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Cleanup After the Blizzard; Iran Celebrates Islamic Revolution; Haiti's Graveyard

Aired February 11, 2010 - 12:00   ET



All right. Time for your top-of-the-hour reset.

I'm Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is noon on the East Coast, where snow-battered Washingtonians are looking at shovel-ready projects after back-to-back blizzards. I love that.

It is 8:30 in the evening in Iran, where security forces take aim at anti-government protesters on this Revolution Day.

It is 12:00 in Haiti, where mountains of earthquake wreckage remain a graveyard for an untold number of dead.

Let's get started.

The blizzard is gone. Now the cleanup begins, and it is not a pretty sight in Washington, Baltimore, New York, and a lot of other places. Tons of snow everywhere.

Here is what we know right now.

The nation's capital is still pretty much paralyzed. Federal offices shut down for four straight days and schools are still closed. Hundreds of thousands of people don't have power right now and air travel is still touch and go with hundreds of flights canceled today.

Snow removal, priority number one right now across the entire region, and that's going to take some time. Just the fact of the matter.

CNN's Reynolds Wolf live from Alexandria, Virginia.

Are you still under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge there?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. You are correct, Tony. Actually, I guess you could say on Mt. Snow, as we zoom out a little bit.

HARRIS: Oh, look at you.

WOLF: take a look at this. All the snowfall, as you mentioned, produced from two blizzards in less than a week's time. Some of that record snowfall right here.

What's amazing, some of the stuff started as teeny, tiny water molecules miles up in the atmosphere. Of course turned to snow, and then it was on the ground, on people's sidewalks and roadways, that kind of thing.

It ended up in a place like this. Now, the question is, how does it get to this spot underneath this bridge? Let's answer that first.

What happens, they're coming in on these huge trucks. The trucks come in and then they get, of course, dumped over here, and you see these backloader that's actually been putting things up into huge piles.

Now, the question is, now that it's underneath the bridge, what's next? Well, I'll tell you what's next.

The reason they put it on this bridge, because this bridge runs from north to south. The sun obviously sets in the west, but rises in the east. And as the sun comes up, Tony, what it's been doing is melting a great deal of this snowfall. And, of course, what happens, that salt gets kind of filtered out, so to speak.

The salt stays here. The water goes into the ground. Eventually (ph) feeds its way out into the Potomac.

And because it's situated this way, the morning sun is going to heat up the snow as the sun sinks out toward the west. It's going to help at the same time melt the snow. So it's just kind of a neat process.

But this is just really an early step. They're going to be removing tons more of this snow on both sides of the river. As we speak, we still have roads in downtown Washington, D.C., that are impassable, just riddled with heavy, heavy snowfall.

It's going to take a while to dig out. And again, it's going to be one tiny step of getting things back to normal, so to speak, across this region.

Let's send it back to you -- Tony.

HARRIS: Tiny step. A long way to go.

All right, Reynolds. Appreciate it. Thank you.



HARRIS: As Iran marks the anniversary of its revolution, where does the opposition movement stand? We will get the latest from those monitoring the situation at our Iran Desk.

First, though, our "Random Moment" in 90 seconds.


HARRIS: Got a "Random Moment for you.

You wouldn't believe some of the atrocious tongue-twisters that come across that teleprompter that I read to you and try to make it appear as though I'm not reading. They can make for a pretty funny "Random Moment of the Day."

Take a rod Blagojevich -- please. The news world stumbled across his name during the run-up to corruption charges. You remember that?

Well, we've got Blagojevich down now. It's a lot easier for me than Ahmadinejad. But Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi must not watch a lot of news.


SEN. MIKE ENZI (R), WYOMING: And former Illinois governor Rod...


ENZI: Blagojevich.


HARRIS: OK. I'm going to go straight to hell for that one.

There it is, our "Random Moment of the Day."


HARRIS: Demonstrations for and against Iran's government today as the nation marks the 31st anniversary of its Islamic Revolution.

Our Ivan Watson is monitoring the situation from CNN's Iran Desk.

And Ivan, let's see here, what's been happening today? And I've got to tell you, we are hearing disappointment from at least one expat in Los Angeles over the opposition's turnout today.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I think there were very high expectations that the so-called green movement, the opposition, would be able to somehow disrupt what is typically a big state celebration of the accomplishments of Iran, but what you saw was a carefully choreographed, very strictly-controlled parade and march.

