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CNN Saturday Morning News

Swine-Flu Deaths Spur Fears of Pandemic; U.S. Concerned as Taliban Retreat in Pakistan; Yard-Debris Burn Likely Started S.C. Fire

Aired April 25, 2009 - 06:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is 6:00 a.m. Eastern; 3:00 Pacific. Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

And who do we have today? Yes.

REGGIE AQUI, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Reggie -- I'm Reggie Aqui, filling in for T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Good morning to you. Glad to see you here.

AQUI: Big shoes to fill. We're glad to be here.

NGUYEN: T.J.'s having a little time off today. He'll be back next weekend. But we do appreciate you joining us.

All right. So fingers are pointing in the massive South Carolina wildfire. One man could have started the blaze. The damage and the death threat straight ahead.



T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What have you seen him do that you really liked, and what have you seen him do that you really disapproved of?

(voice-over): Yes, it's a different messenger.


NGUYEN: And speaking of T.J., he sits down with the 100 Black Men of American organization to discuss President Obama's first 100 days -- what they like, what they dislike and why they say he's got "swagga."

AQUI: I like the way you say "swagga." How about that?

NGUYEN: You like that?

AQUI: I like it. It's good.

NGUYEN: There's more where that came from.


AQUI: Oh, can't wait.

Would you get married knowing that you could opt out at the five- year mark? Well believe it or not, Australia is considering this -- apparently, this is a marriage contract that would give you an out.

NGUYEN: Yes, just a few years? We're good, and then we're gone, right?

AQUI: What happened to till -- till death do us part?

NGUYEN: But isn't that just divorce anyways? We'll talk about it.

But first though, developing stories from overnight.

Seventy-five students at a New York City high school suddenly come down with flu-like symptoms. Officials are investigating whether it's an outbreak of a swine-flu virus that has killed dozens of people in Mexico. We are following this developing story. We're also going to have more in just a few minutes.

AQUI: All right. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on a surprise visit today to Iraq. She is talking with officials there and holding a town-hall meeting tonight. That event will bring together Iraqis and members of U.S. reconstruction teams.

The visit wasn't announced because of security concerns.

NGUYEN: The U.N. is cutting off three North Korean companies after this month's rocket launch. Any U.N. member that deals with those companies has to freeze its assets with them. All three are accused of helping North Korea's weapons programs, and the U.N. did commend North Korea's launch on April 5, which the U.S. called "a failure."

All right. Let's get you back to our top story right now. We could find out as early as today if students who are sick in New York do indeed have swine flu.

AQUI: Yes, already we're talking about 68 people in Mexico who have died from the virus. And now, several cases have appeared in Southern California and Texas, though all of those patients have recovered.

CNN's Randi Kaye tells us health officials are keeping a very close eye on this flu strain.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Swine flu on the move. And now health officials say the same virus that's killed dozens in Mexico is also in the U.S.

Just hours ago, another case of the deadly flu found here in San Diego. That makes eight. In Mexico, more than 1,000 people infected, at least 68 dead.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We are worried as well. Our concern has grown since yesterday.

KAYE: All of the victims in the U.S. have recovered. But in Mexico City, schools are closed, libraries and museums shut down, residents wearing masks.

The Centers for Disease Control is working closely with California and Texas to learn more about the victims. Swine flu is typically found only in pigs, or in people who have been around pigs.

Health officials are stumped. None of the U.S. patients had direct contact with pigs. Only one had visited Mexico.

JOHN BARRY, AUTHOR, "THE GREAT INFLUENZA": Clearly, there is evidence of human-to-human transmission.

KAYE: Remember 2003, when SARS exploded? It spread from China to 37 countries in a matter of weeks. More than 770 people died.

BARRY: There is a real possibility that this is the next pandemic. You would find one community after -- after another would have probably somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of the entire population would get infected with this virus.

The overwhelming majority of those people would -- would have a terrible two or three days, and a week later, they're fine.

KAYE (on camera): The World Health Organization says the world is now closer to an influenza pandemic than at any time in the last 40 years. On a scale of 1 to 6, the organization puts the threat level at 3, a pandemic alert.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: All right. So despite the concerns and the rash of cases, officials are not calling this a pandemic. Last night on CNN's "ANDERSON COOPER 360," Dr. Sanjay Gupta explained why, and he also broke down the symptoms.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There are criteria, Anderson, to sort of call something a pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control. One of the things you have got to ask, is this something that is new?

We answered that question. It is new. This is a virus the world hasn't seen before. Does it cause severe disease? It's killing people. It killed -- it has caused the death of 68 people now in Mexico, as you mentioned. Is it easily transmissible and sustainable in a population? That is a little bit of a question mark still. It does appear to be transmissible. How sustainable is this? Is this something that's just going to fade away over the next couple of days, or are we going to be talking about this next week? We don't know the answer to this.

But you know, this is a true medical investigation, Anderson. People are working on this right now. After they figure out what it is, now they got to figure out where it's going.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't want to -- we don't want to freak anyone out. Just in terms of symptoms, what should somebody be looking for? And what should they do if they suddenly, you know, feel like they -- they've got a flu? And -- and how do you separate it from just a normal flu?

GUPTA: It -- it's going to be hard. As you -- as you just reported, what's happening in New York City, this -- if several people in a certain community start to come down with flu-like symptoms -- and these are the same sorts of things that are different than just a cold -- in addition to having a runny nose, headache, fever, you might get the muscle aches, overwhelming fatigue.

It's going to come on pretty quickly. The fever is going to be pretty high, usually over 101-point degree -- 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. And -- and also, if -- if people around you are also getting sick, it sort of speaks to this person-to-person transmission.

You're absolutely right, though, to -- to sort of urge not -- people not to be freaked out here. It's unlikely to happen to anybody who's watching right now. But it may happen in clusters. And if it does, the public-health officials are going to need to be on top of that and possibly sterilize a school, like they're doing in New York City, and try to get people treated.


NGUYEN: And CNN is watching this story very closely. We're going to have more for you throughout the morning.

AQUI: A new warning now from America's top general in the war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban. David Petraeus telling Congress that recent Taliban advances threaten, in his words, "Pakistan's very existence." And of course, that's a country with nuclear weapons.

As he spoke, Taliban forces were pulling back slightly from a crucial province.

Take a look at this -- because this is the kind of the intimidation they're leaving behind: a photo from "The New York Times." A barber in Buner province looking at the sign painted on his shop: "Shaving is strictly forbidden," it reads in Arabic.

So no shaving, no education for women, beatings and blindings for women not wearing burquas and death for those who resist.

The latest now from Nic Robertson, who is in Islamabad.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice- over): These Taliban may look like they're pulling back from their latest offensive, but what they are showing reporters here, just 60 miles from the capital, may be deceptive.

They are not all leaving.

SAM ZARIFI, ASIA PACIFIC DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: The withdrawal is only for the non-local Taliban, and that the local Buneri Taliban are still very much there.

ROBERTSON: Faced with a government threat to pull out or be kicked out by the army, the Taliban seem to be backing down, but probably only for now. The Taliban presence in Pakistan has grown over the past five years to a staggering level.

ZARIFI: The Taliban officially control between eight million to 10 million people.

ROBERTSON: It has been growth by stealth, from safe havens in the south, along the border with Afghanistan, where the population is already in tune with the Taliban's religious agenda, moving northward, and then looping toward the capital, Islamabad, and threatening the important city of Peshawar.

And that's not all. Now the Taliban are also infiltrating the province that's home to the capital, claiming responsibility for a deadly attack on a police academy there last month.

Despite the obvious threat, Pakistan's prime minister says the country's nuclear weapons are safe. U.S. experts believe those weapons have been taken apart and stashed in different military bases.

(on camera): Reality is, the Taliban are not yet capable of taking the capital, but they are shaking confidence in the country. Politicians appear paralyzed. But many here think there should be national unity. There is only infighting.

