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CNN NEWSROOM

Tea Party Protests; Volcano Clouds Air Travel; Space Jobs up in the Air

Aired April 15, 2010 - 10:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Some of the big stories for you in the CNN NEWSROOM for this Wednesday, April 15th, Tax Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I should have a Plan B, but I don't have a good Plan B yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Yes, it's hard to come up with one sometimes. President Obama at the Kennedy Space Center today, outlining America's space program in the post-shuttle era.

Protesters outraged over mandatory police checks they call racial profiling. I will speak with a lawmaker behind a hard-as-steel immigration bill in Arizona.

A clear view of Iceland's fiery marvel captured by a CNN iReporter. My goodness. But the volcano clouding travel plans for thousands of flyers.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Those stories and your comments right here, right now, in the CNN NEWSROOM.

First, they are partying like it is 1773. A colonial times tax revolt morphs into a modern-day mutiny against big government. Tea Party patriots, as they call themselves, hold Tax Day protests across the country today.

CNN's Jim Acosta at the main event in Washington, where things are getting started this hour -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Tony.

Yes, they're just getting this rally started right now. We're on Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., just a couple of blocks from the White House. So the setting is pretty fitting for Tea Party activists who are out here in force.

There's several hundred people out here so far. They're listening to some conservative stars of this Tea Party Express bus tour that just finished crisscrossing the country, stopping in many cities across the nation where they've taken aim at some Democratic candidates, by and large, with messages against big government, big spending, health care reform, you name it -- a number of conservative causes.

And this is going to be going on throughout the day. You're going to hear from some conservative politicians and talk show hosts at this rally that's happening over the next couple of hours. And then later on this evening, they're all moving over to the National Mall, where folks like Republican Michele Bachmann and other darlings of the Tea Party movement of the Republican Party will be talking to folks and getting folks fired up out here on this Tax Day.

And I wanted to bring in just one person who is out here in the crowds this morning. His name is Craig Pettersson. He drove all of the way from Michigan overnight.

And this is your third Tea Party rally, is what you were telling me, Craig.

Tell us why you come out here. What is your motivating factor for coming out to these Tea Party rallies?

CRAIG PETTERSSON, MICHIGAN: Well, my main concern -- hello, America, by the way. My main concern is the national debt. If we don't stop this spending, I fear our economy could collapse. And we need to stop it.

Entitlement programs at this point are just not the right thing to do, and it's definitely not constitutional. I urge everyone to read their Constitution and understand it. It's our duty as Americans.

ACOSTA: And you were telling me that you are a Republican who sometimes has problems with your own party, and you'd like to see them adhere to conservative principles. Is that right?

PETTERSSON: I would like them to adhere to the Constitution. It's the framework of our country, and we need to honor our forefathers and the beautiful, eloquent wisdom and principles that they laid down for us to have the freedom to be here today with all these great American patriots.

ACOSTA: OK. And your hat is very patriotic as well.

Craig, thanks very much.

I want to bring in another gentleman here. His name is Mustafa.

You live here in Washington, D.C., and you are from a different political perspective. And we can see that on your shirt. It says, "Obama is Real," and you've obviously been a supporter of the president.

I guess some folks might say you've got a lot of guts coming out here. Why did you come here today?

MUSTAFA, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Well, because this is my town. I'm from here, born and raised in this town here. So I do have a lot of guts to come down here, because I do represent not only Washington, D.C., for myself, but definitely the president of the United States, Obama.

ACOSTA: And you were telling me earlier that you wanted to come down here and see this Tea Party rally for yourself. What's your sense of it? What do you think when you take a look around?

MUSTAFA: Well, by me just being here, just getting off the subway, walking over here, just seeing a division that we still have in this country in reference to Obama's beliefs and his cabinet, and also you see this new up and coming that's been around for hundreds of years, but up and coming that's keeping us divided, to stay divided with them. And we're not going to get anything accomplished if we stay divided, and this is keeping us divided.

ACOSTA: OK. Mustafa, thanks very much for talking to us. Appreciate your time.

So, Tony, we wanted to give you a little bit of the yin and the yang out here because obviously you do have Tea Party activists out here.

