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Bush Addresses Economic Issues; Tornado Wreaks Havoc in Virginia; DNA Confirms Father Sired 6 With Daughter; McCain Presents Health Care Proposal
Aired April 29, 2008 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GERRI WILLIS: "ISSUE #1" will be back here, tomorrow, same time, 12 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
ALI VELSHI: Time now for your latest headlines. CNN NEWSROOM with Don Lemon and Melissa Long starts right now.
DON LEMON, CO-HOST: All right. So you're paying too much at the pump and at the checkout line.
MELISSA LONG, CO-HOST: You may be losing your home, and you can't find a loan.
LEMON: And is it because lawmakers you elected, the ones you elected, are they dragging their feet? Well, President Bush says yes.
LONG: It's the president versus Congress versus the economy.
Hello from the CNN world headquarters here in Atlanta. I'm Melissa Long, in today for Kyra Phillips.
LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
OK. From the White House to Congress to your home, the economy, well, it is issue No. 1. Let's get right to it now. A call to action from the White House today. And CNN's Kathleen Koch was there.
Kathleen, you heard it all, and you even asked some questions. Tell us what you found out.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, as you pointed out, it was certainly today all about the economy. And first of all, gas prices. The president suggested one solution is to increase domestic drilling starting with the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve. The president said that can be done, at least in his opinion, without harming the environment.
Another idea the president rebuffed, and that was calls by many lawmakers to stop putting oil into the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The president said that won't work, because it will impact world oil prices because the amount that is put in is just .1 percent of global demand.
The president also talked about mortgages, the mortgage crisis, and he says he's tried to help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans are concerned about making their mortgage payments, keeping their homes. And I don't blame them.
Last year I called on Congress to pass legislation that would help address problems in the housing market. This includes critical legislation that would modernize the Federal Housing administration, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and allow state housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to refinance subprime loans. Yet they failed to send a single one of these proposals to my desk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOCH: The president insisted there was no magic wand to wave when it comes to either gas prices or the economy. He said he was open to any ideas, including one that has been suggested by Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, to temporarily lift the 18-cent federal gas tax.
While the president did in his press conference acknowledge these are, quote, "very difficult economic times," Don, he still refused to use the "R" word, would not yet acknowledge the country is in recession.
Back to you.
LEMON: Kathleen Koch at the White House. Thank you, Kathleen.
LONG: Now, if President Bush thinks Congress will rubber-stamp his proposals, he might want to think again. Lawmakers certainly have their own ideas. Plenty of them, as well. T.J. Holmes joins us now with a fact check, and T.J., what did you find out?
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of people have a lot of ideas. And nobody can seem to agree on what to do exactly.
We've got four main issues here the president wants Congress to take action on. We were talking about gas prices, of course. We're talking about food prices, the food bills, mortgage woes, and then student loans. We'll take the first here, which is on everybody's mind right now, the gas crisis.
President Bush wants Congress to allow for more domestic energy production. That includes drilling in Alaska's protected wildlife refuge, expanding nuclear power and building new refineries.
However, Congress has other ideas. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to suspend contributions to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. She says that it could lower gas prices nearly a quarter a gallon. Of course, that sounds good to a lot of folks out there filling up.
Senator John McCain, of course, has proposed a gas tax holiday for the summer. Senator Hillary Clinton supports that and Senator Barack Obama does not. To the other issue that's hitting a lot of folks in their wallets right now: the food prices. Here, the president wants Congress to reform programs that subsidize so-called wealthy farmers. The House and Senate negotiators are meeting to hammer out a compromise on that bill.
President Bush is at odds with Congress, however, over the amount of income that would disqualify farmers from getting those subsidies. He wants that cap to be about $200,000. That would make it a wealthy farmer, if you will.
On to the mortgage crisis now. The president wants an existing program that's called the FHASecure to help keep people in their homes. That program, pretty much is a government-backed loan to help people refinance.
Well, Congressional Democrats want an expanded program, a different program that would guarantee $300 billion in new loans made by private companies. However, the administration strongly opposing that legislation; says it's a Wall-Street bailout, and nobody wants to see another one of those. We've seen a few lately that people are calling Wall-Street bailouts.
Now, to the final one here. Student loans. President wants to ensure anyone who needs financial aid can get it. He supports legislation recently passed by the House that would allow the government to buy loans from troubled private lenders, but changes proposed by the Senate are holding things up.
So yes, you've got ideas all over the place. And some compromise is being made. The House, also the president have some things they agree on, but then got to the Senate, a lot of things being held up.