(voice-over): And when many think the military should be responding with full force, much of Pakistan's conventional military, supported by U.S. tax dollars, stands along the border with rival India, unprepared and out of position to fight an insurgency.

And if the Taliban pressures alone don't threaten stability here enough, consider this: Much of the largest province is in revolt against the government; relations with Afghanistan and India are extremely tense; and the United States and Britain are leaning on the government for action it seems unable to take.


AQUI: And Nic Robertson is joining us live from Islamabad right now. So what are the government officials saying right now about the Taliban?

ROBERTSON: Well, they're saying that -- Reggie, they're saying that they're not going to give them the opportunity to -- to set the law in -- in Buner and Swat.

And I'm joined right now by the army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas.

What is the situation in Buner today, and are you going to go after Taliban in Swat as well?

GEN. ATHAR ABBAS, PAKISTAN MILITARY SPOKESMAN: In Buner, at present, the Taliban (INAUDIBLE) moved in a day before and pulled out. They've gone back to Swat. And all those who are remaining are local and the government, military is -- is very confident to clear the area of Buner from Taliban, and let the locals leave in peace there. There is no problem of that.

Hopefully, in Swat, there is a deal which has been struck by the government with the (INAUDIBLE) and Taliban. The government is very hopeful and confident that it will let this process get its -- comes to logical conclusion.

If not, the government has the option of using the force. The government is following its 3-D policy of dialogue, deterrence and -- the third d is didetrrence (ph). And also at -- at the -- at the moment, the government is in dialogue with the militants. And they have been given whatever the longstanding demand of the people of the area in the form of quick justice, which is according to the religion.

And this given, there is now no reason for the militants to go on raising the issue -- any other issue which force them to use or -- use the weapons. They have to now lay down their arms.

ROBERTSON: If the government gives you the word and says, 'Go after the Taliban,' can you beat them in Swat?

ABBAS: Yes, certainly. There is a huge presence of military in the Valley, and there are reinforcement also available. So military has the capability.

It only stopped the operation because of the huge destruction and death and damage being caused to the valley and the people there.

Now, again, if the military is used, then perhaps we'll have to change our strategy and allow the people to pull out of the area, because that will be important, to avoid collateral damage. But the military has the capability as well as the determination to go after the militants in the valley.

ROBERTON: Chairman Athar Abbas, thank you very much indeed.

ABBAS: Thank you. ROBERTSON: That clearly -- the general there saying that if they do have to go after the Taliban in the Swat Valley, they will have to withdraw the civilians from the area, possibly as many as a million and a half -- Reggie.

AQUI: That's Nic Robertson, our senior international correspondent. I know you'll keep us up to date. Thanks, Nic.

NGUYEN: All right. So those fires that destroyed dozens of homes may have been started by one man in his own backyard.

Reynolds Wolf has been following that and joins us with some more of these severe storms that we've been watching.

Hey, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, Betty. You're right.

We've got a good chance of seeing some severe storms today across parts of the nation's heartland, back through Texas, Oklahoma, even into Kansas before all -- before all is said and done, and may seen those scattered showers press into parts of, say, the Great Lakes.

But for parts of South Carolina, especially right in Myrtle Beach, they're fighting the fires. No chance of rain today. And they're not going to be pushing to the east.

We're going to talk more about that coming up in just a few moments. Stay tight. Stay -- stay tuned. Yes. That's right. Yes.

AQUI: Yes, thanks. We'll stay tight -- tuned.


WOLF: It's Saturday morning, right?

NGUYEN: It's early. It's OK.

WOLF: Yes, that's what I'm talking about.

NGUYEN: All right.

AQUI: Thanks, Reynolds.

WOLF: Exactly.

AQUI: All right. We are leading up to the end...

WOLF: Word.

AQUI: ...of President Obama's first 100 days in office, and we asked a prominent group of black men what they thought.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: What have you seen that he has done policy-wise? You know, we talk about him inspiring the hope. But policy-wise, what have you seen him do that you really liked, and what have you seen him do that you really disapproved of?

(voice-over): Yes, it's a different messenger, and...



NGUYEN: All right. Want you to take a look at this video -- I mean, look at that black plume...

AQUI: Yes.

NGUYEN: ...of smoke. This is a fire that has started in South Carolina, a wildfire. But we understand it was actually started by a man who lit a fire in his yard, and obviously it got out of control. Thirty-one square miles have burned; more than 75 homes destroyed. An estimated $16 million in damage.

But the crazy thing is, this guy is worried for his life, Reggie, because...

AQUI: Yes.

NGUYEN: know, people know that he may have been the one who started this.

AQUI: Because he's a landscaper...

NGUYEN: Mm-hmm.

AQUI: would think that he would know what he was doing with what was going on in the yard.

NGUYEN: Right.

AQUI: But apparently he called the fire department a couple of times. They came out. He said to put it out. But it wasn't completely put out. So he says, "Look, not my fault. I called the -- I did the right thing."

NGUYEN: Right.

AQUI: And I guess it started again, so...

NGUYEN: That's a good question: Whose fault is it now though?

But I mean, at -- bottom line: it is started in his yard, and then now it's destroyed more than 70 homes. So we're going to continue to follow this story for you and bring you the latest on that.

But in the meantime, meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is here and he joins. WOLF: Yes.

NGUYEN: And Reynolds, another weekend, another couple days of severe weather.

WOLF: Here we go...


WOLF: ...ramping it up one more time.

You know, about those fires, they've been trying to lay blame. I mean, you certainly want to find out the cause, but at this point -- you know, is it really going to -- is it going to change anything?

NGUYEN: Yes, what's it going to do?

AQUI: It doesn't matter.

WOLF: Exactly. I mean, it's such a frustrating thing.

Just to give you an idea of what this looks like, this is not just some -- some place that happens to be just an -- just an empty area, this is a big resort location. You've got the coast right here, the Atlantic Ocean.

Take a look this; you got the high-rise buildings here. Lot of condominiums.

And then off in the distance, you've got all the smoke, the smoke from these fires that still continue to burn. The weather they were hoping would be really cooperating today, but I'll tell you something, take a look at this weather map.

It is -- but let's actually expand this again one more time, take a look at this iReport. It's still the same thing; you see all the -- the foliage in the foreground and the background, of course, just that wall of smoke. Some of those temperatures from those flames up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another shot we have here is what you're seeing at night, the glow of those fires, the embers still burning as we speak. Certainly some rough times.

You have to think of what these people are dealing with. The firefighters, you're dealing with of course the thick smoke. The heat today -- intense heat that they can expect today. And in terms of any relief from Mother Nature, it's not going to happen.

High pressure is going to be setting up over the Carolina coast. With that, very little precipitation. But if you go back farther to the west, what we're going to be seeing is a string of showers and storms extending from parts of Texas and Oklahoma back into the Great Lakes.

Now as we speak, in the Great Lakes, we are seeing some heavier storms that are developing. Not severe at this time, but if you're tuning in from Detroit, a little bit farther up along 75, some strong thunderstorms developing just near Grand Rapids.

Meanwhile, back in Chicago, you're in the clear now. But if you're trying to get a flight out this morning, or at least maybe the next hour or so, you're going to have possibly a few delays, especially if you're trying to take a flight back towards Minneapolis. We're seeing not only some scattered showers, but get this: some heavy snow falling.

And speaking of snow, we could see some very heavy stuff forming back into the Rockies later on today. Some locations possibly up to a foot.

Yes. You -- you saw the calendar. You know what day it is. And we're still talking about some -- some snowfall. Hard to believe, but it does happen this time of the year.

NGUYEN: Yes, late April.

WOLF: Heavy snow for central Rockies. Go figure.

NGUYEN: It's going to be one of those years. OK, thank you, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet, guys.