There are a handful of -- I would call them counter-protesters, folks who do support the president and are out here today. But we haven't seen those folks out in large numbers. You know, make no mistake about it, this is a very large Tea Party rally that is just getting going down here in the nation's capital.

HARRIS: Yes. All right. We will check in.

Jim Acosta for us.

Jim, appreciate it. Thank you.

And tune in tonight as Larry King welcomes Ann Coulter. She tells what she really thinks of the Tea Party Express. It is "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Let's broaden the view beyond the Tea Party movement. What do Americans of all political stripes think on this Tax Day?

A CNN/Opinion Research poll asks whether the government wastes your tax money. Three-quarters say yes, it wastes a lot. Twenty- three percent say it wastes some. Three percent say not much.

Then pollsters asked, "Should the IRS be abolished?" Twenty-six percent say yes, get rid of it. Almost three-quarters say keep the IRS.

(NEWSBREAK)

HARRIS: And here's one you don't see every day, flights canceled because of a volcano.

Let's bring in our Rob Marciano. There he is. He is tracking the cloud and the flight delays from our Weather Center.

And it's a mess, to be sure, Rob, but this can be dangerous for planes already in the air. Right?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, they don't want to mess with this. You may remember this past year we had problems with Mount Redoubt in southern parts of Alaska, where airliners had to rearrange their routes to get around that ash. It's very dangerous.

This is the volcano that's been erupting I guess for about a month, maybe two months now, in southern Iceland. It's near a glacier, so that presents its own sort of problems. But the biggest problem right now is that -- I'm sorry, I'm listening to the overhead speaker.

I have heard rumblings that the Paris agencies and the France agencies may be shutting down the Paris airports as well. So this -- when you get this sort of stuff in the air, it's just not good for airplanes. It can damage the wings, damage the windshields, get into the jets and just shut down the jets. So that's the big problem.

It wouldn't normally be that much of an issue across Western Europe and Great Britain or Scandinavia, but have a look at the way the weather pattern is set up right now. And Iceland obviously to the north, but we've got this funky upper air pattern about 30,000 feet, which is where that ash went to, up where the jets fly. And it's scooting around towards Scandinavia, back through parts of the U.K., and also into other parts of Western Europe.

Here is the -- here it is on the infrared satellite picture. You see it right there kind of heading this way. That's the cloud itself.

An interesting little thing here we found on the Internet. This shows aircraft in the air. What you're seeing here, these blue X's, those are transponders. So they actually receive messages from aircraft that are equipped with this device, receive transmissions from the aircraft.

So there's no aircraft right now flying over the U.K. There's not a whole lot flying over parts of Scandinavia. And the reason you don't see any down here across parts of Spain is because they don't have much in the way of transponders.

But all of the air traffic right now is south of that area and, again, they may be shutting down more aircraft as we go through the day today until this volcano simmers down or the winds change. It doesn't look like the wind's going to change here over the next 48 hours, so that's going to be an ongoing problem -- Tony.

HARRIS: All right, Rob. Appreciate it. Thank you, sir.

Space jobs in the air. President Obama lays out his plan for the space industry today. We will hear from one worker who says it is about pride, purpose and the prestige of the U.S.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT WRIGHT, UNITED SPACE ALLIANCE: There's a sense here of a greater purpose, and that is supporting human access to space, beginning to do research and development, giving us the opportunity to go to new places and discover new things. I mean, there really is an exploration aspect to the space program that we have today, and the people here are really bound together to support that activity and be part of that overall accomplishment.

It's not just an accomplishment for people here. It's really something that America should be proud of, and that we're here to do that for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: You've got to be able to pay for it.

President Obama's plan for the future of the U.S. space program causing some high anxiety for many workers. Even some veteran astronauts warn the plan will reduce America to second or even third- rate status.

So, is America's leadership and prestige in space exploration at risk? And what will the president's plan mean for jobs in the industry?

Robert Block is the space editor for the Orlando Sentinel & Tribune Group. And he joins us via Skype from Orlando.

It is good to see you, sir. Thanks for your time.

ROBERT BLOCK, SPACE EDITOR, "ORLANDO SENTINEL" & TRIBUNE GROUP (via Skype): Thanks, Tony.

HARRIS: Well, let's start here. The president empanelled a blue-ribbon commission, as you know, to look at the constellation program. Remind us all again what the panel concluded.