You had hundreds of thousands of government supporters out in the streets. They were given free lemonade, free milk, free cookies after attending.

And you had the president, Mahmoud Ahmadininejad, who is very much loathed by the opposition. He gave a long speech, during which he denounced western governments. He declared that Iran has started to enrich its first batch of 20 percent highly-enriched uranium, far short of weapons grade. He says this is for medical uses only.

Let's take a listen to what he had to say.


MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): They do not have the power to confront the Iranian nation. Although they tried to create tensions in various regions of Iran, as well as in other countries of the region, they cannot. These are the last remnants of the capitalist world.


WATSON: And Tony, the opposition were barred from attending this big demonstration.

HARRIS: Ivan, where do things stand with the opposition?

WATSON: Well, it's eight months since these disputed elections, and when this green movement really started going out on the streets, and they've been getting hit hard. Let's take a look at some of the video we've gotten out from today.

When people tried to organize, tried to move out into the streets -- here you see them going into a subway chanting, "Death to the dictator" -- it's really hard to organize, because the state media is very strictly controlled. And thousands of people who oppose the government have been arrested over the past eight months. Some of them executed just two weeks ago, two opposition protesters executed.

Despite that, look at this. You have people going up and tearing up a sign, a poster, that has the faces of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini. He helped launch the revolution 31 years ago, and the current leader of the Islamic Republic as well. People who disagree with this government, they are dealt with very harshly.


WATSON: Let's take a look at another video here, and it shows what happens when you try to go up against the security forces. Take a look at this. It's pretty brutal to see how this man is treated.


WATSON: And the question for this movement, which has -- its leaders say they're going to use civil methods only, peaceful methods -- where do they go from here?

HARRIS: Right.

WATSON: They've been arrested, beaten, executed. What do they do now?

HARRIS: Can I offer up another question?

WATSON: Yes. HARRIS: Look, you know, referring back to the Iranian expat community in Los Angeles, about 350,000 strong, Ted Rowlands spoke to a group at a bookstore there. And the idea is -- if you ask the question, what is it that the opposition is hoping to accomplish inside Iran, there's the idea that they certainly may not like what's going on now with their government, but there is an open question as to what comes next.

So, what is the opposition -- put your analyst hat on here -- you're excellent at this -- what is the opposition hoping to accomplish?

WATSON: Well, I think they're split. I think you have some leaders of it, some big political figures who used to be presidents and prime ministers and parliament speakers, and they want a more open society.

They want to it be more democratic, but they want to keep the Islamic Republic that was being celebrated today. And I think a lot of these kids that are going out there and risking life and limb, some of them are so furious right now, they want to get rid of this all together. So, you have a split in this movement. And as well a split on methods --


WATSON: -- because it's the kids who we've seen out throwing stones --

HARRIS: That's right.

WATSON: -- at the security forces in the past.

HARRIS: All right. Ivan Watson for us at our Iran Desk.

Appreciate it. Thanks, Ivan.

Rain is adding to misery for the earthquake survivors in Haiti. Streets littered with debris got drenched by heavy downpours overnight. People living on the streets and in tent cities are struggling to stay dry. The earthquake left an estimated one million people without power.

This next report, we've got to warn you, contains images some of you may find disturbing. Beneath the rubble of the Haiti earthquake are remains of victims lay buried -- loved ones, lives lost.

CNN's Anderson Cooper reports on the heart-wrenching effort to recover the remains and treat them with dignity.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly a month since the quake, and Port- au-Prince is still a graveyard. In the ruins of the national nursing college, as many as 100 students remain crushed under concrete. (on camera): At first, on a site like this, it is hard to understand what you are actually looking at. It's like it takes time for your eyes to adjust to what you are actually seeing. I mean, there's notebooks scattered all around, a nurse's shoe.

But then you realize this whole area, discolored area, is actually the -- the remains of people.

(voice-over): Joseph Charles was a security guard at the school. Every day now, he searches for the student he once tried to protect.

"They used to call me Poppy Joe, Poppy Joe," he says. "This is really hard."