AQUI: All right. We're going to be talking to Josh Levs in just a second, because I guess in honor of Earth Week, Josh, you've got something cool for us that you're looking at on the Web.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really cool. Have you seen this yet?

NGUYEN: What is it?

AQUI: I -- I saw you playing with it.

LEVS: Did you? It's so much fun.

Check it out. I'm going to tell you all about this. It's a fun way to figure out your impact on the environment: How many planet Earths would you need if everyone lived like you?

But first, you got to pick a hairstyle.



NGUYEN: Perfect song. Marvin Gaye, "My Mistake." And you know why it's perfect? Because if you have those jitters about walking down the aisle, you may want to get married in Australia.

They've got a new idea on the table. They're considering these fixed-terms marriages. Have you heard about them? AQUI: Well, yes. Apparently, this is from the Bureau of Statistics or something in Australia.

NGUYEN: Yes, they have a high divorce rate.

AQUI: Yes.

NGUYEN: And so they're saying, "You know what? Forget about 'I do' forever? How about 'I do' for -- I don't know -- five to 10 years, with the option of renewing your vows?"

AQUI: Yes. And...

NGUYEN: It's like a contract.

AQUI: It's a contract.


AQUI: It's just a relationship that you're going to, just like a business relationship that you go into I guess.

I suppose....

NGUYEN: I guess it's easier than a messy divorce. You know it's coming.

AQUI: That's the thing.

NGUYEN: But if you want to stay in the relationship, you have that option to renew.

AQUI: And at the end of five years, if you want to leave, that's it.

NGUYEN: Yes, but -- OK, the purpose of marriage -- right? -- a lot of people believe, is to be together forever, right? So does this defeat the purpose, or is essentially a divorce that you've already preplanned and have it on paper?

AQUI: I guess it working out for a lot of people out there.

NGUYEN: Yes, apparently it's not.

AQUI: I guess they got to try something.

NGUYEN: OK, well we're (INAUDIBLE) of what you think about this, because you have been commenting this morning.

I want to take you to my Twitter page. And T.R. Hogan says, "Perfect. My relationships tend to detonate at four years. I apparently become tiresome then."

And let's move over to my Facebook page. And, you know, Jacqueline says this, and it makes sense: "I can't wait to get married so I can get divorced?" Question mark. "Is it kind of like that?" Well, yes. That's what it's kind of like. And some people don't agree with that.

AQUI: All right. You have a lot more Facebook and Twitter followers than I do. I'm trying to build it.

NGUYEN: You'll get there.

AQUI: But on my Facebook page, I have this one from Aru. And Aru writes in, "I'm not married. But when I do, I don't want to see the relationship with my partner as having an expiration date."

NGUYEN: Right.

AQUI: "I think that love vows should be renewed everyday, but not in the form of a contract."

And there's one more I want to read from you. This one from Sandra Smith, who says, "That wouldn't go over very well with divorce lawyers."

NGUYEN: I know. They would lose a lot of business.

Well, I don't know. If they have to draw up that contract in advance, then there's business in that.

Regardless though, what do you think about it? Hit us up on Facebook; also on our Twitter pages. You can also send your comments to We want to know what you think about this, this fixed-marriage contract. Is it a good thing? Is it the right thing? We want to hear from you.

AQUI: I want to hear from newlyweds.

NGUYEN: Yes, exactly.

AQUI: See what they have to say.

NGUYEN: Or someone who was about to go down the aisle.

AQUI: Yes.

NGUYEN: All right.

So have you ever figured our your local ecological footprint? Do you even know what that is?

AQUI: I'm afraid.

Our Josh Levs has a new way to do just that. But first you have to pick a hairstyle.


AQUI: Does this mean I'm turning into an avatar?

LEVS: Yes, it does. Exactly.

AQUI: Oh boy.

LEVS: You -- you know, I actually have not done a lot of stuff with avatar. You've probably done more of this, Reg.

AQUI: I actually am an avatar.

LEVS: Oh, you are an avatar?

AQUI: Yes, mm-hmm.

LEVS: Well, it's...

NGUYEN: You're going to have to explain to our viewers what an avatar is.

LEVS: I know, because now people are going to think he's not really there.

Well, I'll show you one. I'll show you one right here. This is pretty cool; it's from And what happens is, this is one of the -- the best features that we discovered this week on Earth Day. It talks about calculating your ecological footprint.

But in order to do it, it starts off with this question: How many planets does it take to support your lifestyle? And in order to answer it, you have to create an avatar.

So here you go. This is a guy right here. And check it out -- see, we can put any kind of hairstyle on him. This is an avatar; basically a fictional person. There you go; how's that? Make you green. Just design him. There you go. We got some clothes on him.

Now, we get to walk around this fictional town. It starts to ask us all sorts of questions about what you do, what you eat, what your day is like, how you get around. We'll answer just, like, one or two here so you see how it would work.

How often do you eat animal-based food products? This says, "occasionally." Let's take it.

And then it's going to ask you about how you move around, transportation. How much of that food is locally processed? That kind of thing.

All right. So you answer a whole bunch of questions, and you can see, it's pretty cool. Things keep happening all over town. And as you answer them, it starts to do these calculations.

And ultimately guys, it gives you this: your ecological footprint. And over here, this is one I did earlier as a sample. Apparently, based on the information I gave it, it would take 4.8 planet Earths just to provide enough resources.

NGUYEN: What are you doing, Josh? AQUI: Yes.

LEVS: I know, and I thought I was pretty good. I said, I use somewhat less trash than other people. I -- I only drive a total of, like, 25 miles a week. That's bad.

NGUYEN: Do you recycle?

LEVS: I know. I recycle.

NGUYEN: That's what it is; you're using too much aerosol hairspray. I know.

AQUI: That's what it is.


LEVS: Oh no, you're on to me. (INAUDIBLE) that guy's hair.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you.

AQUI: We'll see you later.

All right. So as President Obama closes in on his first 100 days in office, we have a snapshot now of how Americans think he's handling the economy.

NGUYEN: Yes, and also this: a deadly virus here in the U.S. Should you be worried? It's a flu virus. What our Dr. Sanjay Gupta says that you need to look out for.





NGUYEN: Ah, the smooth sounds this morning from the New Orleans Jazz Fest and Heritage Festival. We'll take you there live. The music, it does kick off at 11:00 a.m. with the Dixie Cups and Erykah Badu a little bit later in the day.

The fest lasts all week -- the festival, that is -- with performances by Bon Jovi; Neil Young; Sugarland; Earth, Wind & Fire; and so much more. Boy, that is going to be a great time.

Unfortunately, we're stuck here in the studio.

But welcome back, everybody.

AQUI: Stuck?

NGUYEN: And good morning. I'm Betty Nguyen.

AQUI: I'm Reggie Aqui in for T.J. Holmes. Thanks for starting your day with us.

NGUYEN: You know you'd rather be out there.

All right. Let's talk about something very serious right now. An outbreak of swine flu is being blamed for at least 68 deaths in Mexico. Officials there say more than 100 people are sick in Mexico. Schools, they were shut down across the Mexican capital yesterday to help combat the spread of this virus.

Meanwhile, New York City health officials, well they are awaiting test results today from 75 students after those students exhibited flu-like symptoms.

AQUI: Also, want to tell you about the surprise visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She is in Iraq today and she's talking with officials there, holding a town hall meeting tonight. That event will bring together Iraqis and members of the U.S. reconstruction teams. The visit was not previously announced because of security concerns.

NGUYEN: The spirit of camaraderie displayed between President Obama and Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas last week. How could you forget this picture, the handshake that was heard around the world? Well, it did little to change the Venezuelan's president's impression of the United States. Chavez said yesterday that he appreciated President Obama's friendly gesture, but he still considers the U.S. an imperialist nation. At the summit last week, Chavez shook hands with President Obama and then gave him a book.