BLOCK: The panel basically concluded that the U.S. human space flight program was an unsustainable trajectory because its ambitions and its funding were not adequately matched.

HARRIS: OK. So that's the starting point for the re-evaluation, the re-imagining for this administration.

Will you put, Robert, for us the estimated NASA job losses figure in to some perspective for us? Has NASA said that 7,000 to 9,000 jobs will be lost when the shuttle program ends? And does that number assume there is nothing to replace that program?

BLOCK: Well, I mean, there's a lot of emotion and myth that's been mixed up here.

HARRIS: Yes.

BLOCK: You have to remember that in 2004, President Bush announced that the shuttle was going to be retired in 2010, and that there would be a new program called Constellation which would aim to return astronauts to the moon. But there was going to be at the time a gap between the end of the shuttle and the beginning of the new program. At that time the gap was two years.

The other thing that's important to remember is that Constellation was conceived from the very beginning to lessen the workforce that works on the shuttle, because the shuttle is a fantastic vehicle, but it is immensely labored. There is a standing army of people and there is a huge overhead.

So, the idea was to try to cut the costs. And Constellation was billed as a program that was supposed to be safe, simple and soon, and it turned out to be none of those things. But the fact of the matter is that that job situation was always critical.

HARRIS: Yes.

BLOCK: So what happened is, as Constellation became underfunded, encountered technical problems that often rocket programs and development encounter, its costs started to increase and the gap started to grow. So, that job crisis was always looming no matter what. People, either through self-delusion or NASA being very fuzzy about what numbers were actually going to be lost, it was never very clear about what was going to happen.

HARRIS: Very good.

BLOCK: Now that the shuttle program is ending, and that there is no Constellation program that is going to follow on -- and it wasn't going to follow on even before Obama cut it -- it looks like the job numbers were going to be just in Kennedy Space Center -- that doesn't include other centers -- about 9,000 which here, on the space coast of Florida, is a big loss because the local unemployment rate is about already 13 percent.

HARRIS: Yes.

BLOCK: So that number will be magnified at other centers as well. Without Constellation, there's a concern that that kind of loss and the program could languish. Now, I don't necessarily think that's what's going to happen, but there is a public sense and a fear amongst many space workers that doom is upon us.

HARRIS: Robert, one last one here. Thank you, first of all, for cutting through a lot of the noise around this and taking us back in history to when the program was devised, back in 2004.

What do you expect to hear from the president later today? How is the president re-imagining Constellation or this public/private partnership moving forward?

BLOCK: Look, the big program -- there's a lot of people who talk about the space program and its ability to inspire. And the fact of the matter is, in the 1960s, when we went to the moon, it was -- NASA was a national security program that received a large amount of the federal budget. That's not been the case since the '70s. And the big problem always dogging the administrations is, how do you have a space program that does all kinds of neat things, science, as well as human and robotic exploration, and how do you have it on a sustainable budget? And I think that's what the president is trying to aim for today.

What he wants to do is he wants to try to bring in commercial companies. Now, there's a lot of emotion around this as well. But you have to remember that some of the commercial companies that they're hoping to rely on are Lockheed Martin and Boeing, for instance, which have been putting people into space for 50 years.

So the idea is to bring in a different way to procure services and launch astronauts using the commercial contracts to get people into low-earth orbit, lower NASA's overhead, and then get NASA working on long-term technology development to try to find ways to go into deep space that are not only more affordable, but that are sustainable. And that's what the president is going to talk about today. He does not have the last word on this, however.

HARRIS: Right.

BLOCK: Ultimately, this is a big political issue and Congress is going to weigh in.

HARRIS: You've got to go to the people who have the chops on the subject matter.

Robert, appreciate it. Thank you so much. That was good stuff.

BLOCK: Thanks. All the best.

HARRIS: Yes.

We will bring you live coverage of President Obama's remarks on the future of the U.S. space program. That is set for 2:45 Eastern from the Kennedy Space Center. You can see it live, right here on CNN.

And what's that lighting up the night sky? Did you see it right there? Right there? A UFO, maybe? Not quite, but you'll need to stick around for the answer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Critics call it profiling. Supporters call it protection. I will talk to the lawmaker behind Arizona's strict immigration law -- it is tough as nails -- along with an activist who opposes it.