In a locked storeroom, he collects the personal possessions he finds, old textbooks, nurse's shoes, even their uniforms. He has to work quickly, however. A government bulldozer is on site removing what's left of the building.

(on camera): While rescue operations are delicate, precise, and time-consuming, recovery operations in Port-au-Prince, as you can see, are anything but. They are just here to destroy and tear down what remains of the building.

The backhoe just rips through the structure. The human remains mix with the steel and the concrete. All of it just gets picked up and dumped into a truck.

Eric Jones (ph), a volunteer, has been helping Joseph recover the dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been very heart-wrenching, to say the least.

COOPER (on camera): Heart-wrenching?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heart-wrenching, just the whole process and the tragedy of it, to have so many nurses. You know, obviously, nursing is such an honorable profession. They are some of the hardest-working people in the medical field. And to have so many of them killed here is just very emotional.

COOPER (voice-over): Eric works in real estate in Washington, D.C., but he was once a paramedic. He doesn't like to talk about it, but he received the Medal of Valor for pulling people out of the Pentagon on 9/11.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ground zero, they had, under the walls, names of loved ones. Here, there's -- there doesn't seem to be anything like that. And the truth is, I don't know if we will ever really know how many people were -- were killed in places like this. It's -- it is an unreal situation. But it is -- what struck me most is just the incredible resilience of these people, and, you know, just their strength and their courage and their tenacity and...

COOPER: Eric and Joseph may work side by side, but they don't speak the same language.

(on camera): How do you guys communicate, because you don't speak French?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, actually, this is the most communication we have had since I have been here. So, it is really nice to be able to finally communicate a little.

COOPER: So, you haven't had a translator or anything? You've just been kind of working together without -- just kind of hand signals and..

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I speak a little bit of French, and -- but, yes, it's pretty much been hand signals and sort of helping him however he needs help. But I am really appreciative for your translator.

COOPER (voice-over): The work they do is beyond words. It is the most gruesome job imaginable. They do the best they can.

(on camera): Eric and Joseph found 10 nurses about three days ago, and they brought their remains here. They left them on the side of the road, expecting the Haitian government to come and collect them, but the government never came.

Dogs ultimately got to the -- their bodies. And now all that remains is the smell and a few bones.

(voice-over): Scattered throughout the rubble are photos of the nurses.

(on camera): All throughout the wreckage, you find photographs of the nurses. Here's some registration documents. This is a girl named Ruth (ph). This is a student named Gabrielle (ph). Here's pictures from a graduation ceremony.

(voice-over): Pictures are not worth money, however, and the men who scavenge for scrap metal amidst the rubble and human remains show no interest.

(on camera): It has got to be incredibly frustrating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is. It's upsetting and frustrating to witness that, but it is just, I think, a state of the affairs, as people, they don't mean disrespect by it. It is just they are hungry and they need -- they need money to buy food. And, so, they have to do what they need to do to earn money for themselves and their own families.

It is just sad that that is what they have to do to get it.

COOPER (voice-over): Eric has been in Haiti for weeks already. He plans to stay until he and Joseph finish the work at this site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was telling him earlier, I have as much so much respect for him. I have seen him every day a week just working, you know, 15-, 16-hour days, risking his own life time and time again to recover the artifacts and personal effects of the people he used to work and used to -- he has shown nothing but courage and dignity and respect. And he is definitely my hero.

COOPER (on camera): He is your hero?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, absolutely.

COOPER (voice-over): It is a heroic effort, a thankless task. Amidst so much loss, they try to bring dignity to the dead.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, Port-au-Prince.


HARRIS: Before the quake there was corruption and greed. Hundreds of millions of dollars vanished. We follow the money. Anderson Cooper reports live from Haiti, "Stealing Haiti," a special "AC 360" investigation, tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.



HARRIS: You know, here's something we all complain about at one time or another -- banks' fees, poor service. Whatever.

Our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, is in New York with a list of the best and worst financial institutions from the consumers' point of view.

Good to see you, Gerri.

Start us off with the worst offenders, if you would.


All right. This is according to a new study from Forrester Research. Some of the nation's biggest banks have some of the worst performance when it comes to customer service. The research firm asks consumers -- and I want you to hear the question first so you understand -- whether their bank or firm does what's best for the customer and not what's best for them.

