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CNN NEWSROOM

News Conference on Economic Stimulus Package; Giuliani Pins Hopes on Florida; Amy Winehouse Goes to Rehab; More Details on Heath Ledger's Death; French Bank Robbed By Own Trader; Ford Buyout Offer

Aired January 24, 2008 - 14:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's a big win for the American people, according to Nancy Pelosi, there holding the news conference with her number two, John Boehner, and also the treasury secretary.
Bottom line is they feel good about this economic stimulus package. Of course, it's got to head to the Senate as well, and then the president will sign off. They say it will strengthen the middle class, put money in the hands of the middle class, help create jobs and start to turn this economy around.

If you're just tuning in, with the numbers on Wall Street right there, the Dow Industrials up 40 points. We'll have to see how this decision affects those numbers. We're monitoring that, of course, all afternoon.

But bottom line, if you make $75,000 or less, you're a single tax filer, you'll be getting a rebate check, $600 as a couple; $150,000 or less, $1,200 rebate check. Twenty-three million Americans to get these rebate checks, if indeed this makes it through each of the political process.

We're still learning a lot of details. It's a tentative deal, but apparently the checks are in the mail, according to Dems there.

CNN's Kathleen Koch joins us now live from the White House. She's been listening to this as well -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, the checks they hope will eventually be in the mail. But, again, as you pointed out, this has got to go to the Senate. Let's say that right up front. This is a deal that has been drafted between the House and the administration.

Now, we have a bicameral legislature, and there are a lot of Democrats in the Senate who say, hey, you know, we -- the House gave away too much. They are not going to extend unemployment benefits in this stimulus package. They are not going to increase food stamps.

Those would pump a lot of money immediately into the economy. We might add that in. You're also hearing Senator Chuck Schumer talk about a second stimulus package, maybe something that would have some long-range sort of infrastructure projects to pump more money into the economy.

So, this is really a very important, I think many people must recognize, first step, but they've got a long ways to go -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And we'll be following it too, as well. But we just heard there both from Democrats and Republicans, alongside with the treasury secretary, they feel good about this bipartisan decision.

We'll continue to track it.

Kathleen Koch from the White House.

Thanks.

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

LEMON: All of the Democrats are in South Carolina, all the Republicans, well, they are in Florida. And the stage is set for the next two primaries in the race for the White House. Candidates Clinton and Obama may have stolen the Democratic spotlight, but John Edwards is hoping for a home field advantage in Saturday's contest.

In Florida, John McCain is looking to build on his latest win, but his Republican rivals say they're in for the long haul.

Rudy Giuliani has pinned his White House hopes on Florida, but a new poll of polls in that state finds he still has work to do between now and Tuesday's primary. The survey, which averages three points -- three new polls, I should say, shows John McCain out front with 27 percent, with Mitt Romney just two points behind. Giuliani is third at 16 percent, just one point ahead of Mike Huckabee.

Giuliani insists Florida's primary will give his campaign the boost it needs. Can he crash the party?

Here's CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On the stump, Rudy Giuliani's theme of tested is retooled.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did it with New York City, and you can go look at the results to the economy of New York City. I have done it with businesses. I have done it before, I can do it again.

BASH: Giuliani says he wants to jump-start the economy by simplifying the tax code immediately.

GIULIANI: Ultimately, if it's passed, you will be able to file your taxes on one page.

(APPLAUSE)

GIULIANI: One page.

BASH: His biggest challenge, getting Floridians to listen.

Before this appearance, volunteers worked the phones to beef up the crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There'll be a gas station on your left. You will see Rudy Giuliani signs.

BASH: A packed house, but lots of people who can't vote in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here visiting from Pennsylvania.

BASH (on camera): And where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bremen, Indiana.

BASH (voice over): There are fresh signs Giuliani's strategy to skip most early contests in search of a Florida win may not be working. A new poll here shows Giuliani now statistically tied for third with Mike Huckabee, a 10-point fall from his Florida lead a few months ago.

(on camera): So why is it that you seem to be losing support, not gaining support?

GIULIANI: I think the reality is that we are gaining support. I think the issues that we are hitting on are the ones that are the key ones for the people of Florida. And the most important one is, you know, proven leadership.

