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Barack Obama Holds Roundtable in Washington; Relief on the Way With Housing Rescue Bill?; Minding Your Money: How Safe is Your Bank?; Suicide Bombings in Iraq

Aired July 28, 2008 - 14:00   ET

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


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SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... If we had restructured our financial institutions, or our oversight institutions, to adapt to a changing global financial market, then we might have avoided some of the worst financial turmoil that we're tasting right now. And that's why the long-term part of my economic strategy is focused on keeping America competitive in the 21st century and ensuring that all Americans can succeed in this new economy. And that includes, I think, health insurance that's affordable to families and businesses, a world class education that allows every worker to compete and succeed in the global economy, an energy policy that doesn't just reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but creates millions of new highways, jobs from our investment in renewable sources of energy.

But we're also going to need to provide some short-term relief to people. Americans are hurting right now. And that means that we've got to respond rapidly and vigorously to problems as they emerge, but also anticipate the problems that may be down the horizon.

In January, for example, I called for a major fiscal stimulus package that centered around rebates to individuals and seniors. A similar plan ultimately passed in February, and in March I was an early champion of legislation to help prevent hundreds of thousands of families from losing their homes, a legislation that I'm glad to see the president will sign into law this week.

I believe that more action is going to be necessary. The economic emergency is growing more severe. Jobs are down, wages are falling, the financial markets threaten to be engaged in a protracted credit crunch, with long-lasting ramifications for investments, (INAUDIBLE) in family incomes. And this is an emergency that you feel not only just from reading "The Wall Street Journal," but from traveling across Ohio and Michigan, in New Mexico and Nevada, where you meet people day after day who are one foreclosure notice or one illness or one pink slip away from economic disaster.

That's why it's so important, I think, that we put aside some partisan differences today. I'm glad to see that we've got a broad representation of people here, and that together we try to engage in a serious discussion and engage in some shared commitments, immediate and fast-acting policies to help our economy growing again.

I believe we need a second round of economic stimulus, but this is something that I'd like to discuss with all of you. I believe that we need to think about how we are going to stabilize the financial markets in a way that doesn't impede economic growth but assures that we're not going through continuing cycles of bubble and bust. And this group includes leading figures from business and labor, former cabinet secretaries and former Fed chairmen, Democrats and Republicans.

It's a group that I'll be (INAUDIBLE) over the next few months, (INAUDIBLE) situation, and one that the next president must be prepared to deal with the moment he takes office. So this is a first meeting, and I'd like to focus on the new and emerging challenges facing the U.S. economy around three particular areas: the recent job losses; wage declines and low consumer confidence; the situation in the financial markets, including the credit crunch and recent bank failures and their impact on the overall economy; and the causes and implications of rising prices for food, oil and other commodities.

So again, I thank all of you for taking the time to be here. We've got a couple of hours. I hope that we can use them productively and would -- I want to make sure, because we have such great turnout, that there's only one person I see who I want to make sure is on, and that is Warren.

Warren, are you on?

WARREN BUFFETT, INVESTOR: I'm here.

OBAMA: Good to talk to you.

BUFFETT: Thanks.

OBAMA: We miss you in person.

BUFFETT: I'm on the West Coast.

OBAMA: All right.

With that, I'm kicking you guys all out, and we're actually going to get to work. All right?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Of course making the point, Warren Buffett is on the phone there, participating in that roundtable. You've got to have Warren Buffett involved in an economic roundtable.

Senator Barack Obama there in Washington, D.C., talking about issues affecting the economy with leaders in various universities, CEOs of large companies, also leaders within the government on economic issues.

We will continue to follow that meeting.

Also, John McCain, he is going to be talking the economy as well later this hour. We will bring you those comments as soon as that happens.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: That's a good segue right into this. It may be the last big bill of the 110th Congress, and I do mean big. A housing package meant to help lenders and borrowers is expected to be signed into law any minute now, and it doesn't come a minute too soon.

Two more banks have gone under, but not gone away. They're under new management, and all deposits are safe.