That's next, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: OK. First lady Michelle Obama voicing strong support for immigration reform. She is in Mexico City right now speaking to CNN en Espanol. The first lady stressed the president alone cannot get reform passed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe in -- in what my husband has said, immigration reform is necessary, just like health care was necessary. He said that in his campaign. He said it all throughout his first year as president. He said it in the State of the Union Address. Immigration reform is necessary because of all of these things we're seeing. We're seeing young children who are trying to cross the border just to reconnect with their parents and their lives are in danger, they're put in precarious situations. And a strong immigration reform policy would help alleviate some of those challenges.

But the truth is is that in the United States it takes both parties in Congress to also be on that same page as well. It's not enough that the president wants it. We need republicans and democrats to support it as well. But I know he will be pushing for reform as he said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: All right. The first lady's comments come amid a fierce immigration battle in Arizona. The governor expected to sign what's widely considered the strictest bill against illegal immigrants in the country. Our Ines Ferre is on that story and she's joining us from New York.

Ines, we brought this story to everyone watching yesterday. The bill really does give sweeping new powers to police to determine a person's legal status here.

INNES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Tony.

Now, here's what's in the bill. If a cop has a reasonable suspicion that someone is here illegally, this requires the officer to ask that person for proof that they're here legally. They can show what's called alien documentation, they can show a valid driver's license or any federal, state or local government ID.

Now anyone without documentation showing they're allowed to be in the U.S. legally can be arrested and charged jail costs and also a fine of at least $500. Now police can avoid asking about immigration status if they feel that it puts in jeopardy an investigation.

There's also language in there about day laborers. It's illegal for employers to pick up day laborers if the vehicle blocks traffic or impedes traffic flow. It is also illegal for workers who are here illegally to solicit work in a public place and also in this bill.

And also important in this bill, Tony, citizens can sue a city if they feel it's not enforcing the law and a judge can fine a city at least $1,000 a day if they're not enforcing the law. And the Senate has to approve the changes made by the House before the bill heads to the governor.

Now some protesters took to the street in Arizona Tuesday, that's the day the bill was passed in the House. And the ACLU and other groups, well, they vowed that they will challenge this bill if it becomes law. They'll challenge it in the court, Tony.

HARRIS: All right, Ines, let's do this. Let's get to both sides of this debate over this controversial bill, not law just yet, but expected to be. Opponents insist the legislation will lead to racial profiling. Among other things, supporters insisting it will help control illegal immigration.

Let's do it, let's air it out. The bill's sponsor Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce joining me from Phoenix.

Russell, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning.

RUSSELL PEARCE (R-MESA), ARIZONA STATE SENATE: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes. Can't wait to talk to you.

And from New York, attorney Isabel Garcia is in Arizona. She is in Pima County, Arizona and she is a legal defender.

Isabel, good to see you as well.

ISABEL GARCIA, PIMA COUNTY LEGAL DEFENDER: Good morning.

HARRIS: So, let's get started. Mr. Pearce, let me begin with you.

The bill soon to be law, because everyone expects the governor to sign it, would allow for local police to determine a person's immigration based solely on their reasonable suspicion that they are in the county illegally, do I have that correct before I ask the question?

PEARCE: Well, you do basically, but they've already had that authority. The problem is we have sanctuary policies all over the country that are illegal. We restrict law enforcement from asking the questions they need to ask. We're going to take the handcuffs off of law enforcement, we're going to put them on the bad guy. Illegal is not a race, it's a crime.

HARRIS: What's the question they need to ask?

PEARCE: Well, very simple, like any other question, you stop somebody and they have no ID, you investigate who they are. Before you let them go, you have got to know who they are, that they have a driver's license. There's no difference.

You know, this is amazing to me. We trust officers, we put guns on them, they make life and death decisions every day. They do investigative -- they investigate capital crimes, they investigate sophisticated crime, but we're afraid they're going to pick up the phone and call ICE. Ninety percent of the time it's a phone call to ICE if they have reason to believe they're in the country illegally.

It's outrageous that we continue to have the anarchists, the open border while Phoenix have -- 50 percent of the homicides in Phoenix are committed by illegal aliens. Phoenix is number two in the world in kidnappings. It's become the home invasion, carjacking, identity theft capital of the world.

