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Haitians Fending For Themselves Build Shacks From Debris, Many Only Getting Food Rations Every Three Days; Toyota Working With Federal Regulators On A Fix For The Pedal Recall

Aired January 30, 2010 - 16:02   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, we are going to be talking a little bit more, a lot more, about the publishing industry. And whether it be newspapers or books and how they might really like or dislike this whole iPad phenomenon. We'll be talking with "The New York Times" columnist David Carr coming up, 4:00 Eastern hour.

After slamming Oklahoma and Texas earlier this week, a huge winter storm is bringing snow and ice to the East Coast. Nearly half a foot of snow has fallen in some parts of North Carolina, and Governor Beverly Perdue has declared a state of emergency.

A winter storm warning is in effect over much of the Washington/Baltimore area as well. Ooh, that is gorgeous, but D.C. officials are urging people to postpone their errands until tomorrow, because while it looks pretty, it is also pretty dangerous stuff. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is standing by in the CNN Weather Center.


WHITFIELD: Simply stay off the roads. Just stay inside or walk outside. It is always beautiful to walk in Washington in the snow. Thanks, bonnie, I appreciate that.

All right, another big story we continue to follow. Two and a half weeks after the earthquake, we'll talk about Haiti . The relief effort is still encountering new challenges. Here now is CNN Karl Penhaul in Port-au-Prince.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (On camera): There's a saying in Haitian that goes something along the lines of, (speaking French). That means behind the mountains there are more mountains, a sign that wherever you look, there are obstacles in your way. And really that is very fitting for Haiti right now.

I wouldn't say so much that the Haitians are looking to start to rebuild their lives. I would say more from traveling around the city on a daily basis that the Haitian have moved from one disaster, the earthquake, to a new disaster, which is the disaster of how they're going to survive. There's not enough tents to house the displaced people in countries so far. That is a crucial priority, according to international aid groups. Luckily, so far there, hasn't been much rain, but if the weather does change, then the picture here on the ground for the homeless will also change dramatically.

In terms of the food aid and the water getting out, that also is still not enough. The United Nations are setting up fixed food distribution points. The Haitian government has also started distributing food as well, but just take a look at the chaos that we see on a daily basis in many of those food lines, people trampling and crushing themselves.

I asked them why, and they say many of them are only getting a food handout once every three days. You then go ask the international aid workers and they say, we simply have not got enough nor the logistics to hand out food to every single person on a daily basis. They've recognized that they're giving out survival rations, and hope that over a period of time everybody gets just enough to get by.

Now in terms of the reconstruction, yes, we have heard government promises of temporarily re-housing some of these people on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, in new camps, but again that is a slow process. We haven't seen any real sign of that being done so far.

So meanwhile, the Haitian people are doing it for themselves. We've seen them simply pulling tin and wood from the earthquake ruins and building new shacks in different places. But this is certainly not the reconstruction that either the international community or the Haitians themselves aspire to. I'm Karl Penhaul, CNN, Port-au-Prince.


WHITFIELD: And this, the U.S. has suspended medical flights carrying Haitian earthquake victims to this country. CNN's Susan Candiotti has been following this story.

Any more clarification on where this directive has come from?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, this is a very difficult situation and having been to Haiti and have seen the circumstances firsthand, this is not good news for Haitian who are critically ill and can't get the medical care they need in Haiti from doctors who are there trying to do the very best they can to help.

We've learned that U.S. military is suspending medical evacuations for Haitian nationals. That does not mean U.S. citizens. It means Haitians who need special care, critical care, will not be flown out. A military spokesman tells CNN they cannot fly people out if hospitals won't take them on the other end.

Quote, "Some states are apparently unwilling to allow entry for Haitian nationals for critical care."

But what's going on and who's refusing them? We're still trying to find out which states. We do know this, Florida Governor Charlie Crist has told CNN that earlier this week he wrote to the Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, telling her that Florida heard about a federal plan to move up to 50 critically ill patients, a day, from Haiti from an indefinite period of time. And the governor says Florida is reaching, what he calls, the saturation point taking in -- rather 526 patients so far, mainly U.S. nationals.


