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Ford to Offer New Buyouts to Unionized Workers; White House Closes in on Stimulus Deal; No Illegal Drugs or Residue Found on Heath Ledger

Aired January 24, 2008 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris .
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins, watching us come in to the NEWSROOM live on Thursday morning, January 24th.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Another warning sign for the anemic economy. Ford plans to slash jobs and wages with buyouts.

HARRIS: Will Egypt seal its border with Gaza? Thousands of Palestinians pour in for a second day.

COLLINS: Yes, even grown-ups need vaccinations. Did you know that? I know most of you are shocked skippers. Stand by for a scolding from Dr. Gupta in the NEWSROOM.

Several developments this morning affecting the economy and your money.

Word an announcement could come today on a plan to jump-start the economy with tax rebate checks. We've all been waiting to hear more on that. Also news of more job cuts by a major automaker. All this after a stunning comeback on Wall Street yesterday.

Susan Lisovicz is watching to see which way the markets go when trading begins at the bottom of the hour. Kathleen Koch is at the White House with an update on the economic stimulus plan. And Ali Velshi has information on the new round of buyouts at Ford.

We want to begin with Ali. He is traveling once again with the CNN Election Express and is in Little Rock, Arkansas this morning.

Ali, what's the deal with Ford?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, an announcement that is coming right now as we speak from Ford. They have confirmed that they are going to offer buyouts. Now we're waiting for the number. But it looks like they're going to offer buyouts to all 54,000 autoworkers who are with the United Autoworkers at Ford.

The idea here is that a certain percentage of them will take those buyouts. They are increased, Ford and General Motors have -- offered buyouts last year. These ones are bigger buyouts. The idea is to replace those union workers hopefully with lower paid workers. That's what the automakers want to do. Non-unionized workers so that they can lower their cost base, lower their expenses related to benefits that they're paying out for retired workers in many cases.

So those employees who are eligible for retirement will be offered a certain amount, a fixed sum. Those who are skilled workers will be offered a higher fixed sum, but not eligible for retirement. That's what we're expecting to hear that from Ford. It's an effort to reduce their workforce and to lower the expenses that they pay.

A couple of years ago or last year, General Motors were saying that the difference between their costs per car and the cost of a non- American automaker making a similar car is about $1500 per car. The automakers tend to talk about those kinds of numbers. So they're trying to get more in line with non-American automakers so that they can be more competitive. They can either lower the cost of the same car or they can make more money.

This came out as Ford was announcing its full year results, yet another loss for the company. So these concerns continue. When you look at some places in the United States where the manufacturing jobs have disappeared, news of more downsizing has got people worried, even though the economy is already number one as a concern for this election, this kind of news makes people even more worried.

COLLINS: Yes. Exactly. That's what I was going to ask, Ali, is because when you look at a story like in its own little light, you know, you see one thing. If you look at it in a bigger light, what does it say about the manufacturing in this country?

VELSHI: Well, you know, you want to see industry growing. You want to see business growing. The whole issue about recession is when industry and the economy shrinks. You know, here I'm in Arkansas, we're going across the country. We started in South Carolina, we're moving our way over to California. Nine states in six day, and I got into Arkansas yesterday, and people are concerned about jobs, because...


VELSHI: ...through the south a number of auto plants were here. They've closed down. People have lost their jobs. We'd like to see more jobs being created, better wage jobs being created. People here are concerned about that as much as they are about gas prices and home prices and interest rates.

COLLINS: Absolutely. You hit the nail on the head. All right.

CNN's Ali Velshi traveling with the CNN Election Express. Ali, thanks.

HARRIS: You know, we are hearing reports the White House and Congress are close to a deal on an economic stimulus plan.

Kathleen Coke is live at the White House.

Kathleen, good morning. What are you hearing?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, what we're hearing from sources both on Capitol Hill and here at the White House is that a deal was, quote, "imminent. " As one senior Republican put it, quote, "They're trying to put a bow on it."

What we're hearing, details of this deal would be, is that, first of all, Democrats have agreed to drop their insistence on an increased in food stamps, on the extension of unemployment benefits. Republicans in turn have given way on their insistence that only taxpayers receive these tax rebate checks. That would have let out of some 23 million American whose pay payroll taxes but they just don't make enough to pay income tax.

