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ISSUE NUMBER ONE

Government Investigates Price Fixing in Oil Industry; Global Warming Legislation About to be Debated on Capitol Hill; Cheap Gas Fact Check; Decision Day; Ohio Voters Speak Out; True Cost of Hollywood

Aired May 30, 2008 - 12:01   ET

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


GERRI WILLIS, CO-HOST: The government investigates price fixing in the oil industry.
Historic global warming legislation about to be debated on Capitol Hill.

And a way for the power company to actually pay you.

ISSUE #1 is the economy -- your job, your savings, your debt, your house. ISSUE #1 starts right now.

Good Friday afternoon to you. And thanks for joining us for ISSUE #1.

I'm Gerri Willis. Ali Velshi will join us in just a moment.

But first, deal or no deal? The proposed merger of US Airways and United appears grounded, at least for now. According to sources close to the negotiations, labor concerns, integration costs and financing issues factored into the decision.

General Motors gets leaner and meaner. The American automaker says more than a quarter of its factory workforce, some 19,000 folks, have accepted buyout offers to leave the company.

GM, like others in the industry, are under increasing pressure to cut costs as SUV and truck sales tank with record high gas prices. And we say that for the 23rd consecutive day.

A new record high. Forget pain, it was downright excruciating at the pump these days. $3.96 is the new average price for a gallon of regular self-serve unleaded.

ALI VELSHI, CO-HOST: Well, news out on record oil prices and the speculation that many say drives them up. A federal agency announced that it's six months into investigation of possible manipulation and abuse in futures trading markets. The agency is the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and it says it normally doesn't disclose investigations. It did so because of the unusual price increases in the price of oil. But one former agency official says political pressure has been building on the agency to act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL GREENBERGER, FMR. DIR., COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION: After two years they've been telling Congress this is a supply-demand problem, we're watching these markets, there is nothing wrong. Yesterday they say we've got an investigation and now there is all this data we don't have that we have to get from the exchanges that are not regulated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Michael Greenberger, he's a professor of law, and he used to be the director of trading and markets at the CFTC. He said a lot of oil is traded on exchanges that have loose regulations, rules that could encourage excessive speculation. And at these prices, Congress wants answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREENBERGER: On top of that, there is now a bipartisan outrage. You've got conservative Republican members of Congress who are very angry with the CFTC for having sat on this problem while oil went from $50 to $75, and now yesterday, even before the announcement, touched $135.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Now, the CFTC is not disclosing what it is investigating or exactly who it is that is being investigated. But the agency says it is publicizing this now because of today's unprecedented market conditions.

Well, right now oil is trading around $127 a barrel.

Maria Cantwell is a U.S. senator from Washington State and a Democrat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Senator Cantwell joins us right now from Seattle.

Senator, thank you for being with us.

You are on this committee. Do you believe that there is some sort of manipulation going on in the oil market? Do you believe that these prices we are paying, $127 a barrel, are in some part due to manipulation?

SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: Well, I certainly believe they are not based on supply and demand. And that's what we are hearing from even oil company executives under oath, saying that the price should really be about $50 to $60 a barrel.

So we want a very aggressive approach. What's happened is, basically these markets and oil futures have been deregulated. And we want to make sure that there is regulation and oversight to stop any manipulation that is happening.

VELSHI: And the committee that you are on which has oversight over this agency, it's a little surprising, because you and your colleagues on the committee, and certain presidential candidates, have been calling for an investigation into oil prices and nobody seemed to know that there was one going on. Why do you think they didn't tell you or somebody?

CANTWELL: Well, I agree with Professor Greenberger that the CFTC has kind of sat on this issue. And I think because we sent a letter with about 20 colleagues signing it last week saying we wanted an answer by this week -- next week, I should say -- from the CFTC on what they were going to do, they have the power to now require information on these foreign exchanges that are really trading U.S. products.

And there is more regulation on hamburger in America trading on the futures cattle market than there is oil, and yet oil is critical to our U.S. economy. So we should go back and put the regulations and oversight in place so that we don't have speculation and manipulation that we've seen from the likes of Enron and Ameren.

VELSHI: And it's funny, because you mention Ameren. They were the hedge fund that gambled in natural gas without adequate regulation. Enron dealing with energy. We've even had people compare this to the corporate scandals of the early 2000s, where the regulators that Americans believe are protecting them seem to have been asleep at the switch every time, or not able to foresee what is going on.

Is this the problem here? Is there some problem with the way we regulate things?

CANTWELL: You actually hit it right on the head. So congratulations to you and CNN for figuring that out and reporting that.

The issue really is the fact that there are traders who were involved in Enron who then went to Ameren. And when they tried on these regulated exchanges like the NYMEX to do these practices, we had good laws on the books that prevented them.

They moved over to this dark exchange, the ICE exchange that the CFTC has failed to properly regulate. And so they've taken these tried and true practices for manipulation and moved over to the unregulated area.

The CFTC should do its job. Next week we are going to have a hearing with the head of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, George Soros, Professor Greenberger, others, to further elaborate on why it's important for the CFTC to do its job in regulating these futures markets.

