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Growing Up Behind Bars; Crucial Evidence; Gathering Dust

Aired March 16, 2010 - 10:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN HOST: Tensions boiling over in East Jerusalem. Palestinian protesters threw rocks at police, set tires on fire. They're angry over the re-opening of a synagogue that was destroyed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinians have long awaited East Jerusalem as a capital for their state.

In Bangkok, protesters donated blood and then dumped it outside the government headquarters. The symbolism just oozes, doesn't it? Well, that was the whole idea. The protestors support the previous prime minister who was dumped in a military coup four years ago. They want new elections. The government spokesperson says this is all fine as long as there's no violence.

Detroit's public schools emergency manager Robert Bob has some bold plans for his financially troubled and scholastically under performing school district. Last night, he announced a five-year plan, with the goal of raising high school graduation rates from 58 percent to 98 percent. He also announced the closing of 45 schools based on a declining number of students and rising costs.

You've heard the talk for years, seen the bickering for months and it's all been over health care reform. Now get ready for some final, frantic days of action with the House vote drawing closer, opponents are motivated and they're mobilized this morning and they're on the doorstep of the capital demanding that lawmakers kill the measure.


DICK ARMEY, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: It's not only that you are mandated. You must buy insurance which is a big stop (ph) by the way, to the insurance companies. No wonder the insurance companies are in bed with Barack Obama. How would you like it if you were peddling a product and the federal government said everybody has to buy your product. I mean, it's - first of all -

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, let me ask you -

ARMEY: An enormous trespass against the liberty of the individual American citizen.


PHILLIPS: CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill. Brianna. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of action here today on the hill, Kyra. You know, last week we saw supporters of health care reform rallying for it. This week, today, right now we're seeing opponents of health care reform bringing their voices here to Capitol Hill. We've actually got members of Congress talking to them today, and a lot going on as well.

Democrats are trying to shore up votes. They're going to be meeting here in the next couple of hours and certainly some arm twisting is going to be going on there as Democratic leaders try to bring on board some of those reticent Democrats and they're also waiting for that all-important price tag, the score, as we call it, that comes from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that talks about how much the ultimate health care reform package would cost.

Right now, Democratic leaders admit they don't have the votes, but some optimism we heard last night after a meeting of Democrats from Congressman John Larson, the head of the Democratic caucus. Here's what he said.


REP. JOHN LARSON (D), CONNECTICUT: I think that the votes are there. And I think in times like this, everybody is concerned, you know? Consensus is about getting everyone to agree that this is the best that they can achieve at this time while individually they may not agree with everything that's in the bill.


KEILAR: And the vote expected, we've heard from Democratic leaders. They're hoping that it's going to be on Friday or Saturday, that could slip. Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. We'll follow it, Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.

And apparently we've got some live pictures of those tea party rallies that are taking place right now. We're working our sources. Brianna, there on the hill as well bringing you the various latest as we follow this story for you.

Rape test kits, they could bring closure to the victims and justice to the perps so why are thousands of them sitting on shelves untouched except by dust?

And speaking of closure and justice, we might have both in the Erin Andrews stalker case. Andrews would have liked a little more justice.


PHILLIPS: Blood pouring on to the streets of Bangkok, but no violence. How does that happen? I see this bloody protest and it reminds me of the creepy elevator scene in "The Shining." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: When streets become rivers, the floodwaters got so high in Massachusetts yesterday some motorists had to swim for it. One father's play-by-play of his daughter's submerged SUV and what she did to survive.


STEVE PANICO, FATHER OF FLOOD VICTIM: She saw water coming in. She had the power to get the window down. She had to climb out the window and grabbed her keys and a cell phone and climbed out the window and called 911 and had to swim, literally swim up the street here.


PHILLIPS: Well, many New Jerseyians can empathize. The state's largest utility is calling last week's storm the worst in history, knocking out power to more than 400,000 customers. 45,000 are still waiting for service. Two deaths are blamed on suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from generators that were used during that blackout.