President Obama was riding high with the public when he took office three months ago, but since then economic problems have dominated his first 100 days in office. Our Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser joins me now live from Washington.

Glad to see you every weekend, Paul. All right, let me ask you this. The president kept a pretty good public support record there, but with all of these economic times, and all the turbulence we have been seeing, how is it holding up?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR: It is holding up actually pretty well. We are almost 100 days in, 96 days is today. Take a look at these numbers. This is a poll on the approval rating of how the president is doing and he's up there on some specific issues. This is a Pew Poll. It was done nationally just in the last couple of days.

On the economy, six out of 10 Americans think the president is doing a good job. It is a little bit lower when you get to some specifics like the budget deficit. Because remember a lot of people are starting to think that this budget is too big and it is going to put us too deep in the red and on tax policy. But still, overall, a majority of the Americans on the overall economy, Betty, think he's doing pretty well.

And then when you look ahead, are they getting more optimistic?


STEINHAUSER: Yes, exactly. Look at this. This is interesting. Because, you know, if you ask Americans right now, Betty, how things are doing? Not so well. But when you ask is the country is headed in the right direction? Take a look at that left column, there. It went from 34 percent in January, according to this AP poll, to now almost half of Americans think we are headed, eventually, in the right direction. That's more, Betty, than people who think we are headed in the wrong direction.

NGUYEN: So he is gaining some there. That's pretty good. All right.


NGUYEN: But, you know, in the first 100 days, we have home foreclosures, that crisis, the bank bailouts, all of that, are we going to hear any more when it comes to the budget and what his plans are shortly?

STEINHAUSER: Yeah, exactly. The budget, the first thing that has to happen with the budget is that the Congress has to agree on it. Right now you have a Senate bill that was past, then a House bill that was past. And the first thing Betty that will happen this week, is that Congress, together, needs to come up with one blueprint and pass that.

Then there's a couple other things very soon that you'll hear about. Bank foreclosure crisis, there's some bills that have to pass through Congress that allow judges to in some cases reduce your mortgage payments, and then banking regulations.

Betty, the other things the president is going to be pushing that are tied to the economy, these are big-ticket items, health care reform, energy reform. These are going to be some big battles we are going to be hearing about over the next few months.

NGUYEN: All right. Paul Steinhauser, as always, we appreciate it. We will see you a little bit later on today.


NGUYEN: And tonight at 6:00 Eastern, a special "SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer and the best political team on television. Countdown to Wednesday's big event, President Obama's 100th day in office. That is at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

AQUI: Well, criticism obviously comes with the job of being the president of the United States, but one group is out there watching the president closely. They believe he deserves a reprieve, well, at least in the first 100 days.

NGUYEN: My co-anchor T.J. Holmes had a candid conversation with leaders of 100 Black Men of America who say they can't find much to criticize so far.


HOLMES: Yet, it is a different messenger and a guy who has a lot of capital with the American people and the world, who want him to succeed. But things look, in a lot of ways, just about the same as they have for the past several years up on Capitol Hill.


JOHN THOMAS GRANT, CEO, 100 BLACK MEN OF ATLANTA: Well, let me say, it is less than 100 days. Let me say that again, 100 days, and we can't expect miracles. I mean, we've -- in effect everyone, regardless of your political view. Food on the table, health care for your children, educating your children, and being able to have a job, it doesn't matter what your political view is, those things impact everyone.

BERNARD TAYLOR SR., ATTORNEY, ALSTON & BIRD: In our government there are certain ways to get things done and in this system you have to use the political system in order to cay achieve the right results. But in order to get there, he's got to be deft at utilizing the political system in order to achieve those goals. So it may look like it's politics as normal because it has to be politics as normal in order to get to the right result.

HOLMES: I'm going to start here. I'm going to go down the row and kind of get some short answers here, but so far, if you had to grade him, and not a letter grade here, but what have you seen policy- wise? You know, we talk about him inspiring the hope, but policy-wise what have you seen him do that you really liked and what have you seen him do that you really disapproved of?

JOHN HAMMOND, CEO, 100 BLACK MEN OF ATLANTA: The things that I really liked, so far, is the stimulus package and the way it is being communicated.

TAYLOR: Let me start off by saying, I can't think of anything in the first 80-something days or 100-something days that I have seen that I think that I'm disappointed with or wish he had done differently because I think he is really taking care of business and focusing upon things in the right way.

The other point I like about him, and his family, is what he's shown to all of us and to our society, to our country about a healthy African-American family with strong relationship between him and his wife. I mean, it is clear that Michelle Obama is his partner and a valued advisor and that he listens to her.

BISHOP EDDIE LONG, PASTOR, NEW BIRTH MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: What I might dislike about my president, it took a little while to get the dog in place.


LONG: But overall, I am what I'm excited about, and what I'm looking at especially how he's dealt with the automotive industry and helping to restructure to get some perspective there. Already mentioned in addressing our financial industry, the banking, et cetera.

HOLMES: So, not much criticism of the president in this group.


HOLMES: It is early.


AQUI: All right. Still to come, what is my favorite part of the show.

NGUYEN: Go ahead, Reggie.

AQUI: The ability to say that the 100 Black Men are going to talk about swagger.

NGUYEN: Swagger. And, what else?

AQUI: Well, we are talking about the swagger, of course, of President Obama. And also the fact that apparently they think President Obama is a true brotha.

NGUYEN: Stay tuned.


NGUYEN: Is that the story of your life? Well, it is really appropriate for this story.

AQUI: It is. "Eye Of The Tiger" because we are talking about this rivalry. It is between the Phillipsburg Stateliners and the Easton Red Rovers. Apparently, it's been going on for more than 100 years.

NGUYEN: Forever, it seems. Back in 1993, though, both teams battled to a seven all tie. Well, in Eastern Pennsylvania, tomorrow Gatorade is giving those players a unique opportunity to even the score.

WOLF: Now you need to set your watches and your TIVOs, because.

NGUYEN: It's that big of a deal, huh?

WOLF: The game time is set for 3:00 p.m.

NGUYEN: Oh, all right.

WOLF: Before we kick off the pigskin I had a chance to discuss the rivalry with some of the key players. Check out the story.


WOLF (voice over): This is the story of two American towns separated by a bubbling reach of Delaware River, but joined by a bridge in one of the nation's most heated high school football rivalries. A bitter feud played out for more than a century. For the Stateliners of Phillipsburg, New Jersey and the Red Rovers of Easton, Pennsylvania, that battle rages every Thanksgiving.

STEVE SHIFFERT, COACH, EASTON AREA HIGH SCHOOL: We always say Thanksgiving is the barometer of which you are judged in these communities. What you do on Thanksgiving sticks with you for life.

WOLF: And as the years fade the memories of past games remain. The 1993 contest perhaps one of the sharpest, a grueling clash that ended in a tie. Easton was heavily favored and scored first; Phillipsburg, second. Then the underdogs dug in.

BRUCE SMITH, COACH, PHILLIPSBURG HIGH SCHOOL: We made three big plays during the course of the game. We had two goal line stands. With about five minutes to go, Easton was lining up for what should have been a gimme field goal.

WOLF (On camera): It was on this field that late in the fourth quarter, Easton made that final drive. You know, all they had to do was just get the ball close, line up for a very short field goal, and push it through the uprights. Simple enough. The thing is, that's not what happened.

TIM FLYNN, PHILLIPSBURG FOOTBALL PLAYER: Their tight-end blocked out, I slipped through, and actually blocked it with my armpit. I got a little lucky.

WOLF: The overtime rule was not in effect in '93 so the game ended in a tie, 7-7. These guys say it is like kissing your sister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A sister kisser.

WOLF: So for 15 years the recollections of that frustrating day gathered cobwebs in their minds and unresolved and tucked away until one fateful moment.

