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American Morning

Red River Threatening Fargo, Surrounding Areas; Secretary Clinton Promises U.S. Help, Support in Mexico's Drug Wars; President Obama Going Online with a Virtual Town Hall Meeting Today; Mystery in the Buffalo Plane Crash; Blagojevich Behind the Mic

Aired March 26, 2009 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning. Thanks for being with us. It's Thursday, March 26th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Good to have you with us.

Here's what's on the agenda this morning, stories that we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes here on the Most News in the Morning.

A dire situation unfolding as we speak in North Dakota. The Red River expected to crest at a record 41 feet by the weekend, threatening the city of Fargo. Thousands of volunteers scrambling to add another foot of sandbags to the top of a 12-mile long dike. A live report from that area coming up.

Right now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Mexico as drug violence threatens to rip that country apart and Secretary Clinton now suggesting America shares some of the blame and promised more equipment and support to help the country's war against traffickers. We are live in Mexico this morning with the details.

And don't like the questions that were asked of the president during his news conference? Well, now is your chance to pose a question of your own. We've got details that you don't want to miss on the president's online town hall meeting said to get under way in just a few hours.

CHETRY: And we begin with breaking news right now, it's man against nature.

Residents in North Dakota racing to save their cities from the rising rivers. In Fargo, it's all hands on deck. Thousands sandbagging around the clock, not a minute to spare either. The Red River is expected to crest this weekend at 41 feet. Other swollen rivers in the state also showing their muscle, bursting levees and swallowing homes.

In Bismarck, officials are using explosives to blast through ice, ice jamming the entire river there. You see it from these pictures. Right now, evacuations are under way and residents say they're bracing for the worst.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hopefully this holds up. That's all I can say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since about 4:00 a.m., we've done approximately 11 rescues, taken out well over 20 people and a number of animals.

I know one call came in. The water smashed through the basement windows. It was filling all the way up to the main level.

The whole thing with this flood has been the race has been on. Somebody waved the green flag on the river and it's coming fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll do our best to make it water tight and head out.


CHETRY: Our Rob Marciano is tracking the extreme weather from the CNN weather center today. So you got -- it's snowing. They're dealing with the ice as we talked about. They're using explosives to blow that up. Meanwhile, they're frantically sandbagging as well to try to stop the flooding.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I don't mean to sound too dramatic, Kiran, but as far as, you know, how nasty this situation is, I can't think of many other things that could go wrong at this point because those ice jams (ph) give you some unpredictability. You know, when are they going to release?

Yesterday, there was some panic because there was an ice jam that they thought broke north of Bismarck, and that would send two feet of water into the downtown of Bismarck and that got people fleeing. Well, that report ended up being false. So you've got that coupled with the rising river there, the Red River, and let's break down exactly where these rivers are and how much longer they have to go to crest.

We'll zoom in here on the Google Earth map and show you Wahpeton and the Grand Forks area, and also Fargo. As you mentioned, they have upped the ante for this flood forecast from now 40 to 41 feet. That would put it at record stage or above record stage.

Let's go to the graph, we'll show you. Thirty-seven and change feet right now. That's major flood stage. Record is over 40 and change. We expect it to get to 41 by Sunday.

All right. Check out some of this video. You saw a little piece of it, very dramatic stuff in Bismarck on the Missouri River, where ice jams have been a huge problem there, so much so they brought in explosive experts. They drilled holes in the ice, which in some cases were the size of cars, dropped clay explosives in there and set off 80 explosions down the river and that helped free up some of that ice that was coming down the Heart River.

Here that is on the Google Earth map, a number of rivers and tributaries feeding into the Missouri right here, and this is where the ice jam was. That's where they set off the explosives and that's where the situation at least was relieved somewhat. But will it continue to be pretty hairy as we go through time and on top of that, temperatures in the teens with snow continuing to fall in this part of the world.

I should also mention we've got severe weather down across the south. Tornado watches out for parts of Alabama and Mississippi. We'll talk more about that later in the morning.

Kiran, back up to you.

CHETRY: What a mess. All right, Rob. We'll be checking with you throughout the morning on that situation. Thanks so much.

Also this morning, we're getting some iReports from the flood zone. Wade Baird shows these people in the Fargo dome filling some of the two million sandbags needed to try to shore up the levees there.

Jennifer Sondag shows us how they're keeping the rising Red River at bay in Fargo.


JENNIFER SONDAG, IREPORTER IN FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA: Well, we're looking at right now is the dike that was built in downtown Fargo along what was up until now Second Street. You can see crews down there still working to put the dike in place.

