Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Trapped Up To Nine Hours on Tarmac; Senate to Reconsider Filibuster Rule; Lawmakers to Tackle National Debt; Apple Sued Over Privacy; U.S. Aid Worker Released in Haiti; Virginia Textbook Full of Errors

Aired December 29, 2010 - 18:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, GUEST HOST: You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now -- trapped on the tarmac for up to nine hours. New travel nightmares at one of the busiest and newest airports. Well, who's responsible and how can they make sure that it doesn't happen again?

Also, a new storm creates a muddy mess in California. Could it turn into another blizzard for the East Coast?

And parents are outraged by dozens of stunning errors in history textbook for fourth graders.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Wolf Blitzer is off tonight. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

The storm is long gone, but the effects linger on for airline passengers in the most frustrating way, stranded on the tarmac for hours at New York's Kennedy Airport. Now, overnight, three flights sat for about 6 1/2 hours before passengers could get off. The planes were from Mexico, Germany and France, but what is even worse for two flights from Asia, the Korean Air, and China Airlines planes sat on the tarmac for more than nine hours before arriving at their gate.

Now, airport officials are blaming the airlines saying they should have checked to make sure that gates were available before letting the flights depart. And because these were international flights, passengers have little or no recourse.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve has more on this.

Jeanne, explain to us what happened.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, these passengers trapped for hours in planes on the tarmac, thousands of people unable to get to their destinations for days, a lot of people are asking is this the way the air transportation system is supposed to work?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MESERVE (voice-over): The snowstorm is over, but the firestorm continues over flights marooned on the tarmac, delayed and canceled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would estimate probably about two hours from now --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that accurate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five freaking planes full today! Five freaking planes full today!

MESERVE: As incredible as it may seem to the tens of thousands of travelers who found themselves stranded, an airline industry group says this was not a malfunction, this is winter weather. The system did not fail. Some aviation experts agree pointing out that dozens of airports up and down the East Coast were swamped with snow.

MIKE BOYD, BOYD GROUP INTERNATIONAL (via telephone): If we had better air traffic control, better management of some airports on the ground, yes, it could be improved, but when you have a huge snowstorm like this, the way to improve it is to stay home.

MESERVE: More than 10,000 flights have been canceled since last weekend. Experts believe, in some cases, airlines didn't want to gamble that the weather would put them at risk of being fined under the passenger bill of rights for keeping domestic flights waiting on the tarmac more than three hours.

YOSSI SHEFFI, MIT CENTER FOR TRANSPORTATION AND LOGISTICS (via telephone): The fines are extremely high, $27,500 per passenger delayed more than three hours. It means for a flight with 200 passengers, it may be over $5 million per airplane, per occurrence.

MESERVE: In this storm, it was mostly international flights that found themselves in limbo, away from the terminal, unable to unload. The passenger bill of rights doesn't apply to them.

KATE HANNI, EXEC. DIR., FLYERSRIGHTS.ORG: Ultimately, I blame the Department of Transportation for not including international flights in the rule.

I think they got snookered by the International Air Transport Association lobbying for the international carriers and saying, oh, no, this will be too cumbersome for us. We can't possibly follow this rule. But unfortunately, that means that any international flight coming or going from the U.S. is not going to have any protection.

MESERVE: The Department of Transportation is considering modifying the rule to include international flights, though, critics contend a likely consequence is even more cancellations which could create even more inconvenience for passengers.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MESERVE (on-camera): Now, the Department of Transportation is reviewing complaints and data on cancellations and delays to see if during the storms, there were any violations of regulation. No findings from them yet. Though, the airlines say by and large the system worked. Outside experts say one thing clearly did not, that is communications. They say better and more timely information could have minimized the passenger frustration, if not passenger inconvenience. Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: And Jeanne, why is it taking so long for things to get back to normal?

MESERVE: Well, you know, the airlines have been adjusting supply and demand, and most flights have been flying very close to capacity and you have the holiday season, the crescendo was coming, the heaviest travel days up coming, and you also have all of these passengers who are displaced because of canceled flights. Put it all together, and it is going to take some time to get everybody where they want to go.

MALVEAUX: You got to feel for them, Jeanne.

MESERVE: Yes. Absolutely.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you.

