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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS
President-elect's Economic Recovery Package Running Into Some Hurdles; Israel Paused Fighting For a Few Hours to Let People Get Supplies, But It Is No Ceasefire; 2008 Was Worst Year For Workers Since 1945; FBI Looking Into Fatal Shooting in New Orleans
Aired January 10, 2009 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And from the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNNG for January -- what's today? January what? The 10th now?
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: The 10th. Yes, all day long.
HOLMES: Oh, yes. All day, yes. Early in the year, I don't even know what the date is already.
But good morning to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.
NGUYEN: Hello, everybody. The "Breakfast of Champions" which is what you had today?
NGUYEN: Folks, don't eat it. It doesn't work apparently.
NGUYEN: But here is what we are working on this morning. Issue number one, that, of course, being the economy. The president-elect's economic recovery package is running into more hurdles.
HOLMES: Also, we're keeping an eye on what's happening in the Middle East. That story continues to developing. The fighting stopped for a few hours. Israel is actually giving folk there a chance to access much-need humanitarian supplies.
NGUYEN: Also, it's an end of an era -- oh, how we miss some of those special phrases from the commander-in-chief.
NGUYEN: Well, they call this Bushisms?
HOLMES: The Bushisms. Strategery. You know, stuff like that.
NGUYEN: The Internets.
HOLMES: Yes. We're going to take a look back at some of our favorite Bushisms. You know, he's got a few more days left. We got to have one more time.
NGUYEN: There may be a few between now and this.
HOLMES: Yes, still have ...
NGUYEN: We'll be on the lookout for it.
NGUYEN: In the meantime, though, we do want to start with the economy and more indications of harder times to come. Stocks will open for trading on Monday after a disappointing close yesterday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 143 points, losing 1.6 percent of its value and nearly 5 percent for the week, which was the worst week since November.
HOLMES: And meanwhile, Robert Rubin, senior adviser to Citigroup says he will resign. Citigroup shares had finished down nearly 6 percent. Critics say the former treasury secretary should have taken a more active role in preventing the bank's problems.
And, of course, we just saw yesterday a jobs report. Another horrible one, we saw yesterday: 524,000 jobs lost in the month of December. That brings last year's total to 2.6 million jobs gone. The worst year for workers since 1945.
We want to talk more about those job loss figures now. CNN's Mary Snow is taking a look at who's losing in these recessionary times.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest casualties of the weakening economy show just how widespread the losses are. Aircraft-maker Boeing is slashing 4,500 jobs. World Wrestling Entertainment is no match for the recession, cutting 10 percent of its workforce.
The layoffs come on the heels of the worst yearly unemployment levels since 1945. In 2008, nearly 2.6 million jobs were shed. That's roughly the population of Nevada. More than half a million were cut in December.
MICHELE GIRARD, RBS GREENWICH CAPITAL: At the first sign of weakness, firms are quick to shed workers. And I think, in this case, a lot of it is coming in anticipation of perhaps further weakening in 2009.
SNOW: The unemployment rate now stands at 7.2 percent, and that's not including the millions of people who have given up looking for work, and millions more who've been forced to cut back their hours or work part-time.
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT-ELECT: Clearly, the situation is dire.
SNOW: President-elect Obama warned, the unemployment rate could reach double digits. Economist Michele Girard doesn't think it could get that high, but says it could reach 8.5 percent.
GIRARD: I think we're going to continue to see declines in the manufacturing sector, the auto sector is going to remain under pressure, and I think we're going to continue to see mounting job losses there.
SNOW: And it may come as no surprise that Michigan, the home of the auto industry, has the highest unemployment rate in the country, followed by Rhode Island, California, South Carolina, Oregon, Nevada and Washington, D.C. On the reverse side, Wyoming has the lowest unemployment rate, followed by North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Utah.
Bucking the trend of massive layoffs: healthcare. Recruitment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports 317,000 new jobs last year.
JOHN CHALLENGER, CHALLENGER, GRAY & CHRISTMAS CEO: Those are jobs in medical practices, doctors' offices, hospitals, even pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment companies, that's the area of the economy that's really been the bulwark through this economic storm.
SNOW: And the sector hurt the most, according to Challenger, was the financial industry, which shed 260,000 jobs in 2008.
(on camera): The concern now is that the next wave of layoffs could come from retailers, following dismal sales during the holiday season. Compounding their problems, as the unemployment rate rises, consumers keep tightening their spending.
Mary Snow, CNN, New York.
HOLMES: Of course, the president-elect has been talking about the economy and talking about his plan to stimulate the economy and hoping to give it a boost, and to add a whole lot of jobs. He's talking about that in today's weekly radio address. And he mentioned a report that he's just now getting from his top economic advisers.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Today, I'm releasing a report of their findings, so that the American people can see exactly what this plan will mean for their families, their communities, and our economy. The report confirms that our plan will likely save or create 3 million to 4 million new jobs. Ninety percent of these jobs will be created in the private sector. The remaining 10 percent are mainly public sector jobs we save, like the teachers, police officers, firefighters, and others who provide vital services in our communities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Again, that was a part of the president-elect's radio address, even though you did see him there on video. He's been releasing those over the Internet, so we do see him in that video. In a half hour, we're going to ask our deputy political director, Paul Steinhauser, about the politics of getting the economic stimulus plan quickly through Congress.
NGUYEN: Let's take you to the Middle East now where we have some relative quiet. Israel announced that they are going to stand down for three hours. That so-called lull started one hour ago.
HOLMES: Yes, it follows some intense fighting as both sides decide to ignore a call for a cease-fire. And just a short time ago, CNN senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, sent us a report from the Israeli-Gaza border. Right now, as we just mentioned, it's all -- it's kind of all quiet right now in Gaza because of that three-hour lull, hoping to quite things down, to allow some humanitarian supplies to get to people.
But again, this report from our Nic Robertson where he had a good view of the new attacks that were being launched by Israel.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, overnight, we've been able to see tanks moving in, more tanks moving into the Gaza Strip. Also, we've been able to see the light of the towns behind me, the Jabalia refugee camp, Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahia, the lights that have been on through the past week now have gone off. The U.N. had said before that 75 percent of the Gaza Strip was without electricity. Now, it appears that even more have lost power.
What we have seen in that time as well overnight is an increase in military activity, more towards the sea. In the Beit Lahia area, we've seen hellfire missile strikes fired from helicopters; we've heard jet fighters fly overhead dropping missiles. We've seen -- we've heard and seen artillery being fired into that area and heavy machine gunfire as well.
Also, we've seen a rocket fired out of Gaza into the nearby town of Sderot. A big flash coming up when it impacted. That rocket is very likely fired by Hamas or one of its affiliates.
What Israel says it's been doing over the past 24 hours is targeting Hamas leaders. They say in over 70 strikes, they have killed more than 20 Hamas militants. They have targeted three houses belonging to Hamas commanders, they say. They say that the houses had weapons supplies in them.
The phase of the fighting right now is still what Israel describes as the second phase, phase two. But the question right now for the Israeli defense forces: Do they push deeper into the cities and risk further military and civilian casualties, or do they stay on the outskirts of the towns and risk Hamas taking a military advantage by knowing where the troops are, by getting used to their routines, by picking up on their weaknesses in those locations?
