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Legal Proceedings Begin in Transit Shooting of Unarmed Man; Israel Strikes U.N. Aid Headquarters in Gaza City; Senate to Vote on Second Half of Bailout; Iranian Weighs in on Obama Plan for Diplomacy
Aired January 15, 2009 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Outrage in Oakland as a transit cop turned fugitive murder suspect, makes his way back to face charges. We'll meet his alleged victim's lawyer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The problem with the cover is it's a man standing in a Superman pose.
PHILLIPS: Many called Bill Clinton the first black president. So why can't Barack Obama be the face of feminism in "Ms." Magazine? Critics say it just won't fly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: And hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
We've got a lot of hot topics for you this hour. Confirmation hearings galore in D.C. Weather so cold, we saw one weather guy used a banana to hammer nails into a board. I'm not kidding.
Plus, remember little Adolf Hitler Campbell and his kid sister JoyceLynn Aryan Nation? The Third Reich tykes: why did the state of New Jersey take them away from their "mutter" and "vater"?
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just knew that I texted a lot, because it was on a break. And I knew I was testing way more than I usually do but I didn't think it was going to be this humongous. Like I thought 9,000, but then it was 14,000. So I was like, what?
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PHILLIPS: And we, like, got one thing to say about this, like "OMG." One girl, one month, and two busy, busy, like, thumbs.
Well, it's a shot seen round the world: the New Year's killing of a retrained, unarmed black man by a white transit cop, captured by witnesses and posted online.
For two weeks the public outcry grew, and the streets seethed in Oakland, California. People wanted action.
Now a BART Officer Johannes Mehserle is behind bars, charged with murder. Another BART rider says Mehserle beat him up in November. And there have been death threats and bomb scares targeting Mehserle's family.
Meantime, the ex-cop's arraignment set for later today.
His arrest pleased but didn't quite [SIC] protestors. A rally last night was mostly peaceful, but after some people started, well, breaking windows and vandalizing stores, the police had to step in. They made at least 18 arrests.
Well, Oscar Grant's family has called for calm these last two weeks. They want everybody to, quote, "ask God to let justice prevail." And they've hired veteran civil rights attorney John Burris to represent them. He joins me now live from San Francisco.
And we asked BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit, by the way, to speak to us, but they did decline. I do have a statement from yesterday that I'll bring up.
Mr. Burris, tell me why you took this case.
JOHN BURRIS, ATTORNEY: Well, I took this case because I do civil rights work, policemen's conduct cases. This is the ultimate policemen's conduct case. The family very much wants justice.
Not only do they want financial compensation for the loss of their son, but they really do want this person to go to jail, because -- and for a long time, because the nature of how this happened was so outrageous. This young man's life was taken.
And so, for me, it's a civil rights case, along with the other issues of police misconduct that require, I think, punishment.
PHILLIPS: Well, and we know you very well, obviously, for the Rodney King case, another infamous caught-on-tape moment.
We also learned from that case that you took on, that video can be useful and it can be deceptive. With the Rodney King case, we never saw what led up to that moment. We never saw what happened after that moment. And then we found out he was on PCP. He was on a high-speed chase. He resisted arrest.
So tell me about this videotape and why you are so confident that -- that the actions were absolutely wrong when we don't know what led up to that moment once again.
BURRIS: We know -- we know exactly what led up to the moment. We saw exactly what happened before. This young man was seated in a seated position. One officer comes out of the blue, grabs him, creates a confrontation, throws him down. One officer gets on his back, and the other officer is at his legs. And that officer jumps -- steps back and pulls out a gun and shoots him. Whatever happened on the train is not relevant to what the kid was doing at the time he was shot. He did not have a weapon on him. His hands were pulled back. He was being restrained by another officer. And then this officer, without justification, pulls out a gun and shoots him. There's no real dispute.
PHILLIPS: Can you -- do you think you can prove intentional killing here?
BURRIS: Well, what I have to prove here is a violation of civil rights. And that is that excessive force was used. And if there is no factual basis to justify the use of force.
I don't have a criminal case. I can prove that he did what he did. That is, he pulled out the gun and he shot him, and there was no basis to do that.
PHILLIPS: Was it murder?
BURRIS: That's excessive force. Well, I think it's murder. But that's a criminal case. I clearly think it's murder, because he intended to do what he did. He volitionally pulled out the gun and he shot in his back.
Now, if it's less than murder, then he's got to come forward and prove that there was something else going on that caused him to believe that as not -- that he did not intend to do what he did.
That's going to be on him, because the tape and all of the witnesses -- and I have -- I've interviewed a number of witnesses. They all describe in a manner consistent what's on that tape. There was nothing that was going on that justifies even pulling out a weapon, let alone a gun. At best, I thought he was reaching for his handcuffs. That would have been the appropriate use of force.
