hard for them to get the care that they need. So they got the card but not the care.

Here is what's interesting, Erica, Massachusetts, in some way is a model for this, because they, since 2006, have tried some similar programs. And I was curious about how it was working in Massachusetts.

And I asked Governor Romney, I sat down and asked him specifically about that and why ERs were just as crowded as ever before. Here is what he said.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: I think you have to measure the onset of swine flu and of other conditions. I know doctors are busy giving people primary care and that's an encouraging thing. I don't believe for a minute that the people are going to say let's go back to a system where we have 500,000 or 600,000 people without insurance. That's the wrong direction.


GUPTA: And it is interesting, Erica, because what he's really saying there is that the first step is to get the access, to really address the access issue, 96 percent now incidentally in Massachusetts.

And then, you know, work on some of these other important points, get more doctors and make sure people don't have to go to the emergency room to get their care. But that was 2006. And you know, three, almost four years later now, they're still working on that. It's a process.

HILL: Right, and that shortage seems to be growing. So, what is there in the bill? They say there are some elements here that are actually going to address the shortage.

GUPTA: Well, you know, you have 27,000 or so roughly every year medical graduates and about 6,000 of them go into primary care. Many would say those ratios should be reversed, you know, and you should have more going into primary care and less going into subspecialties, but that's the system as it evolved.

Some of those has to do with pay. Primary care doctors get paid less and there's been less incentives over the years and those disincentives have built up.

There are some things in the bill that could help. For example, there are some loan forgiveness programs, particularly designed for people who go into primary care. Medicare reimbursements for primary care physicians is going to be a bit higher.

HILL: Yes and some of the reasons you give there, one of the main ones, when you look at what a primary care physician makes versus a specialist, for a lot of people coming out of school, that's why they're specializing, because they are coming out of school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans that they have to pay back.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, there are people who potentially can be in debt their entire lives if they go into one of the primary care specialties.

HILL: Right and part of the problem with care and you pointed this out a little bit, too, is that a lot of people, will just in turn, go straight to the emergency room. There was talk, as you just mentioned about changing that idea and changing that thought process.

So, how do you go about doing that to encourage people instead to go to see a doctor?

GUPTA: Yes, well, a lot of it starts, obviously, before people get sick in the first place; so, trying to keep people healthy. And that's something that we've heard over and over again with regard to health care reform. Can we create a prevention society as opposed to a disease -- taking care of diseased society? That's the first step. But still, there's going to be people who have accidents, they're going to have emergencies and all that.

What was really striking about Massachusetts was that the ERs are probably as crowded if not more crowded than they were back in 2006. So people have the card now and maybe thinking more about their health but they're showing up again at the emergency room because they can't get a doctor.

What's also interesting here is that, you know, out of these 31 million people, Erica, a lot of them are these young invincibles. They're people who really haven't thought about their health, they are immortal in their own minds in many ways. And as a result, they predict that the increased burden on the primary care system as a result of adding these 31 million people may only be in the single digits as far as percentage.

HILL: Interesting.

GUPTA: So, you know, four to nine percent because a lot of them, even though they have the card now, still may not see the doctor.

HILL: Right.

GUPTA: And that's another thing that has to be encouraged.

HILL: And you mentioned the rates of people going to the emergency room in Massachusetts and how they have gone up a little bit. But could that be, too, that some people are thinking, well, now that I have coverage, I know that I can go?

GUPTA: I think so. Absolutely. And that could explain why the numbers have gone up a little bit. But also this idea that when we went there and spent some time in Massachusetts and just going and talking to these patients, why are you here? You have a sprained wrist or have something, that could have probably been seen by a primary care doc, but hearing four to five weeks of waiting...

HILL: Wow.

GUPTA: ... and that's if they can even get an appointment in the first place. Many of them, despite the fact that they've had the card for three years, still don't have a primary care doctor assigned to them. So, you know, it's just difficult for many people.

HILL: That it is; a lot of hurdles still to overcome.

Sanjay, always good to have you help us work this out, though. Thanks.

GUPTA: Happy holidays, Erica.


HILL: As always, you can let us know what you think by joining the live chat now under way at I'm about to log on.

Up next, presidential priorities: how has President Obama done when it comes to meeting his three biggest goals, among them health care? The president gave himself a B-plus lately but what grade will David Gergen and the rest of our panel give him?