We've got the big -- big economic news coming out tomorrow. We're expecting to hear what -- how healthy this economy is. So...
LONG: And whether or not we'll be moving the -- the Federal Reserve rate again.
HOLMES: That, as well, and we will see if the president will use that "R" word that he has not used just yet -- Melissa.
LONG: Got it. T.J. Holmes with that fact check.
And we should remind everybody, as well, will talk about student loans coming up a little bit later in the hour. And also, you mentioned, of course, the gas tax, and we'll talk about that and talk some politics, too.
HOLMES: All right.
LONG: Thanks, T.J.
LEMON: All right. Right now we want to take you to Virginia. "I'm not lucky; I'm blessed." And those words from a resident of Suffolk, Virginia, who was pulled from the rubble of a shop that was flattened by a tornado. And CNN's Rob Marciano is outside where that shop was and others. They used to be there.
And Rob, considering I heard you and Jacqui talking early that I think it was, like, an F-3 and F-4, the size of this, it's amazing that no one -- no one died.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. And you know, that thought of folks here being blessed has been echoed by a number of residents and city officials. And they all pretty much in unison thanked God, at least so far that there's been no confirmed fatalities.
The size and scope of this new storm is pretty dramatic, for sure. But even the tales of survival are even more so. We spent much of the day in front of a strip mall that just got completely blown apart. We ran into a father and son who rode out the storm while the strip mall itself was collapsing around them. Take a listen.
WILLIAM FANCHER, SURVIVED SUFFOLK, VIRGINIA, TORNADO: This is where the passage was. You can see that part where that didn't cave in, the material that hadn't collapsed yet. That's the passageway where we were in. And we came out through a back door. That side, that's armored (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But through a back door. And we're pretty lucky to get through that.
MARCIANO: So you were basically buried or protected by a little cave there?
W. FANCHER: Correct.
MARCIANO: Ed, what was going through your head? What did you tell your son when you knew a tornado coming down?
ED FANCHER, SURVIVED SUFFOLK, VIRGINIA, TORNADO: When we found out there was probably only about two seconds to respond. Somebody yelled, "It's here."
And I said, "What?"
"A tornado. It's in the parking lot right outside the door."
The only thing that comes to mind in a tornado in my memory is get down in doorway. So I was closest to the doorway. My son was right behind me. We just went down immediately. And a couple of the recruiters were also with us. They went down. And we -- there was nothing to do but stay down.
And suddenly it came over the top of us. The building started coming apart, pieces falling on us, flooring, metal. We could hear the wind rushing over us. I mean, it didn't sound good.
MARCIANO: All of that happening less than 24 hours ago in the background of what you're looking at right now. That tornado made a right turn and came right up this street.
Those -- that group of people you see there are residents waiting to get back into their homes. They're located behind that the yellow tape. And some of the damage and destruction that you're seeing right here, not sure if they're going to be let back in their homes today. If they are, it will just be for a few minutes.
Not only strip malls, but I mean, these homes are unlivable. Up to 140, I'm told, are damaged or destroyed to the point where folks just can't live in them. And this thing just kept going there, kind of zigged and zagged in a 25-mile path. And behind my right side here it really gets ugly.
So yes, this thing could -- talked to the meteorologist who's out storm surveying the storm right now. No official word as to how strong it was, but he did say that an EF-3 not out of the realm of possibility. He said, you know, it's possible even higher than that. So we'll just have to see.
Certainly from what we've seen on the ground here, winds could have easily been 130, 140, when you see cars tossed like toys and piled on top of each other, you know, two or three at a time. It's really quite remarkable.
LEMON: Yes, my goodness, Rob. And I saw you this morning walking next to a car, spinning the wheel and what have you. It's just amazing, no matter how many times you've seen damage like this.
And Rob, also, we appreciate you staying there. It's been a long morning for you. We realize that. Rob Marciano, Suffolk...
MARCIANO: Let me add one more thing.
LEMON: Yes, go ahead.
MARCIANO: Don, let me add one more thing. They're -- as of 10 a.m., they were 50 percent cleared, meaning they have searched about 50 percent of the homes. They hope to have them all done by the end of today, and they certainly hope that zero fatality number holds true. And if that does happen, I'll tell you, from what I've seen on the ground, and the folks here, the locals here, would echo this, it would be nothing short of miraculous. So we're hoping for that.
LEMON: All right. Well put. Again, Rob, thank you very much for your reporting.
We want to tell you that our I-Reporter, William Bernstein, was driving into Suffolk when the tornado hit. Chad Myers, our meteorologist here in house, he will have his story and more I- Reports. That's just a little bit later on in the NEWSROOM -- Melissa.
