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Financial Markets Makeover; Baghdad's Sadr City; Age Issues

Aired March 29, 2008 - 12:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, straight ahead, a dramatic story taking place in Miami. Police say a gunman tried to hold up a Walgreen's drug store when something went terribly wrong leading to a hostage situation. The would-be robber then took the store manager hostage and then tried to force the man into a car at gunpoint. Take a look at this video from our affiliate WPLG.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hands up! Get back. He's coming to the front.


WHITFIELD: Wow, the (INAUDIBLE) of gunfire there. Police say the gunman actually got away for a moment, but was later shot by police and is now in custody. And we'll update you on this dramatic story, details still coming in.

Meantime, fighting underway in Iraq to tell you about. The British military says a U.S. war plane bombed a Shi'ite military stronghold in the southern city of Basra. Meantime, Iraqi security forces backed by U.S. troops continue to battle insurgents in Baghdad's Sadr City. Iraqi officials say dozens have been killed in four days of clashes, now. Our Kyra Phillips joins us from Baghdad.

And still one more day left in this curfew, Kyra. But this, indeed, is a setback, isn't it?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Most definitely. And even thought that curfew has been in place, and most of this country is on lockdown, Fred, you're still seeing violence in certain areas, in particular Shia neighborhoods in support of the Muqtada al Sadr, the radical cleric that has the Mehdi army that's been battling these Iraqi forces, going into its fifth day, now.

You remember this all started in the oil-rich city of Basra, an area that Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, says is filled with lawlessness, assignations, kidnappings, oil smuggling, which is why he said he brought those forces in.

Now, you have seen these attacks all the way from Basra into the international Green Zone, the fortified Green Zone, a message, military sources say, from the Mehdi army to the Iraqi prime minister, pull your forces out or we will continue to rocket and mortar where your Iraqi parliament rests in that Green Zone.

WHITFIELD: And so, Kyra, how involved are U.S. military personnel?

PHILLIPS: Well, from the very beginning, the U.S. military said, OK, this is the prime minister's fight. He is taking Iraqi troops, he is in charge of this campaign, he made the decision to do this. U.S. forces were a bit on the sidelines, but as the violence intensified, you saw strike fighters get involved and drop bombs, you saw helicopters get involved from MedEvac and other types of weaponry.

So, they have had to use the U.S. for some support. At the same time, the president is saying, we will give you what you need when you request it, but this is your campaign and we want to see if you are able to fight this battle on your own, secure your country and control your country with your own forces.

WHITFIELD: And so, what's the believed benefit of this curfew?

PHILLIPS: The benefit of the curfew is to hope that people stay off the streets. Protestors will stay off the streets and this will have, I guess, a political chance for both sides to come together and work something out through negotiations, Fred. But so far, that hasn't happened. The Iraqi parliament has been trying to figure out what to do. Meanwhile, the violence continues to erupt and we'll just have to see what happens come tomorrow.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, certainly change, we know, does not happen overnight, there. All right, Kyra Phillips, thanks so much, in Baghdad.

Well, let's get to the No. 1 issue in this country, now. Right now, the government is considering a major overhaul of the financial market. Any changes could affect everything from your bank account, your mortgage, even your retirement. Jennifer Westhoven joins us now from New York.

So, Jennifer, how big a deal is this?

JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Oh thanks Fredricka, this is the biggest, sweeping change we have seen for the financial system since the Great Depression. The agencies that do the regulation that we have seen for so many years could get folded together, very broad changes here. And what the federal government wants to show the White House, in this case, is that where we keep our money, banks, brokerages, that your money is safe there. After so many people seeing what's happened in the mortgage meltdown, what happened with Bear Stearns getting near a collapse, it's very clear that the system isn't necessarily working.

At the same time, the treasure secretary, Henry Paulson, been on Wall Street a long time, he's known that it doesn't work, he's had to deal with the regulating agencies for a long time. So, the plan for the Republicans has been in the works for about nine months.

What it would do -- well, there is one thing about a new mortgage commission; you just saw that on the side. Now, that might help iron out the many different laws right now that are across the country. They're very different on federal and state levels. It also consolidates these agencies and it would also give the Federal Reserve some new powers where it would especially be able to swoop in if it thinks that a firm is in real trouble. And that's something we might see, for example, in the Bear Stearns case, where the fed gets an early warning signal and they can do a better job of trying to prevent a potential panic.

WHITFIELD: So, what about for individuals like you and me. People want to know, how does this impact me directly, whether it be at my accounts at the bank or whether it means my home?