So whatever was going on in his head, what he did do was pull out a gun, point it at him, and he shot him. That's the intent, related to his act. The specific intent, that goes to what he has to demonstrate, that he did not intend to kill him. But the facts suggest that he did.
PHILLIPS: John Burris, we'll track the case for sure. I appreciate your time, sir.
BURRIS: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: And just want to add also Officer Johannes Mehserle has resigned from the BART force.
Also Carol Ward, a BART member, is quoted as saying, "We pledge to work with the community to rebuild the trust it has placed with our transit agency. BART established a committee to review police practices and procedures, including hiring and training. Our goal is to make sure that something like this never happens again."
Now in just about an hour, the U.S. Senate will do something its leaders vowed never to do: swear in the appointee of the Illinois governor. As we all know, that man is Roland Burris, and barely two weeks after he was named to fill the seat Barack Obama gave up, the seat Rod Blagojevich allegedly plotted to sell before his arrest, Burris emerges victorious over snubs and Senate procedures and the scandal surrounding the governor.
The Senate agreed to admit him after he testified before the Blagojevich impeachment panel and the Illinois Supreme Court ruled on his paperwork.
Now Burris is due to take the oath of office, 2 p.m. Eastern Time right here. You will see it live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Now senators come and senators go. Going today is the six-term Democrat from Delaware who just nine days ago was sworn in for a seventh term, Joe Biden. Five days from now Biden will take the oath for his new gig as vice president. And I'm sure you remember from civics class that the vice president is president of the Senate, so Biden isn't going very far. But he's still entitled to a farewell speech. Here it is.
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JOE BIDEN (D), VICE-PRESIDENT-ELECT: The United States Senate has been my life. And that is not hyperbole. It really has been my life. I've been a United States senator considerably longer than I was alive before I was a United States senator.
And I may be resigning from the Senate today, but I will always be a Senate man. Except for the title "father," there is no title, including "vice president," that I am more proud to wear than that of "United States senator."
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PHILLIPS: After Biden's farewell came that of the incoming secretary of state. Hillary Clinton has been the junior senator from New York for only eight years and a New Yorker for not much longer than that, but that title anyway, she's keeping.
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HILLARY CLINTON (D), SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: I may not have always been a New Yorker, but I know I always will be one. New York, its spirit, and its people will always be part of me and of the work I do.
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PHILLIPS: Clinton spoke after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 16-1 to recommend her confirmation. The full Senate votes next week, but there's not much doubt about the outcome.
Now, a rougher ride awaits attorney general nominee Eric Holder. As you may have seen live here on CNN, the Senate judiciary panel didn't waste a lot of time on ceremony. Members asked about waterboarding. Holder said it's torture. And Guantanamo Bay, Holder says it will close. Then the questions turned to Holder's role as deputy A.Q. under President Clinton and the controversial pardon of fugitive financier Mark Rich.
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ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: That was, and remains, the most intense, most searing experience I've ever had as a lawyer. The questions raised about -- about me that I was not used to hearing.
I've learned from that experience. I think that, as perverse as this might sound, I will be a better attorney general, should I be confirmed, having had the Mark Rich experience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Well, still facing confirmation hearing today, Susan Rice for U.N. ambassador, Ken Salazar for interior secretary. He, too, will be giving up a Senate seat. And then Mary Shapiro for head of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Janet Napolitano for secretary of homeland security.
Well, the U.N. secretary-general says he's outraged by today's Israeli shelling of the U.N. relief headquarters in Gaza. The Israeli prime minister is apologizing, but he says Israeli forces attacked because militants had opened fire from the U.N. site.
Paula Hancocks is in Jerusalem with more -- Paula.
PAUL HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Kyra.
Well, it's not the first time this has happened, the U.N. agency in Gaza and Israel disagreeing on what ha happened on the ground.
Now, we heard from John Qing (ph), who's the director of the U.N. Rights and Works Agency in Gaza, and he says that his staff came under fire and a tank shell from Israelis hit part of the U.N. building.
Now this is the main aid depot in Gaza which has thousands of tons of food and water and fuel for humanitarian assistance for those in Gaza.
He also said that he believes white phosphorous shells were fired in the vicinity. He said, "It looked like phosphorous, it smelled like phosphorous, so I am calling is phosphorous."
Of course, Israel saying it does not use white phosphorous against civilians.
Now Israel, for its own part, has said -- we heard from Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, talking to the U.N. secretary- general Ban Ki-Moon. And he said, "I don't think it should have happened, and I am very sorry. But the Israeli forces were attacked."
Now we understand that militants opened fire on the Israeli forces, and then according to the Israelis, retreated into the U.N. compound. Again the U.N. disputes that.