BASH (voice over): There, his obstacle is John McCain, on TV with this new ad...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no one more qualified to meet our national security threats. I have been dealing with these issues my entire adult life.

BASH: And McCain appears to be competing for Florida's top spot with Mitt Romney.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will go to Washington using the experience I have in the private sector, in the real economy, to strengthen our economy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Dana Bash joins us now from Boca Raton.

Dana, what's the Giuliani camp saying now with the polls show him in third place? He was counting on Florida, pinning all his hopes on Florida, in fact. That's what you guys have been reporting.

BASH: He sure was. That's what he personally has been saying, Don. You're absolutely right.

You know, I asked him point blank about that yesterday because, you know, the thing to keep in mind is not just that he's pinning his hopes here, he has been here in Florida pretty much with the stage to himself because he blew off the other -- the early primary contest states because he made it clear that it wasn't really -- didn't really work to play there in -- for his particular issue base. So, he really did focus on this 57-delegate-rich state of Florida, and he hasn't had any ads run against him. He really hasn't been the recipient of any kind of attacks.

So, it seems as though the more time he has spent here, Don, the more his -- his poll numbers and the more his approval among Republican voters here have gone down. And when I asked him about that, he simply said that he thinks that he just needs a little bit more time for his issues, important for what he's talking about, to take hold. But here's the problem with that.

The primary is just four days away. And if you talk to pollsters and you look at what they're saying here, the number of undecided voters in the Republican electorate here is very, very small. So, what they say is, if those undecided voters haven't decided on Rudy Giuliani, given the fact that they have had such huge exposure to him, it's very unlikely that they will in the near future -- Don.

LEMON: Yes. Dana Bash in Boca Raton.

Time is running out, isn't it?

All right. Thank you very much for that.

BASH: It sure is.

PHILLIPS: The nominations are far from settled, but we already have a hint about what candidates might run well in October. A "Los Angeles Times"/Bloomberg News poll finds that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would defeat all but one of the current Republican hopefuls by more than 10 points.

The Republican who comes closer in match-ups with both Clinton and Obama is John McCain, and the poll shows McCain trails Clinton by four points in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up. McCain and Obama are in a virtual tie.

Two Massachusetts men are being arraigned today on charges of breaking into Mitt Romney's Boston headquarters overnight. Campaign officials say that there's no sign the break-in was politically motivated.

Police say Daniel Bradley (ph) and Michael Sawyer (ph) were caught stealing computer equipment from Romney's offices early this morning. It's the second time Romney's headquarters has been broken into since Saturday.

One of the toughest questions Bill Clinton had to face yesterday from a 5-year-old girl. McKenna Chance, from Kingstree, South Carolina, asked the former president, "What do you do when you get married?" After the crowd stopped laughing, Clinton paused for a moment, then kept it simple. He told her the best parts of being married is spending your life with your best friend and having children. Well, time is winding down and the race is heating up. For the freshest polls, the latest fights, the Political Ticker blog and more, just check out cnnpolitics.com.

LEMON: What is going on with the economy, with housing, Wall Street? Well, everyday people want to know. Our Ali Velshi is on the Election Express. He's going to join us in a little bit.

And also, we know Congress and the White House, well, they have agreed on a tax rebate. Will it work? And how much will you get, if anything?

We'll talk with former labor secretary Robert Reich.

PHILLIPS: And a new indictment stemming from the racial turmoil in Jena, Louisiana. Who is charged and why? Our Sean Callebs will have a live report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, just moments ago a bipartisan group announced a tentative agreement on an economic stimulus package that they plan to hand over to the president. We're getting word now that at 2:30 Eastern, in just about 14, 15 minutes, the president will speak about the economy from the White House briefing room.

We'll bring that to you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Close call looming for tens of thousands of U.S. autoworkers. Take the buyout announced by Ford today, or cling to positions in an ailing industry?

With that story for us, Ali Velshi aboard the Election Express, joining us by phone. We've had a little issue with the technical side of the camera thing. I hear you just entered the great state of Texas.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We absolutely did, and it's a big and great state. We're going to be here probably for more than a day because we're driving through it.

You're going to -- you might get my picture back. We're on the CNN Election Express driving west. We're hoping to get to California in a couple of days.

