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Florida Votes; House Passes Economic Stimulus Package; Venezuelan Bank Robbery Bandits Flee in Ambulance

Aired January 29, 2008 - 15:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And that breaking news is happening in Venezuela. The exact location, Altagracia de Orituco, Venezuela.
Gunmen in a bank standoff have now fled in an ambulance with hostages. This is video that we're just getting in here. Can't quite make out exactly which ones are the hostages that have been released from that bank, but I can tell you that that's the ambulance right there being driven by one of the captives, in that ambulance, four gunmen and five hostages.

Apparently they had 30 hostages inside that Venezuelan bank for two days and then negotiated their getaway in this ambulance. They sped off with several of the captives just moments ago. Now, they made a deal with police, something that you definitely wouldn't see here in the United States, and that is police negotiating with gunmen to take off with hostages.

And part of that deal, the police are not supposed to follow them. But apparently they negotiated with police. They slipped into the back of this ambulance that just backed up to the entrance of the bank. The gunmen and hostages stepped out, and they held up file folders and paper bags to conceal their faces.

The gunmen were told they would not be followed. And here's another part that just adds to the drama. During the night of this two-day standoff, a gunman had actually accepted a package with diapers and a bottle for a 2-week-old baby. We're following this situation in Venezuela. Bring you more as we get it.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We're also following the situation, Kyra, that's happening in Washington. We have been talking about this economic stimulus plan that's being actually voted on now. The voting has begun. But it's going to take a while before we find out. But here's the new information in all of this. CNN is learning from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- she is predicting that this planned afternoon vote on the economic stimulus package would pass, would pass, with bipartisan support by an overwhelming margin.

So, that's good news as it comes to sort of stimulating something into the economy. It's a $150 billion bill. She does caution there that -- she's saying that the Senate should not load up this bill or slow its movement through the legislative process.

Our Brianna Keilar is following this story as it happens there on Capitol Hill, and she's going to bring us the very latest as soon as we get some information on that and exactly where that vote is. But again, expected to pass handily. And as soon as that happens, we will bring it to you.

The smart money is banking on another interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve. We will know tomorrow when Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues wrap up a two-day meeting. In the meantime, CNN's Ali Velshi is at the Chicago Board of Trade. And our Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange.

Let's begin with Ali in my old stomping ground in Chicago with the very latest -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know it, Don. This is a great town and these folks over here are the traders. They are -- the bell has rung. Trading is done for the day. They are going to go home, get some sleep, eat their Wheaties and come back tomorrow, because it's going to be a big day.

And somebody just signaled to me that one or two of them might actually get a drink. But it's going to be a big day tomorrow. Why? Because we're expecting that two-day meeting, at the end of it, at 2:15 Eastern time, that the Fed will announce another rate cut.

There's some speculation as to whether it will be 25 basis points -- that's a quarter of percentage point -- or half a percentage point. Now, what that is going to do is, whatever the Fed cuts by, the prime rate will come down by the same amount. That's where you have got loans that are tied to the prime rate. You will get a discount on that.

Now, what happens here is, this is where bonds are traded. The bonds are where -- is how your fixed interest rate, your fixed mortgages, are determined. And usually they track each other. So when the prime rate goes down when the Fed cuts rates, so will mortgage rates.

So, by tomorrow, by this time tomorrow, we will have heard from the major banks that they have cut after the Fed has cut. We will also probably see mortgage rates trading lower. Right now, if you have got good credit, for a 30-year fixed loan, it's about 5.3 percent. Some people can do better than that. This may result in a lower rate.

All of that is also help -- meant to help stimulate the economy. So, that's why we're keeping a close eye on it. That's why we're here in Chicago, and we will be here tomorrow when the Fed makes its announcement one way or the other on interest rates at 2:15 p.m. It is going to affect every single American with a home, with a mortgage, or some kind of loan -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Ali Velshi. And we know you're brown, but not that brown. Tell them to put a light on you. I love seeing you. We want to see your face.

VELSHI: You know, you can't put lights on. You can't put lights on here.

LEMON: Oh, is that what it is? VELSHI: That's what it is.

LEMON: Yes? OK. Now, you have explained it.

VELSHI: But I'm going to smile, so you know it's me.