So very difficult to get the exact facts on the ground, but it is just one more occasion of showing how this fighting in the middle of Gaza City is bringing neutral buildings and neutral installations into it. And also, a media building was hit earlier on Thursday, too. Abu Dhabi TV cameramen were injured and rushed to hospital -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right, Paula Hancocks, appreciate it.
Meanwhile, human rights groups are accusing Israel of using white phosphorous shells against Hamas targets. And Israel says Hamas is firing rockets that contain the same chemicals.
So what is white phosphorous? Well, it's a chemical used in combat dating all the way back to World War I. It ignites once exposed to oxygen, producing a white light and lots of smoke. It can be used to light up a battlefield, hide troop movements, or destroy an enemy's equipment.
It's not against international law, but human rights groups say that white phosphorous can injure civilians. And it burns the skin, and it's very deep and painful when it gets there.
Well, President-elect Barack Obama's vowed to take a diplomatic approach with Iran, but will it work? We're going to hear what a best-selling author who grew up in Iran has to say.
And the president-elect's political clout being put to an early test. The Senate decides whether to give him access to the second half of the treasury bailout package. We'll have a live report from the Hill.
PHILLIPS: Read the shirt: "This is what a feminist looks like." It's also what a controversy looks like. Some ladies aren't too thrilled that a superman is on the cover of "Ms." magazine. Are critics right or totally "Ms."-ing the point?
PHILLIPS: Well, we mentioned all the comings and goings on Capitol Hill. Now we get to the money.
The Senate votes this afternoon on a measure that would deny the Obama administration the second half of the bailout stash. That's $350 billion, by the way.
And separately, the House is unveiling a stimulus package worth some $825 billion over two years. It's two-thirds spending and one- third tax cuts and highly subject to change.
As for the bailout, many lawmakers are refusing to throw good money after bad or what they consider bad.
Our Dana Bash sets the stage for a pretty pivotal vote. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barack Obama is already having big trouble convincing fellow Democrats to give him the last $350 billion in that giant financial bailout. Now he has a growing Republican problem.
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: I think it would be very difficult to vote for the TARP Funds knowing, first of all, the first $350 billion, there was no transparency. We don't even know how exactly it was spent. There's -- the Obama administration has not been forthcoming on how that they would spend this money.
BASH: Nevada Republican John Ensign is one of many GOP senators who voted for the rescue in the fall but tell CNN they'll oppose it this time. John Cornyn is another.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I did so in good faith based on the representations of the administration and the treasury and the Federal Reserve chairman.
But, frankly, they seem to have acted with virtual disdain of Congress when it comes to oversight and accountability for that money. They seem to use it as a slush fund.
BASH: Many Republicans say they're angry that bailout funds have not only been mismanaged but, in their view, misdirected when used for the auto industry.
But another factor is raw politics.
ENSIGN: My constituents overwhelmingly were against it and they still are. Matter of fact, they're probably more opposed today than they were back then.
BASH: Opposing hundreds of billions more in taxpayer dollars for a controversial bailout would please outraged folks back home. And for Republicans, has the added benefit of making life even more difficult for the Democratic president-elect, since securing the money is the first big test of his clout.
Obama allies are franticly trying to round up votes, warning the economy can't rebound without this $350 billion infusion.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The bottom line is very simple: you cannot have the financial system in lockdown.
PHILLIPS: So Dana, are they going to get the votes or not?
BASH: You know, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate was just talking to us in the hallway moments ago, who said he thinks it is very close. They are hoping, but you know, they're just not 100 percent sure right now. Another source said they could be one or two votes -- in the one- or two-vote margin here. Now I'll just give you another quick quote from a Democrat, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. She framed it exactly the way a lot of senators are framing it. She said, "I'm trying to decide between my absolute," quote, "disgust for the way this bailout was done and my desire as a Democrat to see Barack Obama succeed in doing what he thinks he needs to fix the economy."
And that is what so many of these Democratic senators, as we speak right now, Kyra, are trying to weigh. They are torn -- many of them are torn, and they're going to go on that Senate floor in just a few hours and make a decision that could be very important in terms of their constituents back home.
But perhaps even more important in terms of their new Democratic president. And one of the most important political votes that he's going to take; certainly, the first one on the Senate floor.
PHILLIPS: Got it, Dana Bash. Thank you so much. We'll track it.
Well, she lived through turbulent times in Iran. We're going to find out what a best-selling author has to say about Barack Obama's plans to try a more diplomatic approach with her homeland.
PHILLIPS: Well, one of the biggest international challenges for incoming President Barack Obama, the strained relationship between the U.S. and Iran. One woman who knows what life is like inside the Islamic republic is author and Iranian native Azar Nafisi. She's out with a new book, "Things I've Been Silent About," which follows her best-seller "Reading Lolita in Tehran."
CNN's Asieh Namdar, who also grew up in Iran, recently had a chance to speak with her.