GOV. CHARLIE CRIST, (R) FLORIDA: They're not stopping coming into Florida. I wrote a letter to Secretary Sebelius expressing that federal assistance would be helpful to us, and if we could share that with some of our sister states it would make a big difference. Obviously, because of Florida's proximity to Haiti , we'll really borne the brunt of it, but we're happy to continue.


CANDIOTTI: So there may be some sort of disconnect here. Crist denies that he asked the military to stop these medical evacuations for Haitian nationals. We're still trying to get some answers from Secretary Sebelius. And a military spokesman says they're trying to take care of as many Haitian as they can in Haiti , for example, also on the USS Comfort, offshore. But for now that airlift for Haitian is temporarily shutdown. Yet another burden for Haitians right now.

A DHS official tells me there is no slowdown about granting humanitarian parole to Haitians who need critical care, so we're still trying to get down to the bottom of this.

WHITFIELD: Wow, it's pretty incredible turn of events. All right, Susan Candiotti, thank you.

Obviously a lot of devastation in Haiti remains, but there's also enormous hope for the future. Be sure to tune into a special edition of "AC 360" tonight with a look at how individual acts of heroism are helping to rescue a shattered nation. That is "CNN HEROES: SAVING HAITI", tonight and tomorrow 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Two more troop deaths to report in Afghanistan. NATO says an Afghan interpreter killed two U.S. servicemen in Wardak Province last night. He was then shot dead by an American service member. The gunman is described as being disgruntled about job issues and not viewed as a Taliban sympathizer.

Does President Obama have a blind spot when it comes to terrorism? Republicans say he does. In the GOP radio and Internet address today, Maine Senator Susan Collins says it was exposed in the administration's handling of the Nigerian suspect, who allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas day.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: The Obama administration appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the war on terrorism. And because of that blindness, this administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them fresh from an attempt to blow a plane out of the sky on Christmas day.

There's no other way to explain the irresponsible, indeed, dangerous decision on Abdulmutallab's interrogation. No way to explain the inconceivable treatment of him as if he were a common criminal. This charade must stop. Foreign terrorists are enemy combatants and must be treated as such. The safety of the American people depends on it.


WHITFIELD: Collins and other Republicans are upset that federal investigators question the Nigerian suspect about an hour without reading him his Miranda rights and when he was finally informed of the rights, he quit talking. And of course we'll have the president's weekly address. More information on that right after this break.

Also, sometimes even presidents get to have a little fun. We'll show you how President Obama spent his Saturday afternoon.

And if you're hip for the hottest in high-tech gadgets, we're going to break down the iPad. And how Apple hopes its new gadget just might change newspaper and book publishing forever.


WHITFIELD: All right it's jobs, jobs, jobs for the president in his weekly address. President Obama laid out how he plans to help business, especially small business, start hiring again.


OBAMA: And since the true engines of job creation are America's businesses, I've proposed tax credits to help them hire new workers, raise wages, and invest in new plants and equipment. I also want to eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and help small businesses to get the loans they need to open their doors, and expand their operations.

But as we work to create jobs, it is critical that we rein in the budget deficits we've been accumulating for far too long. Deficits that won't just burden our children and grandchildren, but could damage our markets, drive up our interest rates and jeopardize our recovery right now.


WHITFIELD: But not all has worked for the president on this Saturday. Yeah, there he is at a basketball game, college ball. He's taking in some college ball at Verizon Center, not far from the White House in a snowy Washington today.

So on the court, two top ten teams, Georgetown and Duke, and for time, yeah, as you see with the headset on, people taking in the game, heard the president's familiar voice during a little commentary of the basketball. Not of the political sort. But still unclear who he may had been rooting for, Georgetown or Duke? Vice president there, along with his son, as well. Apparently the personal aide to the president is a Duke alum, Reggie Love. So I don't know, maybe the president would be rooting for Duke, but still mum is the word. We don't know who he was rooting for. All right, so much hype and excitement over this week's unveiling of the Apple iPad. Could it change the publishing industry as we know it? Our next guest says the new device offers the opportunity to renew the romance between printed material and consumers, but that romance could come at a price. "The New York Times" columnist David Carr joins me now from New York.

