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Fire Crews Make Progress Against One Wildfire in Los Angeles Area; McCain and Obama's Latest Economic Proposals

Aired October 14, 2008 - 12:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everyone. I'm Tony Harris.
And here are the stories you will see in the CNN NEWSROOM on Tuesday, October 14th.

Crews making speedy progress against one wildfire burning in the Los Angeles area, but a second blaze doubles in size.

Their plans, your money. The presidential candidates fine-tuning their economic proposals. We will show you the tweaks.

Ringo Starr says, please, Mr. Postman, no more fan mail. He's sick of it. Help a Beatle out, will you -- in the NEWSROOM.

So what do you say we begin with money headlines for you? A 400- point Dow rally fizzles so far today. Right now blue chips are still in positive territory, up 20 points. The Dow is coming off an incredible 936-point gain yesterday. That's a record.

At the White House this morning, President Bush laid out specific steps in the financial bailout. The government will spend up to $250 billion to buy bank stocks. Washington will also guarantee bank-to- bank lending, at least for now.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Banks have been unable to borrow money, and that has restricted their ability to lend to consumers and businesses. When money flows more freely between banks, it will make it easier for Americans to borrow for cars and homes, and for small businesses to expand.



HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: At a time when events naturally make even the most daring investors risk averse, the needs of our economy require that our financial institutions not take this new capital to hoard it, but to deploy it.


HARRIS: There are signs paralyzed credit markets are loosening a bit today. That suggests banks are more willing to lend to each other. Wildfires are racing across southern California right now. Two people killed, thousands forced to flee. Officials say the Sesnon Fire in the San Fernando Valley doubled in size overnight. It is now 10,000 acres.

Just 10 miles away, fire crews are getting the upper hand on the Marek Fire. It's now 4,800 acres and 70 percent contained. So the danger zone stretching from suburban Los Angeles down to just north of San Diego.

Live now to CNN Ted Rowlands. He's in Los Angeles.

And Ted, if you would, I guess this is the question, any relief from these winds, particularly in sight?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, there is, according to forecasters, Tony.

We've been seeing sporadic winds. Gusts will come up that are very heavy like we saw yesterday, upwards of 50 miles per hour, and then it will die down. And forecasters say in the next few hours this Santa Ana event, as they call it, is going to subside. And that will give firefighters the upper hand.

They've been actually very successful this morning, here at the largest fire, about 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles. You can see that a lot of the area has been burned near homes. However, firefighters have done a yeoman's job overnight, just spectacular in saving communities.

Some areas where we've toured around this morning, boy, the flames, you can see where they just came lapping up, right up against people's homes. They did some homes; 19 structures lost in this fire. In the other fire, the one you mentioned, which is at 70 percent containment, they lost about 30 structures. One individual was killed in that fire.

A homeless man was found with his dog. He was under sort of a makeshift shelter, but it did not withstand the heat as fire went over him under an overpass. Otherwise, only a couple of minor injuries.

Some 4,000 people still out of their homes, and authorities say those people are not going to get back into their homes until these winds subside. And until those winds subside, firefighters are really struggling to make sure that these embers that get thrown upwards to a mile don't cause anymore problems. But right now, I've got to tell you, as soon as these winds come down, I think that this event, and southern California general, you're going to see firefighters get the upper hand, and then it's moving on to the next event.

HARRIS: Yes. Boy, that's good to hear.

All right. Ted Rowlands for us in Los Angeles.


HARRIS: CNN iReporters are on the job in the fire zone. They are sending us incredible pictures and video from the front lines.

Take a look at this one from iReporter Gina Yarborough. We will have more of your -- man, that's dramatic. We will have more of your iReports straight ahead.'s Tyson Wheatley will join us from Tysons Corner in just a couple of moments.

What will the next president do about the economy? The candidates reveal their plans.


HARRIS: The presidential election exactly three weeks away, and the final face-off between the two candidates just one day away.

Barack Obama out of the spotlight today. He is in Ohio preparing for tomorrow night's third and final debate.

John McCain campaigning in Pennsylvania today. Last hour, boy, in a raucous rally, he outlined his latest economic plan. He says it is designed to help those hurting the most from the current crisis.

John McCain's new proposals aimed at helping seniors and savers. Let's get to some of the nuts and bolts on this.

Dana Bash live from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, where McCain held that rally just last hour.

And Dana, there was a lot there for measure to shore up pension programs, to doubling the child tax deduction. Something for everyone -- forgive me here -- from cradle to grave, it seems.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does seem that way, and that obviously is the point. You know, there is just one day before the final debate, as you know, Tony, and there has been a lot of pressure on John McCain to come up with some new ideas on the issue that everybody cares most about, particularly in this area.