And speaking of borrowing, the government expects to do a lot of it in fiscal year 2009. The White House is estimating a deficit of almost $490 billion, not even counting the wars.

Well, he doesn't like all of it, but President Bush is expected to sign the housing bill that was passed by the Senate over the weekend. It could provide emergency relief for thousands of homeowners in danger of foreclosure. And that's a lot of people.

According to RealtyTrac, more than 739,000 homeowners received foreclosure-related notices in the second quarter. That is up 121 percent from the second quarter of last year.

The bill allows many homeowners in arrears to get new fixed-rate loans. It also provides $180 million for counseling and legal help for families in crisis. It provides $15 billion in housing-related tax breaks.

So the question remains, will the bill really help struggling homeowners?

CNN's Kate Bolduan takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A rare Saturday session for the Senate. A vote on a massive housing bill designed to offer struggling homeowners relief and shore up the nation's mortgage finance system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes are 72. The nays are 13.

BOLDUAN: The housing bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, ending months of debate. Democratic Senator Chris Dodd was a key sponsor of the legislation.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: For Americans out there today with distressed mortgages, worried about their economic future, we hope this legislation will be the first piece of good news in a long time that we can actually respond to the situation and offer them some real hope.

BOLDUAN: So what relief can homeowners expect? The bill includes up to $300 billion in government guaranteed loans to allow homeowners facing foreclosure to refinance to more affordable mortgages.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates 400,000 borrowers will get help from the program, but the bill allows for up to two million to participate. The bill offers $15 billion in tax breaks, including a tax credit of up to $7,500 for first-time homebuyers. And there's $4 billion in grants to help communities fix up foreclosed properties.

The bill also gives the government new authority to prop up the giant mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if necessary.

MARK ZANDI, MOODY'S ECONOMY.COM: The most important thing is that it forestalls a major crisis. If the bill had not passed, then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be on the precipice of a financial crisis, which would be disastrous for many American homeowners and prospective homebuyers.

BOLDUAN: Some Republicans remain concerned the bill proposes too much of a risk to the American taxpayer.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: The U.S. Senate can and should spend time debating these issues and improving the bill, instead of rubberstamping additions that pose a taxpayer liability of billions, and maybe trillions.

BOLDUAN (on camera): Some economists do question the bill's effectiveness, saying it may not do enough to jumpstart the troubled housing market. The bill now heads to the president, and the White House says President Bush will sign it into law. That could happen early this week.

Kate Bolduan, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All right, Kate.

Well, they are rich and they are famous, and why are they facing foreclosure? The mortgage mess is hitting close to home for some celebrities, too. Their stories a little bit later on this hour.

PHILLIPS: Mutual of Omaha Bank has a couple dozen new branches today after two more bank failures brought federal regulators to the rescue. How safe is your bank?

Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis here with some answers.

Why don't we talk about first how big a deal this is. Put it into perspective for us.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: I've got to tell you, it's not that big of a deal. Two banks, total assets combined less than $4 billion. So these are really small in the universe of banks. And, in fact, what happened with these depositors, the FDIC said, hey, we're going to make you whole for everything you have.

Usually they have limits. Those limits are $100,000 for single depositors, single account depositors. If you have a joint account, it's $200,000. If you have an IRA or retirement account, say a Keogh, an IRA, it's $250,000. The government said, hey, we'll make everybody whole here.

And as a matter of fact, listen to this. This is so interesting. You can still use your debit card over the weekend, even though these banks were changing hands.

PHILLIPS: Oh, they can still get their money.

WILLIS: The Mutual of Omaha branches, they can write checks, it didn't matter. Reopened this morning as Mutual of Omaha branches. And you didn't see the long lines, as we did with IndyMac just a couple of weeks ago.

PHILLIPS: So, I mean, what do customers do now?

WILLIS: Yes.

PHILLIPS: I mean, how do they continue to get their money? What's the next move?

WILLIS: Well, the next move for all of us, I think, is to understand what's going on here. And if you're interested, you're worried, maybe, about your bank, you need to check and make sure that it's covered by the FDIC. Go to FDIC.gov.