TYRONE RANDOLPH, PHILLIPSBURG HIGH SCHOOL PLAYER: All of a sudden, the phone started ringing. People were calling me to asking me, telling me about it.

WOLF: Gatorade is organizing a replay, same players, same field, same rivalry; 10,000 tickets sold in 90 minutes.

SMITH: Typically, you don't get a second chance. To get this kind of second chance means the world to both sides of the river.

WOLF: But the boys of '93 are now grown men. Dark hair is now turning gray. Slim waists are now thick. They had to get into shape within eight weeks.

MIKE CERIMELE, VELOCITY SPORTS PERFORMANCE: You are reintroducing things that these guys haven't done in 15 years.

WOLF: But strapping on the pads and walking out on that field one last time is something that most of these guys would never want to miss. TIM CALDWELL, EASTON PLAYER: I'm going to kiss the ground. Then I'm going to get up and I'm going to listen to that crowd roar one more time. I can't wait.

WOLF: One last chance to settle the score, once and for all.


NGUYEN: That is so cool.

AQUI: A great story.

WOLF: The thing is, it is not just a story for people. I mean, just in sports. It is a story for everyone. I mean, as people were really imperfect, everyone has something in their life that they wish they could go back and try a second time. It could be a relationship, a job.

NGUYEN: Sure do. Yes.

WOLF: It could be anything. This is their opportunity to step back in time. It's funny. I was talking to some of the players. I asked them, what is it going to be like to just be 17 one more time? To step back? Obviously, the uniforms are not going to fit like they used to fit.

NGUYEN: They're a little snug these days.

WOLF: Just a little bit snug.

Something else to tell you, actually, the Manning brothers, both Payton and Eli Manning are actually going to take part in this.

NGUYEN: Oh, really?

WOLF: They are going to be kind of honorary coaches on both sides. The original coaches will be there, but you are going to have one of the brothers on one side, one on the other. It's going to be a great thing. We are going to have part two on this, telling you how this game truly changed some people's lives, especially in terms of health and in terms of staying in shape.

NGUYEN: Yes. Well, how'd they get in shape? They only had eight weeks to do it.

WOLF: Oh, yes.

AQUI: You know what they look for 15 years ago, right?

WOLF: Absolutely.

AQUI: They were in pretty good shape.

NGUYEN: Yes, not bad.

AQUI: From the video you were showing there. NGUYEN: Wait 'til after the game. We'll see how sore they are.

But my question to you, quickly, is how many times did you have to do that before you got the ball through the goal?

WOLF: I promise you through the -- the first time.

NGUYEN: Get out of here.

WOLF: No, no, no, the very first time I hit it, I nailed it. Then I had -- I missed like 10 in a row. I'm not kidding you. We were freaking out. I finally did it.

NGUYEN: It looked perfect, though.

WOLF: I know. Thank heaven for editing. Editing can make all the difference.

NGUYEN: The power of television.

WOLF: Exactly.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Reynolds.

AQUI: All right. Art imitates life in a new movie that is just out this weekend. It is based on a rather unlikely hero.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This business about me, how can this be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is legal jargon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says I have a schizophrenic mind. I do not.


AQUI: All right. Betty and Reynolds, this is getting a lot of buzz out there. It is the true story of Nathaniel Ayers, portrayed by Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, as you see there. We'll talk to his family about the message they hope to spread.





NGUYEN: That's a look at the new movie "The Soloist." And it is a true story of a musician struggling with mental illness.

AQUI: I think I'm going to see this one.

NGUYEN: It is supposed to be really good.

AQUI: It has a lot of good buzz. And our Entertainment Correspondent Brooke Anderson tells us those close to the film hope it will not only be a big box office hit, but that it will raise awareness about psychological disorders.


BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A schizophrenic homeless man with remarkable musical talents. The try story of Nathaniel Ayers is portrayed in the new film "The Soloist."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's this business about me having a schizophrenic mind?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's legal jargon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says that I have a schizophrenic mind. I do not.

JENNIFER AYERS-MOORE, FOUNDER, NAAF.: It makes you want to realize or go beneath what you see.

ANDERSON: Nathaniel's sister, Jennifer Ayers-Moore, hopes the movie brings attention to mental disorders. She started the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation last year in honor of her brother.

(On camera): You want to bridge the gap between the mentally ill and the arts, right?

AYERS-MOORE: We have goals to work with arts organizations and mental health organizations that work with mentally ill to teach arts.

ANDERSON (voice over): The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates mental illness affects one in five families in America. Jennifer is optimistic her brother's story can help remove the stigma associated with psychological disorders and benefit others struggling to cope. A goal shared by the film's stars.

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR, "THE SOLIST": I actually learned, for one, to stop for a second and see what these people are really about. And we had a ball with them. They love to dance, they love to talk trash. And to be able to see these people that were suffering in this way that, I thought, they actually had a light on.

CATHERINE KEENER, ACTOR, "THE SOLOIST": Movies can do that. They can just open your eyes to things.

ANDERSON: A silver-screen effort with the potential to have an impact long after movie goers have left the theater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sun shining, the nights are cooler. I noticed that everyone is smiling.

ANDERSON: Brooke Anderson, CNN, Hollywood.


NGUYEN: I've got to see that.

AQUI: That looks good. What are you doing after this? We can go see that.

NGUYEN: Taking a nap is what I'm doing. We are on until noon. It is going to be a long day. In the meantime, we'll talk a little bit about swagger.

AQUI: Let's do it. It is spelled S-W-A-G-G-A. You're not going to find it in a spelling bee. But it basically means a smooth man, who has his own unique style or personality.

NGUYEN: Yes, you know, men like George Clooney, Derek Jeter, Jay-Z, and Denzel, all those names. The big question is, does President Obama have it?


HOLMES: Did you see something the president did, and you were like, ah, that's a brother right there. Like he just has a bit of a swagger that is familiar to black men. It just is.



AQUI: We are feeling the beat this morning, man.

NGUYEN: A little MIA, along with Jay-Z, T.I., a whole host of them. Kanye, can't forget Kanye.

AQUI: Thank you. Please don't.

NGUYEN: We are talking about swagger this morning.

AQUI: We are. You know, it is one of these elements people say President Obama just simply possesses, he naturally has it. Of course, President Obama, even before he was elected, was inspiring younger generations and sparked pride in the black community.

NGUYEN: My co-anchor T.J. Holmes talked with leaders of the 00 Black Men of America (sic), who feel their own special connection to the president. Here's more of his interview.


HOLMES: What have you all seen, maybe you haven't said publicly, in some interview or something. You know, hanging out with your boys, having a beer somewhere. Did you see something that the president did, and you were like that's a brother right there. Like he just has a bit of a swagger that is familiar to black men, it just is.

TAYLOR: The one aspect of his relationship with his wife that I remember that made me think of him being a brother, is that were was an interview -- and you all may remember this interview. I can't remember if it was "60 Minutes" or one of the other shows. It may have been on you're folks -- CNN. But he said something and she corrected him. And he stopped and said, OK, and he accepted that and moved on. We all know what that's about.


HAMMOND: There are those things that one might point to that are more stereotypical of brothers who operate in certain ways, but there is something that he is doing which I think is also stereotypical of our community, and that is being inclusive. I'm not saying that we have cornered the market on communication acumen, but being communicative and creating a community of change is something I would say is very typical of life in our community.

GRANT: You have seen the president embrace people. That is very much typical as a part of an African-American culture, that we embrace people. Not only do we shake hands, but we believe closeness and embracing is fundamental to how we communicate. And I've seen the president do that on more than one occasion.

So I think that's one of the clear reflections of his actions, as you would call it, as a brother. Because we do, do that. As a matter of fact, each one of these men, when we arrived today, we shook hands and we embraced. It is just a communication of affection and certainly of comfort with one's self and with those that you encounter. I think he has done that well.