Here's a list of the bottom seven. These are the people who did not do well: Bank of America -- we've heard of them -- Chase, Capital One, TD Bank/Commerce, Fifth Third, Citibank, HSBC.

Now, I want to give a response to this because, you know, people want to respond to this. HSBC told CNN that they take customer feedback very seriously and providing superior service to their customer is an essential part of HSBC Bank's core business values. They say they are working with Forrester to fully understand this year's service results.

And I should add here, Tony, ,that this is better than last year. Most of these banks are doing better than they did last year -- Tony.

HARRIS: Got you.

So which banks scored well?

WILLIS: Right. So, you want to know, hey, where should I go?


WILLIS: First off, remember that this includes all sorts of financial institutions, Tony -- bankers, insurers, credit unions, you mention it. So here is the list..

At the very top is USAA. You may not know this company. They tend to serve veterans, but they get very high marks from customers.

Any credit union. Amazing, the credit union scores, number two. Independent insurance agents, independent financial adviser, AAA, State Farm, and regional or local banks.

So, you can see here, Tony, that people are really winnowing down to smaller institutions, smaller banks. And I want to give you a little advice here.

If you want to break up with your bank, switch to a new one, there are some things to keep in mind.

First off, make sure you know the fees your new lender will charge, whether it's a monthly charge for maintaining your checking account or penalty fees for overdrafting your account. Be sure that your new bank's ATM network is convenient for you.

And next, take special extra care with any automatic transfers or automatic bill pay that you do. It's easy to overdraft your account when you're switching providers.

And finally, ask for help. If you're thinking of switching, ask a rival what they might do for you to entice you to switch banks. Some even have kits to help you manage the process more effectively -- Tony.

HARRIS: And Gerri, I can't let you go without giving us a bit of a preview as to what's in store for "YOUR BOTTOM LINE" this weekend.

WILLIS: Well, OK. So, April 15th, Tax Day, is just two months away. We'll show you where to get cheap and sometimes even free help when it comes to your taxes.

And, of course, love is in the air, Tony, this Valentine's Day weekend. Can you feel it? How to talk money with your honey and much more. The show that saves you money, Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

HARRIS: Look, I went off on Valentine's Day in our meeting this morning. You've been a part of our meetings. And I got slammed!

WILLIS: I like those meetings.

HARRIS: Oh, my goodness.

WILLIS: You must be a guy.

HARRIS: Gerri, come on back. Join us again. We missed you this morning.

All right. Gerri Willis with us in New York for us.

WILLIS: I will. Thanks.

HARRIS: What kind of experiences are Toyota owners having as they try to get their cars fixed? They've been letting us know on my blog, and I'll share some of their comments with you.

That's next.


HARRIS: Toyota recalls are affecting a lot of you, and on our blog we asked you about your experiences with Toyota.

A Prius owner writes, "Have not had difficulty with brakes. Dealers are behind the news cycle in terms of being able to make repairs. Toyota still beats GM, Ford, Chrysler for recall incidence rates."

Brian Hanna told us, "Over the past 10 years I have owned four Toyota vehicles, all used. Best cars I have ever owned, and I continue to support them."

Dyce writes, "In 2007 I bought a new Toyota RAV4. I had a bad experience when the brakes grinding when pressed. This is a new car I'm talking about here. I complained to the dealer and brought the car in. They checked the brakes, all pads were good, so they sent me away with no solution."

"Toyota Corporation said there were no problems. Now I am replacing brakes on this car every year. Never again. Last Toyota I will ever buy."

All right. If you've got a comment or a question about the Toyota recall, you can get in touch with me at

And tomorrow -- oh, this worked out -- good, good, good, good -- a Toyota dealer service manager will join me to answer your questions.

Great. So send them in.

Can a BlackBerry help you quit smoking? Our Stimulus Desk team has found a program that wants to spend $1 million because organizers think they can.

But first, more images of the winter storm shot by our CNN photojournalists. We're back in a moment.


HARRIS: As Iranians both for and against the government turn out to mark Revolution Day, it is worth taking a look at the nation's key players, those running the hard-line Islamic state and those brazen enough to oppose it. Ivan Watson reports from CNN's Iran desk.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For eight months, Iran has been locked in a political power struggle and two main political blocs are claiming the same holiday, the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic republic on February 11th.

