Return to Transcripts main page


Toyota Says It Has Diagnosed Pedal Malfunction; Middle East Tensions Rise Over Suspected Iranian Strike Against Israel; Americans Detained in Haiti for Alleged Human Trafficking

Aired February 1, 2010 - 07:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning to you. Thanks for joining us in the Most News in the Morning as we kick off a brand- new month. It is the first of February. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us. Here are the big stories we'll be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

First, Toyota releasing its plan to fix those faulty gas pedals after days of confusion and huge recalls. The car makers said that it's now pinpointed the problem and shipping the parts to fix it. So, what does it mean if you're getting behind the wheel of a Toyota when you head to work today? We'll break it down for you.

ROBERTS: Iran front and center on the radar screen. The Obama administration worried about a possible strike against Israel. The U.S. Air Force now conducting missile intercept tests off the coast of California, and we're beefing up defense systems in the Middle East, as well. A live report from the Pentagon in just a moment.

CHETRY: And President Obama's $3.8 trillion budget will be arriving on Capitol Hill in just two hours. It's projected to put us even deeper in the red. The White House though says it is showing fiscal discipline just like every business or family has been forced to do in the recession.

We're live at the White House, and we're also speaking to the president's budget in just 15 minutes.

ROBERTS: We begin, though, with the breaking news this morning. Toyota finally announcing a plan to fix the faulty accelerator pedals that led to one of the biggest car and truck recalls in history.

CHETRY: The auto giant says it has pinpointed the problem and new parts are already heading to their dealerships, and they say that they're keeping many of those shops open longer to work on the problem, in some cases 24 hours a day.

For the full break down let's bring in our Deb Feyerick who's been covering this story. So they figured it out, what's next?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did figure it out. And it was interesting because they planned to have a 6:30 release of the information followed by a statement by the top executive here in the United States. The big headline right now, they know it's causing the sticking accelerator pedals, and after 12 days they know how to fix it.

This was the first public announcement by a Toyota executive since the recall, and it was time to hit the morning news shows. They diagnosed the problem, saying what it is is a friction device in the pedal that essentially it what gives you a very steady, slow drive. But what happens is is a small part of the device rubs against a surface, creating this kind of friction.

Now, Toyota says over time the materials used, wear and tear, and environmental conditions cause the pedal to stick rather than release smoothly. And when there's too much friction the pedal does not return as quickly as it should.

Toyota has created what they call a precision cut steel reinforcement bar installed. That's going to be installed in the assembly. They say it will reduce the surface tension and then eliminate the cause of the stickiness.

And according to Toyota, their engineers have rigorously tested this new part. It is being shipped to dealers along with directions on how to install it.

Toyota says that its dealers plan to stay open late to fix the problem, and this problem, of course, affecting two million cars, including some of the most popular models, like Camry and the RAV4. But more cars with the problem are not going to be produced this week. Toyota will fix the problem, the accelerator pedal, and that way when the cars do roll off the assembly line they'll have the new gas pedal.

So it's kind of interesting. We thought they would say more, this top executive, but really what he said is, look, if Toyota cars weren't safe, I wouldn't have my family drive them.

CHETRY: What about the car mat issue, because I know that was another situation.

FEYERICK: They're looking at the car mat issue also, and they say they're looking to fix that problem at the same time that they fix this problem. So it's kind of interesting. They're saying we're ready to fix this problem, and, oh, by the way, we can fix this other problem, as well.

ROBERTS: All right, Deb Feyerick with the latest on that for us this morning.

So, is the plan enough? Can Toyota win back the trust of customers again? At 8:30 eastern we'll be talking live with Jim Lentz. He is the president and chief operating officer for Toyota here in the United States.

CHETRY: Tensions are rising in the Middle East, the White House deciding this is the time to ratchet up the heat on Iran. Late yesterday the U.S. Air Force conducted a missile intercept test off the California coast. Now, this exercise failed, but the timing could be significant.

Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. And Barbara, despite all of the international pressure, the Iranians still refusing to develop their nuclear programs. The Obama administration now concerned about Israel being a target. What is new about the concern this morning?

STARR: Well, you know, Kiran, that is really the key question. Nothing is really new because we know this concern has been out there for some time.

But what we are seeing now is a very public face on ratcheting up the U.S. military pressure, rhetoric, and activity against the possibility of Iranian action. You saw that missile test, and now General David Petraeus openly talking about putting ships into the Persian Gulf that could shoot down missiles.