Understand the limits. That's critical here. Don't pull your money out though, because the vast majority of banks in this country are really safe.

The Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, said at the height of the S&L crisis -- this was the last banking crisis some 20 years ago -- 250 banks went out of business each and every year. This year do you know how many we've had?

PHILLIPS: How many?

WILLIS: Six. Come on. It's not that big of a deal. Everybody calm down.

Get your bank's rating, though, if you're still concerned. Go to bankrate.com. They have a nice little intuitive tool that will tell you how well capitalized your bank is.

And it's boiled down to one easy number. You don't have to go through bank statements or anything like that.

So there's information out there for you that you can get. Make sure you understand how safe your bank is. And pulling your money out, not a great idea here.

PHILLIPS: So bottom line for those customers, they can still get their money, it's OK.

WILLIS: Right.

PHILLIPS: And not to worry. And on the overall scheme of things, it's not like every single banking institution is going under at this point.

WILLIS: No.

PHILLIPS: OK. That's all we needed to know.

WILLIS: Yes, take a breath.

PHILLIPS: There you go.

WILLIS: Take a breath.

PHILLIPS: Don't freak.

WILLIS: Yes.

PHILLIPS: All right.

Gerri Willis, thanks so much.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

LEMON: Deeper in debt. That latest forecast from the Bush administration puts next year's budget deficit at almost $490 billion. That would be about $80 billion more than the previous forecast, and still doesn't include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fiscal 2009 starts October 1st. The record red ink will be a big problem for the next president.

Our Brianna Keilar joins us with more on that a little bit later on this hour.

PHILLIPS: Out of work, full of hate. Two reasons police say why this man opened fire with a shotgun yesterday at a Unitarian church in Knoxville, Tennessee. They say 58-year-old Jim Adkissson, now in custody, was angry that he couldn't find a job, and he hated what he called the liberal movement. Unitarians are known for liberal beliefs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF STERLING OWEN, KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE, POLICE: We have recovered a four-page letter in which he describes his feelings, and his -- the reason that he claims that he committed these offenses. He indicated also in that letter that he expected to be in there shooting people until the police arrived, and he fully expected to be killed by the responding police.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: The rampage killed two people and wounded seven, three critically. It happened during a children's performance, but none of those kids were hurt.

LEMON: Women wearing explosive vests blow themselves up in Iraq. We'll tell you about the targets, the dead and wounded, and where it happened in a live report from Baghdad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Female suicide bombers on attack in two Iraqi cities. At least 70 people are dead, more than 280 wounded.

CNN's Arwa Damon joins us now live from Baghdad with the latest -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra. There were four suicide bombings, all four of them carried out by women.

In Kirkuk, a suicide bomber ran into a crowd of Kurds that were demonstrating before detonating her explosives. That attack was the deadliest of the day, killing at least 38 Iraqis and wounding at least another 178.

And in Baghdad, the target was Shia pilgrims that were marching towards an area of the capital called Kadhimiya, part of a commemoration of the death of the Imam Mousa al-Kadhim.

In this case, three suicide bombers, females, detonated near simultaneously within a half an hour from one another. That attack killed at least 32 Iraqis and wounded at least 102.

Now, this is despite in Baghdad security measures that were actually put into place by the Iraqi government. They set up extra checkpoints, they also were sending out extra patrols, specifically to try to protect these pilgrims.

Additionally to that, they recruited over 200 females meant to search women that might be trying to enter these areas, specifically to carry out these types of attacks. But as we know very well by now, this is an insurgency that is known to exploit weaknesses. What these women simply did was avoid the areas where the searches were taking place and detonated their explosives elsewhere.

Now, the use of female suicide bombers is nothing new to Iraq, but the most recent increase in numbers is actually quite shocking. In 2007, there were eight attacks,, according to the U.S. military, carried out by female suicide bombers. And now, just in these first seven months of 2008, we have at least 24 -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And it seems like they're getting more creative. I mean, Arwa, you've reported on these mentally ill women that are being used to blow themselves up. Women pretend to be pregnant, they have babies, what looks to be a baby. It's actually a bomb.