HILL: If health care reform passes the senate tomorrow and then makes it into law, President Obama will make history. But monumental as universal health care may be, it is not the only big item on his agenda. This president has promised a lot and people expect a lot.

Nearly a year into his administration, we wanted to know, is he living up to expectations? Tom Foreman has got some answers for us tonight and the "Raw Politics." Hi, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erica. Let's start with the issue that looms above all others, for better or worse, the economy. The president promised big improvements, so let's look at the key indicators here. Unemployment started this year at about 7.6 percent. Now it is at 10. Home losses, they are much worse than they were last year, says more than 300,000 foreclosures each month, nine months in a row.

Bank failures, more than 140 have closed. But the president said fixing all this would take time and in fairness, he did inherit many of these problems from George Bush. And there are signs of improvement, especially in the stock market, which has clawed its way back up over the 10,000 mark -- Erica.

HILL: But Tom, ok, so that's -- that's the signature issue. We want to look at the signature issue, rather, health care reform. What about here?

FOREMAN: Yes, again, he promised a lot and he's delivering some of it, in fairness, a health care reform law by the end of the year. The timing? No. That's not going to happen. And even if he gets to sign it in the next month or so, well, it's going to be a mixed bag.

The government option, also known as the public option, which he wanted early on, appears to be a long shot if it has any shot at all.

Coverage for all Americans and other promised there, no. The estimates vary on, how many people will remain uninsured, but certainly it will be millions. Still, health care reform has never made it this far before and it does present a fundamental change for health care coverage in America. So, still big hurdles but a lot of progress, too -- Erica.

HILL: And what about in terms of progress, the issue that so many people at one point thought would really decide the elections, that would be the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan?

FOREMAN: Yes, absolutely. The president said he would increase the number of troops in Afghanistan. He has and he continues to do so. He also said we have all of the combat troops out of Iraq by the summer of 2010. That depends on what you define as a combat troop, how he's going to do all that. In any event, he has planned the withdrawal and he's pretty much followed the blueprint laid out by President Bush, which has angered some of his liberal supporters who wanted a much more ambitious withdrawal -- Erica.

HILL: And so it begins looking back at the first year.

Tom Foreman thanks.

We want to take a look at "Strategy" now, with senior political analyst David Gergen, a political contributor and Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez. We're also joined tonight with Tanya Acker, who worked in the White House counsel's office during the Clinton administration and currently writes for the Huffington Post.

It's good to have you all with us.

I want to start with David. And I'll start this with you, the president giving an interview to PBS. Here's what he had to say about health care reform.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, when you look at the criteria that I set forth this is a good deal. Now, are there provisions here, provisions there that I would love to have in the bill? Of course, but overall, I think that I've seen 95 percent of what will work for the American people, for small businesses and for the government budget that I was seeking from the beginning.


HILL: So now begins the fun part for our panel tonight. We're going to let you grade the president.

David, would you give him as high a grade on this as the president appears to be giving himself?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'd certainly give him high marks on the politics of this and political leadership. He sometimes led from behind, not out front. But Barack Obama has done something no other president has ever done. That is, he's gotten, you know, universal access through the House and he's about to get it through the Senate and very likely, he's going to have a bill.

It's on the substance where I think that I would give him lower marks. Some of the savings that are promised here seem almost fantastical. They are fictional. It's just hard to believe that Congress will have the courage to do what it's promising to do.

And beyond that, bending the cost curve, getting the costs of health care under control. I think most of us think that that's simply not here in a serious way, a lot of experiments. But I must tell you, my wife and I are proud parents of a daughter, Katherine, who is a primary care doctor here in Massachusetts.

And I can just tell you that in her medical school class most of the students could not go into primary care because they did not have scholarship help. They've built up all these debts. They wanted to go there, it's a more idealistic role in many ways, but they simply couldn't afford to do it and this bill does not seriously address that issue.

HILL: And that's one of the things we talked about with Sanjay just a little bit earlier.

GERGEN: Exactly.

HILL: So David, overall, if you had to put a letter grade on health care reform for the president, what would it be?

GERGEN: A-minus on politics, b-minus on substance.