A lot of talk about the ongoing arms buildup in the region and even getting the Arab Persian Gulf allies to help beef up their defenses even though Israel might be the country at threat. The White House adviser, David Axelrod, talked about all of this.


DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Well, look, we have, we have partners in that region. We have a great interest in the stability of that region. And we're going to continue to do what's necessary to help maintain security in that region.


STARR: But will all of this public discussion and all of this military pressure really work against Iran? There's no indication yet that the Iranian regime, of course, is changing its mind about its nuclear program.

And that is a very tough piece of territory out of the Persian Gulf. Narrow waters in the Strait of Hormuz. Ratcheting up tensions could always inadvertently lead to ratcheting up of military action, and that's not something the Pentagon really wants to see. Kiran?

CHETRY: Not a good scenario either way you look at it. Barbara Starr for us this morning, thank you.

ROBERTS: Also new this morning, it's the first of February, which means the president will deliver his budget proposal to Capitol Hill, one that spends $1.3 trillion more than the government is expected to take in.

The plan will try to balance spending on job creation with controlling the nation's deficit. We're going to ask the president's budget chief about the tough choices included in this proposal live in ten minutes time.

CHETRY: Senator-elect Scott Brown saying take it easy on the 2012 rumors. He's the man who won the late Ted Kennedy seat in Massachusetts, shaking up the balance of power in Washington. But he told Barbara Walters yesterday that he doesn't even have a business card yet, so talk of him running for president in 2012 is premature.

Brown is still waiting to be sworn in as a senator.

ROBERTS: And the big emotional moment in last night's Grammy awards, a tribute to Michael Jackson featuring the late singer's two eldest children. Prince Michael and Paris Jackson accepted their father's lifetime achievement award and thanked the crowd. Our Kareen Wynter has a complete look at the star-studded show later on this hour.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, it's six minutes past the hour, we get a check of the morning's weather headlines.


ROBERTS: Still ahead on the Most News in the Morning, were they saving young lives or were they breaking the law? Ten Americans accused of kidnapping in Haiti, a live report from Port-au-Prince coming right up.


CHETRY: Right now, we're nine minutes past the hour and we're taking a look at other stories new this morning.

And today the U.S. resumes its medical evacuation flights from Haiti. The military temporarily put the brakes on the airlifts Wednesday after concerns that U.S. facilities were actually running out of room. The White House spokesman says that they administration has been reassured there is enough space in the United States to accommodate the injured.

ROBERTS: Meantime, Haiti's government is still holding ten American missionaries. They are accused of trying to kidnap 33 Haitian children and spirit them out of the country. The five men and five women are members of the Idaho based New Life Children's Refuge and say they have done nothing wrong.

Our Karl Penhaul talked with the group and he's live in Port-au- Prince this morning. Karl, what did you find out?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, these ten American Baptists believed that they were coming here to help Haitian orphans and kids that have been abandoned by their parents, but in some cases they ended up simply scooping up children from the streets and, in some cases, from just yards away from their own homes.

In other cases, these kids were handed to the Americans by their very own parents.


PENHAUL: They say they were answering Jesus' call. Now these American Baptists stand accused of trafficking 33 Haitian babies and children. The Americans deny the charges and say they believed the kids were orphaned or abandoned. But some were not orphans at all and were crying to go home to their parents, Haitian authorities and aid workers say. Haitian police allowed the Americans out of their jail cell to talk to CNN.

LAURA SILSBY, DETAINED IN HAITI: We believe that we have been charged very falsely with trafficking, which, of course, that is the furthest possible extreme, because our hearts here, we literally all gave up everything we had, income and use of our own funds to come here and help these children.

CARLA THOMPSON, DETAINED IN HAITI: God is the one that called us to come here, and we just really believe that this was his purpose.

PENHAUL: Team leader Silsby admitted the Children had no documents, no passports, nor official permission to leave.

SILSBY: They really didn't have any paperwork and, this is again probably a misunderstanding on my part, but I did not understand that I would really need to be required.

PENHAUL: The children, between two months and 12 years old, have been temporarily housed here at SOS Children's Village run by a Austrian charity in Port-au-Prince.

Spokesman George Willeit said initial investigation show at least ten of the youngsters have at least one surviving parent. He's now responsible for trying to reunite the families.