But in all of this, the U.N. is desperate to get more food aid in. They say they will be considering, right now, restarting their food supplies if they believe that they can thrust an Israeli military cease-fire. More than 750,000 people in Gaza rely on the U.N. for their food supplies. The death toll there now stands at almost 800 Palestinians killed, more than 200 of them children.
The humanitarian situation described there to us by the U.N. and by non-governmental organizations who are trying to help in the aid relief for the Gaza Strip, they say the situation is very desperate. They say the things most needed right now are fuel for generators in particular, for the main hospital in Gaza City.
Nic Robertson, CNN, on the Gaza/Israel border.
NGUYEN: Well, Israel is controlling access to Gaza, keeping journalists from crossing the border. A little bit later this hour, I'm going to talk to one of the directors of Reporters Without Borders and our own Ben Wedeman, who's been on the Gaza border to find out what they are doing to try to break down those barriers.
In the meantime, though, groups of pro-Palestinian demonstrators took to the streets in several cities on Friday. Take a look. Police clashed with protesters in a couple of cities like Nairobi, Kenya. They were trying to keep demonstrators away from the Israeli embassy.
Now, the Israeli embassy was also the target of anti-Israel and anti-U.S. protests in Athens, Greece. We also saw marches in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Pro-Palestinian groups are also planning a march on London again today, and we're going to bring you live pictures of that event a little bit later this morning.
HOLMES: The vice president-to-be, Joe Biden, in Afghanistan today. He arrived there from Pakistan. Pakistan's president told Biden his nation was committed to battling terrorism. In Afghanistan, Biden and Senator Lindsey Graham are meeting with U.S. military commanders and Afghan officials. Biden says he's making the trip as a U.S. senator and not as the vice president-elect.
Well, pirates have released a Saudi-owned oil supertanker being held hostage off the coast of Somalia. The pirates agreed to set Syria Star free after ransom money they demanded was parachuted in. Here is a shot of it. This was taken by the U.S. military.
But some interesting ways and methods having to be used sometime to deal with these pirates, and that's one of them. They had to parachute the money onto the deck of the ship. This ends a two-month ordeal for about 25 crew members who were being held captive.
The pirates initially delayed releasing the ship after a boat carrying part of the ransom and five gang members capsized. Four pirates died in the accident. Some of the money was lost at sea.
We'll turn now to a story that's making news out of New Orleans about a young man, a 22-year-old, who came home for the New Year holiday and tragedy ensued. Again, this was in New Orleans. NGUYEN: And just hours later, he was shot to death by police a dozen times in the back. Now, the FBI is investigating.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And take a look at your forecast. We're seeing, possibly, some heavy snowfall through the Midwest and into the Northeast. Meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest, the rain is slowing down, but what is coming down is not just some snowfall but parts of hillsides.
Take a look at this video. Some mudslides and some snowslides. It's a rough mess there, and a big blast of cold weather is expected for much of the nation.
That's coming up in a few moments. You're watching CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
NGUYEN: Five young men are spending the weekend in the hospital after bullets began flying outside a high school in Chicago's South Side. Police say the shots were fired after people left a basketball game. Police say the shooting appears to be gang-related, and security cameras at the scene are providing some good leads.
HOLMES: We turn to another police shooting, we often see these police shootings, sometimes justified and unjustified, but there's a case that's calling some outrage in New Orleans. And FBI is actually looking at this one because a man was shot, a black man shot in the back by police at least a dozen times.
NGUYEN: As CNN's Sean Callebs reports, the incident happened just after Adolph Grimes had come home to New Orleans.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As fireworks exploded near the French Quarter on New Year's Eve, 22-year-old Adolph Grimes, or Chris as he's known to his family, just pulled up to his grandmother's New Orleans home after a five-hour drive from Houston.
ADOLPH GRIMES JR., VICTIM'S FATHER: He made it for 12:00 o'clock exactly, just seconds to spare.
CALLEBS: A scant three hours later, he lay dying on the sidewalk, a half a block from his grandmother's front door. Fireworks giving way to the hue of flashing police lights. The Orleans parish coroner says Grimes was shot 14 times, including 12 times in the back.
PATRICIA GRIMES, VICTIM'S MOTHER: The violence has to stop. My child's death will not be meaningless.
CALLEBS: And Grimes didn't die at the hand of common street thugs. He was shot and killed by New Orleans police officers. The family wants to know why. Why cops descended on a young man with no police record who works for a phone company and teaches Bible study in Houston? (on camera): Have the police told you anything?
P. GRIMES: No. I know just as much as you know.
CALLEBS (voice-over): The police department won't release the names of the officers involved or the shooting report, saying the investigation is ongoing. But Police Superintendent Warren Riley says Grimes shot at police first when plain clothes officers surrounded Grimes' car. Riley says officers are trained to fire when fired upon and fire more than one shot.
The FBI is now investigating, following a request from the Grimes family.
WARREN RILEY, NEW ORLEANS POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: We think that the family should do everything they can, to make sure that this investigation is as thorough and complete as possible, so that they know the truth.
CALLEBS: Grimes had a gun, and a legal permit to carry the weapon. Authorities also say they found a shotgun in the car's trunk. The family says that's not true, and so far police have not produced the weapon.
The 22-year-old, according to family members, had just walked out the front door and was in a car waiting for his cousin when the shooting started. Grimes' relatives don't believe for a minute that he opened fire first.
ROBERT JENKINS, GRIMES' FAMILY ATTORNEY: He collapsed right here.
CALLEBS: And the family attorney believes the investigation will show rogue cops and sloppy police work.
JENKINS: We know the FBI is going to do a full and complete investigation. And we're hoping that criminal charges brought against all of these officers for the execution of this kid.
CALLEBS: It doesn't make sense, the family says over and over -- a young man who has never been arrested, or in trouble with the law, a loving father with a good job. A grieving mother and father say they won't be silenced. And say they are not worried about a code of silence among officers, the so-called "blue wall."
A. GRIMES: The wall is going to come down just like the walls of Jericho came down.
NGUYEN: Nine police officers involved in the incident have been assigned to desk duty while the case is under investigation.
HOLMES: A Boston firefighter is dead after his ladder truck crashed into an apartment building. You're taking a look at the scene there. Officials say the truck was returning from a routine call when it came down a steep hill and slammed into the building. Four other firefighters and also some children were in that building. They were hurt.
NGUYEN: Well, President Bush's term coming to a close and so are the term limits on Bushisms. We're going to take a look back at some of his more memorable quotes.
HOLMES: There are a lot of them.
NGUYEN: It's going to be good.
HOLMES: I don't even know.
HOLMES: Betty, we have a situation in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
NGUYEN: Yes, we do.
HOLMES: That is our Wolf Blitzer. I don't think ...
NGUYEN: Look at him, he's got few moves.
HOLMES: I don't know if that's his song, though.
NGUYEN: "Apple Bottom Jeans."
HOLMES: Yes. Wolf and any song with the lyrics: Apple Bottom Jeans, boots with the fur ...
NGUYEN: Boots with the fur.
HOLMES: ... is going to go together. But that's our man, Wolf Blitzer, and we love him. And you're going to see him like we've never seen him before. Stay here.
NGUYEN: All right. Our man Wolf Blitzer ...
HOLMES: We love him.
