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Job Security; CitiMortgage Plan; Rihanna/Chris Brown Controversy; Bernie Madoff Striking Deal

Aired March 07, 2009 - 12:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, let's talk about what everyone knows to be pretty bad times, defined by the economy and jobs and lack thereof. As more Americans see pink slips instead of paychecks, President Obama uses his weekly address to try to reassure.


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


WHITFIELD: Republicans took their turn to deliver a dose of reality when it comes to health care reform. Missouri congressman, Roy Blunt, said he's worried about the government offering medical coverage which is one proposal. Blunt says in that happens private health care plans might be pushed aside.

The White House calls the latest unemployment rate a tragedy for American families. Here are the numbers, pretty grim. Another 651,000 people lost their jobs in February, driving the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent. That's a 25-year high, 12.5 million Americans who want to work, who used to work are now out of work. You're looking at some of those people ling up at a job fair Wednesday in Miami.

And who are the unemployed? White workers make up more than seven percent. Blacks, nearly 13.5 percent, Hispanics, close to 11 percent, Asians just under seven percent, just breaking it down by demographics there.

So, it's enough to make the most cheerful of job seekers feel downright depressed. Paula Caligiuri is a work psychologist, she's here with us to talk through the anxiety so many of us are feeling about now, about the job that you have, the one that you lost.

So Paula, let's talk about those who actually do have the job right now and then we'll talk about those who are among the 600,000 who have lost them. How do you keep your job if you have it, and I mean more than just showing up for work, what are some of the secrets that perhaps you can convey to folks to make sure you got some job security?

PAULA CALIGIURI, CTR FOR HUMAN RESOURCE STRATEGY: Sure. Sure. Well, first we need to realize that not everyone is at risk of losing his or her job. There's actually a lot of people who are very stable with their can careers. If they're with a stable organization, organization with positive cash flow, an organization that hasn't been a acquired, there's a high probability that they're going to be secure in their jobs. If they're in a critical and unique role in the organization they're also going to be rather secure in their job.

WHITFIELD: What do you mean?

CALIGIURI: Critical roles are really those that have a clear line of site between what you're doing and the bottom line of the organization versus those who are in more of a support role, those tend to be at greater risk.

WHITFIELD: OK, and if I am going to my work every day and I feel I'm giving it 150 percent and I'm trying to keep myself up on the latest skills and gadgets, et cetera, there are some things perhaps that I can look for to indicate that my company may be in trouble, too, right?


WHITFIELD: Like what?

CALIGIURI: Sure, look for cash flow. So, are there any indications such as has there been a ban on all non-essential travel? Are you seeing a hiring freeze in your organization? Are you seeing, for example, independent contractors not having their contracts renewed? All of those are indications that there may be a risk of perhaps a restructuring which usually accompanies a downsize.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, OK, well, you know, people have felt a lot of anxiety and they're worried about the jobs they have. Perhaps they've received that pink slip and they're worried about how they're going to provide for their family. Our Josh Levs is here. He's been fielding a lot of e-mails along these lines. People have conveyed all kinds on concerns.

Josh, what do you have?

JOSH LEVS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah Fred, we just mentioned a few minutes ago, we already got a bunch to show you. Let me start off with this, because, traditionally there's this view that if you want to improve your position in the workplace, sometimes make lateral moves, right, to show that you good in different departments.

I want to show you what Glenn is asking: "Is it a good time to make a lateral move or stand your ground with what you do?" A bunch of people are doing this, this summarizes what a lot of people are writing us. And I wonder, Paula, is that the case? Should you stand your ground or should you being looking at other departments? CALIGIURI: Right. That's a great question, Glenn, if you're in a support role, I would highly recommend you consider a move, even if it is a lateral move to be more core within the organization, to be a more critical role. If you're already in a critical role, it's probably a good time to stay where you are.

WHITFIELD: OK, and we've got other questions for you, too.

LEVS: We do, absolutely. Let's take a look at this other one. This is -- I find this interesting. "If you're underpaid where you are right and you'd like a different job and your current one doesn't give you time to look for one, is it crazy to quit right now?" By the way, that's from a different Josh. Let me emphasize to the bosses. I just realized that, copied the name off the screen.