WESTHOVEN: Well, I think the best that you can hope is that it doesn't affect you. And by that, what I mean is that it is working. That you feel like you can trust the places where you have your money and you don't have to necessarily worry about it. I mean, that's the bad news, though, if you are somebody who is struggling to make your next mortgage payment, there's nothing in here for you and that's where some of the criticism is coming up. This is a Republican plan, we're really going to see what Democrats say in the coming days and weeks. And they are expected to be much more aggressive, Fred, they're going to have a lot more proposals out there. They want a lot more change than this White House plans for.

WHITFIELD: So, already considerable, I guess, criticism that this does something for the big guy, but still not enough for the little guy?

WESTHOVEN: There is going to be a big fight over this and what works. But, you know, there is a lot of agreement that the structure that we have right now, it's very piecemeal and it is not necessarily working.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jennifer Westhoven, thanks so much, from New York.

So, who gets hurt most in this kind of financial mess, the banks, the hedge fund, you? Well, CNN's Joe Johns looks for answers.


JOE JOHNS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is Bear Stearns, the investment bank at the center of a massive mortgage bailout catastrophe. Remember the bank with the $33 billion mortgage portfolio that cratered. In just two weeks, it's stock plunged in $57 a share to less than $5. It bounced back slightly. The Federal Reserve stepped up with a $30 billion loan guarantee so Bear Stearns could merge with another bank.

And this is former Bear Stearns CEO, James Cayne. There is news about him today, we'll get to that in a moment. But first, let's check in with Millicent Hill, one of the people losing her home. Right now, she is wondering why Bear Stearns is getting such a great hookup from Uncle Sam.

MILLICENT HILL, LOSING HER HOME: But, I know that we are suffering and that Bear Stearns is getting away like, excuse the expression, a fat rat. JOHNS: It is not just angry homeowners saying that. Eric Halperin is with the Center for Responsible Lending.

JOHNS (on camera): Are the homeowners going to get a $30 billion bailout?

ERIC HALPERIN, CENTER FOR RESPONSIBLE LENDING: Homeowners aren't going to get a $30 billion bailout.

JOHNS (voice over): Keeping them honest, Halperin says Bear Stearns is getting a pretty sweet deal given the fact that the bank contributed to the mortgage crisis in the first place.

HALPERIN: People made risky investments and Bear Stearns was at the Wall Street firms that was really at the center of abusive subprime lending.

JOHNS (on camera): So, why should she get a bailout while millions of Americans are paying the tab or going bust? The fed had to step in to prevent global financial chaos or a domino effect. It is as if the mortgage industry held a gun to its head.

(voice over): Barney Frank of the House Banking Committee put it bluntly.

REP BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The absence of sensible regulation has taken some parts of our economy hostage and sometimes you to got to pay a ransom.

JOHNS: Now, Congress is doing what Congress does after it discovers a problem too late. It's investigating.

SEN MAX BAUCUS (D), FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I want to make sure that Main Street gets as good a deal, frankly, as Wall Street. Wall Street should not get an unfair advantage, here.

JOHNS: Millicent Hill might agree, but doesn't expect a deal for her any time soon.

HILL: Actually, I believe we've become invisible. I really think that it's like, oh, well, those poor people, oh, "them," I think we're the "thems" right now and we're not being looked at all.

JOHNS (on camera): And that brings us back to James Cayne. After the stock tank and the fed stepped in, Cayne sold his Bear Stearns stock for $61 million. I called Cayne at home and asked him about it, tonight. He said he didn't have time to talk.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: And, tonight, how the American dream has turned into an American nightmare for so many. A CNN Specials Investigation Unit reports, BUSTED! MORTGAGE MELTDOWN, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN. Well, Turning to politics now, the race for the White House, getting gritty as top Democrats pressure senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to drop out now and more party insiders embrace Barack Obama. Clinton is rallying supporters in Indiana and Kentucky today, against shunning calls to give up the fight.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some folks saying, well, we ought to stop these elections.


CLINTON: I didn't think we believed that in America. I thought we, of all people, knew how important it was to give everyone a chance to have their voices heard and their votes counted and we are going to give Indiana that chance on May 6.


WHITFIELD: and Clinton holds a roundtable in New Albany, Indiana this afternoon, then heads for Louisville, Kentucky for a late-day rally.

Barack Obama is swinging through Pennsylvania today on the heal heels of a key endorsement. Mary Snow, part of the best political team on television, is on the train with the Obama campaign, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

So, Mary, what is Obama hoping to accomplish there, at least today?