VELSHI: A quick answer, Senator. If they do their job in regulating this market, do you think we will see lower prices of oil and gasoline?

CANTWELL: Absolutely, I do. Absolutely, because I don't think it's based on supply and demand.

And as legislators, we have to ask ourselves a question -- do we care more about the future of America or allowing the oil futures market to ride out of control? I want to make sure that this doesn't continue to impact our economy.

VELSHI: Senator Maria Cantwell, thank you for joining us.

There are many sides to this issue. And we are happy to have anybody who represents some side on it. We did ask the CFTC to join us today and they declined our invitation.

Thank you, Senator.

CANTWELL: Thank you.

VELSHI: Gerri.

WILLIS: Ali, I can tell you, if they find evidence of manipulation, there are going to be a lot of angry Americans.

Well, it is your turn to sound off, your turn to weigh in on today's "Quick Vote" question. And that means it's time to check in with Poppy Harlow from Money.com.

Hi, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, MONEY.COM: Hi, Gerri.

Well, we are continuing on that theme. We're just talking about a new record high for gas, $3.96 on average. And that means -- well, it's actually more than that in a bunch of states.

So you've just heard about the possible price fixing when it comes to crude oil futures, which of course really affects the price you pay at the pump. Here's our question today.

Do you believe oil price manipulation is partly to blame for high gas prices? Yes or no, or maybe you are unsure?

Weigh in on cnnmoney.com. We'll bring you the results later in the show.

If you are unsure exactly what that manipulation is, more on our Web site.

WILLIS: OK. Great. I think that's a great question.

VELSHI: Yes.

WILLIS: Ali.

VELSHI: All right.

Coming up next, a big debate expected on Capitol Hill over historic eco-legislation. We're going to tell you what it's all about and why the president is threatening to knock it down.

Plus, with high gas prices, can the Web help you find cheap fuel? We are fact-checking that for you.

And do you know what slugging is? It's a big part of the great commuter race, part two.

We'll explain all of that. You need to stick around for this.

You're watching ISSUE #1 on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Well, a new government report that measures consumer confidence confirms what most of us already know -- we are in a slowing economy. The U.S. Commerce Department says that consumer and personal spending inched upwards by just two-tenths of a percentage point last month, and that's what experts had predicted.

Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the nation's economic activity, so it's considered to be a pretty good barometer of the nation's economy. Analysts expect consumer spending to pick up, actually, in the coming months. Why? Because of those tax stimulus checks that have been hitting America's mailboxes -- Gerri.

WILLIS: The U.S. Senate will start debate on a bill Monday that will be a major step towards cutting carbon emissions. Eco activists are lobbying hard for what they call the historic Lieberman/Warner bill.

Now, it works on the premise of cap and trade. And that's when companies are given a limit on how much pollution they can emit. If a company pollutes more than its allotment, it must buy emission credits from a company that pollutes less, creating a marketplace.

Now, under this bill the amount companies are allowed to emit would decrease every year. The president doesn't support the bill.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is live right now at the White House with more details.

Kate, what do you have?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Gerri.

Well, you said it. President Bush has already voiced his opposition to this bill. The White House says basically that mandated limits on greenhouse gas emissions will have a devastating effect on the economy right now. And that's very -- a similar statement as to what the bill's main critic in Congress is saying. And that is Republican James Inhofe.

Now, Inhofe and other critics, they say simply that this bill just comes at too high a cost to consumers right now, meaning higher electricity costs, higher gas prices, and job loss. Critics say that there could be as many as 1.2 U.S. jobs lost in just the first seven years after this bill has been enacted. But supporters of this bill, including Senator Barbara Boxer, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, say that these critics -- well, simply, they are dead wrong. They say that the costs that are associated with this bill versus the benefits of what you get out of this bill, they say it's modest, it's gradual, and small compared to what U.S. consumers will face if the U.S. continues to ignore issues like greenhouse gasses and global warming.

Here is a little bit of what Barbara Boxer has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: The cost of doing nothing, of walking away, of pulling the covers over our head, is very expensive. And much more expensive than the cost of doing something.

Without the bill, we have no way to cope with what's happening with energy prices. With the bill, we will be able to cope and we'll have money also to invest in the new technologies that are going to really save us from global warming and make us finally energy independent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Now, the Senate bill -- the Senate committee, rather, handling this bill, they say worst-case scenario, gas prices would go up five cents per year. And they say that's worst-case scenario. And they also say that is negligentible when you think about just how much gas prices have gone up already this year.

Now, the bill is big and complex, but here are the basics. It requires some 2,100 U.S. companies from cement plants to power plants that burn coal to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas they gave off by 2 percent every year. And it's predicted that that will equal a total U.S. reduction in emissions of about 66 percent by 2050, the length of this bill, Gerri. And as you can see, if the debate's not already heating up, it will, as you mentioned, on Monday on the Senate floor.

WILLIS: Well, I have to tell you, big, big impacts, Kate. You k now, the president already says he doesn't like the bill. What is the likelihood it can even get through Congress?

