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Treasury Department Power Grab; AIG Bosses Return Bonus Cash; David Letterman Marries; Ladies First on Pink Slips?; Gibbs on Treasury Secretary Criticism
Aired March 24, 2009 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And crossing the top of the hour now, here are the top stories on our morning agenda. The important issues that we will be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.
Asian financial markets following Wall Street's rally with a strong showing of their own. Both Japan's Nikkei Index and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gaining more than three percent overnight. European stocks are mixed.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says the country's financial system needs a major overhaul. When he appears before the House Financial Services Committee this morning, Geithner will push for more regulatory power to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis. Geithner is expected to get a grilling from lawmakers today. Republican critics point to his failure to stop the AIG bonuses and the massive bailout as reasons why Geithner should resign. Here's what Florida Congressman Connie Mack told our Larry King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Congressman Mack, why do you so strongly want him out?
REP. CONNIE MACK (R), FLORIDA: Well, you know, Larry, if you look back, whether it's the questions about his taxes, his questions about him being one of the chief architects of the bailout bill and now wants more, and then what we've seen last week with AIG, he doesn't instill any confidence, in my opinion, with the American people and it's time for him to go. It's time to bring someone in that can create the confidence that we need in our markets, and has the skill set to get the job done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: This morning, the president is standing behind the Treasury secretary. Here's what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told Kiran earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: What is the president's view right now on Timothy Geithner?
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, the president has great confidence in Secretary Geithner. And I think we feel good about the way the plan was rolled out yesterday and the reaction that we've seen. I think what Secretary Geithner has had to do in nine weeks in dealing with financial recovery, a home foreclosure crisis, financial stability, re-regulation of the economy, AIG, all of these things -- he's had to deal with more in nine weeks than most people probably deal with in nine months or nine years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: As we said, the Treasury secretary is going to be back on Capitol Hill this morning, and CNN has learned that he is asking for more power over financial businesses which are currently subject to little or no regulation.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux broke some of the details overnight and joins us now live from the White House.
So what's he going to ask Congress for today, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, really the idea is that the government would have a lot more oversight in the financial industry. Really some of those institutions that escape those big regulatory measures. And senior aides are telling us this morning that what Secretary Geithner is actually going to go before lawmakers, he is going to say that "All institutions and markets that could pose systemic risk will be subject to strong oversight, including appropriate constraints on risk-taking."
Now, specifically what are they talking about here? Well, those three big things that the government could step in on. One of them is to sell or transfer company assets, very important aspect of this. The other thing that we've all been talking about over the last couple of weeks in light of AIG is renegotiating or dissolving executive compensation, and finally taking a look at these financial institutions and seeing whether or not there is any risky portfolios or trading that is going on that the government could step in and actually change the outcome.
All of this, John, unprecedented, but Tim Geithner will go before lawmakers and say this is necessary to make sure that this kind of abuse doesn't happen again -- John.
ROBERTS: We'll be watching that with great interest this morning. Suzanne, thanks so much for that.
CHETRY: And also the legislation granting the Treasury Department more power. It has to be approved by Congress. And earlier, when I spoke with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, we talked about exactly what this proposed authority might look like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Give us an example of how your administration would use them.
GIBBS: Well, what this is is that the authority for the Treasury Secretary to basically unwind something like AIG that you've heard people say provides -- is too big to fail and would create a systemic risk to our financial industry if it, indeed, did fail.
If you're a business, you have bankruptcy. If you're a bank and you fail, the FDIC can come in and lock the doors and change what it needs to, but an insurance company, such as AIG, which is so big, we need resolution authority to go in and be able to change contracts, be able to rework the business model, unwind what doesn't work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: We're also going to learn a little bit more about the plan when Secretary Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before lawmakers at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time today.
And we're also following another developing stories. Some of those huge AIG bonuses that sparked all the outrage last week are being returned this morning. Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business" with the details.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And you remember that Ed Liddy, the new CEO of AIG, said in front of Congress, he said, "I would like to ask these people, the top earners who got these huge bonuses from the financial products division, I'd like them to give the money back." And now we have learned, thanks to Andrew Cuomo, the New York attorney general, that 15 of the top 20 earners have decided to return the bonus cash. It totals $50 million. A $50 million giveback.
And the attorney general of New York saying it's not clear that the other five have said they're not going to do it. They just haven't come forward yet and said that they will. I'm sure they are talking to their tax attorneys and the like to figure out what the implications are of turning that money back and how exactly to do it.
Of the top ten highest earners, we know that nine have returned those bonuses. It was almost a public shaming, you can recall. There was a lot of talk about finding out who these people are. Some of the tabloids actually publicizing their names. This is what Andrew Cuomo said about, you know, what he thinks about giving that money back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would like to say that the individuals who have given the money back, you have done the, quote, unquote, "right thing." You've done what this country now needs and demands. We're living in a new era of corporate and individual responsibility. And I believe the employees have set an example for the rest of the company.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: And a spokesman for AIG said the company is gratified that a vast majority of their top earners in that division have decided to forsake their retention bonuses.