HILL: All right, Leslie Sanchez, we'll let you weigh in now coming to us from the right. What is your grading of the president when it comes to health care reform?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: A C -- I would definitely give the president a C, for some of the reasons that David cited, in the sense that he has been successful in a massive expansion of government into health care, a sixth our economy. He did it in a very hyper-partisan way, without Republican support. There's little margin of error on the Senate and at a very small margin on -- in the House side. And there's a lot of heavy lifting that has to be done. I think the opportunity here is for the Democrats, for the first time in this process, to have a compromise with Republicans to come to the table and negotiate something that's fair for a very unpopular bill. And for that reason, that's another reason I give it a C.

HILL: Tanya, I think I hear you disagreeing right there?

TANYA ACKER, HUFFINGTON POST CONTRIBUTOR: I'm afraid that I do. I'm going to give him a B across-the-board on health care. And I want to jump quickly to something that Leslie said about the hyper- partisanship of this bill.

We have to remember that at the outset of this process, Jim DeMint really encapsulated the Republican position when he said that beating Obama on this issue would be key to the GOP and that they would make it his Waterloo. They were unsuccessful in that.

Now, I do think that substantively, we are going to have to see, not just in terms of the reconciliation, but some of the real meat of this bill really still has - we've yet to see how that's going to play out.

Remember, in addition to covering another 30 million Americans, in addition to banning the insurance company practice of excluding people with pre-existing conditions, this bill is intended to ensure that insurance companies don't have some of these unjustified premium increases that they have heretofore been able to get away with.

And until we know what the regulatory mechanism will be for ensuring that, then we are not going to really know what sort of teeth this is going to have in terms of real consumer protection.


HILL: And we're going to -- don't worry, we're going to continue our grading. We do have to take a quick break. But we do want to get your thoughts how the president was doing with his agenda when it comes to the economy, also Iran and Iraq, which Tom Foreman touched on. So, stay with us panel. We'll be back with that in just a moment.

And a little bit later, we want to update you on the news we brought you last night, a Brazilian court ruling Sean Goldman must be returned to his father, David. That reunion now expected to happen tomorrow; happy news indeed.

But what happens in the days and the months and frankly in the lifetime after the father and son reunion? We're "Digging Deeper" tonight.

Also ahead, you asked for it, more singing, more dancing, more Anderson Cooper cracking up, more of Bob. That's right. "360's Best of '09", also known as some of Anderson's most awkward and funnies moments, just ahead.


ROSS BASS, NAVY: This is Construction man Ross Bass (ph) of the United States Navy CGs, Kandahar, Afghanistan. I just want to wish my mom, dad and girlfriend, Nikki, back in Knoxville, Tennessee, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.



HILL: On the agenda tonight, President Obama and a question made famous by a New York Mayor, Ed Koch. "So, how am I doing?" How is he doing? The president, coming to the end of his first year in office?

Well, a moment ago, our panel graded him on health care. Back now with that panel: David Gergen, Leslie Sanchez and Tanya Acker.

Ok, now we're going to move on to the economy. I'm going to keep going in the same order here, so we can see your grades all aligned up on the big wall. So don't think I'm playing favorites here, but David Gergen, I'm starting with you.

As we look at the economy, we've got of course the bank bailout, the giant stimulus package, yet unemployment now at 10 percent, more jobless Americans than when the president took office on January 20th. So, has he done as well as he could have or as he promised he would -- David?

GERGEN: Erica, it's important to remember that when the president was taking office, his economic advisers told him that there was a one in three chance this country was going to have a Great Depression. And he and his team, along with, I must say, the Bush team deserve some of the credit, too, steered us past that and we didn't go over the cliff. So I think for that.

And as also for the investor class, I just read this morning that the S&P 500 has actually gone up 37 percent since he took office. That's the second highest number in all presidential history. So, for a lot of people, this has -- we are doing a lot better and we seem to be coming out of it.

Unemployment is clearly a lag and it may be much worse than we have had in the past. So, I think he is very incomplete on this, both on the unemployment side. And I must tell you, all this spending, the lack of discipline in Congress, the lack of discipline in Washington in the face of these mounting deficits could mean we pay a huge price just down the road in higher inflation and in real deterioration of America's status as a power.

HILL: So, it's to be incomplete because you haven't seen enough yet?

GERGEN: Incomplete.

HILL: Ok. Incomplete. Leslie Sanchez, are you giving him an incomplete or a grade? What do you think? SANCHEZ: Oh, no, I'm happy to give him a D, no doubt for downward, do nothing, we can think of a few other things. The tremendous disappointment is another word I can think of with respect to that.

