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American Morning

President Obama Admits Mistake on Picking Tom Daschle; Former Ad Executive Finds Fulfillment Working for Starbucks; The Obamas Take a Field Trip to a Local D.C. School; Autism: Road to Change; New Discovery on Diagnosing Brain Damage; The Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Takes Shape

Aired February 04, 2009 - 06:00   ET



JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking news. The president ordering a crackdown on executive pay today.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People will be accountable and responsible.

ROBERTS: Talking about corporate greed and curing the economy in a special Oval Office sit-down with CNN.

B. OBAMA: We've got a range of different problems and there's no silver bullet.

ROBERTS: And from big wig to barista?

MICHAEL GATES GILL, AUTHOR, "HOW STARBUCKS SAVED MY LIFE": It turned out to be a gift in disguise.

ROBERTS: The ex-ad exec who says a gig at Starbucks saved his life on this AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: And good morning. Thanks very much for being with us. It's Wednesday, it's the fourth of February. Good to have you with us this morning.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, great to be here. It's very interesting. We're going to tell more about his story, but how quickly this economy can change fortunes. As he said, he was a high- powered ad exec. Now, he's working at Starbucks.

ROBERTS: Yes, and some big problems for the president as well. Look at this, literally, every newspaper, there he is. Glum face, glum face, the headline in "The Wall Street Journal," headline in the "New York Times," another glum face in "The Daily News." And then take a look at this one, it's like he wants to be talking about the stimulus package but all anybody wants to talk about is Tom Daschle, so way thrown off message today. We'll see if he can recover.

CHETRY: Yes, that's right. Bad timing that he sat down with all the nets and CNN on the day of the announcement of one of his nominees calling it quits. So we'll get to that in a second.

We do have some breaking news, though, on the economic front. Panasonic announcing it will cut 15,000 jobs by March 2010. Half will be from the company's plants across Japan and the rest from its international workforce. The electronics giant is predicting losses over $4 billion for this fiscal year which ends at the end of March.

And the outlook for the Japanese auto industry is not much better. Mazda and Mitsubishi expect to end the year hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps could face criminal charges for his now infamous bong hit. He was allegedly snapped smoking pot during a party at the University of South Carolina. The Richland County Sheriff's office is now investigating saying it will file charges if Phelps smoked marijuana on campus. Phelps apologized for his "regrettable behavior" after a British tabloid published a photo of him using a bong to smoke pot.

And the company behind the popular Beanie Babies renaming the two dolls that sparked controversy inside the White House. Ty Inc. says their Marvelous Malia and Sweet Sasha dolls have been changed to Marvelous Mariah and Sweet Sydney dolls.

First Lady Michelle Obama said using her daughters' names was inappropriate. Mrs. Obama's press secretary responded to the change saying, "We appreciate the company's response to this matter."

ROBERTS: Breaking news now in a story that will have everyone talking today. President Obama readying for a showdown with executives of big businesses whose survival depends on taxpayer bailouts. In just a few hours, he'll unveil a plan that would limit executives' annual pay to $500,000. A nice paycheck for most of us, of course, but for big wigs used to making millions a year, it's quite a hit.

We'll get to the breaking news and the details of the plan with Suzanne Malveaux and Christine Romans in just a moment. But first, President Obama one on one with Anderson Cooper making it clear that the economy is in such rough shape that it actually keeps him up at night.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk about the economy and the stimulus. Every day you get an economic briefing along with intelligence briefing. Which to you is more sobering, the economic news you get or the national intelligence?

B. OBAMA: Well, look, the national security briefing is always sobering because my most important job is obviously keeping the American people safe, and we have to remain vigilant, the threats are still out there.

But I will tell you in terms of what is alarming right now is how fast the economy has been deteriorating. I think even two or three months ago, most economists would not have predicted us being as bad of a situation as we are in right now. And...

COOPER: It keeps a lot of Americans right now up at night? Does this keep you up at night?

B. OBAMA: It keeps me up at night and it gets me up literally, because -- because we've got a range of different problems, and there's no silver bullet. We're just going to have to work our way through the problem.

So number one, we've got to have a recovery package that puts people back to work, and ensures that states that are dealing with rising unemployment can deal with unemployment insurance, can provide health care for people who lost their jobs. So that's one set of problems.

Then you've got a banking system that has undergone close to a meltdown, and we've got to figure out how do we intelligently get credit flowing again so that small businesses and large businesses can hire people and keep their doors open and sell their products.

And you know, part of the problem, unfortunately, is that the first round of TARP, I think, drew a lot of scorn. We learned, you know, we've now learned that people are still getting huge bonuses, despite the fact that they're getting taxpayer money, which I think infuriates the public.

