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Obama, Lula Meeting; Massive Job Fairs

Aired March 14, 2009 - 14:00   ET


FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Not the usual attraction at the ballpark.

The divorce, the international (INAUDIBLE) battle now presidential talks?

And it's not just south of the border. Drug violence from the Mexico cartels spilling over the border. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM where the news unfolds live this Saturday, March 14th. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

The global financial crisis is front and center today. The Treasury secretary is in England meeting with financial ministers from 19 other countries. They're trying to lay the groundwork for a unified plan to end the crisis. And Brazil's president goes to the White House to talk money matters face to face with President Obama.

So here's what they had to say, meaning the president of Brazil and the president of the United States.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, everybody. Sorry to make you guys work on a Saturday. The president and I just had a wonderful meeting. I have been a great admirer of Brazil and a great admirer of the progressive, forward looking leadership that the president has shown throughout Latin America and throughout the world.

We have a very strong friendship between the two countries. But we can always make it stronger, in areas like energy and biofuels, in the interest in increasing the standards of living in impoverished countries throughout Latin America, expanding trade relationships. You know, the president and I had a wonderful meeting of the minds. And I'm grateful that he took the time to visit with us.

We intend to have a host of meetings at a ministerial level in the coming days and weeks, both in preparation for the G-20, to coordinate our activities to strengthen global economic growth, also in anticipation of the Summit of the Americas that will be taking place in April, so that we can have a proactive strategy that uses the strength of the U.S./Brazilian relationship to strengthen ties throughout the hemisphere.

So I'm very grateful to him for taking the time to visit. And I'm looking forward to reciprocating in a visit to Brazil sometime soon. LUIS LULA DA SILVA, PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL (through translator): First of all, I would like to say that we have shown very good relations between the U.S. and Brazil. Second, I mention the importance of President Obama's election, what it represents to the world and especially to Latin America.

The third issue that we discussed is the economic crisis that the world is facing today. President Obama and myself are truly convinced that the economic crisis can be resolved by political decisions that can be made on the G-20 meeting.

We need to restore credibility, vis-a-vis society, with the financial system. We need to restore credibility and trust of the people, vis-a-vis the governments.

And for that we need to make credit flowing and pouring in all countries. And also to facilitate trade flow amongst different countries.

And we will work together to build a proposal for the G-20 meeting. I believe that is extremely important, that all the rulers and leaders that will participate in the G-20 meeting should be convinced that we have to make more quicker decisions.

That is to say, the number of unemployed people are increasing in the world, and the unemployed of today is a social problem of tomorrow. Because we have to take care of this issue very seriously because we already see migrant workers facing many problems in different countries.

We also discussed other matters that are of common interest in the U.S./Brazil relations; the possibility for us to do some joint work vis-a-vis Africa, to try to establish a development policy for Latin America, and mainly to strengthen our relations in what has to do with biofuels.

And I also believe that President Obama carries the responsibility and has a unique and exceptional position to improve the relationships with Latin America. And I told President Obama that I know it won't be easy, but we should try to reopen the Doha Round negotiations.

And I also told President Obama that in the public rallies that I have in Brazil, that I tell to the Brazilian people I'm praying more for him than I pray for myself, because with just 40 days in office, to suffer and to face such a terrible crisis the U.S. is facing today; I don't want to be in his position.

OBAMA: Well, I'll tell you what, you sound like you've been talking to my wife.


WHITFIELD: OK. The president of Brazil and President Obama there. And they're meeting there at the White House. Our Elaine Quijano was there in the Oval Office when all of this was transpiring. And then following these statements, there were questions that were asked of the reporters. Among -- what things did they all talk about?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly talked about the economy. I have to tell you, when President Lula made those comments about praying harder for President Obama than he prays for himself, there was this kind of laughter after President Obama said, my wife says the same thing, but it was kind of nervous laughter.

WHITFIELD: Like, are we supposed to laugh here?

QUIJANO: It's interesting, because basically what President Lula was doing was underscoring how monumental, right, the task is for President Obama, to try to steer the U.S. economy back on track, an economy upon which so many other economies depend. So it was kind of a light-hearted moment, Fredericka, but really was underscoring the very seriousness of the situation.