How much could the checks potentially be? Initially the White House had insisted on $800 for individuals, $1600 for families. But with 23 million more people getting these rebate checks right now the Treasury Department is crunching numbers. So the expectation is they will be somewhat less.

Now the package will also include business tax breaks. Those details are also still being hashed out. So right now what we're hearing, as the details, the bones of this deal are emerging that party leaders on the Hill are working hard to sell it to members of the various party caucuses. Senior administration officials here at the White House are cautiously optimistic. And if a deal is announced today they're saying look more toward the afternoon, not just the morning, Tony.

HARRIS: Got you. OK. Kathleen Koch at the White House for us.

Kathleen, appreciate it. Thanks.

KOCH: You bet.

COLLINS: The question of the morning: which way will they go? The markets open in less than 30 minutes now, and all eyes will be on whether the Dow can sustain this sort of momentum it closed with yesterday.

Susan Lisovicz is joining us now to set the stage. I don't know how you're going to do that, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just came back from my chiropractor. They're working on my neck from the whiplash Wednesday, what we saw yesterday.

COLLINS: That was today.

LISOVICZ: You know that 632-point swing yesterday that we saw was the biggest since July of 2002. And that was one of the low points of that bear market. Now, whether that will be a pivotal point in what we've been seeing lately is the question. A trader told me today, stay in the cellar with Toto. You're not in Kansas anymore. You're on Wall Street.

I want to mention a couple of quick things we're watching for. Modest rally at the open. We don't know if it's going to be sustained but we're looking for that of 50-point improvements at the open. So a little bit of positive momentum.

Ford's under a little bit of pressure. Ali gave you the losses, the continuing losses, although Ford is trimming its losses and possible job cuts. Its shares are down 1 percent. The housing market, again, in focus. We'll get existing home sales at 10:00. We've got the nation's number two homebuilder.

Meanwhile, out with its quarterly earnings. That is Lennar reporting a 1.2 billion dollar quarterly loss, expects no improvement for this year, and there may be further decline. Lennar share are actually flat right now. And finally, tech stocks certainly have been in focus this week. Apple and Motorola were down sharply yesterday, even with that sharp late turnarounds.

We've got eBay shares under pressure. They are right now down about 9 percent in the pre-market, as expected. Med Whitman, the CEO, who did such -- who's credited with really taking eBay to a higher level, is stepping down, as expected. But the guidance -- so that's not a surprise to the market, but the fact that the guidance is going forward is cautionary. Perhaps it's contributing to the pressure that we're seeing for eBay.

And that's about it. I'll see you at the open. Strap yourselves in.

COLLINS: Yes. All right, Susan. I'll find out about your chiropractor bill a little bit later on. Thanks.

LISOVICZ: I hope the company will cover it.

COLLINS: I'm sure they will. All right. Thank you, Susan.

As she just said we are waiting for the trading day to begin just minutes away now. So we will see which way those markets will go. We'll be live from the New York Stock Exchange at the half hour.

Remember CNN is the source, the best information about the economy.

HARRIS: No drug residue, no illegal drugs. There's still no cause of movie star Heath Ledger's sudden death. Police say there's no evidence a rolled up 20-dollar bill found in his apartment was used to snort drugs. They also say they found prescription drugs but nothing illegal.

Yesterday's autopsy didn't reveal how the actor died. It could take a week or more for toxicology test results. One side note, a police source tells us the massage therapist who found Ledger unconscious first called Ledger's friend, actress Mary-Kate Olsen, for help. Once the masseuse realized it was an emergency, she called Olsen back and said she was phoning 911. By then, 45 minutes had gone by since the masseuse arrived at the apartment.

COLLINS: This morning a grand jury is set to consider first- degree murder charges against that fugitive Marine accused of killing his pregnant comrade. We expect to hear from the district attorney shortly.

Corporal Cesar Laurean is the primary suspect in the murder of Maria Lauterbach. Authorities believe he is on the run in Mexico.

Lauterbach's burned body was found buried in Laurean's backyard near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The military is conducting new tests to see if the fetus was born alive and to determine if Laurean is the father.

HARRIS: Tens of thousands of Gazans right now pouring into Egypt for a second day, they're stocking up on everything. Let's call it what it is. Food, furniture, livestock, you name it. It's described as a carnival atmosphere in the border town of Rafah. This human flow started after Palestinian militants blasted through metal border walls built by Israel.

