Return to Transcripts main page


Embryonic Stem-Cell Research; Mexico Drug Violence; Deceased Collections; Combat Stress

Aired March 7, 2009 - 15:00   ET


WHITFIELD: All right. This tough economic mess, well it's not just affecting you. People around the world are losing their jobs and they're struggling as well. Next hour, we'll hear about the deal that Britain's prime minister says is needed to save the world economy.

And it could provide new hope for homeowners on the edge in this country. We'll have some tips on what to do if you're facing foreclosure.

Plus, if you're a spring-breaker, packing a bag with thoughts of making a run for the border, well a new warning could alter your travel plans.

I'm Fredericka Whitfield and you're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Republicans say it's bloated with pork barrel projects, but President Obama is defending his $3.6 trillion budget today in his Saturday radio and Internet address. The president insisted that his spending plan makes hard choices and eliminates waste.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S: For the first time in many years, my administration has produced a budget that represents an honest reckoning of where we are and where we need to go. It's also a budget that begins to make the hard choices that we've avoided for far too long, a strategy that cuts where we must and invests where we need.

That's why it includes $2 trillion in deficit reduction, while making historic investments in America's future. That's why it reduces discretionary spending for no defense programs as a share of the economy by more than 10 percent over the next decade, to the lowest level since they began keeping these records nearly half a century ago.


WHITFIELD: Surviving this economy just got a little harder for hundreds of thousands of newly jobless Americans. The unemployment rate ballooned to 8.1 percent, a 25-year high. And well up from the previous month's rate. That means 12.5 million people are now looking for work.

Minorities historically have dealt with higher unemployment rates in the U.S. This recession is no different. The labor department says the jobless rate for whites is 7.3 percent. That's well under the national figure, but as you see, unemployment for African-Americans and Hispanics is running in double digits. The unemployment rate among Asians, 6.9 percent.

Well, just as you are, people around the world are losing their jobs and struggling to feed their families. Just this week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told Congress that a global new deal is needed to save the world economy.


GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: If these times have shown us anything, it's that the major challenges we face are global. No matter where it starts, an economic crisis does not stop at the water's edge. It ripples across the world. Climate change does not honor passport control. Terrorism has no respect for borders. Modern communication instantly spans every continent. The new frontier is that there is no frontier. And the new shared truth is that global problems now need global solutions.


WHITFIELD: Britain is struggling with its own banking crises, the government now taking majority control of a third bank. I spoke with CNN's Jim Boulden in London a short while ago.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the second large bank that the UK government has to effectively take control of to get a majority stake. They've also taken control of one of the smaller mortgage lenders. But this is one of the big ones. This is the one the government made, it is called Lloyds Group. Government made it really merge with another very troubled bank toward the end of last year. The government was enthusiastic about this deal. And then a few weeks ago they came out with the results and the results were terrible and the share prices plummeted.

So the government has been stepping in to try to give money to Lloyds Banking Group. And the government here is spending an enormous amount of money; something like 20 percent of the GDP has now gone to prop up the banking/insurance sector. It's an enormous amount of money given -- the taxpayers have to give to these banks.

WHITFIELD: Are people nervous, are they scared? Are they even thinking about taking their money out of the banks?

BOULDEN: You might remember about a year and a half ago we had the first run on a bank here in the UK for over a 100 years. That was a small mortgage lender. That is what really kicked this all off back in August of 2007. It started to scare people. We never saw people standing in the queue to get their money out and that is when it happened. No, that's not happening with these banks. The thing is will the government take complete control; will we have what people call the "N" word, nationalization? We're getting ever so closer to it.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. There are so many parallels what's going on in the United States and what is going on in Great Britain and really economies worldwide. Here we're dealing with an unemployment rate of now 8 percent. What's the unemployment rate where you are?

BOULDEN: That was a shocking number when it came out, wasn't it, Fredericka? Here we're about 6.3 percent. But that number is a bit lag. It's been a few months since we had a number. I'm suspecting we're going to get it a lot worse. They have a lot of manufacturing here and a lot of jobs are going. The car industry not hit as much as it is in the U.S. they don't have as many people employed as they do in the U.S. here in the car industry but don't forget GM is a big car company here in the UK. So is Ford. So as the U.S. suffers, so does the UK.