But in the meantime, we are talking to people around here. The news today, in addition to this economic stimulus package, is that Ford has announced it is going to offer buyout packages to 54,000 of its workers, all of its unionized workers. The assumption there is that a good number of them will take those buyout packages, reducing Ford's workforce, and thereby hopefully allowing them to replace that workforce, or at least hopefully for Ford, with a less expensive, nonunionized workforce.

It's not great for those unionized workers, but it probably comes as no surprise since this has been something we've seen from the automakers the last couple of years. It's a way to tell these union workers there are still risks working for these Detroit automakers, and if you take the buyout, you're no longer subject to those risks. You get a cash payout.

This is common in industries where they are trying to downsize. And what this allows these workers to do is take that cash, get some retraining, perhaps relocate, and work somewhere else.

Now, the issue here is that the U.S. automakers -- and we've discussed this many times, Kyra -- say they're not competitive with Honda, Toyota, and others because they don't -- the other automakers don't have those long-term legacy payments, those health care and retirement payments that are made -- the retired workforce and their spouses back when GM and Ford and Chrysler were such big companies. There are so many fewer workers there.

So that's the news coming out of Ford. The offer window will be from about the end of February until sometime in March. Then those workers who decide to take that buyout will be off the job by April 1st. Again, it's a pattern we've seen in this industry. About 60,000 workers took such a buyout last year combined from the various automakers. So that's the news out of there.

Again, the other thing people are going to be concerned about now, and you're covering it a great deal, is the economic stimulus package. When is it going to happen? What are the final details going to be? And how will it help the economy?

You can see the Dow is not reacting in a fashion that says this is the be-all, end-all. There are still a lot of people who think that this kind of thing may not happen fast enough to save the U.S. from a recession. So we're tracking all of that very carefully, and we're stopping in towns and talking to people about what their specific concerns are about the economy -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, and as you talk about the economy and you're going from state to state, are people wanting to talk about candidates and who they want to vote for and their takes on the economy? For example, are they asking you what Romney has said or what Clinton has said about the economy?

VELSHI: You know, it's funny, Kyra. I might have thought that they would. They all know exactly what's going on. They can tell me what's going on with the markets. They can tell me what's going on with the economy. And they tell me specifically what's going on with their economic situation. I've had people tell me that the rebates don't make sense. I've had other people tell me they think the rebates will get people to spend money. Others have said cut taxes, that's the answer.

We spoke to a woman who was 56 years old yesterday, displaced from a factory job in Arkansas. She would like jobs in rural areas. Others have said they want the Fed to cut interest rates more.

What they did say about the candidates is they want them to speak specifically, more specifically, about economic issues. A number of them expressed some distaste with -- with the attacks and the types of (INAUDIBLE) voting decision in many cases on how the candidates address specific economic issues like jobs, like energy prices, like mortgages, like housing, and in this case, the economic stimulus package -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Ali Velshi, entering into the great state of Texas there via broadband and on the phone.

Ali, thanks so much.

You can stick with CNN for all the news that affects your financial security. Go to cnnmoney.com for a look at how the economic stimulus deal might affect your wallet.

LEMON: And we're showing you this live picture of the White House because we're expecting the president in about 10 minutes to step up to the microphone to talk about the White House and the Congress agreeing on this stimulus package which includes a tax rebate.

How much are you going to get, if any? Well, former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, will also join us to answer those questions coming up right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

LEMON: And we also want to remind our viewers, in just a few minutes the president is supposed to speak out about this proposed economic stimulus package. It should happen at the bottom of the hour. As soon as it happens, we'll bring it to you.

You heard Susan mention the former labor secretary, and you heard it here just minutes ago, House leaders and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announcing an economic stimulus package. A few loose ends remain, but negotiators say they want to get checks in the mail as soon as possible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: I know the work isn't done yet. As the speaker said, we've got more to do. And I'm looking forward to working with the Senate and working with the House to get a package as soon as possible, because, again, speed is of the essence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Joining us now from Berkeley, California, is the former labor secretary, Robert Reich, who served in the Clinton administration. He's professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of the book "Super Capitalism."