Israeli and U.S. leaders are calling on Egypt to regain control of that border. They fear terrorists and weapons may be coming into Gaza unchecked, but Egypt is welcoming the Palestinians who are suffering under a recent Israeli blockade.

We will get a live update along the Gaza border coming up in just a few minutes.

COLLINS: Rob Marciano standing by now to give us a better idea what is happening in California, because it seems like there's every kind of weather that exists sort of going on there.


HARRIS: You know DNA freed him from prison. CNN has his first interview as he begin a new life. That exclusive interview coming up next on the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Hey, good morning. Again, everyone, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

Immunization -- I have to say that slowly -- an easy way for you to prevent lots of diseases. So why don't more adults give it a shot? The doctor's in the house.


COLLINS: Vaccines aren't just for kids. You need them, too. But experts say most of us never get the shots.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here now with more on this. So we were talking about this in the meeting. We were all like, we're supposed to have vaccines? I mean I know about tetanus but...

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know about tetanus. And there are some that a lot of people sort of pay a little bit more attention to but you typically think of vaccines for kids.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely.

GUPTA: Not for adults. But they could be good for adults as well.

COLLINS: It's hard enough to keep up with that.

GUPTA: And it's hard enough -- and there are some complicated schedules when it comes to children. So it is lard to keep up with. But there is some good advice out there, I think, for adults as well. There are few vaccines that are a little bit more well known when it comes to adults, one you mentioned, tetanus, but also the flu shot. People talk about the flu shot, that's seasonal, and pneumococcal, which is pneumonia, typically for older people.

But just about 2 percent of people get many of these adult vaccinations, when you talk about pertussis or whooping cough, for example, or even tetanus, which if you're not immunized, you could get lock jaw, which is no fun.

So these are things that are easily immunized against and you can you get booster shots even as an adult to make sure you're safe.

COLLINS: Wow. I mean, you know, like I said, I always, when they asked, you know, have you had the tetanus shot? Oh, yes. Yes. Not a good idea. I mean you really ought to...

GUPTA: You have to be honest about that.

COLLINS: Yes. I have not in all the time.

How do you get more adults immunized? I mean do we just tell them, like you said, what you can end up getting if you aren't immunized?

GUPTA: Yes. I think it's an awareness issue to some extent. So your show, I think, helps with that sort of thing. But I also think reminding people that there are lots of infections out there that can be somewhat controlled with some of these shots.


GUPTA: Now when you're talking about adults in general, there are lots of different vaccines that you think about. Again, whooping cough is one that I mentioned. That's actually made a resurgence, Heidi. A lot of people have been concerned about that. MMR, which stands for measles, mumps, rubella. You know about that because you have kids. But adults can get this, too, especially if you've never had measles, mumps or rubella as a child. Be problematic. Tetanus we mentioned.

Hepatitis A and B. Hepatitis A is an infection you can of your liver from shellfish and you can control this again with a vaccine. If you get older, a little bit older, over 50, 60, there are some other vaccines that may be important. The flu shot, again. This is an important age group. Pneumonia and then the shingles vaccine. There's a relatively new vaccine for people over the age of 60.

COLLINS: Yes. Wow. And that is something you don't want to get, if you can take the shots, hope you don't get.

GUPTA: No. Awful sores across your skin. They hurt, they're painful and there's a vaccine.

Now let me just say, it's not for everybody and you need to talk to your doctor about this. With shingles, in particular, the vaccine is not completely -- the virus is not completely dead.


GUPTA: So it can be a problem in people if they're susceptible to it. But you know, again, these are options out there.

COLLINS: OK. Great. Really quickly before I let you go. Insurance covers all this or just some?

GUPTA: For the most part. I can't make a blanket statement that everyone is going to get covered. But vaccines are covered for a lot of people out there. So you can check with your employer.

COLLINS: OK. Very good. Well done.

GUPTA: Right.

COLLINS: All right. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

HARRIS: Shocked drivers couldn't believe their eyes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's just a little girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hitchhiking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She just looks like a 5-year-old girl just walking on the side of the road by herself.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it just looks weird.


HARRIS: Yes. The 5-year-old who thumbed her way to school. The story ahead.


COLLINS: Race, gender and politics. What's important to African-American women in South Carolina? The question stirs a world of controversy. We'll revisit the issue.