WHITFIELD: All right. So everyone impacted around the world, the economic storm taking a toll on workers and their families.

We have reports now from China and Russia, but we begin in Jerusalem, where Israelis are no longer taking economic growth for granted.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem. This is this city's high speed train system in the making. Until recently a symbol of Israel's rapid economic growth. Over the last five years, this small country has posted annual GDP gains of nearly 5 percent a year, fueled by high tech and agricultural exports and bolstered by a strong and well regulated banking system.

Initially, Israel was spared much of the pain of the global economic meltdown, but that's beginning to change. Unemployment is on the rise. Tax revenues are plummeting. And 2009 looks like it's going to be a year of zero economic growth. Big projects like this train system seem to be slowing down as the money to pay for them dries up. Israel is looking at hard times ahead.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Jerusalem.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matthew Chance in Moscow. The global economic storm has battered few countries harder than Russia. Six months ago, this was one of the world's fastest growing economies. Now official estimates put the number of unemployed and looking for work at over 6 million people, and that figure is rising fast as more companies across this vast country close down. It's Russia's mining industry. It's steel works. It's also manufacturing, and its chemical plants that are being hardest hit.

EMILY CHANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Emily Chang on a roadside in Beijing. All of these trucks are parked here waiting for work. They normally haul construction supplies from one place to another. But since the beginning of winter, these truck drivers tell us demand has slowed down dramatically. Most of these truck drivers are migrant workers, the group hardest hit by the economic crises.

The Chinese government officially claims about 20 million migrant workers are unemployed, but some experts believe that number is more like 30 million. China has said it wants to maintain unemployment at about 4.6 percent but, again, some experts believe it's actually more like 10 percent.

WHITFIELD: All right, Emily Chang there. So, see, it's not just here. Millions of you, though, here are facing foreclosure and you may be confused about exactly what to do. We have steps to save your home straight ahead in this hour and next hour a special edition of the CNN NEWSROOM focusing on mortgage modification.


JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You're looking at pictures out of North Edmond, Oklahoma, from yesterday when flames came within inches of a home; also an entire town had to be evacuated. The town of Tologa, about 400 people live there as flames go very close. These fires are driven by the wind and the winds remain very strong today.

Welcome back, I'm CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. Fire danger at critical levels, not just in Oklahoma but much of Texas into New Mexico, even into Colorado today. Winds are going to be gusting as strong as 60 miles per hour. Relative humidity extremely low, down to -- maybe even down to 15 percent at times today. Couple that with an ongoing drought.

In fact, this is the first time in three years since the entire state of Texas has some type of drought conditions. This is the big storm across the country today. Not only creating critical fire conditions, bringing in warm temperatures as well, which of course aggravates that problem. But temperatures are going to be 15 to 20 degrees above average in the plains, extending all the way into the northeast. Its 68 degrees right now in Central Park in New York City. These warm temperatures also mixing in with some cooler, drier air from the north means severe thunderstorms will be possible from Kansas City to St. Louis, even maybe pushing into Chicago.

Heavy rain this weekend, one to three inches. Means the flood threat is high. So watch for rising rivers and urban flooding if you're heading out on the town for tonight. That's the latest forecast.

WHITFIELD: Scary warnings there. Thanks so much, Jacqui.

Hitting the road to highlight the foreclosure crises. Some Californians are doing that on board the recovery express. They're on the way to Washington, actually. Riders are demanding the federal government do more to help people stay in their homes. They want President Obama's mortgage relief plan put on the fast track.


ALBERT HERNANDEZ, PASSENGER: I'm almost on the line of foreclosure. My payment is too high. My wife is not working, and it's just really hard for me to keep my house right now.

ROSARIO FRISSE, EVENT ORGANIZER: We believe in miracles and we want to go and tell the President Obama and all the people in the Congress that the community is coming to you. We want you to help us now. We want answers.


WHITFIELD: All right. Organizers are hoping to have a caravan of about 10 to 20 busses by the time they actually reach Washington.

So what should you do when facing foreclosure? John Hope 'Bryant is with the nonprofit group Operation Hope. What's the first thing that people need to do or things that they can do to hold on to their homes? You hear about all these people getting into this caravan. Clearly it's because they feel like they're at wit's end.