Then there's this. A distracted driver not paying attention to the nature-made roadblock in Blount County, Tennessee. He's OK, but is surely wishing that he hadn't had the behind the wheel brain cramp that was caught on camera. That's a third road closure, by the way, of rock slides there in east Tennessee this winter, Rob. Not uncommon for that part of the world.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No, it's a rough road, for sure, rugged terrain on either side, but it has been a little bit more loosy goosy as far as those rocks go. And that's a tremendous video to watch him get out of there unscathe is pretty amazing.

All right. A decent amount of water, obviously across the northeast this weekend, with rainfall amounts anywhere from five to seven inches, on top of the 70-mile-an-hour winds, we had some issue. Now, those winds have moved out. The rain has moved out, but you got that left over rain plus some snow melt getting through those rivers in through Jersey and up through parts of eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the eastern parts and southeastern parts of New Hampshire where we still have rivers that are under flood warning, most of which have crested or are cresting right now but may take a day or two or three to really wind down before things start to peeter (ph) out.

Let's move the map a little bit farther towards the west, towards well, North Dakota, South Dakota, parts of Minneapolis. We're seeing counties under flood warning now and this has been the case for the past couple of days. The rivers are starting to rise here. Here is what the forecast is for the Red River at Fargo. We're at 27 feet. You notice as we go on through the next couple of days it continues to rise. The forecast is for 38 feet on Saturday night into Sunday morning. So that would be a couple of feet below the record stage, but the record was hit last year and you remember the flooding that those people had to endure then. So even getting close to record stage is going to be an issue. All right. Let's advance the map one more time and show you there is rain down across parts of Texas but that's not expected to amount to a whole lot once we get through today and temperatures will start to rise and start to getting to some drier weather.

Speaking of rising temperatures, tomorrow's forecast map is going to show that temps will be at or well above average actually across parts of the north - northern plains and northeast and that's just going to exacerbate that snow melt. So we know it was one heck of a winter here, Kyra. Now we're also dealing with the results of all that heavy snow and folks in Fargo are going to be nervous and working very hard right on through this weekend.

PHILLIPS: They know how to deal with snow, that's for sure.

MARCIANO: That's for sure.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Rob.


PHILLIPS: Rape test kits, they could bring closure to the victims and just ice to the perps. So why are thousands of them sitting on shelves untouched, except by dust.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I think the one thing they can tell them, because it was written to me - I didn't - you didn't do anything wrong.


PHILLIPS: And speaking of closure and justice, we might have both in the Erin Andrews stalker case. Andrews would have liked a little more justice.


PHILLIPS: An Ohio death row inmate is scheduled to die by lethal injection this hour. Lawrence Reynolds strangled an elderly neighbor in 1994 to get money for alcohol. Reynolds was scheduled to be executed last week, but that was postponed when he tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills.

Police and postal officials in Maryland want to know who sent five threatening letters to Baltimore's city hall and court house yesterday. One of the letters contained a white powder later determined non-hazardous, but the discovery prompted an evacuation. No one was hurt and investigators say all five letters are identical. They will try finding their author by analyzing the paper and possibly extracting DNA evidence. And how about a little more high-speed internet across the country? The FCC has unveiled a broadband plan to get faster web connections to more Americans.

The Palestinian protesters take to the streets of east Jerusalem. They're engaged about Israeli construction plans. People in Washington are pretty upset.


PHILLIPS: A Wisconsin principal gets an education on the finer points of federal law after he posted a list of students with failing grades for all to see. Dave Schoepke of Marshfield Middle School says he only wanted to motivate students to do better. I guess he forgot the federal law requiring parental permission before releasing any school records. Well, the principal meets with his superintendent later this week.

We all have those horror stories from our school days and that's what's the worst part is that ribbing that, you know, you just witnessed. We wanted to know what your stories were as a kid. What happened? What did you go through that apparently taught you a lesson or maybe just tortured you. Go to my blog, Post your thoughts and we'll share some of the best stories later in the hour.