LONG: President Bush's last inauguration, he was home at 10:00. I was at a ball at 2:00 with President Obama. One of the things when we look at that, they are already saying in Washington how the social scene has changed. As you have already alluded to, John has, he is inviting various people into the White House. He is out in public with his family.

HOLMES: What is he doing until 2:00 in the morning?


LONG: Praying for those who ...


LONG: I'm excited about that. It opens -- in a time where it looks like all this calamity and challenge -- yet we still can move through this and deal with our challenges and face those and still be able to interact and have great relationships. It keeps people going. It keeps people up tempo and vibrant. That's a brother.


AQUI: Heads up, here, tonight at 6:00 Eastern, a special "SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer and the best political team on TV. It is countdown to Wednesday's big event. That is President Obama's 100th day in office. Again, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 3:00 p.m. Pacific. NGUYEN: Hello everybody. From CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is 7:00 a.m. in Myrtle Beach, 6 a.m. in Nashville, and 4 a.m., bright and early. Not even bright outside at this time in San Diego.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

AQUI: I'm Reggie Aqui in for T.J. Holmes. It is Saturday, April 25th. Thank you for starting your day with us.

NGUYEN: All right. So could one man have started the massive wildfire in South Carolina? Well, we have the finger pointing, the damage, and the death threats straight ahead.

AQUI: Plus, we are talking about hidden fees, rate hikes, angry consumers, this is happening in right my own family.

NGUYEN: Really?

AQUI: Yeah, where the credit card rate all of a sudden spikes up, no notice whatsoever.

NGUYEN: Out of nowhere, right?

AQUI: Yes, it has happened to people all across the country.

We'll give you some tips on how to fight the credit card companies.

First, let's get to some of the headlines right now. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on a surprise visit to Iraq today. She's talking with officials there and holding a town hall meeting tonight. Now, that event is going to bring together Iraqis and members of U.S. reconstruction teams. The visit went unannounced because of security concerns.

NGUYEN: U.S. Central Command chief, General David Petraeus, says the shipping industry must do more on its own to stop pirates. Speaking before a congressional committee, he outlined simple maneuvers that include increasing speed, removing side ladders and hiring armed guards. He said shipping companies must realize there is no way a limited number of warships can patrol a massive ocean area.

AQUI: We are going to talk now about the ship captain from the Maersk, he was held hostage by Somali pirates for five days. Well, he says he thought he would be killed. Captain Richard Phillips said he was resigned to dying at some point during the ordeal. Phillips, as you know, was freed in a rescue led by U.S. Navy SEALS. One Somali pirate was captured in that ordeal and he is due to stand trial in New York.

NGUYEN: Listen to this. Health officials say a swine flu outbreak has killed at least 68 people in Mexico -- most of them in Mexico City. More than 1,000 others are sick and Mexican officials have closed schools across the capital Friday to help combat the spread of the virus. But U.S. officials now say that they are testing 75 students in New York City after they had flu-like symptoms.

Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, told our Anderson Cooper that it's much too early to call this a pandemic.


GUPTA: There are criteria, Anderson, that sort of call something a pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one of the things you have to ask: Is this something that is new? We answered that question. It is new. This is a virus the world hasn't seen before.

Does it cause severe disease? It's killing people. It caused the death of 68 people now in Mexico, as you mentioned. Is it easily transmissible and sustainable in a population? That is a little bit of a question mark still. It does appear to be transmissible.

How sustainable is it? Is it something that just going to fade away over the next couple of days or are we going to be talking about this next week? We don't know the answer to this. But, you know, this is a true medical investigation, Anderson. People are working on this right now. After they figure out what it is, now they got to figure out where it's going.

COOPER: I don't want -- we don't want to freak anyone out -- just in terms of symptoms, what should somebody be looking for and what should they do if they suddenly, you know, feel like they've got a flu? And how do you separate it from just the normal flu?

GUPTA: It's going to be hard. As you -- as you just reported, what's happening in New York City, it's several people in a certain community start to come down with flu-like symptoms. And these are the same sort of things that are different than just a cold, in addition, to having a runny nose, headache, fever, you might get the muscle aches. Overwhelming fatigue is going to come on pretty quickly. The fever is going to be pretty high, usually over 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

And also, people around you are also getting sick. It's sort of speaks in this person-to-person transmission. You're absolutely right, though, to sort of urge people not to be freaked out here. It's unlikely to happen to anybody who's watching right now, but it may happen in clusters. If it does, the public health officials are going to need to be on top of that, and possibly, sterilize the school, like they are doing in New York City, and try to get people treated.


NGUYEN: All right. So, U.S. officials say seven people in southern California and Texas also have been confirmed to have swine flu -- the same strain that has appeared in Mexico. All of them, though, have recovered. So, that's the good news.

AQUI: All right. The president is talking about government waste. It's on his mind as we get closer to his 100th day in office. This week we call on his department heads to find ways to cut spending.

In his weekly address, he lays out four ways to trim the fat.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First, we need to adhere to the basic principle that new tax or entitlement policies should be paid for. This principle -- known as PAYGO -- helped transform large deficits into surpluses in the 1990s. Now, we must restore that sense of fiscal discipline. And that's why I'm calling for Congress to pass this PAYGO legislation like a bill that will be introduced by a Congressman Baron Hill, so that government acts the same way any responsible family does in setting its budget.

Second, we'll create new incentives and to invest in what works. We don't want agencies to protect the low budgets. We want them to promote effective programs. The idea is simple. Agencies that identify savings will get to keep a portion of those savings to invest in programs that work. The result will be a smaller budget and a more effective government.

Third, we'll look for ideas from the bottom up. After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers, not just management. That's why we'll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We'll put the suggestions that work into practice and later this year I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.

And finally, we will reach beyond the halls of government. Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money. And many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can and must learn from them. So, later this year, we will host a forum on reforming government for the 21st century so that we are also guided by voices that come from outside Washington.


AQUI: Bottom line in all this, the president promises to find more than 100 programs to cut.

Well, after 96 days, most Americans are standing behind President Obama. The most recent CNN "Poll of Polls" shows him with a 64 percent approval rating.

Our deputy political director, Paul Steinhauser, joins us once again from Washington.

So, Paul, I guess the GOP probably wishes it has the president's numbers right now, right?

STEINHAUSER: Yes. I think they would like to have a 64 percent approval rating, which they do not have, Reggie, no doubt about that. But, you know, for the Republicans, Reggie, right now, I guess their biggest success so far is -- they've been staying together. They have been unified in opposing the president when it comes to the stimulus, when it comes to the budget. Their message is consistently the same -- that the president is spending too much money, his recipes to get this country out of the recession are not going to work, tax and spend.

So, I guess, Reggie, their one success so far has been that, that they've been able to stay together.

AQUI: All right. So, let's talk winners and losers. Can we name names here? Any GOP winner out there?

STEINHAUSER: You know, overall, no. There's no one Republican that has come across as a shining star. Again, as a whole, the Republican Party has been able to kind of stay cohesive. Their numbers are smaller now, Reggie. They don't have a lot of -- you know, they don't have the majorities, obviously, in Congress, so they can't pass legislation, but they have been able to stay together. And that has been their one success so far in these first 100 days of the president's administration.

AQUI: OK. So, some general success, but what about the losers in all this? Any names you want to go on that one?


STEINHAUSER: Well, you know what? There are Republicans -- and this is interesting -- I don't know if you call them losers or not, but some Republican governors were very outspoken in their opposition to the stimulus. And a couple -- Sarah Palin of Alaska, Governor Sanford of South Carolina, Governor Perry of Texas. And they got a lot of -- and Governor Jindal of Louisiana -- they got a lot of press for that, but in the end they are taking a lot of the stimulus money.

Overall, I guess, the biggest loser for the Republicans is the same thing that is their strength, they are saying no to the president and the Democrats are starting to capitalize on that, and they are calling the Republicans the "party of no," the party of no ideas.

