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CNN NEWSROOM

Gas Tops $4 a Gallon in Two States; The Dark Side of Fighting Foreclosure; Allowing Armed Citizens on College Campuses

Aired March 14, 2008 - 09:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Payday for many Americans, but that paycheck just keeps shrinking. Gas is up again today. Selling for more than $4 a gallon in two states, and oil once again set a new record. The dollar is at a new low. No doubt about it, Americans are feeling the squeeze, and President Bush will talk about the economy later this morning.
Just minutes ago we've got brand new numbers on inflation. CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi has the latest.

Ali, let's start with the inflation numbers and then let's talk about the dollar, let's talk about oil, let's talk about gas. (INAUDIBLE)

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We got a lot to talk about.

Let's talk about inflation. That's the one that hits everybody.

Here's the interesting thing. For the month of February, there was no change in the rate of inflation either at the headline level, which is everything you buy, or at what's called the core level when you strip out food and energy.

Now I know a number of people are probably throwing their remotes...

HARRIS: Yes.

VELSHI: ...at the screen right now saying what is that dog dude talking about?

HARRIS: How can that be?

VELSHI: The government says there was no change. So for the year, year over year, inflation at the core level, which is without food and energy and again, please let me know, e-mail if you know anybody who operates without food or energy...

HARRIS: Right.

VELSHI: ...the increase was 2.3 percent. If you put food and energy in there, we know wheat prices, milk prices, oil prices, gas prices, all that has been really high in the last year, the inflation rate for the 12-month period ending February was 4 percent.

Now again, I have no particular reason. I'm not a statistician or an economist.

HARRIS: Yes.

VELSHI: I have no particular reason to tell you that the government is measuring something incorrectly. It's not what we hear from people, that 4 percent increase.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

VELSHI: However, as the government measures it, we were expected to have an increase in inflation and we don't. As a result of that, we have another piece of good news for you, and that is in half an hour when that bell rings...

HARRIS: Yes.

VELSHI: ...stocks are going to open higher because if there's no inflation, at least the way the government measures it, the Fed can cut rates on Tuesday as they're expected to do.

HARRIS: Nice.

VELSHI: So that's the good news.

HARRIS: Yes, all right. But we are, for our discussion, going to factor in energy costs.

VELSHI: Yes.

HARRIS: So bring us up to speed...

VELSHI: All right.

HARRIS: ...here on the price of a barrel of oil and gas.

VELSHI: Well, yesterday it touched $111, right at that number.

HARRIS: Yes.

VELSHI: We've never seen that before. It settled a little lower than that. So it's above $110 right now. But $111, that translates into gas $3.28 a gallon as a national average. But as you said, couple places above $4 a gallon.

Diesel in a lot of places is above $4 a gallon. And while many of you may not drive diesel cars, all the trucks to get your stuff to the store do, all the farm equipment that grows, you know, that processes all those stuff...

HARRIS: Yes.

VELSHI: ...that grows does, so that -- those prices are higher. And again, that $3.28, there's a lag on that. We've seen gas hit a new record pretty much every day for the last week and a half or so. So we're not up...

HARRIS: Right.

VELSHI: The gas price of $3.28 is not calculating $111 a barrel. So we're definitely headed north on gas prices.

HARRIS: So the president is going to be making comments about the economy at about 11:00...

VELSHI: Yes.

HARRIS: 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time this morning and my understanding is you will be with us to sort of parse it out, take it apart and help us understand it, correct?

VELSHI: I absolutely will.

HARRIS: All right. Ali, see you then. Thanks, man.

VELSHI: OK. Bye.

HARRIS: Gas prices soaring, the dollar tumbles. We want to hear from you. How is the economy affecting you, your family and your wallet? Send us an e-mail right now. CNNNewsroom@cnn.com.

OK. The economy and the drip, drip, drip of so-so to bad news. As we said this morning, President Bush confronts your concerns. You will hear from him live in the NEWSROOM, that's coming up at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, though, the government's ability to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mails at the center of a showdown today. The House could vote on the surveillance legislation after a rare late-night closed door session was the first secret session in 25 years. Lawmakers met to discuss the eavesdropping bill intended to help the government pursue terror suspects.

Now President Bush threatens to veto the bill by House Democrats. He wants legal protection for telecom companies that cooperated with the government.

Now also on Capitol Hill, the Senate rejected a bill to ban pet projects known at "earmarks" for one year. The House and Senate each passed $3 trillion budget plans. They would allow many of President Bush's tax cuts to expire in 2010.