Good to see you.

DAVID CARR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Nice to see you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK, so David, I understand it, for one, Steve Jobs has a pretty good relationship with the "The New York Times" and he's been quoted as saying that he has a real affinity for kind of old media companies. So do you suppose the iPad really could be an answer to helping to revitalize newspapers?

CARR: Well, certainly in consumer terms, it's an amazing thing to look like -- look at. It's like somebody came back from the future and handed you something. You can't think of anything that would be better to consume media on. The things that limit it, the fact that it's got a bad keyboard, no camera, will only do one task at a time, make it perfect for just leaning back, looking at stuff, paging through stuff.

WHITFIELD: OK, just reading.

CARR: Yes.

WHITFIELD: And kind of turning the pages, just as you would, you know, on your iPhone, you know, to look at the images that kind of thing. That motion that newspaper, turning the page thing, that we love.

CARR: I find that very sexy. But that's just me. I'm an old newspaper guy. You could see when Jobs was on the stage - I was there - he would turn the page back and forth, and just be hypnotized by it, in part, because it is a really remarkable application.

WHITFIELD: In fact he's used or created -or at least Apple has created like a "New York Times" app, for this very purpose, for the iPad?

CARR: Martin Nissen Holtz (ph), who runs digital operations of our paper made a presentation. It showed just what people could do in terms of drilling into content, paging across it, opening pictures up, starting video. It looked pretty dang great, I got to say.

WHITFIELD: Wow, but then when you go online with your laptop or a desktop, you can still, you know, pull or the, and you can read the paper that way. How is this different?

CARR: Well, you are surfing the paper when you are on the computer, and you are using a mouse. This renews the romance of paging through things. Renews that sense of serendipity. What the big question is, is there a business model for it? Our paper looks great, magazines look great, television looks great. But we -- we already have a lot of audience. We have, like 18 million uniques coming to us on the web. What we're all interested in, is there a revenue opportunity to go with it?

WHITFIELD: So then, I wonder, these publishing companies have to have a specific-I guess, creation of their site for the iPad. I mean because you talk about that page turning kind of motion, whether it be for the book, or whether it be for a newspaper. Or does this mean, when you are using the iPad, you can search or go to any publication, and just simply because of the way that the iPad is made you will have that page-turning motion?

CARR: Now, that's a great question. It's going to take an application, and an application on the one hand gets you out of sort of the "subscription" word, which is a bad word in digital realms. It gets into the realm of applications. How willing consumers will be to pay for those, we'll see. I don't think publishers are going to have a lot of trouble building for it. And -- but there is no -- there's an iBook, there's a store per for though those but no iMag, no iNewspaper, no separate place.

WHITFIELD: So, you are looking forward to this? You are lining up to get one, unless you have gotten one in advanced?

CARR: You know, I've got to be honest with you, Fredricka. I touched one last Wednesday. I haven't washed this hand since.


WHITFIELD: Well, good, then coming to a home, or business near you soon, right?

CARR: Yes. And I think that readers are going to love this device. It's pretty tough to resist.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, and even the price point, you know between $499 and $800-something, worth it, either way you go? Whether you go in the lower end or the high-end?

CARR: It's not bad if you say it fast, and considering what you know, high-end netbook or a low-end, if you look upon as a consuming device, not a production device, is something that you are going to do after you close your laptop, it may be well worth it.

WHITFIELD: It's got to be a tough transition, because you know, I like you, were talking about a lot of people, I like the relationship between me and my fingertips and the page. I like to turn the page whether it's a book or a newspaper. And boy oh boy, I will miss that if that becomes obsolete, but how I can get close to that again.

CARR: I think this does a better job in replicating that experience than any technology out there by a million miles. It's remarkable to see. WHITFIELD: Fantastic. David Carr, thanks so much, of "The New York Times." I'm sure Apple's going to be really happy about your review. Because you're a big proponent. I couldn't get a bad word out of you.