You're not buying this. You're skeptical of this proposed package. ROBERT REICH, FMR. LABOR SECRETARY: Well, I'm skeptical, Don, only because it is really very small. I mean, we're talking about $300 for a lot of families.

Well, $300 is not going to do much when you think of energy prices going up and food prices going up and housing values going down for a lot of people. That was their piggybank, after all. It's really a drop in the bucket.

LEMON: Well, you know, some people are getting -- they're going to get from $300 for each child, $1,200 for a couple, $600 for an individual. Some people can use this money. And when they did this back in 2001, they said it did work, it stimulated the economy.

Why not this time?

REICH: Well, let's do it. I mean, I'm just saying that relative to the scale of the problem, it is a drop in the bucket.

I'm not saying don't do it. Let's give families as much help as possible, particularly low-income families who are struggling like mad -- $300 is better than nothing. But it's not going to solve the problem. It's not going to ward off what seems to be a very large and fairly frightening recession on its way.

LEMON: And just so you know, we're getting the one-minute warning, and the president is often early. So as soon as -- we may have to cut you off for the president, but if you can stay around and comment on what the president has to say, we would certainly appreciate it.

You talked about this has to do with the rate cuts and the housing market as well. You said it's different than last time. You said a rate cut won't change anything. You're talking about what Ben Bernanke did a couple of days ago. "It's like offering a 10-pound lobster," according to you, "to someone so constipated he can't take another mouthful."

REICH: That's a little color language and, yes, I did use it. But Don, the point is that you've got a credit market freeze right now, because credit markets don't know how much debt and how much risk they've taken on. If you have a rate cut, the credit markets aren't going to really feel very much differently about all the uncertainty. Uncertainty is hated by markets.

And on the other hand, you also have a housing crunch as housing prices are dropping for the first time in living memory. And what that means is a lot of people, who are counting on their houses, as both their cash cow and also their -- their retirement nest egg, can no longer count on them. So, a lot of consumers are getting very concerned, very worried. Job figures are not very good. So all of this has the makings of a fairly severe recession. Let's hope not. But what Ben Bernanke did and what Congress is about to do with the stimulus package are really small potatoes relative to the size of the potential problem. LEMON: OK, and just moments ago, the Minority Leader, John Boehner, said that this was -- the president is coming out. Yes, so let's go and then we'll talk about this on the other side.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... the agreement with Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Boehner on an economic growth package. Mr. Secretary, thank you for handling the negotiations, and appreciate your hard work.

This agreement was the result of intensive discussions and many phone calls, late-night meetings and the kind of cooperation that some predicted was not possible here in Washington. It also required patience, determination and goodwill. I thank the speaker and I thank leader Boehner for their hard work and for their leadership, and for showing the American people that we can come together to help our nation deal with difficult economic challenges.

I'm pleased that this agreements meets the criterion that I set forth last week to provide an effective, robust and temporary set of incentives that will boost our economy and encourage job creation. This package has the right set of policies and is the right size. The incentives in this package will lead to higher consumer spending and increased business investment this year. Importantly, this package recognizes that lowering taxes is a powerful and efficient way to help consumers and businesses. I've always believed that allowing people to keep more of their own money and to use it as they see fit is the best way to help our economy grow. I'm also pleased that this agreement does not include any tax increases, as well as unnecessary spending projects, that would have little immediate impact on our economy.

I know Americans are concerned about our economic future. Our economy is structurally sound, but it is dealing with short-term disruptions in the housing market and the impact of higher energy prices. These challenges are slowing growth. Yet Americans can also be confident about our long-term outlook. Our economy's strong, it is dynamic and it is resilient. It has led the world for many decades. And with the right policies in place, including the extension of the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003, that have helped our economy, I firmly believe we're going to continue to lead the world.

Because the country needs this boost to the economy now, I urge the House and the Senate to enact this economic growth agreement into law as soon as possible. We have an opportunity to come together and take the swift, decisive action our economy urgently needs. Secretary Paulson is here to answer any questions. In my request, he's taking the lead in negotiations like I mentioned, and I -- you did a superb job, Mr. Secretary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

LEMON: All right, the president and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson there. It seems to be a show of support, bi-partisan support on this. The president coming out and then saying that he believes that this is the right thing to do. I want to bring the former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, back in and get his response to this. You said -- the president said, some thought it couldn't be done, bi-partisan, both Republicans and Democrats working together. OK. We're going to go -- instead of Mr. Reich, we're going to go to Kathleen Koch now who is standing by for us for reaction at the White House.