JOHN HOPE BRYANT, OPERATION HOPE: Yeah. The first thing you need to do is have hope. I mean in a literal sense. Open your mail, 50 percent of all those in foreclosure never open their mail or call their lender. Open the mail and call your lender.

WHITFIELD: Meaning they're missing out on opportunities that perhaps their lender or this mail may be telling them what to do next?

BRYANT: Absolutely. The lender has no benefit in keeping your house. They want to find a way to sort it out to get you paying again on a reasonable basis but they don't want that house but most people are just frightened because of financial illiteracy.

WHITFIELD: They're afraid it's going to be an eviction notice.

BRYANT: I guarantee you if you don't call there will be an eviction notice. We can't guarantee what will happen if you call. What we can guarantee is if you don't call what's bad will get worse.

WHITFIELD: You talk about hope, people need to have hope. The mortgage modification plan unveiled this week by the White House, Treasury Department saying, OK, here are some measures to help you out if your home is under $729,000 and some change. From what you learned of this plan, do you like it? Do people need to be hopeful? Are you hopeful it will help avert 4 million foreclosures?

BRYANT: I think it sends a very powerful message to the market that things -- that hope is on the way. I do believe it's better than the last administration's plan. That said, it's about a day late and $12,000 short in the sense that most people who are in pain right now are a day late or 90 days late or six months late and about $12,000 short of being able to cure their mortgage.

This really helps people who have been paying their mortgages. A lot of misinformation about that, this is a give-away program. It's actually almost the opposite. This really helps people who have been paying their mortgage but can't refinance. It helps people who are on the bubble, whose interest rate will change to stay in their house. What -- the only challenge is I don't think it goes far enough. What we need is a systemic comprehensive solution because what we have --

WHITFIELD: Like what, in what way? Meaning you want more people -- perhaps people who are behind on their payments to get more help?

BRYANT: Well, I think that we're having academic conversations while Rome is burning. What we need to do is go back and connect the bank crisis with the mortgage crisis and have a systemic -- a bank -- if you created a bad bank, as an example, took all the assets from the banks that are bad assets, put them into the bad bank, then you've got transparency in the banks, investors can see the bottom, regulators can then -- this is an FDIC suggestion, by the way, I which support -- the regulators can then certify the bank is in good shape now. All the bad assets are out. Now you've got control of the bad assets in a bad bank that the government can then wrap their hands around and do things like loan modifications, restructuring the principal, lowering the interest rate.

WHITFIELD: Well, if I am worried about my home and I'm worried about the job right now, that still sounds so foreign and far off for me.

BRYANT: Call me.

WHITFIELD: Right now help me out. Yeah. Well, help me out if I'm the person who is -- I'm in my home but I'm worried about what's next. I have a job, but I'm worried about what's next. Where does my emphasis need to be, if there's anything I can do right now to secure either one, if not both at the same time?

BRYANT: Yeah. You can do a lot right now. We have -- at Operation Hope; we restructured $200 million in mortgages. Restructured and or modified. They can call 800- 388-hope and other HUD approved credit counselors. This is what you shouldn't do. Don't pay $400 to $1600 to some so-called nonprofit credit counseling agency to supposedly modify --

WHITFIELD: If they do have that money save that and maybe put it toward your mortgage or something to actually save your home.

BRYANT: It's worse. It's a fraud. It's -- you're being pimped again, because these folks will put a lawyer on your case that then won't -- that the lawyer is the only person who can talk to your lender. You need to call your lender. As soon as you call your lender, the lender will stop foreclosure proceedings. That's very important for your listeners to understand. As soon as you call the lender, the foreclosure will stop temporarily.

WHITFIELD: Give me your number. What was that number one more time to call you?

BRYANT: 888-388-hope. 888-388-hope.

WHITFIELD: Great. And we're going to try and get that number up, too, in our next hour where we're focusing on mortgage modifications, all the things you talked about, because we've got a lot of e-mails and I-reports, all that coming our way because people really need help. John Hope Bryant thanks so much. Always good to talk to you appreciate it.

BRYANT: Honor.