CARR: I'm a fan boy. There's this things won't do, but it doesn't have anything to do with media consumption. If you want to read or watch this show, it's a great little device.

WHITFIELD: All right, cool thing. All right, David, appreciate it. Have a great weekend.

CARR: Same to you.

All right, let's take a look at our top stories right now. The trial of the 9/11 mastermind and four others, may not be taking place in New York City after all. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the cost of boosting security would be an estimated $200 million and the trial would simply be disruptive. The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly considering alternative locations now.

And China has suspended military exchanges with the U.S. after Washington announced a nearly $6.5 billion in planned armed sales to Taiwan. China claims Taiwan as its own, and says the sales cause severe harm to U.S./China cooperation. The U.S. State Department says the deal reinforces U.S. commitment to stability in that region.

And a missing lottery winner has been found dead in Florida. Police believe Abraham Shakespeare was murdered. An autopsy is being performed this weekend. Shakespeare's remains were found buried under some recently poured concrete at a home in Plant City. The 43-year- old vanished last April. He had won $30 million in a lottery drawing just four years ago.

A possible solution for a Toyotas problems? We've got the latest on reports that the federal government, the U.S. federal government, has given the green light to the automaker's plans to fix sticky gas pedals.


WHITFIELD: Let's talk movies now. Mel Gibson returns to the big screen in a new crime drama confronting every parent's worst nightmare in "The Edge Of Darkness." And on the lighter side of the eternal city is a backdrop for a new romantic comedy, "When In Rome."

Ben Mankiewicz, host of Turner Classic Movies is in Las Vegas today.

We always have to sneak in a romantic comedy.


WHITFIELD: You love them.

MANKIEWICZ: I do love romantic comedies. WHITFIELD: I know that's very sweet.

MANKIEWICZ: But it's important to note, Fredricka, that I don't love all romantic moves.

WHITFIELD: OK, and that's a good prelude.

MANKIEWICZ: Yes, it is.

WHITFIELD: To when we talk about it. So now let's talk about the drama, the thriller, Mel Gibson "Edge of Darkness." Let's take a peek.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Creeping up on a bereaved man at a murder scene is not very bright.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Craven, we have things to talk about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like your name and what you're doing here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like you shot your daughter.


WHITFIELD: All right. Listening to their voices I did that right "The Edge of Darkness." So what do you think, Ben?

MANKIEWICZ: Well, Fredricka, first of all, I'm glad that we showed that scene. That's Mel Gibson, who, by the way, hasn't had a starring role in about seven years and he definitely looks seven years older, but I think for the role here, it really works.

WHITFIELD: That's all right.

MANKIEWICZ: He sort of looks sort grizzled and worn. His daughter has been murdered on his front porch. Initially, because he's a Boston police officer the thought is that the gunman was going after him. It turns out that his daughter worked at a top-secret nuclear facility and he thinks maybe she was the intended victim.

That scene we saw was with Mel Gibson and really one of my favorite actors, a British actor named Ray Winstone, who is just sensational in this movie. I've got to tell you I liked this movie a lot. I think it is tense, it is exciting, it is dramatic, it doesn't make a lick of sense at times, but that's OK.

WHITFIELD: But it was still riveting.

MANKIEWICZ: But you still care about it until the end. You know it's very reminiscent of a movie that was released exactly a year ago today "Taken" with Liam Neeson, directed by Pierre Morel.

WHITFIELD: Which I liked. It was good. MANKIEWICZ: Yes, and sort of both "Taken" and "Edge of Darkness", you know, get dumped in this time of year, when nobody pays much attention to movies. I thought "Taken: was very exciting. It didn't make any sense, either, but I loved it. And I like this a lot. I have given it a B-plus. I thought it was good and you know like I said it's convoluted at times but in the end I don't think really that matters a great deal.

WHITFIELD: OK, and who cares what I think? I'm not the movie critic, after all. You are. We care about what you think. B-plus.

MANKIEWICZ: I care about what you think.

WHITFIELD: OK, "When In Rome," you know how I feel about romantic comedies.