This is suburban Philadelphia. This is an area that has a lot of registered Republicans who traditionally vote Republican because of their pocketbooks, but not necessarily so this time around. So that's why he came here to give some of his new ideas.

And let's go through a couple of them.

First of all, he said overall that he wants the Treasury Department to guarantee 100 percent of savings for the next six months. That was new. But with regard to specifically the investors right now, the investors who are watching the topsy-turvy Wall Street, the stock market, he says that people who have capital losses, of whom there are many, many people, that they should be able to deduct not just $3,000, but to go up to $15,000 for those people who have losses.

Those few people who actually had capital gains, he wants to cut the rate, the tax rate on capital gains, from 15 percent to 7.5 percent. And then with regard to people who have to take their money out of the stock market, or out of their 401(k) or IRA, because they are retiring, he says that that should be taxed at 10 percent, the lowest rate possible. At least temporarily.

So those are some of the things that he wants to do. He also wants to do something that Barack Obama said yesterday, Tony. And that is to not tax unemployment benefits. That's something that both of those men agree on.

But, you know, he was very careful to lay out some of the substance, but then go right at the heart of the theme and has been pushing the past couple weeks with regard to Barack Obama. He says that he is somebody who is risky not just in terms of his associations, but in terms of his politics. Listen to what he said.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What he promises today is the opposite of what he has done his entire career. Perhaps never in history have the American people been asked to risk so much based on so little.


You can look at the record of what he's done, or you can just go with your gut. But either way, you're left with the same conclusion: Senator Obama is going to raise your taxes. And in this economy, raising taxes is the surest way to turn a recession into a depression.


BASH: Now, there you go, Tony. That is about as nuts and bolts of a strategy and a theme that you can hear from any Republican candidate in terms of taxes.

If the Republican is saying the Democrat is going to raise your taxes, again, that should be something that resonates here in Pennsylvania, particularly this area. But right now our Poll of Polls shows that Barack Obama is leading by almost 20 percent among those who say that they trust him more on that issue of the economy.

HARRIS: Boy. All right. Dana Bash for us from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. That is just outside of Philadelphia.

Dana, good to see you. Thank you.

Barack Obama's latest economic plan aimed at helping middle class families caught in the financial crunch. Obama unveiled his plan in a crucial swing state where the economy and employment are top concerns.

The story now from senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ohio by the numbers: 20 electoral votes, 48 percent Obama, 46 percent McCain, 7 percent unemployment.

OBAMA: It's easy to spell: J-O-B-S, jobs.


OBAMA: We have got to work on jobs.

CROWLEY: Adding new ideas to his economic proposal, Barack Obama told a crowd in Toledo he wants a two-year tax break for small businesses that create new jobs, penalty-free withdrawals of up to $10,000 on retirement accounts, and a moratorium on some home foreclosures on loans held by banks getting money from the rescue plan.

OBAMA: You will not be able to foreclose those their home for three months. We need to give people the breathing room to get back on their feet.


CROWLEY: Still, even as he called for help for hard-pressed voters, Obama also noted, some of those same voters aided and abetted the economic free-fall.

OBAMA: If we're honest with ourselves, everyone was living beyond their means, from Wall Street, to Washington, to even some on Main Street. Lenders tricked some people into buying homes they couldn't afford, and some folks knew they couldn't afford them, and they bought them anyway.

CROWLEY: Sailing in the polls and most of battleground states, it is the beauty of being Barack that, unlike John McCain, whose campaign is still struggling, Obama can stay the course.

Candy Crowley, CNN, New York.


HARRIS: The Obama plan, the McCain plan. Which one will help you the most? We'll see what our CNN money team has to say about the candidates' plans ahead in this hour.

The final face-off between John McCain and Barack Obama, debate night in America, see it live right here on CNN. That's tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern.

Who's registered to vote and how vulnerable will this election be to fraud?


HARRIS: Registering the same person to vote more than 70 times -- yes, 70 times -- that is just one of the allegations linked to the liberal activist group ACORN. Ohio, one of several states where ACORN is under investigation.

The latest from Duane Pohlman of our affiliate WEWS.


DUANE POHLMAN, WEWS REPORTER (voice-over): Freddie Johnson registered to vote a lot.

(on camera): How many times did you sign registration applications here?


POHLMAN (voice-over): The Cayuga County Board of Elections produced page after page of Johnson's registration applications. The reason? Johnson says the advocacy group, ACORN, kept asking ask him. So he signed an signed again.