NGUYEN: ... on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Check him out. Well, he's got a few moves. Look at that. Nice. Oh, getting low. Wolf, go.
HOLMES: Oh. I wonder if he's ever heard that song before.
NGUYEN: I don't know. You think he's got some apple bottom jeans?
HOLMES: He probably has ...
NGUYEN: Boots with fur? I don't think so.
HOLMES: You know, we know Wolf like that. But Wolf is a hip guy. I mean, he is a hip guy that ...
WOLF: Is he listening to -- is he listening to the music or listening to the words? (INAUDIBLE) he's doing with that dance there.
NGUYEN: He's probably going with the groove.
HOLMES: I think he's just watching Ellen.
WOLF: Look, he affected the tape. It was so good.
HOLMES: He still wants to go at it.
NGUYEN: Wait until the inaugural ball? Can (INAUDIBLE), he is going to tear it up.
WOLF: You know, all things considered, though, you have to -- you have to give it to him. He did a fine job. The bar is set pretty low.
WOLF: So, for him to do this, it's -- you know, you got to give him props. It's a good thing.
HOLMES: OK. This is our guy, there was Ellen DeGeneres, as you see, she always has her guests come out and dance. We've seen -- actually, we've seen Obama do this. Did Hillary dance?
NGUYEN: Yes. Michelle Obama came out and danced as well.
HOLMES: What about Senator Clinton, did she dance when she's on it (ph)?
NGUYEN: I don't remember seeing her dance.
HOLMES: I can't remember her dancing, either. But this is a show ...
NGUYEN: But Wolf Blitzer did.
HOLMES: This will air on Monday.
NGUYEN: Check him out, he is still going. HOLMES: Wolf (ph) just keeps going. But this will air on Monday. He sat down with her. The show has been taped. But it'll air on Monday if you want to check it out and want to see that again.
WOLF: We got to keep talking to him. He's got a pop (ph), you know, he's got a move. He's got to, you know, to do a little move.
NGUYEN: What was that, Reynolds?
WOLF: It's going to happen again.
WOLF: We don't want, you know, Wolf Blitzer howling, that kind of thing.
NGUYEN: And pulled something there. OK.
WOLF: Maybe later on, it's going to be a long morning.
HOLMES: All right, Reynolds.
NGUYEN: All right.
HOLMES: We will see you again here shortly, buddy.
HOLMES: We will talk about as well, President Bush. He'll be remembered for a whole lot of things, a lot he did in office ...
HOLMES: ... a lot of policy decisions and whatnot. But perhaps, most for some of the unusual words and the way he used some of his words.
NGUYEN: Well, a group of language monitors in his home state of Texas has compiled a list of the top 15 Bushisms.
HOLMES: This will be good.
NGUYEN: I can't wait. CNN's Josh Levs runs them down.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hear the voices.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are plenty to choose from, whether on his description ...
BUSH: I'm the decider.
LEVS: ... or his computer savvy ...
BUSH: I hear there's rumors on the Internets. One of the things I use on the Google is to pull up maps.
LEVS: Or his thoughts on education.
BUSH: Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning.
LEVS: That was President Bush making fun of one of his own unique terms of phrase. Of all the so-called Bushisms, which is number one? The Global Language Monitor tracks which studies trends in English language tracked how often some different quotes showed up in the media and on blogs. At number three, a remark about a man widely blamed for part of the government's failure during Hurricane Katrina.
BUSH: And Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.
LEVS: Number two is something the president didn't actually say. The "mission accomplished" banner that flew behind him when he was declaring the end of major combat in Iraq. The president recently told CNN he regret it.
BUSH: To some, it said, well, "Bush thinks the war in Iraq is over," when I didn't think that.
LEVS: The most quoted Bushism of all time? Misunderestimate -- which the president tried to stop saying.
BUSH: Those who think that they can say we're only going to have a stimulus package, let's forget tax relief misunderestimate -- excuse me, underestimate.
LEVS: Not everything made the Global Language Monitor's list. There are other gems including peeance freeance, a cult favorite online.
BUSH: A free and secure and peaceful Iraq. A peeance, freeance, secure Iraq.
LEVS: While he's taking ribbing and criticism for his linguistic gaffes, the president has joked about them like comparing himself to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
BUSH: We both have trouble with the English language.
LEVS (on camera): Mr. Bush will remain one of the most prominent figures in America, but with the end of his presidency, the Global Language Monitor says it's time to declare an end to the era of Bushisms. Josh Levs, CNN, Atlanta.
NGUYEN: That's good stuff there.
HOLMES: Yes. What's your favorite?
NGUYEN: Strategery, I believe.
NGUYEN: Decider, I mean, there are so many good ones.
HOLMES: Decider, that's good. He was always given a hard time for saying nucular, and not nuclear.
NGUYEN: Yes. Right.
HOLMES: But there are a lot, we're going to miss those. All right.
NGUYEN: I'm sure there will be a book or -- I think there is already a book out of Bushisms.
HOLMES: I believe so, that there should be.
We will turn back now to what's happening in the Middle East. We showed you this picture a short time ago which showed calm. But now, we just saw a short time ago and looking at this live picture out of Gaza, an explosion. And you see the smoke going into the air now.
Now, this is significant. We've seen two weeks, of course, of air strikes, and back-and-forth between Hamas militants and Israeli military, but this was supposed to be one of those lulls in the fighting. They give these little windows, if you will, these few hours to allow for humanitarian supplies to move in and out, and for people, actually, in Gaza to come out and get what they need. However, it appears that that three-hour lull in the fighting did not hold.
We will check in to see exactly what's happening right there and what's behind this smoke that we're seeing in Gaza. But stay with us. We are monitoring that situation this morning.
NGUYEN: Reporters Without Borders, they are trying to get into Gaza. Israel, though, keeping journalists at arms length and largely away from the offensive, but not out of harm's way.
NGUYEN: Well, good morning, everybody, on this Saturday. I'm Betty Nguyen.
HOLMES: And hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes, glad you could be with us here on this Saturday morning. We'll turn to some weather now of the severe variety. A lot of it slamming states across the country right now.
We'll turn to Wisconsin first. Snow reduced traffic there to a crawl after the state got buried under about eight inches of snow yesterday. Plows were working throughout the night to try to clear those roads. Those don't look too clear, however. A lot more snow is expected today.
We'll turn to Ohio now. A fleet of snowplows is piling up sand as well. Preparations continued in Cleveland for heavy snow that's expected to fall throughout the night. New York City and New Jersey are also bracing for some bad weather.
Well, from heavy snow to mudslides, and severe flooding in Washington State. Coast guard rescued people trapped in their homes after five days of heavy rain that triggered severe flooding and mudslides across that state. Hundreds of families had to be evacuated.
Also, 18 counties and 13 cities had to declare emergencies. Authorities closed 20 miles of the freeway between Seattle and Oregon while they assessed that damage there.
Reynolds Wolf, where do you even start? There's a lot going on. And I understand from a lot of this, a lot more to come.
WOLF: Yes, you want to start in the Pacific Northwest?
HOLMES: Sure. Whatever you want, man.
WOLF: Great news, great news.
HOLMES: Good news, OK.
WOLF: Good news. And the best news in parts of the Pacific Northwest is those river levels are going to start dropping. So, that's great news for them. However, although the situation is going to be improving at that part of the world, out to the east, they're going to be seeing more snow begin to pop up. And places like the Ohio Valley where it could get especially deep.