BOLDUAN: Yes, that is a question I asked Senator Boxer when I spoke with her yesterday. And she said, well, they have to wait and see. You never know how people are going to receive a bill when it hits the Senate floor and how debates are going to go.

But she said -- and other people are saying that they are not entirely optimistic it will get pushed through and passed this session, or working with the current president. But she said to me, nonetheless, they are laying the groundwork to eventually pass what they call landmark legislation. And possibly maybe after the next president comes into office.

WILLIS: Wow. Well, Kate, thank you for that.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

VELSHI: Coming up next, why it might pay for you to install solar panels in your home.

Plus, all those Web sites claiming to help you find cheap gas? Well, we're fact-checking them.

And it's part two of our great commuter race. Zain Verjee, Tom Foreman, Jamie McIntyre, who got to work first and who paid the least?

You're going to want to stick around for this one.

You're watching ISSUE #1 on CNN. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIS: In the market for a home mortgage, or do you already have one? Well, you may want to check out a new study commissioned for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It concluded that generally, the less educated borrower typically pays higher closing costs. That's right. But here's a few cash- saving tips.

Bypass the mortgage broker and deal directly with the originating lender. That alone could shave 20 percent off your closing costs.

And buying down those discount points for lower interest rates? Forget about it. The study found it doesn't equate to a corresponding savings. Borrowers who typically pay the lowest fees chose the no- cost loans.

And I should say quickly here that mortgage brokers today are contesting the results of the study, saying it's based on aging, old data -- Ali.

VELSHI: Yes, that's an interesting study. That would be good to talk more about.

Last week we did the great commuter race here on ISSUE #1. CNN's triple threat, Zain Verjee, Tom Foreman, Jamie McIntyre, racing to work. One on a bike, one in a car, and one on the metro in D.C.

The response to that was huge. So we got Zain, Tom and Jamie back in the saddle, so to speak, and we wanted to check out something that's known as slugging.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The slug line is a place where people who want a free ride into town meet drivers who want to use the carpool lane.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm a slug looking for a free ride.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I'm going to get to work the old-fashioned way, slogging through traffic.

FOREMAN: And I'm going to pick up a slug and sail right past him.

VERJEE: No, you won't.

FOREMAN: Yes, I will.

MCINTYRE: What time have you got? Synchronize your watch.

VERJEE: 7:19.

MCINTYRE: It's not just about winning. It's about comfort, convenient and cost.

FOREMAN: Hi -- Union Station.

So long, suckers.

VERJEE: Everyone's very quiet here.

FOREMAN: HOV lane. We're going. There goes Jamie already. I think he just took the wrong turn.

MCINTYRE: The first thing we've done is make a wrong turn just to give them a little bit of a head start.

VERJEE: Yes, sure.

FOREMAN: So you've been slugging for 26 years?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

FOREMAN: You saved a lot of money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. Money and also time.

VERJEE: So it's kind of a win-win situation. I mean, you get into the HOV lane. The slug hangs out and gets a free ride.

FOREMAN: What are sort of the rules of slugging?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First come, first serve.

VERJEE: Is a slug allowed to eat?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, they are not.

FOREMAN: Someone is calling here. Let's see what's going on.

MCINTYRE: Tom?

FOREMAN: I can't tell you how far ahead we are. It's unbelievable.

MCINTYRE: Do you know what our speed is right now? Zero miles per hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 395 delays from the beltway to King Street.

FOREMAN: Thank you. Nice meeting you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Tom. Thank you very much.

FOREMAN: We'll see you back in the slug line again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

FOREMAN: All right.

This is sweet, because look at this. We are like two blocks away from my own office. He got a ride for nothing. I got in town in half or less the time that it would normally take.

VERJEE: 7:47. It took us 20 minutes to get here. And we are going to pop out and walk to CNN.

MCINTYRE: It's 7:57 a.m. We are just crossing the 14th Street Bridge. And now it's just one long, hard slog to work.

FOREMAN: Here goes the winner.

VERJEE: McIntyre!

MCINTYRE: Zain, how are you?

VERJEE: Where are you?

MCINTYRE: I'm a couple of blocks from the bureau.

VERJEE: Well, we are going to be there about the same time, but I'm just walking leisurely.

MCINTYRE: I'll see you soon. I think I have a chance.

FOREMAN: Look who comes showing up here.

VERJEE: Thank you.

FOREMAN: You're very welcome. How was your ride?

VERJEE: Well, it was a pretty good ride. I mean, it was relaxing. It was kind of cool.

MCINTYRE: Synchronize our watches.

FOREMAN: Wow -- synchronize our watches is right.

So mine was the fastest. Yours was the cheapest.

VERJEE: Free.

FOREMAN: And yours was the slowest and most expensive. VERJEE: And most expensive.

MCINTYRE: And most frustrating.

(LAUGHTER)

MCINTYRE: It was really interesting just to watch the people line up...

VERJEE: Yes.

MCINTYRE: ... get in the cars and take off.

VERJEE: And the whole thing about the rules and the etiquette. You know? I mean, that really does come into play.