So on to the questions. The first question out of the gate was about China. China's premier has expressed concerns about whether or not the U.S. investments that it has in the United States -- we're talking huge investments, one trillion dollars of U.S. debt that China holds, whether or not that is a sound investment. And President Obama -- I'm not sure if we have the sound or not, but he answered that question.

Apparently we don't have that sound available. But he basically said, look, investors, not just the Chinese, should have, quote, absolute confidence in the soundness of U.S. investments. He said this is a dynamic economy, one of the most dynamic economies in the world, and so investors should not be worried.

But it was an interesting meeting, friendly, casual, but, again, some serious issues. They talked about the environment. They talked about trade. They talked about biofuels. That's been a point of contention.

So a lot on the agenda. But really, first and foremost, of course, how to get the global economy back on track.

WHITFIELD: Biofuels, I imagine, is pretty big there, because Brazil, in a lot of ways, has been a trailblazer when it comes down to being a little bit kinder on the environment, as it pertains to fuel. But still not so kind on the environment when you talk about the rain forest there and the legislating of cutting down of trees. So it really is kind of a strange paradox for Brazil.

QUIJANO: It's a strange paradox also in talking about the broader U.S./Brazil relationship, because, as one reporter put it in a question to the two leaders -- they said, look, why is it that Brazil, which has been able to successfully build its own economy on biofuels -- they use sugar cane there for Ethanol -- why haven't they been allowed into the U.S. markets?

That's been a point of contention between the United States and Brazil, of course, going back to the Bush administration. And President Lula said, look, that's an area where we're hoping there might be some progress, there might be some change. But, all in all, the tone was very friendly. Again, obviously, both leaders are trying to show that they're really wanting to work together to move forward.

We should tell you that Brazil's economy -- you talk to analysts and they say Brazil's economy is in much, much better shape. They're one of the countries that's probably going to avoid a recession, according to some analysts, this year. So that is a big deal in Brazil, possibly taking a key leadership role in helping to move the global economy forward.

WHITFIELD: Anything more for the presidents today or was that it?

QUIJANO: There was an interesting moment. I don't know if this tape is in yet either. But as President Obama actually walked President Lula to his waiting limo, near the Oval Office, and President Obama was walking back -- this will be an interesting moment -- the swing set came up. One of my colleagues said, Mr. President, have you tried out the swing set yet? And he said, no; I had a chance to push the girls on it, but I haven't tried it myself. I'm hoping to get some White House staffers' kids out there.

Then he said -- he opened a Pandora's box, I think, when he said, and even some reporters' kids should have a chance, too, to do that. We'll see.

WHITFIELD: Open season there on the new playground on the South Lawn, just a few feet away from the Oval Office. Very cool. Thanks so much, Elaine Quijano. Appreciate it.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is busy, too. He says aggressive action is needed to get the global economy back on track. Geithner and his counterparts from the world's 20 richest and emerging nations have wrapped up their meeting in southern England. They've been setting priorities for next month's G-20 summit. All agree restoring consumer confidence is critical.


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: You are seeing the world move together at a speed and on a scale without precedent in modern times. All the major economies are putting in place substantial fiscal packages. The stronger the response, the quicker recovery will come. That's why the United States has passed the largest, most comprehensive recovery program in decades.

ALISTAIR DARLING, BRITISH FINANCE MINISTER: In the context of repairing and ensuring recovery, we were very seized with the fact that there was a sense of urgency. You'll see from the communique that we have taken decisive and comprehensive action to boost demand in jobs. And importantly, we stated that we're prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that growth is restored. And we are committed to do that for however long.


WHITFIELD: The leaders of the G-20 are set to meet in London on April 2nd. The G-20 was formed ten years ago to promote financial stability in the wake of the Asian and Russian financial crises. It includes the eight richest countries, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and, of course, the United States. The G-20 accounts for 80 percent of the world's trade and represents two- thirds of its population.

The economy, it is issue number one for you and for us. Next week, we focus CNN's vast resources on "The Road To Rescue," a CNN survival guide. What do all the numbers really mean? And where are the jobs? That's all next week, beginning Monday.

President Obama's new labor secretary hits the ground running in a time of very high unemployment. A ceremonial swearing in for Hilda Solis as labor secretary took place just yesterday. Vice President Biden praised her as a strong voice for working people. Solis was privately sworn in last month after her Senate confirmation. She takes office at a critical time, when the jobless rate stands at just over 8 percent.