Right now, take a look at where the snow is forming, mainly south of Milwaukee, right across parts of Lake Michigan, into Chicago, and into Detroit. We are looking at the potential of anywhere from three to six inches of snowfall, upwards of six to 10. Southward of Toledo area, back over to Cleveland, you might see some isolated places that may get up to a foot or so of snowfall. And then, as we make our way back to New York City, I say anywhere from three to seven inches of snowfall possible. The highest elevations, as you can imagine, that's where you're going to see the heaviest snowfall.
Right now in New York, we have the cloudy skies. We also have a live image for you of Lady Liberty. Here's the shot of her. It looks pretty good for the time being but we're going to be seeing the snow begin to pick up in to the midday hours and last through tomorrow afternoon.
Let's go back to the weather computer. And as we do so, there it is the heavy snowfall right now along parts of Cleveland, back along 80. Places like the Pennsylvania Turnpike, if you have to make that drive today, be careful. It's going to be a rough time for you. So, we got the snow. We've been talking about mudslides.
Something else we're going to be dealing with is quite a bit of cold. It doesn't look bad right now: 17 degrees in Minneapolis; 32 in Kansas City; 48 in Seattle.
But look at what's ahead. We've got some big changes taking place mainly up in Alaska. A lot of polar air is building up. Some changes in jet stream is going to create a trough in the eastern half of the country. That's going to allow a lot of cold air to move in to parts of the Midwest as we make our way into next week.
In fact, proof of the pudding, take a look at the Twin Cities. Their temperatures, daytime highs and lows, notice these, going to one degree by Wednesday of next week with lows, nighttime lows dropping to 14 degrees below zero. That does not even factor in the winds. We are talking about conditions that may feel as cold as 30 below.
So, again, certainly, some cold times ahead. We'll be talking about that coming up in a few moments, plus that snow, and many issues for millions of people.
OK, T.J., let's send it back to you.
HOLMES: All right. We appreciate you, kind sir. We'll see you again here shortly.
WOLF: You bet.
NGUYEN: Well, there are plenty of developments in the Middle East this morning. Here's what's happening right now: Israel launched new air strikes and tank attacks taking aim at Hamas positions. Hamas, meanwhile, fired more rockets into southern Israel.
Also, Israel has announced that it will stand down for three hours today. They say it's so Palestinian civilians can stock up on much-needed supplies, and agencies say three hours isn't enough time for them to help all the people that actually need it.
We're taking you to Egypt now. In fact, official there are meeting in separate peace talks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in Egypt for the talks and is calling for an international force in Gaza.
Let's take you now to CNN's Ben Wedeman, who joins us on the phone from the Gaza/Israeli border.
Ben, we are looking at live pictures coming out of Gaza. We're supposed to be in that three-hour halt in fighting, but we're seeing black smoke rising to the skies. What's happening there, do you know? VOICE OF BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Betty. In fact, this lull is an hour and a half old but it does seem the Israeli air force is continuing to hit scattered parts of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army has made clear in the past that it will engage in military activity during this three-hour lull if it is fired upon or if it has reason to engage in hostilities.
Now, this is a time that will allow the people of Gaza to get out of their homes because many are really just prisoners of their own homes, to go out, resupply, get bread, bury the dead, go to the hospital if they need to.
In fact, I was on the phone just a little while ago with an old friend in Gaza who told me that they really are stuck in their homes. They can't go out. It's very dangerous in the streets.
They really have just this very brief period every day during which they can find food. But most of the stores are closed. Some of the bakeries are still operating, but it's clearly a difficult situation inside.
As far as the situation on the ground goes, we do know that four or five rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. In fact, one of our satellite crews was just 40 meters from a gas station, very close to where we are, when a Qassam rocket hit there. No injuries in that case. But clearly, despite the fact we are now into the third week of this Israeli operation, the militants inside Gaza are still able to fire those rockets -- Betty?
NGUYEN: Well, Ben, let me ask you something very quickly. If Israel reserves the right to fire into Gaza during this three-hour halt in the fighting there, are Palestinians actually venturing out to get those supplies or are they fearful?
WEDEMAN: They are very fearful. But they realize that that three hours is their best chance to resupply. And so, they, basically, if they don't want to starve to death, they have to take the risk to go out of their homes.
Now, because we are not inside Gaza, we can't really report on a kind of neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis on what's going on, because there are areas where there is little if no fighting at all. But, certainly, in the northern end of the Gaza Strip, where the area we're looking at, I can see lots of smoke, black smoke, white smoke so clearly, the hostilities continue despite this lull -- Betty?
NGUYEN: Yes. All right. CNN's Ben Wedeman joining us by phone.
Covering the conflict in Gaza is challenging for journalists right now, as you hear from Ben. He can't get into the Gaza Strip. Well, Israeli authorities won't let them in so they actually have to cover from a distance.
And an organization called Reporters Without Borders is trying to change that. Herve Deguine is the general secretary in charge of international relations for the organization and he joins us now live from Paris, France.
Herve, let me ask you this. What is your organization doing at this moment to try to get into Gaza?
HERVE DEGUINE, REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: Well, first of all, we have pressed the Israeli government to respect the decision of the Supreme Court to let journalists come in. Second, we launched two days ago a campaign collecting the support of international media to, again, put pressure on the Israeli government. We consider this is completely unacceptable that the press is not allowed to come in.
We know it's very dangerous for the journalists to go into Gaza, but we know as well that it's even more dangerous to ban the press to do its job and to report on what's happening on the Gaza Strip.
NGUYEN: But you don't think Israel has responsibility to say, "It is dangerous in there, and so we are not going to allow you into a situation where there is heavy fighting"?
DEGUINE: Well, as you rightly pointed out before, there is not war everywhere in Gaza. Parts of the strip are relatively safe at the moment. So there's no reason to put a ban on all of the Gaza Strip. This is the first point.
Second point, I think journalists are very well-experienced. They know what war is, in particular in the Gaza Strip. So, they can make up their mind. And third, sooner or later, the Israeli will have to let the press come in. So, it doesn't make sense to ban the press now.
Having said that, the threat does not only come from the Israeli army, it also comes from Hamas. The Hamas, in the past, have not support very strongly -- have not supported very strongly press freedom, and I doubt that if the press comes in, it will be allowed by Hamas to investigate everything the press wants.
NGUYEN: Yes, it's going to be difficult on all sides. But right now, with only Palestinian reporters inside Gaza -- I mean, isn't that really affecting Israel's image, because by not getting reporters in there, we are only seeing one side of the conflict?
DEGUINE: Yes and no. You know, Palestinian journalists, they are first of all journalists. And I must say they are very good journalists in most of the case. They do their job very well.
Now, of course, they are journalists and they are Palestinians. Their own families are suffering from the situation. So, it's very difficult to ask them to be impartial, objective and neutral.
To some extent, it's true that that gives an unbalanced information on the situation. But, OK, that depends on the Israeli policy. This is why we think this is their interest to let the press do its job.
NGUYEN: All right. Herve Deguine with Reporters Without Borders, thanks so much for your time and insight this morning. We do appreciate it.
DEGUINE: Thank you.