Listen to this, presidential candidates on the trail in Pennsylvania today. And new developments in the primary do-over debate. Here's a look at those political headlines for you.

Republican John McCain holds a town hall meeting in Springfield, Pennsylvania this hour. He's back on the campaign trail after returning to Capitol Hill for budget votes yesterday. Democrat Hillary Clinton also returning to the stump in Pennsylvania today. She visits a gas station in Pittsburgh and holds a rally there this afternoon. Michigan Democrats may be close to a deal on re-doing their primary. According to the Associated Press, Democratic sources say they hope to reach an agreement today. Michigan and Florida were stripped of their delegates for breaking party rules and moving up their primaries.

HARRIS: OK. So Florida tries again to solve its Democratic primary problems, but there are roadblocks. How did it come to this?

Here's CNN's Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They're proposing a mail-in election and in a few special cases some voters could still go to the polls. So that's the plan from Democratic Party leaders in Florida. But not so fast.

First, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would have to agree.

KAREN THURMAN, FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHWMN.: If the candidates do not agree, this is a non-starter.

JOHNS (on camera): Then you'd want the nine congressional Democrats from Florida to agree and they don't. Not at all. They rejected it immediately. It's such a spectacular mess and you can't help but wonder how we got here.

To hear some Florida Democrats tell it, they got railroaded, that Republicans who controlled the state capital hijacked their primary election and forced them to do it in January.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: It was a Republican legislature and a Republican governor that changed the date.

JOHNS: That's what he says now, but keeping them honest, we looked back at what those Florida Democrats were doing when this idea of moving the primary from March to January was first taking root.

(On camera): Early on, some Democrats here were very supportive of the idea of changing the primary date even though they knew full well that the national Democratic Party might try to punish them for it.

(Voice over): In fact, it wasn't a Republican who started this. It was a Democrat. Florida state Senator Jeremy Ring. He's the guy who first, well, engineered the legislation last year.

(On camera): Were you railroaded?

JEREMY RING (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: Well, again, I think it's true -- to state that even if -- it's a Republican legislature. Even if every Democrat voted against the bill, then, yes, the bill could have passed, but we were not railroaded. There was not an opposition to this bill. It was a bipartisan bill, and I believe it passed unanimously. JOHNS (voice over): Oh and by the way, the primary date change was buried in a large and popular election reform bill. There's no way Democrats were going to vote against that. Still, a lot of people liked the date change thing in principle even the head of the state Democratic Party.

THURMAN: And I, quite frankly, agreed with them on the fact that we wanted to have Florida, who is, you know, what, the fourth largest state, one of the diverse populations in this country, needed to have an opportunity to have, you know, their votes heard in the picking of the presidential nominee.

JOHNS: So where are we today? Even though Florida Democrats officially floated their enhanced mail-in vote idea today, their own state party leader is not optimistic.

THURMAN: I have a feeling that this probably is getting closer to not than yes.

JOHNS: Which means it could still come down to a fight at the convention in August.

Joe Johns, CNN, Tallahassee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: CNNPolitics.com is your source for everything political. Man, we're doing a good at this. Is it unseemly to sort of promote our own coverage?

NGUYEN: Hey, it's the best political team on television.

HARRIS: For a reason. If you want to know about the candidates' movement, the latest in delegate count, just get all of that information by going to CNNPolitics.com.

Tooting our own horn here.

NGUYEN: Exactly. And speaking of tooting horns, look who we have.

HARRIS: Well now.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, guys.

NGUYEN: Rob Marciano, one of the best experts...

HARRIS: Yes.

NGUYEN: ...out there when it comes to severe weather and we have some of that today, Rob.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: Well, do you feel the pain, the pressure, oh, that stuffiness? What should your doctor give you for that awful sinus infection? We have the answer, and it may surprise you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And good morning again, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

Watching the people who watch your children, shaken baby, shaken parents and another nanny caught on tape. That's insane. The story straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: You know it sort of peacefully enough but quickly it turned violent. We have new pictures out of Lhasa, Tibet this morning. Take a look, gunfire, tear gas, injuries. The violence began after Buddhist monks poured into the streets. Police were attempting to stop them from leaving the monastery for another day of demonstrations.

The monks and ethnic Tibetans are protesting Chinese rule. These protests started Monday in the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule.

A witness tells CNN that about 1,000 people pelt the Chinese security forces with rocks and concrete. They destroyed military trucks that had been targeting shops owned by Hun Chinese, a predominant group in China.