So all that human cry last week, they heard it -- those executives heard it.
ROBERTS: Now these other five may be overseas, right? And Cuomo doesn't think that he can touch them.
ROMANS: Yes. We're not sure exactly. He said they haven't said they're not going to turned it in, they just haven't sorted out yet how it will work.
ROBERTS: We'll keep watching. Christine, thanks so much.
All right. Meantime, it is six minutes after the hour, and time to fast forward now to stories that will be making news later on today. Investors hoping for another big rally on Wall Street. The administration's plan to buy up toxic bank assets sent the Dow soaring to a nearly 500-point gain on Monday. That is the biggest since November.
At 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, President Obama holds his second prime-time news conference. The economy expected to be the focus of all of that. The president will also try to shore up support for his budget. Be sure to stay tune to CNN for full live coverage beginning at 7:45 Eastern. You can also watch live online at cnn.com/live.
And at 9:40 Eastern this morning, President Obama will make a really long distance call to congratulate the shuttle "Discovery" crew and astronauts at the International Space Station on their current mission. The president will make the call with congressional leaders and middle school students from the Washington area. And that's what's making news this morning -- Kiran.
CHETRY: Come on back. Don't be afraid.
ROBERTS: They told me not to. They said I have to like look at you from back here.
CHETRY: Yes, there you go.
ROBERTS: Like the guy at the airport bar they said, you know.
CHETRY: That's what we're going to call the new spot, the airport bar. It's no longer the pundit table, the airport bar.
All right. Well, two late-night comedians also making headlines this morning. Comedy Central's Steven Colbert may, just may soon have a claim to fame orbiting the earth. NASA's online contests to name a new room to be added to the International Space Station this year allowed the public to write in their votes and Colbert urged his viewers to write in his name, Colbert. And they beat out four of NASA's choices. NASA, of course, could still trump voters and make their own pick.
ROBERTS: Well, that wouldn't be democratic, would it?
CHETRY: No. But...
ROBERTS: The one with the most votes win. CHETRY: Yes. But then they stuff ballot box, so to speak?
ROBERTS: Well, you know, he just got a lot of supporters to phone in, that's all.
CHETRY: All right. Well, late-night talk show titan David Letterman announced that he did indeed marry his longtime girlfriend and the mother of his son, Regina Lasko. True to form that we couldn't resist making the whole thing into a punch line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": I don't know what else to tell you about. Here we go.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
Yes. But I say, why did it take you so long to get married? And of course the answer, honestly, is we wanted to make sure we had the prenup just right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: All right. Making jokes. But I guess, they've been together since 1986. So clearly, they are compatible.
ROMANS: Yes. He said, you know, he wanted to give it ten years to see if it took, and now after 23, he's confident.
ROBERTS: And this prenups are difficult things. There's a lot of fine print there. You got to make sure it's all right.
Well, if economic concerns are holding you back from spending here's some good news for you. What some companies are doing to ease your anxieties about making big purchases -- those big purchases that you've been putting off. It's nine minutes after the hour.
Women on Wall Street. Getting the ax.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You think this is gender discrimination?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: When pink slips are handed out on Wall Street, is it really ladies first? Ahead on the Most News in the Morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": The movie "Knowing" with Nicolas Cage won the weekend box office with $24.8 million, or as it's called at AIG, a junior executive bonus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's the new thing to take shots, of course, at the fat cats on Wall Street. So you may not have much sympathy for them when they get the ax, but what if the pink slips are getting handed out unfairly? That's the charge from some women. Alina Cho joins us now with more on this.
CHO: Hey there, Kiran, good morning. Good morning everybody. You know, it's no secret. The banks have been laying off people by the thousands, but some women are making the explosive charge the recession is an excuse to clear out the female population on Wall Street.
CHO (voice-over): Demoted, pushed out, fired. In the past year and a half, three of the four most powerful women on Wall Street have left their jobs. Coincidence? Some say no.
SUSAN ANTILLA, COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Inevitably, we have downturns and the downturn comes and whack, they're gone.
CHO: Susan Antilla says historically, whenever we're in a recession, it's an excuse to get rid of women working on Wall Street. Brittany Sharpton says it happened to her.
BRITTANY SHARPTON: At first, I was just shocked like, you know, I'm thinking maybe I misheard.
CHO (on camera): You think this is gender discrimination?
SHARPTON: Definitely. I cannot think of any other reason or justification they would have for laying me off.
CHO (voice-over): The "Forbes" cover says it all -- terminated. The 23-year-old is part of a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit aimed squarely at Citigroup. Sharpton says it wasn't just her, that every woman in her group was laid off and, in some cases, she says the women were more qualified than the men.