LONG: He appeared calm and emotionless in the face of national and international outrage. The Austrian man at the center of an incest and imprisonment case has made his first court appearance today. And CNN's Phil Black has the latest for you. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police in this region of Austria have now confirmed essentially what they have suspected for some days now. And that is that Josef Fritzl is, in fact, the biological father of at least six children by his own daughter. This confirmation comes through DNA tests, the results of which have just been made known today, and they concur with what they say Fritzl's own daughter and what he, himself, has confessed to.
Quickly recapping on what his confessions have entailed, he says that some 24 years ago he locked up his then 18-year-old daughter in the -- below the building just behind me. She has been kept there ever since. She has been beaten, raped, bore him seven children. Six of them survived. He said he disposed of the body of one after birth. Three of those children were forced to live in the cellar with their mother. Three others were allowed to be brought above to the surface and raised as members of this community here.
Now Josef Fritzl made his first real court appearance today. It was something of a formality, police seeking the right to -- to extend their custody of him without charge. But he spoke during that brief appearance of his desire to redeem himself for what he'd done. How he would achieve that, hard to say.
The locals here are coming to terms with the fact that they have been deceived by this man for more than two decades. For that period of time they have believed that their daughter -- his daughter, I should say, ran away. That three children that he raised were grandchildren abandoned by that daughter.
We've been speaking to the locals here about their reaction to these facts as they've unfolded. Let's hear from one of them now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): She said she believed her daughter had had the child with someone from the cult and couldn't take care of it. That's why Elizabeth laid it in front of the door. And she said, "Well, what can we do? We have to take the child in. She never knew that something was so very wrong there.
BLACK: Police say for all of Josef Fritzl's confessions, he has not offered any justifications for his actions. Over that long 24- hour period they themselves have said they are truly amazed that this crime has been allowed to be carried on for so long without detection.
Phil Black, CNN, Amstetten, Austria.
LEMON: All right. Leading our political ticker today, a boost for Hillary Clinton in North Carolina. A week before that state's Democratic primary, governor Mike Easley called Clinton the next president of the United States.
Announcing his endorsement, Easley said, the senator from New York, quote, "gets it." Barack Obama still has a double-digit lead in North Carolina. In a new American Research Group poll, 52 percent of likely Democratic voters back Obama; 42 percent support Clinton; 6 percent are undecided.
Obama is campaigning all day in tobacco country. The Democratic frontrunner holds town-hall meetings in Winston-Salem and Hickory. One hundred fifteen Democratic delegates are at stake in next Tuesday's North Carolina primary.
LONG: Suppose you are one of 40 million Americans without health insurance. How would Republican presidential candidate John McCain make sure you're covered? We're going to tell you the senator's vision for health care in America.
LEMON: The father of an American soldier sheds light on appalling conditions at one of the biggest bases. We'll show you what he found at ft. Bragg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They urge universal coverage with all the tax increases, new mandates and government regulation that come along with that idea. But in the end, this will accomplish one thing only. We will replace the inefficiency, irrationality and uncontrolled cost of the current system with the inefficiency, irrationality and uncontrolled cost of a government monopoly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That was John McCain just a short time ago talking up his health care plan. Unlike his Democratic rivals, the presumptive Republican nominee wants to tinker with the system but leave it in private hands.
CNN's Dana Bash covered McCain's announcement in Tampa, Florida.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some voters may be watching the campaign and wondering, "What are the really big differences between John McCain and the Democrats on some of the issues that matters most to me, like health care?"
Well, if they listened to John McCain's speech here in Tampa, they heard it loud and clear. Primarily, McCain made it very clear that he believes that what the Democrats want to do, which is mandate coverage -- Hillary Clinton wants to mandate for all, Barack Obama at least for children -- he thinks that that would make things worse.
MCCAIN: They urge -- they urge universal coverage with all the tax increases, new mandates and government regulation that come along with that idea. But in the end, this will accomplish one thing only. We will replace the inefficiency, irrationality and uncontrolled cost of the current system with the inefficiency, irrationality and uncontrolled costs of a government monopoly.
BASH: So what does McCain want to do? He's proposing doing away with a tax credit that now goes to businesses to provide insurance to employers and taking that money and giving it directly to Americans. He says that that would create affordability, and it wouldn't make health insurance as dependent on people's jobs as it is now with the current system. That would be $2,500 for current individuals, $5,000 for families under McCain's plan.
The other thing, of course, that is a big, big issue for Americans right now, many Americans, is if you have a pre-existing condition, it is very, very difficult to get insurance.