WHITFIELD: So again, next hour we're drilling down on the foreclosure angle of this troubled economy. We'll talk with a homeowner whose home is actually now worth less than he owes. He needs some help some guidance. And we know there are a lot of you out there in that same predicament. A realtor will be joining us as well to say realtors and lenders, they're all part of the problem and they've got some solutions on how to go forward from this point on. 4:00 Eastern time join us; send us your e-mails, your I-reports. We'll get them on the air and get some of your questions answered and help you out -- help you navigate this mortgage mess.

Bullied to join a gang. Now he's fighting to save lives. Meet a true CNN hero, a young man in the Philippines determined to make a difference in the lives of children.


WHITFIELD: President Obama will be heading to Turkey in April. The president has said he will deliver a speech in a Muslim capital within the first 100 days of his presidency. However, it's unclear if Ankara will be the place where he'll carry out that address. Turkey is predominantly Muslim, but a secular nation.

The president's visit was announced today by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She wrapped up a trip to the Turkish capital just a few hours ago. Clinton and Turkish officials talked about Iraq, Afghanistan and the peace in the Middle East.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SCRETARY OF STATE: The relationship between our two countries is one of alliance, partnership and friendship. We have stood shoulder to shoulder to face common challenges. We share a commitment to democracy, a secular constitution, respect for religious freedom, a belief in free markets, and a sense of global responsibility.


WHITFIELD: Secretary Clinton is hopping to usher in a new era in U.S./Russian relations as well. She expressed that intention in a very tangible way at a meeting with her Russian counterpart in Geneva, Switzerland. CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty was there.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. Secretary of State gives the Russian foreign minister a gift, a reset button to symbolize a new start in U.S./Russian relations. Only one problem. The message gets lost in translation.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): You got it wrong.

CLINTON: I got it wrong.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): It should be this and this means overcharged.

DOUGHERTY: Well, the thought that counts. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says in some areas, there's great potential for cooperation. CLINTON: I appreciated greatly the openness and willingness at that Minister Lavrov had to discuss any and all issues. Nothing was off the table.

DOUGHERTY: Foster Sergei Lavrov is cautiously optimistic.

SERGEY LAVROY, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (via Translator): I'm confident in the near future we will try and derive at some agreements, some results which would enable us to bring closer political and diplomatic solution to such things.

DOUGHERTY: The U.S./Russian relationship crashed last year after Russia invaded Georgia. And there are still hot spots. The U.S. accuses Moscow of using energy as a political weapon and of trying to call the shots in its neighborhood. Russia objects to U.S. support for giving NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine.

And opposes U.S. plans to install a missile defense system near Russia's border. Moscow sees it as a threat. The U.S. says the system is aimed at possible missile attacks from countries like Iran. A senior U.S. official says there now may be a shift in Moscow's thinking on this and, he says, it's easy to forget how many places Russia can play a role on things that matter to the United States, either positively or negatively.

This dinner here in Geneva sets the stage for the next chapter in pressing the reset button, an April meeting at the g-20 meeting in London between President Obama and President Medvedev.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Geneva.


WHITFIELD: You now will meet a young man helping other people. He is the third CNN hero of 2009. He was bullied to join a gang in high school, in the Philippines. But instead of caving to the pressure, he created an alternative for all teens struggling to stay out of or leave gangs, changing thousands of lives in the process.


EFREN PENAFLORIDA JR., CHAMPIONING CHILDREN: Gang members are groomed in the slums as early as 9 years old. They're all victims of poverty. I am Efren Penaflorida Jr. in high school, gangs were very rampant. I felt the social discrimination and I was bullied. I got afraid. So we thought of a group to actually divert teenagers to be productive. So that's why we're bringing the classroom to the kids. We operate this every Saturday. We teach them language, mathematics. And we also have our hygiene clinic.

RHANDOLF, AGE 16, (via Translator): My gang mates were the most influential thing in my life. I would probably be in jail right now or most likely a drug addict if I hadn't met Efren.

PENAFLORIDA: I always tell my volunteers you are the change that you dream and collectively we are the change that this world needs to be. (UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Tell us about your hero at


WHITFIELD: Pretty inspiring.

So all of our heroes are chosen from viewer nominations, so if you know someone who is doing something so extraordinary that they deserve to be a CNN hero, tell us about them at

All right. Perhaps you're planning to spend spring break in Mexico. Well, we'll tell you why that may not be such a great idea this year.