SHARPTON: I know for a fact that my male counterparts, some of them did not have the same credentials.
CHO: Her lawyer argues that it's part of the Wall Street culture, the ultimate boys' club.
DOUGLAS WIGDOR, PARTNER, THOMPSON, WIGNOR & GILLY: When they're left with unfettered discretion as to who to choose, they're going to choose people they feel more comfortable with to retain, people they might go out to dinner with, people they might play golf with.
CHO: Others disagree and say the recession is gender blind.
ALISON FRASER, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: We're in a horrible labor economy and it's hurting all walks of American life. Everybody -- families, workers and investors are all getting hammered right now.
CHO: It's no secret the financial services industry is hemorrhaging jobs. The Citigroup layoff last fall included not just Brittany, but 50,000 workers from executives to tellers. The company won't disclose the breakdown of men and women, but in a statement to CNN, Citi says the job cuts were done fairly and lawfully, based on legitimate business reasons unrelated to gender.
CHO (on camera): Your response?
SHARPTON: Bogus, absolutely not true. There was just absolutely no discretion, no regard, not only with performance, but keeping a generation of women in the group.
CHO: There are many we spoke to who say the only hope for gender parity on Wall Street is to change the face of the corner offices. And so far, there is no evidence of a shift. None of the leading Wall Street firms has a single woman in any of the top three jobs and, surely, no woman has ever been named CEO of a major Wall Street bank.
But it's true, a lot of people we spoke to say even now women just don't have the networks that men have on Wall Street. There's nobody really rooting for them and they say that plays a key role in all of this. But the critics say, of course, we're in a recession and it's hitting not just women, it's hitting men, too, it's hitting everybody.
And so, you can't really say, oh, are the women more qualified than the men or they're just as qualified or whatever. At any rate, you know, it's an interesting thing. This lawsuit is very serious, though. It could hit a billion dollars. It's five women so far, but the lawyer advocating for these women says he's getting phone calls every single day.
CHETRY: Wow. Keep us posted on how it turns out.
CHO: I will.
CHETRY: Thanks, Alina.
CHO: You bet.
ROBERTS: Well, both sides of the political spectrum have called for Tim Geithner's head, saying that he is not the right man for the job of treasury secretary, but after yesterday's rally on Wall Street, has he silenced critics at least for the time being? Plus, one Harvard economist says he has the answer to America's drug problem -- legalize every drug out there. Is that going way too far? We'll ask him just ahead. It's 16 minutes now after the hour.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. In a little more than an hour, Wall Street kicks off the trading day at its highest level in more than five weeks. Yesterday's near 500-point rally coming after investors gave Timothy Geithner's plan, his plan to rescue the banks, a big thumb's up.
Pretty rare thing for him, especially since some lawmakers are calling for him to go. Congressman Darrell Issa is the ranking Republican on the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee. He's one of those people calling for the treasury secretary to step down.
But, Congressman, after the 500-point jump yesterday in the Dow, are you still calling for the treasury secretary to go?
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT & GOVT. REFORM CMTE.: Well, certainly, yesterday was good news for Wall Street. However, we are 2,000 points below where we were when essentially this plan, the idea of auctioning off troubled toxic assets, was originally brought to bear. So I think the real question is, what makes this a good idea now when, in fact, $700 billion was put up to do this and at the tail end of it, we're finally going to have a small amount, relatively speaking, spent on it?
My hope is that, first of all, we've learned something over $500 billion or $600 billion of lost taxpayers' money. One of them is that as foolish as people were on Wall Street to cause this debacle, they're smarter than the people here in Washington.
ROBERTS: OK. But that didn't answer the question. Are you still calling for him to step down?
ISSA: What I said all along was that when Connie Mack called for him to step down, I think the president should seriously consider whether or not this is somebody he can have confidence in, when he knew or should have known for a year about the AIG and what was going to be paid at each of these increments. That's really what it's all about. That hasn't changed. That he shows outrage over something he clearly knew about and allowed to happen, and gets Congress to move unconstitutionally, sort of, because of this public outrage.
ROBERTS: Right. So I don't mean to sound like a broken record here, Congressman, but does that mean you still want him to step down?
ISSA: I still don't have confidence that he is smarter than the market or that our money is being well spent. And I think the president has to ask why are we going to spend a hundred plus billion dollars in one tranche to find out whether or not we can price assets in a way that is reasonable for the banks releasing them but also reasonable for the American people guaranteeing that. ROBERTS: OK. So you say that he should have known about the bonuses at AIG, but Democrats are also saying, why didn't you say something about it? Because on December the 16th, Elijah Cummings sent a letter to you as well to the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee saying, I'd like you to look into these retention bonuses that AIG is considering paying out and you didn't say anything back then.
ISSA: Well, actually, it's just the opposite. I said all along and put letters out. You only looked at half of Cummings' story.