So how does she want the Obama administration to actually handle relations -- relations with Iran? She's got a different approach.
ASIEH NAMDAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What I thought was interesting, Kyra, when I spoke to -- she echoed some of the same sentiments. And as far as that goes, she said two things have to happen. No. 1, dialogue with the Iranian government; and opening channels of communication with the Iranian people.
AZAR NAFISI, AUTHOR, "THINGS I'VE BEEN SILENT ABOUT": I think it is a little silly to say should we talk to another country or not? Governments talk to one another, and diplomatic relationships are part of being a government.
And so I think that the Obama administration should open channels of communication with the Iranian regime, of whom I -- which I do not approve of, but I still think that that channel of communication should go on. And it should be public. And people, both Iranians and Americans, should know about those conversations.
But I think on a different level, and what concerns someone like me, is that the Obama administration should facilitate channels of communication with the Iranian people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Now Nafisi and you grew up in a very different Iran. So what does she see as the future?
NAMDAR: You know, I asked her that, Kyra. I said, you know, "What are your dreams for your country? When you sleep at night and you think about the Iran you grew up in, what do you think about?"
And she said Iran's worst enemy is an Islamic regime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAFISI: That is why I think that memory and history become so important, to preserve something that existed for so long and, all of a sudden, it disappeared.
I envision an Iran that is secular, because I think the worst enemy, actually, of religion is to turn it into the state. I think, by turning Iran into an Islamic republic, the Islamic regime confiscated not just the rights of seculars and Jews and Christians and Bahais, but also the right of those who were Muslims to choose their religion freely. I think that a secular state for Iran and everywhere else in the world comes with pluralism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Now, I read "Reading Lolita in Tehran."
PHILLIPS: Yes, and the new book, "Things I Have Been Silent About," I have not had a chance to read yet.
NAMDAR: I just finished that. I can give it to you.
PHILLIPS: Oh, good. Perfect. Then we can talk about it.
PHILLIPS: Great. All right. We'll start a book club! I love it.
Well, I mean, when she learned about herself by writing these two books, did she have any revelations?
NAMDAR: She really talks very candidly about her mom and dad. Her mom was a bit dysfunctional. She wanted love for her mom, and her mom didn't have the capacity to give it to her. So basically she aired a lot of her dirty laundry in this book, which is not an Iranian thing to do. PHILLIPS: You don't do that. That's so not cultural.
NAMDAR: It's not part of our culture. So I asked her, you know, "Why did you want the world to know the kind of family you grew up in and basically know all these details?"
And she said, you know, "By delving into my family, I wanted to better understand them. I wanted to better understand myself, and I wanted to better understand my country."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAFISI: In my other book, "Reading Lolita in Tehran," and in this one, "Things I've Been Silent About," I discovered that, for example, when you live under conditions of war or revolution or a repressive state, where there are many things, even the way you want to look or the way you express your emotions and feelings, can be punished or censored.
The best way to react to that situation is not to react to it by becoming a victim or just showing hatred, but by trying to create your own reality and trying to understand the world and explain it through telling the story from your perspective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Interesting: creating your own reality.
NAMDAR: Yes. In other words, when things are not going your way, when a government is running a country that you are vehemently opposed to, when you have a dysfunctional family you're growing up in, what do you do? You create your own reality.
PHILLIPS: Use your imagination. I know you can go to CNN.com to see the rest of the interview.
NAMDAR: CNN.com for the whole interview. Yes.
PHILLIPS: OK. Thanks, Asieh.
NAMDAR: Thanks, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, Iran and the rest of the Middle East will provide huge challenges for the new Obama administration. Here's how the president-elect says he plans to approach the issue when he's sworn in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We're going to take a regional approach. We're going to have to involve Syria in discussions. We're going to have to engage Iran in ways that we have not before. We've got to have a clear bottom line that Israel's security is paramount. But that, also, we have to create a two-state solution where people can live side-by-side in peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Well, in that interview, President-elect Obama says the Middle East is so important it will be a top priority on day one of his administration.
Well, at the Sundance Film Festival, there's a lot of buzz about a new documentary. It's called "The Glass House." It actually looks at the lives of young girls in Iran.
CNN's Ted Rowlands joins us now from Park City, Utah.
And Ted, I don't know if you saw the interview with Asieh, but she's the one that actually brought this to my attention and talking about the undercover cameras that were used with these young gals. And it's pretty much a buzz there. Tell me about it.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, Kyra, you know, to pick up where you left off in that interview, this creating your own reality is part of the theme in this.
The director, shooter, photographer, editor, Hamid Rahmanian, who went there, went to Iran, spent 7 1/2 months there, follows these four disadvantaged girls.