President Obama still has two vacant cabinet posts, Commerce and Health and Human Services. That's more vacancies at this point than in any other recent administration. CNN's Bill Schneider joins us from Washington. So Bill, his nominees for these two posts -- so what is the holdup?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the holdup appears to be in the Senate, where the confirmation process is going along very slowly. He's named those two positions, Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services, a crucial position -- remember, that's the one that originally was supposed to go to Tom Daschle, but he withdrew his name because of controversy over his tax payments in the past.

And, also, Gary Locke for the Commerce secretary. That also had some controversy because the first nominee, Bill Richardson -- appointee, rather -- dropped out when there was a controversy in his background over a federal investigation. And then Judd Gregg, the second choice for that position, decided to take his name out because of ideological differences. Gregg is a Republican senator from New Hampshire with the White House.

So it's been very slow getting these two positions filled. Now he has named people, the president has named people, but the decision to confirm, of course, is in the Senate.

WHITFIELD: So, while, I guess, one viewpoint is it's very slow. I guess another view point is perhaps these cabinet appointments are really on track with prior presidents, right?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he has -- there are 34 positions that have to be confirmed by the Senate that have been filled. That's a little bit ahead where George Bush was about eight weeks into his presidency, a little bit behind Bill Clinton. They started off in the Obama administration pretty quickly. Then at the end of last year, things began to slow down, because they discovered that with all-the controversies emerging over Tim Geithner at the Treasury department, Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle, that the vetting process was inadequate, and they began to ask a lot of very tough questions. So what's happening now is --

WHITFIELD: Like have you filed your taxes?

SCHNEIDER: Right. Have you filed your taxes? Do you have anything on your background? And we've seen four nominees for Treasury department positions, very important positions, including the number two position at the Treasury Department, deputy secretary, two nominees have pulled their name out of contention for that position, two others for under-secretary position. A lot of people are saying they don't really want to go through this very tough vetting process.

WHITFIELD: Yes, all right. Bill Schneider, thanks so much. Always good to see you on this lovely Saturday. Thank you.

Back on radar, a new audio recording claiming to be the voice of Osama bin Laden bashes Israel and the recent Gaza offensive. The al Qaeda leader called it the Gaza holocaust. The Arabic network Al Jazzeera aired the message this morning, but the authenticity of the tape cannot yet be confirmed. Bin Laden's purported message also urged Muslims to help insurgents liberate Iraq. The last time we heard from bin Laden was in January.

The L.A. Dodgers are looking for a few hundred employees. We'll tell you how many people are actually putting on their game faces and lining up at their big job fair at Dodgers Stadium.


WHITFIELD: Record job losses, highest unemployment rates in decades. Listen as one of our i-Reporters tries to look on the bright side.


ADRIANA MAXWELL, IREPORTER: The unemployment is just going to go, go, go, go, go, go, until we finally go a few months where it stops going down. Believe it or not, one day, it will, because as companies cut, they're actually starting to cut people they need. So eventually they're going to have to start rehiring.


WHITFIELD: OK. That's one way of looking at it. A sign of the times. Job fairs drawing thousands these days. A huge job fair is under way right now at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. That's where we find Kara Finnstrom, right there in the crowd. How many are we talking?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a pretty big job fair, Fredericka. We have about 90 employers here today, ready to talk to job seekers. So a lot of potential opportunity, but there is also going to be some fierce competition for these jobs, because they expect about 10,000 job seekers here today.

One of the aggressive job seekers we met earlier this morning is Eric Clardy. He was laid off from his job at a plumbing company in early February. Tell us about what you've been doing since then.

ERIC CLARDY, LOOKING FOR A JOB: I've been trying to do a lot of different things, coming to job fairs like this, using the work source center, using Craigs List, using Hot Jobs, using all the available resources out there to do those things. I think the real challenge this time around, with the economy the way it is, is figuring out how to tailor your resume to do those other things that you wouldn't normally be doing outside of your core competence.

FINNSTROM: Lots of opportunities for you here today. We'll let you get on to those. One of the key sectors here in California's economy this past year, one of the few that has actually added jobs, has been the government. There are lots of different booths set up by government agencies here today. Jennie Ayala joins us now. She's with the Corps of Engineers. It was interesting speaking with you earlier, because you said one of your main missions out here today is to clear up some misconceptions people have about who the Corps of Engineers is looking to hire.