Now, is that sticking with Americans? Take a look at these poll numbers. Maybe it is -- because Americans overall according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll we took earlier this month -- you can see right there -- six out of 10 say that President Obama is doing enough to reach out to the Republicans. Only 37 percent say Republicans are doing enough to reach out and cooperate with the other side.

So, maybe this whole side of the "party of no," Reggie, is sticking with Americans.

AQUI: All right. So, is there going to be a showdown that we should look forward to or, I guess, fear in the next few months?

STEINHAUSER: You got it. Oh, I think there will be. We saw a big fight over that stimulus; we saw a big fight over the budget. Where are the next big fights here in Washington going to come from? Well, health care legislation.

They are just starting in Congress now to deal with health care reform. That's going to be a big battle later this year -- so is energy reform. Cap-and-trade, you've heard these terms, you are going to hear a lot more about it. You're going to see Republicans and Democrats definitely battling over these two very divisive issues the next couple of months, Reggie.

AQUI: Yes. Well, that gives us a lot to talk about, doesn't it, Paul?

STEINHAUER: Yes, we'll be talking for a while.

AQUI: Paul Steinhauser in Washington -- thanks.


NGUYEN: Well, let's talk about this for just a minute, because Republicans have focused much of their criticism during the past 100 days on all of the spending in the Obama administration. And it's the cost of energy that's got their attention in the weekly GOP address. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says ignoring nuclear power is a mistake.


SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, (R) TENNESSEE: So you would think that if Democrats want to talk about energy and climate change and clean air, they'd put American-made nuclear power front and center. Instead, their answer is: billions in subsidies for renewable energy from the sun, the wind and the earth.

Well, we, Republicans, like renewable energy, too. We proposed a new Manhattan Project, like the one in World War II, to find ways to make solar power cost competitive and to improve advanced bio-fuels. But today, renewable electricity from the sun, the wind and the earth provides only about 1.5 percent of America's electricity. Double it or triple it and we still don't have very much.


NGUYEN: Alexander also criticized Democrats for their budget which he says gives the U.S. higher deficits than the French.

And tonight, at 6:00 Eastern, a special "SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer and the best political team on television -- countdown to Wednesday's big event of President Obama's 100th day in office. That is at 6:00 p.m. Eastern and 3:00 Pacific.

All right. So, there are some proposed changes to the banks that will affect your wallet. I'm going to talk with a consumer expert on how credit cards are dealing with this credit crunch.

AQUI: And our Reynolds Wolf is in the weather center, to talk to us about what's popping out there right now -- Reynolds? WOLF: Absolutely. You know, we've been talking for a good part of the morning about the rough weather in parts of the Carolinas, very dry conditions for place along the coast and they've been battling the fires. But just the opposite in the central plains, good chance for strong storms, say, for parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas -- maybe even some tornadoes.

We're going to talk about that coming up in just a few moments. You are watching CNN. See you in a few.



NGUYEN: Well, not everything is for free, because there are hidden fees, rate hikes, and that just for people who pay their credit cards on time. President Barack Obama this week sat down with top banking executives and demanded changes. Not a moment too soon though, because I want you to listen to what some of the calls have been coming into CNN and what people are saying about their credit cards.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Basically, the government is letting the credit card companies be nothing but legal loan sharks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Credit cards are the bane of our society.


NGUYEN: So, do you know your current rights? For example, a lender must post your payment within 24 hours of receiving it. And right now, it can also take up to five months to resolve a dispute. You have 60 days to write a letter and the company has 90 days to respond. Now, that is what's on the books.

What about the proposed changes and how will it affect you? Well, financial advisor and author of one of my favorite titles, the book is called "What Had Happened Was" -- Clyde Anderson is here with us in studio. And he's going to be with us throughout this morning, providing some advice.

You know, the first thing I want to talk to you about is, this week, we saw lawmakers really tackled the issue of consumers' rights when it comes to credit cards. We are talking about a bill of rights.


NGUYEN: What's going to be in that bill and how's it going to help?

ANDERSON: I think there are several components that are going to be in the bill, that are going to help drastically. I'm really excited about the bill because, really, they are going to clamp down on that no-grace period. You know, right now, there's really no grace period on a credit card. So now, they're really going to make them stick to the fact that it needs to be a 30-day grace period before they charge late fee on the card.

They are going to do things like make them wait until 5:00 p.m. before they mark a payment late. Right now, some credit card companies will say 1:00 p.m. If your payment is not in a due by 1:00 p.m., they are going to charge you huge late fees.

NGUYEN: Is that Eastern Time?


ANDERSON: You never really know, exactly. You never really know. So, there are several components that it's going to help to make sure credit card companies are accountable. They can't drop your credit limit without you knowing it. They can't raise your interest rates without giving you advance notice.

So, there are a lot of things that are in this deal that, I think, are going to be great for the consumer.

NGUYEN: All right. But, in the meantime, the president really sent a message to credit card executives. He met with them this week.

I want you to take a listen to a little bit of what he had to say.


OBAMA: There has to be strong and reliable protections for consumers -- protections that ban unfair rate increases and forbid abusive fees and penalties. The days of any time, any reason rate hikes and late fee traps have to end.


NGUYEN: All right. So rate hikes and late fee traps have to end, but as it stands right now, if you are late on one card, companies can raise the rates on all of your cards?

ANDERSON: On all your cards. They can say ...

NGUYEN: How is that possible?

ANDERSON: They have the right, and it's all in the fine print. And a lot of talk has been about this fine print. You've got to read the fine print. They can say that you were late on your AmEx card and the MasterCard can now say that your rate is 29 percent.

So, they can look across the board and just see what you're doing as a consumer as a whole and how you are paying your debt and they can make that decision to say, "We want to raise your interest rate."

NGUYEN: And also, I've also read that even if you've paid everything on time, they can still charge you interest on that?


NGUYEN: I mean, you've paid everything off, it's on time and yet you are being hit with an interest charge?

ANDERSON: Oh, yes. They can do several things.

NGUYEN: How does that work?

ANDERSON: They can now do double billing -- double billing cycles where they'll actually -- before you made your payment on your credit card, and before that actually comes off as being paid, they can charge you interest on that again. So you get charged interest two times. So, there's things like that where they're just charging over the limit fee three times in one month for that same charge.

NGUYEN: My goodness.


NGUYEN: And you wonder why people can't pay off their credit cards?

ANDERSON: Exactly.

NGUYEN: But at the same time, I want you to listen to something that Republican chairman, Michael Steele, has to say on this, because we do want to get the other side of this. He says, quote, "It's the height of hypocrisy for President Obama to summon these credit card executives to the White House woodshed (ph) when his own reckless spending and borrowing is piling debt onto the federal government's credit card at an astronomical rate."

So, are we seeing mixed messages here?

ANDERSON: Well, I think it's a matter of opinion, you know? If you look and say that President Obama is piling on debt, I think he's doing a lot of good things. You know, we're talking about the 100 days that he's been in office and what he's done. I think there are some great things that are happening, some necessities that are happening. And we got to look at consumer confidence.

I think the move that he's making with the credit card companies is huge, because it's going to help consumer confidence knowing that he's taking that stand for their rights so they are not going to get taken advantage of. The young lady mentioned in the comment that they are like loan sharks now. And we really got to go in there and have some legislation put in place to make sure the credit card companies are held accountable.

NGUYEN: So, when -- very quickly -- will that legislation take effects? Do you have any idea?

ANDERSON: 2010 is what they are talking about right now.

NGUYEN: They are still trying to hammer it out.

ANDERSON: They're still trying to hammer it out. It has to pass. But 2010 is the estimated target date.