MARY SNOW, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well Fredricka, he really is trying to accomplish a strong showing, not only here in Johnstown, but of course, in Pennsylvania. Senator Clinton has a big advantage in terms of the polls. And Senator Obama has acknowledged that as he makes his way across Pennsylvania. He kicked off a bus tour yesterday, starting out in Pittsburgh. And as you mentioned, he got a key endorsement from Senator Bob Casey, which was really a surprise.

Casey is a popular governor in this state and has said he wasn't going to endorse anyone. But still, Obama has an uphill battle since, here in Johnstown, even, Congressman John Murtha is from this area, he has adored Senator Clinton. The state's governor, Ed Rendell is also backing Senator Clinton.

So, Obama is really trying to make the case that he is the Democrat who can win in a general election, and he has been taking aim at Senator John McCain. Today, he'll have a town hall meeting addressing a host of issues. But really, what we're expecting is a lot of questions on the economy. I talked to a number of people here, this is a town that had really been booming in the '50s, a steel and coal town and it really has evaporated and there are economic hard times in these areas, so that's what people are interested in, not only the economy but in healthcare. And I asked a couple of them about how they are feeling about the bitter battle between the Obama and Clinton team. And a lot of them are saying, you know, they're really not paying that much attention to it, some of them brushing it off saying it is politics, but they're really not getting into the fray here and taking the arguments too seriously, because they are really interested in the issues that affect them the most -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And so those same folks feel like these candidates, or at least both the Democrats are, indeed, addressing the issues that are most important to them?

SNOW: Well, they certainly feel it is a distraction and they say they are sick of the fighting that is going back and forth and they want to hear more about the issues. From Obama today, of course, they're hoping to hear more about that.

WHITFIELD: OK, Mary Snow in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Thanks so much.

Well, how about age, should it be a factor in the race for the White House? Later, this question is being asked. Is John McCain too old to be president?

And is party infighting hurting the Democrats? Starting at 2:00 p.m. today, BALLOT BOWL gives CNN viewers from around the country a chance to learn about the candidates' plans from the contenders themselves and to experience the policies campaign from the perspective of the voters, only on CNN, your home for politics.

A dramatic kidnapping story at a Florida hospital, more on that, straight ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me saying that things are not true?


KWAME KILPATRICK, DETROIT MAYOR: Whoa, text message frenzy. Should Detroit's mayor be able to keep the content of those sexy texts from...


WHITFIELD: A quick look "Across America," now. In Stanford, Florida, the search for a kidnapped baby is over. Police say a woman put a one-day-old infant inside a tote bag then smuggled the child out of the hospital. The woman was arrested a short time later after her car was pulled over by police.

Forcing an airline passenger to remove her nipple ring. The TSA says it's proper procedure, but says from now on, passengers will have the option of submitting to a visual inspection. Not by the use of pliers, there. And after nine months, former Alabama governor, Doh Siegelman is released from federal prison. He is out on bond while his conviction on corruption charges is appealed. Siegelman, a Democrat, claims he was unfairly targeted by Republicans.

Famous city skylines will be a bit darker, tonight. It will be lights out across the U.S. beginning at 8:00 p.m. Local Time in four major U.S. cities, which will turn their downtown lights off for one hour. It's part of a worldwide event to draw attention to climate change. Sydney, Australia is 18 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast, watch acidny turns out the lights there from the famous opera house and beyond. Take a look there. Lights Out is being organized by the Worldwide Life Fund. More than 370 cities and towns are expected to participate.

Let's take a look at the weather picture, not necessarily having anything to do with the electricity and the lights out, because the weather is a constant, especially when you talk about storms in the southeast.


REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Fred, I know you are from Washington, D.C.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, and I love this time of year. How gorgeous.

WOLF: Take a look at this. Here's a picture for you, right there. Just looks beautiful, you see the title pools and -- yeah, I can understand why.

WHITFIELD: Well, it's gorgeous. I am glad folks are enjoying it there.

Maybe next year I will see it in person.

WOLF: Indeed.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks a lot, Reynolds.

Well, is this a fair question? Is John McCain too old to be president? Should his age even be a factor in his run for the White House?


The question is being asked, how old is too old to be president? Republican candidate, John McCain, is getting a lot of flack over his age. Jim Acosta examines the age issue in politics.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): John McCain may have his own political barrier to break through on the way to the White House, not racism or sexism, but ageism. This week, and NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 29 percent of the those surveyed did not think the country was ready for a president over the age of 70. That's higher than the 20 percent who thought voters could not handle a woman in the Oval Office, and the 18 percent who didn't think voters were ready for an African-American president. But advocates for the aging weren't so sure that will play out in the election.