Go ahead, Kathleen.

KOCH: Well, I think that was perhaps a good question that you were about to ask. Some said this couldn't be done and I think it's important to point out this is not a done deal yet. The president, again, said he was pleased, it met his criteria, right policy, right size. And it is right for the members, apparently, of the House and then the administration, again, who have agreed to it.

But, this measure still has to go to the Senate, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, said that they expect to get in on February 6th and already we're hearing sounds, noise, from a number of Democrats who say we do not like the fact that this does not increase food stamp benefits. We do not like the fact that it does not extend unemployment benefits.

Already Senator Schumer of New York is saying, I think we need to have a second stimulus package that -- that addresses big infrastructure problems, a measure that he believes would pump money into the economy. So, this, again, is a very large -- I think everyone will agree, $150 billion, an important first step. But it's not a done deal yet.

LEMON: OK. We'll see. Kathleen Koch at the White House. Thank you very much.

Meantime, Brianna Keilar is standing by on Capitol Hill with reaction from there.

Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and just to build on what Kathleen was saying, this certainly is a good show of bi- partisanship here, but it isn't a done deal because this has to go to the Senate. The Senate and the House are two very independent bodies and certainly members of the Senate have already showed that they want to have their say on this. In addition to Senator Schumer, we've also heard from Senator Max Baucus the very powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He raised a whole lot of concerns as well as some other Democrats.

Some of the things they floated, unemployment insurance, extending that, as well as food stamps, infrastructure, even things like a summer job program for young Americans. And we've also heard from Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Finance Committee. He said that everything is on the table. So, certainly the Senate is going to be talking about what they want in this. And they're not going to just take this as a suggestion and not add their two cents, Don. LEMON: All right, Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill, Kathleen Koch at the White House and former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, we thank all of you for joining us today -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: When symbolism goes over the line. Federal hate crime charges are leveled against a white teen stemming from last year's Jena 6 demonstrations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Four months after the Jena 6 demonstrations, a Louisiana teenager has been indicted on federal hate crime and conspiracy charges. CNN's Sean Callebs joins us live from New Orleans with the latest.

You know, Sean, you and I have been covering this story from the very beginning, and you were just mentioning, this is how this all got started. More than a year ago, three white boys hanging nooses at a high school. They weren't charged with any kind of hate crime. Then the controversy continued, and then here we are today. So, this is interesting.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.

PHILLIPS: This has happened.

CALLEBS: Yes, that is really what drove the initial wedge through that community that really split it among black and whites, which really led to the massive demonstration which we all remember back from September 20th. About 20,000 people, chiefly African- Americans, pouring into that small town in La Salle Parish, demonstrating very peacefully that day. Now, at the end of the day, as a lot of the marchers were heading back to buses to go home, there was a group who were heading toward a bus stop to go back to Tennessee, where a -- 18-year-old Jeremiah Munsen drove by in a red pickup truck. We have some pictures that were actually taken by an i- Reporter that showed these makeshift nooses dangling from the back of the pickup truck that are made from extension cords.

Well he was arrested that day. And at the time, he was charged with D.U.I., and also authorities found a gun, brass knuckles in his car. But, boy, the stakes have really been elevated, Kyra, because now he is facing federal hate crime charges. And to give you an idea of how important that is, the punishment's going to be much more severe if he's convicted. Only 22 people were charged with hate crimes in the United States last year.

PHILLIPS: And let's point something out, Sean. He's 18-years- old. Now, when you and I both had talked to Don Washington, the attorney general there in Louisiana, about why weren't these three white boys at Jena High School charged with any kind of hate crime. His response was, because they're juveniles and it's harder to charge juveniles with a hate crime.

So, do you think that this could change, though? That this is just sort of the beginning of, maybe, these crimes being taken more seriously? Or is it because, look, this kid was 18, so it's easier to prosecute?