HARRIS: Tim Masters says he not only lost his freedom but his youth when he was wrongly convicted of murder. On his first full day after being released, he granted an exclusive interview with CNN. You'll hear from him in just a moment.

But first, our Drew Griffin shares his story.


UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: And the court grants the motion to vacate the conviction.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Moments after the brief court hearing was observer, Tim Masters stood before microphones not quite grasping what had just happened.

TIM MASTERS, WRONGLY CONVICTED: A little overwhelmed here. So bear with me.

GRIFFIN: Masters has spent 10 years behind bars for a crime he has always said he didn't commit. The judicial system finally believed him and set him free.

MASTERS: I just want to thank my family and my friends who stuck with me all these years. Without their support, I don't know if I could have made it through this.

GRIFFIN: What he has been through is a criminal justice nightmare. Tim Masters was just 15 when a woman named Peggy Hettrick was found murdered near his family's home.

Masters found the body on his way to school but never reported it. For 12 years the Fort Collins police investigated him, interrogated him, searched for clues, finally tried and convicted him almost solely on the basis of sketches Masters drew as a kid. Scary sketches, a psychology thought demonstrated he was a killer.

Now the special prosecutor assigned to review the case has determined the evidence proved nothing. And new DNA evidence may prove someone else killed Hettrick. That was enough for the judge to not only grant a new trial but to set Masters free.


HARRIS: CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin now joins us with his exclusive interview with Tim Masters.

Drew, great to see you and terrific story. What did he have to say? What did Tim have to say? GRIFFIN: You know, I -- we interviewed him yesterday at his attorney's office in Greeley, Colorado. And he was supposed to have a day to kind of absorb everything, Tony. It turns out that in that day he only slept three hours. He was so excited, so nervous, and there was a huge party where he was getting reacquainted with his whole family.

But he was really somewhat reflective and as far as his future, as you'll hear, it's really unknown.


MASTERS: For me it's not over until it's over. So...

GRIFFIN (on camera): So even right now, as of this moment...

MASTERS: They haven't dismissed any charges. I'm out on bond. So I'm not completely free yet.

GRIFFIN: Does that make you angry?

MASTERS: The whole thing makes me angry. It never should have happened.

GRIFFIN: Why did the police not believe you?

MASTERS: In my opinion is that Jim Roderick, the guy in charge of it, has a very big ego and would not allow himself -- would not allow anything or anyone to convince him that he was wrong. He made up his mind at the beginning, from day one when he walked into my bedroom and see my horror drawings and war stories that I was guilty. Nothing would change his mind.

GRIFFIN: And he pursued you for, on and off, 12, 11 years?

MASTERS: Eleven years excessively. After the police interviewed me in '92, I was -- let me give you background. I was interviewed at the Naval Intelligence headquarters at Philadelphia when I was in the Navy. After the interview, the NIS agent in charge who was from my ship walks with me out to my car and he said, "Tim, just put all this," pardon my expression, "put all this bull -- behind you. It's finally over. Don't worry about it."

So I thought it was all over with. It was done. I went on to live my life. When they arrested me in '98, it was completely out of the blue for me, caught me completely off guard. I never expected it. When the police first showed up at my house in Ridgecrest, California, I thought they had screwed up and were looking for somebody else because that had happened once before at another house I was renting. Knocked on the house, said we're looking for so and so. I said they don't live here.

But when they said Tim Masters you're under arrest for murder. The local police arrested me, they said, "Tim Masters, you're under arrest." And I said what for? And they said, "We can't tell you." Well then Jim Broderick walked in as I was being handcuffed and taken away. And he said, "Tim Masters, you're under arrest for the murder of Peggy Hettrick," and he was happy, proud to be saying that to me.


HARRIS: Whoa. OK. Drew, another quick question, about five or six come to mind here. I'm wondering where the murder investigation goes from here.


HARRIS: Look, someone killed Peggy Hettrick.

GRIFFIN: That's right. Back in 1987 this woman was killed. The DNA testing that led to this expedient release for Masters after all these years shows that other people, other people known to the police now had DNA on Peggy Hettrick's body. That doesn't prove that those people killed Peggy Hettrick, but certainly you'd think that would be a lead for police.

The Fort Collins Police Department, to complicate matters, and as you heard, Lieutenant Jim Broderick, they are now under investigation by a special prosecutor in Colorado to find out just what happened in this investigation.