Are they getting more creative or is there just not enough enforcement to try and stop these women? It's pretty much taboo to check women a number of times at these checkpoints.

DAMON: It is, Kyra, and that's really one of the main difficulties here, and that's why they're trying to recruit increasing numbers of women to conduct these searches.

And the insurgents, as you were mentioning, are using a number of different tactics to try to get these women to sneak through these security checkpoints and carry out these attacks. In some cases, yes, they have used women that were mentally ill, and it is unknown whether or not they were willing bombers or if the explosives that they carried were detonated by remote.

But in other cases, what the U.S. military has found through a number of raids on female suicide bomber cells is that some of these women are actually willingly offering themselves up. Many of them are motivated by revenge. They have preexisting links to al Qaeda, even, and have lost a husband or a brother to the fighting.

Others are being coerced. And still, some others are being manipulated because they exist in such a state of sheer depression and helplessness that it makes it very easy for the insurgents to convince them they can receive heavenly rewards if they carry out these types of attacks.

And all of this makes it really very difficult to try to combat this type of violence. We go back to the issue of the cultural sensitivity, but we also go back to the very core of what's happening here in Iraq, that all of this violence is wearing down on everybody. And there are fears that we're going to see more women willingly give themselves up to be suicide bombers in the future -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Arwa Damon live from Baghdad.

Arwa, thanks.

And in Turkey, a deadly setup. At least 17 people dead, more than 150 wounded, after two bomb blasts minutes apart in Istanbul.

Officials say that many people were killed or hurt in the second blast after they rushed to help the wounded from the first. Turkey's prime minister suggested that Kurdish militants were behind that attack, but the Kurdistan Workers Party denies it.

LEMON: Longtime journalist Robert Novak is suffering from a brain tumor. The 77-year-old Washington columnist says he'll soon begin treatment at a Boston hospital. It is not known whether the tumor is malignant. Now, just last week, Novak was cited for failure to yield the right of way after he hit a pedestrian with his car.

And you may remember, Bob Novak was a regular on CNN's "CROSSFIRE."

Time now to talk Political Ticker. And leading our Political Ticker today, Barack Obama, his return to the campaign trail after his trip overseas.

The Democratic presidential candidate is in Washington today, where he's attending a series of meetings, most of them on the economy.

The rabbi who oversees Jerusalem's Western Wall is condemning the removal of Barack Obama's prayer note, calling the incident sacrilegious. Obama visited the wall last Thursday. An Israeli newspaper published what it says were the contents of Obama's prayer. The paper says it got the note from a seminary student.

Republican candidate John McCain is focusing on the economy all week, but today he is also raising money. The Arizona senator has two fund-raising stops today in California, one in Bakersfield and the other in San Francisco. Then it's on to Nevada.

Actor and Republican supporter Ben Stein has some advice for John McCain: Get Karl Rove on the phone, he says. Stein says so far McCain has run an uninspiring campaign, and he says the Arizona senator could win with Rove's help. Rove is President Bush's former political guru.

Barack Obama has widened his lead in our latest national Poll of Polls. Forty-five percent of registered voters say they support the Democratic candidate, 39 percent back Republican John McCain. Sixteen percent haven't made up their minds. Obama had a three percentage point lead on Friday.

The Poll of Polls is an average of three national surveys.

Check out our Political Ticker for all the latest campaign news. Just log on to CNNPolitics.com, your source for all things political.

And we have this just into the CNN NEWSROOM. We reported yesterday about Barack Obama going to get an x-ray for his hip. We're learning from the McCain campaign, and this is a note straight from them, Arizona Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, had a mole-like growth removed today from his head. It is near his temple.

The campaign says the doctor didn't think it was anything, but it was removed as a precautionary measure. They will update us on the results once they come back. He was at the doctor for a three-month checkup.

Also, we are reporting this, too, because he has a history, as we know, of melanoma. So we will get pictures apparently of him getting off the airplane with a Band-Aid. As soon as that happens, we'll bring it to. But again, his campaign is saying it was precautionary. He had a mole-like growth removed today, John McCain -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, when it rains, it pours for Qantas Airways. Three days after a Qantas jet made an emergency landing with a huge hole in its side, more problems today.