MANKIEWICZ: Yeah, how you feel about romantic comedies, and if somebody makes a romantic comedy you don't care if it is good or bad, you love it no matter what. You will give them your money no matter what.

WHITFIELD: No, I don't. Oh, no, I'm not a huge romantic comedy fan. But go ahead.

MANKIEWICZ: Every time we have a clip of a romantic comedy, while the clip is rolling, you go "ooh."


WHITFIELD: Well, if it is really good, maybe, maybe but most of them are not good.

MANKIEWICZ: Well, good I am very glad to hear it because this definitely falls into the not good category.

WHITFIELD: Uh-huh. And it's got a great lineup.

MANKIEWICZ: Yeah, it does and Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel, they have some nice chemistry. I suppose. He is, you know, he's a charming guy and I like her and she's been terrific in things.

WHITFIELD: OK, well, let's look at it. Real quick.



WHITFIELD: OK, well good-looking people and sometimes that's all that matters in romantic comedies.

BEN MANKIEWICZ, FILM CRITIC: Oh, yes, there are good-looking people and that is the funniest scene in the movie there, where she tries to shatter the vase a tradition at an Italian wedding, at her sister's wedding. And there is one other funny scene, which is also in the trailer, and that's it. A lot of slap-stick in this movie. No script, silly, silly, silly. A lot of guys walk, a lot of Josh Duhamel walking into a tree, or falling down a well.

WHITFIELD: Oh, this is harsh, Ben.

MANKIEWICZ: I may have made up the part about falling down a well.


MANKIEWICZ: But that's essentially what happens here. There's a nice supporting cast that seems better know that the movie, Will Arnett, Angelica Houston, Danny DeVito, Dax Shepherd is in this movie.

WHITFIELD: I mean, wonderful people.

MANKIEWICZ: There's nothing here. It is silly and if I could paraphrase, I think "When In Rome" do as the Romans do and have an espresso and don't see this movie.

WHITFIELD: My gosh, Walt Disney studios will be calling you, Ben.

MANKIEWICZ: Yeah, well --

WHITFIELD: We'll know talking again, DVD.


WHITFIELD: DVDS you must have, or you must stay away from.


WHITFIELD: Ben, in Vegas.

All right drivers are taking this story very seriously, drivers of Toyota vehicles. Well, they want to know how much closer they might be to getting their vehicles fixed? The Associated Press is actually quoting sources as saying U.S. regulators have approved a part to keep the gas pedal from sticking. So CNN's Mary Snow is reporting now that it could take some time before all affected cars are actually repaired.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With millions of its cars recalled, Toyota now says it has a fix for its sticking gas pedals. In an e-mail to its dealers the automaker said it met with officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and presented a remedy. Toyota didn't offer specifics to consumers, but senior automotive editor of "Popular Mechanics" says, "Assuming its gas pedals that needs replacing, it won't happen overnight.

MIKE ALLEN, SR. AUTOMOTIVE EDITOR, POPULAR MECHANICS: Once a steady supply of those gas pedals is available the dealerships are going to have to make appointments with all of their customers, get them to come into the dealership, take an hour or so, from time that you get there, until the time you can leave, for the mechanic to get all the parts installed, and all of the paperwork done. And that's going to take months to cycle through the entire spectrum of cars that are involved.

SNOW: Millions of cars were recalled this week because of issues with sticking gas pedals, meaning the car may keep accelerating even when you take your foot off the gas. But this came on top of a separate recall in November, millions of other cars, due to gas pedals getting stuck on removable floor mats. There has been much confusion and adding to it, the supplier of the gas pedal, a company called, CTS, in Elkhart, Indiana, says the pedals are not the problem.

MIITCH WALORSKI, DIR., OF INVESTOR RELATIONS, CTS CORP: CTS is not aware-and Toyota's said this also-that there have been any accidents or injuries from that condition of those pedals.