JENNIE AYALA, US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Right. We are the -- well, we are the world's premier engineering organization. It's important for us to let the community know that we hire more than just engineers and scientists. We have a variety of jobs, positions availability with the Corps, that can include anything from budget analyst, realty specialist, maintenance workers, for example, and journalists, like myself. So we like to get that word out to the community and let them know that.

FINNSTROM: Thanks for joining us. She did say that they expect even more jobs because of the stimulus package. One good area to be looking in. Fredericka, one of the hot tips we got out here today, the U.S. Census Bureau is actually looking to hire some 1.4 million people across the U.S. to conduct that 2010 census. Not -- it will be a temporary job, but it is on the job training, so maybe a good opportunity for some people out there.

WHITFIELD: Let's hope so. I like the idea of trying to look at the bright side in all of this, because it's dim and very frightening for a lot of folks. Kara Finnstrom, thanks so much in Los Angeles right there, by Dodgers Stadium.

We've been seeing job fairs take place all across the country. These startling numbers of the people who have been turning up, 10,000 there at Dodger Stadium and 10,000, too, this past week at Atlanta, at a pretty sizable job fair. We attended it and we also caught up with not only the Labor Department commissioner, but we also caught up with a lot of the job-seekers in line. Here's a look.


WHITFIELD: It is major. When you look at the numbers, 598,000 jobs lost in January nationwide. February, 697,000 jobs lost. People are feeling really, I guess, depressed and they're at a loss. They're not sure how to grapple with these numbers. And when you're one of those 697,000, you're wondering how to get back on your feet. MICHAEL THURMOND, GEORGIA LABOR COMMISSIONER: First of all, I'm not just the commissioner of labor. I'm the commissioner of encouragement, the commissioner of hope and the commissioner of inspiration. My primary job is to help people see even in the most difficult times, do not give up hope, don't give in, don't give out, don't give up.

WHITFIELD: Why are you such an optimist?

THURMOND: Because I look at my own life. I grew up poor. We raised share crop cotton in northeast Georgia. My dad worked in the field all his life. But one thing he kept was true a faith and a belief that tomorrow will be better than today.

This is America. This is the greatest nation on the face of the Earth. We have faced greater challenges than this recession.


WHITFIELD: All right, Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mike Thurman. And my discussion with him, you don't want to miss next Saturday afternoon. Join us for "Jobless, Not Hopeless," an emotional series that will follow some of the unemployed people that we met, particularly at that job fair, following them day by day, step by step, inside the center and beyond, as they try to find a J-O-B. "Jobless, Not Hopeless" beginning at Noon Eastern next Saturday right here on CNN.

An explosion of violence south of the border. We look at the big push coming from inside of the United States to stop Mexican drug cartels.


WHITFIELD: Some very frightening statistics now. Juarez, Mexico averaged ten homicides a day in February. It's a hot bed of drug violence that has the Mexican government moving 5,000 soldiers into the town right now, across the border from El Paso. The U.S. could deploy troops to the border as well, but only as a last resort. That's according to a top Homeland Security official, testifying this week before a House panel.

The official says deadly violence from deadly Mexican drug cartels is now the biggest organized crime threat to the US. CNN's Michael Ware has spent plenty of time in war zones and recently in Juarez. He's joining us right now from New York.

So Michael, this is bad. It's been bubbling up for quite some time now. Your visit to Juarez, you've seen it all. How eye-opening was it?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really was quite startling for an outsider to visit. To go from the holy wars of the Middle East to the drug wars of Mexico, indeed, right on the American border, was truly a revelation. It's a very intense fight. And right now the government forces are simply not winning. And, indeed, the way this war is currently being waged, it cannot be won. In many ways, the drug wars have turned into an insurgency. The cartels there, all powerful, have roughly 100,000 foot soldiers at their disposal.

WHITFIELD: The drug cartels do?

WARE: That's right. Meanwhile, you have local police, who are completely corrupted, federal police, who are similarly tainted. So the Mexican president for the past two years has sent about 50,000 soldiers into the streets. And it's still not working.