FOREMAN: Here's to us, another community challenge.

VERJEE: Here's to us. Cheers.

FOREMAN: Hey.

VERJEE: Hey.

MCINTYRE: See you on the ride home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Now, you three are going to get your own show if you keep this up. I recall the last time we talked to the three of you, I didn't get a word in edgewise. So I should probably just let you roll with it.

But here is the question to you. This is new to me. I mean, I sort of heard about it, never seen how it works. And I think it's great to show people how it worked.

Did you find people -- were people saying that those slug lines are growing? Are there more people getting into this now?

FOREMAN: Take it away, anybody who wants to.

VERJEE: Well, the lady that took us said that because of higher gas prices, she was noticing that the slug lines were getting a lot longer. She said that she had done it for eight years. The other guy in the car said 12 years. And I think Tom was with someone who did it for more than 20 years.

FOREMAN: Yes. And it's actually a good thing that the lines are getting longer, if you think about it, because what that does is sort of feed the momentum of this. So there are more rides, more people picking up rides in cities that have these carpool lanes. This can really work. And it's really an organic solution.

VELSHI: Jamie...

MCINTYRE: Well, the one thing...

VELSHI: No, go ahead.

MCINTYRE: Go ahead.

VELSHI: Well, the problem with you, Jamie, is we noticed -- I don't know if we've got a picture of this -- you're on your cell phone the whole time.

(LAUGHTER)

MCINTYRE: Which is legal in some jurisdictions and not in others. But the point there, of course, is you do have some freedom when you are in your car by yourself, but you are paying a huge price for that freedom in both time, in the cost of commuting.

And you know, a lot of things, the decisions you make, depends on what options you have available -- whether you live close enough, whether you have a good back route you can take, whether you have the option of slugging. It only works where there are HOV lanes that give you a clear advantage.

VELSHI: He's like interviewing a congressman. I think I answered him an entirely different question, and he didn't answer it.

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: What about music? You can't eat in the car. You all seemed to be chatting.

VERJEE: Yes.

VELSHI: That's normal?

VERJEE: Well, yes, that was one of the most interesting things, is sort of the rules and the etiquette. You know, everyone was standing quietly and single file.

And then the rules -- you can't eat. You know, you don't really talk that much. You don't chitchat on the phone. You don't mess around with the radio or the air conditioning. And you stay away from sensitive topics.

So, it has its own sort of, you know -- of which there are many, but it has its own sort of organic rule. And it's this sort of weird but interesting and effective subculture.

FOREMAN: Yes, but I'll tell you, the guy that I rode with has been doing it for so long, one of the things he said is that this whole notion that people don't talk or that it's that -- he said people are very polite. But he's made a lot of friends over the year. And people have just sort of normal conversation when they want to.

If you want to be quiet, you are quiet. Basically, it's be polite to your neighbor. Get a free ride. Get in the fast lane. I've got to tell you, I never heard this before until Jamie brought it up, really. And I thought this is a genuine solution for people who live along the right corridors in big cities all over this country if they want to get it started.

VELSHI: Or who want to take a ride in Jamie's car.

MCINTYRE: And I didn't make a single friend on the way to work.

(LAUGHTER)

FOREMAN: Which is pretty typical for Jamie.

VERJEE: Well, you talked to yourself a lot.

VELSHI: All right, guys. We need to do a little special on what the three of you people do when you are at work. We seem to know a lot about how you get to and from work.

Jamie McIntyre, Zain Verjee, Tom Foreman, thanks to all three of you -- Gerri.

WILLIS: I learned a lot there. I want to try that on the next officer who picks me up for speeding. You know, it's legal in some jurisdictions, and not in others.

All right. Up next, forget your bills. Make the power company pay you.

Then, all those Web sites that promise to find you the cheapest gas, we're fact-finding them.

And the $6 Million Man, Mr. T., The Brady Bunch all are a part of the second half of ISSUE #1. Stick around and find out why.

ISSUE #1 rolls on next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIS: OK. Imagine this for a second -- cutting your energy bills, not by a few pennies, but by a few hundreds of dollars each month. More and more folks are doing it.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick found out how.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Bob Prout's grandfather started this family-owned funeral parlor in 1920. It's changed a lot since then.

(on camera): Did people look at you and say you are crazy, what kind of a funeral parlor runs on solar energy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even my best friends told me I was nuts.

FEYERICK: But when you talk to people now, what is their reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now that the energy costs have sort of skyrocketed and now that people are getting their bills, I get a much warmer reception.

FEYERICK (voice over): Prout installed 114 solar panels on his roof three years ago before the price of oil reached $135 a barrel. And before rates in this town rose dramatically.

BOB PROUT, INVESTED IN SOLAR POWER SYSTEM: When you factor in the tremendous rate increases, I'm still paying half of what I was paying three years ago for my electric.

FEYERICK: Prout says he produces about three quarters of his electrical needs for his business and home upstairs. Every hour, each individual solar panel produces enough energy for more than two 75 watt bulbs.