I like David's optimism, yes, we did not go on the brink. And I think many economists, I think many historians will agree that it was a tremendously and is a tremendously difficult economic time in our nation's history, but there's a couple of things.

One, it almost seems like the Obama administration, it did embrace some of the policies of the Bush administration with respect to some of this deficit spending, but this continuation of bailouts, this continuation of spending, and there was an agreement taking the president at his word that if we went with him on the stimulus package, we would not see above eight percent unemployment. And now we are at 10 percent.

And also, just fundamentally a disagreement about where the growth and jobs are. A lot of conservatives, a lot of individuals look at growth in small business that's what's helped this country historically recover from bad economic times. You're not seeing that. Even things like health care that we're talking about, you're seeing a burden...

HILL: Right.

SANCHEZ: ... again placed on small business.

HILL: I have to...

SANCHEZ: And so for that reasons there's a lot of concerns.

HILL: So you're giving him a D. I have move everybody along. Tanya, I will let you weigh in now, and I'm guessing your grade might be a little higher. I'm just going out on a limb.

ACKER: My -- you're a -- good, good guess, Erica, good guess. I'm going to give him a B. How you could say that this president did nothing in the face of this crisis really boggles the mind. And I think that in terms of some of the interventions that he did push, TARP, for instance, we've seen a lot of the largest recipients of TARP money already pay that back.

SANCHEZ: The reasons...

ACKER: I think that we have seen great increases in the DOW. But all of that said, all of that said, unemployment certainly does remain a problem. And I think that this is going to be an issue with which he is going to have to contend.

Now, remember, a lot of the stimulus money hasn't made its way through the system yet. So I think that we still are going to get the benefit of that both in terms of infrastructure spending and some of the other spending that may boost employment numbers. But there's still a lot of work to do on that issue, no doubt. HILL: All right, one other big issue that we definitely hit before we let you all go. A CNN Research Poll -- I'm going to throw out the numbers for you here -- released today, find 59 percent of people support the president's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. Iraq winding down now; Afghanistan ramping up.

You guys have about a minute to split between the three of you. That is your challenge, David Gergen, the grade on handling these two wars?

GERGEN: The public has -- Barack Obama his highest marks are handling the foreign policy. I think they're right. He's got a very complicated situation in Iraq, which he's handled smoothly and turning to General Petraeus and General McChrystal in Afghanistan, I think it has been smart; putting troops in there have been smart, A minus.

HILL: A minus? Leslie Sanchez?

SANCHEZ: I give the president a B with respect to that, strong on foreign policy, wish he had made his decisions in a more immediate timetable to protect our troops.

HILL: And Tanya Acker, I'll let you round it out?

ACKER: A-minus, I like the fact that he's deliberative about the decision in Afghanistan. And I also like the fact that in Iraq, he's taking a very aggressive diplomatic stance. I don't think that we would have seen elections in March if he hadn't pushed the Kurdish leadership to agree to that. So, I'm going to give him an A, A-minus.

HILL: All right, that was the -- that was the overall report card, David Gergen, Leslie Sanchez, Tanya Acker, always a pleasure to have all of you with us. Have a great Christmas, thanks so much.

SANCHEZ: Merry Christmas.

GERGEN: Thank you Erica.

ACKER: Thanks, Merry Christmas.

HILL: Still ahead, David Goldman could be just hours away from taking his young son home. We'll have the latest detail in his custody battle coming up. Plus, the difficult days that lie ahead for 9-year-old Sean Goldman. He leaves behind a Brazilian family, he knows and loves. What will that readjustment be like for him?

And another nasty winter storm slamming the country, this time taking aim at the nation's midsection. You're looking at live pictures right now from Minneapolis. We'll tell you just what the bad weather could mean for your holiday travel.


HILL: Richard and Mayumi Heene facing a Colorado judge today for sentencing. How much time did they get for cooking up the infamous balloon boy hoax? That is coming up. But first we want to get you the latest in some of the other stories we're following tonight. Randi Kaye here with the "360 Bulletin" -- hi Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Erica. A major winter storm slamming the nation's midsection is making mincemeat of holiday travel plans. This is what it looks like in Minneapolis tonight; the storm causing flight cancellations, delays and worse. In Nebraska and Kansas, slippery roads are being blamed for five deaths. The worst of the storm is still ahead with up to two feet of snow possible in some areas by Christmas day.