JOHNSON: Some of the individuals that worked at ACORN, gave me, you know, cigarettes for a signature, or you know, a couple of dollars for a signature.

POHLMAN: Johnson's numerous registrations brought him before the board as the nation watched. And he was not alone. Three others were subpoenaed as well.

Christopher Barkley admits he filled out 13 registrations for ACORN, some with different addresses and middle names. I caught up with Barkley after detectives questioned him.

(on camera): Do you think you did something wrong here?

CHRISTOPHER BARKLEY, REPEAT REGISTRANT: No, I don't know. I don't think I did.

POHLMAN (voice-over): While Barkley and the others are in the spotlight, the real focus is on ACORN and how it gathered some 70,000 newly registered voters in Cayuga County alone.

KATY GALL, OHIO ACORN DIRECTOR: It's just absolutely ridiculous to take somebody like a Mr. Barkley, and try to make him a Boogeyman for trying to quote, unquote, trying to steal the election.

POHLMAN: Ohio ACORN director, Katy Gall denies widespread wrongdoing. ACORN worked with BOE, Gall says, and fired employees who registered Barkley and Johnson so many times.

GALL: Issues involving voter registrations are not voter fraud.


HARRIS: Allegations of potential election irregularities seem to be flying left and right. One of the rumors, some people who lose their homes to foreclosure might not be allowed to vote. Now, is that true?

CNN's Josh Levs joins us now to talk about it.

Josh, is it true?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Has this happened to you? Do people keep asking you about that, particularly in Michigan?

HARRIS: I have heard that, yes.

LEVS: Particularly in Michigan. I keep hearing this a lot, too.


HARRIS: Well, I hope I'm giving folks the right answer, but I'll wait until the end of your report.

LEVS: Well, we're going to zoom to the answer, because I want people to know. Let me just trace you through what's' going on here.

It all began with a report and this liberal blog called "The Michigan Messenger." And you can see the headline here: "Lose Your House, Lose Your Vote."

And what it did was it quoted a Republican official saying foreclosure lists would be used to challenge voters who list those addresses. Now, that Republican official later denied that.

And I'll show you this from "The Detroit Free Press," which has looked at some major issues facing the vote there. And what they say is Republicans consistently deny any plan like that. And the paper provided some information. I want to go to this graphic here to show you.

First of all, they say a foreclosure list cannot be used to challenge without other evidence that a voter isn't casting a ballot in the right place. Also, they say if a voter has moved, he or she should register at the new address. And if the move occurred on or after September 5th -- this is important for people facing foreclosure right now -- the voter can still vote from the original address. Now, election officials in Michigan have put out a statement trying to make that clear, and so did officials in some other states where there have also been similar concerns.

One more thing I'm going to show you, Tony. Look at this.

Project Vote over here, this is a group that has worked with ACORN, as you probably know. Now, they put out a statement yesterday calling on election and party officials in 10 different states to protect the rights of Americans facing foreclosure.

So, you know, it's clear right now that this is not just a concern in Michigan. A lot of people afraid that this could happen, a lot of state officials and others saying now it should not and won't.

HARRIS: OK. Glad you're following it for us, Josh. Appreciate it. Thank you sir.

LEVS: You got it. Thanks. HARRIS: All right. Check out our Political Ticker for all the latest campaign news. Just log on to, your source for all things political.

So, which candidate has an economic plan that will actually work? We will get some answers from the CNN money team.


HARRIS: Let's take you to the New York Stock Exchange now, look at the Big Board. As you can see, the Dow is up 45 points.

But the real story here, at least so far, is that the rally seems to have faded a bit. We were -- we really shot out of the gate as though we shot out of a cannon this morning.

The Dow rallying up nearly 400 points at the outset this morning, actually feeding on yesterday's huge run-up. What a surge that was. What a day that was yesterday for stocks, up at the close 936 points. But as you can see, at least we're still in positive territory today. The rally fading just a bit.

You know, the federal government is getting into the banking business, did you know? The Bush administration announced today the government will buy bank stocks, as much as $250 billion worth, under the bailout program.

Last hour I spoke with the woman who heads the FDIC. I asked Sheila Bair about the strength of the U.S. banking system.


SHEILA BAIR, CHAIRWOMAN, FDIC: Overall, though, banks are overwhelmingly safe and sound. The overwhelming majority have lots of capital, lots of loan loss reserves.

They are in a good position to weather the economic challenges that we have before them, but we do have a public confidence factor here. And the public typically does not distinguish between other types of -- what they call the shadow banking system and non-depositor institutions...


HARRIS: Yes. Will you forgive me for pushing a little bit on this?

BAIR: That's fine.