So we also have to set in place some rules of the road, and tomorrow I'm going to be talking about executive compensation and changes we're going to be making there. Even after we get that done, we still have to get a financial regulatory system in place that assures this crisis never happens again.


ROBERTS: President Barack Obama yesterday with our Anderson Cooper.

Let's head out to the White House now, where Suzanne Malveaux just confirmed the plan to put caps on some big executives, big paychecks.

And Suzanne, the White House sounding pretty tough about all this.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, what you're going to see is President Obama as well as the treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, taking on the fat cats, at least that is part of their message today.

Within hours here at the White House, they're going to roll out these new restrictions for CEO salaries essentially saying that these banks that have received these huge taxpayer dollars, federal funds, that's our money essentially that they're going to be held accountable for how they're actually spending this money that they'll be responsible about it. And all of this, John, is part of a strategy for President Obama essentially to show that, look, he wants the American people to be confident in his plan, in his approach, that he's not going to make the same mistakes as the Bush Administration and not tracking those dollars.

And finally, part of the sales pitch still trying to put forward that $900 billion economic stimulus package which he wants Americans to believe, taxpayers to believe that that is the right approach in fixing the economy -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House for us. Suzanne, stand by, we want to come right back to you.

Let's bring in Christine Romans now.

Now, according to the White House, it's banks that receive "exceptional assistance" that are subject to these rules. Do we know what that means?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I don't know what that means. I don't know if that means if the next kind of round or whatever TARP is going to be, if that would be a trigger of sort. It's something beyond that, like AIG and Citigroup.

ROBERTS: A dollar figure?

ROMANS: Or Bank of America. You know, we just don't know what that means yet, but we're going to find out more about it at 11:00. But what this means bottom line is that the United States government is taking a hand in setting the pay in private industry. They don't want to nationalize the banks, but they don't want to just give the banks all this money and let them spend it on executive compensation if that's the way it goes.

So a $500,000 cap on the salary of the top person at any bank or presumably auto company or any other kind of company that's going to have to take money from the government and then restricted stock, they can get restricted stock but they can't -- they can't cash it in until the government is paid back first, until shareholders are paid back first for any of the loans.

So the idea here -- I mean, this is remarkable, everybody. We have the United States government setting pay in private industry. This is what's happened, and Kiran made a really good point.


CHETRY: It's not private industry anymore. If you take money from the government, you're no longer private.

ROMANS: If you take these huge loans -- if you take these huge loans, you know, you are -- basically the United States government is the big shareholder.

Now, a side note here, Wells Fargo actually made its first interest payment this week, $300 million taxpayers were paid back in interest from a big investment that the United States government made into Wells Fargo. So this thing is, you know, we are investors and so it looks like, you know, at least some of that money is starting to come back to the tune of interest, but you know, this is remarkable stuff here.

ROBERTS: Small, small way...

ROMANS: It makes us chill. People on Wall Street they can't believe it.


ROMANS: A lot of things have changed.

ROBERTS: And bound to change more.

Christine, thanks.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

ROBERTS: President Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will make the announcement on executive compensation 11:00 Eastern this morning. You can watch it live on CNN and

CHETRY: Also this morning, President Obama's interview with Anderson Cooper getting some attention for a very candid line. The president admitting that he made a mistake saying, "I screwed up." He was talking about picking Tom Daschle as his secretary for Health and Human Services.

Daschle withdrew his nomination Tuesday amid the growing controversy over his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes for the use of a car and driver back in 2005 to 2007, among other things. But the president still putting some of the blame sit on his own shoulders.


COOPER: You've let one of the most important domestic issues, which is healthcare, get caught up in what looks to many Americans like politics as usual.

B. OBAMA: Well, I think what happened was that Tom made an assessment that, having made a mistake on his taxes, that he took responsibility for, and indicated was a mistake, made the assessment that he was going to be too much of a distraction in trying to lead what is going to be a very heavy lift, trying to deliver health care, and...

COOPER: Do you feel you messed up in letting it get this far?

B. OBAMA: Yes, I think I made a mistake and I told Tom that. I take responsibility for the appointees.

COOPER: What is your mistake, letting it get this far, you should have pulled it earlier? B. OBAMA: Well, I think my mistake is not in selecting Tom originally because I think nobody was better equipped to deal both with the substance and policy of healthcare. He understands it as well as anybody but also the politics, which is going to be required to actually get it done.

But I think that, look, ultimately, I campaigned on changing Washington, and bottom-up politics, and I don't want to send a message to the American people that there are two sets of standards, one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks who are working every day and paying their taxes.