PHILLIPS: In Bangkok, Thailand, blood is spilled but the protests is not violent. That's because the protestors had their blood drawn by nurses, collected in jugs and dumped outside government headquarters. The reason for this symbolic sacrifice - the so-called red shirt protesters are demanding new elections.

CNN's Dan Rivers is in Bangkok.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The red shirts promise to spill blood on the streets of Bangkok and they brought it in these gallon drums here, but they haven't managed to quite achieved their aim. The police have said that 100 of them can go inside to make their protests safely inside. Meanwhile, outside there is considerable chaos out here as thousands of red shirts have turned out to try and make their point.

The idea was that they'd taken blood from all of the demonstrators and they were going to spill it in the streets symbolically to increase pressure on the government to stand down. These protests have been going on since the weekend part of the effort to bring down this government. So far though they seem to have failed to do what they said they were going to do and the government is standing firm, refusing to call an election, saying to do so now would be reckless, both economically and from a security point of view.

So these protesters say they'll come back tomorrow at a different location with more blood to try again. Dan Rivers, CNN, Bangkok.


PHILLIPS: It's the worse U.S.-Israeli feud in recent memory. It's public, it's ugly and it's getting even bigger. Here's the crux of the battle. The U.S. wants Israel to nix construction plans for east Jerusalem that would integrate the predominantly Arab part of the holy city. And as you know, for centuries the Palestinians have always wanted this land as their state.

The tension only increased when Israel boldly announced this expansion and Vice President Joe Biden was there to encourage peace talks. Here's what the vice president said about that Israeli plan.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Because that decision, in my view, undermined the trust required for productive negotiations, I and at the request of President Obama condemned it immediately and unequivocally.

PHILLIPS: And then secretary of state Hillary Clinton weighed in, telling CNN that the timing of that announcement was basically a slap in the face.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The announcement of the settlements the very day that the vice president was there was insulting. I mean, it was really a very unfortunate and difficult moment for everyone. The United States, our vice president who had, you know, gone to reassert America's strong support for Israeli security.


PHILLIPS: Now U.S. special envoy to the middle east George Mitchell is delaying his trip to the region until Israel backs down.

With that diplomatic pushback going on, actual violence broke out today in east Jerusalem. CNN's Paula Hancocks is joining us live with that party of the story. Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra. Well, this is actually day five of clashes that we've seen in and around Jerusalem, but today is by far the most significant clashes that we have seen. 81 Palestinians up until this point have been injured, nine Israeli police have been injured. 42 Palestinians have been arrested and it's really dotted around different areas of the suburbs. We've been down to a refugee camp, (INAUDIBLE) refugee camp, one of the suburbs and down there we could see tens of Palestinian youth hurling stones at Israeli police, the military who respond with tear gas, with stun grenades and with rubber bullets. So these are the sort of clashes that we all see more and more of in the holy city of Jerusalem. Tensions are really quite high partly because of that announcement last week of these 1,600 new homes in east Jerusalem. This will always wind the Palestinians up as they're worried that Israel will try to push Palestinians out of east Jerusalem and also because there was a synagogue that was re-opened just 300 meters or so from the Al Aqsa mosque on Monday night. And that has caused tensions to rise and Hamas, the leader of Hamas, Kalab Michel (ph) in Damascus called for a day of rage today.

Now, we may not have seen a day of rage, but I can still hear some stun grenades in the distance. These clashes are still ongoing, they're quieting down, but they've been the most significant we've seen in some time. Kyra.

PHILLIPS: We'll continue to follow it with you. Thanks so much, Paula.

Bringing closure to victims of rape. We're talking about rape kits, some of them sitting on shelves untouched for years. Why?