HARRIS: You know it's happened again, another nanny caught on camera. This disturbing video just released by a family in South Carolina. Take a look here. You can see 60-year-old Sheryl White vigorously shaking a 5-month-old baby and then apparently handling the child like a rag doll here. The little girl crying the whole time. Poor baby.

The child's stunned parents turned the tape over to police. White is now under house arrest, charged with neglect, assault and battery. Parents say they are done with nannies. Only family and friends will be sitting for them from now on.

NGUYEN: I'm still stunned by that video.

HARRIS: Yes.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, let's talk about this. Are you feeling that stuffy nose, the pain, the pressure, you know, those telltale signs of a sinus infection? Well, most of us go to the doctor looking for a prescription. But a new study says it may be better just to ride it out. Can you believe it?

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

And Elizabeth, not to prescribe antibiotics for a sinus infection, that's just -- doesn't sound -- it sounds crazy because you would think, you know, you go and get some help and they're just telling you, just to ride it out? ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sometimes.

NGUYEN: OK. Let's clear.

COHEN: OK. So we'll clarify that. What this study found was that for every 15 people who were treated with the sinus infection, that only one of them actually gets help from those antibiotics. That's because presumably the other 14 people, they probably had a viral infection. So antibiotics wouldn't help and, as everyone knows, there's a huge problem with the over prescription of antibiotics because they make us resistant to antibiotics when we really do need them.

So again, that's what this study found is that, for every 15 people who were prescribed an antibiotic for a sinus infection, only one of them ends up getting help.

NGUYEN: OK. So how do you know? Because when you go in to the doctor, you expect the doctor to know how to treat you, and now a lot of them are prescribing antibiotics when apparently you don't need them in some cases?

COHEN: Don't necessarily need them, right.

NGUYEN: Yes.

COHEN: Sinus infections are tricky. It's not like strep throat. Strep throat, they stick that big, long cue tip-like thing down your throat and they can tell, is it bacterial or is it not? With sinuses, you can't do that. And so what doctors are now finding is, you know, we need to have some parameters around whether or not we should prescribe antibiotics.

So for example, if the symptoms go beyond seven to ten days, then there's more of a chance that you actually need an antibiotic. Less than that, maybe you don't. Fever for five to six days and other sign that an antibiotic may be coming your way, colorful, green/brown, yuck, mucus and post-nasal drip.

NGUYEN: Lovely.

COHEN: Lovely -- another sign. But I got to say it, right?

NGUYEN: It's true.

COHEN: I got to say it like it is. Another sign that perhaps you need an antibiotic. But if you don't have these things going on, that's on that list right there, and you show up at your doctor and say, oh I want antibiotics, I need them, they may not give them to you.

NGUYEN: I got you.

OK. But, you know, aside from the antibiotics, what else can kind of help relieve the pain? Because sinus infection can be so painful. COHEN: They can be so painful.

NGUYEN: Yes.

COHEN: And so there are some things that you can do. For example, you can take just plain old pain relievers like ibuprofen or Tylenol. You can also do humidifiers. That can help a lot. You can also take decongestant pills. That can help as well. So try some of those things and certainly your doctor, you know, will probably have his or her own list of things...

NGUYEN: Right.

COHEN: ...that can help you with sinus infection.

NGUYEN: I'm sure grandma has a pretty good idea.

COHEN: That's right. Right.

NGUYEN: Any concoction that you can make.

COHEN: There you go.

NGUYEN: All right. Or some alcohol. Thank you.

COHEN: I hadn't thought of that. OK.

NGUYEN: That will knock anything out. But we're not advising that at home, folks.

COHEN: No, no, no.

NGUYEN: No.

COHEN: No.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

NGUYEN: Tony?

HARRIS: Home remedies there, Betty?

NGUYEN: Yes.

HARRIS: OK.

NGUYEN: I could use it myself right.

HARRIS: That's right. That's right.

So the GOP, ripped off you? You know, it's possible says a member of Congress.

Here's CNN's Brian Todd now. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Some of the most influential people in a high-powered city allegedly ripped off. The head of the group that raises money for House Republicans says they've been deceived and betrayed for years by a trusted bookkeeper.

Christopher Ward, former treasurer of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is under investigation by the group's auditors and the FBI. NRCC officials tell CNN they believe Ward made several hundred thousand dollars in unauthorized transfers -- their money -- into bank accounts he had access to.