COOPER: Do you feel you've lost some of that moral high ground which you set for yourself on day one with the other people (ph)?

B. OBAMA: You know, I think this was a mistake. I think I screwed up and, you know, I take responsibility for it, and we're going to make sure we fix it so it doesn't happen again.


CHETRY: We go out to Suzanne Malveaux right now live at the White House.

And Suzanne, you know, we were remarking that this is probably not why Barack Obama, the president, wanted to go out there and talk, and he really wanted to talk more about the stimulus plan, ended up getting tangled up, talking about Tom Daschle. But really this is the third nominee to have some trouble or to bow out over something, two of them over tax issues.

So as we take a look at this vetting process that was supposed to really be above and beyond any other prior administration, what's going on?

MALVEAUX: You know, Kiran, obviously, there is a failure in the vetting process that it has not worked at least to the liking of a lot of folks, but I think the question here is was it naivety or hypocrisy that the president set the bar so high that he had to break his own rules in order to fill his cabinet.

And the president making it clear that in some ways, you know, he made a mistake. He says that he screwed up, that there were these exceptions, that these things that evolved that really were unexcusable and that's what he talked about. It was really extraordinary when you heard the president admit to these mistakes. It's something that was a dramatic departure than what we saw from the previous president.

President Obama, however, did defend himself when those exceptions for a few lobbyists that are in his administration saying there are hundreds and hundreds of positions that have been filled. We still have this high ethical standard here, but there are going to be a couple of people, a few people in his administration that they will still make exceptions for if they fit that particular job but overall, a very contrite president -- Kiran. CHETRY: And did he talk at all about Treasury Secretary Geithner as well? Because he -- I mean, he did get confirmed and he made it through the process but he also had tax troubles, though. President Obama saying I don't want to give the impression that there's two sets of standards in America.

MALVEAUX: And it's interesting because he criticized the process. They've been talking about this process and obviously Geithner got through the process, so he's criticizing the very process that has actually allowed the treasury secretary to move into his position.

I think they're taking a second look at this and saying hey, you know, we're going to be held responsible, accountable for what has happened here. This has been a very messy situation. It certainly is not what they were hoping for, but the president admitting that at least two weeks, they were on message. This time around not so much but they're certainly hoping to move forward -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Suzanne Malveaux for us. You're going to be breaking some more news this morning regarding the executive compensations. We'll check back in with you on that, thank you.


CHETRY: And also, it's not just the politicians that are talking about the tax problems facing Tom Daschle and other cabinet appointees. Our iReporters are also sounding off. We were flooded with submissions into the night.

Here's what some people are saying.


JIMMY DEOL, TORONTO: This is unbelievable, (INAUDIBLE). And there was Geithner, and then the chief performance officer and now Tom Daschle. Something you know -- this is about 25 percent of Obama's cabinet. Tom Daschle's loss is really not just a loss for the Obama administration, this is a loss for a lot of Americans. And the reason I say that is because most agree that he was the right guy for the job.

DAVID WHITE, WASHINGTON: It's difficult to fathom how you could possibly expect to get a free pass on failing to acknowledge these tax errors when you sat on the committee that wrote the tax laws. And you waited until a week before you were to be taken through the confirmation hearings to decide, well, you know what? Maybe I'm under too much scrutiny right now.


CHETRY: And, you know, a lot of smart commentary from the American people. We want to hear more from you. Send us your pictures, your video or your commentary. Head to our show page, and click on "iReport."

A lot more going on today. We'll bring it to you when we come right back.

It's 13 minutes after the hour.

ROBERTS: From executive bucks to Starbucks.


GILL And just sweeping up like this piece of paper or getting this thing here, there's an enjoyment.

ROBERTS (voice-over): Trading long hours and stress for peace of mind.

GILL: I can walk out and I have a little bit of dollars, and I'm not thinking about internal corporate politics.

ROBERTS: Our riches to rags story like no other ahead on the Most News in the Morning.




B. OBAMA: The only measure of my success as president, when people look back five years from now or nine years from now is going to be, did I get this economy fixed? I have no interest in promoting a package that doesn't work, because I'm not going to be judged on whether or not I got a pet project here or there. I'm going to be judged on can we pull ourselves out of recession.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. And here's what you might call a real rags to riches story in reverse.

As President Obama tries desperately to kick-start the economy, it continues to bleed jobs. And for many people who suddenly find themselves unemployed, some drastic action is required to keep food on the table and a roof over their head.

Our Lola Ogunnaike found a former advertising executive who's now pulling coffee and sweeping floors at Starbucks, and he says his fall from grace has been a blessing in disguise.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's always cheerful. He's always funny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can make a latte.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is quite a character, yes.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: How did you end up as a barista at Starbucks? GILL: Well, first of all, I was fired.