WHITFIELD: Underscoring that problem is not only do you have the drug trade that's gotten violent, but now, as we hear of federal authorities asked to push toward the border to try to protect the United States side of the border -- we're also hearing that there's a lot more to the smuggling of weapons from the U.S. into Mexico. And that was kind of the center piece of your most recent pieces.

WARE: That's right. And this is a conflict in Mexico where already this year 1,000 people have died, 1,000 in a little over eight weeks. And in the border town of Juarez, which essentially is a sister city to El Paso, more than 450 have died in these first two months.

So militarizing the border is something. Trying to shut down these routes is something else. But because of two things -- one is the ongoing demand for illicit drugs in America, and then the supply of American weapons to the cartels, that's what's fueling this war.

WHITFIELD: Unbelievable. Michael Ware, thanks so much. You're going to join us again in the 4:00 p.m. Eastern hour, because there is so much to this story and how really it is bubbling up and affecting so many border towns. You mentioned El Paso. Today, in fact, they're having a town hall meeting to discuss this very thing. We're going to be joined by one of the council members to tell us how that meeting went, and if there's any encouragement that they seem to be feeling, knowing that federal DEA agents are going to the border.

We're devoting the full hour to Mexico's drug war this afternoon, 4:00 Eastern. We want to hear from you at and Bring us your questions and concerns. We'll have an incredible panel of people, including our Michael Ware there, talking about the drugs and weapons smuggling, Mexicans seeking asylum in the U.S., and your travel plans south of the border.

Well, he was only four when his mother took him to Brazil. His American father wants him back and now the fight over who should raise him is getting attention from the governments of both countries, Brazil and the U.S.


WHITFIELD: Half past the hour. Here's what's happening now; U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner travels to England. Finance leaders of the 20 richest and emerging nations are meeting there to try and find answers to the global money crisis. The world economy was just one of the topics taken up by President Obama and Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who visited the White House earlier today. Silva hopes the Obama administration will forge closer ties to the Latin American region.

The boy's name is Shawn Goldman, seen here with his father David Goldman. Exactly who has custody of Shawn has become a diplomatic flash point for both Brazilian and U.S. officials. Here now is CNN's foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than four years, David Goldman has been fighting to get his son Shawn back from Brazil. Now this family tragedy has exploded into an international custody battle, just as President Barack Obama meets at the White House Saturday with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva.

DAVID GOLDMAN, FATHER: On a family vacation.

DOUGHERTY: David Goldman's Brazilian Wife took Shawn, then four years old, to Rio for a vacation but never returned. She filed for divorce, remarried, but died in child birth, leaving Shawn with his Brazilian stepfather.

GOLDMAN: I believe that he would be coming home and we'd finally be able to reunite.

DOUGHERTY: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken a personal interest in the case, pursuing it with her Brazilian counterpart. Thursday night she phoned David Goldman.

THOMAS SHANNON, ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE: And underscored how important this case is to the United States and how hopeful we are of a positive resolution as quickly as possible.

DOUGHERTY: A Brazilian judge granted custody to the stepfather. Goldman is appealing. But both the U.S. and Brazilian governments agree Shawn Goldman should be returned to his biological father. But a senior Brazilian diplomat tells CNN, we have an independent judiciary in Brazil and we cannot interfere.

Goldman is in Rio this week, able to visit with Shawn. His last visit, he says, broke his heart.

GOLDMAN: He asked me where have I been for this amount of time, how come I never came to visit him.


WHITFIELD: And CNN's foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty joins us actually by phone right now in Washington. This is very unusual, Jill, that this kind of custody battle would reach such incredible heights. DOUGHERTY: It is, Fred. The State Department actually says there are 3,000 American children who have been abducted by one parent and taken to another country. But most of those cases never become public. So you have to ask yourself, why is this getting so much high level attention. And the answer seems to be it's being fueled by media reports. After all, Mr. Goldman comes from New Jersey. And as we know, that's a very competitive media market.

The case has been taken up by members of Congress, especially New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. Finally, it's a very compelling human story.

WHITFIELD: And it's one that the secretary of state has made mention of. And we hear the president of the United States talked -- we don't know what was said -- but talked about it to the Brazilian president.