HOLMES: Well, as we know and have been reporting on here, the U.S. economy is in recession. How are we handling it? We got a consumer adviser and advocate, coming up. We'll tell you what he is suggesting. Some of it may surprise you.
Also, guess who's coming to dinner and staying -- for a while? Yes, fellows, how would you feel if your mother-in-law was moving in?
NGUYEN: Don't say it like that.
HOLMES: I'm just saying.
HOLMES: Ah, the nation's capital -- right there. That's where we will see Barack Obama in days, preparations being made there for the presidential inauguration. It's being gone on for a bit now.
As many as 4 million people, by some estimates, could be in D.C. for the inauguration of Barack Obama. Again, that's one week from this coming Tuesday. That will be on January 20th.
Meanwhile, the president-elect says his plan to pull the economy out of recession will save or create 3 million to 4 million jobs now, and he wants Congress to act quickly. Will they?
CNN deputy political director, Paul Steinhauser, is joining us from Washington.
Paul, he was talking about he wanted to have this stimulus package on his desk by the time he took office. Doesn't look like that's going to happen but still he's putting a lot of pressure on Congress and also making his -- he already has that bully pulpit and he's already making a case.
So, what's the chance of something happening quickly?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. He used it the other day, on Thursday, with that big speech. He used it again this morning.
He's not going to have it on his desk come January 20th, but maybe soon after. I think starting this week, coming up, Congress will start marking up a bill. Maybe, the week after, they'll start voting on it in committee.
And you probably have full votes in the House and the Senate in early February. Because -- listen, even though members of Congress and President-elect Obama don't see eye-to-eye in everything in this bill, they do agree on one thing, T.J., things need to get done and done quickly. As you mentioned, 3 million to 4 million jobs, that's what you heard this morning from the president-elect in his radio and YouTube address. But, in that address, T.J., he also talked about this being a very tough road ahead. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Now, given the magnitude of the challenges we face, none of this will come easy. Recovery won't happen overnight, and it's likely that things will get worse before they get better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEINHAUSER: Here's another interesting thing, T.J., no rubber stamp from Congress. You know what? Even members of his own party -- they are pushing back. That is really fascinating. Democrats in Congress have some problems with some of the provisions. I think they want less in tax cuts and maybe more in spending on the infrastructure.
And one other thing, T.J., just another sign of how important this is, members of Congress tomorrow, Senate Democrats and members of the Obama team are going to meet. They are working on a weekend, not just us. That's how important it is.
HOLMES: Yes, that's -- you know it's serious when we got Congress on a weekend.
HOLMES: I'm kidding. The guys work hard, I'm sure.
Well, it's not as if Barack Obama doesn't have enough on his plate already with the economy, two wars, he's about to take over the free world. And his mother-in-law is moving in. Now, that -- some guys out there just cringed when they heard that. I'm sure she's a lovely woman.
But tell us this -- the mother-in-law is moving to the White House.
STEINHAUSER: Yes, Jessica Yellin getting it from transition officials. They made it official. We've been hearing about this and talking about this for a while, but they're making it official. Marian Robinson will be moving into the White House. They are not saying how long she's going to stay.
Not the first time, but the first time in a while. I guess it was Harry Truman's mother-in-law -- that was the last time you had a mother-in-law living in the White House for an extended period of time. But, yes, Michelle Obama's mom is coming.
HOLMES: And just -- and we understand, during the campaign, we saw her, we see her there in some video but she was out certainly there, and helped steer these young -- the two daughters, the young daughters. And she might be there to help out once again.
STEINHAUSER: Exactly. The two daughters are starting school at a new school, and I think she's there to help them and Michelle get through some interesting transitions of their own.
HOLMES: All right. And again, I'm making mother-in-law jokes. But still ...
STEINHAUSER: Be careful, be careful.
HOLMES: I'm sure she's a lovely woman. I'm just teasing everybody.
All right. Paul Steinhauser, good to see you, buddy. See you again soon.
NGUYEN: That could get you into trouble, T.J. Watch it.
OK. One of the biggest threats to America's future could be our ever-growing deficit. In this two-hour special event, CNN will air the highly regard and explained documentary, "IOU.S.A." Plus, we'll break it down with some of America's top economic minds. It's today at 2:00 and tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it.
You know, the game is over, now all that's left is the shouting and the arguing about who should be the national champ.
HOLMES: And you got some shouting.
HOLMES: And we haven't been hearing you shout a little bit over the past ...
NGUYEN: My Longhorns, what can I say? What more can I say?
HOLMES: Calm yourself, please.
HOLMES: Rick Horrow is going to be coming up to discuss that. As you see there, Rick is wearing some of the gear from my alma mater, University of Arkansas ...
RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST: Yes.
HOLMES: ... which took out Texas on the hardwood this week, Betty Buff.
NGUYEN: OK. But we're talking football.
HOLMES: Yes. (INAUDIBLE). HORROW: Yes, we are. We're talking football. I'll be ready for you.
NGUYEN: All right.
HOLMES: All right. We'll see you, Rick, in just a second.
HORROW: All right.
HOLMES: All right. I tell you what -- this is how we're going to do this. Let's just -- just go ahead and take the live picture. Let's go ahead and take the picture of our guest here. Let's just go ahead and see this.
NGUYEN: My goodness.
HOLMES: Ladies and gentlemen, that's ...
NGUYEN: This is a man with a degree from where? Harvard?
HOLMES: Harvard. And he is wearing a Razorback hat. And I appreciate the efforts. I always love to get my alma mater in there.
But, Rick, good morning to you, sir. Explain.
HORROW: Good morning. Let's just get this out of the way real quick, OK? Career Sports Entertainment out of Little Rock doing a pilot of the show. And I checked up on you, you're famous in your own mind, but we got the Razorbacks stuff.
Sixty-eight teams went to the bowl games this year, and, you, my friend, were not one of them. So, we'll take this off.
HORROW: I know Betty is kind of upset how Texas fared in the BCS.
NGUYEN: Kind of upset? We got robbed.
HORROW: But, you know, the fact that she says she got robbed, Utah said they got robbed.
HORROW: Barack Obama says maybe southern California as well, as being a good politician. But the bottom line is, we have the BCS system, we'll have it for a long time. Scrap it and stop complaining. That's the way it's going to be.
HOLMES: OK, but it did -- it kind of worked this year, though. I mean, there's been some worse years that it didn't work. But, at least you had two people, or two teams that people thought were number one and two the best in country who got to play.
Yes, we know Utah didn't lose a game, but they play in the WAC. That's what it is. It's the WAC, the WAC conference out there.
So, the system kind of worked this year, didn't it, Rick?
HORROW: Well, you just lost your Utah viewers, you know, such as they are. And the bottom line is, the system work -- except for your buddy over there who claims she got robbed. And, of course, the system works to generate controversy. Since 1954, there had been 11 split national championships, even with the voting. So, there is going to be no perfect system.
But the bottom line is we have a playoff system in sorts because people always speculate. It's $6 billion business.
HORROW: It's good for college football, and there were 34 bowls. The economies of those communities have been helped.
HORROW: And even if there's controversy, it's dollars.
HOLMES: It's all about dollars.