PHILLIPS: ESPN reporter Erin Andrews finally getting some closure in her stalking case, but she was hoping for a little more justice. Michael Barrett, the man who secretly videotaped her through a hotel room peephole is going to prison for 30 months now. A judge sentenced him yesterday. Andrews said that that's not long enough and she called Barrett a sexual predator, a sexual deviant and violator of all women. Outside the courtroom, Andrews spoke to reporters about what she would tell other victims.


ERIN ANDREWS, ESPN REPORTER: But I think the one thing I would tell them because it was written to me is I didn't - you didn't do anything wrong, and I had to deal with a lot of people saying that I deserved this or that I played to a certain crowd to deserve this.

The 16 other women that got this didn't deserve this. The other women that he was searching on the internet didn't deserve this. So you need to know that you didn't do anything wrong. The second thing is despite questions about how do you move on with your life. You're a victim. You should be allowed to live your life. You shouldn't have to go and hide when that's what you want to do.


PHILLIPS: Besides posting videos of Andrews to the internet, prosecutors say that Barrett also posted videos of another 16 victims. They have not been identified yet and Barrett could face charges in state courts if they are named.

Well, no peephole and no hidden camera for Lavinia Masters. Try a sharp knife at her throat, a rapist in her room and his threat to kill her if she ever talked about the sexual assault that night. That was in 1985 when Lavinia was only 13. She submitted DNA evidence for a rape kit, not a pleasant experience. That kit went untested for more than 20 years, went from cold case to a frozen case and to make a long story short and it finally got tested, a man already in prison forth sex crimes was linked to Lavinia's rape and she says she can finally breathe again.

But what about the other 20,000 or so Americans still holding their breath? Look how many rape kits, crucial evidence, are still on police shelves. 10,000 in Detroit and Lavinia's hometown of Dallas, Texas, more in those cities than in the entire states of Illinois and New Mexico. 3,000 in L.A. and nearly that many in San Diego.

I think it's time to do something? Well, Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan does, she's pushing police in her state to submit rape kits to labs within 10 days. Madigan is with me now along with the woman that I told you about earlier, Lavinia Masters.

Lavinia, you know, I know it's not easy to talk about it but if you don't mind taking us back to when that rape happened and just explain to our viewers that may not understand, you know, that's difficult enough, but then having to go through that process of a rape kit is traumatizing as well, right?

LAVINIA MASTERS, ADVOCATES FOR ASSAULT VICTIMS: Yes, ma'am. It sure is. It's like being re-victimized all over again.

PHILLIPS: What do you remember about that? What - you know, that moment? I know that's never left you.

MASTERS: No, it has not. I remember the pain, the devastation, the humiliation from having to be open again to the police to subject myself to doctors probing me, asking me questions about the experience. Not having any answers for me, not having any answers for myself. It was a horrific experience for anyone, especially a child, and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

PHILLIPS: So Lavinia did you ever find out why your rape test, that rape kit went untested?

MASTERS: Well, from my understanding it went untested because there was not enough evidence, so it was what you call, suspended is the terminology that the department used after three days my case was pretty much suspended and like you said, it went frozen from cold to frozen until the police department just decided to start an initiative back in 2006 to try and bring some sort of closure to these victims.

PHILLIPS: But here's what's interesting. You were raped. The rape kit went untested, yet the man who raped you was arrested for rape, what, a week later?

MASTERS: Yes, ma'am. And that was heart wrenching once I found that out that my DNA evidence in my rape kit was not identified along with this perpetrator. But from my understanding they couldn't -- they didn't have the technology or they didn't understand how to work the DNA evidence at that time.

But I also understood that because I was a child that he was -- he re-offended. He was released and he violated another victim, and I had another limitation that I could have taken advantage of because of his incarceration, but because the case was cold and they had no -- I don't know. There's no excuse, but this is what I was told. Because the case was cold they didn't have the opportunity to try and nail this guy at that time.

PHILLIPS: And there is no excuse.

And Lisa, this is where you step in as attorney general. This must be so frustrating to hear not only about Lavenia's case, but all of the other cases that are out there and all of the rape test kits that have been sitting on these shelves because these guys are roaming the streets still.