WHITFIELD: It would seem to me, Paula, that anyone to quit their job might be a little risky, but what's your best advice for the other Josh?

CALIGIURI: For the other Josh, certainly, right now is not a great time to be quitting your job without having another to go to. So, of course, you know, everybody thinks that we never have time to search for a job, but you know, on the average American watches 10 hours of television, probably, of course, don't turn off CNN, but you could turn off the television, you'll always find a little bit of time to do some job searching when you're not at work.

WHITFIELD: OK, Paula Caligiuri, thanks so much for helping out a lot of folks get some clarity on what really is a scary time for so many Americans.

Josh, thanks to you as well, appreciate it.

All right, meantime, America's housing crisis ignited by the subprime loan mess now fueled by these record layoffs. So, are you perhaps upside-down in your mortgage, meaning you owe more than it's actually worth these days? Are you having trouble selling your home? Are you looking to refinance?

Well, today at 4:00 Eastern Time we're drilling down on the foreclosure angle on our troubled economy. You heard the Obama administration, this week, talk about mortgage modification. Do you qualify? Is this the avenue that you need to take? We're going to be joined by a realtor here in Atlanta who will have some advice on selling your home. He's also going to reveal that a lot of realtors these days are acting like counselors. People want to know, homeowners, that is, which way to they go? Should they even put their house up right now?

We're also going to get some questions of yours answered by a lender and we're also going to be joined by a homeowner who is in quite the quandary and could actually use some of your advice. So, we want you to join us in the decision at 4:00 Eastern Time. "Fighting Foreclosure, Your Questions being Answered."

Also we want you to send us your iReports by logging on to We're tackling this very important topic, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, today.

All right, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapping up a visit to Turkey and she says President Obama will soon follow. Clinton has just lifted Ankara after talking to Turkish officials. She says Mr. Obama will visit the country next month. Turkey is a NATO ally. It's predominantly Muslim, yet a secular nation.

Clinton and her Turkish counterpart, today, issued a joint statement pledging to work for peace in several troubled spots throughout the region.

A shake-up among the Palestinian leadership, now. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has resigned three days before reconciliation talks with Hamas militants. Observers say it could help pave the way for a unity government that's acceptable to both a Fatah party, which rules the West Bank and Hamas, which controls Gaza. Hamas leaders had called Fayad's government unconstitutional.

And new pictures now from Zimbabwe. The prime minister leaving a hospital there, very dejected and very sad, less than 24 hours ago, Morgan Tsvangirai was injured in a car crash that actually killed his wife.

It happened on the outskirts of the capital. State television says a truck swerved and crashed into the prime minister's car. Members of the prime minister's party says they believe the truck driver deliberately drove into his vehicle. They have called for an investigation.

All right, the check is in the mail. Coming up on CNN, new details on the state struck (sic) in a tug-of-war over refund checks.


WHITFIELD: All right, some good news, perhaps, for Californians who will finally going to start seeing their tax refunds. Arguments over the state budget held up checks for more than two months and many are depending on that money.


ROSLAND TAYLOR, TAX REFUND RECIPIENT: Oh, hooray! I am so glad! I needed my money. I've got some work to do around my house and everything, so, yes.

It's a real big deal. It's a blessing. Ooh, thank you, Jesus.


WHITFIELD: And that is happy. Well, last month, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a budget package, it's designed to close the state's $42 billion deficit and that's why now some of these monies are being released.

All right, it's been touted as a first of its kind plan, CitiMortgage, a unit of CitiGroup, offers to reduce payments for borrowers who have actually lost their jobs, but of course, there are a few conditions. Here now is CNN's Mary Snow.


MARY SNOW, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For John Stevens, it seems the only thing on track these days is his 4-year-old son Christopher's train set. Stevens lost his job at an auto dealership in October. He's fallen behind on his $900-a-month mortgage payment and is fighting closure.

And that is why he's skeptical the mortgage lender he's fighting, CitiMortgage, is offering a break to people like him.

STEVENS: It's a wait and see. I mean, I think it's too good to be true. I mean, I just don't know what to believe at this point.