On the other side of this giant wall of dirt is the river, and then beyond that is Minnesota. So as you can see, the dike is doing its job so far. Hopefully it will do a great job and keep all the water out.


CHETRY: We also have iReporter Cheryl Brown sending us some pictures of the flooding in her North Dakota town. She says that her house survived the big flood of 1997 and the sandbags are keeping the house safe for now.

Well, a number of organizations are ready to send food, sheltering, supplies, also volunteers to help residents in the flood zone and you can find links to them on our "Impact Your World" page at

ROBERTS: And we turn now to the escalating drug violence in Mexico and the danger that it's posing to Americans. This morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on the ground in Mexico City and CNN is there as well.

In an interview with our Jill Dougherty, Clinton said that America's insatiable demand for illegal drugs has fueled the alarming spike in violence that is now spilling over America's borders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have to do a better job of convincing Americans that illegal drugs are a terrible choice. We have to convince them that more treatment programs, that they would take advantage of, are way out, because obviously, our demand for drugs is what motivates these drug gangs.

I mean, if they didn't think they were going to make a bunch of money across the border, they'd go into another line of work. And so, we do share responsibility for the security challenges facing the Mexican people.


ROBERTS: CNN's foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is live for us in Mexico City this morning.

And, Jill, she had the courage to say what many officials won't, and that is that America is a big part of the problem here.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and she's saying, you know, it's not only drugs. She's saying that there's a problem with guns coming over the border from the United States into Mexico, that's fueling it, she would argue, and then also money laundering.

So the phrase that they're using, John, is "shared responsibility." There are problems in Mexico, but there are also problems in the United States. And they say when they began to analyze things, they realize that if you want to stop it, you have to stop that demand and stop the weapons, et cetera, from fueling that violence.

ROBERTS: The secretary of state also talked with you about North Korea, and North Korea reportedly putting a long-range ballistic missile on the launch pad. Let's take a quick listen to what she said.


CLINTON: We're doing our best to dissuade the North Koreans from going forward because it is a provocative action. It raises questions about their compliance with the Security Council Resolution 1718. And if they persist and go forward, we will take it up in appropriate channels.


ROBERTS: There's speculation that there may be an early April launch date. Is this posturing on the part of the North Koreans, or does the United States think that the North really might go through with this and if they do, what would the response be?

DOUGHERTY: Well, they certainly seem to be proceeding. I mean, they are step by step putting that missile on the launch pad and the question is, you know, the North Koreans say that it's actually a communications satellite. The United States and some other countries argue that no matter what payload is on top of the missile, it violates the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

And we've actually heard this drumbeat coming from the United States, that this is a serious provocation from the North. In that interview I actually asked her, would the U.S., under which conditions would the U.S. shoot them, but she would not answer that probably predictably. But they are saying that if the North were to go ahead with this, it would jeopardize the Six-party talks and some of the aid and other concessions that the North gets would be out of the picture.

ROBERTS: Jill Dougherty watching the international affairs for us this morning from Mexico City. Jill, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Other stories new this morning, a shoplifter at a mall in Virginia did not count on a store clerk fighting back. Security cameras captured it all. It shows the woman leaving the store with a bulging bag of clothes and the store clerk there in white trying to grab the clothes back, getting punched in the process. The two actually fought right in the middle of the mall. Police did say that the robber and alleged accomplice got away.

Vermont Governor James Douglas says he will veto a bill to legalize same-sex marriage if it reaches his desk. The bill would give same-sex couples equal rights and marriage. It passed Vermont Senate in a landslide. It's now before the House. The governor saying, "I believe our civil union law serves Vermont well and I would support congressional action to extend those benefits at the federal level to states that recognize same-sex unions."

But the bill's sponsor calls the decision cowardly.

And Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner returns to Capitol Hill today to outline the administration's plans to overhaul the nation's financial system to prevent a repeat of the economic collapse. Christine Romans is following that for us and the impact on your money.

It's nine minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: That will get your morning calisthenics going here.

Eleven and a half minutes after the hour. Let's fast forward to the stories that will be making news later on today.

More and more Americans are filing for unemployment. Today at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, the Labor Department releases its report of weekly jobless claims. We're going to have those numbers for you just as soon as that report comes out.

All day long we'll be watching the severe storms affecting most of the United States. In Fargo, North Dakota, officials are planning for possible flooding evacuations while blizzard conditions are expected in the Rockies.

Meanwhile, the southern states are on watch for extreme thunderstorms. Stay with CNN for the most up to the minute weather news. Rob Marciano is tracking it all for you today.