DREW MANNIS, AARP: I think that what we are seeing through this election is all the stereotypes are getting thrown out. It's politically incorrect one way or the other, but it is not helpful to talk about those issues, no matter who the candidate is.

ACOSTA: If elected, the now 71-year-old senator would become the oldest American to begin a term in the White House. Some political analysts suggested McCain's age was a factor.

JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda.

ACOSTA: After his recent flub that Iran was trading al Qaeda, the connection was made on one the Sunday talk shows.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: The feeling was not that he's a dope, didn't know his way around, that he night have had kind of a senior moment, there.

DAVID LETTERMAN, THE LATE SHOW: It's like the guy that goes to the curb for the paper and locks himself out of the house.

ACOSTA: For the late night talk show hosts, jokes about McCain's age never get old.

LETTERMAN: John McCain looks like the guy who picks up TV remote when the phone rings.

ACOSTA: McCain, who makes light of his age on the trail, often points out his mother remains active in her mid-90s.

MCCAIN: Last year, she wanted to drive around France. She landed in Paris, tried to rent a car, they wouldn't rent her a car because she said she was too old, so she bought one and drove around France. That a girl. That a girl, mother.

ACOSTA (on camera): Actually, Ronald Reagan was older than McCain when he left office. As for questions about his age, Reagan said during a debate with Walter Mondale, "I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience." As for McCain, so far, no comment on the age factor.

Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: Right on to the Democrats, next. Does Hillary Clinton still have a chance to win the Democratic Party's nomination? We will look at what party leaders are saying, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Take a look at what's happening right now in a Federal Reserve may soon have the power to oversee virtually the entire banking and securities industry. That's part of a plan Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will formally announce on Monday. A Treasury Department spokeswoman says the plan has been in the works since June, actually.

And manhunt is over in Miami. Police say they have a suspected robber turned hostage-taker in custody. Tense drama unfolded at a Walgreen's drugstore this morning while cameras were rolling. You're seeing there, the accused hostage-taker who actually took the store manager out by gunpoint. He tried to then force him into the vehicle, there was a bit of an exchange. Police say later the gup man was located not too far away from this location, they arrested him.

Well, should she quit? Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes on party insiders sending off Barack Obama supporters urging her to give it all up. Here's Jessica Yellin.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In case you haveny doubt...

CLINTON: There are some people who are saying, you know, we really ought to end this primary. We just ought to shut it down.

CROWD: No, no.

YELLIN: She is not getting out ors athe other Clinton puts it...

BILL CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Let's just saddle up and have an argument. What's the matter with that?

YELLIN: she won't jump, but she sure is being pushed, now more publicly than ever by these Obama supporters. Senator Patrick Leahy thinks Clinton should call it a day.

SEN PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: As long as there are two candidates fighting for the nomination, when it is obvious which one is going to win, all that does is to help the other party's nominee.

YELLIN: Senator Chris Dodd tells "National Journal Radio" superdelegates should end the race in May.

VOICE OF SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: We have to step up to the plate and say, enough is enough. And we want this to be over with. We want to get behind this candidate. And we want people to pull together to win that election in November.

YELLIN: And Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey endorsing Obama Friday struck yet another blow.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We're giving the Republican nominee more time to make the case against our nominees without having enough rebuttle. YELLIN (on camera): Obama has won more states, more votes and more delegates. And now, there's increasing talk that a group of uncommitted superdelegates should decide to back him, effectively forcing Senator Clinton out of this race and ending the primary.

(voice-over): But Clinton supporters say the only people calling for an end now are Obama's allies.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: If they spend more time trying to win some of these primaries as opposed to complaining about having to run in them, they'd be better off. And if -- by the way, if Democratic voters want it to end, if they vote for Senator Obama in Pennsylvania, they can end it pretty quickly.

YELLIN: Senator Clinton is using this talk to raise money. In a letter just sent to supporters, she wrote, "Those anxious to force us to the sidelines aren't doing it because they think we're going to lose. They know we are in a position to win."

Senator Clinton says she's had comebacks before and the next one could start with a huge win in Pennsylvania.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Philadelphia.


WHITFIELD: OK, a lot of grist for the political mill today. For that, our own senior political analyst, Bill Schneider joins us. And so Bill, is that really true that most of the folks who are asking Hillary Clinton to step out are mostly Obama supporters?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They mostly are, Dodd and Leahy among them.

WHITFIELD: So, then, is this really a fair argument, being that (ph)?

SCHNEIDER: Well, she would say, no, it's not a fair argument because it's my opponent who's telling me to, trying to muscle me out of the race. And some of her supporters claim there's some sexism going on here. They're trying to bully a woman candidate.