Let's take a look at the players here. On the one hand, we have the Iranian government, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Now during elections last June, he came out strongly in favor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even though the opposition claimed that the government had rigged the elections in favor of Mr. Ahmadinejad.

Both of these leaders rely heavily on the support of the powerful Iranian military force, the Revolutionary Guard. They control the Basiji militia, those club-wielding security forces that we've seen out in the streets beating back the opposition protesters. Some Iranian experts argue that the Revolutionary Guard may be pulling the strings here.

MEHDI KHALAJI, WASHINGTON INST. FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: The Islamic Republic has been transformed from a civilian government to a (INAUDIBLE) state, which means that military are in charge of the government. They are behind the scenes. They own a significant part of economy and different industries. They are behind all the political institutions. And without Revolution Guard, Ayatollah Khamenei -- neither Ayatollah Khamenei, nor Ahmadinejad, have real power.

WATSON: A big question here is the Iranian clergy, the senior Shiite clerics who are very important in what is a modern theocracy. And there are signs of splits among the clerics as well. We've seen repeated clashes between hard-liners and supporters of an ayatollah, a senior ayatollah, in a mosque in the city of Shiraz (ph). This ayatollah has repeatedly come out in favor of the Iranian opposition.

And that brings me to the green movement, the opposition, and it is led by three reformist politicians, Mir Hossein Mousavi, he's a former prime minister, Mehdi Karroubi, a former speaker of parliament, and Mohammad Khatami, a former president. All three of these individuals have admitted that they may not, in fact, be in charge of the protesters. That the green movement that we've seen out in the streets again and again, clashing with security forces, that they are organizing themselves and it is not a hierarchical structure.

We've heard these protesters say "death to Khamenei," the supreme leader. Let's listen to what one Iranian expert has to say about this movement.

BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN, AUTHOR, "EMBRACING THE INFIDEL": Thirty-one years after the Islamic Revolution, what we have now is defeat of the project that began with enormous hope. The green movement, the elections, and the requests by the leaders of the reformist movement in Iran, for a sweet (ph) protest, peacefully sweet protest, is a sign of the collapse of the project. These are signs of the crisis of creating an Islamic utopia in a modern society. The utopia has failed. And people are coming out to show their opposition to it.

WATSON: And that brings us to the question, again, about the clergy. Where will they fall? Some support the opposition. Some support the Iranian regime. And many seem to be on the fence, waiting to see how this power struggle will play out.

Ivan Watson, CNN, reporting from the Iran desk.


HARRIS: So, I got to tell you, I got wind of what Josh is about to report, and I had to come and flop over here at the stimulus desk because this is amazing. So we've got the patch, right, to help folks stop smoking.


HARRIS: We've got gum to help folks stop smoking, right? We've got counselors on call to help folks stop smoking. And now you're going to tell us there that is a stimulus project designed to help people stop -- a stimulus program?

LEVS: A stimulus program to help people stop smoking by using a Blackberry.

HARRIS: Come on.

LEVS: They're actually handing out -- anyway, when we saw this one this morning, I e-mailed you a big exclamation point.

HARRIS: Yes, you did. You did. You did.

LEVS: I was like, we've got to talk about this.

HARRIS: And I never got to it, but now I know.

LEVS: Yes. Look, I mean, and, hey, anything that works, right? I mean definitely stopping smoking is an important value.


LEVS: I mean none of us have questions about that.

But check this out. This is really interesting. This is a program in Washington, D.C., not too far from your hometown there, up in Maryland.


LEVS: And they got a million dollars, close to a million, and what they're doing is they're going into certain areas in which people really rely on these quit lines, what they call, and they're giving Blackberries to these people in order to make it pretty much easier for them to have what they need 24/7.

I've got some numbers for you. Let's show everyone the screens. First of all, the amount of money, just barely under a million. It's $977,000. It's created one full-time job. And then the next screen here, we're going to show you what the organizers are saying can be achieved by this. You can get support via text 24/7, you can connect with others who are quitting and it gives you a menu of options there that can help prevent a relapse. If you're feeling something, it can give you something else to do. Plus, as one of our producers were pointing out, gives you something else to do with your hands.