GRIFFIN: How did it get so screwed up? So a lot of those things in terms of finding the real killer of Peggy Hettrick is clouded yet in this Tim Masters mess.

HARRIS: Wow. Terrific story. Still more to be told in the story, obviously.

Drew Griffin for us out of Chicago. Drew, great to see you. Thanks.

GRIFFIN: Thanks a lot.

COLLINS: Waiting for the trading to begin. It's just minutes away. So which way will the markets go today? We're going to try to make sense of it for you coming up in just a moment.


COLLINS: California battered by a brutal storm. It's life in the snow lane today. The forecast minutes away in this CNN NEWSROOM.

ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins and Tony Harris.

COLLINS: Good morning once again, everybody.

Well, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I almost forgot where we were. I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: I just ran through the newsroom to get back and join you here.

I'm Tony Harris. Good morning, everyone.

News this morning affecting the economy and your finances. A major automaker slashing jobs and wages, and trading getting under way right now on Wall Street after the Dow's stunning reversal of fortune.

Ali Velshi following developments involving Ford Motor Company. Susan Lisovicz, there she is, adjusting the knobs and switches there, watching the markets on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Susan, let's start with you. I hear applause, I don't hear the bell yet. But it's coming any second, I'm sure.

LISOVICZ: It's going to come in a couple seconds.

Tony, we had terrible Tuesday, whiplash Wednesday, and perhaps today will be thrasher Thursday, because we are coming off a 632-point swing, which was the biggest swing that we have seen in these -- in this stock market since July of '02, which by the way was one of the low points of the last bear market.

We are expecting a positive open. So some positives mood, I feel. But indeed, we're seeing the Dow to the upside in the first few seconds of trading, Tony. The traders say watch the volume today to see if it has any convictions. But everybody says don't expect the volatility to end any time soon.

Why is that? Because there are so much information being thrown at us including from Ford. One of the great automotive companies, American company, that's an iconic company, reporting its quarterly losses of $2.8 billion. Sounds terrible but it's actually a lot better than the $5.6 billion a year before.

There are reports that a new agreement with the UAW could result in a new wave of buyouts. That stock was down about one percent in the pre-open. We're watching techs. EBay is in focus today. Its CEO, who has been credited with a lot of success at that online auction company, is leaving as expected. They guided sharply lower for this year. That stock was under a lot of pressure. It was down 9 percent in the pre-market.

And finally, let's mention the housing market. We're expecting existing home sales at the top of the hour, Lennar, one of the nation's biggest home builders reported its quarterly earnings. Let's just say quarterly losses. That's really what's it's been. $1.2 billion in quarterly losses. Seems no improvement this year and possibly further declines. But hey, guess what, Tony? The Dow is up 28 points in the first minute and a half of trading.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here we go.

LISOVICZ: We've got 6 1/2 hours to go. HARRIS: Strap in. Rock 'n' roll, here we go. Susan, appreciate it. Thanks.

HARRIS: You're welcome.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Ali Velshi is not standing by but sitting by in Little Rock, Arkansas in the CNN Election Express. Ali, we want to talk more about Ford. It's going to offer these buyouts to all of its UAW employees. Talk a little bit this time about what's behind all this?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the auto companies for a few years have been laying off tens of thousands of workers. About 300,000 workers over the last ten years have lost their jobs, and that's just in the auto industry. What GM and Ford started to do last year was offer buyouts.

One of the problems is that North American-based automakers, U.S.-based automakers, not only have the wages that they pay their workers, but they've got the benefits that they pay so many retired workers, and there are more retired workers per worker than there used to be in the past. So they want to get pass some of that up. So what they're saying to their workers, if they're close to retirement, they can take a buyout, which will get, you know, all of their responsibility for all the benefits off of Ford's books and transfer it to them.

If they are not close to retirement, the buyout is even bigger. And then they can choose to relocate or start a new career. This was very successful last year for the car companies, because it didn't mean -- it meant they didn't have to lay off more people. Ford is now reportedly offering some sort of buyout to all of its unionized workers.

There are 54,000 unionized workers or UAW members working for Ford. Some percentage of those workers will take this buyout. The word that we're getting on this now is that it will be offered, the window, to take that buy out, is between February 18th and March 17th. And if you do take the buyout, you're off the job starting April 1st.

So a number of Ford workers today will be talking with their families and saying, should we do this? Move away to a place where there are more jobs or, you know, re-educate, retrain and move into a different career.