What McCain says he would do is talk to the states, talk to governors, those who have very beneficial and successful plans to deal with pre-existing conditions in their states. And he would set up a board. And something he would he call -- he calls a GAP, Guaranteed Assistance Program. And the board would try to work with insurers and try to figure out a way to give people with pre-existing conditions, and even some people who can't afford insurance, give them insurance.
McCain did say that it would cost about $7 billion, and it would be a form of federal assistance. But some of McCain's critics are already saying that that is still quite vague; it is still quite early.
And in the big scheme of things, many Democrats are looking at this and saying that it does not address the fundamental problem, which is that the free market to date simply hasn't done what it needs to do, is to prevent people from not having insurance and really help those who don't have insurance to get it.
Dana Bash, CNN, Tampa, Florida.
LONG: All right. So Dana Bash just explained the Republican presumptive nominee's plan. Now what about the Democrat?
Well, both Democratic candidates favor government mandated health-care coverage of some sort. Senator Obama's plan requires coverage for children, but not adults. It includes a national health- care program for the uninsured. Private plans would have to meet certain standards.
Senator Clinton's plan mandates health care coverage for all Americans. It would create a public insurance plan similar to Medicare and would offer a choice of private plans.
LEMON: Well, so close you could almost feel the flames. New video from a deadly explosion. Remember the one at that Georgia sugar plant?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LONG: So which is the greater problem? The slowing economy or soaring prices? That really is a central question before the Federal Reserve and the Federal Reserve this week.
Susan Lisovicz is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with a preview of tomorrow's decision.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is a conundrum, Melissa. Because just today, for instance, we got fresh numbers on how housing prices continue to decline while gas prices continue to hit record highs.
The Fed begins that two-day meeting today. Widely expected that the Fed will cut another 1/4 of a point, but that it will signal that it is done with easing monetary policy.
Of course, cutting interest rates, just like those rebate checks that are going out this week, in an effort to stimulate the economy. They are certainly something that affects a lot of the interest rates, that affect us most, whether it's credit cards, auto -- auto loans, you name it. And obviously, the economy has been slowing down dramatically -- Melissa.
LONG: You mentioned those checks, the stimulus checks. And so many people are joking but really being serious when they say all that money from the stimulus check just may go to paying for the higher gas prices. So with all these problems in the economy, who really has money to spend more?
LISOVICZ: It's a very good point. And that's why it's such a difficult decision for the Fed to make.
But also, it points to the double-edged sword of cutting interest rates. One of the things that the Fed -- what happens when the fed cuts -- and it has been cutting aggressively -- is that it puts pressure on the dollar. As the dollar has gotten weaker, a lot of things have become more expensive. Chiefly oil.
And one oil analyst that I spoke to last week said it is the primary factor, even more so than supply and demand, in pushing oil to these record highs.
"The Wall Street Journal" in an editorial yesterday said that it is a major policy mistake. It says that the Fed has been on a bender with cutting these interest rates. And it shows.
Let me give you an example of one new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. It shows that 44 percent of those surveyed say gas prices are a serious problem. That it is something that is more worrisome to them than their own job situation and concerns over affordable health care.
So obviously, the Fed wants to strike the right chord between helping to juice the economy, but also not to stoke inflation and kind of is in a no-win situation at this point.
Melissa, here on Wall Street things are quiet for a second day ahead of that meeting. But I am happy to tell you that oil prices are down $3 today, because so many folks think that the Fed will signal that it's done after tomorrow cutting interest rates.
One big mover I want to tell you about is Merck, the big pharmaceutical company. Its shares are down 10 percent. The FAA rejected Merck's experimental cholesterol drug, Cordaptiv. The agency says it needs more information.
Here in the big board, the info is that we're seeing a modest sell-off. The Dow is down 31 points. The NASDAQ, meanwhile, is down, too.
And let me just repeat it, because it sounds good. Oil prices are down more than $3.
LONG: Wonderful. We haven't heard that in a while. Sounds great.
LISOVICZ: Back to you.
LONG: Hoping for some more great news coming up in your next report when we talk to you next time.
LISOVICZ: You got it.
LONG: Thanks, Susan.
LEMON: A powerful force of nature zigzags across Virginia. Stories of survival from the disaster zone, right here in the NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live here at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
LONG: And hello. I'm Melissa Long, in today for Kyra Phillips. We're in a New York state of mind right now.
LEMON: Oh, yes.