Also later on today, IBM expected to announce that it plans to lay off about 5,000 employees. These cuts make up about four percent of IBM's workforce, based in the United States. It comes after IBM' January layoffs when the company cut thousands of its workers.

And at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner heads back to Capitol Hill. This is going to be big news today, and we'll be watching it for you. He's expected to outline the administration's plans for preventing future financial collapse.

You can watch live, full coverage of that testimony here on CNN or if you're at work and you don't have a television set but you do have a computer, check it out on And that's what we're following for you today.

CHETRY: We've got Christine Romans with us this morning. Good to see you, "Minding Your Business" today. So let's talk a little bit about what Treasury Secretary Geithner is going to say today when he pitches his plans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I love the mental image of Timothy Geithner with his sort of school boy hair and a big "S" on his chest and a big cape, super regulator is what the Treasury is looking for.

CHETRY: That's not what he's planning to wear?

ROMANS: I don't know. Maybe. I mean, maybe that would be our fashion advice today.

You know, he's been on the Hill. He's been speaking five days in a row. Maybe this was twisted up a little bit if he put a Superman cape on.

But this is -- you know, the Treasury Department is saying they need to prevent another AIG and to do that they need some pretty broad, important powers. And they haven't really outlined the details of this yet, but this is what we know.

It would be Uncle Sam as the sort of super regulator, some power sharing with the FDIC, which is critical because many folks say the FDIC is the regulator that has worked through all of this. Tight controls on non-bank financial firms -- that means insurance companies, hedge funds and the like. So we'll hear from him today.

Again, he's been on every day. Timothy Geithner overload. For somebody like me, I love it.

CHETRY: All right. Christine, thanks so much.


CHETRY: And tomorrow, by the way, you don't want to miss the "CNN MONEY SUMMIT." Ali Velshi, Anderson Cooper and the whole CNN Money Team will be focusing on your money and searching for hints that the economy could be turning around. Christine actually has some as well that she's going to share with us later on in the show. But again, that's Friday at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

ROBERTS: Yes. She wears a cape and a suit with "SW" on it, Superwonk (ph).

ROMANS: There you go. I thought it was like Darth Vader, you know.


CHETRY: Not today.

ROBERTS: Not today.

A surprise that two elementary school children will never forget, the cameras were rolling and we'll show you the emotional family reunion just ahead.

It's 14 minutes now after the hour.

Concerned about your 401(k), we have answers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm wondering why 401(k)s don't have a safe haven account in them.


ROBERTS: Gerri Willis takes your calls. Call 877-MY-AMFIX. The answers, ahead on the Most News in the Morning.


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

A California police officer killed in the line of duty has given four people the gift of life. The California Transplant Donor Network says Oakland police officer John Hege's liver, kidneys and heart were donated. All of the transplants were successfully completed yesterday morning. Hege's family says they are comforted knowing that the donations helped save others. Hege and three other officers were killed last weekend.

CHETRY: And a soldier just back from his second tour of duty in Iraq actually surprised his two children at school. Kimberly Houk from our affiliate WKMG has the emotional reunion.


KIMBERLY HOUK, WKMG CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sitting in math class working on problems is just another day at Meadow Woods Elementary School for fifth grader Luis Otero, until in walks a smiling soldier who hasn't seen his son for an entire year.


I missed you. Trying to hold back my tears, most definitely trying to hold back tears.

HOUK: With tears continually rolling down his cheeks, this young boy holds onto his dad, a soldier who just completed his second tour of duty in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He protects our country.

OTERO: I definitely wanted to tell him how much I missed him and I love him.

HOUK: An emotional reunion, but that was just the beginning. Take a look at look Sergeant Pablo Otero also surprises his 10-year- old daughter.


OTERO: How are you baby?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my brother thought he was coming on Saturday, but not today.

HOUK: At first glance, he can't believe how much they've changed.

OTERO: A lot different. A year has done a lot to them. She's got new glasses. He's got braces, you know, grew up a few inches. It's, you know, a lot has changed in a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to be a soldier, too?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you guys crying?


HOUK: A joy for his children, who have had to live without their dad, a soldier, who now gets to focus on being a father, as he walks away hand in hand with his children who won't let go.

In Orlando, I'm Kimberly Houk.


ROBERTS: You're a mom. Could you imagine being away from your kids for a year?

CHETRY: Feel terrible for them. Feel terrible for the family. Also, felt a little weird watching it because, you know, it's a private moment but you could tell how much the kids miss him.

ROBERTS: Yes, absolutely. Got a lot of time to make up for lost time now, too. Wow. Fabulous little story there. President Obama, you've got mail. He answers questions your during an online town hall meeting this morning and they're coming in by the thousands. We'll talk with a techie about the president's digital outrage.