HARRIS: Well, OK, let me -- let me -- let me help make your case a little bit.

PEARCE: We're not putting up with it anymore. We're not putting up.

HARRIS: All right, let me help you make your case a little bit and then I'll get to Isabel.

So, your premise here is that this is a crime problem and --

PEARCE: It's an illegal problem. It's a crime.

HARRIS: It's a crime problem, right?

PEARCE: Yes. Well, it's a crime problem and they're taking jobs from Americans. Billions of dollars in costs. We spend a billion dollars in Arizona just to educate the children of illegal aliens.

It's a constitutional right of the citizens of this country to expect their laws to be enforced. We're going to enforce them.

HARRIS: All right. Isabel, I see you shaking your head. What do you want to say to this?

GARCIA: Absolutely. I think this bill represents the most dangerous precedent in this country, violating all of our due process rights. We have not seen this kind of legislation since the Jim Crow laws. And targeting our communities, it is the single most largest attack on our communities.

And Mr. Pierce is absolutely wrong. Immigrants have done nothing but contribute to this society, especially to the economy of Arizona. And for him to pose this, stopping all of us who are brown skin, legalizing racial profiling as the number one law enforcement technique when all of the studies show that undocumented immigrants have a net gain to our economy, our culture and our fight for human rights.

HARRIS: OK, so, Isabel -- now, Russell, let me have a shot here and then I'll give you your turn.

To Isabel, you know, Isabel, really, the facts are here you've got a large number of illegal immigrants in Arizona, you can't deny that and some estimates say the number is as high as 400,000. Doesn't something more need to be done? Now you might want to question why the state senator is, you know, going around federal law here, but doesn't something need to be -- I'll get to that in a second -- but Isabel, shouldn't something need to be done here?

GARCIA: That is precisely the issue. The federal government has refused to deal with immigration with the phenomenon that it is. It is a social, economic, political phenomenon. It is not a law enforcement phenomenon. It is not a national security issue. It is an issue of root cause.

Why don't we address NAFTA and the fact that they've displaced 6 million farm workers? What do we expect them to do?

And Arizona was purposely created to be the funnel for immigrant flow. That is precisely why Phoenix has the number of immigrants and the underground bad guys, if you will, have been created precisely because of our immigration policies. And so, Mr. Pearce and his cabal in the legislature --

HARRIS: Wow! OK.

GARCIA: -- are highly irresponsible and dangerous to this community.

HARRIS: All right, Mr. Pearce, have your say here. And why did you -- you've got federal law, why new state mandates and a new state law?

PEARCE: Well, first of all, they've always had the authority to enforce the law. And of course she's an -- she's on the board, she's all the time defending illegals, you know, crime -- lawbreakers over lawkeepers.

Let's look at reality. First of all, it's the law, we've also had the authority to enforce it. I'm tired of the defending. I've been to the funeral of Officer Erffly (ph), Officer Atkins (ph), Officer Martin (ph), Officer Figueroa (ph) that have been murdered by illegal aliens. Chris Miller (ph), the 17-year-old girl from Island High School that was killed. The 15-year-old that was raped in Scottsdale. The 15-year-old kidnapped and raped in Guadalupe.

I'm sick and tired of these people who defend. This is not about immigration. That's a legal process that we all love and admire. This is about illegal aliens that --

HARRIS: Well, Senator -- Senator --

PEARCE: -- are in our country that are in violation of the law.

HARRIS: Senator, do you think you're get any help in Hispanic neighborhoods in getting at these bad guys with this kind of -- all right, go ahead.

PEARCE: Good question. Good question.

In '06, I put four ballot initiatives on the Arizona ballot to deal with illegal aliens; four. They passed by an average of 75 percent; 60 percent of Hispanics voted for them.

This is outrageous that they would think for some reason because you're Hispanic that you support lawbreakers. It's not true. It's never been true. In fact, they're the people hurt the most by this -- the minority communities -- by the illegal alien invasion. Their jobs are taken, their families are injured.

I mean, this is outrageous that we continue to ignore the damage to America, the destruction of the rule of law. We -- you know, again, you have a right to know who's coming into this country. Who they are, they have to have a permission slip. We do not tolerate those who break into our country, just like we don't tolerate those who break into our homes.