CALLEBS: Look, it's hard not to like Donald Washington. He's a really sharp guy. And he -- when he testified on Capitol Hill in -- I think it was October of last year, he was grilled. Why weren't the students who originally hung the nooses charged with a hate crime? He went through and said, look, we went through the statutes. We looked, but it's very difficult to prosecute juveniles for a hate crime. Also, hate crime has to be directed at a certain individual for their race, ethnicity -- ethnicity, sorry about that.

We do have some comments from Al Sharpton, Reverend Al Sharpton, though, because he's been very vocal in this. I want to read this to you. It says, "I think the indictment is an appropriate step in the right direction." And he talks about a march they had on November 16th. "I hope this is a signal that the justice department will now take the hangmen's nooses and hate crimes more seriously. If they had prosecuted the white students that hung the nooses in Jena, we may never have had to raise the national outcry that we did. Our protest was over why some are prosecuted and others are excused." That is exactly what is at the core of this, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And, let's point out, too, when you and I were in Jena, Louisiana, for this white supremacist march, to see what happened, Don Washington was there with his law book, specifically with the page on hate crimes folded over. So, he has been paying close attention since everything has happened in Jena.

CALLEBS: Clearly, the stakes are so elevated in that area. It's such a powder keg. People try to do everything they can to keep a lid on that, be as fair as possible to everyone involved. But this 18- year-old, Jeremiah Munsen, facing some really, really stiff penalties, if he is convicted on all these charges of hate crimes.

PHILLIPS: Sean Callebs, live from New Orleans. Sean, thanks.

LEMON: A desperate search is under way in Las Vegas, in that area, for a 20-year-old woman who has been missing since New Year's day. Aaron Drawhorn of CNN affiliate, KLAS, reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AARON DRAWHORN, KLAS REPORTER: This is Mariella Moreno, (ph) celebrating Halloween this last year with her family.

MONICA KONGSRUD, SISTER: She's very -- smiling.

DRAWHORN: She's dressed as a pirate, at the district.

KONGSRUD: Very happy.

DRAWHORN: Mariella's 20th birthday last October was also a joyous occasion. Lately though, her family's smiles have been replaced by tears.

KONGSRUD: Too much. Sorry.

DRAWHORN: It's been a very tough time for Mariella's sister, Monica. She says the worst part is not knowing.

KONGSRUD: We are very worried about -- about her.

DRAWHORN: Mariella rang in 2008 with friends. All the celebrations ended in the wee hours of the morning, January 1st. Missing persons posters on now on display, and police have been searching. But so far, there is no sign of Mari, as her family affectionately calls her. Her cell phone hasn't been used since New Year's day. They are just holding out hope.

KONGSRUD: I feel like that she is -- she's alive. I have a feeling in my heart. I think that she's OK, but I don't know why she can't communicate with us.

DRAWHORN: Monica prays that if Mariella is being held against her will that her captors will think of how much she is loved and missed.

KONGSRUD: We love you so much. And we waiting that you are back with us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: That report from Aaron Drawhorn of CNN affiliate KLAS. He says Las Vegas-area police are meeting today to discuss that investigation.

PHILLIPS: A big French bank includes billions of dollars in what it's calling a case of exceptional fraud. We'll head to Paris for the latest on the trader who is accused in the case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: OK, this just in to the CNN NEWSROOM.

Fredricka, this sounds a bit confusing or contradictory.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

LEMON: You can smoke it legally, we're talking about pot here, medical marijuana. But you can get fired for smoking it.

WHITFIELD: Right, you took the words right out of my mouth. It's contradictory and it's very confusing. So, the California Supreme Court said an employer can indeed fire their employee, regardless of whether they were prescribed marijuana by their doctors or not. This case being brought to the forefront by "Raging Wire," a small telecommunications company in Sacramento, which fired its employee, Gary Ross, after he flunked his test.

He took it to court, and the California Supreme Court says that despite the fact that California and 11 other states allow medicinal use of marijuana, it's still a federal offense. So, if an employer in California wants to fire its employee as a result of using marijuana, they can. This company argued that they were afraid that they might be the subject of a federal raid, and so that's why they fired him because the use of marijuana is still a federal offense. So, hopefully I haven't confused you further...

LEMON: No, you explained it.

WHITFIELD: ... but that's indeed what the Supreme Court for California has said.

LEMON: Yes, you explained it very concisely. OK, Fredricka, thank you very much.

PHILLIPS: Well, going against the grain. A state-run media, find out what an Internet journalist has to do to evade the censors in Communist Cuba.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Developing news for Amy Winehouse. Entertain correspondent, Kareen Wynter, joins us now for the latest.

Kareen, the award-winning journalist -- or journalist, artist. Just can't seem to keep it straight right now.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: I know, and we all love her. She's such a talent. Amy Winehouse, let's start with the new information coming in, because she just has so much news out there.

Amy Winehouse, well her music label, Kyra, they just issued a statement saying that Winehouse just canceled her appearance at an awards show she was scheduled to attend in France on Saturday. And, that she's entered -- get this -- a drug rehab facility after talks with her record label, her management, her family and doctors. So we'll have to see what develops. You know she has her little rehab song, but for real, she's entering rehab this time.

Now, on to some more Winehouse news. This one involving Scotland Yard. Investigators say, it's looking into a video, you've probably seen it, that's already out there, it's hit the Internet, which allegedly shows Winehouse smoking crack cocaine. The British tabloid, "The Sun" released the grainy footage which allegedly shows the Grammy-nominated singer inhaling fumes from the pipe. Wow.

Now, the video was reportedly shot hours before Winehouse attended a court hearing for her jailed husband. Police said they'll have to determine whether any charges should be brought against her. And this, again, shows such a talent she is. She's currently up for six -- six -- Grammys, including "Best New Artist," "Album of the Year" for her disk, "back to Black," which I love. Plus, "Record of the Year" and "Song of the Year," for "Rehab."

PHILLIPS: So what was the deal with the prescription drugs that were found?

WHITFIELD: Oh, boy, there are so many reports that have been -- we're talking about Ledger now. Keeping up with all of these celebrities and his unfortunate death this week. Well, we're learning more. That before getting to that, let me tell you quickly about the funeral arrangements. They've been finalized for Ledger. His family, of course, wants to keep the details private. Loved ones are expected, Kyra, to fly into New York City tomorrow.

We're also hearing that the massage therapist, Diana Wolozin who arrived at Ledger's home on Tuesday -- she found him unresponsive. But instead of calling 9-1-1, well, she first called actress, Mary- Kate Olsen after finding her number on his cell phone and, you know, knowing that they were friends. So Wolozin didn't call 9-1-1 until later on, much later, about 30 minutes after her first call to Olsen. Wolozin told paramedics that Ledger was not breathing and she also tried to perform C.P.R. while she was on the phone to them.

Ledger's housekeeper, interestingly enough, had arrived earlier in the day. She saw Ledger; he was sleeping, face down, snoring and so, really didn't notice anything suspicious. So she, of course, didn't call on 9-1-1 right away. But as for those pills, you know we've heard so many reports, Kyra, that they were strewn all about. Well, this is what we've been able to confirm, that they were prescription sleeping pills found near his body.

And again, we won't know the final results of the autopsy. There was a preliminary report that came in, it was inconclusive and we're told it will take about two weeks to figure out what exactly killed the actor.

So, let's talk a little bit about what's coming up on "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT." We'll of course have a lot more on the unfortunate death of Heath Ledger. His final hours, actually, and the lingering questions about what exactly led to his shocking death. All the late-breaking details on the death of Heath Ledger on TV's most provocative entertainment news show, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" -- 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Kareen Wynter. Thank you.

WYNTER: You're welcome.

LEMON: A big French bank loses billions of dollars in what it's calling a case of exceptional fraud. We'll head to Paris for the latest on the trader who is accused in that case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, a rogue trader is being blamed for monumental fraud at one of France's biggest banks, monumental translates to more than $7 billion. The bank says that the trader did deals regarding stock futures that exceeded his trading limits, and then created false transactions to cover his tracks. The bank says that the man has confessed and is being fired, along with his supervisors.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

LEMON: It's a deal, but not yet a law. Money from the government to spend however you like.

PHILLIPS: The key word is spend. Congress and the White House are counting on you to spend the U.S. economy back to prosperity.

Hello, everyone, I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM -- 3:00 Eastern time and we're still learning the details of that deal in Washington to put checks in the mail.

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