ROBERTS: No, I looked at the whole thing and you did say that you sent a letter to the chairman of the committee, but I didn't hear you say about this publicly.
ISSA: John, I can only call for committee hearings. I can only ask for these letters to be sent out. Ultimately, as you know, what happened was the letter that I sent to the chairman, they sat on it for a week and then they mailed it out by cutting and pasting my very words calling for this. So, I've been calling for this.
But let's go back a little further. I opposed the TARP. I thought it was a poorly thought-out. It was ready-fire-aim. And I've been asking for other solutions and better use of the American people's money under President Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson. So, if there's a consistency, the consistency is I've been trying to protect the American people's money. And yes, I can only write letters from the minority. I can only ask for hearings of the majority.
And the amazing thing is Elijah Cummings sends a letter to Towns and Issa. Issa responds by asking Towns to do it essentially piling on and Towns doesn't do it. So, who is it -- who is it that's to blame? The committee that I serve on that used to really get into these things quickly now is sitting back and deferring to other committees.
ROBERTS: Yes, I'm just wondering why you didn't say something more publicly about it back then.
ISSA: Well, you know, my letter was made public. This was not -- this was not done in a vacuum. And I've been consistently trying to get the Oversight.
But let's also remember that, at some point, those retention bonuses may have been excessive and maybe should have gone in all or part, but there never was a review during the process. If you want to keep people at their jobs, you can't tell them you're going to give them something and then after they've earned it and been paid it, tell them that they shouldn't have it.
The fact is a year ago, from the top down, AIG should have begun looking at these bonuses. They also should have been looking at bankruptcy. One of my objections is that AIG should have been run through bankruptcy, where these things would have been essentially automatically voided and they would have had to come back to it.
Part of the process under President Bush and now President Obama that is flawed is we assumed that we can avert bankruptcy for some reason, rather than use the mechanism and the discipline of bankruptcy to oversee both our actions and the actions of these very smart bankers, who have outsmarted us and made over a hundred billion dollars of premium off the taxpayers' dollars so far.
ROBERTS: Congressman Issa, it's good to catch up with you this morning. Thanks for dropping by.
ISSA: Thank you.
ROBERTS: All right. Appreciate it.
And be sure to stick with CNN for tonight's presidential press conference. Full coverage kicks off at 7:45 Eastern tonight. And if you watch the president's press conference, give us a buzz before you go to bed. Call our show hotline 877-MY-AMFIX. Tell us what you thought. We'll include your calls in our coverage tomorrow -- Kiran.
CHETRY: We'll, if you put up a large purchase because you're afraid that you'll lose your job, you may not need to wait anymore. We're going to tell you about companies that are making it safer for you to buy.
Also, is the solution to America's drug problem and all of the violence south of the border that's spilling over into our border cities -- is the answer to all of that legalizing drugs, all drugs? Critics say it's way too radical but the idea does have some high- profile supporters and we're talking to one of them just ahead. It's 24 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Mexico is offering cold hard cash to fight back against deadly drug lords and their cartels. Mexican officials say they'll pay out $2 million each for tips leading to the arrest of the country's top 24 drug lords. Mexico's drug violence has killed more than 9,000 people since 2006, and some of that violence, of course, as we've been reporting here on CNN, is spilling north into the United States.
And you know, it's not uncommon to hear people say the answer to the drug problem really is to tackle demand and to do that, maybe legalize marijuana as well as other drugs. Our next guest takes it much further. He says that we really need to legalize all of it, everything -- cocaine, heroin, meth -- collect the cash that will come with it. Joining me now is Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron.
Thanks so much for being with us this morning.
JEFFREY MIRON, ECONOMIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
CHETRY: So, there seems to be a difference in people's minds about the legalization of marijuana, which seems to enjoy broader support than the legalization of all drugs. Why do you say just legalizing marijuana is not enough?
MIRON: Well, legalizing marijuana would certainly be a very useful first step. But a lot of the violence that we're seeing, a lot of the underground market is not related to marijuana. It's related to these other drugs. So, if we were only to do marijuana, we would only have a small impact on all the violence, on all the corruption, on all the disruption of other countries that's caused by U.S. prohibition of drugs and the U.S. forcing prohibition of drugs on other countries.
CHETRY: This is what I want to ask you about. We talk about what's going on at the U.S.-Mexico border. We talk about the growing violence, in some measure because Mexico is trying to crack down a little bit more on these cartels. Can you explain, as you compare what our drug policy is to prohibition and why you feel that, you know, trying to make alcohol illegal failed and we're learning the hard lessons about trying to make drugs illegal?
MIRON: Any attempt to drive a market underground, to ban it, to prohibit it means that it may shrink a little bit, but it's mainly just going to become an underground market. That's what we saw for the alcohol in the '20s and '30s. That's what we've seen for drugs. That's what we've seen in other societies and other times for gambling, for prostitution, for all of these things.