GEORGE WILLEIT, SOS CHILDREN'S VILLAGE: Some of them, for sure, are not orphans because immediately as she arrived here the girl, she might be nine years old, was crying loud, "I am not an orphan, I do have my parents. Please call my parents."

PENHAUL: We met this 10-year-old Benatine Poulime. She had been on the Baptist bus and was clearly frightened. She gave us the phone number of her mom.

In a brief conversation, the woman said she'd agree to hand over her only daughter to the Americans and said she believed her child would be schooled and be well cared for.

"I said I wanted to get out of the bus, but they told me I had to stay. I was crying. I said I wanted to go to my mom," she says.

PENHAUL (on camera): At least ten of the children have either a mother or a father, and they have the phone numbers of their mothers and fathers.

SILSBY: OK. I can tell you our heart and our intent was to help those only who needed us most, that they had lost either both mother and father or had lost, you know, one of their parents and the other parent had abandoned them.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PENHAUL: Now, we talked to the Haitian prime minister, and he has vowed to fully investigate the Americans' case. And at the same time he says on the basis of the evidence out there right now he believes that this is a case of kidnapping.

Now, in a short while the ten Americans are due to appear in a Haitian court. It's difficult to say exactly what that is going to be like, though, because since the earthquake the Haitian justice system is all but collapsed. John?

ROBERTS: Interesting story. Karl Penhaul for us this morning in Port-au-Prince. Karl, thanks so much.

CHETRY: We have some breaking news and some pictures to show you right now. Quite an unusual morning commute if you're coming up on the jersey turnpike near Cherry Hill today. There you see what appears to be a single engine Cessna had to make an emergency landing on the New Jersey Turnpike in the Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill.

According to reports, though, the pilot and the passenger were not injured. But, again, they say that the plane had to land in the northbound lanes. This was about five miles east of Philadelphia. And right now they say what they are trying to do is get that plane off to the side of the turnpike.

How do they get it away from there? They will have to load it onto a truck, probably causing a snarl. It looks like some cars are getting by on the shoulder there, but I'm sure there are a lot of rubber-neckers as well to see what the heck is going on this morning.

ROBERTS: How was your commute this morning?

CHETRY: You wouldn't believe it. I'm late there was there was a plane blocking my lane.

ROBERTS: That's definitely not something you see every day.

Next on the Most News in the Morning, the president presents his budget to Congress. It is flooded with red ink. Can the United States afford it? We'll talk to his budget director Peter Orszag coming up next.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." Seventeen minutes past the hour now.

The Obama administration is doing what so many families have already been forced to do, make tough choices with their money. The president's $3.8 trillion budget is heading to Capitol Hill this morning. It calls for billions of dollars to create jobs. It also freezes spending for other domestic programs.

Now Republicans like House Minority Leader John Boehner are saying it's a good start, but more work needs to be done.

Joining us now live from the White House is President Obama's budget director, Peter Orszag. Thanks for being with us this morning.

PETER ORSZAG, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Good morning, Kiran. First, I want to ask you about this item in "Politico" this morning on the web reporting that the president's budget will project more than $5 trillion in deficit spending over the next five years. They're saying it's a 35 percent increase over what the administration projected just a year ago. Do your numbers show that?

ORSZAG: Well, look, we do face a big deficit problem over time. The deficit has gotten worse relative to what was projected at the beginning of last year because the economic downturn at the beginning of last year was much worse than anyone knew at the time. But the key thing is what are we doing, and what we're doing is reducing that deficit over time by more than a trillion dollars while also investing in job creation this year.

CHETRY: And that includes $100 billion set aside for a new job stimulus. What would that entail?

ORSZAG: Well, it will include a variety of things. For example, the new jobs and wages tax credit that the president spoke about which will help spur job creation among small businesses would be included within that $100 billion. That's about a third of it.

CHETRY: And President Obama has talked about, I mean, in fact, this Saturday on this radio program, he was talking about how critical it is that we rein in the budget deficit, saying that it could actually jeopardize our economic recovery. And we know that you're walking this fine line of wanting to stimulate the economy, not wanting to endanger it, but the same time trying to pull back into spending but we see this deficit hitting a record this year. How is the White House addressing this in the budget? What are you cutting?

ORSZAG: Well, what we're doing, again, is we're freezing non- security spending for three years, non-security discretionary spending that saves $250 billion over the next decade. That's a start. And, as you'll see in the budget documents, there's more in there, too. Again, more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction.