DOUGHERTY: It may or may not have come up specifically in that meeting. But President Obama's definitely aware of this case. The irony is both countries do agree that the boy should go back to his biological parent. But the complication is you do have the judicial system. And both sides are saying, well, we cannot interfere with that.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right, Jill Dougherty, thanks so much. Very complicated case and caught in the middle that cute little boy.

Of course there are two sides to every story. Our own Larry King also delved into this international child custody mess with a spokesman for the Brazilian family.


HELVECIO RIBEIRO, BIANCHI FAMILY SPOKESMAN: He created this persona that is very sellable, this product that he has been selling for six months now, without any challenge on our part. And he has been quite successful. Now, the simple fact that I am here talking to you, Mr. King, is a great indication that something is terribly wrong with this story. Why did he have to wait until Bruna died to start this campaign is something people are forgetting to ask. It has a lot to do with the fact that she's not here to defend herself anymore.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: But, Helvecio, the fact is he is still the boy's father.

RIBEIRO: No question about it, he is the biological father, that's true.

KING: And the child was taken without his permission.

RIBEIRO: The child was taken on a vacation trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And Bruna had travel authorization with his handwriting. If I'm not mistaken, he filled out the form himself and signed the form. Bruna started the divorce procedure in Brazil, while the authorization was still valid.


WHITFIELD: And, again, our Jill Dougherty has been reporting on that. Jill, are you still with me on the line?


WHITFIELD: OK, so the family spokesperson saying that there was a great lag in between the child being in Brazil and the father saying he wants the child back. What's the response there?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I did talk to the family representative, the Goldman family representative, who said that actually the father did file suit within just a few months after the child was taken to Brazil, and the mother said she wouldn't be coming back. But you have to look at this; it's very complicated, because when she died -- you know, she remarried. Then she dies.

And so it bounces from court to court. And right now, it's in the federal courts in Brazil. And that really is the place that it should be. So the family told me just, I think it was yesterday, that they hope that this will be resolved pretty quickly.

WHITFIELD: Foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty, thanks so much for being on the line with us there from Washington. Appreciate it. I know you'll continue to keep us posted if there are any new developments.

After years of relative quiet in northern Ireland, three men have been arrested in connection with the killings of two British soldiers. The victims were shot to death a week ago at a military base in the town of Craigavon. The soldiers were preparing to ship out for duty to Afghanistan. This was the first fatal attack on British troops in the province for more than 12 years. A splinter group of the IRA is reportedly claiming responsibility now.

Turning now to issue number one. It's a silver lining in the recession, slumping oil and gas prices. A barrel of crude only fetches less than a third of what it did last summer. But oil producers want to change that. OPEC is meeting tomorrow to talk about reducing production up to half million barrels a day to change prices. Iran's oil minister is pushing for production cuts, saying too much oil on the market is driving down prices. Critics say the move could deepen the global recession.

All right. Some big names are doing their part for Australia's wildfire victims.


WHITFIELD: Coldplay, Kylie, Mynong (ph) and Oliva Newton John were among the stars performing benefit concerts in Sydney and Melbourne. Organizers hope to raise more than three million dollars. Britain's Princes William and Harry sent messages of support at both events. More than 200 were killed in last month's blazes, which devastated Southern Victoria State and left 10,000 people homeless. Part of the money will help flood victims in Queensland. Could this be the next blow to the economy? The perils of plastic. Credit card companies are cracking down, and you may soon feel the pain.


WHITFIELD: More legal worries for actress Lindsay Lohan. Beverly Hills police have an arrest warrant with her name on it. Details have not been released, but police say they think it's connected to her 2007 DUI and cocaine conviction. Lohan is on three years probation. If she fails a drug test or doesn't meet with her parole officer, Lohan could go to jail. Police say they hope she turns herself in.

All right, defaulting homeowners started the nation's economic crisis. Now some experts warn that credit card debt may be next. Here now is CNN's Mary Snow.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Does plastic pose the next threat to the economy? Prominent banking analyst Meredith Whitney warns in a "Wall Street Journal" opinion piece that credit cards are the next credit crunch. She estimates two trillion dollars of credit card lines will be cut this year, 2.7 trillion by the end of next year. And a big pull back on that credit, many economists agree, could further slow already weak consumer spending.