COLLINS: Such a tough, tough decision. All right.

VELSHI: It is.

COLLINS: Well, we'll need to watch those numbers there, on the other side of the screen. Obviously when we talk about a story like this, so many elements at play with today's economy. All right, Ali Velshi, live from Little Rock inside the CNN Election Express. Thank you.

HARRIS: Race or gender. Which matters more to African-American women? Or should we even ask? CNN's Randi Kaye digging deeper into a fuss we stirred up in South Carolina.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We came here to this South Carolina beauty saloon to ask what we thought was a very simple question. Race or gender? We wanted to know which would carry more weight with black women in the upcoming primary.

SHANESE JONES, VOTING FOR OBAMA: For me, it's not a racial issue. It's not because of that. It's because his views and everything is right for the country.

ANGELA JACKSON, VOTING FOR CLINTON: If she could run president, then I can run for president.

KAYE: We reported that not one woman we interviewed said race or gender play a role. It's all about the issues. Yet our debate ignited an even bigger debate around the country. Just minutes after I blogged about this story, viewers, bloggers, even TV talk show hosts were chiming in.

People were angry and accused CNN of demeaning black women by even asking the question. Tiffany wrote to us, "pull this racist crap off the air." Joan e-mailed, "really, CNN, is this how you view black women? Disgusting." And Wes wrote, "I imagine Dr. King will roll in his grave if the idea of voting our values never enters the arena in the South Carolina Democratic primary." How this play at the salon?

JACKSON: It's not about race. It's not about gender. I think that American citizens are tired and they're just fed up, and they want to deal with the issues.

KAYE: Even the "View" co-host slammed our story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE HOST: Well, it pisses me off. I'll tell you that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE HOST: I know, but you know, a lot of black women were very angry. Very angry because it's like, we are looking at the issues just like looking at the issues.

KAYE: We asked radio talk show host and CNN contributor, Roland Martin his take.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: When you look at the issues, both Clinton and Obama are virtually the same. Now really, people need to stop playing as if that somehow doesn't affect their mindset, it's not demeaning. OK, so is it demeaning to ask people in the south are they going to support a southern candidate? No. Is it demeaning to ask evangelicals are they going to support a Baptist minister in Mike Huckabee? No. Is it demeaning to ask Mormons are they going to support on Mitt Romney, no. So why all of a sudden it is demeaning to ask that question.

OPRAH WINFREY, OBAMA SUPPORTER: You know, Dr. King dream the dream, but we don't have to just dream the dream anymore. KAYE: Things are getting so ugly out there even Oprah is a target. On her blog, we found a chain called Oprah is a traitor. Women are suggesting she's a sellout for supporting Obama instead of Clinton. One e-mail writes she's choosing her race over her gender. Hypocrisy at its finest. Oprah, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Back to Charleston.

JONES: I don't think Oprah is a traitor. I think Oprah's wonderful.

JACKSON: Black people don't always look at, you know, race. I don't think all of us look at race. I think for years we've always looked at the issues. You know? And I think it's -- I think it's silly.

KAYE: Silly or not, a sensitive subject. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


HARRIS: OK. Don't miss the showdown in the wild, Wild West. A week from tomorrow. The candidates face-off, in the California debate. The last debate before Super Tuesday. And you can see it only here, January 31st on CNN, your home for politics. And as always, for more on the presidential candidates and their next stops, go to You really need to visit this site. It is your one-stop shop for all things political.

COLLINS: From the mountains to the coastline, Southern California getting smacked by a winter storm. Record amounts of rainfall turned streets into waterways. More than four inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period in Santa Barbara.

Heavy snow has also been falling north of Los Angeles. Traffic moving OK in these pictures but on Interstate 5, in the Tejon Pass, hundreds of motorists are stranded. Police have been escorting them down from the pass. The latest report, abandoned cars are everywhere. Authorities will try to reopen the road a little bit later today.

Shining knight in a slicker. Southern California's heavy rain bringing out the best in one police officer. High water kept people from driving into one neighborhood. So a woman with a designer bag wearing high heels was looking at some waist-deep waving officer to the rescue. He picked her up and just carried her home.


ED NORTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE: The water over there dropped about six inches, dropped about 2 1/2 to 3 feet. You know. Its get me, do you want to get your nice shoes and pants and everything all muddy if you didn't have to? Besides, I don't want her to slip and fall. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.