But two things are crucial to remember. One, we have to do that in a way that still promotes job creation today. And, two, we have to do so in a way that continues to spur job creation out in 2015, 2016, 2017 and that's by investing in education, investing in innovation and moving the nation towards its clean energy future.

CHETRY: I know that you had talked earlier in November and you wanted to get the deficit, at least your target was to try to get the deficit to three percent by 2015 fiscal year. The numbers from your own budget office show that you're going to be averaging about 4.5 percent of the size of the economy and some economists say that's dangerously high and difficult to sustain over the long term. Why do those numbers have to get adjusted and can we look past 2015, perhaps to start reining it in more?

ORSZAG: Well, again, we do bring the deficit down to just under four percent of the economy by 2015. Our target is still in the range of three percent and that's why we're creating a bipartisan fiscal commission to put forward proposals that will get us the rest of the way there. I think it's clear that in order to address our medium term deficit problem, we need to do so in a partisan way.

CHETRY: Yes. And one of the things that you guys talked about, of course, was this bipartisan debt commission. Legislation for that did not pass the Senate. Got a lot of criticism from some influential conservative but also some liberal groups, as well. Conservatives oppose to it because of the possibility that you're talking about tax hikes or at least allowing former President Bush's tax cuts to expire. Can you rule out tax increases at this point?

ORSZAG: Well, look, we put forward our proposals which involve continued tax cuts for middle class families and actually some expanded tax cuts for middle class families but we need to let -- the commission hasn't even been formed yet. We're going to need to let the commission do its work.

CHETRY: You also talk about letting taxes expire for families that make over $250,000. Some would argue that in some parts of the country that is middle class.

ORSZAG: Well, I guess it's not the parts of the country where I've been. What we're trying to do is cut back on the tax breaks for the elite, for the very highest earners in part to help get this deficit problem under control over time and also to rebalance the tax code. Don't forget not just over the past few years but over the past several decades the middle class has been struggling. Income inequality in the United States has gone way up and all we're asking for is to return those marginal tax rates to the levels they were during the 1990s when the elite did quite well in any case.

CHETRY: At the end of the day, though, American families know, listen, I've got to live within my budget. I have to live within my means.


CHETRY: Or I have to, unfortunately, incur debt which I can't incur indefinitely. Is it unrealistic to think that we, as the United States of America, are ever going to be able to live within a budget when it comes to the federal government?

ORSZAG: Well, I think we should. That's the ultimate goal. But the hole is so deep that it's going to take some time to work our way towards a balance budget. The first step is to balance the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt and that's our target for 2015. More will be necessary after that.

CHETRY: Peter Orszag, White House Office and Management Budget director, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

ORSZAG: Thanks for having me.

It's 23 minutes past the hour. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: It's 25 minutes past the hour right now. It means it's time for an "A.M. Original," something you'll see on AMERICAN MORNING. When President Obama took office a little more than a year ago, the economy was on life support. It is growing, again, but unfortunately, without jobs.

ROBERTS: In fact, the unemployment rate still stuck at 10 percent. The president said turning that around is his top priority. But big question, can he deliver?

Christine Romans digging deeper in a "Memo to the President" this morning. She joins us.

Hi, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And that peak was 10.2 percent. It slipped back to 10 percent. We're going to find out what it is for the month of January on Friday.

But one of the president's top moneymen, Larry Summers, says the country is in a statistical recovery and a human recession, and that's because jobs have not come back yet and this remains a challenge for this president.


ROMANS (voice-over): Mr. President, you've now put jobs front and center.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010.

ROMANS: But can you really create jobs and how?

OBAMA: Hey, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Mr. President.

OBAMA: How are you?

ROMANS: In December, you visited this career training center in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. At the same center today, former Marine Barry Hessinger is hoping the training will help him find new work after losing his job in carpentry.

BARRY HESSINGER, STUDENT: We were building more houses than we could handle three years ago and just within a couple months it totally died down.

ROMANS: Barry's job is just one of 7.2 million lost in this recession. That's a lot of people out of work. It could take years to recover from the loss.

Mr. President, where do you begin? OBAMA: We should start where most new jobs do. In small businesses. We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities.

ROMANS: But some critics think those jobs won't come fast enough.

PETER MORICI, ECONOMIST, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: The president is not making sense when he pitches green jobs or sending mothers back to college. Quite simply, that's the economy of the future. In the here and now, we need to bring back a lot of the jobs that were lost during the recession.