HARRIS: Isabel, have your say here.

GARCIA: Absolutely not. I think the fact that they pose migration as an issue of law enforcement has diverted all of law enforcement. Instead of looking at the issues of crime, they -- it's very clear the -- "The East Valley Tribune" documented that Sheriff Arpaio let go a lot of rapists and murderers because he was focusing on prosecuting workers --

PEARCE: Well, that's a lie.

GARCIA: -- day laborers.

PEARCE: That's a lie.

GARCIA: And so, the real problem here is that Russell Pearce and Sheriff Arpaio have done more damage to our Constitution than anybody else in recent history and all of those violations are being normalized in order to affect every single one of us. Whether you're blond and blue-eyed, you're going to feel the impact, especially the resources that are being expended on this when we need health care, we need education and we need infrastructure and Mr. Pearce instead wants to be a national figure on this anti-immigrant hysteria that has gripped the state of Arizona.

HARRIS: All right. Last word on the bill that you sponsored that is no doubt going to become Arizona law.

PEARCE: It's sad that we continue to purport this misinformation. It's an absolute fabrication. She knows it's a fabrication. I stand up for the law-abiding citizens of this country. I will not ignore the damage, the deaths, the maimings. You know, I mean, it's outrageous, 50 percent of homicide -- data, fact -- in Phoenix committed by illegal aliens. You know, it's outrageous that she continues to support this --

GARCIA: Incorrect.

PEARCE: -- and ignore the damage --

HARRIS: All right, how about this? How about this?

(CROSSTALK)

PEARCE: -- that is against the rule of law.

HARRIS: How about this? How about this?

PEARCE: The issue of crime is separate from the issue of migration.

HARRIS: Get me in the screen here so I can -- Hi, everybody. So here's what we're going to do --

PEARCE: Fabrication.

HARRIS: Senator Pearce?

PEARCE: Yes.

HARRIS: You won't mind if we fact check your claims in this interview. Isabel, you won't find if we fact check your claims in this interview, right? You're good with it.

GARCIA: Absolutely not.

HARRIS: That's a yes, yes, right?

GARCIA: Absolutely.

HARRIS: We're going to fact check both of you.

PEARCE: I hope you do. Let's get the facts out there. First of all, it's a crime. Illegal is not a race, it's a crime. We're going to enforce the law --

GARCIA: No, migration is not a criminal issue.

PEARCE: In spite of her.

GARCIA: It is not.

PEARCE: In spite of her.

HARRIS: So, we're going to let --

(CROSSTALK)

PEARCE: We need to address root cause.

GARCIA: Apparently nothing is to you.

HARRIS: And, you know, it is -- it's the last topic you think a lot of people would rap about -- and thanks to our guests. That's a really good debate -- but they did, and for a contest -- thank you. Thank you both -- and a giant chunk of change as well.

We have the raps about taxes coming up next here in the CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Oh, boy. Still buzzing from that debate. Did you see it? I hope you did. We're going to put it on the bloggy page here. Let's get you to top stories right now.

As many scramble to meet today's federal tax deadline, the Tea Party express is ending its third cross-country trek with a rally in Washington's Freedom Plaza. Thousands of Tea Party demonstrators are gathering in hundreds of towns in cities across the United States today.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance for the first time jumped to 484,000 last week, an increase of 24,000. Government analysts blame a lag in claims related to the Easter holiday.

In about three hours, President Obama lays out the future of America's space program. He will face an audience that's been pretty critical of his plan to scrub NASA's moon mission and concerned about what it could mean for their own future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT WRIGHT, UNITED SPACE ALLIANCE: No one's excited about the possibility of relocating. You know, that's one of the big stressors in life to relocate and to pick up your family and move as well. And so that coupled with the potential job change and job loss, it puts anxiety owe them as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: CNN takes the president's speech live at Kennedy Space Center at 2:45 Eastern time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Got to get the cosmetics right -- sorry.

Toyota's safety problems continue. On Tuesday, "Consumer Reports" issued a rare "Don't Buy" warning for one of its Lexus SUVs. Almost immediately Toyota stopped selling the vehicle in the United States and now another setback.