LISA MADIGAN, ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL: They're roaming the streets and rapists -- sex offenders in general tend to be repeat offenders and as Miss Masters' case points out, this is a terrible crime that happens to thousands of children.

You know, many people think of rape as something that happens to adult women, but when we look at the Illinois sex offenders who are registered, 87 percent of them committed a crime against a child. So, what are we saying as a society to family, to children, to women who are the primary victims of sex offenders when we don't take their cases seriously, we don't test the rape kits and we don't seek justice on their behalf?

PHILLIPS: Especially when you see what happened to Lavenia, a 13-year-old child in that case basically dismissed.

So, tell me about this bill that you've crafted. Do you have faith in it? What do you think is going to happen and how will this make a difference for people like Lavenia, who shouldn't have to sit around for two decades to finally watch her rapist to be put behind bars?

MADIGAN: Absolutely. We will ensure that in the state of Illinois all rape kits get tested. So, all new rape kits, once this bill passes will be required to go to the state police, to our crime lab to be tested within ten days.

In addition, state police will ensure that all local police departments do an inventory of all of the rape kits that are sitting on their shelves and sitting in their evidence lockers. We determine how many there are and we put in place a timetable and we test those. Because we know that if we test those in the same way that it worked for Miss Masters, we will find hits on what had been cold cases, frozen cases, cases that have too long been ignored. And we will be able to put sex offenders behind bars away from people who can be harmed by them.

PHILLIPS: And Lavenia, just hearing that, does that give you any sense of peace or justice?

MASTERS: Yes. Yes. It is so -- I'm so elated to know that Attorney General Madigan is taking these extra steps to do this for victims now because to me, if I would have had that opportunity as a child -- I depended on my justice system. I depended on the government to take care of me as a child. I thought in my mind I just knew there were police detectives out searching high and low for my perpetrator, and it wasn't until I was an adult and on my own that I realized that I was pretty much still on my own with this.

So, it means a lot for the attorney general to take these precautions and these steps and ensuring our victims closure and ensuring that their crimes will be solved in a timely manner, that the government cares about them and is looking out for them, especially for our children. It means a lot.

PHILLIPS: Lavenia, you're a very strong advocate, and I really admire your strength.

MASTERS: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Lisa Madigan, it's great what you're doing and we'd like to follow your efforts. Please let us know what happens.

MADIGAN: We will.

PHILLIPS: Great. Thanks so much to both of you.

We'll be right back.



PHILLIPS: Weeks after his unexpected passing, music industry observers noted the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, could earn as much money dead as he did alive. Now, published reports say Jackson's estate has struck a deal with Sony Entertainment, a ten-record deal over seven years for $250 million. It's being called the most profitable recording contract ever and guarantees Jackson's estate $200 million. Try beating that.

Well, at least Rielle Hunter left something to the imagination. If John Edwards' mistress were cloaked in mystery before, well, let's just say the cloak's off, among other things. Where to even start? Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rielle Hunter, mistress of John Edwards and mother to his daughter, bares plenty in this photo shoot for "GQ" magazine...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That looks beautiful.

KAYE: ... and bares it all in her accompanying interview, claiming that her affair with John Edwards, who she calls Johnny, began hours after they met in 2006 -- quote -- "I had never experienced anything like what was flowing between us. It was just this, this magnetic force field. It terrified me." Hunter says she wasn't the one to hit on Edwards -- quote -- "I'm not a predator. I'm not a gold digger. I'm not the stalker." And when they first met, she says she told him -- quote -- "You're so hot."

From that first night, she said, Edwards predicted the peril Hunter could put him in -- quote -- "Falling in love with you could really (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up my plans for becoming president." Hunter says Edwards is a great father to their 2-year-old daughter, Frances Quinn, especially since he and his wife, Elizabeth, separated, but that, while she was pregnant -- quote -- "I believe, on some level, he was hoping I would get an abortion."