HARRIS: Right.

LEVS: One more thing about this that you'll find interesting. This is important. This is being run by the American Legacy Foundation, which is getting its funding out of that major settlement that big tobacco did, in with states all over the country a long time ago.


LEVS: So that's where a lot of these funds -- that program came from. But this is a stimulus project for a million dollars.

HARRIS: Yes. I mean I understand -- you know, I've been pretty open about this idea that one person's pork is another person's stimulus project and there are jobs associated, but it's, you know, you look at this and it's hard to imagine a million dollars for this.

LEVS: And is it going to work.

HARRIS: Is it going to work?

LEVS: One thing that we can note is that there is an economic impact to getting people to quit smoking at all, right?

HARRIS: Absolutely. Health care costs and everything associated with it.

LEVS: There's another $44 million that the CDC got for program in every single state to help people quit smoking.


LEVS: And we have a quote here. I'm going to show you a sound bite now from Senator Tom Harkin who talked to us about this last year.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: We're doing two things with this bill. We're putting people back to work on infrastructure projects, building new schools, things like that, but we're also investing. We're investing in a sound recovery in the future. For every $10 or so that we spend on smoking cessation programs, we can see the effect of people getting off of smoking.


LEVS: So, he was talking a year ago. That was in general, not about this project.

HARRIS: Right.

LEVS: But, yes, this one really caught our eye. And, of course, we know viewers are going to want to talk about it, right?

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

LEVS: So let's show everybody how they can weigh in. You've got our screens here, But, of course, you can do, which is only as many keys, right, j-o-s-h, t-o-n-y, same thing.


LEVS: Also my Facebook and Twitter pages, JoshLevsCNN. Let us know what you think. And now we're going to get a lot of mail (ph).

HARRIS: Good stuff. Good stuff. Josh, appreciate it. Thank you.

We're going to take a break. As we do, more images of the winter storm shot by our CNN photojournalists. We're back in a moment. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Our top stories now.

People up and down the Mid Atlantic and Northeast are digging out from the snow right now. Airports in and around the nation's capital are open again. And now snow is heading to the deep south.

A Haitian judge could rule today on the fate of 10 Americans accused of kidnapping 33 children. The missionaries say they were just trying to take the kids to a better life in the Dominican Republic. They're hoping to be released on bail.

Iranians, today, marked the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Government supporters turned out by the tens of thousands to celebrate in Tehran's Freedom Square. Opposition groups say security forces prevented them from reaching the square.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: You know, just trying to find the headline story at Stocks rally after a choppy start. The jobs report probably helping in that regard.

Let's look at the New York Stock Exchange now, big board. Better than three hours into the trading day. And, boy, we're in positive territory after a really sluggish start. The Nasdaq, as you can see, is up 90 -- I'm sorry, the Dow is up 90. The Nasdaq is up 25. So positive all around. We're following these numbers with Stephanie Elam for you throughout the day here in the NEWSROOM.

Building a credit history and getting around some of those new credit card fees, our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, gathers "The Help Desk" team for some tips on managing your money.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Time now for "The Help Desk," where we get you answers to your financial questions. Joining me this hour, Greg McBride is a senior financial analyst with Manisha Thakor is a personal finance author.

All right, guys, let's get to work. Valerie asks, "I am trying to find a credit card to build my credit history. What's the best credit card for the first-timer?" Great question -- Greg.

GREG MCBRIDE, SENIOR FINANCIAL ANALYST, BANKRATE.COM: You want to stay away from a card that has high front-end fees and exorbitant interest rates. So I have two suggestions for you. First, look for a secured credit card. With a secured card, you make a deposit that's equal to your credit line. After responsible payments, usually a year and a half or two years, you can get your deposit back. Some issuers will even then let you convert that into an unsecured card. You can find a list of the top secured cards at Other suggestion is to also remember to check with your credit union to see what they may offer.

WILLIS: Yes, because they'll give you great terms. It's always a great way to build credit too, get a credit card.

Mike from Arizona asks, "I only used my credit card twice during 2009 and I'm concerned about the potential for new inactivity fees. With this in mind, would you still recommend keeping the card and paying the inactivity fee or close the account and take a hit on my credit score?" -- Manisha.