So, what rights and recourse do the passengers have in these circumstances? I want to ask our CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, I mean, obviously, we've heard these nightmare scenarios. Specifically, you have that one flight from Vancouver, Cathay Airlines -- Cathay Pacific flight, was 11 hours on the tarmac. I mean, what kind of recourse do passengers have? What is the difference here between the domestic and international flights?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it turns out there's a huge difference, because the passenger bill of rights has actually been pretty successful in reducing tarmac delays of American carriers. That was put into effect in April, and there are really very strict fines associated with it up to $27,500 per passenger.

So, if an airline lets a plane sit on the ground for longer than three hours, they can be looking at literally millions of dollars in fines, and that has had, it seems a very positive effect. But as you just heard, that rule does not apply to foreign carrier, and that's where the problem has been over the past few days.

MALVEAUX: So, if I was a passenger on that flight, and I was sitting on the tarmac for 11 hours, do I have any recourse? Is there anything I can do?

TOOBIN: You know, the short answer is probably not, many of these airlines. Cathay Pacific is in the middle of a well-deserved public relations disaster. They are offering compensation to the people on the plane. They're getting free tickets and the like, but, you know, it is -- that's about all you're likely to get.

Yes, it's possible that you could file a lawsuit, but you're likely to just get tied up in court for many years. You're better off just taking the money, taking what they give you and getting on with your life. It's frustrating, but it's better than being in court for a long time.

MALVEAUX: Are there any regulations that apply to international flights say that they're flying into the United States, regulations that might actually help a passenger in a situation like that?

TOOBIN: Not really, because the passenger bill of rights says that no holding on the tarmac for longer than three hours, and if you hold someone for longer than two hours, you have to provide food and drinks. Those rules dot no not apply to foreign carriers. Certainly, I think, there will be a move to ask the Department of Transportation to re-evaluate their regulations and start to apply it to foreign carriers.

It can't be a coincidence that all of these problems have been with foreign carriers. Look, a lot of Americans and lot of tourists fly on foreign carriers, and it's just as miserable to be stuck for nine hours on Cathay Pacific as it is on JetBlue.

MALVEAUX: All right. Jeff, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Obviously, a lot of people are going to be looking for ways to get recourse. Thank you.

While the weather is filing up trouble in the northeast United States, a series of storms have created a muddy mess in parts of Southern California.

Our CNN's Casey Wian is there for us.

Casey, this is a bad situation. Explain to us what's happening on the West Coast.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, I'm here in Highland, California, which is east of Los Angeles, and San Bernardino County, just below the foothills. And as you can probably see, it's starting to rain fairly steadily. It's been raining for about 12 hours, so far today. Most of the time, though, it has not been raining that hard.

We haven't had that much rain. But if you look in the street behind me, you'd think we have been in a deluge all day long, and perhaps, for several days. And the reason for that is that this ground is so saturated in this area from the storms that were so devastating last week. We had many residents who were evacuated from homes under mandatory evacuation orders, and we have had California state inmate crews laying sandbags.

We've had earth movers out here trying to prevent more damage from happening. Despite the fact that there's some steady rain falling now, most authorities believe that the worst of the weather has passed, but that the danger has not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL PETERS, CAL FIRE SPOKESMAN: You know, I've lived in California all of my life, for 57 years, and the one thing that I've learned is that once you start moving earth like this, any little bit of rain over the next few weeks can trigger it all again. You just don't know where the weaknesses are. So, I would never say we're past it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: Now, behind me, there are -- you can see several houses. We visited one of those homes earlier today, and I think we can show you some of the pictures there. The homeowner there has just gotten back into this house to start cleaning up from the storm a week ago. And she and many other homeowners in this area are very frustrated because they say the storm drains were not cleaned properly and that made the flood damage much worse.

Let's hear what she had to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LESLIE BEST, RESIDENT: My priorities, I know, are different than the city's priority, and my priority was to get as much damage and mud out of the house. And I had volunteers yesterday, but only for four hours. And, essentially, they're not letting volunteers in today all things considered, so, you know, any of us know that you got to take -- make use of daylight without any rain, and we've had five days of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: What complicating matters even further, when the rain passes through, we're expecting cold temperatures and heavy winds later this afternoon and tonight, Suzanne. It's a muddy mess here, and it's not looking good any time soon.

MALVEAUX: And Casey, people must be absolutely sick of all of this. Is there a sense of rain fatigue?

WIAN: Absolutely, there's rain fatigue, you know? Over the holidays, people stayed in their homes in Southern California, because there were so much rain, and people were just tired of it. Then, we had a couple of days of sunshine, and the freeways were jammed again. Now, people are buckling down and trying to weather this latest storm.