NGUYEN: All right. Now, I know we have viewers at home. If you have questions about your credit cards, your rates, those fees, all of that, be sure to send them into us. Send your credit card questions to us because Clyde is going to be sticking around all morning to answer them. You can e-mail us:, or you can go to my Facebook page or hit me up on Twitter -- any of those avenues. We want to hear from you today because Clyde is here and he does have answers.

Thanks for sticking around, Clyde.

ANDERSON: I do. My pleasure, Betty.

NGUYEN: Get ready. You're going to have some questions.

ANDERSON: All right. I'm ready.

NGUYEN: Reggie?

AQUI: All right. (INAUDIBLE) that conversation a little later on.

Also, we want to let you know, we are going to be talking to the mayor of Myrtle Beach, of course, about the situation in that city after fires have burned dozens of homes.

Plus, almost 100 days into his administration, how is President Obama doing on the truth-o-meter? Our Josh Levs has a breakdown on the true and false statements coming from the administration.

LEVS: Hey there, Reggie.

There have been some false statements, particularly on one topic. We will show you.


NGUYEN: All right. So, in his first 100 days in office, the president has been tackling huge issues and giving a lot of speeches.

AQUI: And that means a lot of statements to fact check. So, how is the president doing so far?

Well, our Josh Levs is here with the breakdown on that.

You have fired up the truth-o-meter, my friend?

LEVS: We've fired it up. It's hot and it's running right now. In fact, you got this one really good place to turn online for all of this, that's They just got (INAUDIBLE) because they rocket (ph) this stuff.

So, I got to talk with the head of PolitiFact and I asked him to tell me big picture so far, how is the president doing.


BILL ADAIR, POLITIFACT.COM: We have rated 21 claims by either Obama or others in the administration. I think that's 11 of them have been either true or mostly true. On the other end of the spectrum, though, he has had, I think, four false readings on the truth-o-meter, particularly for some of the claims they've made about the economy.

LEVS: I don't think presidents should get gold stars for telling what's true. So, what I want to do is focus on the falsehoods just so that we can make sure the viewers get the truth.

ADAIR: You bet. One of the falses was for a claim that your viewers heard a lot, and that was that the economic stimulus bill did not have any earmarks in it.

OBAMA: The plan that's been put together without earmarks or the usual pork-barrel spending.

ADAIR: There were a fair number of things in there, at least a handful, that were -- really could be considered earmarks. So, we gave that one a false.

LEVS: One was about whether there was some disagreement among economists about what the government should be doing in the recession, right?

ADAIR: Yes. This was one that Obama said to try to get support for his economic stimulus bill. And he characterized it as if economists were unanimous about the need for government to step in and do something.

OBAMA: There's no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jumpstart the economy.

ADAIR: That's not true. You know, there are some economists that we talked to who would say, "Let the free market work and let things go." Now, that's probably the case that the majority of economists would -- might support government intervention, but the way Obama said it was false.

LEVS: And, Bill, you certainly found some falsehoods when Republicans attacked this president as well. And I'm going to point to one thing, to be fair, that you just say, you say, "Still, it is important to point out that, overall, this administration so far has been right more than it's been wrong."

ADAIR: It has. And another thing that's notable on PolitiFact, we rate the most ridiculous falsehoods with our lowest rating, "pants on fire," and Obama can claim that indeed he has succeeded in getting -- in earning "no pants on fire" ratings so far into his presidency.

LEVS: So far ...


ADAIR: That's at least a small victory, yes, exactly. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LEVS: So, yes, that's something to take pride and a really great breakdown for him there. You can get a lot more information at We encourage you to check out. Also, we're hearing from you between now and the actual 100 days, middle of next week.

And we make sure you read the graphics. Let us know your thoughts are on the president's first 100 days. Guys, I have officially got another Twitter bandwagon. I didn't have a choice.

AQUI: All right.

LEVS: I lost that battle., I'm going to learn how to use it. Maybe you, guys, can help.

NGUYEN: No, Twitter is great. Do you know what I love about it?

LEVS: What's that?

NGUYEN: You get responses very quickly, but they are short and to the point.

LEVS: You know ...

NGUYEN: That's how we like to roll around here.

LEVS: Betty is going to help me out to learn how to do that.


NGUYEN: Yes, I'm sure you'll know, you are good to go.

LEVS: She's the expert.

AQUI: I've just signed up this week, too, Josh. So, I'm with you. I have officially two people following me. It's very exciting.

NGUYEN: I'm having class after the show. Be there.

LEVS: I'll go be your third.

NGUYEN: You got something else coming up?

AQUI: Yes.


LEVS: Yes ...

AQUI: What is this, the Obama-meter?

LEVS: Yes, the Obama-meter. (INAUDIBLE). In the 9:00 hour, we're going to take a look at what's called the Obama-meter, and that's about promises. How many campaign promises has this president kept, how many has he broken and which are they? We're going to break that down for you.

NGUYEN: All right. Well, Reynolds is also going to be breaking down these wildfires in Myrtle Beach, I'm sure you've heard about them, Josh. They have been burning and he has actually a guest with him.

What do you have, Reynolds?

WOLF: Absolutely. You know, we've been talking about the story for a good -- last couple of days. You've seen the pictures of the flames; we've been talking about the smoke. Just The terrible conditions we have in parts of Myrtle Beach.

We're re lucky this morning to have the mayor with us to talk about, again, you see the images of the houses that have been burned down, the smoke in the air, the firefighters doing all they can to stem the flames. We got John Rhodes with us. He is the mayor of Myrtle Beach.

Mayor Rhodes, can you give us the very latest from the fire and how your community is doing?

MAYOR JOHN RHODES, MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA (via telephone): Well, they are doing well. And the winds have shifted yesterday and have moved towards more of a wooded area. And they really have -- they got it about 50 percent under control.

WOLF: Fifty percent under control. How is the downtown area? Now, when we think of Myrtle Beach, we don't think about the hinterlands, we don't think about the surrounding area, we think about the downtown area. The downtown area is still open for business. I mean, tourists can still get in there, correct?

RHODES: Absolutely. That was the west of the waterway. And therefore, all the commercial area was untouched.

WOLF: Mayor, you are talking about the number of containment, you said 50 percent. That's certainly a great number, but that, you know, still you have a long ways to go. I understand that you've got a lot of firefighters; you've got support, not just on the ground, but also in the skies above. How are the firefighters holding up?

RHODES: They are holding up well. There's been a long couple of them -- not a couple but a bunch of them have not slept more than two or three hours in a two days, but now they have been able to get some rest because of the containment. But we're very fortunate that we have had from (INAUDIBLE) state fire departments coming in to help fight this blaze. Now, from (INAUDIBLE) the state of North Carolina say, we were very fortunate to have that kind of support.

WOLF: Mayor Rhodes, we know it's a busy time for you. I'm sure you've had very little sleep over the last couple days. We thank you so much for giving us this quick update. And, folks, let's send it back to our news desk with more. But again, you got the story in South Carolina.


WOLF: It's certainly a smoky one, guys.

NGUYEN: We'll continue to watch that.

WOLF: No question.

NGUYEN: Thank you so much, Reynolds.

All right, Reggie, I have a question for you.

AQUI: Yes.

NGUYEN: Have you ever bought in or sold -- bought or sold something on Craigslist?

AQUI: I have done both, as a matter of fact.

NGUYEN: You do?

AQUI: Yes.


AQUI: And I didn't know the tips that we're going to be sharing with our audience.

NGUYEN: You need to know.

AQUI: Yes, because luckily enough, nothing, you now, untoward happened to me in my situation.

NGUYEN: Right.

AQUI: But, you know, of course, with a lot of the headlines these days about the supposed Craigslist killer, we want to get out there and let you know what things you should be doing when dealing with these complete strangers on the Internet. That's coming up.


NGUYEN: Credit cards, housing finance, send us your questions because we have an expert on hand to answer them. E-mail us:, or go to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

AQUI: All right. "HOUSE CALL" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta starts right now.