Severe weather is also hitting east Texas, where there are reports of several tornadoes touching down. The storms have damaged cars, trucks, homes and businesses and knocked out power to more than 1,000 people.

Now to a developing story in southeastern Virginia where negotiators are trying to convince an armed man to release five hostages being held in a post office; the gunman took them captive this afternoon. Police say shots were fired but there are no reports of injuries. The only demand the gunman has made so far is for pizza.

And we are happy to bring this "360 Follow" to you: 15-year-old Michael Brewer is out of the hospital tonight and back with his family four months early. He suffered second- and third-degree burns over two-thirds of his body when a group of teenagers allegedly set him on fire in October. Doctors did not expect Brewer to go home until the spring. His mother said getting out of the hospital was the only thing he wanted for Christmas.

And Prince William may have been born to the manor, not to mention the throne, but he recently spent a night on London's streets -- a very chilly night, I might add. Temperatures fell to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. The 27-year-old prince is a patron of a British homeless charity and said he wanted to highlight the plight of homeless British teenagers. Very nice to see him doing that.

HILL: Yes, it is. And wow, how about that young boy in Florida finally getting out? Amazing.

From Prince William to the year in pop culture, as we know, some of it was good. Some of it was very, very bad. But hey, that's good fodder for tom Foreman who is covering it all with the special, "ALL THE BEST, ALL THE WORST OF 2009". He has got a preview now with an eye on TV.

Take a look.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Television saw a few hellos...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, my one shot. If this doesn't work out then my whole high school life will be nothing but an embarrassment. FOREMAN: A few good-byes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay, let's say hypothetically -- that it's not hypothetical.

FOREMAN: And a lot of favorites hanging around for more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know it's the right call.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I like things like "House" and "Criminal Minds", but I'm pro-FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes it a federal case now.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think modern family is really funny.

JOY BEHAR, HLN HOST: "Madmen" I love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The Office" is still really good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to be honest with you, Tom, I mean, I'm a "Gossip Girl" fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't feel that way.

BEN STEIN, ECONOMIST: I don't really watch as much TV as I probably should. As a good American, I probably should watch more TV than I do.


HILL: Well, we hope Ben Stein's news addiction, of course, includes 360.

Be sure to watch Tom Foreman's special, "ALL THE BEST, ALL THE WORST of 2009". It comes your way tomorrow right here at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Still ahead tonight, the father who fought for five years to get his son back will soon have his wish. David Goldman is to be reunited with his son, Sean, tomorrow morning.

But what about Sean? He hasn't lived with his dad for more than half of his life. So how will he adjust to the changes? We will speak with a psychologist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm (INAUDIBLE) Stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I just wanted to say Season's Greetings to my grandma and grandpa back home in Albany, New York. I miss you guys, I love you guys and thank you for all your support. (END VIDEO CLIP)


HILL: Tonight: a major development in the bitter custody battle over 9-year-old Sean Goldman. Today, the boys' Brazilian relatives said through their lawyer they will not file any further appeals. They will begin, in fact, steps to return Sean to his father, David Goldman, immediately.

So, what this means now is father and son could be reunited as soon as tomorrow morning, which is when the court ruling says Sean must be handed over. For David Goldman, it is clearly the best possible news.

But for the 9-year-old boy at the center of this ugly battle, it's fair to say the next few days will be far from easy. He will be leaving behind the family that cared for him since his mother died last year, a family he has lived with nearly five years.

Let's dig deeper now with psychotherapist Robi Ludwig and "In Session" legal contributor Sunny Hostin. Good to have both of you with us.

It is such an interesting -- I mean, it's such a joyous occasion for his father and for his paternal family, but there is a lot going on when you're a 9-year-old boy. Robi, what are the biggest hurdles as he heads home and adjusts to life not just with his dad but in a different country where he hasn't lived for five years?

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: I think for Sean, he is going to feel like he is kidnapped. And he is going to have a huge adjustment and so he might feel really angry. He has been really suffering probably from parental alienation syndrome, where he is going to feel like his biological father is evil. So that is something to really consider here.

HILL: And how do you address that? The Goldman family has said, look, we understand there are a lot of hurdles ahead. We have been speaking with mental health professionals. We're trying to make this transition as smooth as possible. What should be in place from the moment he gets on that plane?