LONG: Looking at a live picture of Manhattan at the Hudson right there. We're waiting for a scheduled flyover of an F-16. Two of them in the really murky, soupy skies over New York City. The question, though, how much is that going to cost to have that fly-over happen? In a matter of minutes -- it's supposed to happen between now and about 1:45.
LEMON: I think a whole heck of a lot.
LONG: We're going to look into that.
LEMON: Yes. LONG: We're going to break down the numbers for you.
You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: And as we keep our eyes on the skies in New York, we want to tell but this: homes just in splinters. lives on hold. Dazed and weary people in Suffolk, Virginia, are looking at all this and they're wondering -- they're wondering how no one was killed.
A tornado tore right through their community late yesterday afternoon injuring at least 20 people. Homes were wiped off their foundations, as you can see. Others, well, they just simply vanished. Also demolished was a newly built strip mall that was packed with people, including Ed Facher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED FANCHER, SURVIVED SUFFLOK, VA., TORNADO: I thought we were gone, I thought it was all over because it just -- it was overwhelming, the noise, the wind. Everything was being torn, and fall down around us. The wind was tearing up the flooring, everything, the metal structures. And we just stayed down, squatted and asked God to let us live. And I wanted my son not to be hurt. That's all I cared about. And he must have heard me because my son's home, and he walked away it from it, both of us did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And again, at least 200 people were injured there. And no reports yet of any deaths on the ground.
That tornado was one of three that touched down just yesterday in southeastern, Virginia. Governor Timothy Kaine is getting ready to visit some of the most damaged areas. And we expect to hear from him just after that.
LONG: Clearly a very powerful tornado. But we don't yet know just how powerful. Let's bring in meteorologist Chad Myers.
And I guess it's between an F-3 or an F-4 -- actually, we knew -- now say EF-3, right, EF-4?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right, enhanced Fujita scale because somebody had to have a job to do, so they changed everything around because what was good enough for 50 years, obviously wasn't good enough for now. Anyway, don't get me started on that.
We don't know what it is. We -- sometimes, we'll say we don't know whether it was straight line wind or tornado. Well, this time, we know it's a tornado. We just don't know the size.
And it's basically irrelevant. The greatest thing -- that relevancy was that here, for a while, we had two reports of deaths by the "AP" yesterday and we're going oh, there's going to be more. And then, all of a sudden they said no, wait, wait, those were not reportable for the tornado. They were something completely different. OK, well great. Zero deaths with this storm is an amazing accomplishment by the Weather Service Office there in Wakefield, Virginia, by getting these warnings out in time.
I have an i-Reporter here. I want to just let this thing roll, I want to hear his voice. I want you to hear the energy in his voice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OF WILLIAM BERNSTEIN JR., I-REPORTER: As you can see, this is a supercell thunderstorm right there on my left. You can see the clouds and they're rotating as I'm driving into Suffolk. This is exclusive coverage right now of this tornado that is -- that was confirmed on the ground. We are heading right into it, right into the storm.
We aren't sure where -- oh, God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MYERS: You know, we always ask you please be careful doing this. Well -- if you're going to be filming in the car, we prefer that there be two people in the car, one filming, one driving. But William Bernstein Jr. did a fantastic job with this. And he did stay safe. He did stay at a reasonable distance with this storm.
But at this point in time, it was EF-3 or if EF-4. Well, let's get rid of the numbers. Somewhere between 150 and 180 miles an hour. That's just what we're going to get because some of these houses that we were seeing were completely gone, all that was left was just slab.
And now, we go to another one from the National Weather Service on the scene here. At this one here, you can actually see the funnel in the background. But the house gets in the way. But Reza here from -- Reza Chegini from Norfolk was taking the pictures here.
A couple other ones that we have, you know, they were coming in so fast and furious yesterday, this is basically what a lot of the homes looked like.
This is pretty much EF -- what we call two damage. And a five means you can't find the house, but you can see the slab. A four means you can kind of see some walls left. Three the roof is gone, most of the walls are gone, but there's still some inside structure. And then, a two is like this. One would be shingles on a roof and a zero means tat you probably lost some vinyl siding.
All right, and that's how we go. And we'll get on this EF scale later on today, but Weather Service Office there, I just made (ph) a call, they're not answering the phone yet. They were out in the storm right now, they're trying to figure out what it is. They're flying over it.
There it was, it came out of North Carolina. It was on the ground for miles and miles and miles. And the footprint (ph) are right over Suffolk as it moved there at about 4:00 to 4:15 yesterday. And over the town of Driver as well.