An NRCC official and the congressman who oversees the group's finances say Ward had gotten so good at navigating campaign finance rules that several Republican lawmakers and candidates had placed their fundraising organizations in his hands.

REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: This fellow was kind of the gold standard, kind of the go-to guy. He had a really good reputation, built up over a long period of association with the NRCC.

TODD: A period of nearly 13 years, four as NRCC's treasurer. Our efforts to reach Christopher Ward were unsuccessful. His attorney declined to comment.

Congressman Mike Conaway says he got suspicious earlier this year when Ward kept pushing off meetings to discuss an audit of the NRCC's books for 2006. Conaway says he then found out no audit had been done for that year and he believes the deception went back much further.

CONAWAY: The last one that we're comfortable saying we had was in 2001, and that anything that was given to the bank subsequent to that and anything shown to the management team in the audit, in (INAUDIBLE) committees were, in fact, you know, bogus financial statements.

TODD: Statements that Conaway says looked very sophisticated which may explain why Ward's alleged fraud wasn't noticed for years.

(On camera): Conaway and NRCC officials say the exact amount of money that Ward may have shifted around is what one of them calls a moving target, but Conaway says the discrepancies on their way to these balance sheets total almost $1 million and they suspect that's because of unauthorized transfers.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Well, speaking their minds, Iraqi soldiers in an unprecedented straightforward roundtable with CNN. Want to take you live to Baghdad in the NEWSROOM.

ANNOUNCER: CNN NEWSROOM brought to you...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: News as it develops as only CNN can bring it to you. See for yourself in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Well, it started with a basketball game.

HARRIS: Yes, it's where it started.

NGUYEN: ...and spurred into a beastly beat down. Check -- lost his head?

HARRIS: He lost his head.

NGUYEN: Literally. Two college mascots duke it out on center court. We have more pictures ahead.

HARRIS: But first, making his mark this week, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer announcing his resignation after he was linked to a high-priced call girl ring. Sources familiar with the investigation say Spitzer hired prostitutes from the service at least eight times in eight months. He hasn't been charged with any crime. Spitzer's attorneys have been meeting with prosecutors -- that's according to a source -- with knowledge of the discussions.

Is the credit crunch hitting you? Congress is a looking at a credit card bill of rights.

Here's CNN Christine Romans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN NEWSROOM (voice over): Tarek Salib's finances are a house of cards, credit cards.

TAREK SALIB, CREDIT CARD HOLDER: I had missed one of the payments on the card and it jumped my rate from 8 percent basically to 30 percent.

ROMANS: Outrageous fees, penalties for paying off high balances and skyrocketing interest rates. House lawmakers are considering a credit card holders' bill of rights that would require at least 45 days' notice of any interest rate increases and give cardholders the right to cancel their cards and pay off their balance at the existing interest rate, and prohibit excessive fees.

ELIZABETH WARREN, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: No family should be brought low by schemes designed to prey on the unwary.

ROMANS: Author Elizabeth Warren says nearly half of all credit card holders missed a payment in 2006, the last year of available data. One day late on one card warrants a $28 late fee on average. In some cases, interest rates can spike above 30 percent. Credit card companies' sudden rate increase, critics say, are as dangerous as the adjustable rate subprime mortgages called exploding loans.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: We could label credit card agreements landmine loans because it is not at all clear to consumers if how and when their interest rates are going to increase.

ROMANS: But industry representatives oppose any new regulation.

CARTER FRANKE, JP MORGAN CHASE: We are concerned that this bill would reduce the availability of credit at the very time when Congress is doing all it can to increase credit availability and stimulate the economy.

ROMANS: And potentially hurt profits.

(On camera): Consumer credit expert Katherine Porter testified late fees are the third largest revenue stream for credit card companies.

Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Did I just hear Christine say that some credit card companies will actually charge you a fee for paying off your balances? Did that...

NGUYEN: In time they will get you coming and going. Yes.

HARRIS: The economy. Where is Gerri Willis when we need her? At the moment that we need her?

And the drip, drip, drip of this bad news this morning. President Bush confronts your concerns. You will hear him live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis will be joining us all next week with a special report on money issues near and dear to your heart. It's called "Issue Number One," the economy. Monday, we will tell you how the struggling economy impacts your job, your savings and debt, your home. That's at noon Eastern only on CNN.

NGUYEN: Well, the first of five space walks is over, and the International Space Station, well, it is growing. Check it out. Astronauts spent hours working on a Japanese lab being added to the space station and putting hands on a Canadian robot.