But also, we have heard, at least two times in the not too distant past, from the president-elect about this issue. Even the president is talking about the BCS. Let's listen to what he just had to say a couple days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Congratulations to Florida. I have to point out -- if I'm Utah, if I'm USC, or I'm Texas, I may still have some quibbles, and you've heard my pitch. That's why we need a playoff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: All right. Again, the president-elect, advocating for a playoff. And he mentioned Utah there.
Utah is playing the Western Atlantic Conference, not so strong of a conference as the SEC allows, the big ones. The Utah attorney general now is talking about he wants to investigate, possibly filed a suit against this system, the Bowl Championship System, for possible antitrust laws. Now, a couple things people ask. One, does he have a case, and two, does he not have anything better to do?
HORROW: Probably not, and maybe not in Utah.
HOLMES: Oh. HORROW: And you know, the bottom line of all this is, with all due respect to the president-elect, is he still running? You know, that's three states he wants to pick up with that.
Here's the thing -- and by the way, for Betty's purposes, a Texas legislature introduced a bill claiming the BCS is deceptive in advertising. Why? Because her team wasn't in it. And so, I don't think there's a chance, by the way, of actually changing it. A lot of rhetoric and the bottom line is, as long as the system is there today, it's going to stay that way, because of the money.
Now, there is a thought about taking all of the teams at the end of the bowls and having a special week where the top two at the end of the bowls play for the national championship. Maybe Texas had a shot, but you also had Utah and Southern Cal and Florida, who all came off great wins who deserved it. At least, the controversy in that case, guys, is shifted to January instead of December.
HOLMES: All right. Rick Horrow, always good to see you. Nice touch with the Razorback hat, we appreciate it.
HORROW: Thank you, and congratulations. You are a hero in Little Rock, at least in your own mind, pal.
HOLMES: All right.
NGUYEN: You've already said that once, Rick.
HOLMES: Stay out of Little Rock.
HOLMES: All right, Rick.
NGUYEN: Put the hat back on. The nose, it really suits you well.
NGUYEN: All right. So, he's a favorite money adviser telling all of us the hard truths about this upcoming year and our money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARK HOWARD, FINANCIAL EXPERT: This year is all about the hard reset button on how we handle our wallets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Yes, a hard reset. I talked to him just yesterday. And he's talking about we party too hard. He actually used those terms. We party too hard.
NGUYEN: And spent too much, yes.
HOLMES: Now, it's time for us once again to create a safety net. You don't want to miss what he has to say. That's coming up.
HOLMES: Millions laid off, millions more afraid they will lose their jobs. What should you do during these tough economic times? Well, Clark Howard, a consumer adviser says you need to create a safety net.
HOLMES: Is it OK to panic? Can we just go ahead and panic, because the news is dire every single day?
HOWARD: And we don't need to assume crash position.
HOWARD: But what we do need to do is in your own life, if you're still employed, you need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I mean, most of us are not going to being laid off. Most of us are not going to have our hours cut back.
But the reality is, a huge percent of Americans really party too hard, took on too much debt, bought too many things that you didn't need but you wanted. And so, this year is all about the hard reset button on how we handle our wallets. And Americans are getting with the program, because the amount of money people are saving is steadily rising.
In fact, banks and credit unions are reporting big increases in the number of saving accounts that people are opening. So, people are starting to hear the message.
HOLMES: When did that kind of started? Did that correlate with any of the economic news we started to hear?
HOWARD: September of last year seemed to be the time when everybody in America said, "Oh, wait a minute. The music stopped." And, you know, that's when we started having all the federal takeovers and bailouts, and all the reports of catastrophic conditions. And people -- it's obvious how quickly people changed behavior.
Chrysler's auto sales last month, down 53 percent. You look at the retail report figures for December, they were atrocious. And people are seeing their friends, their family members, their neighbors getting laid off. So, people are like, "Yes, maybe there is something to this thing about is thrift (ph)."
Maybe, you know -- you know I've seen that's really funny? If you look at newspapers, how many times lately people have been quoting Ben Franklin? You know, because Benjamin Franklin was always about being ultra-thrifty, penny save, penny earned, all that stuff. And his quotes that have been gathering dust for 220 years suddenly are everywhere.
HOLMES: You mentioned people party too hard. HOWARD: Yes.
HOLMES: Are we starting to take some personal responsibility, or do you find that still, a lot of consumers out there are upset with the government, upset with banks, upset with a lot of that deregulation, or are people starting to look back at themselves an say, "OK, maybe I shouldn't have done this, maybe I should have done that"?
HOWARD: I think both are going on at the same time. People are doing this. They're like, pointing at somebody else and then they're thinking, "Well, maybe I had some responsibility here."
And the truth about America's history is that if you go back beyond 25 years ago, there is virtually not a time in American history that people took on the levels of debt that they took on over these last 25 years. You know, we had, back in 1981, much more severe economic circumstances than we've been in so far this time. But the difference then was Americans didn't carry anywhere near the level of lifestyle debt that they carry today, and we're living in far smaller houses, even with much bigger families.
So, a lot of this is that, what we did as Americans step-by-step as we took away the safety net. We all put ourselves on a financial high wire and when we fell off, what you did was the hard floor instead of the net. And so people are learning again that you have to have that net in your life. And that net is reducing your monthly obligations and building up a cushion so that if something bad does happen, you actually have something you can draw on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TJ HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR, SATURDAY MORNING: Clark Howard coming up's in our 9:00 Eastern hour. You can also catch his new show on HLN today, tomorrow, at noontime.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR, SATURDAY MORNING: Hello everybody. From the CNN center in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. I'm Betty Nguyen.
HOLMES: And hello to you all. I'm TJ Holmes. The president-elect and his new team, new economic team, they're pushing forward with a plan for the ailing economy, but already a lot of people are seeing some red flags going up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, ILL: I'm confident that at end of the day I will be properly exonerated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: Remaining defiant, we're going to take a look at what's next for impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
HOLMES: Also, we have some new pictures into CNN just a short time ago. A new round of air strikes in Gaza. Israel still launching those air strikes despite what was supposed to be quiet time for people to come out and get supplies and humanitarian aid. Also, Israel in a live picture we're seeing here, this is Gaza, a live picture, looks calm in this one. Israel we know now is dropping leaflets. They're warning residents that it plans to quote, escalate its attacks. So a lot is happening still now in this third week of the offensive in Gaza.
Well, hard economic times expected to get harder. Stocks will open for trading Monday after a disappointing close yesterday. Dow Jones industrial average fell 143 points, losing 1.6 percent of its value, nearly 5 percent of its value for the week. This is the worst week we've seen since November. Meanwhile, Robert Rubin, who's advisor, senior advisor for Citigroup says he will resign. Citigroup shares fell nearly 6 percent. Critics say the former Treasury secretary should have take a more active role in preventing the bank's problems.
NGUYEN: And then there's that ugly jobs report, 524,000 jobs lost in December bringing last year's job losses to nearly 2.6 million, the worst year for workers since 1945.
Barack Obama's economic team now increasing its goal of creating new jobs. The president-elect's aides say his stimulus package could create 3.5 million jobs., up a half million positions from a previous prediction. But the advisors note the plan is subject to significant margins of error. That's a quote. In his radio address today, though, the president-elect says many of those in new jobs have a green tent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: We'll create nearly half a million jobs by investing in clean energy, by committing to double the production of alternative energy in the next three years and by modernizing more than 75 percent of Federal buildings and improving the energy efficiency of two million American homes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: CNN's Candy Crowley takes a look at the economic challenge facing the president-elect.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The announcement of two key players joining the president-elect's national security team was overwhelmed by 524,000 other people, the ones who lost their jobs in December, each a personal story giving weight to Barack Obama's argument that Congress needs to step it up on a stimulus plan.
PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: This morning we received a stark reminder about how urgently action is needed.
CROWLEY: There are many ways to add it up, all dreadful. 2.6 million jobs disappeared last year. It hasn't been that bad since World War II and so the president in waiting continues to pound Congress.
OBAMA: For the sake of our economy and our people, this is the moment to act and to act without delay.
CROWLEY: The jobless rate stands at 7.2 percent. 11 million people looking for work.
OBAMA: Clearly, the situation dire. It is deteriorating and it demands urgent and immediate action.
CROWLEY: The incoming president wanted his gargantuan stimulus package on his desk in the Oval office shortly after his inauguration, a tad ambitious. The general outline of Obama's plan seems to have passed muster on Capitol Hill, an infusion of money into cash-strapped states, tax cuts to promote spending, investments that create jobs, much of it money pumped into public works programs, improving roads, bridges, government buildings, but the proposal ran afoul with some Republicans balking at a price tag expected to be close to $800 billion.
OBAMA: There are some people who have said that it's not big enough. There are others who say it's too big.
CROWLEY: And there are Democratic dissenters worried that Obama's tax credits for businesses who hire and the $1,000 payroll tax cuts will not create jobs.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D) CALIFORNIA: We want to make sure that the tax cuts create jobs and that's what we're working with him on and we'd like to see more attention paid to the housing crisis in this package.
CROWLEY: The president-elect said he's open to discussions on a fast-track basis.
OBAMA: There are going to be a whole host of good ideas out there and we welcome all of them and we're going to sift through all of them and we are going to work in a collaborative fashion with Congress. What we can't do is drag this out when we just saw half a million more jobs lost.
CROWLEY: It is Barack Obama's first big muscle flex, a test of his power and in his words and his repeated warnings, Obama is using the Ronald Reagan template, get the people behind you and Congress will follow. Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
HOLMES: Well, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich just will not go quietly into that dark night. In the face of impeachment now, he says he will soldier on. The first House voting overwhelmingly in favor of impeachment. That is the first step in removing him from office, not over just yet. He still would have to go through a trial there. Meanwhile, his choice of U.S. Senate may be getting closer to confirmation. CNN deputy director Paul Steinhauser now back with us from Washington this morning. Paul, this is a guy, he's essentially just banned up if you will against the entire Illinois state House there saying, bring it on.
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, he's just known as a fighter and he's fighting on. But that vote yesterday wasn't close at all, TJ, 114-1. So pretty obvious there how they feel. And as you mentioned that triggers a trial. It starts two weeks from Monday, January 26th and that will be in the state Senate there. The vote needed there, two-thirds need to convict him on the impeachment. If that happens, then he would be removed as governor and the Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn would take over.
Yesterday after the House voted to impeach, Blagojevich, the embattled governor, came in front of cameras and he was really fighting back and he was kind of saying that this is all politics, that the members of the state house there have been gunning for him, trying to get him for a while and that he's trying to do the people's work and they're kind of trying to bring him down. Even had some human props here. He had a bunch of people standing behind him that he said he helped with legislation that he had pushed, so this is a fight that will continue on and the next round is in two weeks TJ.
HOLMES: And of course the Senate seat he's accused of trying to sell, the one that Barack Obama vacated. That's been a centerpiece really of a lot of this corruption scandal. Before we talk about Roland Burris and his chances of getting in and replacing Barack Obama now, give me just quickly, has Obama and his transition team been able to, had done a good job of successfully kind of keeping their distance and making sure Barack Obama isn't staying by his relations to these folks in Illinois?
STEINHAUSER: They're trying to. There was an an internal report they put out a couple weeks ago that said they did no wrongdoing whatsoever. And Federal prosecutors, besides the impeachment hearings, there's also the Federal prosecutors going after Blagojevich and they just said they don't think Barack Obama or any of this staff are part of this. So Obama's trying to keep his distance to that and to the controversy right now between Roland Burris and the members of the Senate. So they're trying to keep their distance.
HOLMES: And as you say, Roland Burris, Democrat, Harry Reid, majority leader, came out and said this man will not be a U.S. senator. This, of course, you see there, the man who Rod Blagojevich appointed. That is the one he wants to take the seat that Barack Obama's vacating. He is not accused of being involved in any scandal. By all means he's on the up and up and by all means, a lot of people have good things to say about him and what he's done in Illinois. But after everyone said it ain't happening it looks like he might, in fact, become a U.S. senator.
STEINHAUSER: It's getting a lot closer. Two things happened yesterday that are interesting, one good, one bad. First of all, the state supreme court in Illinois said, you know what? Secretary of state of Illinois does not need to sign the certificate of appointment for Roland Burris to become a senator in the U.S. because the secretary of state there has refused to sign it because of Blagojevich's participation in naming Burris. But the senators back here in Washington say, you know what, we need that. That is something that the Senate rule - we've been doing it since 1887. So not so fast, Roland Burris. You can't come here, we can't seat you until that certificate of appointment is signed by the secretary of state. Roland Burris lawyers are coming here to Washington on Monday, so there's still a standstill. But there is pressure TJ to get this over with. They want to move on here in Washington and start working on a stimulus plan.
HOLMES: And that was just a fascinating, almost a sad scene to see Roland Burris show up at the Senate the other week, like he was asking the cool kids to let him in and they turned him away. It was a fascinating scene, but it looks like he might end up there anyway, Paul Steinhauser, we appreciate you, as always.
NGUYEN: Lets' get you to the Middle East now where we are in the middle of a so-called lull in Gaza. Israel saying it's a chance for Palestinian citizens to stock up on desperately needed supplies. CNN's Ben Wedeman joins us now from the Israeli side of the border with Gaza. Ben, we've been watching pictures come out of Gaza and we've seen smoke in the air. Obviously, this is supposed to be a lull, but things are taking place on the ground that say otherwise.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Betty. This lull goes in theory for three hours. We're two hours and 10 minutes into it, but there has been a fair amount of action, a fair amount of bombardments from Israel into Gaza since that time began. As you mentioned, this is a time for the residents of Gaza to get out of their homes, to try to restock on food, to take people to the hospital, to bury the dead. I spoke, in fact, with someone I've known for many years inside of Gaza and he says that basically for the last week, they have been hunkered down in their homes, just really going only going out when it's absolutely necessary. But obviously, with food supplies running low, in general the situation very difficult with shortages of water, no electricity in Gaza city. This three hours may simply not be enough to allow people to replenish or to even recover from really the trauma of what's been going on inside of Gaza for now more than two weeks. Betty.
NGUYEN: But in those three hours, Ben, as we've been talking about this morning, we've seen smoke come from Gaza. It appears that the lull isn't, indeed, a true lull, because we're seeing strikes on Gaza during this time. What do you know about that?