HARRIS: I just want to understand. I know that you have examiners that routinely visit these banks and make sure that compliance is in order.

BAIR: That's right.

HARRIS: I'm just wondering, was there a moment missed here when the clarion call could have been sounded so that we had a better understanding of what was going on in the -- specifically in the banking sector?

BAIR: Well, I assumed office in June of 2006. We started seeing the problems in the mortgage sector in the fall of '06.

I instructed our staff to buy a database that would give us more information about the loan quality of private label mortgage-backed securities. A lot of these high-risk mortgages had been securitized into what they call private label mortgage-backed securities.

So I think as an agency, the FDIC was among the first to sound the alarm bells on deteriorating underwriting standards that had infected the mortgage markets. And we certainly worked with our fellow colleagues and the other bank regulators to tighten bank lending standards. But again, a lot of this lending was being done outside of the banking sector. And it was only until the Federal Reserve Board recently imposed rules that apply across the board to banks and non-banks that we've really gotten a handle on tightening lending standards across the board.

So I won't say banks are perfect. I won't say bank regulators are perfect. We are not.

There have been mistakes that have been made. But I do think it's important for people to understand the difference between an insured depository institution and other types of financial institutions. And a lot of this bad lending has occurred outside depository institutions.



HARRIS: Bair went on to say we are seeing a bit of a thaw in the credit markets today. The credit freeze, of course, a primary culprit in the financial crisis.

You know, just a few minutes ago Senator McCain presented his economic plan to help those "hurting the most" in this financial crisis. Yesterday, Senator Barack Obama presented his economic rescue plan for the middle class. So who's ideas will really make a difference?

CNN's Christine Romans joins me from New York with some analysis.

And Christine, who do you want to start with? You want to start with Senator McCain?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Let's start first with where they have agreement. How's that, Tony?

HARRIS: OK, great.

ROMANS: There are a couple of points where both of these candidates agree. And first of those is eliminating taxes on jobless benefits. That means people who are getting unemployment insurance until now have had to pay taxes. This would be to suspend that as we go through this crisis and eliminate paying taxes on that. They both agree on that.

They also agree that we should temporarily suspend rules for seniors to cash out -- to begin cashing out of their IRAs and their 401(k)s when they reach the age of 70.5. That's the rule that's in effect now. This is what Senator McCain said is his reason for that.


MCCAIN: Those rules should be suspended to spare senior citizens from being forced to sell their stock just as the market is hurting the most.


ROMANS: Can you imagine turning 70 and-a-half and you know you have to start selling those stocks and you're in this crazy market and you don't want to or don't need to? So both agree on that.

So let's talk about Senator McCain and some of the specificity that he was laying out today. We know this, $300 billion to keep Americans in their homes using part of that bailout package. He actually announced this last week but he's been giving more and more clarity that. Lowering taxes for seniors, tapping into their retirement accounts, accelerating tax write-offs for people who are forced to sell in this market, reducing capital gains tax. That's a very traditional McCain, traditional Republican stance. As I said, eliminating taxes on unemployment benefits.

OK, Tony, now let's walk through Barack Obama's. Relaxing rules on early withdrawals from retirement savings. Federal government -- he wants the federal government to lend to state and municipal governments.

We know that they are really in budget crunches. He wants the federal government to step in and start lending money to the state and local governments. He wants to encourage job creation through tax credits for companies for each full-time worker they hire. Which could help with job creation or it could help level the playing field a little bit from maybe overseas workers who get so much less money. It might be more attractive for some industries. Extend jobless benefits, as we said, and eliminate taxes on them and require a moratorium on foreclosures.

That's something that we've been talking about throughout the campaign, all the way back. Hillary Clinton came out with that earlier this year, just an overall moratorium on foreclosures. That's another idea that still is (ph) kicking about.

HARRIS: Yes. Well, all right, let me -- great job at sort of breaking all this down. Now let's get to the real analysis piece here. Put you on the spot a little bit.

ROMANS: Sure. HARRIS: Who's doing a better job?

ROMANS: Well, we asked -- CNN/Opinion Research asked debate watchers that question after the last debate. And they said that Obama was doing the better job. Fifty-eight percent, to McCain's 37 percent.

A couple of things at play here. You've got to have Congress to go along with you on anything that you're going to do, so Obama might have a friendlier Congress. How much can they get done? Are they actually hand-strung by the budget situation that we're in and all this money we're spent on fire fighting right now on the financial structure?

And, Tony, something else. Another reason why it makes it's virtually impossible for me to tell you who's got the better plan is this. Not only -- we don't know what pieces of this plan they could actually implement, but we also don't know what the situation's going to look like in the beginning of the year.