The $200 million robot, Dexter, as it's called, will help NASA cut back on those delicate space walks needed for repairs and construction of the station.

Later this morning NASA hopes a software patch will fix the problem getting power to Dexter and its 11-foot arms.

HARRIS: Pegged dearly at the pump. Gas hits a new record, even passes the $4 mark in some places.

ANNOUNCER: "Making Their Mark" is sponsored by...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news. Now back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Hello there, everybody. Good morning. How are you, Tony?

HARRIS: So you're waiting for the bell, too, aren't you?

NGUYEN: I -- it should be just seconds away.

HARRIS: Exactly.

NGUYEN: And there it is.

HARRIS: There it is. Now, who would dare to hazard to guess as to what might happen with stocks today? So as we get the business day started, what a week it has been. Up 400 points, down 40 or so, and yesterday the Dow ended the day positive after tanking at the open.

I mean, really, who would have a guess today? Retail numbers yesterday, inflation numbers this morning. Pretty good according to Ali Velshi. Although, we can't quite make it out.

President Bush, the country's chief executive, will make remarks about the economy this morning. What happens to the market after those comments? We have no idea, but I believe, is it Susan Lisovicz or Stephanie Elam who will be with us today to sort of follow the markets for us as we want to see the initial numbers. OK. Susan is with us. Great.

We want to see the initial numbers at the open here. Are we close to that, guys? On the way? All right. OK.

NGUYEN: And it ended on an uptake yesterday, both the NASDAQ and the DOW. So we're looking for some more money to be traded on the street today. We'll see if we can end that in positive territory to round out the week. But in the meantime, though, speaking of money, $4 a gallon gas?

Yes, it is no longer farfetched. In fact, it's a reality in at least two states. So, is that a sign of the summer ahead?

CNN's Sandra Endo is on a gas watch. She joins us in Washington.

What are gas prices there, Sandra?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here at this gas station, Betty, in Washington, D.C., a gallon of regular is going to set you back $3.33 for one gallon. And it's tough times across the country for drivers. Gas prices are soaring. Right before demand for fuel is reaching its busiest time of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENDO (voice-over): Prices at the pump are hitting all-time highs and drivers are feeling the pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You find yourself, you know, pinching pennies in other places to compensate whether it's, you know, changing your eating out habits and that sort of thing, probably, those luxuries.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To fill the car? Yes. I mean, I don't know what else to do. I mean, the gas prices are just outrageous.

ENDO: The national average for a gallon of regular around $3.28. Up from $2.97 last month. What's fueling the markup at the pump is the skyrocketing price of crude oil at $110 a barrel.

TROY GREEN, AAA SPOKESMAN: When you look at crude oil accounting for nearly 60 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, then it's easy to see why we're seeing gasoline prices today at $3.27 a gallon.

ENDO: Even White House officials say there is no quick fix. Drivers are going to have to endure paying more.

TONY FRATTO, DEP. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No one should hold out the prospect that there's some kind of lever or switch that you can pull that will lower gasoline prices for Americans. So it is going to involve difficult choices for Americans.

ENDO: Some motorist doing what they can to save. Going green could keep money in your wallet. This driver bought a hybrid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The price is going to impact you no matter what you're driving but I'm not paying $100 to fill up an SUV. So that makes a difference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENDO: Now, in some places like California, paying $4 a gallon isn't uncommon. Live in Washington, I'm Sandra Endo, back to you.

NGUYEN: It is still so hard to believe. California, $4 a gallon. Hawaii $4 a gallon. We're not even into the summertime just yet. So hopefully it won't rise, but we kind of know where that's headed. Sandra Endo, joining us live in Washington. Thank you.

Well, the economy and the drip, drip, drip of bad news. This morning President Bush will confront your concerns. You're going to hear him live right here in the NEWSROOM.

Also ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM, the dark side of fighting foreclosure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel sorry for all the other people that are facing this, but don't do what I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Up against the wall and burning down the house.

HARRIS: Straight talk now from Iraqi army officers. They are speaking to CNN's Kyra Phillips candidly, unfiltered, and without the usual minder present. Live to Kyra in Baghdad. Kyra, great to see you. To you -- what are these Iraqi soldiers saying to you?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, we always talk to U.S. troops. For the longest time I've wanted to sit down with a variety of Iraqi soldiers and be able to talk to them without public affairs official telling what they can say and can't say.