It's 21 minutes now after the hour.

And Anderson Cooper on the U.S. border with Mexico. As the drug war heats up, CNN is there. We'll take you to El Paso right after the break.


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

A big story that we've been covering this morning, the ruthless drug wars in Mexico. More than 6,000 people were killed last year alone as the cartels along with a network of corrupt police and officials battle the Mexican authorities. This morning, Washington is committing more money, more technology, and more manpower to try to stop the violence from spreading north and terrorizing our border cities and towns.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is in El Paso, Texas, just steps away from the Mexican border and the war next door.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, we're here right along the U.S./Mexico border from between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. Now Juarez is right over there. That's been a major epicenter for the violence. They've had as many as ten people getting killed every day. The last couple of days the murder rate has dropped dramatically because there are some 9,500 Mexican troops which have swarmed into Juarez and basically taken over the area from the local police who weren't able to handle the violence.

Corruption obviously is a big problem especially at the local level in Mexico. But Juarez is right over here. Right here you see the dried up Rio Grande riverbed. This is a major crossover point for people trying to sneak into the United States, bringing with them drugs, in some cases, or just themselves, trying to work here -- illegal immigrants.

Now, we've been covering the story for a couple of years now and in the middle of 2006, we went to San Diego to Otay Mesa, where immigration and customs enforcement agents had just discovered a major tunnel, one of the most sophisticated tunnels they've ever seen between Tijuana and San Diego. Take a look.


COOPER: So this is the tunnel. It's 2,400 feet, all the way through to Mexico. It's the size of about eight football fields in length, seven of the football fields underneath U.S. territory, one football field is in Tijuana. It goes from this warehouse here all the way to a warehouse in Mexico. The tunnel immediately starts to slope down from ground level. It goes down about 60 feet. If you look down at the ground here, this is all concrete.

The walls down here is a soft rock. They don't know exactly how this tunnel was dug, but you can tell some sort of a drill was used. You can actually see the markings here on the side of the wall.

Now in this El Paso area, tunnels are not a problem because you have the river. You can't, you know, build a tunnel underneath a riverbed. But when people do run across, if they make it across, you see right over there, there's actually a drainage system. Drainage tunnels which have been already built, which were built out of concrete. There's an overpass over them and if they make it into that, that drainage system, then they can also go all the way into the city of El Paso.

Actually, one of these nearby drainage systems actually goes out right to city hall. So people -- that's how they try to run. Border Patrol agents are all over here. You can see their SUV just over here, but they are all over.

We saw a Border Patrol helicopter crossing over a short time ago. This is a very active area and it goes on all night long as people kind of just wait until it gets as dark as possible before they try to cross over.


CHETRY: And we're going to have much more from Mexico tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" including how the drug violence in Mexico is threatening the U.S. It's a special "AC 360" report, "THE WAR NEXT DOOR, LIVE FROM THE U.S./MEXICAN BORDER" tonight, 10:00 Eastern.

ROBERTS: Twenty-eight and a half minutes now after the hour, and here are the top stories that we're following for you right now.

Growing tensions with North Korea, the U.S. military says new satellite images show North Korea has moved a new long range missile to a launch pad. North Korea says it is, in fact, not a ballistic missile, but a satellite payload and that it's planning a launch between April 4th and 8th. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the firing of a missile would "be a provocative act and carry consequences."

Right now, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials are reportedly drafting a new list of terror targets for U.S. drones to hit. According to "The Wall Street Journal," the new plan is part of the Obama administration's decision to revamp its strategy for the region and target extremists who have carried out attacks against Pakistanis.

And developing right now in North Dakota, teams of volunteers are racing to fill sandbags as the state braces for record flooding. The Red River is expected to crest at 41 feet this weekend. That's two feet higher than the record flood of 1997 that caused more than $4 billion in damages. Officials are now warning that people's lives there are at stake.

In Bismarck, demolition crews are blasting chunks of ice that have clogged the Missouri River forcing evacuations.

President Obama open for questions today. He'll be fielding them not from the press but from you in an online town hall meeting beginning at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. And the president making a direct video pitch to the public for those questions.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now, at, anyone can submit a question about the economy or vote on other questions. We're going to compile those questions and votes and then on Thursday, I'll be giving you some answers myself.


ROBERTS: Seventy-five thousand questions have already been submitted and it's not too late to submit yours, just go to the White House Web site. It's for questions. You've got until 9:30 Eastern this morning.

And joining us now to talk more about this online outreach is "Wired" magazine senior editor Nicholas Thompson.

Good morning to you.


ROBERTS: Good to see you.