HARRIS: That's a great point.

ROMANS: I mean just in the past 11 days, things have changed so much. That the bailout plan that was going to save the world 11 days ago looks an awful lot different today, doesn't it? So either of these candidates staking our very specifically their positions even 10 days ago would be rejiggering them today anyway, wouldn't they?

HARRIS: The positions -- the conditions you're responding to today could be dramatically different when you assume office in January.

ROMANS: And we hope not dramatically worse, but, who knows.

HARRIS: Exactly. All right, Christine, great analysis. Thanks, Christine, appreciate it.

ROMANS: Great.

HARRIS: A lot of, you know, Californians right now are watching their dream literally go up in smoke. Our i-Reporters are showing us what's happening. We're back in a moment.


HARRIS: I-Reporters. Boy, you're really doing a terrific job at helping us cover the California wildfires. Why don't we just take a trip to CNN's dot com's i-Report desk and check in now with one of the guys helping run things down there at our i-Report operation. Tyson's Corner. Yes, that's where we're headed. Tyson Wheatley is there.

Tyson, good to see you here.

I know the i-Reporters have been really a tremendous help in helping us cover this story in southern California.

TYSON WHEATLEY, CNN.COM: Yes, that's right, Tony.

HARRIS: You know, Chad Myers had a great map a couple of moments ago. And I understand you've been working up a map as well?

WHEATLEY: Well, yes, actually, let's go straight to the that. Let me show you, Tony, you know, we've got multiple fires and this story is pretty widespread, as you can see. These are some of the latest i-Reports that are coming to us right now. Here's L.A. And, you know, this is an important way to help tell the story because we can see now how far it spreads. But then later on, you know, we'll get a chances to see how it's developing and where, you know, where -- it will pinpoint on the map where latest ones will come in and that will help tell us where it's spreading.

HARRIS: Are you getting some pictures? Some pretty cool pictures? We saw one a little earlier and I understand you have a bunch?

WHEATLEY: Yes. Let's start with the very first one I want to show you. This one comes to us from Joanie Frantz (ph). And this is actually -- this is actually a really cool story. You know, Joanie Frantz, from is from the Porter Ranch fire in Topanga Canyon. And, you know, she took these photos yesterday afternoon as she was helping some horse owners there evacuate. Dozens of horses and ponies.

You know, these ranch owners there, the authorities have blocked off the roads and they were helping them, you know, take these ponies from their farms and get them to a waiting trailer so that they could get out of there. You know, Joanie says she was only there for about 45 minutes, but during that time, the thick (ph) was so heavy, she tells us, that her lung were hurting actually.

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

WHEATLEY: This next one comes to us from a different part of the area. This if from the San Fernando Valley area. And this is just a beautiful photo.

HARRIS: Look at that, yes.

WHEATLEY: Yes, it's a beautiful photo of an L.A. county firefighter as he's watching the fire sweep through the valley. And this comes to us from Seth L.T. Robinson. You know, he just moved to L.A., he tells us, and he's never seen a fire this big. He saying the firefighters are doing heroic efforts keeping the flames away from homes in that area and there has been some mandatory evacuation there.

And this last one is from Camp Pendleton area. This is from one of our longtime i-Reporter contributors.

HARRIS: Oh, Gina sent one earlier to us.

WHEATLEY: Gina Yarborough.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes. Another great shot a little earlier that we used in the newscast. WHEATLEY: You know, in last October, during the huge wildfires, Gina was there reporting on that for us as well.

HARRIS: Yes, that's the shot we used earlier. Look at that.

WHEATLEY: Yes these, you know, brush fires in that area have charred more than 1,000 acres. That's near, of course, the military base. And there's been some evacuation. Yes, this is, of course, she took this photo of a plane dropping some fire retardant on the blaze.

Yes, and, Tony, just like all the fires we've seen today and yesterday, the Santa Ana winds are really, you know, fueling these flames and making it really hard for the firefighters.

HARRIS: Well, why don't we do this, Tyson? Folks did such a great job of getting us their I-Reports of the fires out there in So Cal. Why don't we make that the assignment for today as well and see what we get in tomorrow. Is that OK?

WHEATLEY: Yes. Of course.

HARRIS: Look at that.

WHEATLEY: We absolutely want to hear more stories from you and how it's affecting you. You know, of course, we want you to follow the guidance of the authorities in that area and stay, you know, a safe distance away from the flames.

HARRIS: Terrific. All right, Tyson, appreciate it. Thank you. See you tomorrow.

WHEATLEY: OK. Take care.

HARRIS: And, quickly, let's get over to Chad Myers now.