So we were finally able to do that. I wanted to know if they're watching the U.S. presidential elections. If they're paying attention to any candidates. I was pretty amazed that everything that they told me. So here you go. Iraqi soldiers, in their own words.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS (voice-over): In step and preparing for their various missions. These Iraqi soldiers are also following every step of the U.S. presidential election.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: One, two.

PHILLIPS: Is there a certain candidate in the U.S. that you're following?

AHMED MANSOUR, IRAQI SOLDIER (through translator): The truth is I pay attention to Democratic Party. Even more, Hillary Clinton.

PHILLIPS: Why?

MANSOUR (through translator): Because I like her personality, because she's new. In America you need something new. And new female president. We saw and lived under the Republican Party, under Bush. We would like to see what the Democrats have to offer.

PHILLIPS: Ali, why are you paying attention to the elections in the U.S.?

ALI SALEH, IRAQI SOLDIER (through translator): I want to compare their democracy with ours. I want to see the differences between them and us. I want to see the way they vote. Are they unorganized, in a mess like us or better?

PHILLIPS (on camera): Do you want a Democratic president or a Republican president?

SALEH: Democrat is better than Republican. We are living under the Republicans. We know the situation. It's difficult under the Republicans.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): These are troops from the Iraqi Army's 6th division, engineers, weapons and bomb experts along with medics.

Is there a certain candidate that you're paying attention to?

UNIDENTIFIED IRAQI SOLDIER: Clinton.

PHILLIPS: If you had a chance to sit down with Hillary Clinton, what would you tell her you need in Iraq?

ALI MOHAMMED, IRAQI SOLDIER: I would ask her to help compose a book about democracy and send it to Iraqi politicians. It would help.

ALLA AHMED, IRAQI SOLDIER: Elections here are directly connected to the future of Iraq. And the pulling of U.S. forces from Iraq. Democracy in Iraq is new. We don't know much about it. We need practice. Our stability is not easy to fix.

PHILLIPS: Do you have a favorite candidate?

AHMED: Obama.

PHILLIPS: Obama?

AHMED: He's practical and he loves to serve his country.

PHILLIPS: If you could sit down with Obama, what would you tell him you need?

AHMED: I would ask him to pay attention to the Middle East. And the Iranian and American conflict that's happening on Iraqi land. That is affecting Iraq and needs to be addressed.

PHILLIPS: Why are you so concerned about Iran?

AHMED: They are our neighbors. They affect us directly and this is important to Iraqis.

PHILLIPS: There's been lots of talk about how Iran is affecting this war, funneling terrorists, weapons.

AHMED: Of course we believe that. We have proof that the Iranians help the terrorists by giving them money, weapons and many other things.

PHILLIPS: These soldiers are speaking candidly in a way they never could have under Saddam Hussein.

Wessam, what did you learn from the U.S. troops?

WESSAM FADEL, IRAQI SOLDIER (through translator): We learned discipline.

PHILLIPS: And why is discipline so important?

FADEL: At the fall of regime, there was no government. No one leading our people. No discipline. We gained military experience from the Americans. We didn't know car bombs, snipers, criminals killing people. We learned from Americans how to handle this. These people are threatening us and our troops.

We couldn't stand on the street without someone trying to kill us. But we learned how to control, identify criminals that were harming up. The hardest thing for us is what we see. Look at what's happening. Our people are getting hurt. We don't have electricity. Our young people don't have simple things, like a job, electricity. We have oil and we are poor and jobless. We want new companies to trust Iraq and invest in Iraq. We want jobs for our young people so they don't join these terrorists. That is the hardest part.

PHILLIPS: A hard-fought war, these young soldiers say they're willing to risk their lives.

How will a real democracy make your life better as an Iraqi?

TAHA IBRAHIM, IRAQI SOLDIER: Freedom. Without democracy, you will have no freedom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: And, Tony, just to be clear, I did asked each one of this soldier, are you following the Republicans? Is there a Republican candidate that you're interested in? Are you paying attention to John McCain?

Within this group, at least within this group, nobody was for a Republican. And they were all paying attention to the Democrats. So it's pretty interesting.

HARRIS: Yes. You think there might be a little bit of affinity there to John McCain. Sort of soldier to soldier. But let me ask you, Kyra, did any of these soldiers tell you any personal stories about arresting terrorists?

PHILLIPS: Sure. And you know what, Tony, you actually made me think of something on the higher level. Some of the generals, who are working very close with U.S. troops that are on a higher level. They were very pro-Republican. Hey, the Republican Party, you know, they gave us this training. They helped, you know, create freedom for us. They were much more pro-Republican. So I probably should add that.