He meets them at a day center, basically a place for girls that are trying to find themselves or are in bad situations in their home. He follows them everywhere, goes to their homes. And over the course of the 7 1/2 months, he has a very intimate relationship where the camera is basically nonexistent, and it is a window into these worlds.
One of the girls is dealing with a mother who has been addicted and has been selling meth for years and years. Here's a clip from the movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking foreign language)
GRAPHIC: My mother is into illegal activities (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking foreign language)
GRAPHIC: Do you know what illegal activities?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking foreign language)
GRAPHIC: It refers to the business of crystal meth, pills, hashish, opium. She didn't take them. She just packaged them. They are packaged by the kilo.
Take for instance crystal meth. A gram of crystal meth costs 30,000 tumans ($33). That's really crazy, huh?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: And Rahmanian says that, basically, these girls show an interesting side of not only Tehran and Iran and living in Iran, but of children dealing with difficulties. And he says he really could have found these four girls in Chicago, Los Angeles or New York or anywhere.
And he's hoping that what will -- what will happen is that people will see this film and see the reality of living, not only in Tehran, but the reality is not so different than living in any country, if you don't have certain advantages, including a stable home.
Getting some buzz now, one of the many films here at Sundance getting some buzz. We'll see -- we'll see how it goes. Right now the Sundance Channel has bought the rights to it to show it in the U.S. He's hoping that he can sell it worldwide and show -- show his work to the world, if you will. A lot of folks here are trying to do that at Sundance.
PHILLIPS: Sure, of course. I'm looking forward to seeing it. Ted Rowlands, thanks so much.
Well, check out the new cover of "Ms." magazine. Some ladies don't like it at all. Others say, "Right on." What do you think? Hit or "Ms."?
PHILLIPS: Live pictures now to Memphis, Tennessee, thanks to our affiliate there, WREG. Apparently the LeMoyne-Owen College there on Walker Avenue is on lockdown. Here's what we've found out. There was a robbery that took place in one of the classrooms there.
A student is telling us that a man with a wig walked in to a class there on campus, had a gun, demanded all purses and wallets. A professor was actually made to get down on the floor during that robbery. Not clear at this time if anybody was hurt, but we're monitoring it, trying to get as much information as possible. We'll bring it to you as we get it.
All right, let's talk money now. And just how bad was the foreclosure mess last year? Well, it turns out things were just as bad as they seemed. Foreclosure filings actually jumped 81 percent over 2007, according to a survey by RealtyTrac. That translates into more than 3 million filings nationwide over the past 12 months.
More than 860,000 families actually lost their homes last year, and things are not getting any better. December filings were up 17 percent over november. Now, hand-in-hand with that news, word is coming to us now that new claims for jobless benefits have climbed even higher than expected last week. First-time requests for unemployment insurance jumped to 524,000. Analysts had expected about a half a million new claims, and several big-name companies have announced layoffs, including Google, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and also mobile-phone maker Motorola.
And on Wall Street, renewed concerns about the health of Steve Jobs are translating into questions about the health of the company that he's led for more than a decade. Susan Lisovicz there at the New York Stock Exchange, you know, I've seen the pictures from years past to what he looks like now, and your heart kind of sinks because he does look like he's ill.
SUSAN LISCOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There have been questions about his health for some time now, Kyra. And finally, Steve Jobs addressed it a week ago, saying that it was due to a hormone imbalance. Well, yesterday after the closing bell came another statement saying that in fact that hormone imbalance was more complex than originally thought.
He's taking a medical leave of absence until the end of June. Trading was halted on the stock. I mean, this is no ordinary CEO. Apple's fortunes are really tied to a man who has presided over such innovations as the iMac, the iPhone, iTunes. You name it. And Apple shares are getting hit today, as well, down 3.5 percent.
Also leaves all sorts of questions exactly what is happening. Will this be a company that will not see Jobs return? It has questions of the obligations of the company to give more information. This is a publicly led company with many investors, and also about a succession plan. So, Apple shares are getting hit.
And so is the Dow for a seventh consecutive day. Off the lows, blue chips down 137 points. Nasdaq is down 15. You know, you mentioned the jobless claims. We also had continuing concerns of the financial sector. And that's why you're seeing another sell-off, Kyra. Back to you.
PHILLIPS: All right. We'll keep talking, Susan. Thanks.
LISOVICZ: You're welcome.
PHILLIPS: All right, time for you to decide -- did Ms. Magazine slam feminism in the face with its latest cover, or is the face of feminism changing? We're going to start this conversation with CNN's Jason Carroll.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's graced the covers of just about every major magazine: "Time," "Newsweek," "Ebony, "Rolling Stone," even "Tiger Beat." Some flattering, others controversial. File this upcoming cover of Ms. Magazine in the latter category.
AMY SISKIND, THE NEW AGENDA: The problem with this cover is, it's a man standing in a Superman pose. And thank you, but the women of this country can stand up for themselves.