SNOW: CTS says it's supplied gas pedals to Toyota since 2005 and there are reports of problems before that. Congressman Henry Waxman cites 19 deaths to sudden unintended acceleration to Toyota cars in the past decade based on federal data. Toyota hasn't confirmed that number. Waxman chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has called for a hearing on February 25th. Questions are being raised about how Toyota handled the recall. Something the Transportation secretary was asked about Thursday.

RAY LAHOOD, SEC. OF TRANSPORTATION: I have no criticism of Toyota on this. They followed the law. And they're doing what they're supposed to do.

SNOW (On camera): And another blow for Toyota, influential "Consumer Reports" has suspended its recommendations for the eight Toyota models that were recalled this week. And it's advising to use car buyers not purchase any of the affected models until the issue is resolved. Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: All right, problems of a different sort for Honda. The automaker is recalling 141,000 Fit hatchbacks in the U.S. because of faulty power windows. Honda says some of the 2007 and 2008 models have switches that could pose a fire hazard if they get wet. The recall also includes half a million of the vehicles in other countries. Honda says it will notify customers by mail once it has a solution. For now, it is advising them to keep their windows rolled up during rain or snow.

Foreclosures, a real tragedy for families, and they can also sap the lifeblood of the neighborhoods left behind. We'll tell you about a new government program designed to help struggling communities.


WHITFIELD: All right, perhaps it's easy to say whatever you want about people behind their back, but face to face, that's another matter. President Barack Obama put that theory to the test on Friday fielding questions from Republican lawmakers at their Maryland retreat. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The easiest thing for me to do on the health care debate would had been to tell people, what you're going to get is guaranteed health insurance, lower your costs, all the insurance reforms, we're going to lower the cost of Medicare and Medicaid, and it won't cost anybody anything.

That's great politics. It's just not true. So there's got to be some test of realism any of these proposals, mine included. I have to hold myself accountable. And I guarantee the American people will hold themselves-will hold me accountable, if, what I'm selling, doesn't actually deliver.

REP. MIKE PENCE, (R) INDIANA: Mr. President, point of clarification, what's in the Better Solutions book, are all of the legislative proposals that-

OBAMA: I understand that.

PENCE: -we're offered-

OBAMA: I have read your bills.

PENCE: -throughout 2009.

OBAMA: I understand.

PENCE: And so, rest assured the summary document that you've received is backed up by precisely the kind of detailed legislation that Speaker Pelosi and your administration have been busy ignoring for 12 months.

OBAMA: Well, Mike, hold on, hold on a second.

PENCE: But it's just-


OBAMA: No, no, no, hold on a second. Yes. You know, Mike, I have read your legislation. I mean, I take a look at this stuff, and the good ideas we take. But here's-here's the thing-here's the thing, I guess, that all of us have to be mindful of. It can't be all or nothing one way or the other, all right?


WHITFIELD: All right, well just in case you missed the president at the Republican retreat, you have another chance to see it in a special "SITUATION ROOM" later on today. Watch that on CNN, a replay, today at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

All right, there was a presidential meeting of the minds today. President Barack Obama hosted former President George H.W. Bush at the White House. You see the former president leaving the White House there. He was accompanied by his son Jeb, former governor of Florida. Apparently, no heavy policy talk at this gathering. White House aides say the visit was purely social.

President Obama's asking Republicans to do their part to help get the economy moving again. And as we mentioned earlier, he asked House Republicans to help him at an extraordinary meeting yesterday. But GOP leaders say, it's going to take more than talk to win their cooperation.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) MINORITY LEADER: I think the president will carry through in terms of having more meetings with us, have more discussions with us. But there's got to be more than just discussions.


WHITFIELD: So one of them main causes of the economic meltdown has been the home mortgage crisis. The impact has been devastating. Both for those who've lost their homes and their communities. Now the Obama administration has come up with a new program to help those affected.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we do have good news, very good news to celebrate.

WHITFIELD (voice over): Against the backdrop of a blighted city the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development announced another infusion of federal cash to help communities, like Detroit, hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

SHAUN DONOVAN, SECRETARY OF HUD: It's about stabilizing our housing market. We have too many neighborhoods around the country where vacant homes are sitting on the market. They're driving down prices. They're hurting the quality of neighborhoods.