Just at least with these guys, these guys that are on the streets, OK, this is what they're telling me. And they're arresting the terrorists. They are the ones out there dealing with these terrorists. And I asked them about personal stories.

The biggest frustration, Tony, is that they will arrest them and there's no solid court system, judicial system. So they arrest them, the put them away and a lot of them, they say, are let go. And so that's very frustrating for them. They want the government to get a judicial system up and going so these guys are arrested, put away or put to death.

HARRIS: Again, great to see you doing this enterprise story- telling for us, Kyra. Great to see you in Baghdad as always. Have a great weekend. Thanks.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Tony. NGUYEN: Talk about severe weather outside. Not only do we have it today, but is it true? St. Patty's Day could see a little bit of yuck, too?

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: What could be a first born? That would be me. First step towards the White House? Not for me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tend to dominate. They tend to control. They tend to be opinionated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: All right. That may describe some of us. But who do you think qualifies among this year's candidates? We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: A basketball game, Betty. That's what we're talking about here.

NGUYEN: (INAUDIBLE). That's what it ended up to be.

HARRIS: And then this broke out. He lost his head. Come on! A beastly beat down a couple of college mascots and a full-blown meltdown battling it out on court. The rumble in about two minute right here in the NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: All right, from that to this. Born first. You know, the apple of mommy and daddy's eye. But your future might be brighter than most. You could be president. That's right. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen have some presidential research for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What do Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Gerald Ford have in common? They're all the eldest children in their families.

KEVIN LEMAN, PSYCHOLOGIST: The first borns rule.

COHEN: Literally, they do. In the past 70 years, more than half of U.S. presidents have been first born.

LEMAN: They tend to dominate. They tend to control. Tend to be opinionated.

COHEN: Psychologist Kevin Leman wrote the book on birth order. He points out that four of the past six presidents have been eldest children. George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford. George H.W. Bush, was second of five and Ronald Reagan was the baby of the family. Even among people who try to become president, first-borns rule, at least this season. Eight of the 11 major candidates who started the 2008 race are eldest or only children. John McCain is not. He's a middle child. Leman says leadership comes naturally to first borns. After all, they had to take care of younger siblings.

And a new study from Brigham Young University says first borns with one sibling get more time with mom and dad. About 20 minutes more quality time for a day with dad and 25 more minutes with mom. There are many who say this birth order stuff is squishy science. That the research is flawed and paints families with too broad a brush.

JOE RODGERS, PSYCHOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA: There are many first borns who are natural leaders but there's nothing about being first born that automatically leads to leadership.

COHEN: Others beg to differ. They point the study showing first borns are more likely to be CEOs, surgeons, MBAs. Well, birth order certainly can't predict the presidential race. History shows it's a factor. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: You're a first born, right?

HARRIS: Yes.

NGUYEN: So am I. So what happened to us?

HARRIS: So we could form a ticket to run for president?

NGUYEN: I don't think that will work.

HARRIS: No.

NGUYEN: Maybe it doesn't apply to the folks sitting up here.

HARRIS: Shouldn't.

NGUYEN: A look at some of the other stories that folks are clicking on at cnn.com.

Too old for prom? Well, one Illinois school district says a high school junior can't take her 22-year-old fiance to the prom.

Let's take you to England now. A 9-year-old boy protects his mother from an armed intruder.

And Needham, Massachusetts, unplugged. The town encouraged their residents to give up their electronic devices for one day.

I wonder how that's going? For more on your favorite video, go to cnn.com/mostpopular. And of course, don't forget that you can take us with you anywhere on your iPod. CNN daily iPod -- what's it's called, the podcast. HARRIS: The CNN Daily NEWSROOM podcast. That's it.

NGUYEN: Is that it? That's the title?

HARRIS: That's it.

NGUYEN: It's available 24/7 right on your iPod.

HARRIS: And you're starring in it today, by the way.

All right. We've been telling you about it for the last hour. So mascot meltdown. Eli the eagle from Oral Roberts University and Jawz the Jaguar from Indiana's IUPUI.

Went at it during a championship game this week. It started out friendly enough. The eagle and the jaguar competing in a bit of a dance off and then this. Wow! The feathers and the fur started to fly. Eventually -- have some. Both mascots were thrown out of the game, and in case were you wondering, are you really? Oral Roberts went on to win the game.