CARROLL: Feminists like Amy Siskind remember a feminist movement united under the cause of advancing women's rights. Ms. Magazine was a leading voice then. Its original cover featured a Wonder Woman for president. How, Siskin wonders, could they feature a Superman declaring, "This is what a feminist looks like."
SISKIND: If they had put, "Is this the face of feminism?" instead of "This is the face of feminism," it would have been a provocative cover. But by proclaiming it, it was a real mistake.
KATHERINE SPILLAR, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, MS. MAGAZINE: This is not a take-off on that original cover. I think people have overreacted.
CARROLL: Ms. Magazine knows its cover ignited a debate. The executive editor says it's not selling out by featuring Obama.
SPILLAR: We've had a couple of people contact us. Why would we put a man on the cover? It's because indeed men, too, can be feminists.
CARROLL: Siskind agrees, men can be feminists. In fact, some are part of her organization called The New Agenda. But she, like some political observers, say so far Obama just hasn't done enough to support women.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is still some concern from some women's groups about President-elect Obama. And specifically, some of the concerns they have are there have not been that many women appointed to his Cabinet.
CARROLL: And while Ms. says it has received a mostly positive response to the cover, Siskind got responses like this on her blog: Quote, "Obama won because he was not a woman. So why does Ms. have to rub it in our faces?" Another writes, "Another example of how truly silly the hero-worship of Obama has become."
SPILLAR: I think they should read the magzine. We explain why the illustration and why we wanted to really wake people up to the opportunity that now exists.
CARROLL (on camera): Amy Siskind says a better cover choice would have been Senator Hillary Clinton or Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Ms. Magazine says they've had men on their cover before and overall, subscriptions are up because of this issue.
Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.
PHILLIPS: Well, its editor's goal was to get us talking. It worked. Well done. So this cover-versy has us wanting to know just a couple of things. Foremost, can a man be a feminist? And what does the incoming Obama era mean for women?
Let's ask Naomi Wolf, feminist, author, Obama supporter and all of ours for the next few minutes. Naomi, great to see you.
NAOMI WOLF, AUTHOR, FEMINIST: It's great to see you.
PHILLIPS: So, you thought this was a good move?
WOLF: I have to say I can't get over the silliness of this objection on the part of Ms. Siskind and on the part of whoever is contacting Ms. Magazine. You know, it's a fine move, but more to the point, how much, you know, Christmas and New Year's and Hannukah rolled in to one can the world give women before we realize we've had a victory?
For as long as I've been a feminist, we've been wanting the ear of the president of the United States. We've been wanting to win over the most powerful men and women to our agenda. And, you know, now Ms. sensibly, belatedly, very obviously points out this is what a feminist looks like, this man who so clearly is moving ahead with the powerful agenda to support women and women's issues, which we all now know are everyone's issues.
And they get sniped from feminists saying this isn't good enough or this is somehow wrong. I throw my hands up.
PHILLIPS: So, you don't have to be a woman to be a feminist. I think there's a lot of...
WOLF: Didn't we --
PHILLIPS: ... hard-core women out there that think only a woman can understand the fights that we have or battles that we go up against.
WOLF: Kyra, I have to say, I feel like we had that discussion in 1972 before my bat mitzvah. I mean, yes, men can be feminists. You know, hello! I just don't know where to begin.
PHILLIPS: You think Obama is a feminist?
WOLF: Well again, I do agree with Siskind about one thing, although I'm interested in knowing who funds her blog, because mostly what I'm seeing is attacks on Obama and derision of Obama hero- worship. And right know we know that, you know, the right wing is very, very skillful at funding, kind of, voices of dissent that look like something else.
But quite apart from that, I do agree with Siskind that "feminist" shouldn't be a left-wing or a right-wing term, and that there are women and men across the political spectrum who support the equality of women and the right of women like men to contribute to society. So, I agree it shouldn't be a left-wing or liberal kind of litmus test.
But I think many of Obama's policies obviously are good for women and children and families, whether it's raising the minimum wage, shoring up Social Security because women are disproportionately elderly and impoverished, supporting laws against violence against women, ensuring that women will have choice over their reproductive lives.
And especially in an imploding ecomomy -- I mean, your last segment was about record foreclosures and people applying for unemployment. The first people hit when there is poverty, when there's a crashing economy are women and children. So, yes, paying attention to the middle class and to women helps everybody. It is a feminist act.
PHILLIPS: OK. What do you think if that would have been President Bush? Do you think that it would have created controversy?
WOLF: I think it would have been a brilliant editorial move. Certainly it would have created controversy. But again, what's the agenda? I'm so tired of these debates that -- and it's not just CNN, it's everyone -- that are all symbol and no substance. And feminists are guilty of this, too.