MANISHA THAKOR, PERSONAL FINANCE AUTHOR: So actually I would recommend neither. I think the simplest solution here to maintain that credit score is to actually use that card a little more often. And it doesn't have to be a big purchase. You can buy your monthly allotment of toilet paper, pay the bill off on time, in full. When it comes, you can even automate the payment of that to make sure that you are not late and then you won't have to pay inactivity fees and you can maintain your credit score.

WILLIS: And just to tell people, inactivity fees are just fees for not using the card. And for that reason alone, Greg, I've got to say, if somebody's charging me an inactivity fee, I'm not likely to stay with that card issuer. Do you think there's going to be a reaction to some of these practices out there?

MCBRIDE: There certainly are. I mean there's a reaction and a reaction. I mean a lot of what we're seeing in terms of these inactivity fees and these new creative fees are in response to the new credit card legislation. But you're absolutely right, there's no reason for us, as consumers, to take it sitting down. Be sure to shop around, make sure you're getting the best terms for your situation.

THAKOR: But I would say don't close that card until you're sure you can get another one, because it is harder than ever to get a new credit card for some people.

WILLIS: Great points, both of it.

MCBRIDE: It certainly is.

WILLIS: Appreciate it.

"The Help Desk" is all about getting you answers. Send me an e- mail to or log on to to see more of our financial solutions. You can also pick up the latest issue of "Money" magazine on newsstands now.


HARRIS: This just in to CNN. We've got some pretty amazing pictures from not that long ago from Sykesville, Maryland. And if my recollection serves me, that's in Carroll County, Maryland. This is a firehouse. This is a fire at a firehouse. So the firefighters, in essence, are in a situation where they're battling the fire in their own firehouse. This is as a result of a roof collapse here because of all the snow.

If you were with us yesterday, you heard Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, talking about the number of roofs that have collapsed there in Maryland. The same situation in Washington, D.C. And what do you get? Oftentimes when you get a roof collapse, you get a snapped gas line. And this can be the result. We've got this huge fire that I understand is out now. And our thanks -- and no one hurt, no one injured. As I look at the information, no injuries associated with this. So there's the good news. But a lot of damage to the firehouse in Sykesville, Maryland. The pictures courtesy of our Baltimore affiliate WBAL.

All right, let's do this. Let's get to some of the hottest topics trending right now on the web. This is stuff that you're talking about. Ines Ferre is with us now.

And, all right, lady, what are folks talking about?

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. One of the most popular stories on, Tony, it's one of Tiger Woods' alleged mistresses says that she wants an apology from the golfer. In an interview

HARRIS: Excuse me?

FERRE: Yes, that's right, an apology. In an interview with affiliate KTLA, Jaimee Grubbs said he misled her to believe she was the only other woman in his life. Take a listen.

HARRIS: Oh, my.


JAIMEE GRUBBS, ALLEGED TIGER WOODS MISTRESS: I asked him at some points, you know, are you -- when you go somewhere else, do you have another girl? And he's like, no, I'm too busy, you know, I don't have time for that. And then he's just like, I just like being with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now looking back on it, you almost wonder where he ever found the time for golf.

GRUBBS: I know. That's what I want to say. Busy? I know what you're busy with now. And it wasn't golf.


FERRE: And we called Tiger Woods' representative to see if they had any reaction to Grubbs' interview and right now we have no response yet.

HARRIS: Well, and so as we continue this down this path, Ms. Grubbs is not the only one of the alleged ladies making sort of the most of this mess, the situation?

FERRE: Right. Another alleged one, Rachel Uchitel. She now has a job as a correspondent for "Extra." And, you know, it's interesting because not too long ago, Ashley Dupre, remember the ex former escort?

HARRIS: Eliot Spitzer.

FERRE: Right.


FERRE: So she's now a columnist for "The New York Post." She's been writing sex, love and relationship advice for "The New York Post."

HARRIS: Are you making this up?

FERRE: No, I'm not, I swear. I live in New York and I'm not --


FERRE: So here's the deal, though. If you really want advice about love and relationship, how about getting some Valentine's Day advice from a couple that knows how to make love last. The world's longest-married couple. That's right. The Fishers (ph) got hitched way back in 1924.

HARRIS: All right.