She says one of the toughest moments of the scandal came in this 2008 interview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A report has been published that the baby of Ms. Hunter is your baby. True?

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Not true. Not true. Published in a supermarket tabloid. But, no, that's -- that -- that is absolutely not true.


KAYE: She says Edwards was furious about this spread in "The National Enquirer" -- quote -- "Johnny was screaming at me about 'The National Enquirer' finding me and photographing me. He was very angry, and Johnny doesn't scream," and that Elizabeth Edwards' interviews to support her book in 2009 were devastating, like this appearance on Oprah.


ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS: I have seen a picture of the baby. I have no idea. It doesn't look my children, but I don't have any idea.


KAYE: Hunter claims the Edwards had a toxic relationship and that Elizabeth was abusive -- quote -- "Infidelity doesn't happen in healthy marriages, so the home was wrecked already. I was not the home-wrecker."

And here's what the "GQ" reporter told Larry King.


LISA DEPAULO, POLITICAL REPORTER, "GQ": This isn't a new, novel idea that you believe, you know, the man's version of what is terrible about his marriage that is not terrible about your wonderful romance.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KAYE: John Edwards finally admitted paternity this past January. For the future, Hunter denies rumors that she and Edwards are engaged, but this steamy photo shoot and tell-all interview have reignited a political sex scandal now going on four years.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


PHILLIPS: It's back tax money that the IRS couldn't live without. The government apparently would have come to a standstill without those four pennies. Back in 60 seconds.


PHILLIPS: Happening right now in the nation's Capitol, public and private arm twisting either for or against President Obama's signature topic, health care reform. These demonstrators are against the proposal and want their elected representatives to vote accordingly. Some political observers say the Democrats currently lack the required votes to get health care over the top.

Not guilty. That's how Didi Moore pleaded yesterday. She's charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Florida lottery winner. Police say Moore befriended Abraham Shakespeare and took millions of his winnings from him. He turned up missing. Investigators say they later found his body buried in Moore's backyard.

Texas governor Rick Perry wants unmanned predator drones to patrol the border of his state and Mexico. Perry's concerned about violence with the Mexican drug war spilling over to the U.S. Two Americans and a third person with ties to the U.S. consulate in Juarez were shot to death over the weekend.

All right. Here's a story that you're not going to believe, but I bet you may share it around the water cooler today. A Chicago cabbie is grotesquely wounded, shot in the face, neck and back. Yet he not only lived, he captured the suspected gunmen. Here are the details now from reporter Randi Bellissimo of CNN affiliate WGN.



RANDI BELLISSIMO, WGN-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That is the only reason Maria Foster can give behind her husband's strength in restraining a gunman in his cab after being shot five times in the face, neck and back. Patrick Foster wanted the police to arrive before he went for medical help.

M. FOSTER: He don't like to see people hurting other people.

BELLISSIMO: Thirty-eight-year-old Darryl Garner has been charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery after this weekend's incident in Zion. Foster had been driving a cab for only two months after being laid off from work as a trucker. His wife feared for his safety, but he wanted to provide for her and his five kids.

M. FOSTER: He's so nice. He's the best husband, the best father, the best friend.

BELLISSIMO: The staff here at Advocate Condell Medical Center is shocked he could do what he did after such serious injuries to his face.

DR. WILLIAM WATSON, ADVOCATE CONDELL MEDICAL CENTER: When you don't have a mandible, it's very hard to breathe. And so I'm impressed that he was able to maintain his airway as long as he did and do what he did with that type of injury.

BELLISSIMO: Doctors won't speculate as to the long-term prognosis but say he will hospitalized for several weeks.

WATSON: Very strong, healthy man. I think he's very lucky.

BELLISSIMO: His wife says he's blessed and harbors no ill will toward the man who hurt her husband.

M. FOSTER: I told God, "God, I forgive the guy who did this, and I forgive him. And you're the one that can judge him."


PHILLIPS: Once again, that was reporter Randi Bellissimo of our affiliate.