OGUNNAIKE: You were designing commercials. You were creating massive ad campaign campaigns for huge companies.

GILL: Right. Yes.

OGUNNAIKE: And now you're sweeping floors and changing milk.

GILL: The biggest surprises in just sweeping up like this piece of paper or getting this thing here, that there's an enjoyment.

My life is my own. I mean, I'd say I open at 5:00 a.m. but by noon or 1:00 I can walk out and I have all those hours. And I'm not thinking about internal corporate politics. My job is to keep them fresh and make sure that the whole condiment bar itself is clean.


GILL: For example...

OGUNNAIKE: So there's milk here.

GILL: Yes.

OGUNNAIKE: So you look at this condiment bar and you're like I've got to clean this up.

GILL: That's right. Stirring sticks here, people love these.

By the way, I'm still struggling with making the ideal drink, but I'm a good cleaner. I can clean, though. You know, I can sweep. I can clean the toilet. I really make it sparkle like a Ferrari.

You get a mug award and what it is is the person with you, the shift manager or one of your other partners, can say boy, Mike, you did a great job taking out the garbage or Mike, you really did a good job connecting with a guest today. All these awards are almost constant stream of encouragement for positive, whatever you're doing that day. It makes you feel good.

OGUNNAIKE: If someone called you today and said, "We want you to be the CEO of this advertising agency, we're going to pay you $500,000 a year."

GILL: Yes.

OGUNNAIKE: And you're making $10 at Starbucks...

GILL: Yes.

OGUNNAIKE: ... you mean to tell me that you would stay at Starbucks making $10 an hour?

GILL: Yes, because I know the price. The price is, you have to give up your life, 12-hour days, 20-hour days. The little detail is you never stop thinking about that job.

OGUNNAIKE: You heard that Starbucks is actually closing some stores and laying off people. What if it happens to you again?

GILL: Well if it happened to me again I'd be much more relaxed because it turned out to be a gift in disguise last time. And I realized that whatever happens externally, because you can't control whether you're going to be fired or whether stocks go up or down, what you can control is your internal happiness.


OGUNNAIKE: You know, I went in there thinking I would feel sorry for this man. He used to wear $3,000 suits, had the corner office, everything, and now he's wearing khakis and cleaning toilets at Starbucks. But you know what? I left that interview envious, John.

Tom Hanks is going to make a movie of this man's life, Gus Van Sant is going to direct the film. He told his story. He wrote it. It was a "New York Times" best seller. So he really is a comeback kid and it proves that life isn't necessarily over.

ROBERTS: There's something about the allure of simplicity, isn't there? You know, speaking of another Tom Hanks movie, I've always thought if I lost this job I'd love to be on a riding lawn mower cutting baseball diamonds.

OGUNNAIKE: Tom Hanks has got his finger on the pulse, right?

ROBERTS: He does. Lola, thanks so much.

OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.


CHETRY: Well, it's a moment they'll remember for the rest of their lives. President Obama and the First Lady pop in on a group of second graders, even take some questions from the kids including who the president's favorite superhero is.

Also, a blast of snow from parts of North Carolina, winter storm warnings in effect. How is it going to be affecting travel across the region? We're going to check in with our Rob Marciano.

It's 20 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.


ROBERTS: A field trip for President Obama and the First Lady. The first couple surprised a group of lucky second graders at a local Washington public school yesterday. The president joked that they were just tired of being in the White House and wanted to get out for a little awhile, and even took some questions from the kids.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you start off being the president?

B. OBAMA: I didn't start off being the president.


B. OBAMA: How did I start off?


B. OBAMA: Yes.

You know, I -- first, you know, I really always thought that it would be neat to be able to help people who were, maybe they're poor or they don't have good schools or they don't have good housing. So I worked in neighborhoods to try to make life better for people. And then, eventually, I decided after I got my law degree, I became a lawyer and I decided that maybe I would run for office.

So first I ran locally in Illinois, where we're from in Chicago, and then eventually I ran for the United States Senate, so I was working on Capitol Hill, and then finally, I decided I would run for president.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: But the first thing he did was work hard in school and he listened to his parents and his teachers.

B. OBAMA: Yes.

M. OBAMA: Most of the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a favorite super hero?

B. OBAMA: I do. Spider-Man and Batman were my two favorite superheroes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it like living in the White House?

M. OBAMA: You know, it's a nice house. There's a bowling alley and a movie theater, and there's a floor shop and a place where they make candy and chocolates.