HARRIS: There you go. That's what she wants. Officers keeping the streets safe for women and children.

COLLINS: Keeping the Jimmy Choo intact.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Old school baby. Chivalry not dead. I know you're right. You pay a lot of money for those designer shoes. You know?


HARRIS: And a reminder, we should -- it's always good to remind you, if you see weather news happening, boy, send us your videos, your I-reports. Go to and click on I-report or type right there into your cell phone. But again, when you see this weather happening, we always remind you to be safe, that's first and foremost.

COLLINS: Yesterday, we told you about a teen who posted an angry voicemail from a school administrator's wife on the Internet. This morning Veronica De La Cruz has an update. Hear what the high school senior has to say about CNN's coverage.


COLLINS: It's a story we first told you about yesterday. A snow day phone call that snowballed into some pretty big headlines and apparently it's still growing. Veronica De La Cruz is here now with a follow-up.

OK, just in case, people don't know what we're talking about, there was this wife of the superintendent, there was snow day, but it wasn't actually called a snow day. Student got very upset.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's start all over again. Let's start all over. So yesterday, you're right. We told you about this high school senior in Virginia who called the home of an administrator to find out why he was not getting a snow day. Now you might remember that that administrator's wife was not happy about this call and left the teen a scathing voicemail and this voicemail ended up all over the Internet.


TISTADT: Don't you ever call here again! My husband has been at the office since 6:30 this morning. So don't you even suggest that he purposely didn't answer his phone! He is out almost every single night of the week at meetings for snotty-nose little brats. And he may not have called you, but it's not because he's home. It's because it snowed. Get over it kid and go to school.


DE LA CRUZ: Well, now 17-year-old, Dave Kori says that he wishes this story would just go away. He even seemed a little annoyed about all the calls that he was getting from the media on his home phone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DEVRAJ "DAVE" KORI, CALLED ADMINISTRATOR AT HOME: I think the story has gone on far enough. It's national news coverage. I think there are issues like Darfur. The presidential primary is going on. There still many other things they could have, this media attention.


COLLINS: Well, it's interesting that he's the one that posted it on the Internet for all to see and now, he doesn't really want the attention. Are his Facebook pages and his two pages still up, that's a true test, right?

DE LA CRUZ: Yes. Well, you know, you're still right about that. Not really quite enjoying his 15 minutes. Is he?

COLLINS: You know, that's a lie.

DE LA CRUZ: You know, the Facebook page, it's interesting that you ask. That Facebook page with the administrator's personal information has been taken down. We're not really quite sure by who, Heidi, and then the original YouTube clip with the full voicemail -- that original clip is no longer available. Since then, other people have posted their own versions, however.

Now, the segment we did yesterday here at CNN on the story was also posted to YouTube, Heidi. It has received more than 8,500 views. You're looking at it there. Also, interesting, lots of comments. Loads of comments. I think there are at least 100.

Here's one from describer99. That is the user. They're calling themselves describer99 and they say, "Kids do stupid things but adults are supposed to have some common sense. Self-control and composure." And there are tons of comments just like that one.

COLLINS: I heard that you also got a lot of e-mail about this story. What were people saying in the e-mail?

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, I did. I did get lots of e-mail. And some wrote to me supporting the teen, others supporting the administrator's wife. So it's kind of a mixed bag. Here's one from Sandra Zuba. She writes this about Kori. She says, "He was totally out of his boundaries to even think of calling their home. That is private, whether the number is listed or not."

And of course, Heidi, there are always two sides to every story. And what I can say for sure is that the story itself created tons of buzz. It was the most popular on yesterday. It garnered more than 700,000 hits. So everybody was interested, you know, in finding out more, and here's the thing. If people are still clicking on this story. I just talked to somebody at, and you know, that number continues to grow. So, snowballing.

COLLINS: I wonder why that is. I think it's because still as adults, we feel very bitter about not having more time off from school when it was snowing outside. That might be it.

DE LA CRUZ: And whose side are you on?

COLLINS: I was actually on the wife side. I wouldn't have used the language that she used but I think she was absolutely right, not to have these kids calling their personal home.

DE LA CRUZ: Fair enough.

COLLINS: I do. All right. I'm sure anyone is excited to know what I think. All right, Veronica, nice to see you. Thanks so much. And as a reminder, you can watch Veronica every morning on AMERICAN MORNING 6:00 to 9:00 Eastern.