SNOW: CitiMortgage, a division of Citigroup, says it's offering to reduce payments to $500 for three months. It applies to CitiMortgage customers who have lost their job in the last six months, missed two payments, and have a loan less than $417,000. That could make John Stevens eligible.

STEVENS: I mean, it sounds great. I mean, that would definitely help me out a lot. But my question would be is, do they mean it? You know, been through what I have been through with them, are they just saying this to make people feel better?

SNOW: We posed Stevens' question to Sanjiv Das, the CEO of CitiMortgage.

(on camera): Your response to him?

SANJIV DAS, CEO, CITIMORTGAGE: Well, first, I really apologize for the borrower feeling the way he has. I can tell you that there is nothing, there's nothing more important to us than helping our borrowers.

SNOW: Das says it's not clear how many of CitiMortgage's 1.4 million customers will seek help. But, he says:

DAS: The economics of us keeping you in your home are in our favor. It's the right thing for us to do to keep you in your home and find solutions for you.

SNOW: Experts on the housing crisis say, with the rising rate of foreclosures, it's also in the bank's interest to help homeowners right now.

ANTHONY SANDERS, ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY: The household can win and Citi can win. They mitigate losses on their own end. The borrowers are given breathing room. So, this is -- they both can actually benefit from this.

SNOW (on camera): As for John Stevens' individual case, he says he has approached CitiMortgage about getting his mortgage payments reduced. Will he qualify? A spokesman for CitiMortgage says they cannot comment on specific customers or loans, but, they say, not all borrowers qualify for this new plan.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.



All right, meantime, America's housing crisis ignited by the subprime loan mess now fueled by these record layoffs. So, are you perhaps upside-down in your mortgage? Are you having trouble selling your home? Are you looking to refinance? Are you looking to refinance? Are you hoping that this week's White House plan for mortgage modification is the formula for you?

Well, today at 4:00 Eastern Time we're drilling down on the foreclosure angle of our troubled economy, trying to make some sense of the mortgage modification plan unveiled this week. We want you to join in on the discussion. E-mail us at or send us an iReport by logging on to, tell us your story, or perhaps you've got a question for our host of panelists. That's 4:00 Eastern here at CNN.

All right, a new walk of life for some old souls and it's creating a booming business in a lot of places, right now. Shoe repair is what I'm trying to talk about. People trying to eke out a few extra months on those old shoes, getting polished up and having new soles hammered on, something that's actually making one North Carolina cobbler feel a little guilty these days.


BRENT RING, SHOE REPAIR: That's I'm making money. It's sad to say it. My business is really good now because people are hurting.


WHITFIELD: Well, disappointing economic news in central Idaho, now. The Tamarack Resort is actually closing its doors. The financial-strapped ski and golf lodge was unable to find enough money to stay open this week, so it has closed its doors laying off 200 people.

A Zurich-based lender is trying to recover $275 million in loans and penalties after the lodge actually defaulted. It agreed to offer an infusion of cash in an Idaho bankruptcy court on Tuesday. The $1.7 million was just enough money to actually shut down the place, not actually revitalize it.

Well, things are getting pretty messy in the Midwest. Our meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is keeping a weathered eye on all of that for you and mess in what way?


WHITFIELD: All right, everyone seems to be talking about Rihanna, Chris Brown, what's going on? Are they staying together? Is she standing by her man despite the alleged charges? You may have your own opinion about what she should do and we want to know what the law says about women who stand by their alleged attackers.


WHITFIELD: All right, Rihanna and Chris Brown. Saying those two names these days seems to ignite a flurry of discussions in households, everywhere. It's also now become a pretty intense legal case and that's why we've called upon our Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, to delve into all of this.

Now, there were so many allegations about the actual beating, allegedly, by Chris Brown of Rihanna and now a release of felony charges, but then discussions about the couple actually being together. This case becomes super complicated, why?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Very complicated because with these felonies, Fredricka, the penalty for a conviction is extremely serious. What the problem is ,is that ordinarily a victim of domestic violence or this kind of violence seeks what's called a TPO, Temporary Protection Order.

WHITFIELD: She didn't need that?

FRIEDMAN: She sent her lawyer in at the last hearing, Fredricka, and Rihanna's lawyer said she doesn't want a TPO, They want to get back together again.