M. OBAMA: But it is one of the most important houses in the country, so we feel like we have a real big responsibility.

B. OBAMA: Not to break anything.

M. OBAMA: Not to break anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: The president also told the children that he didn't always want to be president. He said when he was a kid their age he wanted to be an architect.

Now, of course, he is an architect of sorts. He is an architect of public policy.

CHETRY: That's right. It's so funny the kids were the most excited about the bowling alley, which I think they're getting rid of, aren't they? Maybe or maybe not?

ROBERTS: I don't know if they'll be able to. I don't know that the ceiling is high enough for a basketball court. I could be wrong, but I think it might be a little short.

CHETRY: For now it stays.

ROBERTS: For now.

CHETRY: They're excited about the candy.

ROBERTS: Of course, you know, you're at the White House, you are the president, you can always just excavate a little further.

CHETRY: I guess so. Well, it was very cute because of the kids.

With different drafts and billions of taxpayer dollars, it's really hard to follow the stimulus bill. We're separating fact from fiction. Now, we're crunching the numbers for you just ahead.

It's 27 and a half minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: We're just crossing the half hour now, and back to our breaking news this morning.

President Obama wants a salary cap for executives at all financial institutions getting significant federal bailout money. His plan would limit executive pay to $500,000. If the company wants to pay its executives more, it would have to be with stock that would not vest until the company pays the government back its money. The White House will make a formal announcement on executive compensation at 11:00 Eastern this morning.

We're also showing you President Obama's one-on-one interview with our Anderson Cooper this morning. You're going to see it throughout the day as well. Right now, the president's choice of words when talking about terrorism.


COOPER: I've noticed you don't use the term "war on terror." I think I read an article that you've only used it once since inauguration. Is that conscious? Is there something about that term you find objectionable or not useful? B. OBAMA: Well, you know, I think it is very important for us to recognize that we have a battle or a war against some terrorist organizations. But that those organizations aren't representative of a broader Arab community, Muslim community.

I think we have to -- you know, words matter in this situation because one of the ways we're going to win this struggle is through the battle of hearts and minds.

COOPER: So that's not a term you're going to be using much in the future?

B. OBAMA: You know, what I want to do is make sure that I'm constantly talking about al Qaeda and other affiliated organizations because we, I believe, can win over moderate Muslims to recognize that that kind of destruction and nihilism ultimately leads to a dead end, and that we should be working together to make sure that everybody has got a better life.


ROBERTS: More of Anderson Cooper's interview with the President later on in this hour. We'll find out when the first dog will move into the White House, and if the president still lights up from time to time. Wait until you hear that part.

CHETRY: Also as the economic stimulus keeps taking shape on Capitol Hill, there are different drafts of hundreds of billions of dollars on the line and plenty of claims out there and numbers to follow. So to help us separate fact from friction the founder of, Bill Adair, joins us this morning.

Great to have you with us again this week.


CHETRY: Let's start with what Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on CBS' "Face the Nation," Sunday. He put the stimulus in perspective with this claim, take a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: If you started the day Jesus Christ was born, and spent $1 million every day since then, you still wouldn't spend $1 trillion.


CHETRY: All right, so he's making the claim that a $1 million a day since the birth of Jesus it sounds really almost impossible, is it true?

ADAIR: It is. We gave this one a true on our truth-o-meter, and we did the math. If you go back and you look at when the scholars say Christ was probably born, which was probably actually about 4 B.C., indeed if you spend $1 million a day it comes out to about $734 billion, which I think to get to McConnell's point is less than even the House version, which passed at about $819 billion so a true for McConnell.

CHETRY: Wow. All right. That's a lot of money. Let's put it that way. Endless claims about what exactly is in this massive bill. Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyle told Fox News on Sunday that "The Senate version of the economic stimulus package includes millions of dollars to World War II Filipino veterans in the Philippines."

One of the things that critics claim may be admiral but isn't a job creator, is that statement accurate?

ADAIR: Well, we gave this one a half true on our truth-o-meter. It's a little complicated. Yes, there is a provision in the bill that would authorize about $198 million for Filipino veterans who served in World War II, and who, for years, have sought this money, and there's been support for it.

The money was actually appropriated last year, but has not been authorized. So what senator in a way of Hawaii has done is put the authorization in the stimulus bill, that's become controversial. So it's an authorization, it's not actually money, so we gave it a half truth.

CHETRY: OK. So that's another way to get around those earmarks, it also seems. But that's for another day.

Well, Politifact has also been running what it calls the Obameter. You're tracking President Obama's campaign promises, which you said he made about 500 of them. And campaign promise 234 is to allow five days of public comment before signing a bill. What does the Obameter saying about that?