MALVEAUX: All right. Try to stay dry there, Casey. Thank you.

Now, the storm that caused all those problems in California is now heading east. Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is tracking it for us in the CNN Severe Weather Center in Atlanta. Chad, explain to us, do we really think that all of this mess that's now in California is moving east towards where we are? CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Not to where you are, no, but to Chicago and to Milwaukee and to Fargo. this storm, although, it's heading east now, south of San Diego will turn hard to the north and run up the jet stream on up into Canada. And, I guess, that's some good news that we're not going to dump anymore snow into the northeast, into New York. But what you're going to see are temperatures almost approaching 50 degrees where there's been so much snow in the east.

That 50-degree weather could melt the snow too fast, causing flooding there if you don't get those same drains that that lady was talking about cleaned out. If you have a drain in front of your house and you live anywhere in the boroughs of New York or Philadelphia or Boston, make sure that drain can handle the water, handle that snow melting in the next couple of days.

We'll move you ahead here and show you what's going to go on. The entire western half of United States under some type of watch, warning or advisory, I mean, literally from Nebraska and the Dakotas westward, all of the counties here painted in some color. And the red ones, blizzard warnings, for the next couple of days. What does all that mean? As the storm rolls up from where it is now around Scottsdale to Phoenix and then on up across Denver, Denver's temperatures will plummet from 40 to 5, literally, 35 degrees down.

So will Chicago by the morning after for the New Year's Eve will be warm. New Year's Day will be very cold, and blizzard conditions, if you can't tell where this is, there's Minnesota, here's Wisconsin and all the way through plains and northern plains, blizzard conditions with 20 inches of new snow.

MALVEAUX: Chad, this is a tough holiday season for a lot of folks.

MYERS: It sure is.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: A thwarted terror attack prompts a major changes in the way the president communicates while he's on vacation. We're going to take you to Hawaii for the details.

Plus, the national debt is growing by tens of thousands of dollars each second. You might be shocked to find out what your share is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: This is a second Christmas that President Obama has spent in Hawaii, but the White House made some critical changes to his communication capabilities this year, and that is because of last year, as you may recall, thwarted Christmas Day plane bombing.

I want to get more with my colleague, CNN senior white house correspondent, Ed Henry. He's traveling with the president. He is in Hawaii and CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She was Homeland Security adviser to President George W. Bush and is a member of the Homeland Security external advisory board.

Ed, let's start off with you. What do we know? What have they learned since last year when they had that attempted Christmas Day bombing, and this year?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they knew this last year, but it was just reinforced with that Christmas Day attack last year that the president really is never fully on vacation. And so, you saw this "New York Times" report today basically saying they've sort of raised the bar and the president's communication equipment, and that is true. We've confirmed that independently.

When you talk to Ben Rhodes, senior official at the National Security Council as I did yesterday, he told me, look, he's traveling here with the president in Hawaii, then, when you look at the president's beach house, we have video of that on the other side of the island Oahu, he's got stepped up secure phone lines, video lines, et cetera. But also interesting, the hotel here in Waikiki Beach where we are has White House staffers.

And we have video there. You can see of secure lines they have going into a couple of rooms here so they can have secure phone, video, et cetera capabilities. But also, there's a big paper shredder in the middle of one of the hallways here. That kind of stands out, as a reporter, when you're walking down to see a paper shredder. I've seen officials at various hours going out with secure documents and putting paper through there, because, look, they're briefing the president all hours.

He gets his normal presidential daily brief from an intelligence official, and he gets back in Washington every day. He gets that in Hawaii as well. There are other officials like Ben Rhodes and others traveling with him here who update him throughout the day by secure e- mail, phone, et cetera.

And if, God forbid, there is an attack, he now has better equipment than he get last year to get a secure video uplink right away with John Brennan, who stays back in Washington, his principal counter terror adviser really kind of into position that Brennan (ph) used to have. He's sort of the quarterback there back in Washington making sure if, God forbid, something happened, they're ready to go.

MALVEAUX: And Fran, I want to ask you, because "The New York Times," it has some specifics that talks about the fact that there was some frustration that the president and some of his officials that the phone line drop, the secure phone line drop when he was having critical conversations with his national security team. You think about this, you think this is arguably the most powerful man in the world with the most powerful job, how on earth does something like that happen?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Suzanne, I think most Americans would be amazed to realize, I mean, this is not Hollywood. What happens is as a practical matter, as you build a secure telephone conference call or secure video link, the more people you add with encryption, the quality of the sound begins to deteriorate, and sometimes, because the, if the encryption drops, the call drops, and individuals will drop off.