The fact is, she -- these people are not only Obama supporters. They're also Washington politicians who are worried about the division in the Democratic Party.

But what I think they don't get is that if either candidate -- if the race ends and either candidate perceives that it's been unfair, that they were bullied or muscelled out of the race, or that somehow, they were cheated out of the nomination, that will only deepen the split in the Democratic Party and make it far more bitter and harder to reconcile.

WHITFIELD: And that certainly is what is at stake if the Democratic Party, the leadership, Howard Dean, whomever, says, OK, you know what, you guys come to terms, one of you bow out? SCHNEIDER: Yes, if they feel that somebody's being pressured out of the race, then they're going to say, you know, this race was unfair, I was pressured, you know, I was cheated out of the nomination.

Well, we know what happens when a candidate feels cheated out of the nomination.


SCHNEIDER: We saw the most dramatic evidence of that back in 1968 when the anti-war supporters and Gene McCarthy people felt that Hubert Humphrey had stolen the nomination because he hadn't run in the primaries and yet he was nominated.

When that happens, then it's very dangerous for the party. And to pressure a candidate to get out of the race that's still going on, and when she's in a position to win some significant victories like Pennsylvania, that sounds very premature.

WHITFIELD: Wow, and so at issue here, barely a couple hundred points that separate them in terms of the delegate counts so far. So, say Hillary Clinton were to win Pennsylvania ...


WHITFIELD: ...does that enter any closer to her possibly surpassing Obama?

SCHNEIDER: Inch is the word here. Yes, if she wins Pennsylvania, she'll get more delegates than Obama. But she has to make up a pretty wide deficit in delegates, by some counts, about 171 delegates behind.

And given the way the Democratic Party proportions delegates, which is strictly in proportional to the vote, it's going to be very hard for her to do that. She's going to have to carry about two- thirds of the remaining pledged delegates in the final primaries to catch up with him or to catch up with him in popular votes, she's going to need about 56 percent of the remaining popular votes.


SCHNEIDER: And that's going to be tough. And that is why the Obama supporters are saying she should recognize it can't be done and she should get out. But her supporters say, look, we have a right to try. And maybe if we show some late momentum, win big in Pennsylvania, win big in Indiana ...


SCHNEIDER: ...and some other states, then the superdelegates will say, wait a minute, Obama's losing momentum here.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and then there's the voter out there. You know, Bill, you hear from so many voters who say you know what, they like this, they love that it's so neck-and-neck, they love that this is unpredictable. It's gotten so many people involved, interested in politics like never before.

SCHNEIDER: That's exactly right. Turnout has broken all records.


SCHNEIDER: The Democrats are doing very well, and so a lot of people are saying, what's the problem with continuing this race? A lot of voters will get mobilized in big states like Pennsylvania ready to vote again this fall for the Democrats.

WHITFIELD: All right, exciting stuff. Bill Schneider, thanks so much.


WHITFIELD: All right, 2:00 today, "BALLOT BOWL" gives CNN viewers a chance to learn more about the candidates' plans. What's next? 2:00 today, "BALLOT BOWL," you don't want to miss it, candidates unfiltered. CNN is your home for politics.

Meantime, want to follow up on this dramatic story that took place in Miami earlier today. Police say a gunman tried to hold up a Walgreen's drugstore when something went wrong, went into a hostage situation.

CNN's Susan Candiotti joins us now from outside the drugstore in north Miami where it all happened. And you can just tell from this video, Susan, that this store manager -- he must have been instructed prior to what to do in a hostage situation. Don't get in the car, it's what he tried not to do.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I guess that's what the -- everyone gets that kind of warning and training. We've told people time and again, the last thing you want to do is to be taken away from the scene. Avoid it if you can. Of course, we have no idea what kind of training ...


CANDIOTTI: ...if any, the store manager had. But he certainly did act coolly under fire, didn't he? They're still trying to put together the pieces of what happened here behind me. Scene's still going on, a lot of police, crime scene tape still up.

But fortunately, no one was killed or seriously injured when this all started. It all began about 6:30 in the morning. There were employees inside this Walgreen's drugstore. They may have been having a meeting. We're trying to confirm that at the time when this armed robber, suspect, walked in, demanded money. We don't know whether he got it. But he wound up taking the store manager as a hostage outside.

In the meantime, police officers swarmed on the scene. It was one police department, the city of Miami Shores with an assist from the Miami-Dade police department. And we don't know exactly how many officers were there, but a lot of them.

At this time, the suspect was trying to shove the store manager into a car. We hear it may be his own car. But apparently, to use him as a hostage to drive away. That store manager put up quite a struggle and managed to free himself. The suspect, we are told by police then got into that car and sped off.