WHITFIELD: All right, happening right now, unemployment hits 8.1 percent, the highest level in a quarter of a century. Here's a breakdown now by demographics. Unemployment is even worse for minorities, 13.4 percent of Africa-Americans are unemployed, 10.9 percent of Hispanics are out of work. And in his Saturday radio and Internet address, President Obama said he's working to turn things around.


BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We've already begun to implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a plan that will save and create over 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines and solar panels, expanding broadband and mass transit. And because of this plan, those who have lost their job in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage, while 95 percent of working Americans will receive a tax break beginning April 1.


WHITFIELD: All right, on to another topic that the president has been addressing in the past 24 hours and it has scientists cheering but anti-abortion groups furious. President Obama plans to reverse a Bush administration policy on Monday, ending restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem-cell research. CNN's Elaine Quijano is at the White House.

So Elaine, some might not be that surprised by the president's move.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. In fact, it is not a surprise that President Obama does support embryonic stem- cell research. He talked about this on the campaign trail, pledging to reverse the restrictions that President Bush put in place, no funding for -- no federal dollars, I should say, for research into embryonic stem cells. So in that since, Fredericka, this is really not a surprise.

WHITFIELD: So, what about how this has been executed by way of executive order? QUIJANO: Yeah, not that's interesting. It's another story. It's interesting to note that just before inauguration, President Obama sat down with our John King. And John asked him pointblank, would you, Mr. President, carry out an executive order to reverse and ease these restrictions on funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Here's what then president-elect Obama had to say.


OBAMA: If we can do something legislative, then I usually prefer a legislative process, because those are the people's representatives. And I think that on embryonic stem-cell research, the fact that you have a bipartisan support around that issue, the fact that you have Republicans like Orrin Hatch who are fierce opponents of abortion, and yet recognize that there is a moral and ethical mechanism to ensure that people with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's can actually find potentially some hope out there, you know, I think that sends a powerful message. So, we're still examining what things will do through executive order, but I like the idea of the American people's representatives expressing their views on an issue like this.


QUIJANO: So, what happened between then and now, well, White House officials say that this executive order is really being looked at as a short-term sort of first step. That President Obama and White House officials really are hoping that Congress will take this issue up down the road. But in the meantime, they want this executive order in place.

So, the idea being that Congress can take this up, enact some kind of legislation. And that would, in the White House's view, make it more difficult for a future president to undo what the president would like to do -- Fredericka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Elaine Quijano, thanks so much from Washington, appreciate it.

All right, well, very busy schedule for the president in the week coming as well. As we mentioned Monday, he is expected to sign that executive order on stem-cell research. Then Tuesday, Mr. Obama discusses education reform at a meeting of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Then Thursday, he and Vice President Biden will lead a conference on the stimulus package.

A top Pentagon official is calling the drug war along the U.S./Mexican border a crisis. Joint chiefs of staff chairman, Mike Mullen has just returned from Mexico, where he talked with military leaders.

This week Mexico sent more than 7,000 federal police and soldiers to Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. More than 1,000 people have died in Mexico this year in drug cartel violence, and there are fears the conflict may be spilling across the border into the U.S.

So, now a warning from the U.S. State Department for college students who like to spring-break in Mexico. Be very careful, they say, if you do choose Mexico as a destination.

A deadly rise in drug violence is prompting many to have, now, second thoughts. CNN's Gary Tuchman has that story.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Spring break on Mexico's northern Pacific coast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Totally relaxing, what we needed after finals.

TUCHMAN: Where it feels like heaven, unless you make the drug traffickers angry, then it feels like hell. When you hear police sirens in Rosarito Beach, Mexico these days your heart jumps because in the past half year this small city of 100,000 has seen at least 30 people killed by the drug cartels, none of them tourists.

But, this very popular spring break location has very few tourists right now. Despite beautiful weather, we saw more horses on the white beach than people. And at the south door bar, the only spring breakers came off a cruise ship and were only here for six hours.

You're all on a cruise now, but if they said that you could stay at a hotel here for a night or two how many of you would want to do that? Raise your hands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Knowing what we know now, probably not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the fact that the beach is completely empty.

TUCHMAN: What they know now is this. In this town in nearby cities like Ensenada and Tijuana, roughly 200 people have reportedly been murdered in the last six months and often beheaded as a grotesque message.