I mean, I was there when it happened to President Clinton and to President Bush. And so, I'm not surprised to hear that President Obama was very frustrated last year. You know, this is not a perfect communications world, but as Ed points out, he can get everything t he needs. It becomes more complicated when he wants to have a multi- party secure conversation.

MALVEAUX: And Ed, I understand that compared to last year, the administration seems to be breathing a little bit easier this go around from the kinds of alerts and the terror attack that they had previously. Why is that?

HENRY: Well, you're right. Ever so slightly they're breathing easier because, thankfully, at least, so far, nobody wants to jinx it. There has not been an attempted terror attack on U.S. soil as there was last Christmas Day. I was here in Hawaii when that happened last year, and the White House staff, obviously, went into overdrive.

The president was getting all of those briefings and what not, but to give you an idea, when I was talking to Ben Rhodes from the National Security Council here in Hawaii yesterday about this whole story, he literally knocked wood on the table in front of us as we were talking when he said there hasn't been an attack, so far.

They're very conscious at the fact that there's a heightened terror travel alert there in Europe right now and that we all know that al Qaeda likes to try and strike over the holidays. So, while Christmas is past, you've got New Year's coming up, they're not going to breathe too easy here. They're going to try to stay on top of this the whole way, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Fran, what do you make of the fact that we have yet, so far, and I know the White House officials are knocking on wood, have not seen something at this point? Do we anticipate that the season isn't over yet? That there's possibly something that people could be thinking about?

TOWNSEND: Well, Suzanne, we've certainly seen activity, though, thankfully not here in the United States. There've been arrests in the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Saudi Arabia just over the last ten days. I mean, this has been a very busy operational time for the counterterrorism community around the world. I think it's no accident that John Brennan called President Saleh of Yemen.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is their greatest threat right now, operationally, and the people responsible for the recent attempts including last Christmas. And so, look, I think, this counterterrorism intelligence community is rightly sort of on alert, and I think we've seen lots of activity around the world which is what explains Ben Rhodes knocking on the wood that it hasn't happened here. MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Fran and Ed, have a good and safe holiday. Thank you.

TOWNSEND: You, too.

HENRY: You, too.

MALVEAUX: Shocking request revealed in a new cable released by WikiLeaks. Wait until you hear what Panama's president wanted from the U.S. ambassador.

Plus, if you buy meat, you'll soon notice something different. Details of a new requirement.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Nightmares at airports are not exclusive to New York City. Our Brianna Keilar is here now with the details and other stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Hey, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Suzanne.

That's right. Russians are now feeling the pain of snowbound travelers that we're feeling here in the U.S. Hundreds of people remain stranded at Moscow's biggest airport after snow and ice storm snarled air travelers there. The airport lost power, and they also ran out of de-icing fluid. Officials say the misery will soon be over. They're expecting flight schedules to be back to normal by the end of the day.

Secret diplomatic cables published by the website, WikiLeaks, revealed a tense (ph) conversation between Panama's leader and the U.S. diplomat in 2009. According to one cable, the U.S. ambassador in Panama at the time received a message on her Blackberry from the country's newly elected country's president saying, quote, "I need help tapping phones."

The ambassador didn't reply to President Ricardo Martinelli's request, but later expressed concern he wanted to wiretap political opponents as well as purported security threats.

Jews all over the world can now visit the Judaism's holiest prayer site, the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The group that administers the wall has launched an iPhone application that streams live video of the wall around the clock except during the Jewish Sabbath and holidays. Users can also send e-mails to be placed in the crevices of the old wall, which is, of course, a Jewish tradition. Pretty neat stuff, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely. Thank you, Brianna.

Nearly $14 trillion, that's right. $14 trillion and the government just keeps spending. Find out what your share of the national debt is.

And your privacy is at the center of a new lawsuit against Apple.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: With gridlock becoming a way of life in Congress, critics are calling for some dramatic changes in the way lawmakers do their business, including doing away with that peculiar Senate tool called the filibuster. Our CNN congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has more on all of this. Brianna, obviously, there are arguments for and against this, and this is a big debate that's going to come up in the new Congress, yes?