WEDEMAN: Well, Israel made it clear from the time it started, they instituted this lull several days ago, that it reserves the right to respond if fired upon. And clearly, with Israeli troops inside Gaza, around the outskirts of all the major towns, cities and refugee camps, it's inevitable there's going to be some sort of military activity from both sides. So no one was under the impression that this was sort of a complete period of quiet. Since these lulls were instituted, there have been sporadic outbreaks of bombing, of fighting, during that time. Betty?
NGUYEN: We're seeing some smoke right now coming to us live from these pictures. Also want to ask you about this, Ben. Israel we understand is dropping leaflets, warning residents that it plans to quote escalate the attacks. What do you know about that?
WEDEMAN: It's been understood for quite some time that there are three stages to this Israeli operation. The first stage which went on for one week was the air offensive, where intensive bombing and artillery fire, firing as well from Israeli warships in the Mediterranean on to Gaza. After one week, they began the ground defensive where Israeli troops actually went inside of Gaza and essentially occupied all the unoccupied parts of the Gaza strip. The third stage is where they start to move inside the crowded areas, the towns and cities and the refugee camps, and we know that they have been dropping leaflets in the southern part of Gaza, in Rafah (ph), near the Egyptian border, warning that they would be focusing on the tunnel networks, on rocket launching sites, on weapons storage sites. So that may be, may well be what is about to happen is this so-called third phase to the operation. Betty?
NGUYEN: All right. CNN's Ben Wedeman joining us live. Thank you, Ben.
HOLMES: We've got parts of the U.S., particularly northwest U.S., struggling right now with some pretty tricky weather.
NGUYEN: Yeah. Reynolds Wolf is on top of that. Reynolds, how's it shaping up today?
HOLMES: Yeah. Take a look at this. The neighborhood is not supposed to quite look like that. We got some severe weather that's putting some homes in severe danger. This is an avalanche in Washington. It pushed a home from its foundation and now there's concern as you can imagine, that the house could move again and crash into the house next door. Meanwhile, in Snoqualmie Pass, people there say they haven't seen such a house moving in 45 years. Reporter Shomari Stone of affiliate KOMO with the story from there.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
LINDA CHARBURNS, HOMEOWNERS: It's my home, my home away from home. It's my haven.
SHOMARI STONE, KOMO CORRESPONDENT: This is the first time Linda Charburns is visiting her vacation home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow.
STONE: She's bagging up belongings after finding out an avalanche plowed down the (INAUDIBLE) ski hill destroying the home next door.
CHARBURNS: The house is going to fall on mine and crush it.
STONE: Emergency crews say the house could slide into Linda's any minute. They put up red unsafe notices on both homes.
CHARBURNS: They need to stabilize this home so we can make sure that our house is stable.
STONE: A massive avalanche of big snow, trees and dirt slid into her neighbor's house on Wednesday, knocking it off its foundation. It's now hanging on like this painting inside a shattered window. Our cameras were rolling when sheriff deputies put up yellow tape around the homes.
CHARBURNS: It's scary. It's scary. It is. So we should probably be out of here.
STONE: This is as close the sheriff's office will allow us to be. They roped off this area and they tell us that this part of the mountain is very unstable. You can see the house. Linda's concerned that it won't only fall on her place, but also destroy her sweet memories. She loves this home.
CHARBURNS: Worried, scared, put a lot of, you know, manual sweat in this house. Wow.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
HOLMES: Is it just -- just me? I guess -- so every -- you forget what happened the previous winter and whatnot, but is this the worst winter or worst season we're seeing than others? Or this is just the kind of normal. It just seems like a lot stuff, we're talking about something severe.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I would say this season so far has been much more severe than we had last year. What's interesting is winter is really just getting under way. And when you get to the Pacific Northwest, one of the big stories is, it's hard to believe you're having this kind of flooding because it seems that the rain in Seattle, rain in the Pacific Northwest, one just goes with the other. But it has been a little bit above normal. We've seen the heavy snow pack that's beginning to melt and that's why you have the flooding. We're seeing big focus though go from parts of the Pacific Northwest to the northeast and the great lakes mainly in the form of snow.
NGUYEN: Laid off, but no longer looking. How a Texas man turned a pink slip into profit.
NGUYEN: Well, for most people pink slips can mean less green and the layoffs in the stagnant economy is forcing people to find ways to cling onto the little cash that they do have. Personal finance expert Suze Orman was on Anderson Cooper with tips on staying afloat during these hard times. All right. Sounds like we've got a little technical issue for you. But in the meantime, let me tell you about this. Necessity they say is the mother of re-inventing. Well, a job layoff changed one Texas man from homeland security agent to homebody. After weeks of inactivity, his wife kicked him off the couch and back into the market, but it is not your regular 9:00 to 5:00 job. (INAUDIBLE) at CNN affiliate KTXA explains.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNKNOWN CORRESPONDENT: Rene Van Uum is getting ready to go to work. You could say the former homeland security agent is a handy man of sorts.
RENE VAN UUM, RENT-A-GENT: Rotate the tires, take down the Christmas tree.
UNKNOWN: Rene is the face behind Rent-A-Gent.
R. VAN UUM: I'm a gentleman and I'm for rent.
UNKNOWN. After being laid off, the 50-year-old from Garland was forced to find something.
BECKY VAN UUM, WIFE: He's been unemployed for a while, and I just was getting really tired of him being around the house. So I said, go make some money.
UNKNOWN: Rene started marketing himself on craigslist.
R. VAN UUM: How about teaching your kids Portuguese?
UNKNOWN: He says he can do about anything.
R. VAN UUM: Wash your dog. No cats, please. How about be a date for that upcoming party? I can do that.
UNKNOWN: OK. Rene is married, but his wife Becky says he's such a great husband, she doesn't mind sharing.
B. VAN UUM: He has my permission to go, but he has parameters of when he has to be home and things like that. I get to meet the woman first.
UNKNOWN: Rene tells us business is pretty good.
R. VAN UUM: Good afternoon.
UNKNOWN: And so far he's gotten a variety of requests.
R. VAN UUM: I've gotten some calls from a woman in Rockwell who needs someone to transport her once a month down to Huntsville jail to visit a relative of hers.
UNKNOWN: Other calls include work that needs to be done around the house or the office. DOUGLAS BENTLEY, CLIENT: I found his ad and it was one the most intriguing ads that I've ever seen, so intriguing I had to call the guy up.
UNKNOWN: Rene is available. His hourly rate, $20 to $25. (INAUDIBLE) CBS 11 news.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
NGUYEN: As long as he can do dishes! In the meantime, though, let's get you back to that story with finance expert Suze Orman. As I mentioned, she was on Anderson Cooper with tips on staying afloat during these hard times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So when you say prepare for job loss, how do you prepare?
SUZE ORMAN, PERSONAL FINANCE EXPERT: You prepare by not spending money, by really saving everything, cutting back, even though you're still getting a paycheck. I need people, you need people. America needs people to start building up an emergency account so that in case they lost their job, they'd have somewhere to go to get money, like a savings account, to pay their bills. Otherwise, what happens is they take money out of their 401(k)s, they sustain penalties, they charge it on credit cards at 21 percent interest rates and the whole thing starts to spiral down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: So it is the boldest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. Tonight at 8:00, CNN investigates how Bernard Madoff fooled so many people. Don't miss it. It's called "Madoff: Secrets of a Scandal." It's a CNN and "Fortune" magazine special investigation tonight and tomorrow 8:00 p.m. Eastern.