WHITFIELD: OK, but if you don't have the alleged victim in an active participant in helping to press these charges, then there shouldn't be any charges, right ?

FRIEDMAN: Well, no, no, no. There should be charges, of course.

WHITFIELD: Well, who pursues its it, then.

FRIEDMAN: Yeah, the question is, how is the district attorney going to get the conviction? He can't use the statements made by Rihanna because that's hearsay. There's evidence there and the question is whether Rihanna is going to testify. Now, she indicated yesterday, through a spokesperson, that she will cooperate with the district attorney in testifying. Now what that sets up, whether or not she really will do that is Chris Brown's attorney will work with the district attorney, probably enter into some kind of plea agreement.

WHITFIELD: Oh, interesting. Now, we also, you know, can recall that already there was that written statement by him that said he apologized for his actions which certainly doesn't bode well in his favor as a defendant.

FRIEDMAN: Well, it's essentially a confession, but more importantly, if you look at the search, a warrant affidavit that got released this week, it is riveting in the violence that was involved here. Riveting. WHITFIELD: OK, another very riveting case. Bernie Madoff, lots of people wondering what. So, apparently, he is striking a deal with prosecutors, here. What kind of deal?

FRIEDMAN: Well, nobody really knows the answer.

WHITFIELD: Jail time for sure?

FRIEDMAN: I beg your pardon?

WHITFIELD: Jail time for sure?

FRIEDMAN: Maybe. I think it's like low. Again, we don't know that. But this week, Bernie Madoff is likely to appear in front of U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, who is presiding over this case, and he's going to enter a plea, not by an indictment, with an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Why? Because the U.S. Attorney wants to find out how Bernie did this. How did he build this $50 billion Ponzi scheme?

WHITFIELD: Because he really is the only one with the answers. There's that realization, but then there isn't there the other caveat that perhaps his wife would be protected even though she may have known some intimate details about this business, there's protection he may be seeking for her?

FRIEDMAN: Probably part of the deal and we're going to find out on Thursday morning. By the way, the federal judge actually has set up a Web site so that...

WHITFIELD: Oh, yes. Tell me about that.

FRIEDMAN: The thousands of victims of this Ponzi scheme can actually communicate and if you do, by 10 a.m. on Wednesday, that Web site set up by an agreement of the U.S. Attorney and the federal court will consider the requests of the people who believe that they've been victimized.

WHITFIELD: Wow! All right, thanks so much, Avery. There are so many cases that we're having you back in a few minutes. We're going to talk about some other opinions and lawsuits and your favorite, it's all about the pants.

FRIEDMAN: Oh, man, oh, man.

WHITFIELD: We're going to talk more about that coming up, as well.

FRIEDMAN: I'll see you shortly.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Avery. Appreciate it.

All right, also, in our 2:00 Eastern hour, because people cannot get enough of this Chris Brown/Rihanna case, we're going to be talking with a writer with "Essence" magazine. In so many occasions, "Essence" has heralded Rihanna for being a great role model for a lot of young ladies.

Well, the "Essence" magazine Web site is being flooded with e- mails from their readers saying, wait a minute, not so sure, especially if the couple is getting back together. So, we're going to talk about this couple, the message sent to young people and domestic violence overall. All of that straight ahead in our 2:00 Eastern hour.


WHITFIELD: All right, 29 minutes after the hour, right now. Here's what's happening right now. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is winging her way from Ankara, Turkey, to Dublin, Ireland, right now. She announced President Obama will visit Turkey about a month from now.

And eight people are dead after a suicide bombing in Northwest Pakistan. A bomb-filled car exploded today as police tried to pull a body from it. Two other bombings killed seven people in the region. The turmoil comes as the U.S. steps up its commitment to fight al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the region.

And wildfires that have wreaked havoc across Oklahoma are now under control. People may be allowed to return to their homes in about two towns there. One fire burned about two-thirds of a city block including a cafe and a flower shop in the town of Walitka.

All right, President Obama ready to overturn one of the more controversial executive orders put forth by his predecessor. Administration officials say the president will sign a new order Monday removing the ban on your tax dollars being used to fund human embryonic stem-cell research. Opponents have objected to the destruction of embryos for research saying it ends a human life. Advocates are hopeful the research will lead to important medical advances.