KEILAR: Yes. This could be a very big debate very soon, and check out the numbers here, Suzanne. There were more than 80 filibusters in the Senate in the two years of this last Congress. Now, compare that to all of the filibusters in the two decades of the 1950s and the 1960s, just 30 there. Some observers say this delaying tactic makes the Senate a slower, more thoughtful chamber, but others argue it is out of control and it's crippling Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause.

KEILAR (voice-over): Jimmy Stewart made the filibuster famous in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," delaying the entire Senate by talking on the floor until he collapsed from exhaustion. Off the silver screen, the filibuster is less dramatic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On this vote, the ayes are 57. The nays are 42 and 3/5 --

KEILAR: That's a bill failing to overcome this weapon of the minority party use to delay or kill legislation, provoking the ire of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: We have had filibuster after filibuster on major piece of legislation during this entire Congress. Not once, but 87 times.

KEILAR: With the diminish majority next Congress, Democrats want to weaken the filibuster. How would they do it? There are number of ideas floating around, from eliminating the 60 votes needed to even have a final vote on the bill, to ending so-called secret holes where a single anonymous senator can prevent a bill from coming to the floor, to forcing senators who want to filibuster to speak at length, sort of like Jimmy Stewart's character did.

JIMMY STEWART, ACTOR: And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any other.

KEILAR: The goal, take a slow-moving Senate that takes up only a fraction of the bills the House does, and speed things up. After years of arguing the filibuster makes the Senate necessarily deliberative, congressional scholar Thomas Mann now supports a change.

THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Because it's made the Senate an utterly dysfunctional body, and it gives the power first of all to individual senators to -- to put what is called a hold on a piece of legislation or a nomination to the courts or to the executive branch.

KEILAR: Every Senate Democrat in the new Congress has signed a letter urging changes to Senate rules. Not surprisingly, Republicans are opposed to giving up their power to hold up Democratic priorities, and even some outgoing Senate Democrats warn the long-term consequences should trump the short-term political gain of changing the filibuster.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Therefore, to my fellow senators who have never served a day in the minority, I urge you to pause in your enthusiasm to change Senate rules.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now, here is the thing: it take 2/3 of the Senate -- that is 67 senators -- to change Senate rules. Democrats could get around that by appealing to the president of the Senate -- happens to be Vice President Joe Biden -- to allow just a simple majority to change the rules.

But a lot of newer Democratic senators, they're the ones supporting this, Suzanne. And they're the ones that outgoing Senator Chris Dodd was warning there, saying, "Wait until you are in the minority, and you will regret that you've taken away your best tool."

MALVEAUX: It all depends on what side you're on, I guess.

KEILAR: Exactly.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Brianna.

With or without the filibuster, lawmakers in the next Congress will face growing pressure to tackle the spiraling national debt. Now, I want you to take a look at this. It is now approaching 14 -- yes, that's right -- $14 trillion and growing by tens of thousands of dollars each second. And your share is more than $44,000. I want to talk about this with our CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.

David, I know you and I have been looking at these numbers. It makes your head spin, but I want to show everybody what we're talking about here. This year alone -- OK? -- you've got $3.22 trillion in the new debt this year alone. If you divide that by -- by the population of about 380 million people, you get $10,429 of new debt per person in this country this year alone. What do we make of that? Go ahead.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Let me make one brief correction. I believe that's for the 111th Congress altogether, which means it actually covers two years. But the fundamental point that you're making, Suzanne, is absolutely right, and that is these -- these numbers just make your head spin and really cause great apprehension about whether the country could carom into bankruptcy.

MALVEAUX: How do we pay for this? How are we going to pay for this, this kind of money? Is it going to rest on our shoulders? Our children? Our grandchildren?

GERGEN: Well, it is going to rest on our grandchildren, and if we're not careful, their standard of living is going to go down significantly as a result. They're just -- Andrew Grow, who started Intel, has been estimating that our grandchildren alone could face a drop in the average standard of living by the time they reach their maturity of some 25 percent from what we are today. That's very significant. And it would really be a setback.

So what we're going to have, Suzanne, is obviously a huge, bruising fight coming February and March of this next year as Congress comes back and they face this -- the requirement to raise the debt ceiling, to -- because the law only permits so much borrowing. You've got to raise that debt ceiling.

And to get that affirmative vote, Republicans are saying, "Mr. President, you've got to take $100 billion out of your budget." A hundred billion dollars out of -- out of social spending would be hugely impactful. So there's going to be a major, major fight ahead.