LUDWIG: Well, I think that Sean should be in therapy, so a therapist can basically help him basically counteract whatever negative feelings he has toward his father. And also to realize, this is going to take time. This is not something that is going to happen overnight.

So, everybody has to be really smart about it and allow time to take its place and for everybody to kind of develop a natural, loving relationship.

HILL: There has obviously -- this story when you are reporting on it from the U.S. and you see more of the American side of it than you do in Brazil, a lot of people tend to say, well, of course, he should go back, this is his biological father, he should absolutely be with him.

Sunny, you made an interesting point the other day. You didn't necessarily feel that that was in the best interest of the child. Why is that?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CONTRIBUTOR, "IN SESSION": Exactly and thank you for having me on again, because I received dozens and dozens of e- mails, "Shame on you, Sunny, shame on you."

Well, no, the standard typically in the United States and all over the world is what is in the best interest of the child when you are determining custody. That is always the standard. Of course, it was different in this case, because we were talking about an abduction -- an international abduction -- and the child had to be, you know, returned to his father and to the United States.

But the question in my mind still has been is that really in the best interest of this child? And the grandmother, the maternal grandmother, has said he does not want to be in the United States. He does not want to be reconciled with his father.

LUDWIG: Here is the problem though. Here's the problem. We don't know if this is due to parental alienation.

HOSTIN: That is true.

LUDWIG: And very often, kids really don't know what's in their best interest.

HOSTIN: I disagree with that.

HILL: The judge though said in this case, he said, look, we agree that this child is not of an age where he can say what is in his best interest or where he can even say this is what I want, he is not old enough to know.


LUDWIG: I agree with that.

HOSTIN: I disagree with that because I was a child sex crimes prosecutor and I have interviewed dozens and dozen of children. And I think we can't really dismiss what a child's view is and a child's will. This is a 10-year-old, 9-year-old child. This is not an infant, 2-year-old, 3-year-old. I don't think that we should be in a position to just say this child's view, his will, his wants, his desires should be dismissed.

LUDWIG: I agree with that. But here is the thing.

That's true. You certainly don't want to take away a 9-year-old or a 10-year-old's voice. They certainly have preferences and they are allowed to love and feel connected to a parent.

Ideally what would happen here is if it is treated like a divorce case, where the child is allowed to maintain a love towards the only family that he's really known. And somehow, these two sides can consider, you know, what's in the best interest of this -- this child and maybe the child needs to continue to love his stepfather. And that there needs to be a cultural awareness.

HILL: And that's more than visitation, you mentioned cultural awareness, perhaps an international school, making sure that he sees the family. Does this mean trips back to Brazil?

LUDWIG: It might.

HOSTIN: It should.

LUDWIG: We want to ensure that the child is safe and not in danger of being kidnapped again but that there is an appreciation that he is also Brazilian, that he is going to have a love of the culture and a need for it and a need for his original family.

And also I think, too, the father is going to have to know that his son might act out and be angry with him and will have to take the high road. Everybody has to be really knowledgeable here.

HOSTIN: Exactly. And will have to consider what is in the child's best interest, because that is what the governing standard is at this point now that he is in his father's custody.

HILL: And take that into account in terms of just every day dialogue, right?

HOSTIN: Exactly.

LUDWIG: That's right.

HILL: Things that are said about the other family, which comes back to a divorce case, really.

HOSTIN: And it's a piece of the story that no one is talking about. No one is talking about that.

HILL: That's why you are both here tonight.

LUDWIG: It is normal for the father to feel angry and -- toward this other family and he needs to not take it out on his son during those tough moments because there are going to be many tough moments. There is no magic bullet to when the parental alienation just goes away.

HILL: Right. And a lot of that too is going to be trial by fire figuring out.

LUDWIG: That's right.

HILL: Robi Ludwig, Sunny Hostin, good to have both of you with us.

HOSTIN: Thank you.

HILL: And happy holidays.

LUDWIG: Happy holidays to you, too.

HOSTIN: Happy holidays.

HILL: Up next, one simple idea making a big difference. We will take you inside efforts to rescue baby African elephants in danger, when 360 continues.


HILL: Tonight "One Simple Thing", our series about changing the world and fixing problems one good idea at a time. In this case, the problem is orphaned elephants. From poaching to drought, African elephants are under threat and the youngest are often left on their own. These babies are the focus of a remarkable orphanage in Nairobi.