We'll tell you what happened this time.

(BUSINESS REPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. We told you about John McCain going to a doctor and having what appeared to be a mole removed. It says a mole- like growth removed from his temple. And if you look at this video, once he turns around, it's actually on the right side here. It is just below the temple -- there it is. And looks like right there above the cheek, sort of in the middle there. But here's what we're told. This is in Phoenix, before he left for Bakersfield, California, where he's going to make a statement about the economy. We're told he had to go to the doctor. The doctor wanted to remove this just as a precaution. He didn't think there was anything but as a removed precautionary -- as a precautionary measure. And again, they're going to update us on the result of this. And the reason this is so important is because it is widely reported and he has spoken about this, that he has a history of skin cancer and melanomas and what have you. So John McCain wearing that bandage, right there below his temple, from having a mole-like growth removed by a doctor earlier today.

PHILLIPS: 2:32 Eastern time. Here's some other stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

New details on what sparked yesterday's shooting rampage at a Unitarian church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Police say that suspect Jim Adkisson, seen here shortly after the attack, was angry at the church's liberal social policies and frustrated about being out of a job. Two people were killed, seven wounded, three of them still in critical condition.

Flash flooding in southern New Mexico has apparently killed at least one person. Hundreds of people have had to flea homes or camp sites. While dozens of others might be stranded because of washed out roads or bridges.

Help could soon be on the way for people in danger of losing their homes. We expect President Bush to sign a housing bill that passed Congress over the weekend. It could provide emergency relief for homeowners in danger of foreclosure.

This time it's landing gear. Qantas Airline says a Melbourne- bound flight was forced to return to (INAUDIBLE) today after a door above one failed to close. Qantas says the plane was never in danger. And you may remember three days earlier, a Qantas 747 was forced to make an emergency landing in the Philippines, with a hole the size of a car in its side. You can see it right here. Officials now suspect it was an oxygen canister that exploded in flight.

And almost a quarter of the nation's bridges need some kind of fix. That's the findings in a brand-new report from a nationwide safety group. It says almost one out of four U.S. bridges needs to be modernized or repaired. The price tag? At least $140 billion if repairs started now, and more as time goes on. We're hearing this just days before the first anniversary of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. 13 people died, 144 were hurt. That report says that even those bridges that need to be fixed are still safe.

LEMON: Well the rain came fast and furious and suddenly homes in southern New Mexico were under water. So were campgrounds in the Ruidoso area. Rescuers have pulled one body from the floodwaters. They're still looking for two others. About 800 people, many of them vacationers, have been forced to evacuate.

Flames are racing up the slopes about 10 miles from Yosemite National Park. The road to the park is still open, but power to much of that area has been turned off to protect firefighters working near power lines. More than 26,000 acres and about a dozen homes have burned.

A brush fire that threatened the Los Angeles Zoo is out, but still being investigated. About 4,000 visitors were asked to leave early yesterday, as a precaution -- just as a precaution. Several animals include an endangered California condors, were moved from the area.

(WEATHER REPORT)

LEMON: OK. So regardless of who becomes president or what he promises on the way, he'll face a first-year budget that spends almost half a trillion dollars more than it takes in.

And our Brianna Keilar is at the White House with the latest deficit forecast for fiscal 2009.

And Brianna, not so good, is it?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. And Don, I just came a briefing with two of the president's top economic advisers where they were discussing exactly why the fiscal year 2009 budget is projected at just under a record $490 billion.

They're really pointing to two things. The first thing being the struggling economy and that because of that, sort of a lack of tax revenue compared to what it would be if the economy was healthy. And the other thing they're pointing to is that $170 billion economic stimulus package that was passed earlier this year. They say that really had an impact.

But the White House very much on the defensive here, because President Bush inherited a budget surplus when he came into power in 2001. And every year since then, that he's been in office, he has posted a budget deficit. And you know, in 2004, he actually promised to have the deficit by 2009. And obviously that's not going to happen.