PHILIP SCHNABL, NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: The question is: is it going to be too fast? Is it going to also affect individuals who are actually good borrowers, who are able to repay their loans to credit cards, but the banks are just being too cautious and going to cut those as well?

SNOW: With people falling behind on mortgage payments and losing their jobs, there's worries about customers not paying their credit card debt. American Express recently offered to pay some customers to close their accounts, if they paid off their balances. Those who followed the credit card industry say companies like American Express are trying to protect themselves against risky customers.

LESLIE MCFADDEN, BANKRATE.COM: Credit card issuers as a whole are trying to cut down their risk. This was just another way for them to do it.

SNOW: The solution, in the article, Whitney calls on lenders, politicians and regulators for thoughtful leadership to prevent what she estimates to be a 57 percent contraction in credit lines. But another economist says, while at the same time these companies are cutting credit lines to protect against risk, they also make money by loaning it to consumers, most often at double digit interest rates.

LAKSHMAN ACHUTHAN, ECONOMIC CYCLE RESEARCH INSTITUTE: There's certainly a tug-of-war going on between these kind of competing issues. But I wouldn't have the complete kind of doomsday outlook out there. SNOW (on camera): Banking analyst Meredith Whitney says desperate times call for radical measures, and is calling on credit card lenders to work together to keep intact credit lines for people who do have the ability to pay their bills.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: So there are some disparities among the unemployment. Unemployment is much higher among blacks and Hispanics than among whites in America. Now some websites have actually sprung up to help people of certain ethnicities actually find work. Our Josh Levs is here to show us a few of them.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting, isn't it? A lot of us didn't realize this was going on. I didn't until a few days ago. I'm going to show you some of them right now.

First, let's start off with the numbers. I want you to see this grabbing, because it helps put in context the seriousness of this. This is the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Check that out, Fred, among whites in America, 7.3 percent, blacks unemployment 13.4 percent, Hispanics, as you can see, 10.9, and Asians actually slightly better than the white average, at 6.9 percent there.

So what I'm going to do is show you two major websites that are focusing on the African-American community and Latino community. Let's zoom right in.

I'm going to start off with this, It's interesting; it has a whole section at the top where you can put in information about you. You can upload your resume, get information about what kinds of things you've done in the past, and you can hear testimonials about people who have found work. And the idea behind this, from what I've read, is that it can help hook you up, obviously, with work that's right for you. Also, in some cases, inspire some people to find jobs they might not have thought they would have been able to get otherwise.

Meanwhile, the Latino community, This is a little more specific than just Latinos in general. It's Latinos who are also bilingual. So it's not for other people who are bilingual and it's not for Latinos who are not bilingual. So if you're Latino and bilingual, this is for you, They do something similar, Fred. They try to hook people up with jobs that can play to their strengths in that respect, including their background.

Now, not everyone is going to fall into those categories. I'm going to take time here. I'm going to show you websites that work for everyone that we've got right here at It might make you feel a little better about the job market right now. This is from If you go to one of the main maps, you see this. It's pretty depressing, because so much of it is red.

But check this out. If you look at jobs by industry, any time you see a section like this, that's bluish, it means that over the last couple of years, jobs have been going up. Check that out, Fred, I'm going to post links to all this on my Facebook page, Josh Levs CNN.

WHITFIELD: Whatever we can do to help people, navigating, that helps them find a job. It's so tough.

LEVS: It's so rough right now. If there's a tiny bit of hope, then obviously go for it.

WHITFIELD: Yes, thanks so much, Josh. Appreciate it.

The economy, it is indeed issue number one for you and for us next week. We focus CNN's vast resources on "The Road to Rescue," a CNN survival guide. What do the numbers mean and where are those jobs? That's all next week, beginning Monday. And again, of course, next Saturday at 4:00 p.m., we'll be focusing on "Jobless, Not Hopeless." Same kind of thing, our commitment to try to help many who are unemployed navigate their way and hopefully find a J-O-b.

Victims of Hurricane Ike moving again. Only they're not going home.


WHITFIELD: An Alabama funeral director is donating caskets to the families of victims of the Samson shooting spree. Philip Gilmer says he understands their pain.


PHILIP GILMER, GILMER'S FUNERAL HOME: My brother was murdered a few years ago. And I know what they're growing through. And it's just not a good place to be.