Here is David McKenzie.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They grow up to be one of Africa's giants, but like all creatures, they start out pretty small. Brought by their keepers, each orphaned elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has a tragic tale.

This is Sala, she is six weeks old. They say her mother died because of starvation in the Kenyan drought. The person who found her gave her cow's milk, which is extremely harmful to elephants because of the fat. Sala wandered into a tourist camp in a Kenya's Southern National Park, alone and confused.

The orphanage scrambled a plan to rescue her. Carefully strapped and traumatized, they evacuated Sala to Nairobi. For weeks, she was too sick to stand. Three days ago, she started walking again. If she makes it she won't be alone. Drought, poaching and shrinking habitats have decimated elephant herds across East Africa. And the orphanage is fuller than it has been in 30 years. Still Dame Daphne Sheldrick will take more.

DAME DAPHNE SHELDRICK, DAVID SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUST: You know, if a human child came in, in need of care, you wouldn't put a bullet in it or turn it away. Elephants are the same. Whatever comes in, we have to make space.

MCKENZIE: It takes years to rehabilitate and reintroduce the orphans into the wild. For the keepers, it is not just a 9 to 5 job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But after working with these elephants, it's no longer just a job. It is, for me inside your heart, the love that you have for these animals.

MCKENZIE: Every three hours, day and night, the keepers mix fortified soy milk for the elephants. It costs $900 a month to care for each orphan, so the elephants have to earn their keep. With a slap of sunscreen to protect their sensitive skin, the babies go on parade. They slush and slide for the throngs of tourists who see the fun, but not the heartbreak. For every baby elephant saved this year, another has died.

SHELDRICK: It's a trauma. We grieve. We bury it. We turn the page and then get on with the living. That's all you can do.

MCKENZIE: So they help to lead these infants through their most fragile stage. It could take years before Sala joins a family of wild elephants. In the care of her human family, she might just make it.

David McKenzie, CNN, Nairobi, Kenya.


HILL: Nice story there.

Up next, sentencing day for the parents of the so-called balloon boy. Ah, yes, the Heenes are back. So with this sentencing, did they get off too easy or did too much time? We'll tell you their punishment and let you decide.

Also ahead, our favorite moments from 2009, including this one. Let's just say Anderson probably not trying out for Top Chef anytime soon.


HILL: Coming up, we're at it again; some of the greatest moments from 360 in 2009. Remember the visit from Oscar the Grouch? A highlight for all of us around here; I know Anderson will never forget it. He loved it as well.

First though we do want to get caught up on some of tonight's headlines. Randi Kaye back with the "360 Bulletin" -- hey Randi.

KAYE: Hello again Erica.

They hoped to get a reality TV show, instead the parents who are responsible for the balloon boy hoax are going to jail. Richie Heene faces 90 days behind bars starting next month. His wife Mayumi got 20 days. The Colorado judge also barred them from profiting off their hoax for the next four years.

Swindler Bernie Madoff has been moved to a prison medical facility. There's no word yet on why. Madoff is serving a 150-year sentence after pleading guilty to cheating investors out of $65 billion.

Singer Amy Winehouse is facing assault charges in Britain after she allegedly got in a fight last weekend at a theater. It is her latest brush with the law. A London court cleared her of similar charges in another case back in July.

And the search is on for this bad Santa. A man dressed as the jolly old fellow robbed a Nashville, Tennessee bank at gunpoint.


KAYE: And told tellers -- no kidding, we are not making this up, we couldn't make this up -- Told tellers that he needed the cash to pay his elves.

HILL: And it's so low.

KAYE: Yes.

HILL: I think we can guarantee a certain someone is getting coal in their stocking this year.

KAYE: Guaranteed.

HILL: Although he doesn't even deserve the call. But anyway.

KAYE: No. To pay the elves, feed the reindeer? What next.

HILL: Awful, come on. Leave the big man alone.

All right. On now to our "Beat 360" winners. Tonight's photo we frankly could not resist. Richard and Mayumi Heene back for an encore as you just heard they were in court today for their sentencing hearing. Our staff winner tonight is Jill. Her caption: "Richard Heene, science detective and his wife start filming their reality show, 'Behind Bars'."

Our viewer winner is Richard. His caption: "After the reality TV balloon bubble bursts, reality sets in."

Very clever. Richard, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way; two fine showings this evening.

And for the "Shot" tonight: our favorite 360 moments of the year. We showed you a few last night including Anderson's trouble finding Indiana on the map.