Listen to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Bush has tried to hold the line across the board when it comes to this Congress trying to raise taxes on the American people or raise spending unnecessarily. He hasn't been afraid to veto bills. But we also headed into an economic downturn and we recognized that it would be very important to try to help save this economy and to do so, by passing a bipartisan stimulus package. That was the right and prudent thing to do. If we hadn't done that, I don't know where the economy would be.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Now, one of the men in this briefing, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jim Nussle, saying, look, if you look at the math, yes President Bush inherited a budget surplus, but you can't just look at. He says that President Bush also inherited quite a deficit when it comes to -- when it came to intelligence, homeland security and the military. And they needed to do us some financial commitments there. But Democrats really seizing on this. Democrats like Kent Conrad, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, saying that President Bush will be remembered as the most fiscally irresponsible president in our nation's history -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Brianna Keilar reporting from the White House.

Brianna, thank you.

PHILLIPS: Well, in the race for the White House, John McCain renews his attack over Barack Obama's opposition to the so-called troop surge in Iraq.

Speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the Republican candidate said Obama is totally wrong on the issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I question his judgment because he lacks experience and knowledge and I question his judgment. I'm not prepared to see the sacrifice of so many brave, young Americans lost because Senator Obama just views this war as another political issue, which he can change positions. And everybody knows that he was able to obtain the nomination of his party by appealing to the far left and committing to a course of action that I believe was -- I know was wrong. Because he said the surge would not work, he said it wouldn't succeed. No rational observer in Iraq today believes that the surge did not succeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

McCain will be Larry King's guest tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

And the Iraq war is a major issue for Barack Obama, after his return from that country as part of his overseas tour. Speaking at a conference over the weekend in Chicago, Obama talked about his call for a timeline for American troops to withdraw from Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think it's realistic. I think that obviously General Petraeus wants as much flexibility as possible. As I said during my trip, if I were in his shoes, I'd want as much flexibility, as well.

But when you've got the prime minister of Iraq, the people of Iraq saying they ARE ready to take more responsibility. When you are seeing more Iraqi forces take the lead in actions, we need to take advantage of that opportunity, particularly because we've got to deal with Afghanistan and we can't keep spending $10 billion a month in Iraq at a time when we've got enormous pressing needs here in the United States of America. Including by the way, taking care of veterans who are coming home with post-traumatic stress disorder, disabilities and they are still not getting a lot of the services they need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Obama was speaking at the Unity Conference of Minority Journalists in Chicago.

LEMON: And joining us in the 3:00 hour, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM, the president of the NABJ, the National Association of Black Journalists. One of the groups involved in that conference, she will talk about Barack Obama's speech and what he had to say at that conference. That will be the 3:00 p.m. hour of the CNN NEWSROOM. 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

Latino voters are expected to play their most important role ever in the presidential race. And because of a grassroots push, their numbers in November could swell by hundreds of thousands.

Here's CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Saturday morning, 7:00 a.m. 18-year-old Sheila Salinas is preparing for a big day. To register as many new Latino voters as she can.

SHEILA SALINAS, VOTER REGISTRATION VOLUNTEER: My parents are from Mexico. We've been here for like 10 years.

GUTIERREZ: Sheila's father is a day laborer. Her mother, a babysitter. Her dream is to become a lawyer to help other immigrant families whom she says need a political voice. One they could only get if they registered to vote. So she rides the bus for an hour across town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.

SALINAS: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be canvassing to try to register new voters.

GUTIERREZ: For the next several hours, Sheila and others like her hit the street and knock on doors.

SALINAS: We just wanted to see if you already registered to vote.

Well, have you registered to vote?

GUTIERREZ: When they're not canvassing, they cold call potential voters. The goal of this immigrant rights organization is to register 20,000. They're almost there.

(on camera): You're giving up part of your weekends and your evenings to register people. Why?

SALINAS: Why? Because we need the vote. We need that vote of Latinos. We need the vote of everyone who can vote, to make change.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Change is on the horizon. An historic 9.2 million Latino voters are expected to vote in November, giving Latinos, the fastest growing minority group, a decisive role in 2008.