ROMANS: When you took office, Mr. President, the economy was losing on average, close to 700,000 jobs a month. Sure that's slowed down, but unemployment has jumped to 10 percent and the unemployed are getting frustrated.

DIANE SWONK, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MESIROW FINANCIAL: One of the biggest worries we have right now is not only generating enough jobs to lower the unemployment rate, which is going to be difficult, but also reengaging those people who have been already unemployed for more than six months.

ROMANS: Think of it, nearly 40 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months and only 58 percent of the entire adult population is even working right now. That's the lowest level since the early 1980s.

You say help is on the way, Mr. President, but Americans need jobs now. That's why Barry Hessinger has given up on construction and has gone back to school for physical therapy. He's getting free tuition funded by the stimulus package you signed last year.

HESSINGER: It feels good to finally get into a career where I think I'll be working every day.

ROMANS: Mr. President, you've called on Congress to come together on a job's bill and you've said you want it on your desk right away. Americans are waiting and many can't afford to wait much longer.


ROMANS: They are starting to hire temporary workers. That's often a first step for companies who are just beginning to see the economy get better. But consider this, if the economy creates 200,000 jobs a month consistently, it would take until the year 2016 to get everyone back to work who's lost a job in the recession and also to absorb the new workers coming in to the workforce. Last month the economy lost 85,000 jobs. So, we still have a lot of work to do here.

The president talks about small business tax cuts and the like but a lot of people involved in small business say we need demand, we need customers, we need capital. We need access to money. That's the most important thing right now.

ROBERTS: And even when the small businesses start hiring, do you think that the hiring trends, I mean, start hiring permanent workers, do you think the hiring trends will be different that, you know, they won't give them the full packages and the salaries won't be the same?

ROMANS: We're hearing you're going to hear a new phrase, permalancers (ph), and that might be something over the next 10 or 15 years. You get hired back as a contract worker, both no benefits with no job security. You're going to be hearing about a lot about permalancers (ph) that makes it easy for companies and not so easy for employees.

There is this minority view though, that business, small businesses and large businesses cut so sharply, so quickly over the recession that when things do turn around, they're going to have to hire aggressively again. We're already seeing many of the headhunters telling me there's already real competition for top talent in all different kinds of fields. That can also be a canary (ph) in the coal mine for the rest of the economy, too.

ROBERTS: We'll see. Christine, thanks.


ROBERTS: Tomorrow's "Memo to the President," by the way, focusing on the fight against terror from finishing the job in Afghanistan to stopping places like Yemen and Somalia from becoming the next Afghanistan. Make sure you join us tomorrow.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, we're crossing the half hour. Time to check our top stories.

Toyota announcing a plan to fix faulty pedals after millions of cars and trucks were recalled. The auto giant says it's already shipping new parts to the dealerships and that those dealerships will be kept open longer, in some cases, 24 hours a day to service the vehicles that customers bring in.

Now coming up at 8:30 Eastern, we're going to talk live with Jim Lentz. He is the president and chief operating officer for Toyota here in the United States.

ROBERTS: Today the U.S. military resumes airlifting critical earthquake victims to the United States. The flights were suspended on Wednesday after officials in Florida complained their hospitals were overwhelmed. So far they have taken in more than 500 Haitian patients. The White House says it has been assured that U.S. facilities can handle additional patients.

New decision has been made considering the Obama administration is considering a new venue for the 9/11 trial after New York City officials expressed concern over the security as well as the costs. Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, we talked to the mayor of Newburgh, New York, about 60 miles from New York City. He said his town's new state of the art courthouse is actually the perfect place to stage the trial.


MAYOR NICK VALENTINE, NEWBURGH, NEW YORK: We're a very, very poor city, I have to tell you. And any economic stimulus, especially to the tune of maybe $200 million that could come from the federal government could certainly assist a city of my size and the situation that we have here. The courthouse that we were mandated to finish was $22 million and I have a debt on that.

So, when we were first asked about Hudson Valley locations, I certainly did not like Stewart Airport and I did not like West Point but when a reporter asked me about the city of Newburgh, I basically said, look, I'll give it a shot.


CHETRY: Sitting right next to him is Edward Diana, by the way, who is Newburgh's county executive. He is dead set against it, calls himself diametrically opposed. He says it's a threat to the safety and security and that outweighs any financial benefit from the trial.

Well, a huge thank you from the man who staged an upset in the Massachusetts senate special election. Hundreds of Republicans came out over the weekend to send Senator elect Scott Brown to Capitol Hill to fill Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat.