What I would want to know if a piece like that is, well, what are the editors saying or what's the writer saying that George Bush has done to support women? Bush interestingly -- that's a very good point, Kyra -- was very clever, and his advisers were very clever in bringing in symbolism of feminism like, let's have a war in Afghanistan because the Taliban are keeping girls out of school, as a cover for their own often-horrific policies. So they've manipulated feminist idealing and images before.
PHILLIPS: Well, if anything, I think this just exemplifies how Barack Obama is going to be out of the box on everything, whether it's who he decides to have speak at the inauguration or what covers he decides to go on the front of or who he puts into his administration. It is all going to be about going out of the box and making people talk and bringing everybody together, whether it's gender, race, whatever it is.
WOLF: Or Kyra, we could put it maybe even I think a little more hopefully and say, well maybe America is about to enter an outside the box era, where we get it that all of our problems, whether we're white, black...
PHILLIPS: There you go.
WOLF: ... male, female, are collective problems, and let's solve them together.
PHILLIPS: Let's get rid of segregation all together. Wouldn't that be wonderful?
WOLF: Get rid of the labels. It would be great.
PHILLIPS: There you go, the labels. Let them go.
WOLF: The post-label era. I'm for it.
PHILLIPS: Naomi Wolf, great to see you. Thanks a lot.
WOLF: Thank you, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, everyone knows one of the worst parts of getting sick is that long wait just to see the doctor. So, what about seeing your doctor online? We're going to show you house calls for the Internet age.
And it's a big day for Roland Burris. One last formality and Barack Obama's old Senate seat is his. You'll see it live right here at the top of the hour.
PHILLIPS: Well, call it the modern-day version of the old- fashioned doctor's house call, seeing your doctor over the Internet instead of in the office. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen here to tell us all about it. I don't know, I want to see my doctor.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You do, but what if you don't have the time?
PHILLIPS: OK, quick -- maybe a quick little q and a, like, I'm having this issue, can you prescribe me something, or what do you think about this, should I worry? But...
PHILLIPS: ... not major stuff.
COHEN: Because now you've got to call up, you've got to drive in, all that kind of thing. Right. So let me tell you about a guy named Michael Kasara (ph). Michael Kasara (ph) is a casting agent in New York. He had auditionsn. He had all these things he needed to do. And he woke up, and he gets strep throat all the time.
And he said, I know this is strep. So, he went online. He made a video appointment with his doctor. An hour later his doctor pops up on his laptop, and they had a little chat, and he pointed to where things hurt. And five minutes later, he had a prescription called in to the nearby pharmacy.
Now as Kyra said, you wouldn't want to do this for everything, but right now, some people say 2009 is going to be the year when health care sort of takes a little bit more of a turn to being on the Internet. So, let's take a look at the kinds of things that we're talking about.
We're talking about video conferencing, sort of what Michael Kasara (ph) did there, video chatting with your doctor. Some services are offering instant messaging with your doctor. Some services are even offering texting with your doctor. You got a quick little question for your doctor, you don't want to call and leave a message with the nurse, get the call back, blah, blah, blah, you can just text your doctor with a question.
You could read more about what the latest things are that you can possibly get from your doctor on the Internet. Go to cnn.com/health and you'll see it.
PHILLIPS: All right, but here's my question. This could be a good thing for the uninsured, right?
COHEN: That's right, which is, as we know, a huge problem in this country. And today actually for the first time a service is operating that does things a little bit differently. They're opening up in the state of Hawaii. And what this service, American Well, does, is they say, look, for $45 you can talk for five minutes to a doctor about your problems. You don't have to have insurance.
So, 45 minutes, you get to talk to a doctor for five minutes. That may not sound great, but if you're uninsured, and an office visit is going to cost you, let's say, $200, you might be grateful for five minutes with a doctor for $45. Is it perfect? No, but it might be one way for the uninsured to get something.
PHILLIPS: Yes. All right. Elizabeth, thanks.
PHILLIPS: Well, a word to the wise -- just stay inside today. Much of the U.S. is shivering through some of the coldest weather in years. We're going to tell you what you can expect from the Arctic blast.
PHILLIPS: Forty-four below zero this morning in Bismarck, North Dakota. I remember being at the South Pole when it was 50 below.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You were down there?
PHILLLIPS: Oh, yes. And I was even wrapped up. And I remember stepping outside, and I would breathe, and my nose would freeze shut. Is that what's happening in Bismarck?
MYERS: Yes. I mean, diesel cars don't work unless you keep them inside to keep the diesel -- obviously, biodiesel's got to turn into a big gel. But it has just been brutal there. You know?
PHILLIPS: What's going on? Explain.
MYERS: It was that cold in Alaska for two weeks straight, and then that air released from Alaska and it shot itself down through the Midwest, all the way across Edmonton and Winnipeg. These are air temperatures,Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Should we find out what the Palin family is doing, call Sarah Palin?