PHILLIPS: Talk about people in the military standing up for us. It was on this day 112 years ago in 1802 that President Thomas Jefferson authorized the establishment of the very well-known U.S. Military Academy at West Point. And since then we've seen a lot of notable graduates, you know, a few minor names like Joint Chiefs Chair Colin Powell, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and President Dwight D.Eisenhower. We lift up all our men and women in the military today.



PHILLIPS: So, what do you get for four pennies? Maybe a sip of the cheapest generic soda in the vending machine. Or you might get a visit from the IRS. Yes, the IRS. One California business owner actually claims that agents chased him down over four cents. They could have got that much from one of those courtesy penny trays at the convenience store.

Hmm. Need to know more. Here's Jackie Beckford (ph) from CNN affiliate KOVR. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JACKIE BECKFORD, KOVR-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A popular midtown spot to get a car wash, owners are now wondering if they're the ones getting hosed by the IRS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came to the car wash and handed my manager a bill. and it was from the Internal Revenue Service. They said we need you to pay up your back taxes.

BECKFORD: But when they looked at the bill --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because the amount was four cents. Four pennies.

BECKFORD (off camera): Four pennies?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four pennies. Yes, ma'am.

BECKFORD: Zev (ph) couldn't believe two agents drove to his business to hand deliver a bill for just pennies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then once I found out the actual amount, I started to actually chuckle.

BECKFORD: But Zev stopped laughing when he took a closer look. After three years of penalties and fees the four-cent back tax skyrocketed to more than $200.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just sounds like a parking ticket or something.

BECKFORD: The car wash's attorney says the IRS is confused. This letter apparently from the IRS in October says Harv's (ph) has filed all required taxes and does not have a balance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a surprise to us that they came on- site, and it was a surprise that we didn't receive correspondence related to it.

BECKFORD: Harv's says they're working with the agency to find a resolution. In the meantime, the situation won't be a total wash. In light of their recent tax visit, the car wash is planning a special promotion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you pay your taxes on time, we will charge you four cents for a car wash.



Well, the Federal Reserve is set to make a decision today that will affect you and your money. Right now, interest rates are at a record low, but will they stay there? Stephanie Elam in New York with a preview. I just can't get past the IRS chasing this guy down for 4 cents. You know, meanwhile --


PHILLIPS: Yes, Thank you. How many guys women and men are out there hosing us --

ELAM: Who never pay. Who never do anything, and you go crazy over four cents?

PHILLIPS: Lord, help us.

ELAM: And the money they spend going after him, just to point this out, is way more than the four cents which is even more ridiculous.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

ELAM: Anyway --

PHILLIPS: Shall we continue?

ELAM: Now I'll step off the soapbox.

PHILLIPS: Now that we'll get audited. '


ELAM: Right. Exactly. And go ahead and talk about the Fed because -- that's a nice segue, right? From the IRS to the Fed. The Fed's key short-term (ph) rate will -- guess what? Probably stay right where it is right now. That rate is used as a benchmark, I should say, for credit cards and auto loans, all sort of consumer loans and that's why we care about this.

But what we're looking for today is what the Fed says around this release today. Policymakers have been saying rates will stay low for an expended period. That probably means at least six months, and investors will look for any change in that outlook.

We've also been getting a lot of encouraging signs on the economy, and a rate hike is going to happen. That part we know. They're at historically low levels. It's just a matter of when this is going to happen, so investors will comb through the statement looking for the slightest change in the Fed's language. Policymakers are expected to warn us when an increase is coming. That's because they don't want it to be a surprise and freak all the markets out, freak everybody out, and then we have one of those days when we sell off majorly, Kyra. So, this is why we'll probably get inclination about what the Fed wants to do as they take a look at the release coming out today.

PHILLIPS: All right. But we do have new housing numbers, and they're not very good. So, how come we're talking about a rate hike?


ELAM: I know, but it's going to come. It is going to come at some point. That part's true.