ADAIR: This one earned our first promise broken for President Obama. This was a -- this was a case where last week, I'm sure many of the viewers remember the first big bill he signed was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allowed people who had been victims of discrimination to sue for money they felt they were entitled to. But Obama didn't give the five-day comment period that he had said he would give. It'd been called sunlight before signing. He was going to post the bills on the White House Web site and did not do so in this case. So this one gets his first promise broken on our Obameter.

CHETRY: All right. Well, you guys were keeping track of everybody -- the president, as well as all the lawmakers out there and some of the things that they're saying every day on the air waves. So, Bill Adair, founder of, great to have you with us as always. Thanks.

It's 35 minutes after the hour.



ROBERTS (voice-over): "Autism 911," inside the intervention. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think she's proud of herself that she's learned how to obey these rules?

RICK SCHROEDER, THERAPIST, AUTISM PARTNERSHIP: I think she really love the system.

ROBERTS: Behavior modification taught and tested.

SCHROEDER: Once the obsession starts, it's tough as nails to stop.

ROBERTS: Navigating the bumps on the road to change, ahead on the Most News in the Morning.



ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

In our exclusive series "Autism 911," our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is profiling the Bilson Family whose 13- year-old daughter, Marissa, has autism. This morning we're going to see if the family's efforts to get their daughter help worked. Elizabeth is here now that story.


COHEN (voice-over): At the beginning of the week, Marissa Bilson, a 13-year-old girl who has autism couldn't stop having fits when she didn't get her way, and her parents felt pretty powerless to stop her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do I go sit down here?


COHEN: There are many approaches to helping children with autism. Therapist Rick Schroeder uses a behavior modification technique. He spent the week helping Marissa change to make her life and her family's life better.

SCHROEDER: Are you happy? Good.

COHEN: There have been successes.

(on camera): Do you think she's proud of herself that she's learned how to obey these rules?

SCHROEDER: I think she really loves the system. It seems like it's comforting to her.

COHEN (voice-over): But some behavior can't be changed. Every night, Marissa has a ritual, she drags her toys outside and doesn't want to come back in.

MARISSA: I don't want!

COHEN: Schroeder says there's no way to change this, because it's more than behavior, it's become an obsession.

SCHROEDER: Once the obsession starts, it's tough as nails to stop, because she's got -- that's what defines an obsession, right? It has to get done.

COHEN: So then just get rid of the toys?


COHEN (voice-over): With the toys gone, there's another problem for the Bilsons to solve, an even bigger one. Taking Marissa out of the house is still a nightmare. Here's the fit she had when her favorite candy wasn't at the store.

SCHROEDER: You can have purple skittles...


COHEN: That was day four of the intervention. On the fifth and final day, they try again.

SCHROEDER: Remember the rules, no touching.

MARISSA: No screaming.

SCHROEDER: No screaming.

MARISSA: No stealing.

SCHROEDER: No stealing. OK, no ice cream either, OK?

COHEN: This time, Marissa manages to follow the rules.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great job, Marissa.

COHEN: They leave the store triumphant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am very happy. Yes.

COHEN (on camera): You think they'll do OK?

SCHROEDER: I think they'll do OK.

COHEN: You think they've learned something?

SCHROEDER: Absolutely.

COHEN (voice-over): But will it last? Marissa will never be like most other girls. All her family can do is hope to make the best life possible for her and for them.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COHEN: The story you just saw was taped back in November. We got back in touch with the Bilson Family this week, and they said things are going much better. Not perfect, but significantly better is how they put it.

Now to read more about the Bilson Family and what they've been through with their daughter, Marissa, you can go to You can see all three parts of our story right there at "Autism 911."


ROBERTS: Elizabeth, you can imagine what a relief it is for that family. And my goodness, what an incredible series. Congratulations. Amazing stuff.

COHEN: Thank you. Thanks.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks, Elizabeth -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, he won the White House, but can he kick the habit? Anderson Cooper's one-on-one interview with the president. He asked him a lot of different things, the big questions, but also some other ones you've been wanting to know. Did the president finally quit smoking? When is the dog coming to the White House, and what is one of the coolest perks of being president? We'll find out the answers.

Forty-two minutes after the hour.



B. OBAMA: I think there are mechanisms in place to make sure that institutions that are taking taxpayer money are not using that money for excessive executive compensation. And I think that, when you see the announcement that we make, people will say this is a reasonable approach.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Time to fast forward now to the stories you'll be seeing later today on CNN.