And, Chad, amazing pictures from our i-Reporters, obviously. I mean they're doing a great job for us. They really help us tell that story. But another tool that you have. Look at that scene behind you there.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Malibu Hills, right now, wind gusts of 47 miles per hour from the northeast. This is actually from yesterday. So some of this smoke is knocked down from the overnight. But now we're really getting the wind to pick up now. It will slack it off later today, but this is almost like a breathing animal out there.


MYERS: The air goes up and the air goes down. And when the air goes down in the mountains, the wind just blows offshore. And then at night, that's when it happen, because the wind kind of goes down, the air falls down. It's cooler. Cold air sinks and it pushes out in all directions. And then during the day, it breathes back in. And then the air kind of stops. And so the wind kind of stops. So tonight will be a much better night than tomorrow -- than last night was. Last night was just a mess with winds over 50, 60 miles per hour. But right now, our winds are coming down a little bit. But probably expect them to pick up again later on tonight. But we had a couple of gusts, almost 80 miles per hour. Think how far one spark can go at 80 miles per hour.

HARRIS: The embers. Yes. Boy, look at that. We've got some live pictures up as well.

Chad, appreciate it.

MYERS: Yes, and that's really close to houses now.

HARRIS: Yes, that's right.

MYERS: I mean you're not going just fighting dirt, you know, fighting bushes. Now you're fighting houses.

HARRIS: And, again, driving home the point of the embers again.

MYERS: Look how close that is right there. That's 100 yards away from those houses there.

HARRIS: Boy. All right, we feel for those families. Hopefully they're taking the measures and some of the advice that you offered a bit earlier.

Chad, appreciate it. Thank you.

MYERS: Sure.

HARRIS: It's time to get an "Energy Fix."

You know, when oil prices were surging earlier this year, airlines repeatedly raced fees and cut back on capacity. But now oil prices are down and the economy is weak and that's leaving airfares literally up in the air.'s Poppy Harlow has our "Energy Fix" from New York.

Good to see you, Poppy.


You know it's like, what gives, right? I was looking for a ticket yesterday. Just as expensive as this summer when oil was $147. Oil is now $85. And Rick Seaney, he runs, he says this is the strangest time ever for the airlines. They're trying to figure out what the market's going to do. They can't predict the bottom. They don't know where the economy stands.

We know what travelers want is lower airfare, especially now. But so far, despite those sharply lower oil price, that is certainly not happening. It could happen if we see lower demand for premium seats, like first and business class because, guess what, Tony, a lot of the people that buy those tickets are a lot of guys on Wall Street. Guys and gals on Wall Street.

Now the International Air Transportation Association said that Lehman Brothers bought $115 million in tickets last year. We all know what happened to Lehman. It went bust. Merrill Lynch and AIG together last year bought about $140 million worth of tickets. They're still in business, but you can bet they're cutting back on traveling. Farecompare says that may leave some airlines with empty seats, meaning they'd have to drop prices a bit. But, Tony, that hasn't happened yet.

HARRIS: Well, why not?

HARLOW: Because the airlines, like all of us, want to see what happens with the economy. They want to see what happens with oil prices. They don't know. And says the airlines will start cutting 200,000 seats every day by mid December. That adds up to 70 million fewer seats next year, putting us back at the capacity level of 1998. Ten years ago. A lot of airlines, keep in mind, they locked in their oil prices this summer when oil was a lot more expensive than it is right now. So all really paying more than the market price at this point.

So for holiday travelers, this is your "Energy Fix." If you see reasonable price, take it right away. Don't count on cheaper fares in the future. But check back often. Prices change all the time. And you're going to get a better fare in a market where there's competition. Those smaller markets. They are getting hit hard because there's not a lot of competition there at all.

And also, you want to keep this in mind. The carriers added all those few surcharges. Shouldn't they be going away? They should. They're not.

HARRIS: Oh, come on. We're not going to get that back (ph). Oh, come on.

HARLOW: They are not. says fuel surcharges have been cut to Europe, but they haven't been cut on those domestic flights. So we decided to call them. One of our producers called Delta and United. No comment from them. We're waiting to hear back from all the rest -- Tony.

HARRIS: Don't hold your breath!

HARLOW: Don't hold your breath, no.

HARRIS: Poppy, appreciate it. Thank you.

HARLOW: You're welcome.

HARRIS: 401(k) funds are disappearing, homes are being foreclosed on. What is the best way -- OK. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles, I believe right now, perhaps Sacramento, giving us an update on the wildfires in Los Angeles.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS) GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CALIFORNIA: Come to get a briefing, a fire briefing, and to see so many of the leaders coming out and showing such interest in making sure that everything's handled the proper way. So we want to thank insurance commissioner Steve Poizner for being here today with us. We want to thank also supervisors Radovich (ph) and Uroslovski (ph) for being here today with us. And, of course, Mayor Villaraigosa is right here.