Kate Bolduan is live for us in Boston this morning. It's so ironic, Kate, he can't even get sworn into this position before people are saying, are you going to run for president in 2012?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Kiran. We saw it all of the events. We have seen signs for 2012 or Brown for president and the man saying, this is silly, I haven't even been sworn into office quite yet. But Scott Brown was a relative unknown but, as we can see, has made a very big entrance on the national scene and now he's quite simply making the rounds before heading to Washington to thank all the people that made it happen.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): The new Republican star taking a victory lap, pushing one clear message.

SCOTT BROWN, SENATOR-ELECT, MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you so, so much. It just means so, so much. I'm so deeply appreciative. From the bottom of my heart and my family's hearts...


BOLDUAN: Two weeks after his big blue state upset, the Republican senator elect from Massachusetts is paying his dues, crisscrossing the state to thank the people who helped him secure the seat held by liberal lion Ted Kennedy for almost 50 years. Critical to that win, the support of independents. KATHLEEN MILLS, INDEPENDENT VOTER: Ted Kennedy was the legacy for Massachusetts. But guess what, that's history now. You know, I mean, it's part of our history and a part that we'll respect, but it is history. It's time to move on.

BROWN: I'm very, very humbled and honored to be here and have an opportunity to really make a difference and bring common sense back to the equation in Washington.

BOLDUAN: For these voters, Brown is the great Republican hope, the 41st Republican senator. Eliminating the Democrats' 60-vote super majority giving the GOP more power to influence or block Democratic initiatives.

(on camera): Health care is going to be waiting for you when you get to Washington, can you accept a more scaled down version of the health care proposal?

BROWN: I have to see what's there. I think they're going t go back to the drawing board and it was, I think on its last legs before I got there because of the backroom deals and the lack of transparency.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Despite the warm send off in frigid Massachusetts, Brown is now sure to face a tougher crowd in Washington.

AMY WALTER, POLITICAL ANALYST: When you're a brand-new senator and you're in the minority and you're playing second fiddle to a high- profile person like John Kerry, it's hard to break through.


BOLDUAN: So priority one for the senator elect, well, he told me last night, quite simply he needs business cards in office and to get his staff set but he also needs to get caught up and caught up very quickly, Kiran. Because as you know and we know, he's walking straight into the very tough partisan divide of Capitol Hill and soon.

CHETRY: That's right. A lot going on for them to take care of, as well. All right. Kate Bolduan for us this morning, thanks so much.

ROBERTS: The reality behind the new film "Up in the Air." The real people in Hollywood's take on losing your job, we'll be talking with three of them coming right up and what they think about the job prospects that might come out of the president's new budget. It's 35 minutes after the hour.



ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Actor George Clooney getting plenty of Oscar buzz for his role as a downsizing consultant in the new movie "Up In the Air." It tackles an issue that millions of Americans are very familiar with right now, unemployment. Moviegoers may not realize but many of the laid off workers who appear on the film aren't actors, they are actually real people who lost their real jobs. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what I get in return for 30 years of service for my company? And they send some yoyo like you here to try to tell me that I'm out of a job. They should be telling you you're out of a job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just, I guess you leave me dumbfounded. I don't know where this is coming from? How am I supposed to go back as a man and explain to my wife that I lost my job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am disappointed that I have given so much of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not fair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are going to be people that are far well more qualified than me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what to do when I wake up in the morning tomorrow.


ROBERTS: Well, three of those people, Kevin Pilla, Arthur Hill and Marlene Gorkiewicz appeared in the film and they're with us this morning. Good to see you all.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

ROBERTS: What was it like to be in that film? I mean, there was so much raw emotion coming out of you.

MARLENE GORKIEWICZ, FEATURED IN THE MOVIE "UP IN THE AIR": It was absolutely incredible. I lost my position with a major airline and I had worked there for 27 years and Jason Reitman (ph) came into town. And basically I applied to a cryptic ad that he put in the paper and it was just, it's great to, you know, be able to have that on film and have people go to see it and relate.

ROBERTS: You know, I didn't know that there were real people in it until I watched the movie. You did a terrific job, just such a visceral sort of thing that is coming out of you. Kevin, you lost your job what? January 2008.


ROBERTS: What did that do to you as a person? PILLA: Actually, it made me reevaluate where I was in my life. It was very disappointing because as a man in this world, you know, we're expected to provide for our family, and I think that's what the hardest part was for me is to go back and tell my wife and my children that I don't know where our future is headed.