And that is when authorities say police officers started firing away at that car. We don't know how many, but I counted at least 30 rounds that I heard. And they're trying to figure out now who did the firing.

Meantime, the suspect got away and then got out of the car at one point and went into a trailer park, a mobile home park. And that's when police, having surrounded the area, setting up a perimeter, eventually using K-9 dogs, cornered this suspect and he was shot. We don't know how many times, but he will be all right. The store manager's all right as they try to piece things together here.


CANDIOTTI: What a dramatic day.

WHITFIELD: What an incredible set of events right there in north Miami. Thanks so much, Susan Candiotti.

Well, our legal team is about to enter the NEWSROOM. They're going to weigh in on the mayor with the text problem in Detroit. Boy, I know you guys cannot wait. Got your tect messaging going. All right, see you right after this.


WHITFIELD: OK, so, we're on the go today in Italy. Our Alessio Vinci takes us on a Roman holiday on a budget.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Nothing will spoil Judy and Jennifer's Roman holiday. But the thought of a weak dollar is difficult to digest. So instead of a sit-down lunch, a quick cheap sandwich will do for today.

JUDY MAZER, TOURIST FROM CHICAGO: Save a little bit of money so that maybe we can spend a little bit extra on dinner.

VINCI: From food to fashion, American tourists are thinking twice about every dollar and euro they spend. That leather bag you always wanted to buy in Italy, not this trip. Certain souvenirs will just have to wait.

JENNIFER SUTHERLAND, TOURIST FROM CHICAGO: I made the decision that I wasn't going to change my plans radically, but I am very conscious of additional purchases. VINCI: This may not be the right time to spend when even a can of soda can cost you more than twice the price back home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's terrible. The American dollar is terrible here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, I would certainly buy a lot more if the value of the American dollar was better, definitely buy more.

VINCI: An estimated 4.5 million American tourists visit Italy each year. Tourism officials say so far, they have seen a five percent drop in that number. American tourists here in Italy spend an estimated $10 billion each year.

EUGENIO MAGNANI, GEN. DIR., ITALIAN TOURISM BOARD: We want them to keep concentrating on Italy as a travel destination. So, the Italian outliers are very, very sensitive to the American. They will keep an eye on them and they will keep the price very, very firm, no increase on the price.

VINCI: One suggestion to save money, book your vacation with a tour operator in the U.S. and pay for it in dollars before leaving. And if Rome is on your itinerary, here is another suggestion.

(on camera): Traditionally, if you want to return to Rome, you must throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain. But with the current economic crisis, you want to be careful about how much you toss. For example, these two euro coins is the equivalent of more than $3 U.S. So, if you do want to come back, keep a quarter handy and start saving now.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Rome.



WHITFIELD: All right, be warned, those little text messages most of us rely on, well, they can come back to haunt us. Such is the plight of Detroit's mayor. We're going to talk with out legal guys about how instant messaging and e-mails can catch anyone, even a big city mayor in a legal web.

But first, the message trail and the Detroit mayor. Chris Lawrence has the story.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was the youngest man ever elected mayor of Detroit. Now, this mug shot is the face of the Motor City. But Kwame Kilpatrick defiantly refuses to step down.

MAYOR KWAME KILPATRICK, DETROIT: I look forward to complete exoneration once all the facts surrounding this matter have been brought forth. LAWRENCE: But the mayor could be kicked out of office and even sent to prison if he's convicted of perjury and obstructing justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mayor, is my information wrong ...

LAWRENCE: It all goes back to a whistleblower lawsuit filed by two police officers. They claim they were fired for investigating corruption, including an alleged cover-up of the mayor's extramarital affairs. Under oath, Kilpatrick denied he was romantically involved with his chief of staff, but text messages obtained by the "Detroit Free Press" indicate otherwise.

One says, "I'm madly in love with you." And when chief of staff, Christine Beatty allegedly asked, "Did you miss me sexually?" the message back from Kilpatrick's pager read, "HelL, yeAH!"

Prosecutors accuse the mayor of settling the case to keep those texts from being made public. And more Detroiters are demanding Kilpatrick resign.

(on camera): Who possibly economically could get hurt if that were to happen?

TERRY CROSS, BUSINESS CONSULTANT: I think the small, neighborhood businesses would feel it the most.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Business consultant Terry Cross (ph) says Kilpatrick did help local entrepreneurs and brought a lot of new development downtown. On the other hand, the scandal has already caused one major convention to pull out of the city, which hurts suburban business as well. And if the losses don't stop there, all of southeastern Michigan will feel the economic pain.