OBAMA: This election could well be decided by Latino voters.

MCCAIN: I will honor their contributions to America for as long as I live.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): When you hear that, what goes through your mind?

SALINAS: It's like, really like power, you know? Latinos have power.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Power that began to mobilize with the marches of 2006, with a call for legal immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship so they could vote. More than 1.4 million people applied. Sending the government into a tailspin to try and process all those applications in time for the election.

ARTURO VARGAS, NATL ASSN. OF LATINO ELECTED OFFICIALS: We're now going to see both Senators McCain and Obama, campaigning strongly for the Latino vote in a way that no presidential campaign has done before. And I think this will be an opportunity for Latinos to really decide this election.

GUTIERREZ: Sheila says, this will be the first time she'll be able to vote for a president. She's excited she'll join all the first-time voters she's registering.

SALINAS: Miss, have you registered to vote?

GUTIERREZ: Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Fire on the water, but all this water can't save a famous seaside pier from a spectacular fire.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

All right, that means it's time now for our Energy Fix. The average price for gasoline has now dropped back below $4 a gallon. But prices are still well above last year and drivers are cutting back.

CNNMoney.com's Poppy Harlow has our Energy Fix from New York.

Hey, Poppy. They don't drive much there. Everybody takes a taxi or the subway or something.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: It would be the subway, Don. Roughing it in New York City.

You know, gas prices are up 37 percent from a year ago, even though we're below $4 now. But people have found their own Energy Fix. They are simply leaving their car or truck in the garage. The latest numbers out today from a government report showed that drivers cut out more than 40 billion miles so far this year when you compare it to the first half of last year.

Just how far is 40 billion miles? It is like, get this, traveling around the equator more than a million and a half times. People drove nearly 10 billion fewer miles in May, the most recent month reported. That marks a nearly 4 percent drop. And Don, that's double the decline we saw in April. So it's happening rapidly.

LEMON: So all of this sounds like good news.

HARLOW: It's good news, because it's contributing to gas prices falling. It's not the only factor there, but it's parts of it.

But also people are driving less. That means the government is not getting as much revenue from gas taxes and tolls on roads and bridges. That means a lot less money to fix our deteriorating infrastructure. And a new report out from state highway officials just this afternoon, shows it will cost a whopping $140 billion to fix troubled bridges across the nation. That's if they start today.

And some other bad news, the price of asphalt is soaring because oil is a key ingredient. So, another thing the report says, one in four bridges are structurally deficient or in need of widening. And the average age of a bridge in this country, 43 years. Most bridges are expected to last 50 years. So we're getting pretty close to that now. The report also -- that came out this afternoon said the nation's bridges are choke points where traffic builds. But does say, and this is key, overall the bridges are considered to be safe.

But you've got to put this in perspective. The timing is interesting. The news comes just a few days before the first anniversary of the Minnesota bridge collapse, where 13 people died. And, of course, you know, if people are driving less, that may mean less wear and tear on our roads and bridges. But still, a key report out today. And we see the price of gas at least a little lower today -- Don.

LEMON: Yes. And just looking at those pictures, Poppy. It's still unbelievable a year later to see exactly what happened.

HARLOW: Oh, yes. I was just there, you know, a few weeks ago. They're still repairing that bridge. It's going to be awhile.

LEMON: All right. Poppy Harlow, appreciate it.

HARLOW: You're welcome. PHILLIPS: An historic pier in western England is reduced to ashes. A raging fire had destroyed the Grand Pier, a major tourist spot built in 1904. No reports of casualties so far and no word on the cause. The quickly spreading flames sent up a massive column of smoke. About 100 firefighters rushed to the scene.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: This is a ground breaking documentary in many ways, so we're really interested in what you thought about last week's "Black in America" special. Last hour, some college students shared their views, and now let's get a sample of what CNN i-Reporters are saying on the web. For that we turn to CNN's Veronica De La Cruz. She joins us now from New York.

I bet this is very interesting -- these are very interesting comments.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you know our i- Report Web site, Don, has been inundated. The responses have been overwhelming.