The energy flows directly in the house and can be used immediately for things like lights or air conditioning. Whatever is not used is then sent out over the grid and is bought by the power company.

The power company gets renewable energy to sell to consumers and Prout gets paid. Last year making some $5,400.

Technically your energy may be in any of these wires that are running around here.

PROUT: That's correct. Absolutely correct. That could be used at that building or the next building down the street. Who knows where it goes.

FEYERICK: Under the state's clean energy program, New Jersey helped pay for the panels, which cost $140,000. Prout's share, $60,000. He's already cut his electrical bills some months by more than half.

PROUT: February's $259, $173 in March.

FEYERICK: Prout plans to add more panels by the end of the year.

PROUT: And I'd like to see how low I could get the bill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Now the up front cost to renewable energy systems, like solar panels, are expensive. But because many states are starting to require a portion of energy come from renewable resources, states are offering generous rebates and incentives to help people pay for these systems. And even Bob Prout took out a $60,000, but he expects to pay it back in five years, not 10 years, as he originally thought.

Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN ANCHOR: So interesting. OK. So I could become Gerri Willis Power Incorporated, right? I mean you can practically be your own business with this. But everything I read about solar panels, they're so expensive. They don't necessarily pay for themselves.

FEYERICK: They don't pay for themselves. You have to be willing to invest. You have to be willing to take out a loan. You have to be willing to even emotionally get into the whole solar panel conservation thing. But once you do, it is generating energy. And because everything is sort of out of whack right now, Bob Prout is making money. His side business is solar power now. And the power company is eating it up.

WILLIS: Amazing story. Deb, thank you so much for that.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's time now to get you caught up on the rest of the day's headlines in the CNN "Newsroom." Betty Nguyen is there.

Betty, go ahead.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ali.

We do have some breaking news out of New York to tell you about. A massive crane has toppled from a high-rise on Manhattan's east side. Take a look at this. Fire crews say they've pulled people from the wreckage that has just swallowed the sidewalks and city streets below.

Here's what we know right now. At least one person is confirmed dead. Two people are seriously injured. Fire crews are digging through the wreckage searching for others.

Now when the crane toppled, it slammed into an adjacent building and unleashed and avalanche of debris. As you remember, back in March, another construction crane collapsed in Manhattan and killed seven people.

Let's take a look at the weather outside. Got some severe weather in parts. Chad Myers is watching all of it.

Hey there, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A little frightful today. Hi, Betty. Especially south of Chicago, into Peoria. We have this dying air mass rain shower here across parts of northern Illinois. But south of that air mass, that's where it's starting to heat up now and that's where the focus of the storms will be later on today.

If you get some sunshine, Rockford and back behind the cell, you may get some severe weather, but I'm not buying it that you'll probably get a lot of sunshine, enough to warm you up. It is going to be in the heat of the day down across the deep south to St. Louis. Maybe even into southeastern Kansas.

We'll be here all night for you.

Betty. NGUYEN: All right. We'll be watching too. Thank you, Chad.

So what is next for the 400 plus children seized after allegations of abuse at an FLDS ranch? Well, they are going to be returned to their parents after a Texas Supreme Court ruling. Or are they? We could find out a little bit more about this in a hearing this afternoon. We're going to be watching it very closely for you. We'll have that story and so much more at the top of the hour right here on CNN.

I'm Betty Nguyen. Back to you guys.

VELSHI: Thanks, Betty. We'll see you at the top of the hour.

Well, if you're looking to save a little cash at the gas pump -- I mean who isn't -- there are these web sites out there that claim to do just that for you. They let you find the cheapest gas in your neighborhood. But that got us to thinking, are they really accurate? So we sent our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, on a price check.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Riding into Brooklyn with the tank near empty, hoping to use the Internet to save a few bucks on a fill-up.

The zip code here is 11217. Let's punch that in and find some cheep gas.

Automotive.com promoted itself to CNN. So we're checking it first. But the repeated response on the web site, data is not available. So we begin with a printout from automotive.com, just a half hour old.

Automotive.com says the price here is $4.19 a gallon. But the actual price? It's $4.29.

When was the last time you were charging $4.19 here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it was two weeks ago.

CHERNOFF: Two weeks ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CHERNOFF: Now the web site is providing prices online.

Automotive.com says the price at this Shell station is $4.25. But the actual price is $4.19 for regular. Six cents cheaper than what the web site says.

Next, Automotive.com directs us to a Mobil station on Third Avenue. It turns out, though, there's no Mobil station here. It's a Citgo.

It says you're a Mobil station. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not Mobil.

CHERNOFF: Have you ever been Mobil?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Just since we started here, Citgo. And it's been Citgo always. It's been here more than 10 years. More than 10 years.

CHERNOFF: For premium, what are you charging?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For premium, $4.42.

CHERNOFF: Wow. It says $4.32.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $4.42.

CHERNOFF: Only one of the five station we checked on automotive.com was entirely accurate. The web site says the prices come from credit card transactions, but concedes its data provider, which it would not name, is not always timely.