MALVEAUX: And when you take a look at the total numbers here, we're talking about more $13 trillion of the total national debt. Divide that by the population. You're talking about more than $44,000 of debt per person in the United States. Now this is not something that you can just pay off like, you know, pay off your mortgage and your home or something like that. How does this actually get paid?

GERGEN: Well, the United States government has to borrow the money. And essentially, we take it. We give people a note and say we'll pay it back at an interest rate. And increasingly, of course, that debt is held by the Chinese and by others in Asia.

And what that means is they get us increasingly over a barrel. We've gone from being the No. 1 creditor in the world, the biggest creditor in the world, to being the No. 1 debtor.

And what's also startling about this, Suzanne, is that that $3 trillion increase you just talked about that occurred in the 111th Congress, that is way above anything we've seen before. The Congress before, you know, it was a 64 percent increase over the Congress before.

So we have to bring these numbers down and get them -- we have to live in a saner way. We have to live in a more -- frankly, a more frugal way.

MALVEAUX: And obviously, one of the concerns, as well, David, is the fact that our own currency will become devalued and people will not accept it --

GERGEN: Exactly.

MALVEAUX: -- as a, you know, situation in Ireland or Greece or other European countries.

GERGEN: Absolutely. That's the -- that's the road for the country to lose its greatness. That's the path they travel.

MALVEAUX: David Gergen, thank you very much.

GERGEN: Thanks, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: The new year is almost here, so what resolutions would you give to President Obama and the new Congress? Well, go to iReport.CNN.com/SituationRoom. Give us your resolutions for the country's leaders. They could be included in a big political roundtable that we have planned for tomorrow. You can also post your resolutions on the CNN political ticker or on our Facebook page.

Downloading apps on your iPhone, well, there are two lawsuits that claim companies are watching you do it. And they're blaming Apple for the breach of privacy. That's coming up after the break.

Plus, outrage over a history textbook riddled with errors. Embarrassing and offensive mistakes read by thousands of children. The story just ahead. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, Apple is being slapped with a lawsuit alleging that some of its iPhone and iPad apps are illegally passing on personal information about users. Our CNN's Dan Simon is in San Francisco with the details -- Dan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Suzanne.

We are outside of the Apple store in downtown San Francisco, a place that is always busy. It appears that Apple's retail division had a phenomenal Christmas, but now the company is getting some unwanted attention in the form of a lawsuit. This lawsuit, filed by a man in Los Angeles, alleges that Apple and other popular app developers are selling some private user information to advertisers without the consent of people who own devices like iPhones and iPads.

(voice-over) The complaint alleges that, in some cases, Apple and the app makers are selling personal data, including age, gender and the location of the people using the devices.

The lawsuit notes that iPhones and iPads contain what is called a Unique Device Identifier are UDID. UDID helps advertisers track what applications users download, how frequently they're used and for how long.

Users cannot block the transmission of the UDID, which is basically a long character that uniquely identifies each device.

(on camera) Now, it is not alleged that advertisers are getting anything beyond general information, such as names, but we asked people out here how they would feel about some of their personal data unknowingly going to advertisers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have a problem with it, because I think they're not, you know -- I especially like the kind where you can click and it says, "No, we're not going to send you stuff or we don't sell your stuff when you do those type of things." And so I feel pretty comfortable with that. And I feel that that's -- you know, part of their business. They want to know what market to hit, and who likes that little app.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't be happy with it. Of course, it depends on what information, but anything with my personal stuff being unknowingly distributed is not OK with me. If I know about it, I'd be a little bit more OK with it.

SIMON: Apple, meanwhile, declined to comment on the lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, but the company's official policy is that app makers must obtain users' permission before transmitting data.

And, of course, Suzanne, privacy is going to continue to be a big issue for technology companies as more and more people rely on the mobile devices in the course of their daily lives -- Suzanne.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

Well, tweeting may be more riskier in 2011 than it was in 2010. Social network sites and instant messaging services are being named as likely new targets for cyber crooks. We'll tell you why.

And the meat at the market is getting a makeover. We'll explain after the break. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, there's a scary scene in Michigan after an entire building explodes. Our Brianna Keilar is back with the details and other top stories that are coming in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Brianna, what do we know about this?

KEILAR: Suzanne, rescue crews are searching still for two people believed trapped after this massive gas explosion ripped through a furniture store in Wayne, Michigan, near Detroit. The owner was rescued and is in critical condition.