There are many more areas just to the one town and we are focused on the one town, Columbia Heights -- Colonial Heights in Virginia, Southside, this is like Petersburg, right there. They had a tornado as well, but it was an Ef-1, not the kind of damage, but certainly people were in danger there, too -- Melissa.
LONG: And as Rob Marciano was saying earlier, they've gone through about 50 percent of the homes ...
LONG: ...and they haven't found anyone, thank goodness. Any true victims, so we hope that will continue as they search all the homes.
MYERS: There are people wanting to get back to their house, but they can't get in, they're behind this barricade line. So, I know everybody ...
MYERS: ...you've got to think, all my stuff is all there. You know, I have to go -- help, have to go get it. But police want you to be safe. There's just so many nails and everything laying around.
LONG: Of course, very dangerous.
Chad Myers, thank you.
MYERS: Sure (ph).
LEMON: Well, they say they feel your pain at the pump, John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are taking notice of spiralling gas prices. But what would they do about them?
Here's CNN's Jessica Yellin.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rage over gas prices is rising. Truckers protesting in Washington. Americans driving south of the border to fill up or opting for alternative transportation.
Now, the candidates are vowing to slash your prices at the pump. John McCain was the first to propose a federal gas tax holiday. He'd lift the 18.4 cents a gallon federal tax on gasoline during peak summer travel months May through September. McCain says it will give low-income Americans ...
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A little bit of relief so they can travel a little further and a little longer. And maybe have a little bit of money left over to enjoy some other things in their lives.
YELLIN: Clinton's plan? Like McCain, she'd have a gas tax holiday. She points out that will cost the government up to $10 billion, money that's used to improve our roads. So, she'd make up for lost revenue with a windfall profits tax on the oil companies. Their profits over a certain figure would be taxed at 50 percent.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oil companies aren't paying their fair share to help us solve the problems at the pump. So now in the short term, we have to take aim at these enormous oil company profits.
YELLIN: Clinton would also close $7.5 billion in oil and gas loopholes and monitor prices to be sure there's no manipulation.
And Obama? His plan is very similar to Clinton's, only he does not support the gas tax holiday. He says it would save the average driver only $25 to $28. He called it a political scheme.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's typical of how Washington works. There's a problem. Everybody's upset about gas prices. Let's find some short term, quick fix that we can say we did something even though we're not really doing anything.
YELLIN: Obama would use a windfall profits tax on oil companies to help low-income families pay their energy bills. And he insists he'll work harder than the other candidates to limit oil companies' influence in Washington.
(on camera): Both Clinton and McCain are piling on Obama for opposing the gas tax holiday, but a number of experts tell CNN while that holiday is popular, it is not a long-term solution to soaring gas prices.
Jessica Yellin, CNN, Washington.
LONG: It's coming up on 20 minutes to 2:00 in New York City. A beautiful picture of the Hudson. I mean, granted, it is hazy today. But we are waiting for a fly-over, in a couple of minutes perhaps of two F-16s. We should point out thought, they're supposed to be flying at 5,500 feet. With that low cloud cover, I wonder if we'll even see that fly-over. We're monitoring it, supposed to happen any minute now.
We'll tell you also how much this is going to cost.
LEMON: Yes, we'll keep an eye on that, but right now, we want to get you out on the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton out on the campaign trail. She's talking now about high gas prices. Of course, all of this, the economy issue No. 1.
Let's listen in a little bit.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
CLINTON: ...to market on top of global competition, you're facing some pretty challenging times. It's harder for companies to hire new employees and to afford health care costs. And it's harder for employees who are struggling with all of these additional increased costs in your own lives.
So in the end, everybody pays the price except the oil companies. The oil companies have figured out a way to keep profiting no matter what else happens. No matter what happens in the housing market or what happens in the trucking business or what happens in a business like Mill Erviner's (ph).
The oil companies keep making out like bandits. You know, they've had the highest profits in the history of the world. And I think last year, Exxon had profits of more than $40 billion.
Now today, Shell and BP, two other giant oil companies, announced their quarterly profits. And over the past three months, while you were being pummeled by high gas prices, Shell's profits rose by 25 percent and BP's by 63 percent. So, the oil companies are doing very well. And it's high time that they helped to relieve the burden of high gas prices on our families and our businesses.
I think it's important that we finally get a president who understands the impact of these high gas prices and is willing to take action to bring those prices down. If you give me a chance, I will be that president, because we've got to stop this gas-price escalation. I've got a plan for both short-term relief and then the longer term action we need to take to get out from under our dependence on foreign oil.