HEATHER BERGSTROM, MIDWESTERN UNIV MEDICAL STUDENT: My mom freaked out about me going to Mexico.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What did she say?

BERGSTROM: She said that she was really worried about kidnappings and drug lords.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This man was arrested six weeks ago, not far from Rosarito, charged with dissolving the remains of cartel victims in the barrels of acids.

Santiago Meza Lopez was asked how many people he had done this to. He declared 300. Alerts and warnings have been issued about traveling to Mexico, by the U.S. State Department, the ATF, even colleges.

(on camera): The good people of Rosarito find themselves living along the lucrative drug trafficking route. Among the 30 people murdered over past few months, seven police officers all shot gangland style. It's not a job for the faint hearted. (voice-over): The mayor of this city says about 75 cops in Rosarito were either fired last year for working with the cartels or killed. About 150 more have now been hired. They're being paid better salaries and given lie detector tests to help make sure they stay honest.

Officer Carina Valdez is 20 years old.

(on camera): (speaking foreign language)

CARINA VALDEZ, POLICE OFFICER (through translator): The situation is bad, but there are people who need us.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Rosarito Mayor Hugo Torres believes his city has never had more honest and brave police officers.

HUGO TORRES, ROSARITO MEXICO MAYOR: In the beginning of January of this year, we have no killings at all.

TUCHMAN: And in the larger City of Tijuana, they were saying the same thing.

(on camera): But the relative quiet is now over. At around the same time we were arriving in a police car, authorities announced they have made a horrifying discovery.

Near this bullring, about 20 minutes north from the City of Tijuana, we're only 100 yards away from the California border, they got a call from two joggers who said they saw something terrible right over here, right under that graffiti on the ground. Police arrived, they saw three bodies without heads, without hands and a note that said "Snitches."

(voice-over): The Tijuana newspaper had a picture of the scene on the front page with the headline "The Wave of Violence Returns."

Eighteen miles away within the city limits of Rosarito, there still hasn't been a killing since the beginning of the year.

The Mayor thinks tourists should be comfortable coming back and he's hoping for bigger crowds next week when spring break starts to peak, although he himself has to be accompanied by armed guards when he travels throughout the city.

(on camera): What stops somebody from driving by and shooting us while we're walking?

TORRES: Well, I don't know. I guess nobody can -- if somebody wants to kill you, they kill you, I know that for sure.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The Mayor says he no plans to step down because of fear. He's too busy trying to protect and promote his very empty city that so many are now too scared to visit.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Rosario Beach, Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: And tourism officials in Mexico gave us this statement. In response to reports about the violence there, saying, "Mexico remains a safe tourist destination and this is reflected in the 22.6 million international visitors that arrived in 2008 of which 18 million were Americans. This number represents a 5.9 percent increase from the previous year. Tourists who suffered any incidents were minimal."

That statement coming from the Mexico Tourism Board.

All right, he's coming home from Iraq in just a couple of weeks, but this Navy reservist has already found out that he's a victim of the economic crisis.


WHITFIELD: Oh, the power of the phone. And you can make calls, message friends, listen to music and so much more. Here now is CNN's Reynolds Wolf.


REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Meet ZooZBeat, it's a new gesture-based music making program developed by Professor Gil Weinberg and his team at Georgia Tech. Made for the Nokia SmartPhone and Apple iPhone, ZooZBeat has been on the market since late 2008. It's essentially a music studio at your fingertips.

You can buy ZooZBeat light for less than $1 online at the Apple Store and for a little extra, you'll get more beats and instruments and then it's shake, rattle, and roll.

PROF GIL WEINBERG, GEORGIA TECH: Everyone can have a sense of rhythm and shaking is defiantly something, a gesture that people are familiar with. But you know, if you shake high you get high pitches, if you shake very low, you get low pitch. If you make all kind of gestures, you can manipulate the rhythm.

WOLF: So, you make your music, now what? Well, that's a good question, because for now, users can't upload their creations to the Web or make them into ring tones, but a free upgrade this spring will fix that problem.

WEINBERG: And when I'm ready, I can send it to someone else. Now it comes from this phone.

WOLF: Also on the horizon, ZooZPro, where you can share tunes and play together with friends in the same room, or even across the planet. It's a virtual cell jam session that brings new meaning to the term "world tour."