JAMES BELL, AUTOMOTIVE.COM: There may be four or five to seven days before a dealer -- sorry, a gas station can upload us with the new information that then goes into that vendor and then is supplied to automotive.com.

CHERNOFF: There are at least a half dozen web sites claiming to find cheap gas. MapQuest gas prices shows stations in New Jersey when we plug in our Brooklyn zip code. Gasbuddy.com, which relies on spotters who report prices, did a better job. This price was accurate. But at this Sunoco, the price quoted online was six hours old.

With gas stations changing prices so quickly, sometimes several times a day, it's almost impossible for the cheap gas web sites to keep up, even when they're getting reliable prices.

We came to this Mobil because GasBuddy said the price was only $4.05. But by the time we got here, $4.09. What are you going to do? Fill it up and keep on paying.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, Brooklyn, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIS: Great story.

Well, up next, we are just 24 hours away from decision day in the Florida-Michigan controversy in the Democratic primary. We're all over it next.

And we want to turn this show over to you. That's what it's all about here at ISSUE NUMBER ONE. Send us your e-mail questions about the show and the CNN Money team, we're going to take them on. The address issue1@cnn.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: All right, ISSUE NUMBER ONE is back.

For months now both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been fighting it out on the campaign trail, raising millions of dollars in fund-raisers and battling over the states of Florida and Michigan. Well, that battle isn't over. The vote is a fight over whether to seat the delegates of those states. Well, tomorrow could be decision day. CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider is live right now with the Election Express in Washington. He's following this.

Hey, Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ali.

Well, the Democratic rules committee tomorrow faces a challenge. The party could make both campaigns equally happy or equally unhappy. But they both have to be treated equally.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER, (voice over): On Saturday, the Democratic Party has to make two, big choices. One is how many delegates from Florida and Michigan to seat? Right now the number is zero because those states were penalized for holding their primaries too early. The Florida and Michigan parties are appealing that decision with encouragement from Hillary Clinton.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's make sure your delegates are seated.

SCHNEIDER: Barack Obama supports seating some disputed delegates.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Florida Democrats will be seated. They will be participating.

SCHNEIDER: So what's the choice?

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Obviously there are some who would like to see it reinstated to 100 percent. There are some who say that a 50 percent sanction was automatic and therefore perhaps they could reinstate to 50 percent.

SCHNEIDER: Once the committee decides how many delegates to seat, it has to decide how to divide them. Florida Democrats voted 50 percent for Clinton and 33 percent for Obama. Obama's name was not on the ballot in Michigan, where 40 percent voted uncommitted.

FINNEY: Some would take the position that perhaps they were -- their intention was to vote for Senator Obama. Some would take the position that you can't know what the intention of those voters were.

SCHNEIDER: Here's a scenario Clinton would probably prefer. All the Florida and Michigan delegates are seated and Obama is given no uncommitted Michigan delegates. Then Obama would be 81 delegates ahead and he would need 155 more to win.

Here's a scenario that might be acceptable to Obama. Half the Michigan and Florida delegates are seated and all the uncommitted Michigan delegates are given to him. Then Obama would be 167 and a half delegates ahead and he would need 72 and a half more to win. Either way, Obama would be ahead in delegates.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: If the party seats the Florida and Michigan delegates, then those two states' popular votes can be included in the total. Now, would that put Hillary Clinton ahead in popular votes? Only if you give Barack Obama zero votes in Michigan where nobody could vote for him because his name wasn't on the ballot.

Ali.

VELSHI: This is mind-numbing stuff. It's very complicated. But at least we'll be on it and we'll understand it with one of those options when it comes up. Bill, thanks very much for staying on top of it for us. Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst.

WILLIS: All right. Well, Michigan and Florida aren't the only important states this election year. Ohio could be a crucial swing state in November. The Election Express was there earlier this week. CNN's Josh Rubin looks at what matters to Ohio voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN RUBIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Have film, will travel. The Election Express is making its way through Ohio and we're talking to voters.

Who are you supporting for president?

BOB BAIR, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: John McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Clinton.

ANTHONY SEIBERT, STUDENT: Barack Obama.

MISSY URBAN, MIDDLE SCHOOL COUNSELOR: It's going to be a fight for my vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm undecided at this point.

RUBIN: Ohio is a battleground state in every sense of the word. And here the people almost always vote economy.

SEIBERT: And I know my parents are having a hard time with jobs. My dad just got laid off and all that.

BAIR: I'm not big on big government. I don't like this health care initiative. I want, you know, lighter taxes. I want somebody in the office that I feel like is going to work for me. URBAN: The housing market has really been difficult. Just on my street alone, there's just a lot of people having a difficult time selling their houses.

RUBIN: So with the primaries ending, Ohio voters are deciding which presidential candidate is best for them.

BAIR: I think it will be a close, tight race, just like it was with Bush in the previous two elections.

T.J. DOWNING, SALESMAN: Right now I just don't think Obama or Hillary has what this country needs.

URBAN: Where Barack Obama (INAUDIBLE). I think I'm definitely going to be a John McCain supporter.

RUBIN: Can Obama get voters in Ohio?