CROSS: It's going to have an effect on the whole area if it's going to have an effect on Detroit.

LAWRENCE: The whistleblower settlement has already caused taxpayers $8 million.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Public dollars were used. People's lives were ruined. The justice system was severely mocked and the public trust trampled on.


WHITFIELD: OK, right now, there is a battle to keep the mayor's text messages from actually being released to the public, more than what you just saw.

Well, this one goes to our legal guys. Avery Friedman is a civil rights attorney and law professor. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman is a New York criminal defense attorney and law proffesor. Good to see you as well. RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Hey Avery, my Michigan colors, you see.

FRIEDMAN: Oh, look at that, look that.

WHITFIELD: Well, there you go.

FRIEDMAN: Look at that guy, wow!

WHITFIELD: All right, a little solidarity there.

OK, Avery, let's begin with you. So, we've heard some of the text messages. But Kwame Kilpatrick wants to make sure that no more of them are made public.


WHITFIELD: Is there any protection that he has as an elected public official that perhaps the average citizen does not?

FRIEDMAN: No, as a matter of fact, his lawyer, Dan Cook (ph), the former U.S. attorney in Illinois, is going to be arguing that those texts should be blocked. They should be quashed because of the Federal Electronic Communications Act.

The problem with the argument, Fredricka, is that these are the same texts that surfaced during the civil suit. And the civil suit evidence was used by the grand jury to indict Mayor Kilpatrick. So, the problem is, that's the main argument. He's going to have a tough way to go to block those.


HERMAN: Fred, it's kind of unprecedented during the course of a civil litigation for criminal perjury counts to be filed and indicted based on that on a civil case. But here, this cost the city an excess of $9 million.

WHITFIELD: A cash-strapped city?

HERMAN: A cash-strapped city.


HERMAN: And the problem here is that these text messages were known and they were demanded in discovery during the course of the proceedings but they were withheld, and only a few of them got released after the jury came back with a $6.5 million verdict.


HERMAN: Once the mayor learned of that, he forced the city to sell and expend an additional, almost $9 million total. Let's just get rid of this claim and any other claim.

FRIEDMAN: Well, and the city council -- the city council didn't even know about it.

HERMAN: Right.

FRIEDMAN: I mean, it was about $9 million. And so, Fredricka, you used the word cash-strapped.


FRIEDMAN: They're paying -- the citizens are paying for it.

WHITFIELD: So, why resist at this point? I mean, why even continue and perhaps go settle this in trial? Why not perhaps, I don't know, settle? I mean, of course, there is admission of guilt there. The mayor is saying, I did nothing wrong.


WHITFIELD: But lordy, lordy, where do you go from here?

FRIEDMAN: Well, Kym Worthy, who is the district attorney, is saying, that even if the mayor resigns, Fredricka, that's not enough. The prosecution team intends its prosecutorial "shock and awe." They want this guy behind bars.

WHITFIELD: Ouch, all right, let's move on to the case of Carol Anne Gotbaum. She was a Phoenix traveler who died in security custody. Now, after a coroner weighed in and said, well, wait a minute, you know, she essentially had poison in her system. She was a drinker, she had some prescription drugs in her -- but her family says, no, wait a minute, we want to hold the security accountable here that they used excessive force. Do they have a chance, Richard?

HERMAN: Well, Fred, I don't think they have a chance on this case. They had to file this notice of claim within 180 days of her death to preserve the claim. But if you look at it, here she is. She's on her way to rehab. She's going through this airport. She missed her flight. They tried to put her on another flight. They could not do that. And she went a little bit insane in the airport.

FRIEDMAN: Well, well ...

HERMAN: They tried to subdue her. They had no idea of her physical or mental condition. They finally got her in handcuffs. She was screaming, yelling. They put her in a holding cell and she died.

WHITFIELD: Oh, but then, Avery, can perhaps the family's argument be that the way in which the security handled her only exacerbated her situation? She wasn't going to die because of her existing medical condition but they pushed her over the edge?

FRIEDMAN: Well, the Maricopa County coroner actually said that the combination of alcohol and drugs and being poisoned by that contributed. I think the only argument that the family has in this case is that what kind of training did these officers have, should they not have recognized it? That's going to be a very, very tough standard to meet. WHITFIELD: All right, we're going to shift gears now. There's a case where a judge says, you know what, I'm going to sentence you, force you to learn English ...

FRIEDMAN: Love that.

WHITFIELD: opposed to jail time.