PHILLIPS: OK. All right. I hear you.

ELAM: Any economic report that has to look at February is going to come with a huge grain of salt, and the reason why is all these reports that have been affected by the massive snowstorms across the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. Even you guys down in the South and Atlanta got slammed by them as well. So, housing starts plunged 6 percent last month, definitely affected by the snow.

Of course, there's no doubt that the housing market is still weak and that's why some analysts say we are going see a rate hike and it probably won't be until we get to the autumn part of the year. And it's a balancing act for the Fed, but we could see the tipping point soon, and that's why we keep our eyes on it.

As for Wall Street it's about a waiting game until we get to the Fed decision. In case you're keeping track, it will be at 2:15 p.m. Eastern time. Right now, the Dow doing the flat-line dancing. Up nine points, 10,651. And looking at the NASDAQ on the upside by a quarter of a percent right now. Not much going on here, and just some pennies floating around on Wall Street at this point.

PHILLIPS: Four cents.

ELAM: Four cents here and there, between friends.

PHILLIPS: And we thought a penny wasn't worth anything. That changed.

ELAM: See, bend down and pick down that penny next time you see it on the street.

PHILLIPS: Exactly. Thanks, Stephanie.

You have travel plans through New Hampshire any time soon? Forget the car. Grab the john boat. We're told about 25 state roads and more than a hundred local roads have been closed. Most of the closures in the southeastern part of the Granite State. Then a little further south, a look at Washington D.C.'s Potomac River, over its banks and bringing floodwaters to the Georgetown area. The rain has led up but a coastal flood warning for parts of the D.C. area are in effect until midnight.

In finally, in the Northeast, in Fargo, North Dakota the city's preparing for the Red River to crest its banks once again. Rob's been talking about that all morning.


PHILLIPS: We'll keep tracking it. Thanks, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOST: You bet. PHILLIPS: No actor wants to be on the D-list. Would any student want to be on the F-list for all to see? We told you how one principal basically used shame to motivate students who failed a course. Getting your two cents on that in a minute or two.


PHILLIPS: Stay with us. NEWSROOM continues with Tony Harris. Can you hear him? He's laughing right there on the side of the set -- a little louder, Tony!

TONY HARRIS: What's up, Kyra?

PHILLIPS: Thank you, thank you, pal. Perfect timing!

Looking for a job? Just let your thumbs do the talking. We'll talk to the author of the "Twitter Job Search Guide." All right, Tony.


PHILLIPS: Well, all morning long we've been talking about a Wisconsin principal who posted kids' failing grades for all to see. And it got us thinking about our own stories of school humiliation, and we asked you to share your stories with us, I was and just going through them. These are terrible.

This comes from Diana. "When I was in elementary school, we had a math teacher that put you in the stupid row if you were below average in math. He didn't actually call it that, but everyone knew what it was."

Steve said, "I attended a religious boarding school,and not only did they post our grades, if you received an F, that was cause for three swats in the rear with a rubber paddle."

And this one came from Vine. "Several students got caught in the lunchroom bending forks. As a punishment, they had to work in the lunchroom wearing the aprons and hairnets. They had to serve all of the student and later wash and clean all the dishes."

Thanks for writing in. Just log on to Share your comments with us. I appreciate it.

So, Tony, what's your humiliation story from grade school?

HARRIS: Tenth grade. Douglas Senior High School in Baltimore, Maryland. I auditioned to be the school mascot.

PHILLIPS: What was the mascot?

HARRIS: The duck.

PHILLIPS: And what happened?

HARRIS: I didn't get it. (LAUGHTER)

PHILLIPS: Why is that humiliating?

HARRIS: I was auditioning to be a duck.


Josh, it's not -- Josh, stop.

PHILLIPS: Can you quack?


PHILLIPS: You know what they say?

HARRIS: What do they say? Oh, I do, if it quacks like a -- thank you, Kyra. Have a great day.

PHILLIPS: Love you!