MYERS: It's warm now. The cold air left. It's here now. Eleven below in Minneapolis. You you know, you factor in the wind, it feels like 30 below zero. That's probably, even when I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, that's about as cold as I ever felt weather, 20, 30 below zero. That is just brutal.
And then off to the east, obviously you have a lot more people living here. But still suffering at 19 in New York, 16 in Boston. And then for Washington, D.C., you're going to be in the teens, even single digits for lows coming up tonight. That will freeze some pipes. I remember living there for a while with the weather service. They always told us, hey, keep the water dripping, because it may not be running tomorrow morning.
And a high on Tuesday somewhere around 30, 32 degrees for the inauguration. Not bone-chilling, but, you know.
PHILLIPS: Well, that's not so bad. So, no snow. No brutal winds. But it will be around 30-something for the inauguration.
MYERS: Yes. Somewhere around 18 for the morning when people start to line up. So don't plan on 30. You're going to be in that 18- to 20-degree air for a longer time than you're going to be 30 for a couple of hours and then back down.
PHILLIPS: All right, I have a backup plan if folks don't want to freeze in D.C.
MYERS: I heard (INAUDIBLE).
PHILLIPS: Did you hear about this?
MYERS: In the 80s, 85 degrees.
PHILLIPS: That's right. Fly into San Diego, California. Head to Legoland, California. That's in Carlsbad. Check this out. How cool is this? All right, so, basically it's the inauguration scene. It's going to be unveiled tomorrow. And it's got a mini D.C. It's got the Capitol Building, the National Mall, the White House. It's actually guarded by some rooftop snipers also. Isn't this great?
MYERS: That is.
PHILLIPS: And of course, Barack Obama and Michelle and little Malia and Sasha, they'll be right there. Gary McIntyre (ph) is the master, shall we say, Lego builder. They're calling him the brickbuilder of Legoland. But I think he's the Lego layer there.
MYERS: Those are really little Legos, too.
PHILLIPS: Aren't they great? That place is pretty remarkable. I took my godson there over Christmas, and I was surprised how cool it was. I had fun. Did you ever have Legos as a kid?
MYERS: I still do. I have a 4-year-old.
MYERS: Of course. I get all the new toys again. But our Legos are pretty big. No, those are kind of teeny.
PHILLIPS: I love it. Legos never go away. They're always cool, no matter what. So, there you go. Head to Legoland in Carlsbad.
All right. Thanks, Chad.
MYERS: You're welcome.
PHILLIPS: Well, a boy named Hitler and his two siblings removed from their home in New Jersey. Yes, this is no joke. It's actually one of the stories that made us just say "What the...?"
PHILLIPS: And topping our "What the...?" file, a sequel to a story that we brought you last month about a New Jersey family. Mom and dad had some trouble getting a birthday cake for their son, Adolph Hitler Campbell. Gee, I wonder why. Now Adolph and his sister, by the way, also named after Nazis, have been removed from the home. Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This 3-year-old has a lot in common with other toddlers his age, except for one thing. Heath and Deborah Campbell decided to name their son Adolph Hitler. The New Jersey parents have two other young children, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie.
In this picture, you see a black Nazi banner on the wall. In the center, a large swastika. But in an interview with a local newspaper, Heath Campbell said he's not a racist, stating, "A name doesn't make a person. The person makes the person. My son is going to learn to love. None of my kids are going to have a bone of hate in their body."
That may be true, but what is also accurate is that right now, according to police, all three of his children have been taken from the home by New Jersey child welfare workers. But why?
(on camera): We contacted the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. And while the agency will not comment on a specific case, they told us that children are removed from their homes only if there's an imminent danger to the child and only after an allegation of abuse or neglect is made. The department stressed that a child is never removed from a home simply because of his or her name.
(voice-over): This is not the first time the name has created controversy for the Campbells. Last month, a supermarket refused to write "Happy Birthday, Adolph Hitler" on a cake for the boy. Despite the firestorm that continues to grow, the Campbells are refusing to change their son's name.
HEATH CAMPBELL, FATHER OF CHILDREN NAMED FOR NAZIS: This is America. They say it's free. You have a right to name your child what you want to name your child.
KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
PHILLIPS: And last night, Heath Campbell told a local newspaper, actually, that his children were not removed from the home. However, a custody hearing is scheduled this afternoon in family court. We were unable to reach the Campbells for comment.
Now, some frowns from the parents of a California teen when they saw her cell-phone statement. Last month, she sent -- wait for it -- 14,528 text messages. That's almost 500 a day, or one every two waking minutes. Good thing the family's plan is unlimited text for 30 bucks a month. Otherwise, dad figures he'd owe AT&T about 3,000 bucks.
Next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.