THOMPSON: Good to see you.

ROBERTS: So is this an effective way to reach out to your constituency?

THOMPSON: Absolutely. Look at the number of people who have responded. Look at the number of people who have submitted questions. And people who voted on the quality of other people's questions. I think it's working quite well.

ROBERTS: But there is one problem, though. We were discussing this before we went on. There were a number of different categories that the questions are put into. And in five of those categories, the marijuana lobby has hijacked the Web site and it got a lot of questions out there that have been voted on and floated right to the top. And if he was to take it, you know, from this idea of we're going to answer the most popular questions, five of those categories he'd be talking about marijuana.

THOMPSON: Right. Well, this is one of the problems with Internet outreach of all sorts. You know, it's very easy. The Internet makes it easy to communicate with lots of people in different ways, and it also makes it very easy for people to hijack polls. And this is something we've seen throughout time. And the marijuana lobbyist has put up sites on, saying, hey, the White House is open for questions. Go, search for the word "Marijuana," and vote everything up. And 5,000 people do that. Suddenly, it looks like marijuana is the most pressing issue in the country.

Now, Obama is going to have to decide. Well, how do we deal with this? Do we say these people are trolls, let's ignore them. And "Wired" did the same. Don't feed the trolls. Or does Obama say, well, you know, I said I'll answer the most popular questions...


THOMPSON: Clearly, there are a lot of people concern about the decriminalization of marijuana, do I deal with it?

ROBERTS: Obviously, there are a lot of very high-tech ballot box stuffing going on.

THOMPSON: It is very high-tech. But -- so here's one of the advantages of the site. You submit questions, and then people will vote yes or no. So, if a lot of people were to go on this morning and say look, marijuana legalization is not the most pressing problem facing the economy and vote all of those down, you know, 2,000 people removed those questions.

ROBERTS: Here we are on CNN telling people to manipulate the Web site. This isn't going to work out really well, I'm afraid.

Some questions did manage to get through that a lot people will -- obviously, a lot of people want to know about marijuana, but there are a lot of other people who want to know about jobs and education.


ROBERTS: Here's one that comes from James in Bloomington, Indiana. He says, quote, "As a student, who like so many others works full time and attends school full time only to break even at the end of the month, what is the government doing to make higher education more affordable for lower and middle-class families?"

You know, it's a great question. A lot of people very much affected by all of this. You know, the bad economy, and they want to, you know, get a good education and all that, and they can't afford it. But how will the White House sift through 75,000 questions, if you don't just take the most popular ones, how do you sift through all of this?

THOMPSON: Well, there's an algorithm built into this site and it weighs the number of votes for the question and the votes against the question. And also, there are questions flagged as an appropriate, which are also dealt with in a different way. So, the people have actually already sifted through them fairly well.

So, there is sort of ten questions in each category. Maybe the White House will look at the top 20, so, you know, 11 categories, 220 questions. You can have people who go through 220 questions, and find the eight most interesting.

ROBERTS: So it's interesting to watch how this has all evolved, too, in the last few years. The previous administration had an "Ask the White House"...


ROBERTS: ... function on its Web site. I think two or three times a month, or maybe even as much as once a week at one point. They would have an official who would sit down in front of the computer and answer questions in real time for about an hour or so. This is the first time they've taken it to this level. They just recently hired a new chief technology officer. Where do you think it will go from here?

THOMPSON: Well, I hope that the next step -- right now, Obama is saying ask questions and I'll answer them. I hope the next step is Obama asks questions and we answer them. And people vote on different people's answers. And people submit (INAUDIBLE) reports they've written. You know, that's not going to work right now. As we've seen with this one, there are some pages to work out, but this one has worked pretty darned well. And as this evolves, you're going to be able to get more sophisticated information from the wisdom of crowds and from the public.

ROBERTS: And this certainly takes the process of democracy to a whole new level, doesn't it?

THOMPSON: A very interesting new level.

ROBERTS: Nick Thompson, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming in this morning.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Appreciate it - Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, from promises to cut the deficit to limit lobbyist influence in the White House. President Obama has made a lot of pledges. Still ahead, we're putting them to the test. Bill Adair from is here with his truth-o-meter.

Also, keeping your investment secure in this tough economic times, we'll tell you if there's anything you can do to keep the value of your 401(k) from evaporating every time the market takes a dive.

It's 34 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: And welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Well, we know you have a lot of questions about your money, we're trying to help. Every day we're turning around the questions that you leave us on our 1-877-MY-AMFIX hotline, and then we put them to members of our CNN Money Team. So right now we bring in our personal finance editor Gerri Willis.