ALAN COLEMAN, RETIRED TEACHER: I think he can. If he concentrates on the little people, the folks that are unemployed, the people that lost jobs in the state of Ohio, I think he can do that.

RUBIN: Josh Rubin, from CNN's Election Express, Canton, Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI: All right. Coming up ahead on ISSUE NUMBER ONE, the Help Desk. Answers to your e-mail questions. They're right there behind me. The address is issue1@cnn.com.

Plus, remember all that gold Mr. T used to wear? How much do you think that would be worth today? We're going to give you answers to that burning question and others you didn't even know you had.

You're watching ISSUE NUMBER ONE right here on CNN. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIS: If you want to get some help, well you have come to the right place. The Help Desk, answers to your e-mail questions. Let's get right down to it. Amanda Gengler is with "Money" magazine, Jeanne Sahadi is a senior writer for cnnmoney.com, and our very own Stephanie Elam is a CNN business correspondent.

Let's get right to that first question and it's from Mauricio who says, "I financed a car over a year ago under my mother's name. Now that I am 18, I am thinking about refinancing under my name. I've only had about a year of building credit through a recent credit card I applied for and my school's tuition. Is this a smart move?"

Amanda, what do you think?

AMANDA GENGLER, WRITER, "MONEY": Someone who's just starting to build credit only needs to have accounts open for about six months in order to get a credit score. And if they've been using those accounts responsibly, they've been paying off their debt on time and they haven't racked up too much debt too quickly, they can have a fairly good score in the mid to maybe low 700s. So he probably wants to shop around and see what kind of rate he can qualify for on his own. Now it's likely that his mother, because she's had such a longer credit history, still will be able to get the better rate.

WILLIS: All right. Well, but you know what, mom's going to be really happy that her name is not on that loan.

All right, we have a question from Richard who asks, "I am a white collar worker who lost his job and am now 90 days behind on my mortgage payments. I'm trying to sell my home through a short sale and have a few persons interested in the property. Since I am currently 90 days behind, how would this affect the outcome if an offer does not comes through?"

Jeanne, I would say open the champagne if he got an offer, right?

JEANNE SAHADI, SENIOR WRITER, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes, exactly. The short sale is meant for him. The lender has agreed to basically take whatever price the house fetches. And chances are he's 90 days behind. He might also be under water. He might owe more than his house is worth. So the benefit for him is, he gets his debt forgiven once the house sells. The only downside is his credit will still be hurt both because of the 90 day delinquency and if the lender chooses to report the short sale to the credit bureau. So that's something to keep in mind.

WILLIS: But that's at least better than, you know, having the real problem of not being able to unload that house at all, right?

SAHADI: Oh, that's exactly right. And it will help him the next time he wants to get a house as well.

WILLIS: Good advice, Jeanne.

GENGLER: I think it's important for people to realize that lenders generally will only do short sales if you are at risk for foreclosure. We've got a lot of people out there who just have negative equity and are hearing short sell, short sell. Well they need to understand, no, if they're not at risk for foreclosure, then they probably can't do that.

WILLIS: You know, I know a lot of people are just missing payments because of that. Because they want to get the help that they can. You can't blame them.

Lynn (ph) in Tennessee asks, "Where is the stimulus money coming from?" And when am I going to get it?

Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's the question that everyone wants to know. And the quick answer is, we're basically borrowing it from ourselves. Our children will be paying for it. So it's a form of debt that will be bought by other countries and so forth. But really, we are.

WILLIS: Me, you, the whole team here. Yes, no more mall shopping for you.

OK. Brian asks, "with all of this talk about the housing crisis and everyone trying to sell his home, doesn't that mean that since home prices are going down, now is a good time for a potential first- time home buyers like myself to buy? Will I be able to get a good interest rate and a low cost on a home since no one else is buying right now?"

I think this fellow is on to something. Amanda.

GENGLER: I think it is an unbelievable time to buy. Prices came down, I think, 14 percent, the latest stats from a year ago. You have an unbelievable number of homes to choose from. And also relatively low mortgage rates. The question is, can he qualify for a mortgage given those tighter standards. So he's going to need to put, you know, preferably a 10 percent, at least 15 percent down payment. He's going to need to show that he can afford the home. So that means you're going to want no more than the 36 percent of your income to go to debt payments every month.

WILLIS: All right. Anybody else want to pile on? The problem is really the bankers here, right?

SAHADI: Right. And it's also his own credit. I mean a lot of bankers have become a lot more stringent in who they will give credit to. So he is going to have to meet a much higher bar than he might have had to during the housing boom. So his interest rates will really depend on what his credit is. But it is a good time for all buyers.

ELAM: And it's possible. It is possible.

WILLIS: I'm all for that.

ELAM: I mean the thing is, everyone says it's so daunting. But if you have all of the things working for you, make sure you're paying your bills on time, your credit score is good, they're going to want to work with you because, in the end, they still need to do business.

WILLIS: Guys, love the answers. Great work today. Amanda Gengler, Jeanne Sahadi, Stephanie Elam, thanks so much.

Ali.