In underground markets, people resolve their disputes with violence because they can't use lawyers and courts and advertising, and so guns are the only logical alternative, and we observe that over and over again with any kind of prohibition.
CHETRY: Well, while you may be theoretically right, isn't there this sort of common sense argument, somebody can have a couple of glasses of wine over dinner and you can't be a social user of injecting heroin?
MIRON: Well, the fact is that people can use many drugs, including heroin, for long periods, if they have access to a legal supply that's at moderate price, if they are able to consume it in a way which is not inherently dangerous such as injecting or sharing dirty needles. And, of course, people can do horrible things with alcohol if they are going to be irresponsible. People who use tobacco in a regular way risk very serious negative consequences.
For all of these other dangerous things, potentially dangerous things, we keep them legal but we tax and regulate them, and we address the irresponsible uses with things like drunk driving laws. But we keep the market above ground which avoids all these negative things like the violence.
CHETRY: Would you go to a doctor who said, you know, I just occasionally use heroine on the weekends. I mean, would you get a surgery from a doctor like that? Would you want your kids going to nursery schools with their teacher say, you know, I do some meth in trying to keep my weight down?
MIRON: The fact is that we're all doing that now, we just don't know it, OK? We are going to doctors who may be alcoholics, who may be misusing currently illegal drugs. Some of the teachers of our kids are doing all those things on the weekends, but it's just been pushed underground.
So, by bringing it above ground, we're more likely to know about it, we're more likely to be able to use things like drug testing procedures to address the irresponsible uses of drugs on or off the job. Pretending that we're getting rid of it with prohibition is clearly not changing the fact. We know that millions and millions of people are doing these things every day but we're pretending that it's not there. It's already a problem.
CHETRY: I know that, you know, the article that you wrote in, it was very thoughtful. I'm playing devil's advocate here with you. But, how does it -- how do we -- how does it not -- how do we find a way to tax or get income off of what is still going to be illegal, right, internationally? I mean, if people are bringing drugs over here illegally even though we may say they are legal here, how do we control all of that traffic? How do we control all of that revenue that's coming in and find a way to tax it and have it work?
MIRON: Well, if we were to actually legalize it, I have no doubt that most of the rest of the world would immediately legalize as well. The U.S., historically, has been the biggest advocate of prohibition. We, in fact, forced it on the rest of the world in 1919 as a condition of signing the treaty that ended World War I. I'm sure lots of Latin American governments would be delighted to legalize because a huge amount of the corruption violence in their countries is due to U.S. pressure to maintain this policy.
CHETRY: Very interesting, and I encourage people to read your article as well.
Jeffrey Miron, Harvard University economist, thanks for being with us this morning.
MIRON: My pleasure. Thank you.
ROBERTS: Thirty-two minutes after the hour, and here's the latest news developing this morning. We're following it for you. If you picked up your morning paper, you might find an op-ed from President Obama in there. Published by 31 papers worldwide, the president is calling for global economic cooperation. The move comes ahead of next week's G-20 meeting of world leaders including President Obama in London.
The price at the pump is heading back up again this morning. AAA is reporting the average price for regular unleaded is up a penny to $1.97 a gallon. But the nation's capital, along with 14 states, all paying $2 or more now on average. And, the University of Notre Dame says it's keeping open an invitation to President Obama to speak this spring at graduation. Some Catholics object to the invite because they disagree with the president's views on abortion and stem-cell research.
If worrying about losing your job is causing you to pull back on your spending, well, there are some companies out there trying to ease your anxiety with some "no strings attached" deals. Our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, is here with the details on the deals.
Good morning to you.
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Good morning. Good to see you guys.
Yes, companies today are rolling out special policies for folks who find themselves with a pink slip. Let's look at the details of one program. This one from JetBlue called the Promise Program. JetBlue's Promise Program means that if you booked a trip between February 17th and June 1st of this year, you can get a refund.
Now, you have to have been downsized or laid off from your full- time job on or after February 17th. And you've got to put that refund request in writing two weeks before the date of the travel. Of course, it doesn't cover corporate or group travel. So, for more info, go to the JetBlue Web site and find out all about it.
Gyms across the country are also trying to make it easier for you to join or keep your membership even if you're laid off. Some YMCAs, for example, are waiving sign up fees. Membership costs may be reduced or your membership may be extended at no charge. You have to check with local branches.
But all kinds of deals are out there now for folks.
ROBERTS: So, what other perks are out there?
WILLIS: All right. So, let's say you need a suit for that big job interview. Even clothing stores are marketing to the unemployed. JoS. A. Bank announced that program that offers a full rebate on the price of a suit if you lose your job and you can keep the suit.
WILLIS: Which is a big deal, right?
ROBERTS: That's great. It's a great deal!