Welcome. Good to see you, again.


CHETRY: Our first one comes from Karen. So let's hear what she asked. She's talking about 401(k)s.


KAREN WILCOX, MICHIGAN: My name is Karen Wilcox. I'm from Livonia, Michigan.

And I'm wondering why 401(k)s don't have a safe haven account in them, or saving account, or money market account, where when things are happening, people can take their money out of the stock market or out of a bond account and put it into a safe savings account for the duration.


WILLIS: All right. So what Karen needs to know is that safe haven is not investing. Meaning, if you're putting money into a 401(k) for retirement, what you want to do is invest and putting it into a money market account isn't doing that.

Having said that, most 401(k)s do have money market options. So I'm a little surprised at what she has to say here. But if you really want to be safe, you move it to bonds or bond equivalents or cash equivalents, which is the money market fund.

So most folks would have that option, and we've seen people moving money to bank accounts recently outside of their 401(k). Big move there according to the Federal Reserve. Some $250 billion in the first six to nine weeks of this year. Big change there. But I understand your pain, but at the end of the day, you're going to have to continue investing to make your retirement goals.

CHETRY: I think a lot of people associate 401(k) with stocks, but there are other options to choose from.

WILLIS: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Just got to -- maybe get some help with your -- you know, with your benefits department and see if they can help you out there.

WILLIS: Well, you ask an adviser. You know, there are lots of calculators on the Web that will help you figure out what your allocation should be. has one of those calculators. It can really help you out.

CHETRY: All right. Good stuff. All right. And we also have question right now about the interest rates, and how it would affect reverse mortgages. Let's listen to that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN, TEXAS: I'm kind of interested in how the interest rate is affecting the reverse mortgage deal, and is that a good thing?


WILLIS: All right. So, this is a big question. John is not the only one asking this. And, of course, the question always -- will interest rate changes affect my payout on my reverse mortgage? The answer is, no. You have a fixed payout on your reverse mortgage.

But let's back up a little and talk about reverse mortgages. You know, this is a product that didn't have a lot of good press in recent years. Fortunately, they're better than they used to be. Here's what they do. They're what they sound like. They simply reverse the flow of money, instead of you paying the bank for the house, the bank pays you. And then after your debt, this is typically for retirees; your house is sold to pay off the debt.

This is a good deal for people who are thinking that they don't have enough money for retirement. Their house is their biggest asset. It's the one thing that they can actually tap to have money in retirement. Devils in the details here. Go to They have a great explainer on these products. Reverse mortgages, I think, are going to be a very big deal for boomers as they retire. People who don't have enough savings put together to be comfortable in their retirement years.

CHETRY: All right. Good stuff, Gerri. Thanks so much.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

CHETRY: And if you have a question, you can call 877-MY-AMFIX hotline. We'll continue to bring you answers with the help of the members of our CNN Money Team including Gerri - John.

ROBERTS: Breaking news this morning. It's man versus water. Teams of volunteers fighting to save Fargo, North Dakota, from a record flood. The Red River rising right now. We're live for you in the flood zone. We'll have a report coming up.

It's 40 and 1/2 minutes after the hour.

New information on the commuter plane crash in Buffalo that killed 50 people. First, investigators thought it was ice. Now, the focus is on something else, ahead, on the Most News in the Morning.


ROBERTS: And welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

And some of the stories new this morning that we're following for you -- Vermont Governor James Douglas says he will veto a bill to legalize same-sex marriage if it reaches his desk. The bill gives same-sex couples equal rights in marriage and passed Vermont Senate in a landslide and is now before the house. The governor saying, quote, "I believe our civil union law serves Vermont well and I would support congressional action to extend those benefits at the federal level the states that recognize same-sex unions." The bill's sponsor calls the decision, quote, "cowardly."

U.S. Postmaster General John Potter warning his agency is on the critical list and could run out of money this year. The Postal Service lost nearly $3 billion last year, and Potter says they are now facing even bigger losses because of declining mail volume. He's asking Congress for permission to reduce mail delivery to five days.

And new evidence raising questions about the cause of a deadly plane crash outside of Buffalo, New York last month. Investigators originally thought that it might have been icing that brought the plane crashing down onto a house killing 50 people, but now they're focused on what happened in the cockpit. Alina Cho is looking into this one for us and she joins us.

Hi, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, John, good morning.

You know, for six weeks now many of us assumed it was ice that caused that commuter plane to crash into a house. Of course, there were icy conditions at the time. But investigators now say there is growing evidence that it may have been actually pilot error that brought down Continental Flight 3407.