Officials say a leak on a gas line behind the building and a second leak just -- and there was a second leak just two blocks away. There is an evacuation order that's expected to be lifted late tonight.

The Department of Agriculture wants you to know more about the meat you buy, so starting in 2012, nutritional information will be available on 40 of the most popular cuts of meat and poultry products, including whole cuts of meat and ground meat. This new labeling will provide calorie content, plus the amount of total and saturated fat grams.

As technology evolves, so does high-tech crime. The computer security company McAfee predicts cyber crooks will focus less on spamming in 2011 and focus, instead, on newer forms of digital communication: instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, URL shorteners and Smartphones. McAfee says even highly-protected Apple products will likely see a significant uptick in cyber attacks and viruses. Worth noting: McAfee sells antivirus software and could profit from raising cyber threat concerns.

The finishing touches being put on a Rose Parade float which will honor the late President Ronald Reagan on Saturday. This float will kick off events commemorating the former president's 100th birthday, which would have been in February. This float is 26 feet high. It includes photos of iconic moments in Reagan's life, and former first lady Nancy Reagan, Suzanne, actually played a very big part in this design.

MALVEAUX: All right. Very cool. Thank you, Brianna.

Well, fourth-grade history should be easy for most adults, so here's a question for you. How many people died in the two battle of Bull Run during the Civil War? Six thousand, 12,000, 22,000 or 150,000? Up next, the real answer and the wrong answer we found in one of the state's approved textbooks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

MALVEAUX: Breaking news coming in THE SITUATION ROOM. An American aid worker accused of kidnapping a child in Haiti has just been released from jail. Our Jill Dougherty brought us this story just within the last hour. She's here with the very latest. Also with us is Paul Waggoner. He joins us live by phone.

And Paul, if I could, first of all, we're so glad that you're safe, that you've been released. Can you tell us how this came about? What happened when they released you? What did they say to you?

PAUL WAGGONER, HAITI AID WORKER (via telephone): Well, when they released me, they -- I just had to sit around and do some paperwork, and wait to get out, and I had already kind of called it for the night, ate my dinner and laid down and went to sleep. A few minutes later they came here and said that they were about to release me and told me to get ready.

MALVEAUX: What did you think of this? What did you think about what had happened? What was your reaction?

WAGGONER: About the whole situation?

MALVEAUX: Or even your release. Were you surprised?

WAGGONER: Well, due to the way that things have been going, you know, one you know, delay after the other, the power being out in the courthouse the other day and then yesterday, it took all the way into the late afternoon to finish giving statements with myself and the father, I just assumed that it was late enough today that it was going to be another day or two.

And as soon as they said that I was being released, I was at first shocked and couldn't believe it, because it was after, like -- it was already dark, and normally nothing happens after the sun goes down around there. So I was pretty amazed that they were letting me go.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Paul, this is Jill. You know, this is a pretty strange case. I mean, a father loses his son, comes to you at the hospital, and somehow you get involved. The father says -- he's accusing you of kidnapping, even though the child actually had died. It's very, very strange. I mean, is this a fluke? Or should other aid workers really worry about being in Haiti?

WAGGONER: As far as I know, this case is the only one that I've ever heard of that I've obviously been a part of that -- that was anywhere remotely close to this. There's been other little situations here and there. But nothing like this. I believe it just ended up -- at the end, it was a matter of the father and the mother trying to make a dime off of their kid.

DOUGHERTY: So a grieved father, yes?

WAGGONER: I'm sorry?

DOUGHERTY: A grieved father?

WAGGONER: Yes, yes.

MALVEAUX: So Paul, you're convinced that the father was trying to extort money from you? That that is why he accused you of kidnapping?

WAGGONER: Oh, absolutely. It went from -- it went from kidnapping to selling him -- to selling him into the United States for adoption to a priest, saying that he was still alive, playing on the roof of the hospital, and a few other stories had came up.

But the final one was, I guess, I had -- I had killed his child. But during the statements yesterday, he mentioned everybody's name but mine being involved in what happened with this child. So the judge, seeing that and caught a -- caught a few contradictions in the stories from the day prior, he had made his statement.

MALVEAUX: And Paul -- and Paul, where are you now? Are you in a safe place? Are you worried for your safety? Are you heading out of the country? What is happening now?

WAGGONER: I actually -- if at all possible, I would like to stay and keep working here in Haiti, but I'm in a good place right now. We're not going to disclose the location. But I'm good right now. And, you know, just happy to be back.