Let's go ahead and start with an i-Reporter by the name of JWrite who writes, the special didn't tell her story. She says, "In two nights, I saw no one" -- Don -- "who looked, acted or thought like I do; yet I am no anomaly. I am a hard-working, articulate, resourceful, compassionate, Christian woman who has not given up on black men. I pay taxes; I tithe; I vote, even before Barack. Again, my story was not told."

Another i-Reporter, Don, by the name of Nellie Ruth 13 says: "I watched both showings and I was depressed after each airing. Although I appreciate CNN for bringing African-Americans to the forefront in their programming, I must say that it was just like all the other reports I've seen in years past regarding African-Americans: negative. When will this portrayal end?"

And then from i-Reporter Mocha 2588: "Yes, it is no secret, blacks have come a mighty long way. So when CNN decided to pursue this 'story' on what it is like to be black in America, I said, what can they tell us that we don't already know? And to no surprise, they showed me nothing new. I felt exploited while I watched this show."

Again, that is all at ireport.com and the responses continue to pour in, Don.

LEMON: Absolutely. All right. Veronica De La Cruz joining us from New York.

Veronica, we appreciate it. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Well, remember the old saying, it's not how much you make, but how much you save? It applies to big name celebrities too. CNN's Brooke Anderson looks at some very high profile foreclosures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Remember the old saying, it's not how much you make but how much you save? It applies to big-name celebrities too.

CNN's Brooke Anderson looks at some very high profile foreclosures.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Celebrities like Michael Jackson amassed multimillion dollar fortunes with their music and videos.

ED MCMAHON, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JOHNNY CARSON": Here's Johnny!

ANDERSON: But sky-high salaries couldn't save these stars from the mortgage crisis gripping the nation.

RICK SHARGA, MARKETING V.P. REALTYTRAC.INC.: Celebrities, just like normal American citizens, can be living paycheck to paycheck too and can get in over their heads.

ANDERSON: Boxing champ Evander Holyfield is less than three weeks away from losing his Georgia mansion in a public auction. The heavyweight is in default on a $750,000 loan.

MCMAHON: If you spend more money than you make, you know what happens.

ANDERSON: Ed McMahon risks foreclosure after falling $644,000 behind on a $4.8 million loan. McMahon's publicist is optimistic, telling CNN the home has not sold but is still on the market and people are looking.

Michael Jackson narrowly avoided losing Neverland Ranch this year when an investment firm bailed him out of a delinquent $24 million loan.

But former baseball MVP Jose Conseco did forfeit his California home, citing cash-flow problems due in part to costly divorces.

MARK DAVID, THE REALESTALKER: To see somebody who makes millions of dollars in the course of their career have financial troubles -- I think it's hard for the average person to sympathize with that.

ANDERSON: Mark David tracks celebrity real estate moves and says it's often the extravagant taste of the rich and famous that costs them later, which David says could some day be the case for Ellen DeGeneres...

DAVID: She spent like $40 million putting this compound together. It remains to be seen whether she could ever turn around and sell that compound for $40 million.

ANDERSON: ... and reality TV star, Denise Richards.

DENISE RICHARDS, ACTRESS: Nothing is working.

DAVID: She buys and sells every year, so -- and she doesn't really seem to make any money. And in fact, she's actually lost money.

ANDERSON: Proof not even Hollywood royalty are immune to the housing meltdown.

SHARGA: There are probably hundreds of other people whose names you would recognize who just haven't bubbled up to the surface.

Brooke Anderson, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: The rampage was shocking but wait until you hear the motive. Police in Tennessee try to get inside the head of a man accused of shooting up a church.

LEMON: And does unity mean uniformity? How about objectivity? We'll take a look at how journalists of color are covering an historic campaign for president.

PHILLIPS: And you're never too old to be an overnight success, just ask Japan's 73-year-old king of a new and booming industry -- elderly porn.

Hello everyone, I'm Kyra Phillips live in New York.

LEMON: It takes all kinds -- that's all I have to say.

I'm Don Lemon, here at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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