CNN's Campbell Brown talked about the possibilities with our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Explain to us why medical researchers are so excited about stem cell research and what they hope to accomplish ultimately.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you take an embryonic stem cell, it is a -- what's called a pluripotent cell, a cell that can grow into just about anything. And what's exciting about that is so many diseases simply need new cells, Parkinson's disease, diabetes.

After someone's had a heart attack, heart cells die. Could you somehow replace those heart cells? That's where the exciting part starts to come in. If you can take these embryonic stem cells, put them in the areas of the body that need those replacement cells, maybe you could start to see improvements in these chronic diseases for which we really have no cures as of right now.


WHITFIELD: All right, in the meantime, a little bit more on Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He has actually taken himself out of the running for the Surgeon General's job. You may have heard through the grapevine that he was, I guess a top contender.

Well now, there may be a new candidate for that job. Democratic sources tell CNN that Howard Dean has made it known that he is actually interested in that post. Dean is the former head of the Democratic National Committee, a past presidential candidate and a former governor of Vermont. Oh, and by the way, he's also a doctor.

All right, so, a full plate for the president of the United States filling up his cabinet, trying to get the economy back on track and tackling health care reform. So, he talks about that challenge actually today in his weekly address.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because we cannot bring our deficit down or grow our economy without tackling the skyrocketing cost of health care, I held a health care summit on Thursday to begin the long overdue process of reform.

Our ideas and opinions about how to achieve this reform will vary, but our goal must be the same. Quality, affordable health care for every American that no longer overwhelms the budgets of families, businesses and our government.


WHITFIELD: All right, the president has a lot of irons in the fire. Some people are wondering if the president is actually stretching himself a bit too thin.

Our Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser is with us today in person. Always good to see you ...


WHITFIELD: person as opposed to in Washington. All right, does he have too much on his plate? I guess he would probably say no, right?

STEINHAUSER: I think the White House would say no. But you're right, look what they are doing, we're talking about the $787 billion stimulus package, they revamped the $700 billion Wall Street and bank bailout, they're dealing with the home foreclosure plan they kicked it -- they started this past week, health care, they say health care is part and parcel of the economy.

You have to fix health care or you can't get us out of the recession. So, a lot of people are saying wait on health care 'til next year. The Obama administration says no, we need to do that as well, or we'll stay in the recession.

So, they say all this has to be done, and it has to be done quickly before next year when we get into another election year. Remember, next year we have Congressional elections again ...

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh.

STEINHAUSER: ...and that'll really make things much tougher to do.

Take a look at this number, though, from CNN, the Opinion Research Corporation ...


STEINHAUSER: ...and it just shows -- people have right now a lot more trust when it comes to the Obama administration to make the right economic decisions than Wall Street and businesses. So right now, even though it seems like a lot of people are putting their faith in President Obama.

WHITFIELD: People are feeling (ph) encouraged.


WHITFIELD: Oh, interesting. All right, so, while -- at least according to the polls, the general public, very much encouraged about what he's doing. Meantime, the Republican Party trying very hard to kind of chip away at some of the things that the Obama administration has proposed. Will that stick? Does that work? Does it help that party?

STEINHAUSER: It's a delicate dance for them because listen, what the president is trying to do is fix the economy and get this country out of the recession. So, how do root against that? You can't, so they can't actively be seen as trying to go against the president.

But they have problems with the way he's trying to fix things. And they say this is too much of the Democrats "tax and spend" and the Republicans are trying to get to a party of fiscal discipline. They're saying the stimulus package, while it's got good intentions, it's too big and too costly and our children will have to pay for this down the road.

Today in particular, Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri was talking about the health care plan and says that while it's got great intentions, it could kick a lot of people off their own private health care.

Take a listen to what he had to say.


REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: Some people are spending a lot of time talking about how to spend more of your money on bigger, government-run programs. I'm concerned that if the government steps in, it will eventually push out a private health care plan that millions of Americans enjoy today. This could cause your employer to simply stop offering coverage, hoping the government will pick up the slack.