KAYE: That was a good one.

HILL: That was a good moment.

We also gave you the crew's show-stopping performance of "Single Ladies" which frankly we all love so much. We're bringing it back tonight as an encore.

KAYE: Really?

HILL: Along with some other funny memories from 2009. Take a look.



OSCAR THE GROUCH, SESAME STREET: Never welcome a grouch.



COOPER: Well, how do you -- how do you say hello to a grouch?

OSCAR THE GROUCH: Just say, "Beat it."

HILL: Well, beat it Oscar.

COOPER: This is Erica Hill.

OSCAR THE GROUCH: Hey, I'm in love.

HILL: I love you too, Oscar. This is going to work out very well.

COOPER: Do you use a BlackBerry at all?

OSCAR THE GROUCH: No, I have -- I have a blueberry.

COOPER: You have a blueberry? You like the blueberry better?

HILL: You mean one that you found on the street?

OSCAR THE GROUCH: It doesn't work anymore. I danced on it.

COOPER: Well, Oscar, thank you so much for being with us and congratulations on the 40th anniversary of "Sesame Street".

OSCAR THE GROUCH: All right. Well, I'll accept that, and I want to say to you, Coop, and you, Erica, have a rotten day.

HILL: So I brought in a special guest, one of my colleagues from "The Early Show". Iron Chef Bobby Flay...


HILL: ... is here with us. So Bobby is here. And actually, he's here to give you a lesson, Anderson Cooper. If you'll turn behind you...

COOPER: Hey, how's it going?

HILL: We're going to need you to come off the stage...


HILL: ... and learn how to chop an onion properly. I'll get out of the way to let you boys work your magic.

BOBBY FLAY, IRON CHEF: So the first thing you want to do is you want to cut this straight down, ok? Straight down like this. All right. And then you have half the onion. You can hold on...

COOPER: I don't really want to hold the onion, because then you smell like onion.

FLAY: No, no. That's part of cooking.

HILL: There is soap and water in the building. You'll be fine.

FLAY: Ok. You use a knife like I shave. I can't slow down. Ok.

COOPER: I did it.

FLAY: Ok perfect.

COOPER: I actually used to collect snakes as kid.

HILL: You did?


HILL: Well then this is going to work out really well, because I actually have something for you here in the studio.

COOPER: Oh no.

HILL: Because you know you do all these "Planet in Peril" reports. I want to make sure you're safe out there, Anderson Cooper. I want you to learn the skills that John Zarrella mastered. What if you're in the Everglades, Anderson?

COOPER: Can I hold him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she's friendly enough.

COOPER: Friendly enough? What do you mean?

HILL: See? And everybody was thinking you'd be totally freaked out and that you wouldn't even want to get near the snakes.

COOPER: No one knew that I actually ...

HILL: Look at that. See, you learn something new about Anderson Cooper every day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry. She's just tasting the air, tasting the smells around.

COOPER: That's what the tongue is used for, for like smelling?


COOPER: Yes. Erica, would you like to hold her?

HILL: No thank you.

COOPER: Really? HILL: Yes really.

COOPER: You sure?

HILL: No really, I'm sure.

COOPER: OK. Just ahead, secrets to a long life, probably not involving snakes. Start by staying away from -- pythons.

So, it's Floor Crew Friday, which is a celebration of all things having to do with the floor crew. Tonight, the guys are giving us their take on Beyonce's "Single Ladies", so releasing the fury, here's Bob, Frank and Joe.



KAYE: That just doesn't get old.

HILL: It never gets old. It never gets old.


HILL: I love it.

KAYE: It gets funnier, actually, every day.

HILL: It does.

KAYE: Maybe it's just us. I don't know.

HILL: Frank, Bob, Jerry, fine work, as always. Beyonce, look out.

Before we go, there might be a little something in the water around here this week. Earlier tonight, our magic wall producer David Reisner (ph) proposed to his girlfriend nearby in the park here on skates, on ice skates.

Now, the best we can tell also, our very own technical production manager, Brooke Turnbull (ph) is not quite so light on his feet, but he is no less romantic. Brooke let us know he popped the question to 360 alum Amanda Townsend (ph), and yes, they both said yes.

KAYE: Too cute.

HILL: So the best to both couples. Fantastic news. We wish them all the best. So excited for them.

KAYE: We sure do.

That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts right now.