WHITFIELD: The idea is to use federal money to help state and local governments and nonprofits buy and rehab distressed properties. Those properties, then, go back on the market as affordable housing. It's part of the government's Neighborhood Stabilization Program; $2 billion in stimulus money is being awarded nationally in a competitive process.

DONOVAN: We picked the best, smartest plans that we got, to invest this money. And it's in a concentrated way. So we know that we're really having impacts in places that have the highest unemployment rates, that are feeling the worst effects.

WHITFIELD: Among the top recipients, Florida, California and Michigan, which consistently rate in the top 10 states hit hardest by foreclosures. But the Neighborhood Stabilization Program isn't new. It was introduced two years ago during the Bush administration. Nearly $4 billion went to states and local governments. A Georgia couple was among those who benefited during that first phase of the program. And they just moved into their new home, a rehabilitated foreclosure.

MISTY, HOMEOWNER: We looked at so many things in our price range but they still need a lot of work, so it would have taken a lot longer for us to get to --

ANDY, HOMEOWNER: We could have had those, but it might have taken us 10 years for us to work into it.

WHITFIELD: The program has its critics. Some say the government guidelines and requirements slowed the process of getting more rehabbed properties on the market.

MICHAEL J. RICH, EMORY UNIVERSITY: A lot of concerns for accountability and preventing fraud and abuse, and being sure that everything is done properly. But it all still boils down to, how quickly can we identify, acquire, purchase, hold and dispose of distressed properties?

WHITFIELD: But formula worked for Misty and Andy.

MISTY: I saw it first. We were under contract before he ever saw the house.

WHITFIELD: The hope now that is that a new infusion of federal funding will work for others, and get to the communities that need it most.


WHITFIELD: Let's take a look at the top stories right now. Three prison inmates in Texas are being treated for wounds that they received in an attempted breakout. They were among five inmates who jumped over a fence last night in a prison in Livingston, Texas. Guards opened fire and hit three of the inmates. The other inmates were also captured, and uninjured.

All right, we're getting word that singer Etta James is seriously ill in a Los Angeles hospital. Her son says James' suffering from a dangerous staph infection that's resistant to many antibiotics. The 72-year-old singer was diagnosed actually with Alzheimer's last year. She's best known for her 1961 hit "At Last." sung at President Obama's inaugural ball. Not by Etta James but by Beyonce, if anyone remembers that.

All right. And Serena Williams has won, and there's the moment, at the Australian Open tennis championship for a fifth time. Williams overcame a determined challenge by Belgium Justine Henin. The victory gives Williams 12 grand slam single's titles. That means she's tied with the record set by Billie Jean King.

All right, romance is in the air, at least on DVD. We'll look at a couple of quirky love stories that you might consider dropping into your shopping carts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: OK, here we go again, we're going to talk movies, romantic comedies, but this time on DVD. All of them coming out in the coming week. And one actually stars Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne. The other pairs Jennifer Aniston with Aaron Eckhart. Ben Mankiewicz, back with me.

The lover of romantic comedies and the host of Turner Classic Movies, back with us from Las Vegas. OK , so let's watch a clip of "Adam", first.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My brain works differently from NTs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neuro-typicals. Sometimes I can't understand them especially when they mean something different from what they're actually saying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't do that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most Aspbes (ph) are really honest. Psychologists think it is a lack of imagination. But psychologists are mostly NTs. Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Mozart, they all had lots of imagination.


WHITFIELD: Did you like?

MANKIEWICZ: I did. Hugh Dancy there plays Adam and he a young man living alone after his father's death in Manhattan with Asperger's Syndrome. And I'm obviously not a doctor but it's in the autism spectrum. I think of it as sort of a form of high-functioning autism.


MANKIEWICZ: And Hugh Dancy very good in this role. And he's sort of -- as he's trying to sort of find his way in life on his own. He has this very believable love affair with Rose Byrne who is a terrific actress now, in FX's "Damages". I like this movie. It sort of rang true.