FERRE: They're both over 100 years old and they're offering their wedding wisdom on Twitter. You've got until tomorrow to send your tweets to and they'll answer some of those questions on Valentine's Day. Isn't that wonderful?

HARRIS: What it is

FERRE: You're going to be sending in a tweet, I'm sure.

HARRIS: Like it. We're on better footing here, thank you.

FERRE: That's right.

OK. And for the first time, Iran is sending a woman to compete in the winter Olympics. Marjan Kalhor. She comes from a family of skiers. Iran has always sent male athletes to the winter games, but none of them brought back medals. And this time it could take a woman to bring one home, Tony.



HARRIS: I'm all for it!

Ines, appreciate it. Thank you.

FERRE: You bet. Thank you.

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

All right, the winter games start tomorrow in Vancouver, and athletes aren't the only ones working hard to get ready. The CBC's Red Sharon (ph) talks to announcers who will be broadcasting in their native tongue.


RED SHARON, CBC (voice-over): It's figure skating night in Winnipeg at the Nepinak household. The skater takes a tumble, in Ojibwa.

BARBARA NEPINAK, OJIBWA OLYMPIC ANNOUNCER: (speaking in foreign language).

SHARON (on camera): So what do you say there?

NEPINAK: I says, oh, I guess she is going to hurt herself and she'll feel it tomorrow.

SHARON (voice-over): Barbara and Clarence Nepinak have been having a lot of fun with it, but practicing to be Olympic announcing covering pairs short-program figure skating is complicated work, even for this pair who have been together for 40 years.

SHARON (on camera): Who's color and who's commentary?

B. NEPINAK: I'm -- what am I? You're


B. NEPINAK: Yes. So, I still have to try and jump in

C. NEPINAK: And by the 14th, we'll probably be the other way again.

SHARON (voice-over): And while they may not have much figure skating or announcing experience, they do know a few things about dancing. They are both elders from Manitoba's Ebb and Flow Reserve. Barbara is the founder of her own native dance troop, which they run together.

B. NEPINAK: We're here to share our culture.

SHARON: She regularly speaks in schools about dance, culture and language. For the Nepinaks, announcing the Olympics in Ojibwa is all about preserving the language.

B. NEPINAK: This will, I think, will help, because all of a sudden there's going to be a different sense of pride when they click on that TV set and then all of a sudden they see this.

SHARON: Especially, says Clarence, for the young.

C. NEPINAK: To learn that their aboriginal language, their mother tongue, and then to be able to use it in any setting.

SHARON: Close to two dozen others just like them have come from right across Canada

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to come naturally.

SHARON: For hours and hours of training and practice, from Mohawk, Cree, Inuktitut, and five other aboriginal languages.


DOUG HOWE, APTN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: This is the main studio area.


SHARON: But this is where it really hits home. Their first look at the nerve center where, for the very first time, aboriginal people will tune into the Olympics and hear it in their own mother tongue.

B. NEPINAK: They're certainly going to feel the spirit, you know, the energy. They're going to feel it.

HOWE: Yes, that's good.

C. NEPINAK: We can feel it now.


C. NEPINAK: It's a good feeling.


HOWE: This is one of three voice-over booths.

SHARON: Executive Producer Douglas Howe says he never had any doubt they would pull it off, but his biggest challenge is just sinking in.

HOWE: We don't understand the languages. So we can help people. We can point them in the right direction. We can show them what to say. But we can't understand all the words that they're saying. So, it's a big job. I've never produced anybody that I couldn't understand what they're saying.

SHARON: A disadvantage for the production team. But as the Nepinaks get back to practicing in the basement, they can see where it has its advantages, too.

B. NEPINAK: You have these European names or you have these Asian names and most of the time I don't know the he or the she is.

SHARON (on camera): Some culture shock of your own.


C. NEPINAK: Yes. Yes. More often than not I'll probably mispronounce the names.

SHARON: Right. Right.

C. NEPINAK: But thank goodness they don't understand Ojibwa.

SHARON: You can get away with it.

C. NEPINAK: Yes. Yes. Hopefully we can get away with it, yes.

SHARON (voice-over): Otominuk (ph), loosely translated, go ahead and play, or let the games begin.

Red Sharon, CBC News, Winnipeg.



HARRIS: Let's take it to the next level. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with