ROBERTS: Wow, we'll talk to you about what you have done in your life in just a moment. But Arthur, let's turn to you. Of course, the budget is coming out today. The president in the "State of the Union" address last week outlined $100 million jobs creation program and you've been out of work since 2005.


ROBERTS: Do you have any hope that the president's job creation program will be able to help you out?

HILL: Yes, I'm very hopeful, and I'm just thinking positive and I believe the economy is going to turn around and I believe, you know, this is America and I think all things are possible with America.

ROBERTS: You were working in the auto industry before.

HILL: Yes.

ROBERTS: What happens to you now? I mean, things have really changed.

HILL: It's a day-to-day thing. You know, you just try to think positive and try to go through all the different things to, you know, look for different types of employment or whatever and, you know, you pray a lot.

ROBERTS: Yes, I'm sure you do. What about you, Marlene? In terms of what you think about the president's job creation program, you think there is something in there for you?

GORKIEWICZ: Well, I do. But I also don't believe in quick fixes. I mean I think we have to give it a chance and I do believe that things will turn around soon and just we have to move forward but I also think that we have to be realistic and we just give it time and you know, I'm willing to do that. And I also have a positive attitude and looking forward.

ROBERTS: Is it a sense, because, you know, I heard when our Ali Velshi was out traveling across the country and was at one place where a lot of people were being laid off and they said, well, we hope that something happens. You know, hope doesn't get you that far. You got to go out there and do something. Are you hoping or doing something?

GORKIEWICZ: Well, I mean, every day is a new day and you never know what is going to happen. I mean, you know, you could be sitting there and CNN could call. You know --

ROBERTS: We don't pay that. GORKIEWICZ: It's amazing. You have to be just hopeful.

ROBERTS: It's less than a day rate for a movie.

GORKIEWICZ: And every day is a new day. So you just kind of have to look at that and of course, you have to do things and maybe put yourself out there and volunteer and do what you need to do.

ROBERTS: I tell you, the movie was kind of disturbing for me because you think, gosh, what happens if you lose your job and where do you go and what do you do? And then they try to portray George Clooney's character as somebody who comes in and says let's not talk about your job, let's talk about your future and what you can do to change that, you know, going forward. So let's take a look at one little clip from the movie where he's talking about that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see guys who work at the same company for their entire lives. Guys exactly like you. They clock in, they clock out and they never have a moment of happiness. You have an opportunity here, Bob, this is a rebirth.


ROBERTS: So, actually, the person that he was firing there who is an actor, not a real person who lost his job, had taken French cooking in college and never pursued that and, Kevin, I'm not saying that you took French cooking but there's a similar thing that sort of happened with you that in some ways this was a bit of a rebirth for you. What happened?

PILLA: Actually, I've been blessed. I've been reemployed and I'm with a National Medical Billing Services in St. Louis, Missouri. And it's a field that I've always been interested in. We do the full revenue cycles for ambulatory centers and professional and, I'll tell you what, it's been a complete, complete blessing in my life with my wife and my children. It has given me an opportunity to start new.


PILLA: You know, at 39 years old, you don't get a whole lot of chances to start over.

ROBERTS: So what about you, Arthur? Any prospects for starting anew?

HILL: Yes, as I said before, you go through all the routines looking for employment and I think it's an ongoing thing until you can get nestled into something that's comfortable, you know, for you. I'm just looking forward to this new year here, happy new year, everybody and, you know, I'm just thinking positive.

ROBERTS: And what about you, Marlene? How long can you hang out here before you really have to do something? GORKIEWICZ: Well, I think I may need to reinvent myself because I was in an area of human resources hiring process. Right now, that's a little difficult. So, I may need to reinvent myself in another field and I'm looking into that.

ROBERTS: Although, if Christine Romans is to be believed that because there are so many sharp job cuts going into this recession, there maybe a little sharp rehires afterwards. So maybe you'll be in demand.

GORKIEWICZ: That'll be great.

ROBERTS: It's great to talk to you folks. Thanks so much for sharing your stories with us and really loved your appearances in the movie. You were so real.

HILL: Thank you for having us.

PILLA: Thank you.


CHETRY: John, thanks. Well, 44 minutes past the hour. Another storm takes aim in the southeast. There were below average temperatures for much of the east coast. Our Rob Marciano is giving us a look at the extreme weather situation right after the break.