The National Transportation Safety Board says one of the so- called black boxes, the flight data recorder, shows the crew pulled back on the plane's control stick after receiving a stall warning. Now that pulled the nose up and that's a move that slowed the plane and made the situation worse, not better.


KIRK KOENING, AVIATION EXPERT: A normal stall recovery is to lower the nose and add power and maintain the configuration of the aircraft. The NTSB is saying someone or something pulled the yoke back, which would have been improper recovery procedure.


CHO: Now the other black box, the cockpit voice recorder, revealed very early on that the pilot and first officer talked about significant ice buildup on the plane's windshield and wings just before the crash. But the NTSB now says there's no indication that the ice actually affected the plane's flight or the controls.

Now the commuter jet, you'll recall, went down on February 12th and remember this jet then fell 800 feet in just five seconds, landing squarely on a house, just about six miles from the Buffalo Airport. All 49 people aboard and one man inside the home were killed in the crash. It is the deadliest transportation accident in this country in more than seven years. And, John, the NTSB says it will now take the unusual step of holding a three-day hearing in May. There have only been two similar hearings in the past 12 years.

ROBERTS: So that expert said, Alina, that either someone or something pulled the yoke back. It's impossible to tell at this point whether it was the pilot, the co-pilot that did that or maybe the autopilot did that?

CHO: It is impossible to tell, but they certainly are looking into it.

And one thing that's really interesting, John, is that this was not an inexperienced pilot. This pilot had 3,000 hours of flying. This was not a rookie mistake. And so one thing that they're looking very closely at is the pilot training, and how much were these pilots trained to deal with situations like that. And that's something that will hopefully come out in the coming months.

ROBERTS: All right. Alina Cho for us this morning. Alina, thanks so much for that.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: Well, President Obama is going online to take your questions in a virtual town hall meeting. He's trying to sell his $3.6 trillion budget plan and he's made a lot of promises. So, we're putting them to the test. Bill Adair from Politifact is here with his truth-o-meter.

It's 47 minutes after the hour.

Disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich live on the air.


ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: Good morning, this is former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Hi, this is Gov -- former Governor Rod Blagojevich.


CHETRY: Jeanne Moos behind the scenes with Radio Blago, ahead on the Most News in the Morning.


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

Rod Blagojevich is on the air. The disgraced Illinois governor filling in as a host on Chicago talk radio.

If we learned anything from that whole scandal, we learn that Rod Blagojevich likes to talk. ROBERTS: He does. Yes. And as Queen might say all we hear is radio Blago.

CHETRY: That's right. So how did it go? CNN's Jeanne Moos tuned in to radio Blago.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine being asked...


MOOS: host, clear your throat, a radio talk show for the very first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's former Governor Rod Blagojevich filling in for Don Wade and Roma on the Big 89.

MOOS: It was enough to make Blagojevich twitch with nervous energy as he prepared to go on.


BLAGOJEVICH: Good morning. This is former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

How are you?

MOOS: The former part of governor seemed to stick in his throat -- not once, but twice.

BLAGOJEVICH: Hi. This is Gov -- former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

MOOS: Like any radio rookie, he was a little hesitant.

BLAGOJEVICH: We're turning it over to -- commercials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Southwest Airlines announces...

MOOS: His studio sidekicks got their kicks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are those headphones going to mess up your hair? That's my concern for you.

BLAGOJEVICH: I bought my -- brought my brush.

MOOS: Blagojevich chatted with guests like comedian and CNN contributor, D.L. Hughley.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes. I'm writing a book. I'm on page three.

D.L. HUGHLEY, HOST, "D.L. HUGHLEY BREAKS THE NEWS": You're probably four pages further than George Bush is on his, so. (LAUGHTER)

MOOS: They kept coming back from breaks with Blagojevich's favorite singer.


BLAGOJEVICH: This is -- if you just tuned in, this is not Elvis. This is Rod Blagojevich.

MOOS: Lyrics apropos for a guy accused of pay for play.


BLAGOJEVICH: Hi. This is Rod Blagojevich.

MOOS: There were a few slow moments. At one point, a microphone picked up snoring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a quitter, himself, very well. But I think...

MOOS: As for the high point, perhaps it was the interview with the guy who plays Blago in a musical called "Rod Blagojevich Super Star."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you must pay to play.

MOOS: The actor in his wig and the former governor posed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like Laurence Olivier meeting Hamlet.

MOOS: Senator Roland Burris, appointed by Blagojevich, is portrayed in the musical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't be so scared now, Burris. It's not like they're taping this.

MOOS (on camera): The real Blago's radio show performance got good reviews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're doing great.

BLAGOJEVICH: Do you think so?