WILLIS: And when you're out of a job, saving money is at the top of your priority list, here are some places to go if you want to barter. You don't want to spend money because you're jobless now, you actually want to trade something. Go to FreeCycle.org. It's a great Web site. You can find free things online within your community, SwapThing.com and Craigslist.com. You know, bartering is the new thing now because, you know, we're all putting our wallets away. We don't have the money to play with.
ROBERTS: You know, the gym in our building has a deal where if you lose your job, they will let you out of your membership but they won't let you continue your membership without paying. So ...
WILLIS: That's not quite generous enough.
ROBERTS: Quite, no. They need to step it up just a little bit there.
Gerri, thanks for that.
WILLIS: My pleasure.
CHETRY: And we're keeping a close eye on extreme weather hammering the northern plains, some snow, and heavy winds. We will get the latest from Rob Marciano and how the storm is affecting your travel plans.
Thirty-five minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: It's 38 minutes past the hour -- time to fast forward the stories that will be making news later today.
The Supreme Court is going to decide if a movie critical of Hillary Clinton was wrongfully censored during the 2008 election. Critics say "Hillary the Movie" amounted to a political attack ad and should have been regulated like one, but the film's producer claims the censorship violated their free speech rights.
Blizzard warnings right now are in effect for parts of the northern plains and some mountain areas could get more than 30 inches of snow. We're checking in with Rob Marciano with the weather center for the very latest on that storm. And, also, some new warnings are in effect today for parts of south Alaska, that after the Mount Redoubt volcano erupted for six times yesterday, sending a burst of ash nearly 60,000 feet into the air. Residents are being told to seal windows and doors and to protect water supplies as well.
So, hey, Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey.
CHETRY: First of all, it doesn't look like spring at all in many parts of the country.
CHETRY: It certainly doesn't feel like it.
MARCIANO: This is a nasty blizzard even for the depths of winter, let alone on the first full week of spring.
Good morning there, everybody.
Look at this storm. It's got everything going. And the problem with storms in March is not only do you -- can you get the blizzard conditions, but on the front side you can also get a lot of severe weather. That's what we got yesterday, with 11 reports of tornadoes. And also, with the added heat, you get the capacity to hold more water in the air. So, flooding becomes an issue on top of the snow melt.
So, this is a scenario that really is shaping up to be nasty on all fronts. We're seeing a lot of thunderstorms roll through the Missouri area back through parts of Oklahoma. This is a line that produced, again, 11 tornadoes, and there were five or eight reports of injuries in Eagle, Nebraska, yesterday.
Here are the blizzard conditions across parts of the Dakotas -- 10 to 30 inches total. We've already got 20 inches of snow on the ground in some spots in the Black Hills; windy conditions will persist today with whiteout conditions as well. And the flooding situation continues as rivers continue to rise in Fargo and upstream, in Wahpeton.
Some live pictures just came in this morning from Breckenridge, Minnesota, which is on the east side of that border. This is going to crest later on tonight and tomorrow morning. And then all of this water is going to head downstream which is, in this case, would be north, towards Fargo. And that is expected to potentially crest at around 40 feet come Thursday and Friday morning.
Live picture of Kansas City, which saw rough weather overnight last night. It's kind of dark there. You will be getting cooler and clearing out throughout the day today. Temperatures in New York City by the way, 48 degrees. Not too shabby along the east coast.
Kiran, back to you.
CHETRY: That's shabby.
MARCIANO: That's too shabby for you?
CHETRY: We want it to be a little warmer around here.
MARCIANO: All right. We'll work on it.
CHETRY: Thanks, Rob.
MARCIANO: You bet.
CHETRY (voice-over): Psychics and your career. Would you pay to have someone tell you, I see a job in your future?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am seeing three different places where you can go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And two of them will have work for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Love is out. Work is in. The psychic will see you now -- ahead on the Most News in the Morning.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
Get ready for a whole new ride to work. Because of gasoline prices, bus commuting has increased almost 4 percent. In fact, record numbers of Americans took public transportation last year.
But as our Dan Simon found, on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, at least, a bus isn't always just a bus.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm sitting on a comfortable leather chair, I have Wi-Fi for the lap top, TV in front of me -- this is not a bad way to get to work. This is the newest bus service for people who want to make the most of their long commute.
(voice-over): We're going over the Golden Gate Bridge headed for Marin County, just north of San Francisco. These bus riders are headed home, in style. An attendant comes by with water and snacks, passengers can stretch out and connect to the free Wi-Fi, and watch CNN, of course, or simply stare out the window and take in the bay views.
GARY BAUER, BAUER TRANSPORTATION: And they wanted something a little bit above the cutting edge.
SIMON: San Francisco businessman, Gary Bauer, came up with the idea for the luxurious bus. Well, sort of. It at all came about when Google approached him a few years ago and wanted to provide free high- tech bus service for its employees. Yahoo! soon followed. So, it was only a matter of time until Bauer's company would offer high-tech buses to all San Francisco commuters.