LEMON: Ali Velshi, you're making me blush. And I'm browner than you are.


LEMON: All right, thank you, sir.


PHILLIPS: Leading our Political Ticker today, two leading candidates, two core issues, John McCain stressing his national security credentials, and Mitt Romney is banking on his financial chops, as they battle for Florida's Republican primary vote.

They appear to be in a neck-in-neck race, but Rudy Giuliani is hoping to be the spoiler in a contest that could make or break his campaign. No Democratic delegates are at stake in Florida, so the Dems are looking ahead to next week's Super Tuesday and the 22 Democratic contests.

She was picked to give the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union speech. Now she's picking sides in the presidential race. Kansas governor, Kathleen Sebelius, today endorsed Barack Obama. Democrats are hoping to reclaim the state, which has consistently gone Republican since Lyndon Johnson won in 1964.

Obama's Democratic rival is also getting a high-profile endorsement today. Hillary Clinton has won the backing of California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Waters is a leading member of the Congressional Black Caucus. She says Clinton is ready to tackle the country's economic challenges.

LEMON: Taking sides can be tricky, as Senator Edward Kennedy is finding out. The New York State chapter for the National Organization for Women calls Kennedy's backing of Barack Obama an ultimate betrayal.

The NOW chapter says Kennedy has,- "joined the list of progressive white men who can't or won't handle the prospect of a woman president," who is Hillary Clinton. Kennedy says his Obama endorsement wasn't meant as a rejection of Clinton, whom he says he respects.

It was chilly in the House chamber before President Bush's State of the Union speech last night, and we're not talking temperature. Barack Obama gave Hillary Clinton the cold shoulder. When Obama backer Ted Kennedy spoke with Clinton, Obama turned away. Do we know if that's true or is that how we're perceiving it? Neither Clinton, nor Obama acknowledged each other after all last night.

Right now, you can be part of the best political team on television. If you're a Floridian voting today, share your experience with us and the rest of the world. Send your video or pictures in an I-Report to


LEMON: There's some severe weather in China, too, some of the worst they have seen there. And look at these pictures. It's deadly and it's paralyzing. The worst winter storms in half a century have brought much of China to a complete standstill.

Hundreds of thousands -- that's right, hundreds of thousands -- of people are stranded in airports and train stations. Power is out in many places. Dozens of people, sadly, have died.

Now, this couldn't have happened at a worse time. Next week is the Chinese new year and millions of people are trying to make it home for the holiday. Later on, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM, a look inside one packed train station, and CNN's Hugh Riminton will take us inside of that train station and inside of this very sad story happening there.

Among those waiting and hoping to get moving is a CNN I-Reporter, Sam Dalili. Now, he took this photo while stuck on a plane for four hours at the snowed-in airport in Nanjing.

Kelli Duvall is a U.S. citizen. She lives there as well. She says her husband is stuck at the office with no way to get home. She and the kids are trying to make the best of it. They're playing in the snow and building igloos. Building an igloo, I still can't get over that.

If you want to share us your pictures or your video with us, just go to

PHILLIPS: Well, it has passed, we just got the word, the $146 billion economic aid package. Brianna Keilar is following it for us.

Brianna, bring us up to date.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, there's some bipartisanship obviously in the House. We have seen that they have overwhelmingly passed their plan for an economic stimulus.

But that bipartisan that we have been seeing also at the same time could be collapsing in the Senate. That's because Senate Democrats, as well as at least one moderate Republican, are weighing over a very different proposal from the House plan. This is one being floated by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

And what it would do is extend unemployment benefits, something the House plan doesn't do. But it would also change the tax rebate structure. It would be a flat $500 tax rebate for all income tax filers who make more than $3,000. And, unlike the House plan, it would include senior citizens who are on Social Security, and there's no salary cap. So, that means that Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, they would also get this $500 tax rebate. Total price tag for this package is $155 billion to $160 billion. That's about $5 billion to $10 billion more than the House plan.

And this is going to be very difficult for Democrats in the Senate to pass, because just a short time ago Republican leadership in the Senate announced that they just want to take the House bill, that one that just passed overwhelmingly, they want to take it clean and run it through the Senate, even a GOP leadership aide telling us Republicans may filibuster any attempts to make changes to that House plan. So, it's going to be difficult for Democrats -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, we will follow it.

Brianna Keilar there live there on Capitol Hill -- thanks, Brianna.

Dying for insurance, a man who isn't covered and has cancer. Dr. Gupta on his desperate fight to get treated and stay alive.


LEMON: Seventeen past the hour, three of the stories we're working on for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

This is a scene across the West right now, where heavy snow is triggering avalanches, collapsing roofs and causing car wrecks. Searchers are looking for three snowmobiles missing in the Colorado mountains.

U.S. and U.N. officials trying to keep Kenya from spiraling completely out of control. The killing of an opposition lawmaker is inflaming the already fierce protests over last month's presidential election. Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan is talking with Kenyan leaders, while the U.S. is calling for calm.

She was a singer, an actress, a writer, and the only child of President Truman. Margaret Truman died today in Chicago at 83. Recalling her time in the White House, which began while she was in college, she once said, "Some of it was fun, but most of it was not."

LEMON: Millions of Americans are living without health insurance. Some are taking desperate measures, even, to get it and save their lives.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been looking at the healthcare crisis for his upcoming "Broken Government" special. He's got an extreme example to share with us.


MARK WINDSOR, CANCER PATIENT: You can just shoot all day. You know? Taking pictures makes me a happy man.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A happy, uninsured man. When Mark Windsor was just 27-years-old, doctors removed a large cancerous tumor from his neck. Windsor thought he was cured, and left a job with company-paid health insurance to become a photographer.

WINDSOR: I have gone a few years without recurring and I just felt confident that, you know, I just couldn't let that dictate my life.

GUPTA: But the cancer returned. In the beginning, Windsor was lucky. He found a hospital and surgeons who agreed to remove the tumors at no charge. But there were limits.

WINDSOR: You knew that you weren't going to get anything extra. You're just going to get this tumor out of your body.

GUPTA: Nearly 50 million Americans have no health insurance. The American Cancer Society says patients without private insurance are 60 percent more likely to die within five years of their diagnosis. Tumors were growing again in Mark Windsor's neck. The surgeon who had donated his services was gone. He couldn't afford radiation treatment. So, he made a desperate decision. He married a good friend and she put him on her health insurance.

(on-camera): People get married, obviously, because they fall in love.

WINDSOR: I don't think I want to answer that.

GUPTA: Can I ask you, did you get married because of healthcare insurance?

WINDSOR: Well, some, yes.

GUPTA: Is that what we have arrived at?

WINDSOR: That's where we have arrived.

GUPTA: You had to get married to get healthcare insurance?

WINDSOR: Well, I didn't have to. I could have just -- the tumor was getting so bad, I would have been dead by now.

GUPTA (voice-over): Windsor now has insurance and care. But, unfortunately, a wedding, a wife, and a new chance at life didn't stop the cancer from spreading. Now it may be too late.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: I can tell you as well that -- that he has just had another operation a couple of weeks ago. He has this disease now spread to his lungs, Kyra. His doctors are confident that he will have an abbreviated life because of all that has happened to him or not happened to him in terms of the treatment that he hasn't received.

PHILLIPS: So, his life could have been saved if he had insurance?

GUPTA: Yes. You know, it's interesting. With this particular type of cancer, there was a treatment that was available that would have actually cured him of this particular cancer. But it was too expensive back then.

PHILLIPS: How much would it cost?

GUPTA: Maybe $100,000. It wasn't cheap by any means.

PHILLIPS: Right. But it would have saved his life.


GUPTA: His life. Years of treatments that he's gotten after that, all the cost of that probably way more than that single radiation treatment.

PHILLIPS: So, now doctors are giving him what, a year?

GUPTA: Well, I think they are reluctant to put any kind of time frame on this, but they are saying that his life will probably be abbreviated because of this metastatic disease.

PHILLIPS: It's hard to think that a hospital or that doctors or that our system would just do this and just leave a cancer patient to die.

GUPTA: You know, it's complicated, to be fair. He went to a hospital. They gave him free care for a while. The doctor was charitable. The hospital was charitable. Then that doctor went away. He did go to other hospitals.

A lot of times, he would go for a visit. Then he would get a bill for thousands of dollars, which he couldn't pay. Or he would wait 12 hours and get referrals. He felt like he was really getting shuffled around until he was able to get insured again by getting married.

PHILLIPS: So, what should uninsured cancer patients do?

GUPTA: Being uninsured is a difficult problem. We have been investigating this for months. And maybe that's sort of obvious. But I think the reality is, for people, if you don't have insurance, some pharmaceutical companies will offer prescription drugs plans, but that's for tens of thousands, as opposed to tens of millions.

There are some free clinics out there. But, again, that's more for preventive services, not for something like Mark Windsor has. And there are some other options in terms of trying to get -- if you qualify in terms of low salary, Medicaid, for the poor, for example. But, again, these are tough options. And he sort of fell through the cracks, which is why I thought his story was so important.

PHILLIPS: Yes, it breaks your heart. Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: All right. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: You can definitely see Sanjay for his special, "Broken Government: Healthcare Critical Condition," Thursday night, 11:00 Eastern, right after the CNN presidential debate.

LEMON: Want to tell you about a happy ending or perhaps a new beginning to a story CNN brought you last year.

I need a kidney. That's what Butch Morgan told the world on a billboard in Houston. Well, just last week, he got one, courtesy of Thomas Riordan of Chicago. Riordan decided to donate one of his kidneys after seeing the CNN story. Both are doing fine, actually, more than fine.


BUTCH MORGAN, KIDNEY RECIPIENT: I would say, you know, I mean, Tom was an angel that God sent to me, that I would tell him, I would love him -- I'll love him for the rest of my life.

If I don't ever get to see him again the rest of my life, he will always be in my prayers, in my family and my prayers. And I know we will stay in touch. But I definitely, you know -- I love this guy. He's -- he's like -- he's, you know, he's a blood brother to me now.

THOMAS RIORDAN, KIDNEY DONOR: It's a good feeling, that -- that you could, you know, extend somebody's life. That's actually what the doctor told me. He goes, you put 20 years on this man's life. So, for me to spend, you know, a week or two on the bench doesn't really hurt me.


LEMON: If you want more information on how to become an organ donor, go to

PHILLIPS: The Republicans are waiting for the Florida primary results, but, for the Democrats, there are no delegates, no real stakes. So, they're looking ahead. We're going to look, too.


LEMON: That economic stimulus package was passed by the House this hour. Our Brianna Keilar broke that news for us. And a congressional committee is meeting to discuss how best to combat the fallout from the subprime mess.


SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Coming up, how do you feel about the place where you work? Not the people, but the building itself. Some common complaints when I return for the closing bell.

Don and Kyra, I'm sure you'll have your two cents as well.

LEMON: I didn't realize I was on, I was giving that little smirk. We love it, the set too.

PHILLIPS: Of course we love.

LEMON: We love our set.

PHILLIPS: But we work in a newsroom.

LEMON: Yes. Of course. All right Susan --

PHILLIPS: And they are typically sloppy.

LEMON: And don't forget, thirty minutes away, the closing bell. We want to see what happens there. Thank you.

LISOVICZ: Your welcomed.

PHILLIPS: A super week is unfolding for an American airman and his family. We are going to tell you about his trip from Iraq to the Super Bowl.


LEMON: Well, the fight for Florida -- will the state be Rudy Giuliani's springboard or his swan song? He's hoping to be the spoiler in today's Republican primary, in which Mitt Romney and John McCain appear locked in a neck-and-neck race. The Republican battle is grabbing almost all the attention and the Democratic race is in the background, since no Democratic delegates are at stake there.

State by state, the candidates campaign. State by state, the voters vote. And everybody keeps track of which candidate win which state. But it's really all about delegates. Just as the Electoral College picks presidents, delegates pick nominees.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you want to be the Democratic nominee for president, you need just over 2,000 delegates to support you at the convention. And Obama has won the most so far through the primaries and caucuses. He has 63. Clinton has 48. Edwards has 26. And that's why Super Tuesday matters so very much. Almost 1,700 Democratic delegates will be divided on that day.

And it's tricky, because depending on local rules, strange things can happen. The candidates that wins a state may not win the most delegates from that state. For example, Clinton won the statewide popular vote in Nevada by capturing a few heavily populated urban areas like Las Vegas. But Obama did better in a good number of rural areas throughout the state, so he actually got one more delegate than she did.

But don't feel bad about that. The Democrats also have something called super delegates. These are party leaders who vote at the conventions. And right now, even though Obama has actually won more delegates nationally, Clinton has more support from these super delegates. So, she is winning the overall delegate race. It's terribly confusing.

And it is much more straightforward on the Republican side. They have fewer delegates and you need about 1,200 to be nominated. Romney is leading there. He's got 67, McCain has 38 and Mike Huckabee, 26 -- and the rest trail behind them. But they're also scrapping it out district by district for approximately 1,000 Super Tuesday delegates, knowing that in a race this tight the wrong move in the wrong place can cost you delegates, and that can cost you the nomination.


LEMON: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you very much, sir.

Right now, you can be part of the best political team on television. If you're a Floridian voting today, share your experience with us and the rest of the world. Somehow you get to be -- we can be on the best political team on TV.

PHILLIPS: That's right. We just send in our I-Reports.

LEMON: We just send in our I-Reports -- CNN -- send, what is it, pictures to I-Reports at

PHILLIPS: All right, we've been talking about the blizzards, the bitter cold, the dangerous winds -- two degrees in parts of the country -- Chad Myers. Man, oh man.


LEMON: Well, Mexico has joined for the hunt for the U.S. Marine suspected of killing his pregnant colleague. The U.S. Embassy says the Mexican government has issued an arrest warrant for Corporal Cesar Laurean. A cousin says Laurean visited family near Guadalajara two weeks ago, but left without saying where he was headed. Laurean is charged in last month's killing of Marine Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, who had accused him of rape months earlier.

Outrage in Gary, Indiana this hour. Police say a 13-month old boy was shot to death in what his mother described as a carjacking. Kwana Shaw was driving with her son Joshua last night when a man forced his way into the car. The coroner says Joshua died of two gunshot wounds. The mother was shot several times and is in critical condition.


SAMUEL ROBERTS, GARY POLICE DEPARTMENT: It takes a very low individual to do something like that. To take any life is terrible, but then to shoot a child -- it just kicks it up even worse.


LEMON: Police say they have arrested a person of interest in that shooting. PHILLIPS: Another gruesome case for police who handled the "Baby Grace" case. A couple in Galveston discovered the body of an infant today. Authorities say that at first the couple thought that they had found a doll, but it was a baby boy, believed three -- to be six months old. Investigators are trying to determine how that baby boy died. They suspect foul play. Authorities say the baby, who was partially clothed, had been dumped in that area, possibly overnight.

Something new from our friends at and TruTV. They've teamed up to bring you the best crime coverage on the Web. You can go behind the police state and into the courtroom like never before. Just go to

LEMON: On call to see the worst imaginable...


DR. MOHAMMED, SURGEON: I told one of my friends once that we must all go to heaven, we Iraqis, because we've already been to hell.


LEMON: A doctor who has kept his oath in the midst of war.


PHILLIPS: Talks aimed at ending weeks of deadly violence in Kenya opened today in Nairobi. That didn't stop looters or more violence, though. An opposition lawmaker was shot dead outside his home near the capital. And police say his death was not politically motivated. But it comes after hundreds of Kenyans have died in ethnic violence triggered by last month's presidential election.

Former U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, is mediating the peace talks. He's calling on the warring factions to do whatever possible to, in his words, stop the downward slide into chaos.

LEMON: Concern over a kidnapped American leads to a rare sight in Afghanistan. Some 500 Afghan women, many wearing burqas, gathered in a wedding hall in Kandahar. They called on Cyd Mizell's captors to release her immediately. It may seem like a small protest compared to mass demonstrations in the West, but today's rally was rare for women in this conservative region. One woman says she got permission from her husband to attend.

Mizell and her driver were kidnapped Saturday. No one has claimed responsibility. And Kandahar's governor says there are no suspects in the case. Mizell has worked for an aid agency for three years. She's been focusing on projects to help women and families learn to make money.

PHILLIPS: It's one of Baghdad's best, but a relatively well-off Iraqi hospital shows why that country's health care system is still in critical condition.

Here's CNN's Arwa Damon. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just a few months ago, the bulk of Baghdad's casualties came through the doors of the emergency ward at Yarmuk Hospital -- a time when those saving lives risked losing theirs.

MOHAMMED: Many times, military people or militias come in here with guns and they threaten us or they abuse us verbally or physically. And we are very -- sometimes we are -- some doctors has been shot at.

DAMON: The majority of Iraq's doctors fled the violence. But Dr. Mohammed stayed, fulfilling the dream of his childhood.

MOHAMMED: It was the image of the doctor that I liked when I was a child -- the white coat. And I used to go to a pediatrician when I was a child. He always gave me a lollipop when he finished examining me. So I liked this idea very much.

DAMON: As always here in Baghdad, with the good comes the bad.

MOHAMMED: I see some improvements, but the government has many issues. So I think they -- they put us on the last of the list.

DAMON: Even by Baghdad standards, this hospital ranks among the best. Electricity isn't an issue, thanks to a dedicated line from the power plant. And if that fails, there are six generators. But it's medical equipment and supplies that are lacking. And the water quality leaves much to be desired.

(on-camera): Security, although much better, still does remain a problem. Things like roadside bombs can shut the streets down for hours. For example, this is our second attempt to try to get here. On the first one, quite simply, the roads were all blocked off. And to try to get patients to the hospital, emergency staff had to walk 500 meters down the road with stretchers to bring them in.

(voice-over): The hospital director, Dr. Haqi, says the health ministry is trying to deal with problems it can control, but wants improvements faster.

DR. HAQI, HOSPITAL DIRECTOR: Still, we always tell our people that you must be always ready to -- to any flare-up of the situation.

DAMON: The memory of hardships the hospital once endured are still very fresh.

(on-camera): Did you ever imagine when you were going through medical school that you would see everything you've seen over the last few years?

MOHAMMED: I told one of my friends once that we must all go to heaven, we Iraqis, because we've already been into hell. So I didn't imagine. I didn't imagine that at all.

DAMON (voice-over): Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.


LEMON: A once in a lifetime opportunity -- that's how Chadwyck McDaniel describes his all expense paid trip to Phoenix to watch Sunday's Super Bowl. The 21-year-old airman first class arrived yesterday from Iraq. And his mother and 14-year-old brother were waiting for him. They hadn't seen each other since McDaniel went off to war four months ago. He won the trip from the nonprofit group Packages From Home.


AIRMAN 1ST CLASS CHADWYCK MCDANIEL, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE: I just appreciate everything. And I'm so happy to be reunited with my mom and my brother.


LEMON: McDaniel and his brother will be in the stands when the New York Giants take on the New England Patriots Sunday. I should have done that in my announcer's voice. Back the prompter up a little bit. Back it up to where I said. McDaniel and his brother will be in the stands when the New York Giants and the New England Patriots take on each other on Sunday. He's due to fly back to Iraq the next day. He deserved that. Congratulations to him.

PHILLIPS: Well, the president is signing an executive order restricting earmarks, as mentioned in the State of the Union Address. We're going to take a quick break. We're expecting that to happen in less than two minutes.

And, I'll see your celebrity and I'll raise you mine.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now that Sylvester Stallone has endorsed me, I'm sending him over to take care of Chuck Norris right away.


PHILLIPS: Raising the stakes in the presidential endorsement game.


PHILLIPS: The president now signing that executive order restricting earmarks, as he mentioned in the State of the Union. Let's take it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to be assured there (INAUDIBLE) necessary to make investments. Anyway, I do want to thank the speaker and leader Boehner for working quickly and working in a bipartisan fashion. This is a very good start. And now, I'm going to sign this executive order. And last night I said that it's very important for Congress to earn the trust of the American taxpayer. And one way they should do so is to end the practice of earmarks. Now I said last year that they should voluntarily cut the number in half -- not only the number, but the amount of earmarks in half. They chose not to do so. And so last night I told the Congress that I would veto any bill -- appropriations bill -- that did not cut the number and the amount of earmarks in half.

Now, secondly, there's a practice here in Washington -- I'm not sure many of our citizens understand it takes place -- where members just put in special spending projects into what's called report language. That means that these projects never were voted on and never really saw the light of day. And this executive order says that any such earmarks this year and into the future will be ignored by this administration and hopefully future administrations unless those spending projects were voted on by the Congress.

The American people expect there to be transparency in the process. They expect the people to be -- here in Washington to be wise about how they spend their money. And this executive order will go a long way toward sending that signal to the Congress and at the same time earning the trust of the American people. So, Mr. Director, thank you for your leadership on this issue. It's the right course of action to take and I am proud to have signed the executive order. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: And hopefully protect the American taxpayers from government spending on wasteful earmarks.

More from the CNN NEWSROOM straight ahead.


LEMON: Time to check what's clicking on

Among some of our most viewed videos, she had one -- or was it two -- or maybe few for the road. A Wisconsin driver dials 9-1-1 to say she may be too tipsy to be behind the wheel.

In India, police uncover a worldwide ring dealing in -- get this -- human organs. This man says he was promised a job and forcibly taken to a clinic. When he woke up, he was missing a kidney. That was going around the Internet a while back.

PHILLIPS: I thought that was a myth.

LEMON: Yes, it was a myth. But I guess it's happening in India.

And calls for Kenya to stop what one diplomat sees as its downward spiral into chaos. Hundreds of Kenyans have been killed in ethnic violence triggered by last month's disputed elections.

Check this story out and all these stories and much, much more, right at your fingertips,

PHILLIPS: It's time now to check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

LEMON: Yes. He's standing by in "THE SITUATION ROOM" to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Hello there, Wolf.


Thanks. A lot is coming up.

It's the biggest primary so far and polls begin closing in just three hours. The Florida governor, Charlie Crist, is joining us live right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." He'll tell us why he's supporting John McCain.

Remember, it's winner take all in Florida for the Republicans. But a big group with access to the airwaves -- they say they actually hate John McCain. You're going to hear from a conservative radio talk show host about why he and some of his colleagues are so passionate about it.

Plus, we're about an hour away from the first exit poll results and who voted in Florida. What's the most important issues on the agenda?

We're going to bring you those numbers as they come in live right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

All of that coming up -- Kyra and Don?

LEMON: Yes, Wolf, with a new and improved big board behind him -- a big monitor.

BLITZER: You like that?

LEMON: I like that.

BLITZER: It's pretty cool, isn't it?

LEMON: It's giant.

PHILLIPS: Wolf's big enough. He doesn't need a big board. He stands on his own.


BLITZER: A fabulous set.

LEMON: I'm out of this conversation. You two continue on if you want.

PHILLIPS: You're going to want to stay out of this next one, too. A cubicle mate with a stinky lunch, a slow computer -- what's your biggest complaint about the office? Definitely not Wolf Blitzer. But see how your answer compares to a national survey of teed off employees just like you. LEMON: We've got a stinky lunchroom somewhere around here.


PHILLIPS: The closing bell is about to ring on Wall Street.

LEMON: Susan Lisovicz is standing by with a final look at this trading day.

Hello, Susan.

LISOVICZ: Hello, Don and Kyra.

So there is a national poll on -- from office workers on how their building -- their office itself affects their motivation, productivity and attitude. The most common complaint from office workers is the temperature itself -- too hot or too cold. But way up there, as well, is...


LEMON: Kyra and I complain all the time -- can you open the vent, please...


LEMON: ... we're sweating. We're sweating.

PHILLIPS: I have a special relationship with the facilities guys, let's just put it that way.

LISOVICZ: OK. And me, as well, here at the NYSE. The noise level, of course, is just huge. But, OK, understaffed restrooms, unexplained odors or foul air...


LISOVICZ: ... rodents and insects -- a fifth of the respondents said that -- theft or crime and leaky ceilings and windows. The vast majority say it affects their productivity. But guess what?

PHILLIPS: How about smacking gum?


LISOVICZ: See you tomorrow, guys. A big day tomorrow.

LEMON: All right, Susan. See you tomorrow.

PHILLIPS: Susan never gets on our nerves, by the way.


PHILLIPS: She's the best. There's someone else who never gets on our nerves, either.

LEMON: Wolf Blitzer, maybe?

PHILLIPS: You know it.

Take it away -- Wolf.