MOOS (voice-over): Though you'd probably fumble with your headsets, too...


MOOS: ... if you had that hair to protect. Late night just hasn't been the same without those woman-eating hair jokes.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHETRY: Ice jams and rising rivers. The North Dakota disaster.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you need any help?


CHETRY: We're live in the frozen flood zone.

Plus, drug violence at the borders, spilling over into America.


CLINTON: The violence popped into public consciousness.


CHETRY: Anderson Cooper is there.


COOPER: So this is the tunnel.


CHETRY: The real urgency of the situation now. You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


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

President Obama is going online with a virtual town hall meeting today and he's selling his $3.6 trillion budget. The president is making a lot of promises and we're doing the fact checking for you.

So what's on the up and up, and where is the White House maybe bending the truth? We turn to founder Bill Adair for the answers this morning.

Good to see you, Bill.


CHETRY: All right. So one of the things we're talking about is the president's budget for 2010. It will cost taxpayers as we said $3.6 trillion. So it surprised some people when this is what he said during his press conference on Tuesday night. Let's listen.


OBAMA: Both under our estimates and under the CDO estimates, the most conservative estimates out there, we drive down the deficit over the first five years of our budget. The deficit is cut in half.


CHETRY: All right, the deficit is cut in half over the first five years. What did the truth-o-meter say?

ADAIR: The truth-o-meter gave that one a mostly true. The true part is he's right by, and he has said it both ways, the end of his first term or five years, but the math is right. What took it down to mostly true is that this is not a particularly hard thing, because the starting point this year, the deficit has swelled so much because of the economic stimulus, because of the recession, which has reduced tax revenue, and so it's not a particularly hard promise to keep.

I think I would liken it to using an analogy in basketball, the president's favorite sport. This is like lowering the backboard, lowering the rim to about six feet and making a lay-up. It's not a hard one to keep so it gets a mostly true on the truth-o-meter.

CHETRY: I got you. And that's because again you say the 2009 deficit -- budget deficit is actually, what, quadruple what it was in 2008.

ADAIR: Exactly. Yes.

CHETRY: All right. Let's move on to what he said about the budget. He said as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, we're reducing non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest level since the 1960s. What does your truth-o-meter say to that claim?

ADAIR: The truth-o-meter gave that one a barely true. And the reason is that, I guess, first, we should explain quickly non-defense discretionary spending is the part of the budget that Congress controls, the mandatory things are social security, Medicare, Medicaid. The things that are kind of fixed that go up automatically.

So, is he right that this would be at its lowest level since the '60s? Well, he is in the last year of his budget projection, but you've got to go out ten years to get that. You've got to go out to 2019. It would not occur in his first term. It would not occur in his second term if he gets reelected. It wouldn't occur until 2019 so we gave that one a barely true.

CHETRY: All right. Because you say that there was no specific time frame given in terms of when this would happen.

ADAIR: Exactly. And that's another point. We look very closely to what elected officials say, and look at the precise wording before we rate something on the truth-o-meter.

CHETRY: I got you. All right. Well, we're going to turn to the Obameter. And this is how you track then campaign -- campaigning Obama's promises that he made on the trail. Now that he's president, you're holding him to them, 513 different promises.

One of the ones that really was a cornerstone of his campaign was to change politics as usual in Washington, and especially when it came to the influence of the lobbyists. And this is what his 2008 campaign Web site stated. "No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years." What do you give that campaign promise?

ADAIR: This one is now rated promise broken. It originally began, this was a promise kept. This was one of the executive orders he issued on his first full day in office, and we thought OK, he's kept his promise. But the more we looked at it, the more we saw it had a loophole in it that essentially allowed the administration to say, well, we're going to ignore this. We're going to ignore our policy, because we want this former lobbyist on the staff. And now that they've done that a couple of times, they've issued waivers, one in particular for the deputy secretary of defense that really goes against what he promised, so this one earns a promise broken on our Obameter.

CHETRY: Yes. You say that the waiver clause has been used at least three times, and in some cases former lobbyists were able to serve without a waiver.

ADAIR: Yes, they really -- it seems as if the administration is essentially saying he's OK, he's with the band, you know, and there really should be -- it really does seem to stray from their very specific promise. Lobbyists were very much demonized during the campaign.

CHETRY: Right.

ADAIR: The president adopted a lot of the same language that other Democrats like John Edwards and Hillary Clinton had used.

CHETRY: Right.

ADAIR: And so given the strong language, he really seems to have broken this one.

CHETRY: All right. We'll check back in with you next week and see how things are going. Bill Adair from, thanks so much.

ADAIR: Thanks, Kiran.