You just heard President Obama there talking about his plan to cap executive compensation for companies who accept massive amounts of bailout dollars from our taxes. He'll unveil it at 11:00 Eastern this morning. His plan would limit yearly pay to $500,000 for executives whose companies take future bailouts. Live coverage of that announcement on CNN and

Also this afternoon, Michelle Obama takes her Listening Tour to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The First Lady will visit with HUD staffers, speak to them briefly. Mrs. Obama is visiting all government agencies.

Also a double dose of winter in North Carolina. As much as six inches of snow expected in the mountain there. A second storm is expected to dump more than a foot of snow near the Tennessee border.

Very cold all across the south, John.

ROBERTS: Yes. There's lots of snow and we had a whole day of it here yesterday, though not much stuck on the ground in New York City.

A team of doctors discovering the trick to diagnosing brain damage maybe in our eyes. They have developed a special device called an eye tracker which could be the quick diagnosis for soldiers injured on the battlefield.

Our Deborah Feyerick has today's look at the "Edge of Discovery."


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This device tracks eye movements. In a matter of seconds it can detect brain damage caused by anything from traffic accidents and sports injuries to bomb blasts.

The eye tracker didn't exist when Sergeant Major Mike Welsh was injured in a car bomb explosion in Afghanistan.

SGT. MAJOR MIKE WELSH, BRAIN INJURY VICTIM: They removed fragments out of my temple.

FEYERICK: Two years after the blast, Welsh still has trouble balancing his checkbook and has constant headaches.

WELSH: You could say that having a traumatic brain injury is almost like sometimes you're dead and you don't remember that you're dead.

FEYERICK: It took a month just to diagnose his brain damage, and Welsh says he's fortunate.

WELSH: There's guys that have gone a year or two without even being treated, because it wasn't diagnosed immediately.

FEYERICK: The eye tracker is being developed by a team of researchers led by Dr. Jamshid Ghajar. Every thousandth of a second, a camera snaps a high-resolution image of the eye and special software looks for subtle eye jitters, a sign there's damage to the area of the brain that lets us focus and pay attention.

DR. JAMSHID GHAJAR, NEUROSURGEON, WEILL CORNELL: That jitter is responsible for a lot of attention problems and memory problems. And this eye tracker picks that up very quickly.

FEYERICK: So treatment can start right away. Welsh looks forward to the day the device will be portable enough to take to the front lines.

WELSH: The sooner that can be done, the sooner they can enter treatment.

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN.


CHETRY: The president's media blitz.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants to make sure that he has hit the entire universe of potential listeners and viewers.

CHETRY (voice-over): But how much access is excess?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a danger for presidents speaking too much and too off-the-cuff.

CHETRY: Will overexposure undercut the president's message? You're watching the Most News in the Morning.




CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": They're worried about the ratings, so the producers of this year's Academy Awards are making several changes to the show to try and increase the show's low ratings. Yes. For instance, this year's broadcast will be called "American Idol Presents the Oscars, hosted by Barack Obama."


CHETRY: They should add Superbowl in there. They got the most viewership of any television program ever for this latest Superbowl.

President Obama may be a ratings grabber for the broadcast and cable networks. Mr. Obama conducting a series of one-on-one interviews. Tuesday, he's sat down with CNN's Anderson Cooper covering not only policy issues but also some personal ones as well. Check it out.


COOPER: Final questions, just a quick lightning round, just a couple of fun questions. What's the latest on the dog search?

B. OBAMA: We're going to get it in the spring. I think the theory was that the girls might be less inclined to do the walking when it was cold outside.

COOPER: Portuguese Water Dog?

B. OBAMA: You know, we're still experimenting.

COOPER: Coolest thing about your new car? B. OBAMA: You know, I thought it was the phones until I realized that I didn't know which button to press. That was a little embarrassing.

COOPER: Have you had a cigarette since you've been to the White House?

B. OBAMA: No, I haven't had one on these grounds and, you know, I -- sometimes it's hard, but, you know, I'm sticking to it.

COOPER: You said on these grounds. I'll let you pass on that.

Final question. You read a lot about Abraham Lincoln. What is the greatest thing that you've learned from your studies of Lincoln that you bring in to the office right now?

B. OBAMA: You know, when I think about Abraham Lincoln, what I'm struck by is the fact that he constantly learned on the job. He got better. You know, he wasn't defensive. He wasn't arrogant about his tasks. He was very systematic in saying, I'm going to master the job and I understand it's going to take some time.

But in his case, obviously, the Civil War was the central issue and he spent a lot of time learning about military matters even though that wasn't his area of experience.

Right now, I'm learning an awful lot about the economy. I'm not a trained economist, but I'm spending a lot of time thinking about that, so that I can make the very best decisions possible for the American people.


ROBERTS: Not on these grounds, huh.