STEINHAUSER: There was a kumbaya moment at the White House on Thursday when they had the health care summit, but when they really get down to the details, it's going to be a bitter fight, just like the stimulus, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, nobody expects the health care plan to be easy. It's been tried before and we know how that went. This is going to be an uphill battle as well.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, it is.

WHITFIELD: All right, Paul Steinhauser, always good to see you, even more so in person.

STEINHAUSER: Thanks, Fred, and you (ph).

WHITFIELD: All right, good to see you. Thanks.

All right, well, let's check in on the president's schedule for the coming week because we know last week his plate was full. Well, look at this week's. Monday -- or this week coming -- Monday, he's expected to lift restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research as we mentioned and on Tuesday, the president will talk education reform at a meeting of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And then on Thursday, he and Vice President Joe Biden lead a conference on the stimulus package.

So, President Obama along with former U.S. presidents have checked up on her recovery. Who am I talking about? Barbara Bush. Well, she is said to be in great spirits as she recovers from open- heart surgery. Great news there. Doctors in Houston repaired an aortic valve. Easier said than done, actually, in the 83-year-old former First Lady on Wednesday. She is said to be moved from intensive care today and could be out of the hospital by late next week. We all wish her a full recovery.

All right, we knew it was coming, but it's still a blow. The latest report from the labor front. There's one way to look at the scope of this crisis. In the past three months alone, the economy has shed more jobs than there are people in the city of Philadelphia, 2 million people. Overall, the number of Americans who want to be working or used to be working tops 12 million. That is a record and very sobering.

So in this economy, losing your paycheck may be the biggest fear most of us actually have. goes in-depth to tell you where the jobs actually are. Go to our homepage. The link includes information about upcoming job fairs around the country and there are many. Tips on getting a job and keeping one, plus advice from experts who say don't listen to all the hype. We're also hearing from i-Reporters and what they're finding on the job trail. Here's one secret to success they say.


JEAN LINDSAY: So, what did I do to get a job interview? I called. I asked if they'd received my application. I expressed the fact that I needed to give them more information about my skill set, and as I got talking with the gentleman who's in charge of hiring, he said why don't you come on in for an interview. No accident there. I had a smile in my voice. I was confident, upbeat and enthusiastic.


WHITFIELD: All right, so that's what she means by don't believe the hype. There is actually a way to perhaps land a job and keep it, just follow some of her advice. We're going to have much more advice throughout the day from other experts as well and people who are living it.

All right, frustrated and fed up. The drastic and inexpensive measure a school district is actually taking to disconnect kids from their cell phones.


WHITFIELD: For the eighth week in a row, we have a bank failure to tell you about. State regulators seized Freedom Bank of Georgia after the stock market closed just yesterday. Freedom Bank is the 17th bank to fail this year. Twenty-five banks failed all of last year. The FDIC says this will cost the Federal Fund about $36 million. Freedom Bank's four branches will reopen Monday under new management.

All right, here's a map of the states affected by bank failures overall. You can find it on California and Georgia topped the list for failed banks for 2008 and 2009. This map also shows you which states have the highest percentage of home foreclosures.

Logon and check it out at at 4:00 Eastern. We're going to focus on home foreclosures and what you can do. America's housing crisis, which was at first ignited mostly by the subprime loan mess is now being fueled by all of these record layoffs. So, are you upside down on your mortgage? Are you having trouble selling your home or you're looking to refinance?

Well, today at 4:00 Eastern, we're drilling down on the foreclosure angle of our troubled economy. We're going to help you navigate the administration's new mortgage modification plan unveiled this week. A realtor will be with us, a homeowner as well and a lender. We're also accepting your e-mails, your questions, your comments and also hoping to get a lot of your i-Reports, too. All to be part of this huge discussion, an hour long, we're going in-depth, 4:00 Eastern time right here on CNN. All right, universities, too, they're having to make some pretty tough decisions in these hard times and that's not sitting well with students. Yesterday, dozens of students and staff at Middle Tennessee State University protested outside the university president's house. The school is considering cutting close to 50 majors and entire departments, including philosophy, physics and geosciences.


PROF. ALAN BROWN, MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE UNIV.: All you hear is how the United States is falling behind in science and needs more scientists and how could the university even think about removing science of any kind?