MANKIEWICZ: And there was really nothing sappy about it. It is a sweet, little story. And I, you know, recommended it to everybody who likes sweet, little stories.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's nice, without the sap?

MANKIEWICZ: No sap at all. I will give it a B. And I liked it when I saw it when it came out last year and I still like it. WHITFIELD: And that's big for you, B. Because I haven't seen you give anyone an A yet -- oh, except for, wait, "Avatar" you did give an A on that one.

MANKIEWICZ: You are not even paying attention. I did not give "Avatar" and A.

WHITFIELD: What? Didn't you love that one?

MANKIEWICZ: I gave "Avatar" a B.

WHITFIELD: Remember I said, creepy. And you were like creepy, no, great.

MANKIEWICZ: It was no. I gave "Port of Call", an A minus, I didn't give "Avatar" an A. Come on.

WHITFIELD: We'll go back and check the tape, then.

How about "Love Happens"?


WHITFIELD: Let's listen and watch.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Listen, I wasn't judging you or trying to trip you up. Can I say something? And this comes from a place of total humility, with the acknowledgement that my life is a day-by-day experiment in really bad decisions. But, um, you really messed up.


WHITFIELD: Oh, is that um, I like, um, I like.

MANKIEWICZ: Can't you just feel the chemistry between Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart? It's alive, Fredricka, it's alive!

WHITFIELD: It's alive.

MANKIEWICZ: No, look, any critic who did not put "Love Happens" on his or her list of the worst 10 movies in 2009, did not see "Love Happens."

WHITFIELD: Oh, gee, that's harsh.

MANKIEWICZ: This is a terrible, terrible movie with nearly -- with nearly without a single redeeming quality, other than I think Jennifer Aniston has nice hair.

WHITFIELD: She always had -- has.

MANKIEWICZ: Eric Eckhart plays -- he's a widower and become an author, motivational speaker. She's a florist who helps him find love again. I wrote down one line, from the movie that I want to read to you, because there are maybe 40 lines like this. "Funerals are important rituals, they're not only a recognition that a person has died, but that a person has lived."

WHITFIELD: Profound?

MANKIEWICZ: The movie is filled with just sort of ways -- fake dialogue to get to those sort of pithy -- while that may be true, it's not the kind of thing that people say in conversation.


MANKIEWICZ: I'm giving this an F, a flat-out F.

WHITFIELD: Oh, wow, that's frank.

MANKIEWICZ: By the way, I don't think that I gave a grade for "When In Rome". It's better than this, it was a D. But, and "Avatar" is certainly not an A. And the further I get --

WHITFIELD: OK, I will go back and look at the tape.

MANKIEWICZ: The further I get away from "Avatar" the less I like it.

WHITFIELD: Oh, really? Oh, yeah, that shocks me.


WHITFIELD: Next week we will make a little bit more time because we'll have to talk about the Oscar nominations. The reading of the list coming up on Tuesday. We don't have time to talk about your predictions, so instead next week we will reflect.

MANKIEWICZ: They'd be wrong anyway, so we'll talk about it next week.

WHITFIELD: No, you are always right. Ben Mankiewicz, thanks so much from Vegas today.

MANKIEWICZ: Thanks, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, I think we're going to be right back, right after this.


WHITFIELD: A bit of a sad farewell in the nation's capital. Tai Shan, a four-year-old panda born at the National Zoo in Washington is heading back to China.

Happy for Tai Shan, perhaps, maybe sad for the folks in Washington. His farewell celebration actually was cut short today because of this snow. But boy, doesn't he look happy? Tai Shan will become part of a breeding program to help save his species. So there are only about 1,600 pandas left in the wild, by the way. And Tai Shan's last day on public view is Wednesday coming up. He leaves for China on Thursday. Something tells me Tai Shan's going to be very happy, actually.

All right, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at CNN Center in Atlanta. Don Lemon is coming up next he will ask former Defense Secretary William Cohen whether it is time to get rid of "don't ask, don't tell".

He will look into whether or not the NFL owns a phrase that New Orleans Saints fans have been chanting for years, "Who Dat" straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.