CHETRY: You're right.

ROBERTS: So where? The car?

CHETRY: Maybe that was the best thing about the car.

ROBERTS: He's got a smoke filter.

CHETRY: Exactly.

Fifty-two minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS (voice-over): The buck stops here.

B. OBAMA: I think this was a mistake. I think I screwed up.

ROBERTS: President Obama blames himself for a distraction that could put healthcare reform on hold in a special Oval Office sit-down with CNN. Plus, opening the books on the bailout.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) the people really hate you.

ROBERTS: After another bank cancels a Vegas bash, Washington says the party's over.

You're watching the "MostNews in the Morning.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. We have more breaking news, and that means more bad financial numbers.

Time Warner, which is the parent company of CNN, posting huge quarterly losses. Our Christine Romans is here with the numbers.

It's been a bad year in general for media companies but Time Warner one of the largest.

ROMANS: And Time Warner is one of the world's largest media companies. It's got a lot. It's got cable. It's got publishing. It's got HBO. It's the parent of CNN, parent of this network. It's a very big far-flung media empire. It has forecast a flat profit for 2009.

And Jeff Bewkes, who runs that company, says -- noted a challenging economic environment, but said that they are going to be taking any kind of steps that they can to try to grapple with the sort of the worsening effect of the recession there.

The fourth quarter losses for the company -- $16 billion. That's because of a big write-down, some big losses that they had, a write- down relationship to its cable business. And Jeff Bewkes says that the separation of the cable business is on track but wouldn't say when that's going to happen.

Anyway, this is the big media company that is, of course, the parent of CNN, Warner Brothers, movie studios, publishing, AOL, lots of different things. We've been zeroing in trying to find out what it tells us about ad revenues and what it tells us about kind of the environment for 2009. And the company, Time Warner, forecasting a flat profit for 2009, and then, of course, a loss in the fourth quarter of $16 billion for the whole year of 2008, a loss of $13 billion, in part because of these big write-downs.

CHETRY: All right. We're going to have to leave it there.


CHETRY: We'll get more on this and put it in perspective a little bit later in the show. Christine, thank you.

ROBERTS: President Obama has offered a clean break from many Bush policies, but some faith-based programs are staying with a few tweaks to them. And the man leading the charge is Joshua DuBois. He's a 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor and political strategist who dropped out of law school to work for Mr. Obama.

CNN contributor David Brody is in our Washington bureau this morning with more on this.

Not a familiar face to a lot of people. What do you know about him, David?

DAVID BRODY, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CBN: Well, he's a guy that builds relationships and he's a smart guy to boot. I mean, he's really got the best of both worlds. You know, this is a guy, John, who has gotten down in the weeds and you even see him there on some of that video you're showing.

Now, he's a guy that's gone into homes across this country, back to Iowa and others, these faith forums that we've heard so much about. He's the guy that's been leading it, spearheading it and really trying to explain Barack Obama's position on how his state and his public policy gel together.

ROBERTS: David, he has managed to help secure votes from the religious right. How did he bridge that gap?

BRODY: Yes. He's actually done a pretty remarkable job at doing that. He's reached out to people like Joel Hunter. He's a conservative pastor down in Orlando, Florida, who actually gave the benediction at the Democratic National Convention back in August. And so, he's done that. He's reached out to Richard Land with the Southern Baptist Convention.

I mean, this is a guy, John, who had pretty conservative parents who were listening to James Dobson radio broadcast growing up. So, Joshua understands the conservative evangelical movement pretty well and knows that there needs to be a fine line about how he talks about, how they talk about faith and at the same time, have respect for the other side.

ROBERTS: They've slightly tweaked the name of the Office of Faith-based Initiatives as it was in the Bush administration. It's now the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. How differently will this be run in the Obama Administration than it was in the Bush Administration, do you think?

BRODY: It will be -- yes, John, it will be a little different, and the key word is partnership. I mean, I think what you're going to see, and I think we're going to see it pretty soon, is this idea that faith groups will not only have a seat at the table, but they'll have a seat at the table when it comes to really helping with input on public policy.

This is what we've seen so far in the transition process, where faith groups from all across the ideological spectrum, once again, kudos to Joshua DuBois on that, to really be able to sit down these faith groups and bring in the domestic policy advisers from the White House and really get them talking about how to improve healthcare, poverty, some other issues around the country. ROBERTS: And of course, one of the big outstanding questions is whether or not they will continue to allow groups that receive federal funds to hire only people from their own faith. So, we'll see which way that goes.

David Brody, good to see you this morning. Thanks for coming in.

BRODY: Thanks, John.

CHETRY: And we're coming up on the top of the hour now.