MALVEAUX: So are you going to come back to Haiti, do you think, ultimately to work again, volunteer again?

WAGGONER: Absolutely, if I can. And I wouldn't -- I wouldn't say that anybody needs to, you know, have second thoughts about coming down here. If any aid workers want to come and do work in Haiti, they should absolutely do it. You know, the people here need it. And you know, the government is not providing a lot of things that aid workers could.

So, you know, it's -- it would be -- it would be, you know, really bad for Haiti to lose all the foreign aid coming in, the help. You know, anything from medical to teachers to, you know, contractors, builders, anything like that. You know, they need all of the help they can get.

MALVEAUX: Paul, we are just so pleased that you are safe, that you are OK and that this has been resolved. And obviously, yes, a lot of Haitians still need a lot of support. So thank you very much, Paul Waggoner, for joining us here live in THE SITUATION ROOM for that breaking news.

WAGGONER: Thank you.

Next in THE SITUATION ROOM, the fourth-grade history textbook that is rewriting history. We're going to explain how it could even happen.

Plus, the answer to our trivia question.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Earlier, we asked you how many people died in the two battles of Bull Run. The right answer: 22,000. But in an approved Virginia textbook, you'll find the wrong answer. That is 6,000. Now, that's just a small example of a big problem with the textbook used by thousands of fourth graders right now. Historic fact errors that are so bad they're even insulting to some folks.

Martin Savidge is live at the CNN Center in Atlanta to break it all down for us.

Martin, what did you learn?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Suzanne.

Well, you know, fourth-grade history for a lot of kids is not that easy. There are a lot of dates, a lot of events that have to be memorized and have to be recalled. But it doesn't help if the history book you're using is wrong. And I'm not talking a little wrong. I'm not talking slightly in error. We're talking really wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The United Stated entered World War I in 1916.

(BUZZER) SAVIDGE: No. It was 1917.

There were 12 Confederate states.

(BUZZER)

SAVIDGE: Actually, there were 11.

In 1800, New Orleans was a U.S. port.

(BUZZER)

SAVIDGE: No, it was still under Spanish control.

These and dozens of other errors can be found in a textbook handed out to thousands of Virginia fourth graders. Problems with the book, "Our Virginia: Past and Present," published by Five Ponds Press, first surfaced last October, as reported by "The Washington Post," when the mother of one fourth grader, a college history professor, spotted several lines on page 122.

CAROL SHERIFF, PARENT OF A VIRGINIA FOURTH GRADER: It was particularly jarring when I got to this one passage that was so at odds with what historians had been saying about who participated in the Civil War.

SAVIDGE: The book says thousands of blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, something not supported by mainstream Civil War scholarship, but it's the next line that's just plain wrong. Quote, "including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson," unquote.

SHERIFF: The textbook actually does note that it wasn't until 1865 that African-Americans could legally serve in the Confederate army. It also tells children that Stonewall Jackson died in 1863.

SAVIDGE: The error about blacks serving in the Confederate army was outrageous to many in academia.

JEREMY MAYER, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: It is the equivalent of Holocaust denial being taught in the public schools but worse, it's also the equivalent of saying that the Jews helped the Holocaust.

SAVIDGE: The textbook's author, who is not a historian, said she found the information while researching online. The publisher defended the author, saying she used real books, as well.

LOU STOLNIK, FIVE PONDS PRESS: I don't think the author could necessarily, you know, be accused of being stupid and doing Internet- only research.

SAVIDGE: Because of the outcry in November, the Virginia Board of Education hired five historians to review the textbook. They were the ones who found that dozens more mistakes or misrepresentations, leading one to ask, quote, "How in the world did these books get approved?" He recommended they be pulled from the classroom immediately.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: And as to how those books were approved, they were approved, actually, by the individual school districts that are using them.

In order to make the fix for the question of blacks serving in the confederacy, they're going to use these. Stickers. Actually, they've already been put in place.

But now there are so many errors, they realize that the stickers aren't going to work. The publisher says the next book will be fixed with all of those problems.

As for the school districts with old book, they're going to try to figure that out when school resumes in January -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So Martin, right now it's just all stickers. You make a correction, you put a sticker on. And hopefully, the kids are learning the right facts.

SAVIDGE: A lot of stickers.

MALVEAUX: Amazing. Thank you, Martin.

Remember, you can follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM. Just go to Facebook.com/CNNSituationRoom to become a fan.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.