Felicia Taylor is at the New York Stock Exchange. Where is Felicia? There she is. Felicia, what is the latest?

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Tony, actually, the last 24 hours have been a bit of a game changer for Toyota. It's now halted sales of the GX460 SUV worldwide. The automaker is also doing safety tests on all of its SUVs, not just the Lexus model. And tomorrow, Toyota will stop making the GX460 altogether. That's at least for the next week and a half.

And it is advising for any of those people that own one, and that affects about 5,400 people across the United States, to be careful when you're driving, obviously when you're exiting the highway or possibly making turns, cause that's the fear is that it could turn over.

HARRIS: Well, hang on. As you were taking there, Felicia, I'm thinking this is a quick response on Toyota's part, not exactly what we saw earlier this year when -- what was it? -- 8 million vehicles were recalled?

TAYLOR: You got that exactly right. Toyota, you know, obviously is learning from that experience. The company took a lot of flak for that recall. They had accusations that the company really did take too long to respond to problems which, in some cases, actually resulted in fail accidents. So it's not taking any chances this time.

That, of course, damaged Toyota's reputation quite a bit and it sent its stock price falling. So this time Toyota responded literally within hours and the company has now said that they don't want to hurt their reputation any further because reputation is everything, even for a car company. So the reaction, frankly, is more muted today. Toyota shares are only down half a percent.

And overall, Wall Street is having a pretty quiet session so far. We had word earlier jobless claims did jump, though, by 24,000 and now stand at 484,000. That rise, however, really may have been cussed by a lag in filings due to the Easter holiday.

So, where do we stand right now? The Dow Industrials are off fractionally, the Nasdaq is up just a fraction, the S&P is pretty much unchanged -- Tony.

HARRIS: Thank you, Felicia. See you next hour.

TAYLOR: Absolutely.

HARRIS: "Fortune" magazine releases its "Top 500 Companies" list and an oil company gets kicked out of the top spot. Find out who is number one by going to CNNMoney.com.

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HARRIS: As if you didn't know, it is Tax Day. Only hours left to file your returns. Ines Ferre is in New York with us with some ways to beat the clock.

Ines, what is the best advice going here?

FERRE: Well, Tony, go electronic. E-filing is the quickest way to get your tax return to the IRS, and over 71 million people have already done it. And you don't have to go out and buy a software program. If you're comfortable filling it out a 1040 by hand, the IRS has free software that allows you to file electronically. If you made less than $57,000 last you year, you can the IRS's free file, Tony.

HARRIS: OK, like it. Is there any sort of last-minute help for people who are rushing around trying to get in ahead of the deadline? FERRE: Yes, the IRS has volunteer offices set up across the country to help folks who are having trouble filing their taxes. To find a VITA site, that stands for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.

If you are older than 60, AARP offers a tax aid program where you can get one-on-one counseling help over the telephone or on the web. And you don't have to be a member or retiree to get help, you can just go to AARP.org/taxaide -- Tony.

HARRIS: What if you really don't think you will be able to meet the deadline, Ines?

FERRE: Yes, then it's time for an extension, you file an extension. You can do this for free at the IRS website at IRS.gov, but just because you file an extension doesn't mean you can wait to pay. If you can't pay because you lost your job, call the IRS. The commissioner told us they're there to help.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGLAS SHULMAN, IRS COMMISSIONER: A lot of people think of the IRS and get a little nervous about calling us. Our people are specifically instructed that if they're struggling Americans out there, we need to work with them and so we can work through issues with you. The important thing is not to disappear from the system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FERRE: And for more information on settlement programs, check out CNNMoney.com or go to IRS.gov. And, of course, if you have any questions, send them to us at CNNHelpDesk@CNN.com.

HARRIS: Yes. Ines, appreciate it. See you next hour, lady. Thank you.

Here's what we're working on for the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.

New adventures in space. President Obama travels to the Kennedy Space Center to outline his vision for America's space program. We will tell you what's next for NASA and why some space veterans not over the moon about it. Boy, the back and forth is going to be amazing there.

And investigators say inmates in Key West have been filing false tax return forms for jobs they never had as far as back as 2004. We will tell you how much they collected from the IRS.

We're back in a moment. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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