ANDREW BECK, MATERS DEGREE IN MUSIC TECHNOLOGY: Some of the ideas that you're going to be play over across different countries and that kind of thing, too. And he also is trying to make it so you can also be playing in the same room with as someone and have the beat synchronized, as well.

WOLF: And you don't have to be a pro to use it.

MARK GODFREY, LEAD ENGINEER, ZOOZ MOBILE, INC: You can play this anywhere, so you can play with this ap anywhere, you can make music anywhere you are, any time. It's in your pocket, so take it out and make music.

WOLF: So to dial your inner musician, well, all you need are a few bucks and a SmartPhone and then you're not just playing along with the band, you are the band.

Reynolds Wolf, CNN, Atlanta.



WHITFIELD: There is one story of how the bleak U.S. job market is reaching all the way to Iraq. A Navy reservist doing a job for his country will be jobless when he returns home. Leo Pike was laid off from the New Bedford, Massachusetts, fire department while on duty in Iraq. The department is cutting 35 positions, including Pike's position. His dad says the younger Pike was expecting to come home to a job.


LEO PIKE, SR, FATHER OF NAVY RESERVIST: It's scary to come home and not have a chance. You know, he's been gone, so he has no chance to set up another job. He's coming home to no job.


WHITFIELD: And that's being repeated too many times over. Pike is scheduled to return from Iraq in just a couple of weeks.

All right, some anger and plenty of frustration and a whole lot of questions. That's what many of you are focusing on in your iReports that you're sending us. We're glad you are. E-mails, FaceBook messages, all of that coming in today and we're asking for your thoughts on the foreclosure crisis, and you've got plenty. Josh Levs has been fielding through all of them.

JOSH LEVS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, it would be a strange day if our iReporters suddenly started holding back, right -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, that's right.

LEVS: And they always have a lot to say, I'll tell you. I mean, you can check it out, one of the assignments that we call it on, would you walk away? Talking to people and people talking to us about whether they would be willing to do foreclosure. And you can see lots of responses coming in. I'm going to show you one clip right now from someone who, well, has got plenty of frustration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PATRICIA LEWIS, IREPORTER: The fact of the matter remains that if you are unemployed and if have a mortgage, you're going to face foreclosure, OK. So let's get this right. I am totally fed up and I'm mad as hell and I can't take this anymore.


LEVS: And, Fred, you know something, she really is representing a lot of people who are saying very similar things. Let me tell everybody what we've got coming up. Because coming in just about 14, what 13 minutes, now, at the top of the hour, we're spending the 4:00 hour getting your questions answered.

I want to zoom in on the board because I want everyone to note the three guests that you can send questions for. We'll have a homeowner, Fred, right, who's considering foreclosure, a realtor who will talk about whether to sell and who's to blame for this crisis and we've got a lender on getting a loan or relief from when you can't afford.

This is where you're sending your questions, you FaceBook Josh Levs CNN, you can e-mail I'll show you, Fred, we've been getting a lot of responses on the FaceBook page and e-mail. People are sending them like crazy and they're also expressing a lot of emotions along with it, all the more reason why we need to get you as many answers as we can. And we're determined to spend 4:00 doing that, getting all the answers we can.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, we look forward to that. You know, it's interesting because we probably caught a lot of people's attentions on your bullet points that you said considering foreclosure, yeah, considering as an option. He's not facing it, like he has not defaulted or anything, but the problem is, you know, he's getting the runaround just like a whole lot of other people and he's saying should I just throw it in and foreclose. So, incredible dialogue that we're going to have in the next hour and we invite everyone to participate. Thanks Josh, appreciate it.

All right, this, too, a very sensitive issue. It's happening more often in these hard times as well, when loved ones pass away, who makes good on their unpaid bills?


WHITFIELD: So, when a loved one dies and leaves no cash or assets to pay unpaid bills, do the debts simply go away? Well, it turns out there's a booming industry that specializes in collecting from the dead. Susan Candiotti got a rare glimpse into a company that says its goal is to collect money in a sensitive way.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When loved ones are gone, they're likely to leave bills. How do you collect money from the dead? From tiny cubicles in soft earth tones, employees of Phillips and Cohen make a living at it. And the company takes great pains to say they bend over backwards to do it with heart. ADAM COHEN, PHILLIPS AND COHEN: When you're dealing with the diseased area, you also have to do it morally and we're very proud of how we are basically able to strike that balance between those two.

CANDIOTTI: In part, here's how the company says they do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go through their life without that one individual that they so loved.

CANDIOTTI: Before debt collectors pick up a phone, they spend at least three weeks learning how to deal with grief-stricken families and take ongoing refresher coerces. Employees are told to leave their own troubles at home.

COHEN: From the moment they pick up that telephone, no matter who they're talking to, that person has more reason to be upset about what's going on in their life, so we have to check our personal situations at the door.

CANDIOTTI: The company says in most states, survivors are not legally obligated to pay, if there's no money in the estate, but surprisingly many relatives offer to pay anyway.

COHEN: There are quite a bit more than most people realize of people saying that we'd like to offer something because we know that our spouse or our father or mother or whatever, would have wanted it paid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I was trying to reach the family of the late...

CANDIOTTI: Tonja Jennings says she also draws on her personal experience.

TONJA JENNINGS, PHILLIPS AND COHEN: I lost both my parents and I know what it was like to handle final affairs and I just keep all of that in mind.

CANDIOTTI: The company would not let us listen to live phone calls because of privacy concerns, but provided us with what they said a recorded client call.

CLIENT: Hold on. This is very hard for me to deal with.

EMPLOYEE: I understand. Take your time.

CANDIOTTI: And by taking its time, its 500 employees worldwide are bringing in big business for an otherwise bleak economy.

(on camera): How much business? The company won't say, calling it proprietary information, illustrating it's a sensitive profession, in more ways then one.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Wilmington, Delaware.


WHITFIELD: And now to taking the taboo out of combat stress. Top brass speaking out.


WHITFIELD: There was a time, not long ago, when only a few soldiers when speak out about the traumatic stress of combat. As CNN's Barbara Starr reports, things are certainly changing all the way to the top.



GEN. CARTER HAM , U.S. ARMY: The 21st of December, 2004, the worst day of my life. It -- I just -- I cannot imagine how a day could be worse than that.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-two people under Ham's command killed by a suicide bomber.

BRIG GEN GARY PATTON, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Specialist Robert Unruh took a gunshot wound to the torso. I was involved in MediVacing him off the battlefield. And in a short period of time, he died before my eyes.

STARR: Two generals, Carter Ham and Gary Patton, now taking the extraordinary step of speaking out about their emotional trauma from the Iraq War, hoping it will help other troubled soldiers.

Ham says he's learned to cope with the memories of suicide bomb attack, but it's been a tough road.

HAM: I was withdrawn. I was -- I wanted to still be there. I felt like that what I was doing was not important because -- because I had soldiers who were killed.

It's not a matter of letting go. I don't want to let go.

STARR: For Patton, a brigade commander, the loss of 69 of his men over a year long tour of duty still wakes him up at night -- believing he is again under attack.

PATTON: Of course, there's no IEDs or rockets going off in my bedroom. But the brain has a funny way of remembering those things and not only recreating the exact sound, but also the smell of the battlefield and the metallic taste you get in your mouth.

STARR: They both sought counseling, knowing the stigma many attach to mental health problems. Patton says learning to talk about the war helped him cope with depression, anger and grief.

PATTON: I think, frankly, I think I'm a better general because I got some help.

STARR: But the pain may never go away.

PATTON: At the end of it all, that there were -- I mean, soldiers and civilians who were killed and that's my responsibility.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Pentagon.


WHITFIELD: All right, other news around America, right now. President Obama is sounding an optimistic note on the economy. In his weekly radio and video address today, the president said ending the economic crisis won't be easy, but he says the country will emerge more prosperous through bold, responsible actions.


OBAMA: Like every family going through hard times, our country must make tough choices. In order to pay for the things we need, we cannot waste money on the things we don't.


WHITFIELD: Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton is headed to Ireland after wrapping up a visit to Turkey. Clinton and Turkey's prime minister talked about several pressing issues including Iraq, Afghanistan, and peace efforts in the Middle East.

And new video, right now, of former NBA star, Charles Barkley, in a Phoenix jail. He began serving a three-day sentence for drunken driving today. Barley pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor DUI counts after his arrest back in December, if you recall.