BAUER: We can run 52 laptops at a time, running all the time. So, they can actually work all the way down to work and all the way from work coming back.
SIMON: Wi-Fi is also expanded to public transportation. Several cities, including San Francisco, Reno, and Boston, are now offering it on city buses or trains.
Bauer's service is private and to get customers, he offered initial rides for free.
Will you give it a second shot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would if it's free. If it's free and they have to leaving like they were today, I would definitely try it again.
SIMON: Once they start charging for it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm gone after this.
SIMON: That's because the ride will be a few dollars more than taking a ferry or public bus, about $8 one way. Bauer says he's not out to compete against the other transports, instead, he is going for a niche.
(on camera): Whether the high-end bus concept takes off and moves to other cities remains to be seen, but Bauer already has his sight set on another California city, Los Angeles, where as we all know, people spend a lot of time on the road.
Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.
CHETRY: I'd do it!
ROBERTS: Why not? Yes. It's a fair ride. Reminds me of being on the road during the presidential campaign where we all Wi-Fi all the way, writing our articles as we're trekking through the backwoods of Ohio and places like that.
CHETRY: That's right. Do you sleep -- ever sleep on a bus?
ROBERTS: I can't sleep sitting up. It's just -- I wish I could, but I can't.
CHETRY: Bill Schneider apparently had some sleep (ph).
ROBERTS: Unless, of course, you go like this and then the drool, you know ...
ROBERTS: ... and then you could wake up with a stiff neck and all that. But that's only for about two or three minutes or so.
CHETRY: Yes, I can't sleep on a plane either. So, it's a bed or nothing.
ROBERTS: It is the curse of our lives, is it not?
CHETRY: It's sure is.
Well, can a psychic relieve your worries about your job situation? Why recession readings are all the rage now. And we've all done and we said something we regret, and we sent an e-mail maybe that we wish we could retrieve instantly, now, there may be a solution.
It's 47 minutes after the hour.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CHETRY: We are following breaking news right now, word of an earthquake in southern California. Our Rob Marciano is tracking the new details for us about when this hit, where, and just how severe.
MARCIANO: Hey, Kiran.
About 90 miles east of the San Diego -- let's zoom in to this area -- 4.7 magnitude quake. So, certainly enough to be felt in an area fairly remote. If you make the drive from San Diego over towards Yuma, Arizona, you pass this area, right over the Salton Sea there. The deep of this is not very deep, only 3 1/2 miles deep. So, that would certainly give folks who live in this area a little bit of shake, rattle, and roll.
Again, a 4.7 magnitude quake here. Unlikely that there will be serious damage, but those who live right over that quake zone may very well have been at least felt it, if not seen minor damage. So, we'll wait for our affiliates to get on that and report back to us.
That's the latest from here. We have had a number of smaller aftershocks since then, but nothing greater than a 4.7.
Kiran, back to you.
CHETRY: All right. Rob Marciano, thanks.
MARCIANO: You bet.
ROBERTS: And it's 10 minutes to the top of the hour.
For years, people have gone to psychics to ask when they would meet Mr. or Mrs. Right, but now, more and more people are asking what their financial future looks like.
And Lola Ogunnaike has got that for us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Close your eyes. Relax. Take a deep breath.
LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dara has been unemployed for nearly six months and she's come to this psychic for answers. DAR, CLIENT OF PSYCHIC READER: How does it look for temporary work?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
OGUNNAIKEE: Fahrusha, one of New York's most popular psychics, doesn't need a crystal ball to predict what her clients are going to ask first.
FARUSIA: Do you think my job is secure? And then it's like, do you think I'll keep my job. You know, really intense about job security. Previously, for years and years and years, people just talk about love.
OGUNNAIKE: Forget romance, people are anxious about finance. And all of that worry has been great for the psychic business.
Have you noticed that your business is up?
DEREK CALIBRE, PSYCHIC READER: It's definitely booming. Yes, it's really incredible. My business has almost doubled since October.
OGUNNAIKE: Dr. Simon Rego, a clinical psychologist, says he's not surprised that people are turning to soothsayers.
DR. SIMON REGO, MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER: I think with the economy being a stress on people, stress provokes worry and we define worry as negative predictions about the future. So what people who have negative predictions about the future do is they turn to people who may seem to have answers about the future -- perfect role for a psychic to come in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, I am seeing three different places where you can go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And two of them will have work for you.
OGUNNAIKE: Dara says she has no problem paying $150 for that little peace of mind.
What about people who say why don't you save your money? Why are you giving your money to a psychic?
DARA: Would you save your money if you're going to a therapist? You know, it helps me mentally. It really helps me to think through the various options that I would like to see happen for my life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I want to talk more about music here.
OGUNNAIKE: For $120 an hour, Derek Calibre will give you tons of advice, but it may not always be what you want to hear.