CHETRY: Beautiful shot this morning of Charlotte, North Carolina. Right now, it is partly cloudy, 24 degrees a little bit later. It's going to stay partly cloudy but go up to a high of 47 degrees.

Right now, we're checking Extreme Weather across the country, our Rob Marciano keeping an eye on things for us. Pretty cold up and down the East Coast.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, a little bit below average with pretty chilly wind chills for the I-95 corridor.

Good morning, again, guys. February 1st. Tomorrow it's Groundhog Day.

Let's talk about the Climate Prediction Center, what they think is going to happen over the next 30 days. Below -- above average precip expected across the south, especially across the Southern parts of California, very typical of an El Nino winter, which we're in the midst of right now, and also above average temperatures expected across the northwest and below average temperatures with that expected rainfall across parts of the southeast, which we'll see a couple of storms coming through the southeast this week and both will feel -- bring some rain.

Meantime, 18 degrees, what it feels like in New York. It feels like 14 in Philadelphia, 9 degrees in Boston. Winds are blowing, so you'll see somewhat wind-related delays in Boston, New York metros and Philadelphia, as well, and some freezing fog across parts of Oklahoma and Texas.

Want to give you an update on that single engine propeller aircraft that took an emergency landing across the Jersey turf -- turnpike. Northbound lanes near Cherry Hill, just north and east of Philadelphia, well, got a little bit of a ride out there. Big tow came in and motoring that puppy up the turnpike as we speak, and clearing that runway for cars.

All right, let's talk ice fishing. Sure, why not? Lake Monona, Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club in Wisconsin doing their annual race yesterday. John Roberts, this seems like something maybe -- if you haven't done this in Canada, maybe some of your friends have at some point. So it just seems like a very north of the border kind of thing to do, and it looks pretty dangerous, as well.

ROBERTS: I've -- I've actually been in one of those ice -- ice boat racers myself, but only traveled about 100 yards or so. But I've seen the pros go out there and do it, and it's wild. It's incredible.

MARCIANO: Impressive stuff. Stay warm, guys.

ROBERTS: Well, certainly they've got the weather for it in Canada. You know what they say about the weather there, right, Rob?

MARCIANO: What's that?

ROBERTS: Nine months of winter, three months of bad skating?

MARCIANO: Spoken like a true hockey player.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Rob.

MARCIANO: See you guys.

ROBERTS: Coming out now at 10 minutes to the top of the hour. Adults -- do they need less sleep as they age? Surprising data from a new study. Our Elizabeth Cohen will tell you about it, coming right up. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Eight minutes now to the top of the hour, and it's time for your "AM House Call."

The older you get, the more sleep you need, right?

CHETRY: Well, not necessarily. There's a new study that suggests the opposite may actually be true. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us from Altlanta, and, Elizabeth, what did this new study show us about how much sleep we need as we age?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Kiran, it's fascinating. What this study shows is that we actually need less sleep as we age, which, as you said, is kind of counter-intuitive. What they did is they took a group of people of a variety of ages and said, you know what? Go take a nap. It's daytime. Go take a nap. Just lie down, go to sleep if you need to, and they found that folks in their 20s were the first to fall asleep, meaning they were so exhausted they just dozed off, and the senior citizens were the last to fall asleep.

Now, you might think it's because the older people were getting more sleep at night so they didn't need it during the day, but not true. They weren't getting more sleep at night. So the only conclusion they could come to is as you get older you just don't need as much sleep -- Kiran.

ROBERTS: You know, certainly the sleep doesn't seem as restful even when you do get it.

OK, so younger people -- you know, my daughter, she'll -- she'll go to bed at, you know, 12:00, 1:00 in the morning. Se wouldn't get up until 11:30, 1:00 the next day. So why are younger people more tired, more likely to doze off?

COHEN: Ah, those were the days, huh? I wish we could all do that. But we don't all have that luxury.

You know, they're not exactly sure why, but what they do know, what scientists know is that as you get older, your brain actually changes, the parts of your brain that govern sleep. And also, your hormones change as you age. So they think between the brain changes and the hormone changes, that explains why your daughter wants 12 hours of sleep yet senior citizens need much, much less.

CHETRY: Interesting stuff.

All right, Elizabeth Cohen for us this morning. Thanks.

COHEN: Thanks.

CHETRY: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to be back in 90 seconds with your top stories.

It's 55 minutes past the hour.