WHITFIELD: Gilmer has donated five caskets so far. The cost 15,000 dollars. Gilmer, who is based in West Mobile, is also covering the cost of shipping them to Samson. He is loaning a hearse to a funeral home in the town of Samson. Ten people in fact were killed in Tuesday's shooting rampage before the gunman, Michael McLendon, shot himself.

Six months after Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston, Texas, the city is limping down the road to recovery. Yesterday was moving day for some victims who lost their homes to the storm. Brad Woodward, with CNN affiliate KHOU, has the latest.


BRAD WOODWARD, KHOU (voice-over): At the Best Western Beachfront Inn on Galveston's sea wall and hotels across the island, there are rooms available, just not for many of those who have been living there courtesy of FEMA. Friday the 13th, as fate would have it, marks the last day for Transitional Sheltering Assistance. And talk about unlucky, this dreary, rainy day is also moving day, or at least it's supposed to be, for people like Jami Wagner.

JAMI WAGNER, HURRICANE IKE VICTIM: Like if you say the wrong thing, you're lost in the shuffle.

WOODWARD: When we ran into Wagner, she had just come from the Galveston Housing Authority, which is now handling disaster housing assistance, financed through HUD.

WAGNER: You would go to orientation. They would give you a voucher and you take it to the landlord and get an apartment.

WOODWARD: Turns out, it didn't happen. That's where Wagner says she got lost in the shuffle. And how's this for irony.

WAGNER: Well, I do feel homeless. I still have a home but it's not livable.

WOODWARD (on camera): The Best Western had been putting up 100 people, using federal housing assistance. Of those, 56 people received additional assistance that will extend their stay for another two weeks, because their homes are almost ready to be occupied again.

(voice-over): Many of the people forced out of hotels could end up here, called Schreiber Field (ph). It's one of two FEMA mobile home parks just opening up in Galveston County. The 50 units at this site are fully furnished. They're rent free.

BILL LEHMAN, FEMA: They will allowed to stay for -- until April 30th of 2010, which is 18 months after the disaster was declared.

WAGNER: When it rains, it pours. Isn't that what they say?

WOODWARD: When we left her, she was still hoping to work out a deal with the hotel.

WAGNER: Already locked the door.

WOODWARD: No word yet on how things turned out.


WHITFIELD: Parts of the water logged Midwest are still coping with floodwaters days after heavy rains. Among the hardest-hit areas, Monroe County, Michigan, near Detroit. Take a look at those images right there. A state of emergency was issued for the area after the Raisin River spilled over its banks. The river is expected to drop below flood stage until tomorrow.

Let's check in with our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. Boy, miserable situation.


WHITFIELD: Did you get an automatic pay raise each year? Well, Congress does. One lawmaker says with so many Americans struggling, it's time to change that policy. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: One senator says with so many Americans struggling, Congress should stop getting automatic pay raises. Noble gesture or political grandstanding? Here now is CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From 2008 to 2009, members of Congress saw their pay go up almost 5,000 dollars, to 174,00. But Congress didn't have to approve the pay ray. It went up automatically.

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: Everything is going to hell in a hand basket, yet members of Congress get an automatic pay raise virtually every year. And people find that really, really offensive.

KEILAR: Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter says if lawmakers want bigger paychecks, they should vote for them each year. He wants to tack that change on to an overdue spending bill, that would fund the federal government for the rest of the year. It's got a 410 billion dollar price tag, an eight percent increase in spending, which Vitter opposes.

Democrats, like Daniel Inouye, say Vitter is playing politics, noting that Congress has pledged to scrap its 2010 pay raise and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned the Senate not to change the House- passed bill.

SEN. DANIEL INOUYE (D), HAWAII: This amendment is about trying to make it appear as if members are prohibiting a pay adjustment for themselves.

KEILAR (on camera): Defenders of the annual pay raise say lawmakers must be able to afford a residence here in Washington, as well as in their home state. And without that cost of living increase, only wealthy Americans would be able to serve in Congress.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Capital Hill.


WHITFIELD: Straight ahead in the next hour of THE NEWSROOM, they've struck out at work. Now they're packing L.A.'s Dodger Stadium. We'll go live to a huge job fair there and we'll find out which businesses are booming in these troubled times and which ones are not.