WHITFIELD: The university is trying to make up for $20 million in -- measured by budget shortfalls.

All right, to text or not to text? One Washington state school district took the option out of the hands of students this week. Anthony Gomes of CNN affiliate KHQ has the story.


ANTHONY GOMES, KHQ REPORTER (voice-over): Of all the sounds the teachers hear in hallways, ringing class bells is one thing. Ringing cell phones is another.

JOHN HOOK, MT. SPOKANE HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: We just feel like it's not appropriate in a classroom setting.

GOMES: Principal John Hook says it's becoming a problem more and more.

HOOK: Frankly, some students are close to being addicted to their texting.

GOMES: So, administrators turned to this. It's a box on a bucket known as a cell phone jammer. Mt. Spokane High School just finished a three-day test, jamming cell phone signals of students and reporters, but is it legal? Frustrated students complain it's not in the district is checking. They're calling the FCC which regulates wireless communications.

HOOK: I think there are a lot of good reasons to not have cell phones on during class time.

GOMES: The school is waiting for clarification from the district before turning the jammer back on. If it is restored, the principal says it would be used only during class time. Policy dictates students have their phones turned off anyway.

HOOK: We believe that there are times during the school day that parents need to have access to their students and students need to have access to family members and doctors and things like that. GOMES: But class time isn't one of them, encouraging students to hang up the phone and pick up the books instead.


WHITFIELD: Well, school officials say if the FCC rules the jamming device is not legal, they'll return it and they'll ask for a refund.

All right, so we all know about school budgets and that they're tight right now, but it's really getting pretty rough in Florida where they're scrambling just to find toilet paper. Zellwood Elementary School didn't have the money for TP and paper towels. The school had to borrow from a local high school. Kids were taught to use one sheet at a time. No kidding. The community has pitched in, donating other supplies.

And we saw this in other school districts across the country, too, in some way, shape or form. We just reported last week that in Detroit, some school districts were actually asking kids -- families to equip their kids with toilet paper that they actually bring to school. So, very dire in many public school districts right now.

All right, well, these days, you can buy just about anything on Craigslist, but is a popular Web site actually selling sex as well? An Illinois prosecutor says it is. We'll check in with our legal expert on this one.


WHITFIELD: Well, welcome back. We brought our legal mind Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor back to talk about a vote in California where people voted in large numbers against same- sex marriages, but now this actually goes to court.

Avery, how in the world can this happen?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: You know, it was fascinating. The arguments took place in front of the California Supreme Court this week, Fredricka. And what happened only in California, it's California equality, those are the people pro-gay marriage as opposed to save marriage or protect marriage. That's the anti-gay marriage.

And what the Supreme Court is probably going to do, Fredricka, is make everybody unhappy. What they're probably going to do is validate those people who have already gotten married and in a very close call, probably uphold the ban on gay marriage in California.

WHITFIELD: Oh, very interesting because I think on the surface, people think if people in large numbers, through exercising their right to vote, actually say they want this to happen for their state, that their state -- that that would be honored, it couldn't possibly find its way in court.

FRIEDMAN: Well, but the odd thing about it is the argument is -- and I think it's a great one, can you vote out freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press? That's the argument they're making, there's no way the California Supreme Court's going to buy it.

WHITFIELD: OK, well, let's now talk about Craigslist because ...


WHITFIELD: Yes, it's everywhere. It's, you know, in this country and it's even reached across, you know, the waters.

FRIEDMAN: All over the world.

WHITFIELD: People are very attached to Craigslist, but now we're talking about a case that says people are prostituting themselves -- I mean, Craigslist is almost like a brothel these days. Is it really?

FRIEDMAN: Well -- and that's the argument -- Tom Darden (ph), the sheriff of Cook County in Chicago is arguing. He brought a federal case this week, claiming he wants an injunction against Craigslist from stopping so-called erotic services. The problem he's going to run into is that there's federal legislation that protects entities like Craigslist, very creative, Fredricka. It's going nowhere.

WHITFIELD: It's going nowhere?

FRIEDMAN: Nowhere.

WHITFIELD: OK, well, speaking of going nowhere, the pants. It's going nowhere. This is an incredible case and we bring this back because ...