And let me be clear, my gas prices agenda is a jobs agenda. I travelled all over Indiana saying my campaign is about jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs. Because without good jobs, everything else we're talking about is just not going to happen. And we've got to have these good jobs in order to keep growing the economy and really keep faith with hardworking, middle-class families. And we also need to get some more relief at the gas pump, because then you'll have more money here at Miller Veneers (ph) to invest in your people and to grow your business and to, you know, keep a strong jobs base.
So I am going to make some pledges about what I would do if I were president today, and what I would do if we are still faced with these high prices if I become president next January.
First, right now, I would immediately lower gas prices by temporarily suspending the gas tax for consumers and businesses.
And we will pay for it by imposing a windfall profit tax on the big oil companies. They sure can afford it. This is a big difference in this race. My opponent opposes giving consumers a break from the gas tax, but I believe American people are being squeezed pretty hard by everything happening, the housing crisis, the health care costs, and now of course this increase in gas prices. And we need to rein in the special interests to give the middle class a break. And there are a lot of people in Indiana who would really benefit from a gas tax holiday. You know, that may not mean much to my opponent, but I think it means a lot to people who are struggling here, you know, people who commute long distances to work, farmers and truckers who are in the business of driving a lot of vehicles over a lot of miles, and people whose very livelihood depends upon getting pressure released from these sky-high prices.
Now, Senator McCain says he wants a gas tax holiday, but he won't pay for it. I don't think that's responsible. His plan would slash the funds and the jobs and others that would go into repairing and keeping up our roads, our bridges and our other highway interests. My gas price plan is 100 percent paid for, because we would put a tax on the profits of the oil companies. That money would then go in to replenish the highway trust fund.
So while you are getting a break at the pump, the oil companies would be making sure we can keep up with our maintenance and construction on our highways. So Senator Obama won't provide relief, while Senator McCain won't pay forth. And I'm the only candidate who will provide immediate relief at the pump with a plan to make it happen, turning talk into action.
And a break from the gas tax is especially important to truck drivers. And you rely a lot on truck drivers. If we gave them a break from the federal gas tax, they would save more than $2 billion in fuel costs. That would be less costs to Miller Veneers.
LEMON: That's Hillary Clinton in Indianapolis, Indiana, talking about her plan to at least try to curb some of the costs of gasoline on consumers. And here what she's talking about. She is in favor of suspending taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel for the summer travel season. Just to give you an idea, The tax is 18.4 cents a gallon on gasoline, 24.4 cents on diesel fuel. John McCain supports that idea, as well. Senator Barack Obama has not backed the gas tax proposal here.
Here's what we want to tell you: If you'd like to watch any of the candidates today go to CNN.com/live to see their rallies and events live and unfiltered. Again, that's CNN.com/live.
LONG: And checking CNN.com right now Hillary Clinton continuing to speak right now in Indianapolis. Now that live picture from Manhattan. It's a lovely view of the Hudson. We were telling you about anticipating two F-16s in a flyover of New York City. Well, we can also report to you that they've had to cancel that because of the adverse weather conditions. Looking at the forecast, about 46, 47 degrees right now, low cloud cover, some showers of course, and they were supposed to fly at about 5,500 feet. So they'd decided to canceled this for today. And that's NORAD. That's the North American Aerospace Defense Command that has made the decision today, the executive decision to cancel that flyover.
LEMON: You can see why just by looking at the pictures here.
LONG: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LONG: Tuition costs continue to rise along with everything else. And now President Bush wants to make sure the college students who need the financial aid can get that financial aid. Today he called on Congress to make student loans available and affordable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans are concerned about the availability of student loans. Recent credit crunch makes it uncertain that some students will be able to get the loans they need. My administration has taken action through the Department of Education's Lender of Last Resort program, which works to arrange loans for students who are unable to secure one from a lender on their own. We're helping. Congress needs to do more, by passing a bill that would temporarily give the federal government greater authority to buy federal student loans. This authority would safeguard student loans without permanently expanding the government's role in their financing.
LEMON: All right, here is something a lot of young people are interested in, and probably not so young by the time you finish paying them off. Will Congress buy into the idea of buying up student loans and would that spur private lenders to do more lending? Well, let's break it all down for you with our finance editor Gerri Willis.
How are you doing, Gerri?
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hey, Don. to see you.
LEMON: It's good to see you.
OK, so tell us, what's been happening in the student loan industry lately?