NGUYEN: How is that? Person's sportsmanship lost his head and everything. We'll take you to the dark side of fighting foreclosure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel sorry for all the other people that are facing this but don't do what I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Up against the wall and burning down the house.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Listen to this. Some homeowners facing foreclosure are turning to crime, setting their own homes on fire hoping to avoid the inevitable. Here's CNN's Chris Lawrence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bait was just days away from taking this home when the owner took matters into her own hands.

SHERYL CHRISTMAN, CONVICTED ARSONIST: If I could take it back, I'd take it back in a minute.

LAWRENCE: Sheryl Christman was sentenced last month for setting fire to her Michigan home. She thought insurance money could help her catch up on past-due house payments.

In California, insurance official say the number of fires linked to foreclosure doubled last year. Seven of 14. In Colorado Springs, this foreclosed home went up in smoke the same day the owner was scheduled for eviction. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He intended to burn the house down. That he was not going to allow them to do this to him. That was not going to allow them to have it.

LAWRENCE: We sat in court as the homeowner pleaded guilty to attempted arson.

Do you think this is the last time you're going to see something like this?

KEVIN DOUGHERTY, TELLER COUNTY, COLORADO: No. I think it will still happen again.

LAWRENCE: Sheriff Kevin Dougherty predicts these crimes will continue to rise as the economy falls. He says investigators now immediately consider arson. Even when a burning home is simply up for sale.

Why would someone do something like this?

DOUGHERTY: Through desperation. For the people that are doing this, they're good people. You know? These are not bad people. They're desperate.

LAWRENCE: Desperate enough to risk jail time, though most only get probation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He barely has a dime to his name.

LAWRENCE: And after a conviction, homeowners still owe the bank hundreds of thousands of dollars.

CHRISTMAN: I feel sorry for all the other people that are facing this, but don't do what I did.

LAWRENCE: And the damage doesn't stop there. Even neighbors end up getting burned, when higher insurance premiums are passed on to them. Chris Lawrence, CNN, Colorado Springs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: It's just a domino effect.

HARRIS: It is.

NGUYEN: OK. So we've been asking you this, this morning. How is the economy affecting you? We've got some really good responses. First up, David says, I didn't see the pinch until I went to Canada on vacation last week. It was my first trip back in three years. And when I forked over $133 for breakfast at Denny's -- are you kidding me? What did you order? He says I really saw the difference. Man!

HARRIS: Yes. And our next e-mailer wants to stay anonymous but writes, we can't travel the way we used to. Hardly ever go to the movies, sporting events or anything extra because all of our "extra" money is going to necessities. I haven't had to clip coupons since we were in college, but now I am literally pinching every penny.

NGUYEN: Listen to this. Kristina writes about something a lot of people say. She says I drive a 10-year-old car, get horrible gas mileage. I live 300 miles away from home and I can barely afford to drive home for vacation.

HARRIS: Tough stuff, right? OK and Natalie in New Jersey, writes, for the past ten years my children and I would leave June until September to go to Greece. We have family there and would spend the summer. This is the first time we decided because of the weak dollar to stay here in the U.S.A. Man!

So folks are really being impacted by all of this. So here's the question again and give us your thoughts. How is the economy affecting you, your family and your wallet? Here's the address, cnnnewsroom@cnn.com.

NGUYEN: And speaking of that weak dollar that Natalie was talking about. For those of you wanting to take a trip this summer, we've got some ideas on what you do to stretch that dollar. So stay tuned.

HARRIS: OK. The sputtering economy, a pep talk from President Bush today. His remarks to the economic club of New York, 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. We'll have it for you, right here, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Also, CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis will be joining us all next week with a special report on money issues near and dear to your heart. It is called "ISSUE #1." The economy. Monday, we'll tell you how the struggling economy affects your job, your savings and debt, as well as your home. That's at noon Eastern only on CNN.

HARRIS: Allowing armed citizens on college campuses. A controversial move to battle school shootings.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Armed citizen on college campuses to counter the threat of school shootings. That just may happen in Oklahoma. House lawmakers there have passed legislation that permits concealed weapons on state college campuses. That's only for people with specialize firearms training. Supporter says it will make school safer by putting guns into the hands of law-abiding citizens.

Opponents called the whole idea crazy. And the measure now heads to the state senate for a vote.

NGUYEN: Well, good morning, everybody, on this Friday. I'm Betty Nguyen in for Heidi, who is off today.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Stay informed all day in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the rundown.

Gas tops $4 a gallon on two states and it is a record high most everywhere else.

NGUYEN: Our focus on the economy. Personal finance editor Gerri Willis answers your email questions about the money.

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