FRIEDMAN: Can't believe it.

WHITFIELD: know, well, we kind of like that it keeps coming back and it just won't go away, right? We're talking about a man who says a Washington D.C. dry-cleaner lost his pants and so thereby, he was suing them for $54 million.


WHITFIELD: Various courts said get out of here, but now it's going to the Supreme Court. Huh? Why?

FRIEDMAN: Well, this is unbelievable. That's the ex-D.C. judge, Roy Pearson. And I told you, if you remember this, I got the pants.

WHITFIELD: No, you don't.

FRIEDMAN: These are -- well, maybe they're not ...

WHITFIELD: OK, I was going to say wait a minute.

FRIEDMAN: But look -- let me tell you, the reality is Bernard Madoff has more of a chance of getting off than Roy Pearson has to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to take this case. That is really going nowhere.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. But I know this case fired you up as well as Richard Herman who's not with us this weekend, but we just had to allow this case ...

FRIEDMAN: Too good.

WHITFIELD: have yet ...

FRIEDMAN: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: ...more air time because we love it.

FRIEDMAN: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Avery.

And of course earlier, you and I spoke about the Rihanna/Chris Brown case and oh, boy, the twists and turns that this now legal fight may possibly take. We'll -- we're going to talk about Rihanna and Chris Brown again, but in a different fashion, the 2:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

We're going to be joined by a senior writer with "Essence" magazine who's going to talk to us about the image problem here now with this star power, star couple and the messages being sent to young people, particularly who admire both of them about alleged domestic violence that is now the allegation that is being tossed around with these two names. So, join us for the 2:00 p.m. Eastern hour, again for more of Chris Brown and Rihanna.

All right, meantime, is the stress of the recession getting to you? Likely, it's getting to everybody. How one man is diving deep to get away from it all.


WHITFIELD: OK, so, maybe you need a break from all this recession talk. Well, one man found a way to get away from it all at the bottom of the sea.

Gary Tuchman dives into this story on the edge of discovery.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Astronaut or aquanaut? The concept of flying under water sounds crazy, right? But not to engineer Graham Hawkes who gave the submarine wings. Yes, wings.

GRAHAM HAWKES, HAWKES OCEAN TECHNOLOGIES: We just had to tear up everything we knew about submersibles and start again on winged subs, underwater flying machines. The machines we build to move under water should look like airplanes not submarines. Airplanes don't look like globes. TUCHMAN: Hawkes says his so-called underwater submersibles are designed to be more agile than any creature living in the ocean, well, except for maybe dolphins. He's been building these crafts for over a decade.

HAWKES: They're the first to fly with big sharks and it's a hell of a reward, I can tell you that.

TUCHMAN: But Hawkes isn't keeping all the fun for himself. You, too, may some day fly under water. He's now building submersibles for adventurers and private companies.

HAWKES: Do you want to stalk a shark? Do you want to go to a great white and go who hoo? Do you want to do a barrel roll with a whale? Shall we and find some new territory that humans have never seen before? Now, on land, that's incredibly difficult. Under water, anywhere.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN.


WHITFIELD: All right and don't forget to set your clocks forward tonight for Daylight Savings Time. It means you actually lose an hour of sleep. Americans are used to getting less sleep these days. Well, a new study shows on average, we're getting only 6.7 hours a night. That's not enough for me.

The National Sleep Foundation says a decade ago, only 12 percent of you were actually getting less than six hours. Now, it's one out of five and fewer of us are actually getting more than eight hours. Experts say it's because of stress over the economy and more time on our BlackBerries and the Internet. We just seem to be unable to cut off.

All right, some rude awakenings across the nation's heartland today. Our Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is keeping a weathered eye on all of this in what way?


WHITFIELD: We've got a whole lot on tap today on CNN. 2:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Chris Brown and Rihanna, what getting back together actually might do to her career.

And then, at 3:00 Eastern, please join us again. I'll be talking to a man former president Bill Clinton describes as a whirlwind of ideas and action. So, as we all look at the possibilities of foreclosure and it frightens many of us, he's going to be helping us understand what to do if you're facing foreclosure, how to avoid it. That's in the NEWSROOM 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

Right now, time for "YOUR MONEY."