WHITFIELD: You love that, but at the same time, the defendants say, wait a minute, can you do that, can a judge just have any discretion to impose any kind of sentence?

HERMAN: Hey, Fred, it's a local state court case. It's not a federal case. No way a federal judge would do this. These three guys got -- they've already done four months in prison. It was a 24-month sentence. The judge said, OK, I'm going to let you out now. You got to get full-time jobs, you got a GED degree, and you got to learn English and come back in a year and pass an English test.

WHITFIELD: All right.

HERMAN: If you fail that English test, you're going to do 24 months.

WHITFIELD: Ouch, all right, Avery, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is what we're talking about. It was this or it's jail time right away. I don't know, learn English, not so bad, people.

FRIEDMAN: Well, but remember -- remember, that was the town that wanted to keep the immigrants out.


FRIEDMAN: I actually -- at first blush ...

WHITFIELD: They have a history.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, I didn't like this. But the more I think about what Judge Peter Oshefsky (ph) did, the more I like it. I guess the only thing that will happen is if they are rescidavist (ph), they wind up committing crime, at least the victims will know what they're talking about.

WHITFIELD: Oh, oh gosh.

FRIEDMAN: I hope not.

WHITFIELD: OK, all right. Avery, Richard, thanks so much. Good to see you this weekend.

FRIEDMAN: See you later. Take care.

HERMAN: Fred, no more texting. No more texting, Fred. We're done. WHITFIELD: No, you know, I stay away from the texting, I really do.

FRIEDMAN: Good for you, good for you.

WHITFIELD: Not that I have anything to hide, I just -- it's tedious. I don't like it.

HERMAN: Of course.

WHITFIELD: All right, you guys, take care.

FRIEDMAN: See you later.

WHITFIELD: All right, the IRS, they want to help you this weekend. Really, I'm not kidding.


WHITFIELD: You, like everyone, waiting for that tax rebate check, right? Well, if you didn't file a tax return last year, the check won't be in the mail. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says the 20 million Americans who don't normally file a return need to do so. And help is available today.


HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: We're doing everything we can to help them. Many of them have already received letters. As you said, the IRS is going to be opening up all of the regional offices on Saturday. We've got a good number of partners opening up their offices, AARP, United Way of America. What I would say to people, if you need help, you might want to go online, or call the IRS hotline.


WHITFIELD: All right, and here is that number again for the IRS hotline. It's 800-906-9887, 800-906-9887. And you can find out about volunteer tax preparation sites as well. And again, the Web site,

Also, has your mortgage turned into a nightmare? Don't miss the CNN "SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS" report tonight. CNN teams up with "Fortune" magazine to bring you "Busted! Mortgage Meltdown." That's at 8:00 Eastern, only on CNN tonight.


WHITFIELD: A second life for, all of things, Japanese bikes. Well, it means saving lives in other countries as well.

CNN's Kyunh Lah has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is an endless, tiresome task: ticketing bike after illegally parked bike. "Struggling to keep up every day," says city worker Kuniaki Tsunoda, with a blight that litters downtown Tokyo. The city halls away hundreds of thousands of discarded bikes a year. Piled up in junkyards, half of them never picked up by owners.

This mess is what got community activist Hideyuki Takahashi thinking.

HIDEYUKI TAKAHASHI, JOICPP: To me, it looks as a big treasure for African people and the developing countries.

LAH (on camera): What's unique about a bike from Japan is that it has a sturdy frame, it's built for women, designed to carry groceries and children through a city. It's also why aid workers believe it's a perfect fit for a developing country.

(voice-over): You can hear and see the results for yourself on this video taken by local activists. Medical workers and nurses can now bike to remote villages and the sick can be transported more quickly.

Takahashi and his group, the Japanese Organization for International Cooperation and Family Planning, coordinated with Japan's municipal governments. The bikes are now in 89 countries, including Zambia, Tanzania, and in war-torn Afghanistan.

TAKAHASHI: In Afghanistan, they are so poor. They are losing their lives because of the distance from the house to the clinic.

LAH (on camera): Instant mobility.


LAH (voice-over): There have been some hiccups. Malaysia accused wealthy Japan of dumping its trash in a less-developed nation. But overall, these villagers tell activists the bikes have transported medicine and sick people, saving numerous lives.

Wakako Kai (ph) saw the bikes in action in Africa.

WAKAKO KAI: It's really amazing. It was -- I was really touched, saving lives of a lot of mothers and babies also, yes.

LAH: In this case, proving one nation's junk can somehow be another's treasure.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.


WHITFIELD: Well, who doesn't need help figuring out what to do with your money? Well, that's coming up next after a look at today's top stories.