HARRIS: Odd tape and in trouble. A family's 90-minute shoplifting spree?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: MP3 players, CDs, jewelry, DVDs, over $900 worth of property.

The 5-year-old stole a pack of gum.


HARRIS: All right. Family ties in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Call it a bad family tradition. Police say granny, mom and the kids were all caught with sticky fingers. Reporter Richard Sharp of affiliate KCRA has the story.


RICHARD SHARP, AFFILIATE KCRA (voice-over): From 59-year-old grandmother to 5-year-old granddaughter, the surveillance video says it all.

MISTY SMITH, LODI, CALIFORNIA POLICE: MP3 players, CDs, jewelry, DVDs, over $900 worth of property.

SHARP: Six family members and a friend pacing the aisles of a target store in Lodi for an hour and a half. Police say stealing as much as they could.

SMITH: I've never seen anything like this. It's very rare that we get a family stealing, let alone three generations stealing from a store at one time.

SHARP: It surprised the police and stunned residents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never heard of anything remotely like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's sad. That's very sad. SHARP: The family brought in box, cutters, and scissors to cut the packaging off items and put them in their bag, jackets or purses. Even the 5-year-old was shoplifting.

SMITH: The 5-year-old stole a pack of gum.

SHARP: The family got their fill, dished their shopping carts, paid only for a candy bar and tried to leave. Police were waiting outside. Everyone but the 5 and 8-year-old were arrested.

SMITH: Not only would we assume that this isn't the first time stealing, but something important to remember is that this is three generations. So obviously, the children learn from the parents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a school teacher. There's a lot of parents out there sending wrong messages to kids. And of course, sending the wrong message, we don't want to teach our children that stealing is the way to do it.


COLLINS: Arrested, face charges of burglary, grand theft, vandalism, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

HARRIS: Putting the finishing touches on plans to pump up the economy. Sources say a deal is imminent, what it means for you?


HARRIS: You know, with the spread of obesity in the United States, diabetes is fast becoming a problem. Doctors say eating right and staying fit are key to fighting the disease. Here's Judy Fortin with what you can do in your 30s, 40s and 50s.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since she was a young girl, Michelle Dowtin, has struggled with her weight. A mother of four, she was diagnosed during each pregnancy with gestational diabetes. After giving birth it went away. But once her youngest twins were born, she was told she had type II Diabetes.

MICHELLE DOWTIN, TYPE II DIABETES PATIENT: And the doctor tried to control it with changing my diet. That didn't work. So I had to go on medication.

FORTIN: The American Diabetes Association says almost 21 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. There are two types of the disease. Type I diabetes affects the immune system, killing cells that produce insulin. Most often striking children and young adults.

Type II diabetes is when the body doesn't use insulin properly. Obesity and family history are the main culprits. Michelle is in her late 30s. Her mother and two of her sisters had type II diabetes and she's overweight. DOWTIN: I remember one of the doctors clearly saying something like, if you can get some of the weight off, it will help you in the future. Not really elaborating on diabetes in the future.

FORTIN: In our 30s, check the family history. Does anyone have diabetes? Parents, grandparents, siblings? Watch your weight. In some women, pregnancy can bring on gestational diabetes. A condition that if not taken care of has a 20 percent to 50 percent chance of leading to diabetes later in life.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Stay lean, slim and be very physically active. If I do this, my chances of preventing ever to become a type II diabetic is something like almost 60 percent.

FORTIN: In our 40s and 50s, the chance of contracting type II diabetes almost doubled, especially if you have a family history. Maintain a healthy weight and keep an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol. When you have a yearly exam, ask your doctor to take a glucose or blood sugar level.

High sugar numbers could indicate you're a pre-diabetic. And, of course, watch what you eat and get exercise. Even walking 30 minutes a day and limiting your calories can keep you from becoming a diabetic.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: By losing weight and being more active, you make your body more responsive to whatever amount of insulin you can produce.

FORTIN: Michelle knows it's a good idea to lose some weight. She's now on a supervised portion control program she seems comfortable with. She hopes that by living a healthier life, she can pass on this lifestyle to her kids so they won't have to deal with diabetes in their futures. Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.


COLLINS: Good morning, everybody, I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Stay informed all day in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the rundown.

Let's make a deal on tax rebate checks. Ford's deal.