CALIBRE: I see some profile for you, but not visually, not in front of the camera really. I see you being more behind the scenes. OGUNNAIKE: Of course, I couldn't leave Fahrusha without having my fortune read.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Avoid plaid.
ROBERTS: How much...
ROBERTS: How much did it cost you to learn how to avoid plaid?
OGUNNAIKE: Well, I didn't have to pay, but that would have cost me $150. But she also gave some other advice. She said that I would have real estate in the future and that I should plant rare wood on my property.
OGUNNAIKE: Interesting, right?
ROBERTS: So, do you have property?
OGUNNAIKE: I don't. No yet, but in the future!
ROBERTS: When you get it, just plant the rare wood. So, no plaid, huh?
OGUNNAIKE: No plaid.
ROBERTS: It's like, you know, I don't need a psychic to tell me to avoid wearing a striped tie with a striped suit.
OGUNNAIKE: But now, I'm wondering, should I avoid people in plaid. She just said avoid plaid.
ROBERTS: Oh, that's right. Not necessarily wearing. Very good.
Wow. We learn more and more each and every day -- Kiran.
CHETRY: The rare wood, if Lola lives in New York City, I guess on the sidewalk you should avoid wine corks?
CHETRY: That's probably the only rare wood growing out of the sidewalk.
OGUNNAIKE: In New York City, that's for sure.
CHETRY: All right. Thanks, Lola.
Well, if you don't have any money for a psychic, perhaps you should head to a college town for a job? We have more on that in AM next (ph) for tops on the list. Morgantown, West Virginia, home to West Virginia University, they have a 3.9 percent unemployment rate. That's less than half of the national average. Number two is Logan, Utah, home of Utah State University. In third place is Ames, Iowa, that's home of Iowa State University.
Did you ever want to instantly take back something that you didn't mean to say or maybe you just didn't mean to say out loud? Well, now you can. How your cell phone and your computer may be able to fix your screw-up.
It's 54 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: That song is getting in my head today. John is over here strumming on his air guitar. Or were you playing the keyboard -- the air keyboard?
ROBERTS: No, I'm just doing a basic guitar.
CHETRY: Drunk dialing.
CHETRY: Yes, keyboard, guitar. OK.
Accidental e-mails, did you ever regret something that you did, maybe wish you could instantly take it all back? Well, Alina Cho may have the perfect solution for you.
CHO: Of course, we've never done this.
CHETRY: No, I just heard about this.
CHO: But other people have in large numbers.
ROBERTS: That's the "ohh (ph)" moment!
CHO: What are you talking about?
Good morning, guys! Good morning, everybody. You know, we're talking about some new tech applications that will actually save you from your own stupid self. Now, how many of you have hit the "send" button on an personal e-mail when you suddenly realized it's headed to the wrong person or, worse, the entire staff at your office? Or maybe you've had a couple of drinks and had a week moment on the phone, making a late night call to an ex that you later regretted. That's called drunk dialing, folks, and it's happened to the best of us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I've definitely sent e-mails I regret. I was just really annoyed at a friend. You know, you regret it afterwards.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Once I sent a message to my ex- girlfriend that I still love her and I wanted to be with her, but that wasn't like really, really true, and then I got to leave this house (ph) because of that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll think that it's good in the moment and then I'll be like, "I shouldn't have said that!"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: So, what if you could undo your mistake? Now you can. Gmail recently introduced a panic button of sorts, it allows users to actually opt out of an e-mail transmission after they've hit the send button.
Now, listen to this carefully. The "undo" option can be found next to the line confirming that your message has been sent. It's really hard to find. We had trouble.
Now, the only catch is, you only have five seconds to undo your mistake. A Google designer who came up with the idea says five seconds is usually enough time. We're going to debate that.
What about those ill-advised phone calls? Well, Apple's latest application is aptly called The Bad Decision Blocker. How it works is you block the phone number in your iPhone address book of the person you know you shouldn't be calling. Maybe you feel you need a week or so to cool off from a fight you had with a friend. Well, you can block that person in your address book for that period of time.
You start dialing the number out of habit, your phone will block you, it will not allow you to make the call. Now, unfortunately, guys, you're going to need some willpower because The Bad Decision Blocker will not stop incoming calls from the person you are blocking.
But it's really interesting stuff. It's good stuff for all of us who have done this. But, of course, not us.
CHETRY: No, it took us longer than five seconds to even find the "undo" button. So, we would have been out of luck.
ROBERTS: There you go.
Hey, quickly, we talked just few minutes about that 4.7 earthquake hit in the middle of California. It hit actually right in the Salton Sea, just south of Bombay Beach, about five miles south of Bombay Beach, California, way in the interior there. So far, no reports of any damage or injuries. We'll keep following that story for you.
Now, it's going to wrap it up for us. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here again, bright and early tomorrow.
CHETRY: Sure will. Meantime, here is CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins.