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Help for Homeowners; Search Called Off for Missing Boaters; Secretary Clinton in MidEast; Is Your Child Prone to Gambling Addiction?

Aired March 4, 2009 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, we're coming up on 8:00 here in New York. A look at the stories that we're covering for you this hour and what's on the agenda right now. There are new details coming out this morning, just in the past couple of minutes, actually, on the president's plan to help fix the nation's mortgage problems.

Right now we know that the $75 billion package includes guidelines to help lenders figure out who needs it most. We have our CNN personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, here, who is going to break down the details about who benefits, who doesn't and she just got some new information as well about this plan.

Also Christine Romans taking a look at whether in the big picture this program will really work and what impact it may have on the economy.

Also, we just brought you live pictures from the West Bank, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke. She and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wrapping up a joint news conference just a short time ago. We have Paula Hancocks following all the latest developments for us on this in Ramallah.

And, right now, the Coast Guard no longer searching for two NFL players and a third man missing off the Florida coast since Saturday. Some families say they're not giving up, others say they're coming to terms that they may never see their loved ones again. Our John Zarrella is in Miami covering this story.

We begin with the breaking news. And we're just getting in details of President Obama's plan to help up to 9 million families rework their mortgages to avoid foreclosure. CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis has been looking at the details and has more now on who qualifies and who gets left behind.

Hi, Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hi. We've been talking about this all morning. And I have new information on this program, so important to homeowners who are struggling out there.

Guidelines on this program will address second mortgages. This has been something that's been a problem all along in trying to solve the housing program because so many people have second mortgages, and it's difficult to get both the holder of the second mortgage and the first to work together to find some kind of new resolution for the homeowner.

Lenders -- incentives will be given to lenders -- incentives will be given to lenders to buy out second mortgages. This, of course, would reduce overall monthly payment.

And, of course, also we're finding out today is the start -- today is the start -- of the major outreach by lenders and government agency representatives with this program. So, if you think you're going to qualify for some help under these programs, you definitely want to get started now. Getting everything together. Servicers, housing counselors are going to be your primary contact people to qualify for this program.

So, if you're thinking you want to get involved, you want to pick up the phone, call your lender. If you're working with a housing counselor, you should contact them.

Let's take a look about what we already know about these programs. They've been on the table for about two weeks. Borrowers who are current on their mortgage but can't refinance because of falling home prices, maybe you've got an adjustable rate mortgage you can't afford, this program is for you.

The loan must be held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. You can call your lender to find out. And you have to have sufficient income to cover the new mortgage. Obviously, you have to be working here. What it does is it allows the borrower to refinance into a loan with lower monthly payments or simply to avoid a rate reset if you have an adjustable rate mortgage.

Now, you're going to get no principal reduction, but borrowers could save money over the life of the loan and you'll probably see a lower monthly mortgage.

The second initiative -- now this one is designed to help folks who are really in trouble, who may be behind on their mortgage, with lower monthly payments for homeowners at risk of losing their home. The people who qualify are borrowers behind on mortgage payments. The mortgage must be on the primary home. This is not for investors. This isn't for house flippers. Very clear that they only want to help people who are living in those homes. The monthly mortgage bill is more than 31 percent of your monthly gross income.

We've been hearing reports this morning that that number could change. These are the original details from two weeks ago. What it does -- the lender may lower interest rates and/or principal balance through loan modification and it's estimated to help 3 million to 4 million homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Main part of this plan, of course, loan modification. That's exactly what we've been doing all along in trying to help folks out with this problem and, of course, it's not always been successful.

CHETRY: People can also, as you pointed out, go to or to try to find out more information. On the, they also have this little work-up, this fact sheet, so you can figure out...

WILLIS: That's right.

CHETRY:...whether you qualify as well, because for a lot of people out there, they're clinging to the hope that this could work for them.

WILLIS: That's right.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: So, people who have been barely hanging on here may have a lifeline finally thrown, but in terms of the overall economy, the housing market, whether or not this would help, you know, sort of rising tide lifts all boats.

Christine Romans is here. What do we think of that?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Or at least keep the boats from sinking at this point. What we know is that this comes at an exact time we're having a deterioration in the housing market. We just got these new numbers from First American CoreLogic that show 20 percent of people at the end of last year had a mortgage that was worth more than their home.

They were under water. Negative equity is another buzzword they use to describe it. That's more than 8.3 million U.S. mortgages. Now the mortgage is worth more than the home. It's hard to refinance. This plan is supposed to help you if you're in that first category, the first group of people to be able to refinance.

And it's spreading from beyond the bubble states. Look at this. Nevada, 55 percent of the mortgages are underwater. Michigan, 40 percent of them. Arizona, 32 percent. Florida, 30 percent. California, 30 percent.

This is the percentage of mortgages that are underwater. But California, wow, they have an awful lot of mortgages that are underwater. A lot of people who are taking pay cuts in their jobs. They don't have the income they used to have now. They can't refinance and take advantage of lower rates.

So this plan is supposed to help people like that. The question is, as the housing market continues to deteriorate, there's some concern that 18 months into this housing crisis, we finally get kind of a broad plan, you know, how late are we to this game?

ROBERTS: Just to remind people at home. A home being underwater is when the value of the mortgage is greater than the value of the home.

ROMANS: That's right.

ROBERTS: Now, there are limits, though, in terms of how far underwater you are.

ROMANS: That's right.

ROBERTS: So, how many people, in fact, could be helped by this plan?

ROMANS: That's right. Well, the government says the first group of people who are underwater, I think Gerri writes, 4 million to 5 million, right? They want to help...


WILLIS: (INAUDIBLE) percent. Any new mortgage can't exceed 105 percent of its market value. So you got to expect that's not going to cover the world. The rest of the folks who are in trouble will fall into the second category and these are people who are probably already behind on their mortgage payments.

ROMANS: Right.

WILLIS: That's how they're trying to cover this. And then if you don't have a job and you're having problems because you can't pay the mortgage, that's why they lifted the amounts...

ROBERTS: So, the big question is if you're in imminent danger of foreclosure now, what do you do today?

WILLIS: Today, you call your lender.

ROMANS: Right.

WILLIS: You get on the phone, you call your lender. If you're working with a housing counselor, you call them. That's the first thing you want to do right now. Details of the plan just coming up on Go to the website. It will give you more details on who qualifies.

CHETRY: And you also made another point in the last hour, which is smart, get all of your paperwork together now so that you have it as well as you can jump on it. If you need to get bank statements, if you need to get, you know, your pay stubs together, all of that. And the interesting thing, can you just explain quickly why including the second mortgage in one way, shape or form could make a difference.

WILLIS: This is fascinating. This is really extending the scope of the problem because -- and, of course, the help is going to be out there for homeowners. This is going to apply also to second mortgages. So if you were held up from getting a new loan because the holder of your second mortgage wouldn't agree to the terms of the deal, well, guess what, you'll probably get help here. There are going to be incentives for holders of second mortgages. You know, second mortgages, home equity line of credit, a conventional second, it could be a couple of things here that people have.

ROBERTS: So, if your mortgage lender is banging on your door, get on the phone this morning.

WILLIS: That's right.

ROMANS: And if you think you're underwater, you made a very good point of being underwater, so if you have a $200,000 property, but your loan now is $210,000, you're going to be helped. If it's a lot, further out of whack than that, you're out of the scope of the parameters of this program.

ROBERTS: Great information to pass along to folks. Gerri and Christine, thanks so much.

Also developing this morning, you saw it live right here on AMERICAN MORNING" just moments ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It's her first Middle East trip as America's top diplomat. The secretary said that she carries a new commitment for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I will remain personally engaged. As I said in Sharm el-Sheikh, this is a commitment that I carry in my heart, not just in my portfolio as secretary of state.


ROBERTS: CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Ramallah for us this morning.

And, Paula, a couple of things that really stood out about that press conference is the warmth in relations between the secretary and the Palestinian president and the degree of commitment that this administration appears to be prepared to put into trying to craft a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. You heard the secretary of state there saying it's in her heart as well as her portfolio. The Obama administration is vigorously keen on getting some kind of peace deal here. And there were very warm words between the two -- the U.S. secretary of state and President Mahmoud Abbas. Hillary Clinton actually said, "I am honored to be standing next to him. It is one of my honors. He's a leader of courage and of dedication for the Palestinian people."

And she also said, quite pointedly, that the Palestinian Authority is the only legitimate government that the U.S. will recognize. Now, of course, this was referring to Hamas. And what we heard from Hillary Clinton talking to CNN on Tuesday, saying that if there is a Palestinian unity government with Hamas in that is not going to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist, then they won't be able to talk to them.

So, certainly, there was a certain amount of optimism in this press conference. Hillary Clinton trying to point that the Palestinian family that doesn't have food, education, a roof over their heads, and safety and security should have the same rights to all of those things that any other family across the world does. And we really did see an awful lot of commitment in her words. Now, of course, what that means for the region is unclear at this point. The devil is always in the details for this particular region -- John.

ROBERTS: Paula Hancocks reporting live for us from Ramallah this morning. Paula, thanks so much for that - Kiran.

CHETRY: Also new this morning, the search is over and the painful reality is setting in for the families. Rescue teams in Clearwater, Florida are now calling off efforts to find two NFL players and a friend who've been missing at sea now since Saturday.

John Zarrella has more on the hope that still lingers in the wake of this tragedy.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The families of the three missing men cried and embraced, trying to comfort each other, sharing the pain. Their worst fears, the Coast Guard's search was over.

CAPT. TIMOTHY CLOSE, U.S. COAST GUARD: We're extremely confident that, if there were any survivors on the surface of the water, that we would have found them.

ZARRELLA: The men, four in all, were thrown into the chilly waters of the Gulf of Mexico when their 21-foot boat capsized late Saturday afternoon. Nick Schuyler, the only one rescued, was found Monday, sitting on the boat's hull, wearing a raincoat and a life vest. Despite the Coast Guard's decision, Schuyler's rescue is something that still gives the other families hope.

BRUCE COOPER, MARQUIS COOPER'S FATHER: I believe in my heart that he's out there fighting to get back, because he knows he has a daughter and a wife and a lot of people who love him, to get back to. So that's really what I'm clinging on to.

ZARRELLA: There so many questions about what went wrong, and Coast Guard officials believe Schuyler has many of the answers. But his dehydration and exhaustion are so severe he's having trouble filling in the gaps. We do know he told Coast Guard officials and his family that a large wave hit the boat about 5 p.m.

Schuyler's father, Stuart, told CNN's Heidi Collins what his son says happened next.

STUART SCHUYLER, FATHER: They were all clinging together, helping each other the whole time. And, you know, of course, it's hard to keep track of time out there. He was in the water roughly 40 hours, and he said the last four or five hours he was alone. He said they drifted apart and it was so dark, they couldn't see each other and he just kept crying.

ZARRELLA: There was a belief that, because of their physical condition, the others might beat the odds of surviving hypothermia and dehydration. Two of them are NFL players, Corey Smith and Marquis Cooper. William Bleakley played football at the University of South Florida with Schuyler. All in good shape.

But grim discoveries Tuesday made the Coast Guard's decision inevitable. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found one cooler and one orange life jacket in near proximity to each other, approximately 16 miles southeast of where the vessel was found.

ZARRELLA: In the direction, the Coast Guard says, the current would have taken the missing men.


Some of Marquis Cooper's fishing buddies are, according to Cooper's dad, going to go out in the morning and search the area. And Tank Johnson, a friend and fellow NFL football player, told the local media that pilots can volunteer by e-mail to search the area - John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: John Zarrella for us this morning. John, thanks so much.

President Obama launching a full-court press to boost investor confidence. Arguing it's a good time to invest in the market. But is it? And if it is, what should you invest in? We've got two great economic minds standing by to answer those questions for you.

Thirteen minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

President Obama aggressively trying to pump up investor confidence and revive an economy on life support. Yesterday, he suggested that it might be a smart time to buy into the stock market.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: What you're now seeing is profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you've got a long-term perspective on it.


ROBERTS: The president in the Oval Office yesterday. And joining me now to talk more about this, financial adviser Jill Schlesinger, and investment advisor Ryan Mack.

Good morning to both of you.


ROBERTS: So rather an extraordinary statement out of the president yesterday. We usually don't see them hawking stocks, but when you look at some of the price-to-earnings ratios, some of these stocks -- GE 3.9 times, Dupont 8 times, IBM 9.8 times, Exxon Mobile 7.4 times, are there some good prices out there? RYAN MACK, PRESIDENT, OPTIMUM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: Well, definitely. At this current time, the prices are really low. I mean, so -- as financial advisors this is a time when you want to say, as Warren Buffett says, "When other people are fearful, you need to be greedy. When other people are greedy, you need to be fearful."

So, it's a great place to look. Maybe had some exchange rated funds. Get broad diversification of investments so you can act to purchase the entire market with some spiders or some diamonds or even triple cubes.

ROBERTS: This is the same Warren Buffett who sent the letter out to his investors the other day, saying, oops, I guff.

MACK. Yes.

SCHLESINGER: Yes. And let's be clear about something. Just because a stock is cheap doesn't mean it can't get cheaper. There's an old saying on Wall Street, you know, if you like it at eight, you're going to love it at five. And, you know, look at the people who owned Citi and said they were buying it all the way down to, you know, basically $1.50.

ROBERTS: Yes. Look at who bought it at $27.

SCHLESINGER: All right. Nice. Thanks for the disclosure. But here's a thing. I think is that there are some bargains, again diversification, risk tolerance and a long-term game plan are very important. I agree that the valuations, like the president said, the valuations are good. But, usually when we have a massive recession -- and we are in a massive recession -- we overshoot. We overshoot to even lower valuations than the norm.

ROBERTS: So, Ryan, if you are to follow the president's advice and think about investing in some stocks, what's a good buy these days?

MACK: Well, definitely -- again, I think it stays right (INAUDIBLE) a place to go. And definitely, I agree with the point that Jill made here. We have to make sure we have purchase the right way. We don't just start purchasing stocks because the president said we should start purchasing stocks. Many people have suffered from credit card debt. They have no savings in their savings account.

And they have no insurance, no estate planning mechanism, no infrastructure to allow them to start purchasing in a responsible manner. So we'll start looking at some spiders. If you are ready to purchase --

ROBERTS: What's a spider?

MACK: Spider -- S&P 500, the exchange-traded funds.

SCHLESINGER: And I would also add that there are tremendous bargains in the bond market. Now a lot of people are scared of bonds. They don't really know how they work. So do a little brushing up. If you look online, and there's a ton of resources, bond portfolios are really a little bit safer than stocks right now and --

ROBERTS: I know some people who actually -- their funds -- their funds are above where they were last year because they were heavily invested in it.

SCHLESINGER: Indeed. And if you're in a high tax bracket, municipal bonds are a very interesting place to look, high quality corporate bonds. And I would also point out that if you're really worried about inflation in the long term, there are treasury inflation protected securities or tips, and you can also buy a little teeny piece of gold to have a little hedge against what could potentially in the future be a shedding of the dollar and inflation.

ROBERTS: And you can join the Ron Paul club as well, where you've got that buy your -- buy your gold coins.

SCHLESINGER: Well, yes -- exactly, that's the Armageddon plan.

ROBERTS: So looks like the big news of the day of course is the housing rescue plan.

From what you see out there so far, Ryan, at this plan, do you think it's going to help?

MACK: Well, I think it is. At the end of the day, it helps address prices. And prices right now is what's going to stabilize this market. Helping keeping people in the houses. That's what we have to do right now. And this is the main thing it addresses.

ROBERTS: And we asked this question to Christine Romans. I'll ask you, too, Jill, this idea that maybe not a rising tide lifts all boat, but if the tide stops going down, at least things may start to stabilize. Do you think that might happen?

SCHLESINGER: I think it's a possibility. Let's remember that the entire crisis, the ground zero of this economic crisis is housing. And until housing is stabilized, nothing else is going to get solved. So we need two things to happen.

We need the banking system to be restored and we need the housing to be restored, or at least to stop going down. Perhaps this is a good way. We hope there's a lot of people on the other end of the phone at these mortgage providers.

ROBERTS: Folks, it's great to get your perspective on this.

Ryan Mack, Jill Schlesinger, good to see you again this morning - Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, it's a one of a kind fusion of reality TV and the latest political headlines. We're checking in with CNN's online reality stars.

Two freshmen congressmen from two very different walks of life giving you an inside look of what life is like for them on Capitol Hill. It's 21 minutes after the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: And welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

They're politically polar opposites, but they stick together because they're also the new guys in town.

And our Alina Cho is checking in with two freshmen congressmen who are the stars of's reality program "Freshman Year."

A little look at what life is like when you first get to Washington, right?

ALINA CHO, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, it's fascinating. And they're almost like tourists, you know. It's fascinating to watch, Kiran. Good morning. Good morning, everybody.

You know, call it CNN's version of the "Odd Couple." The reality series "Freshman Year" follows two newly-elected congressmen. They're 33-year-old Colorado Democrat Jared Polis and 41-year-old Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz.

Now, the freshman congressman are being given viewers a behind the scenes look at their first months in office. There you see Chaffetz with the cup that he uses in his congressional office. That's where he sleeps, by the way.

They shoot the footage themselves on HD flip cameras that we gave them. And this is no C-span. The congressman takes us to cocktail parties as you just saw there, staff dinners, even the lead-up to their votes on the stimulus package. Polis voted yes, Chaffetz, no.

And this week in the fourth installment, they take us behind the scenes at President Obama's first address to a joint session of Congress.

Take a look.


REP. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: The State of the Union just ended, and this is like the media madhouse here. It's called Statuary Hall.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: I got to shake the president's hand on the way in. I had him sign my program on the way out. He's all but nice to me.

POLIS: We actually just left the Capitol, and this is the presidential motorcade. Everybody's waving. Maybe that's him.




CHO: See, they're like tourists. I'd be shooting the motorcade, too. Now both congressmen also give viewers a change of scene as they head home to their congressional districts. This is really interesting. You know, we get to meet their families.

Polis and his partner, Marlin, hosted dinner party for his congressional staff. Chaffetz introduces us to his smoking hot wife, Julie. Those are his words, by the way, and his three kids.

He even gives a civics lesson to his daughter, Ellis' (ph) seventh grade class, and the students are not shy throwing questions at the Republican congressman. Here's what happens.


UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Have you been in the White House?

CHAFFETZ: I have been in the White House. I have been in the White House. I have met President Obama, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Did you vote for Obama?

CHAFFETZ: Did I vote for Barack Obama? Absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did dad embarrass you?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thanks, guys.



CHAFFETZ: Not very much?



CHAFFETZ: She wants to walk out by herself. She doesn't want to walk out with dad.


CHO: That's right. A typical seventh grader. You know, Chaffetz says he's also on Twitter, under the name Jasoninthehouse. How about that? That's a good one. He also sleeps on a cot, as I mentioned, in his congressional office, Kiran. That's a way for him to save $1,500 a month in rent in D.C.

CHETRY: So his seventh grader can have all the nice things.

(CROSSTALK) CHO: That's right. That's right. And, you know, we saw this in an earlier installment. He's got pop-tarts, he's got Slim Fast. He's got all kinds of stuff in there, the closet. Everything. It's a whole setup.

CHETRY: It's a great show. They need to work on their skills a little bit with the camera.

CHO: On the shooting? Yes.

CHETRY: Yes. There was one nice shot of the ceiling and --

CHO: That's about how I would do. I would have to say. But anyway, it's good stuff. It's really fascinating. And a real departure for, but it's a great inside look, you know, behind the scenes. Like I said, no C-span.

CHETRY: That's right. We love it. That's why we keep bringing you back to talk about it.

All right, thanks so much, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: And you can watch all the episodes, by the way, at

ROBERTS: It's the most trusted name in coal, or is it? Some say clean coal is nothing but a smokescreen, and Hollywood is helping them wage a PR war against the coal industry. Our Jim Acosta following that for us this morning. He's coming right up.

It's 27 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Twenty-nine minutes now after the hour. Issue number one, the economy. Our top priority this morning.

The Federal Reserve rolling out a new $200 billion plan to boost buying power to you, the consumer. Fed Chief Ben Bernanke telling Congress the hope is that the cash will thaw frozen credit markets letting you get money to pay for cars, college and take out new credit cards. You heard of TARP. Well, this one, it's called TALF - T-A-L- F.

Plus, more and new details breaking from our sources inside the beltway on the president's $75 billion housing plan. Mr. Obama calling for lenders to cut mortgage rates on struggling homeowners down to 31 percent of an individual's gross income. Another part of the plan, using Fannie and Freddie to help other at-risk homeowners refinance their loans.

And as the president's spends all those billions, he's also promising to cut back on wasteful spending in other areas. More details expected later on today, but the White House already saying the president will curb federal contracts and change how they're awarded. And that the administration says will save tens of billions of dollars each and every year.

CHETRY: Well, it's called clean coal. It may sound like an oxymoron, but there's a growing effort to prove that it's just that, a big pipe dream. And it's a fight that has some of Hollywood's heavy hitters on board.

Our Jim Acosta is working this story for us live in Washington to answer the question, is there such thing as clean coal technology?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: It depends on who you talk to, Kiran. Environmentalists are determined to keep global warming from getting pushed to the back burner from big protests in Washington to new TV ads that are getting a lot of attention these days. One of the latest spots targets the coal industry and might as well be dubbed "no country for coal men."


ANNOUNCER: Clean coal harnesses the awesome power of the word clean.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The battle over clean coal is getting dirty. Take this ad drilling into coal industry claims that it's cleaning up its act.

ANNOUNCER: Supported by the coal industry, the most trusted name in coal.

ACOSTA: To make the spot, environmentalists backed by Al Gore scored none other than Joel and Ethan Coen, the Hollywood heavyweights behind "no country for old men."

AL GORE, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Clean coal is like healthy cigarettes. It does not exist.

BRUCE NILLES, SIERRA CLUB: It's sort of like big foot and mermaids.

ACOSTA: Environmentalists say the coal industry is years, perhaps decades from achieving what many scientists consider true clean coal technology. That technology consists of capturing carbon as it comes out of the smokestack and storing it underground before it's released into the atmosphere. To this day there is not one power plant in the nation using that technology.

OBAMA: Clean coal technology is something that can make America energy independent.

ACOSTA: But the coal industry has a powerful ally in President Obama, who promised to support clean coal research during the campaign. The technology gets a mention on the White House website.

If the tomorrow "clean coal" is misleading, does that mean that the president is misleading the public about clean coal? NILLES: Great question. The term "clean coal" means different things to different people. What the coal industry uses the term "clean coal" to mean and I think anything built post-1970, regardless of the fact that it's spewing out large amounts of carbon dioxide.

ACOSTA: The coal industry and its supporters argues efforts to modernize coal plants are having a positive impact.

JOE LUCAS, AMERICAN COALITION FOR CLEAN COAL ELECTRICITY: With technology we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, still preserve access to affordable, reliable energy in this country, promote energy independence and create jobs.

ACOSTA: Still, the industry refuses to say its plants contribute to global warming.

Can you just answer that with a yes or a no, if you believe that burning coal causes global warming?

LUCAS: I don't know. I'm not a scientist.

ACOSTA: That debate spilled into the streets outside the power plant that heats the U.S. capitol, a plant that still runs in part on coal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're generation last, man, if we don't take action right now, it's going to be too late for America and the whole world.


ACOSTA: Energy secretary Steven Chu once called coal his worst nightmare. Now he takes the administration line of supporting clean coal as an energy option to combat global warming. But environmentalists are encouraged by one idea coming out of the White House, a policy, and forgive the jargon here, called cap and trade. Which would force coal companies to pay for their emissions. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. And the debate continues. Jim Acosta for us this morning. Thanks.

ACOSTA: You bet.


ROBERTS: Well, the closing bell has signaled doom on Wall Street lately. To many people it's meant disappearing 401(k)s and savings and its sort of stuff that has you waking up in cold sweat in the middle of the night. But many experts and even the president say our fixation on the markets may be misguided.


OBAMA: You know, the stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics. It bobs up and down day to day, and if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you're probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong.


ROBERTS: Our Carol Costello now live from Washington with more on how our Dow obsession could actually be undermining any chance of a recovery. It's kind of like talk it down, it might just go down.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're skeptical of this, aren't you, John?

ROBERTS: Well, I'm worried about it, to tell you the truth.

COSTELLO: Well, everybody's worried about it, because it is scary to watch the Dow, but many Americans as you say are glued to it, to the point of unhealthy obsession.


COSTELLO (voice-over): The Dow has taken on a life of its own. It's up. It's down. It's tanked. And America can't take its eyes off its little wiggly line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it bothers me because it shows me how the economy is doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It concerns me more because of how everybody reacts to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm concerned. Definitely I'm alarmed.

COSTELLO: And why wouldn't they feel that way? The joke is their 401(k)s have become 201ks and the falling Dow is all they hear about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hate to say it, but the second target might be 4000 and maybe 400.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been popping and dropping, largely dropping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I could hold your hand.

COSTELLO: It's the kind of analysis that has talk radio buzzing.

DR. JOY BROWNE, PSYCHOLOGIST: The Dow Jones will make you feel like a victim.

COSTELLO: Psychologist Dr. Joy brown says her listeners have become obsessed with the Dow.

BROWNE: We've become Henny Penny, the Dow is falling! The Dow is falling! And you know, as far as I'm concerned, the Dow is straight it. It is just uncivilized. That's what the Dow is. It doesn't mean anything.

COSTELLO: Dr. Browne says you should ask yourself this - did you become a multimillionaire when the Dow soared to 14,000 in 2007? Browne says if you have a job now and you pay your mortgage, it's not likely the falling Dow will drive you to the poorhouse. But make no mistake, market analysts like Art Hogan of Jeffries and company says the Dow is an important economic indicator. When it loses 23 percent of its value, we ought to pay attention. But not obsess.

ART HOGAN, JEFFRIES & CO: Watching the Dow every day is not going to predict the fact that you may become part of that eight percent that's not working or that you may lose your house. Watching the Dow is more of a reflection of what investors think about the earnings power of those 30 companies that make up the Dow.

COSTELLO: Hogan and other analysts say the erratically diving Dow is more an indication of how Wall Street feels about the president's plans to fix the economy. And traditionally it has been an indication of how the economy will play out in the short term. And history tells us the Dow has always recovered.


COSTELLO: The point here is to not allow your mood to be controlled by the ups and downs of the market. You can't control the Dow. Dr. Joy Browne says you'll feel better if you sit down and you come up with a personal plan that will protect you if the worst happens. That way you can take control. And it is important to keep in mind, she says, among Americans eligible for and willing to work, 92 percent still have jobs.

ROBERTS: Carol, I was trying to be pretty zen about the whole thing as the Dow tick down through 12 and 11 and 10 and nine and even eight. But when it cracked seven, it's 45 percent lower than it was a year ago and sometimes you just think to yourself, holy -- you know?

COSTELLO: Oh, absolutely. Especially if you're near retirement age, because those people are certainly going to lose out. But if you're younger, and you have years to wait, because, you know, you invest in the stock market for the long term, not the short term, then you really have to keep that in mind -


COSTELLO: And hope for the best for the economy. Because sitting there watching the line go up and down, isn't going to help you, because you can't control it. That's what Dr. Joy Browne says.

ROBERTS: Unfortunately for a lot of us the long term is getting shorter. Carol Costello, thanks so much. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, more pork project finger-pointing in Washington. Every penny counts. So is it business as usual with hundreds of billions on the line. The man from politifact is here, Bill Adair and his Truth-o-meter, separating fact from fiction for us. We'll be back after a quick break. 37 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: 40 minutes past the hour, welcome back to the most news in the morning. The Senate giving an overwhelming OK to keeping thousands of earmarks attached to $410 billion in new spending, brushing aside claims from some republicans that the bill is packed with pork.

The White House says President Obama is likely to sign on the dotted line. So, who's telling the whole truth on this about all the cash? Well, joining me to separate fact from fiction now is Bill Adair. He's the founder of Thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: So let's start with the first one, democrats rejecting claims that they are conducting business as usual. Democratic congressional leaders are claiming that the omnibus bill which is this, you know, budget bill, has only $3.8 billion in earmarks. So, is that the whole truth?

ADAIR: It's not. This one got a false on our truth-o-meter. And this is one where it's really important to read the fine print. The $3.8 billion number refers to what in sort of the arcane language of budgets is called project - nonproject-based programming, and what that means is they've essentially cut out water projects that account for many, many earmarks. And in doing so, they've brought the number way down. And it's really not an accurate account of all earmarks. The more accurate number comes from Taxpayers for Common Sense. It's actually about double, $7.7 billion, so this one gets a false.

CHETRY: All right. Let's go on to the next one, Senator John McCain, a strong proponent of the Iraq war and the surge has actually come out to claim that a policy victory on the idea about leaving troops in Iraq. He said on Friday "the president's plan even after the end of its withdrawal timeline is reached will even place up to 50,000 U.S. troops." Does the plan really say that?

ADAIR: No, it doesn't. McCain gets a false on the truth-o-meter for this one. And that's not what Obama said. Obama spoke just a couple of hours before McCain and he spoke about two important dates in the withdrawal of troops. The first is the end of August 2010 when his plan is to have all but about 50,000 troops out. And I think maybe that's what McCain might have been referencing.

But the way that he talked about it, he seemed to be suggesting that Obama had adopted his idea of a permanent military presence. Obama hasn't. He plans to have all troops out by the end of 2011. So, a false for that one.

CHETRY: All right. And every week we check in with you also about keeping President Obama honest, about some of those campaign promises that he made as a candidate. You call it the Obameter. And this week, for the Obameter, takes a look at the promise that Candidate Obama made to end income tax for seniors making less than $50,000 a year, where does he stand on that pledge? ADAIR: We have rated that one a stalled on our Obameter. And we really see no indication this one is going anywhere. It was not in the economic stimulus bill that passed a couple weeks ago. It was not in the president's budget outline that came out a week ago, and so we really don't see any evidence that Obama is pursuing this. So, for now we're rating it stalled. But I wouldn't be surprised if this one went to a promise broken at some point soon.

CHETRY: Part of that could be the spending, some estimates say that it could cost between $35.4 billion from now until 2013. Up to $70 billion to 2018 and that's a lot of money that we clearly don't have right now.

ADAIR: Absolutely. And I think the aggregate of all these things added together from the stimulus and the omnibus spending bill and all the things, it's really beginning to add up on the president. And he has to - he has to prioritize some of these promises. So, I expect that on our Obameter that we're going to see more promises broken soon for that very reason.

CHETRY: All right. Bill Adair, founder of politifact. Great to check in with you every week. Thanks so much.

ADAIR: Thanks, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Eight same-sex couples and three widowers are joining forces to sue the federal government. The demands they're making and the rights they claim they are being denied. We'll tell you all about it.

Forty-four minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: Just in to CNN, someone may finally pay for the millions who have suffered in Darfur. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir. He has been charged with seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The warrant does not mention the word genocide, but that could change. The United Nations estimates that the Darfur crisis has left 300,000 people dead either from attacks or starvation.

Here's what else we're working on for you right now. In Massachusetts eight same-sex couples and three gay widowers are suing the U.S. government. They are challenging the federal defensive marriage act. The law defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. The lawsuit claims that it denies gays health insurance benefits and retirement and death benefits for their surviving spouses.

Queen Elizabeth has knighted Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. She is honoring him for his contribution to relations between the U.S. and England and his service to Northern Ireland.

CHETRY: Well, it seems record stores like drive-in movie theaters may be headed for extinction. Word this morning that last Virgin Records last six music mega stores are closing for good by June. Two of those stores are in New York. They'll shut down next month. Illegal online file sharing as well as legal download sites have taken a big chunk out of record stores' business.

And it won't be long before Michael Jackson is moonwalking again. He's scheduled to hold a news conference for tomorrow in the U.K. and we hear he's announcing a comeback with a series of live concerts in London this summer with a guarantee of $10 million for 10 shows.

Well March definitely coming in like a lion in many parts of the country. The northeast still digging out after heavy snow while another storm moves in out west.


ROBERTS: CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away now. Heidi Collins at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, John. That's right.

Here's a check of what we're working on in the NEWSROOM. Finally a bailout plan specifically for homeowners now. A lot of people have been waiting to hear about this. Will your $75 billion actually buy some relief?

And living the struggle. How are you dealing with the economy? I-reporters are sharing their stories.

And also, reporting for duty, out of work and out of options, more Americans are turning to Uncle Sam for a paycheck. We get started at the top of the hour right here on CNN. John.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to that, Heidi. Thanks very much.

COLLINS: You bet.

CHETRY: A bum bull just walked by!

ROBERTS: Most of us here in the news business are allergic to bull, but not bulls.

Will your little one grow up only to spend hours at the black jack table? It's a question we're asking today. The warning signs that your child could grow up to be a compulsive gambler. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells you what to watch for.

Fifty-one minutes now after the hour.



ROBERTS: Know when to fold them, famous advice from Kenny Rogers this morning. Could it apply to your kindergartener? A new study says there are red flags that could mean gambling addiction later on in life. We're paging our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta for more on this. Sanjay, we're becoming more and more aware of behaviors in our children every day, but can you really spot an addictive personality in a five-year-old?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I found it really interesting, John. And the answer's, you know, not exactly. But there are some behaviors that are sort of set in childhood that could linger into adulthood and now researchers are trying to figure out how you can sort of develop a cause and effect. What are some of these impulsive behaviors? And that's sort of a large umbrella term that might be indicative of things later on.

So for example, they observed five-year-olds, sounds like a fun study, and they looked for certain behavior types, specifically distractability, hyper activity and inattentiveness. Now if you have children, those are going to sound like things that apply to just about every child. But they then graded it on a scale of one to three. And they found that children who had the highest scores, who had the most of those particular behaviors went on to be more likely to be the kids that played for money in school, they placed bets on sports games, they played video poker and the speculation that again some of those behaviors could persist into adulthood.

Overall if you had to assign a number to it, they were 25 percent to 50 percent more likely to have a gambling personality later on. Again, just based on the behaviors very early on. So, it's some indication, John, although again not a direct cause and effect.

ROBERTS: All right. So if you do identify these behaviors in your child, how do you modify them going forward?

GUPTA: Yes, you know, the good news is, as a neuroscientist, you can say that the brain is still very much in the formative stages at that age. So as much as certain behaviors are set, they can be modified or altered to a certain extent as well through some pretty simple interventions. There's the rotating brain there.

But one of the interventions, for example, just something known as stop, look and listen. Reminding children to stop, observe their surroundings, look around and listen to conversations before engaging in any particular behavior. And something else that I thought was interesting and the researchers pointed this out, something known as private speech. This is something that as adults we do all the time. We talk ourselves through something before we actually do it.

But that is not - that is a learned behavior. That is something that kids have to be taught. So, for example, before they're going to engage in some sort of activity, baking a cake or doing something, to talk themselves through all the steps ahead of time. That can cut down on their impulsivity and possibly modify the likelihood that they're going to have this gambling personality later on.

ROBERTS: And what about this idea, too, of the hereditary nature of addiction, you know, if a parent had the gene for addiction or alcoholism there's a chance that it may have been passed on to the child? Does that help us focus in on who needs to be watched more closely?

GUPTA: Yes, there appears to be some component of that. And there appears to be one step further to this idea that people who have this addictive personality or a gambling personality which is a little bit different, they tend to get a different reward system in the brain.

Frankly, it feels better when they engage in these sorts of behaviors. And that aspect of it they find does seem to have a hereditary component. They feel good. They get a different sort of high or euphoria when they gamble.

ROBERTS: All right. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning with all that talk...

GUPTA: All right.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

GUPTA: Take care of that voice by the way, John.

ROBERTS: I'm going to try hard.

GUPTA: Doctor's orders.

ROBERTS: I'll give you a call after the show to get some remedies you can pass along. Appreciate it, doc. Thanks.

GUPAT: See you.

ROBERTS: That's going to wrap it up for us. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here again bright and early tomorrow morning.

CHETRY: That's right. We'll take a quick break and when we come back, CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins starts.

ROBERTS: Although maybe I shouldn't change the voice. Rob Marciano likes it.

CHETRY: If Rob likes it, stifle it.


CHETRY: See you tomorrow.