VELSHI: All right, Gerri, your Help Desk will want to hear this. They probably always wanted to know the answers to these. Could "The Brady Bunch" survive in today's economic climate? And just how much would the $6 million man be worth today? These are critical questions. We're going to bring you the answers to those, plus the results of today's Quick Vote do you believe price manipulation is partly to blame for high gas prices? Vote right now on cnnmoney.com.

You're watching ISSUE NUMBER ONE. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS, "WALL STREET": Oak strip floors. My husband can get you 10 percent mortgage. You know, I would do it myself except I'm onto four other deals right now. So I got a 4:00 and a 5:00. One of them's an all-cash type. Monique something or other. Look, maybe you'd like to see something cheaper that I got over on . . .

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: All right, that's from "Wall Street," 1987. I don't know if you caught the reference, but she said my husband can get you a 10 percent mortgage. That was a deal back in 1987. And that apartment she is showing him was listed at $950,000 back in 1987. Aaron Smith from cnnmoney.com joins us now. And he's done a little bit of the math. He's figured out what that $950,000 would cost with inflation. But (INAUDIBLE) never mind inflation, what would it actually cost to get that apartment now.

Aaron, good to see you.

AARON SMITH, STAFF WRITER, CNNMONEY.COM: Good to see you, too, Ali. Happy Friday to you.

VELSHI: And you.

SMITH: With inflation, you're looking at $950,000 in 1987. That would translate to roughly $1.8 million today. But that's not what bud paid for his four-room condo on the upper east side right overlooking Central Park. Because you have to remember that nowadays $1 million apartment isn't a status symbol like it was back in the '80s. It's just a place to live. Because $950,000 is about the average price for a Manhattan apartment today. A condo goes for about $1.1 million. So what Bud was probably paying was something more on the order of $7 million or $8 million, which is what these luxury condos are bringing in today.

VELSHI: Now one of the things that was really interesting, you studied the "Six Million Dollar Man," which back then was $6 million.

SMITH: Absolutely.

VELSHI: So with inflation, that would be a lot more?

SMITH: That would be $26 million from 1974. But that's not really what the bionic man would cost today. I spoke to a mechanical engineer at Johns Hopkins University and he was saying that today it would cost you about $50 million to $100 million for R&D just to get the design costs down. But once you got that out of the way, you could start cranking out Steve Austins at a few hundred grand a pop. Very (INAUDIBLE).

VELSHI: Right, once you got the big investment out there. SMITH: Absolutely.

VELSHI: All right, "The Brady Bunch" was another one of those. It ran from 1969 to 1974. And the house that "The Brady Bunch" lived in was worth about $87,500 back then in the '70s.

SMITH: Yes. And Mike Brady, by the way -- architects don't make quite as much money as Mike Brady would have you believe. Nowadays they make about $64,000 year on average nationwide. The actual Brady house, which is located in the L.A. area, the house used for the exterior shots, has been appraised at around $1.5 million. So you take that on top of the fact that he was raising six kids and he had a live-in maid? I don't think so. I don't think so.

VELSHI: Yes, I don't think that would have worked.

Mr. T. The big gold thing that he used to wear.

SMITH: Yes. So he wore a lot of gold. And I, you know, tried to get estimates on exactly how many pounds of gold he was wearing, but it tends to change quite a bit. Now that show, "The A Team," was on in 1983. And Mr. T. recently stopped wearing his gold because he didn't want to disrespect the impoverished victims of Hurricane Katrina. If he had sold off all his gold, he wouldn't have made any money at all. When you take a look at the prices, it looks like they doubled over the last 20 some years . . .

VELSHI: But adjusted for inflation, they didn't.

SMITH: They did not.

VELSHI: So Mr. T. makes out the worst out of the crowd.

SMITH: Yes. Yes, absolutely.

VELSHI: All right. Aaron, good to talk to you.

SMITH: Good to talk to you.

VELSHI: Good stuff. You can see that on cnnmoney.com. Aaron Smith is a staff writer there.

Gerri.

WILLIS: Thanks a lot for that. I'd still take that money, I have to tell you.

Time to get the results of today's Quick Vote. More than 15,000 of you weighed in. For how you voted, let's check back in with Poppy Harlow from money.com.

Hey there, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Gerri.

We asked people, do you believe oil price manipulation is partly to blame for high gas prices? Eighty-six percent of people that responded said yes. That's overwhelming. Eleven percent said no. Three percent are still unsure. And for those of you who are unsure, we have a lot more on that coming up in the next hour on CNN and on cnnmoney.com.

Gerri.

WILLIS: Great stuff. Poppy, thank you for that.

VELSHI: You're all conspiracy theorists out there. All right. Well, if you're interested in gas, we've got something more for you. Make sure you check out the ISSUE NUMBER ONE special event "4 Bucks!: What's Next?" America's fuel prices, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday and Sunday night right here on CNN. And we're going to see you back here on Monday at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.

WILLIS: Time now to get you up to speed on other stories making headlines. CNN "Newsroom" with Betty Nguyen and Rob Marciano starts right now.