WILLIS: Look, Don, students have lost access to more than $6.9 billion a year in education loans since private lenders. They fled the marketplace. Dozens of lenders stopped making federally guaranteed loans because the government cut their subsidies. Plus, investors who are hurt by the subprime mortgage crisis are staying away from bonds that are backed by student loans. I know it sounds complicated, but here's what it means for you. Incentives and discounts for private student loans are becoming rare indeed. Borrower eligibility on plus and private loans is getting tighter for plus loans. Parents can't have a recent foreclosure or be 90 days or more past due on any debt.
To qualify for student loans, you need a credit score of 650 to 700. Used to get by with just 620. Consolidation loans are now harder to find. These loans just aren't profitable anymore. More than 3/4 of lenders have left the consolidation business. And you know what, that's likely to get worse.
LEMON: Yes. OK, not good. The president addressed this crisis, Gerri? WILLIS: Well, the president said that Congress, Congress should give the federal government greater authority to buy federal student loans. Now the administration is in support of a bill that's pending in the Senate. Now this bill would increase loan limits on unsubsidized Stafford loans, allow parents to defer plus payments during the in-school period and give direct-loan programmability to buy loans from lenders. Now experts we talked to say there is a pretty good chance that this bill will become law, or actually pass the Senate, as early as this week. So that is actually already in motion.
LEMON: OK. So what can students do who are looking, if they happen to be looking for a lender?
WILLIS: Well, some states, like Utah, are promising money to bolster loan funds so students are able to secure loans. Otherwise students may qualify for a Hope scholarship. This is a tax credit for families who meet certain income requirements.
For all students out there looking for a lender, make sure, make sure you max out your federal financial aid offers before going to those private loans. And if parents are denied a Plus loan, talk to the financial aid officer. You may be eligible to get more unsubsidized Stafford money.
LEMON: All right, Gerri Willis, thank you. And you can catch Gerri every day, besides -- well, not every day; she does her "HOME" show on the weekends, but ISSUE #1 everyday at noon Eastern, right here on CNN.
Gerri, much appreciate it.
WILLIS: Thank you.
LONG: Hard-working lady.
Millions of ladies take Fosamax to protect their bones, but what this drug could do to their hearts is raising fresh concerns today.
LONG: If you are one of the millions of women taking Fosamax for osteoporosis -- perhaps you have a loved one who's taking it -- you would like to know perhaps that it could double that person's risk of an irregular part beat.
Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta examines the latest study of this popular drug.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What we're talking about is atrial fibrillation. And I should stress right from the top that this is for the vast majority of people not something that's going to be of significant concern. People may feel a racing in their chest. They may feel fatigued more seriously. And in rare cases it could lead to a stroke.
Now what is happening here -- take a look at this animation, the top chambers of the heart, called the atria, just simply aren't beating effectively. So they're not moving enough blood through the heart, and sometimes clots can develop in the heart chambers, and that's where it can get more serious. What they have learned here is that people that take the medication Fosamax, which is a medication that helps ward off some of the signs of osteoporosis, could also increase your chances of developing the atrial fibrillation, from about 4.1 percent to about 6.5 percent. So not huge, and it certainly doesn't mean that if you're taking the medication you're going to get atrial fibrillation. But if you have a history of heart disease, this may be something that you want to talk to your doctor about.
Now there are some other options if you want to try and ward off some of the signs of osteoporosis. Vitamin D supplements, for example, can be helpful, exercise, and I will say light weightlifting, as well. You know, we don't talk a lot about weight lifting when it comes to women, especially elderly women. It's a great exercise, especially if you're trying to improve the strength of your bones and ward off the likelihood of developing a fracture later on in life.
And finally, hormone therapy. You know, hormone therapy obviously there's been a lot of studies showing its potential dangers, but in small doses with small amounts of time it could be beneficial as well.
That's the headline on Fosamax for today. We'll get back as details come to us. Back to you for now.
LONG: Sanjay, thank you.
Now, intentionally tainted or accidentally contaminated? That's what lawmakers want to know about batches of the drug Heparin, imported from China.
LEMON: All right, would you let your landlord or your child's landlord get away with this? Raw sewage pooling onto the bathroom floor? One soldier's father couldn't look the other way any longer.
LEMON: All right, we want to get you now to Winston Salem, North Carolina. Barack Obama talking about Reverend Wright on the campaign trail.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I may not know him as well as I thought, either.
Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church, he's built a wonderful congregation. The people at Trinity are wonderful people, and what attracted me has always been their ministries reach beyond the church walls.
But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions that the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans, and they should be denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.
Let me just close by saying this. I -- we started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided. That in fact, all across America people are hungry to get out of the old divisive politics of the past. I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race, or religion or region of the country, that the only way we can deal with critical issues like energy, and health care, and education and the war on terrorism is if we are joined together.