Thank you so much for coming out here.

And then we also want to thank Sheriff Lee Parker (ph), who is here also. Dennis Emberman (ph) and Senator Badia (ph). And there's many others that are here today. Karen Baker (ph), our secretary, and, you know, the list goes on and on. So, anyway, we want to thank all of them for coming out here.

And I want to thank also the four people that gave us the briefings, Deputy Chief Lake (ph) from Cal Fire, Deputy Chief Tripp from the L.A. County Fire Department, and Rocky Coppinger of the U.S. Forest Service, and Chief Storms (ph) of the LACD (ph) Fire Department. I want to thank them very much. And also from OES, the director, Henry Renteria, want to thank him for his update and, as I already said, Secretary Karen Baker, thank you very much.

Let me just say that I'm very, very proud of the firefighters, because yesterday, when we talked, and we talked throughout the whole day, it looked really bad. But then the firefighters, again, and as I've always said, we have the most experienced, the toughest and the best firefighters in the world. And they've turned this whole thing around. Yesterday we were -- the fire was 5 percent contained. This morning, now it's 70 percent contained. So miracles happened during the night and great, great work was done.

So let me just give you an update here. The Marek Fire details. Four thousand eight hundred acres have burn so far. Seventy percent has been contained. Forty-four buildings have been destroyed. Thirty-eight hundred structures are threatened. And we have one fatality here that has been confirmed.

The evacuation. There have been 1,800 people that were evacuated. Some of them are returning back home again. The multiple shelters have been set up and running. And not only for residents, but also for animals.

The response. We have had 1,300 personnel working on these fires here. One hundred and eight engines and eight helicopters at some point. We're up to 18 helicopters working here.

The Santa Ana winds are very strong. They continue to blow up to 60 miles an hour. And this is, of course, what makes this so dangerous right now because we're facing, again, the perfect storm. Which means very strong winds. We have low humidity and we have heat. So those are the three elements that create then, of course, the kind of fires and makes them sometimes get out of control.

You have, you know, I've declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles County and Ventura County. And we'll continue to ensure that our brave men and women in uniform and our rescue workers and first responders get everything that they need for putting out those fires.

We have also activated the state operations center in Sacramento to improve our coordination and response to these fires and all the other fires burning across this state. If it is Camp Pendleton fire in San Diego County, or if it is the Angel Island fire in Marin County, or the Sesnon fire right here in Los Angeles County.

Now, statewide, let me give you some figures also. There's 26,800 acres that have burned so far. Sixty-four structures were destroyed. We have 3,100 personnel statewide working, including the National Guardsmen and the people from the U.S. Forest Service. Then we have 321 engines and 22 helicopters that are in action right now.

So I want to urge everyone out there living near any fire to follow evacuation orders from local officials. It's very, very important. We continue to closely monitor the situation and we pray for the safety, obviously, of all the firefighters and first responders that are out there so that, you know, nothing happens to them and I think it is important, again, with the coordination.

And I just want to say that -- I want to thank everyone involved in coordinating this because I just got the briefing and one of the most important things always is that the federal government, U.S. Forest Service and the state and the locals, the county and city also coordinate and also the law enforcement and that fire officials are all coordinating with this effort here when it comes to evacuations and so on.

I also want to mention that even though we have had budget problems in our state, and we have an economic slowdown, but we spare not one single dollar when it comes to fighting fires. We're going to use all the money, even if we have to take it from somewhere else. We always will make public safety any protecting the people's lives and protecting the people's properties our number one priority.

And this is why it is important that we responded very quickly to this fire. It was important also that Cal Fire notified me last week and said in the weather report it shows strong winds are coming this weekend. So we moved equipment and resources down to the south from north. So all of this preparation was very important. So I want to thank everyone and I want to thank now and ask Steve Poizner, our insurance commissioner, to come out here and to say a few words because I think . . .

HARRIS: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger now giving us an update on the wildfires racing across southern California right now. Two people killed. Thousands forced to flee their home. Some being aloud, you heard the governor say just moments ago, to return to those homes. The Sesnon fire continues to be a real problem for firefighters. It doubled in size overnight. And just 10 miles way, fire crews are beginning to get the upper hand on the Marek fire. It's burned 148 acres and is 70 percent contained.

We'll take a break an come back with more of CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.


HARRIS: You know, across the country, Americans increasingly desperate about their financial situation take desperate measures. In Los Angeles last week, did you hear this story? A former money manager shoots his wife, his three sons and his mother-in-law before killing himself. In Massachusetts, a housewife, whose house was about to be foreclosed on, shoots herself and leaves her husband the insurance policy and a suicide note on the table.

Unfortunately, there are, what, a dozen stories that we know of about suicide hot lines and so many others are thinking about it. The hot lines overrun it seems. But what can be done to prevent people from reaching this point of desperation? CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us.

Now, you know, it seems to me, we always think, when we're going through these situations, that there is no way out.


HARRIS: That these are the worst of times, forgetting that we said the very same thing the time before.

COHEN: Exactly.

HARRIS: And we came out of it.

COHEN: Exactly. It's so hard to remember that there is, indeed, a way out.

HARRIS: Yes, yes.

COHEN: That is so true. And, you know, unfortunately, when someone gets to the point of contemplating suicide, it has to be the people around them, in many cases, who remember that. Who remember that there is a way out. But oftentimes you don't know that someone's contemplating suicide. So here are a couple of things to watch for.

Look for whether someone you love is withdrawing from friend and family, from things that they love to do. If someone is talking or writing about death or suicide. That's obviously a sign. And if someone's acting reckless, taking a lot of risks they didn't take before, then that's another sign.

And, Tony, we've talked about finding that way out. If you go to, there are specific places that people can go if they're worried that someone they love to going to commit suicide.

HARRIS: OK. So those are signs for you and for me to look for in people that we care about and we love. What are some things that we can do if we're going through the crisis and we're feeling stressed out ourselves?

COHEN: Exactly. Because it's important to note that lots of people are under financial duress and they're not contemplating suicide.

HARRIS: Yes, exactly.

COHEN: So most people, thankfully, have not gotten to that point. But many of us are stressed out about money. So you can take a tip from the Dalai Lama and do what he does to keep unstressed. And that is called compassion meditation. Meditating about 20 minutes a day, four to five time as week, and think good thoughts about people you don't like. The Dalai Lama says this is what keeps his healthy and stress-free.

Another thing can you do, this is so simple, you don't have to learn or sit with your legs crossed like that.

HARRIS: Oh, I love this.

COHEN: Laugh! Yes.

HARRIS: Yes, I love this. I love this.

COHEN: Just laugh. It is shown to increase endorphins. It is shown, like the meditation, to decrease cortisol, which is a stress hormone in the body. Another thing that can do both of those is sex.

HARRIS: I love it. Well, I'm sorry . . .

COHEN: We have pictures here of people laughing. We won't be showing pictures of sex therapy. We just showed laughter therapy. We won't show sex therapy.

HARRIS: That was crazy timing.

COHEN: Yes, crazy timing, but sex can also do those two things, decrease stress hormones, increase endorphins. And so a couple of other things can you think about. Sorry. Yes, so you can pull yourself together. There you go.

HARRIS: I'm in so much jail. Oh, my goodness. Elizabeth, thank you. There's no trouble wide enough, deep enough for me to get out of this hole. All right, Elizabeth, thank you.

Imagine, so much fan mail it takes eight days a week to read it all. You know where I'm going here. So he's just decided to let it be. Was that good?


HARRIS: You know, he's been signing autographs and answering fan mail for 45 years. Keep this in mind, Kyra, 45 years. Ringo Starr says he has had enough. Listen to this.


RICHARD STARKEY, KNOWN AS RINGO STARR, MUSICIAN: Please, after the 20th of October, do not send fan mail to any address that you have. Nothing will be signed after the 20th of October. If that has the date on the envelope, it is going to be tossed. I'm warning you with peace and love, but I have too much to do. So no more fan mail.

Thank you. Thank you.


HARRIS: Now, 45 years of signing autographs, of answering fan mail. This is a guy who's a drummer, that's all he thought he -- he wanted to play music, he didn't buy into all of this -- I've been losing this argument all day today.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Tony, what is he doing with his time? That's what I want to do.


PHILLIPS: ... answer your fan mail. Peace and love --

HARRIS: Peace and love --

PHILLIPS: -- buzz off. That's not very loving.

HARRIS: Buzz off.

It isn't. I have a soft spot for it, because I just think that after all these years, and all of the fan mail, it's just -- the man might want a little bit of a break. He probably didn't win himself any new fans with tihs.

PHILLIPS: It is the fans that kept him alive, kept buying his music. Kept him -- you know -- it's where he is now because of his fan base.

HARRIS: All right. Well you answer all of your e-mail, OK?

PHILLIPS: OK. I'll send you a love letter.

HARRIS: The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Kyra Phillips.