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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Obama Focuses on Economy; Yale Murder Mystery
Aired September 14, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama has a warning on the anniversary of the biggest bankruptcy in American history. Lehman Brothers' failure sparked events that threatened the nation with another depression. And now, on this anniversary, President Obama says he's determined to never see that happen again, never. And he's warning Wall Street what it must do and what it must stop doing right away.
Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian -- Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president did have some strong words for Wall Street, warning against what he called reckless behavior. But he was also touting his administration's effort to stabilize the financial market to prevent another collapse.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): Standing on the fault line that helped trigger a financial earthquake, President Obama delivered a warning to Wall Street.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences and expect that, next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall.
LOTHIAN: And he chided those with short memories who are -- quote -- "misreading this moment."
OBAMA: Instead of learning the lessons of Lehman and the crisis from which we're still recovering, they're choosing to ignore those choices.
LOTHIAN: The ground hasn't stopped shaking. Some banks are still under pressure, and hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to get pink slips each month.
But the president credited the $787 billion stimulus plan and swift action by his economic team with pulling the country back from another Great Depression.
OBAMA: The growing stability resulting from these interventions means we're beginning to return to normalcy. The storms of the past two years are beginning to break. LOTHIAN: While the president is pushing to close loopholes, and proposing a new consumer financial protection agency to enforce new rules, one year later experts say the financial system remains vulnerable.
DOUGLAS ELLIOTT, BROOKINGS INVESTIGATION: Very little of what we need for the long term has been put in place yet.
LOTHIAN: But the risk of another collapse, he says, has been minimized for now.
ELLIOTT: Bankers may be dumb, but they're not that dumb. There really has been a pullback on the amount of risk being taken. Things are being done more carefully. You don't usually have a crisis blow up when everybody's watching for it.
LOTHIAN: Douglas Elliott, who is also a former investment banker, says what really worries him is what happens over the next 10 to 15 years, when you have a new set of players on the Wall Street. And across the banking system, he wonders there will be enough oversight in place to keep them in check -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian is over at the White House.
During the president's trip to New York City today, six firemen were at his landing zone to greet him. They were from the New York rescue squad Rescue 1 squad. That's what it's called. Of course they were among the first-responders on 9/11. And their group suffered many casualties.
President Obama today called for commonsense rules on the financial industry one year after the start of a crisis that caused Wall Street's meltdown.
Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, tells us what the president is proposing -- Ali.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president took the opportunity of the one-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers to underscore the point that even if it were to happen today, there aren't enough rules in the system to prevent a financial collapse.
So, let's take a look at what he's proposing. Basically, he said four thing. The first thing the president wants to propose is a consumer financial protection agency, an agency that will look at the whole financial scenario and protect consumers from some of the bad rules that are out there or some of those things that don't have any rules, like mortgages that are not suited to individuals.
The next thing that the president wants to deal with is prevent financial companies from shopping around for a regulator. There have been some companies that could fall under one regulator or another and they have chosen one because the regulations in that area are more lax than another. The president wants to end regulator shopping.
The third thing the president wants to do is he wants to deal with the issue of companies that are too big to fail. I have got a building sort of falling, ready to crush some houses. The idea is if the government is able to step in earlier and see a company that's too big to fail, they can do something about it before it actually starts to fail, maybe break it up or take some action earlier.
And the fourth thing that President Obama talked about was not paying for risks, but paying for responsibility, taking the idea that you win for gambling and losing on Wall Street and paying people to run their businesses profitably, but responsibly.
All of this the president says he wants to do in consultation with the financial sector, so as to not be imposing rules that are hurdles for good business, but just rules that are fair, that everybody understands. He talked a lot about transparency and accountability -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ali Velshi working this story for us.
Let's turn now to a potentially alarming story in New York City. It involves a terror raid there and briefings for lawmakers at the highest levels of Congress.
Let's go straight to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She's got some detail for us.
Actually, Jeanne Meserve is working the story, but let me go to Deb Feyerick first. She's got some new information.
Deb, you're on the scene for us. What do we know?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are, indeed, Wolf.
Well, here's what we can tell you right now, everybody piecing it together in its early stages, but a source at the NYPD does tell us that the joint terrorism task force did execute multiple search warrants early this morning on several apartments Here in Flushing Queens, which is where we're standing right now.
The source would not elaborate how many were executed, but did say this is part of an ongoing investigation into potential terrorism. Now, we are told by a federal law enforcement source that agents were looking for a particular individual, but that individual not in any of the apartments that they went to early this morning.
The U.S. attorney's office could not confirm exactly what was going on, saying there's no public information at this time. But an eyewitness does say there were dozens, dozens of agents, some of them armed with machine guns, other wearing FBI jackets, who were here early this morning. They did carry out at least one black box. It looked like a document box. Other than that, they did not see them carrying anything else -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, we're going to get back to you, also Jeanne Meserve. She is working this story. thanks very much. A worrisome development in New York City.
In the meantime, let's check in with Jack Cafferty once again. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, an Indiana pizza shop has been ordered to pay for weight loss surgery for a 340-pound employee. An appeals court upheld an earlier ruling that the employer, the pizza shop, must cover the surgery, which could cost as much as $25,000, so that the man can then have another surgery for a back injury he sustained while on the job at the pizza shop.
The pizza shop agreed to pay for the back surgery, but argued they shouldn't have to pay for the weight loss operation because the man was already overweight, obese, in fact, before he got injured. But the court said the surgery should be covered because the man's weight and the accident combined to create a single injury.
This isn't the first case, either, of its kind. Oregon's Supreme Court recently ruled that state workers' compensation insurance had to pay for gastric bypass surgery in order for a man's knee replacement surgery to go forward smoothly.
In a nation where one-third of adults are obese, these kinds of cases could have chilling effects on businesses. Employers could become wary of hiring fat people or those with preexisting conditions that could make a workplace injury more likely.
Experts say that although it's illegal for companies to refuse to hire an overweight person because of where they tip the scales, that there are other ways and other reasons that can be found not to hire them. There were more than two 220,000 obesity surgeries performed in the United States last year.
So, here's the question: Should an employer have to pay for an employee's weight loss surgery? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good question, Jack. Thanks very much. Get ready for a lot of response.
They generally like the president, but what do Americans think of his plan for health care reform? We have a brand-new poll showing what impact, if any, his speech to Congress is having. Stand by for the numbers.
Also, the ultimate power lunch -- President Obama and former President Bill Clinton, where they ate, what they said.
And findings that will disturb anyone who uses a BlackBerry or a cell phone, details of a brand-new study on the cancer risks all of us may -- repeat, may -- be facing.
BLITZER: It could be the ultimate power lunch, President Obama and former President Bill Clinton. The two met today as President Obama visited New York City. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, says they talked about ways to improve the American and global economy and they also did some talking about health care reform. Gibbs says President Obama values the type of advice former President Bill Clinton has.
Might some of Clinton's advice help President Obama push through health care reform? Some fresh poll numbers are out now. The president has a long way to go towards getting that.
Let's bring in our CNN senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
The polling numbers are revealing.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They really are. And, first, let's take the 50,000-foot view, Wolf. And that's that a majority of Americans think Republicans who oppose the president's health care reform do so for political reasons, which doesn't mean Americans have signed on to the Obama plan, though certainly it's clear they like him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madame Speaker, the president of the United States!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CROWLEY (voice-over): The president's health care speech to Congress seems to have boosted his approval rating to a very healthy 58 percent, but the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found approval of the president's health care plan virtually unchanged from pre-speech numbers. A bare majority supports it.
CNN pollster Keating Holland on the effect of presidential trappings.
KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: There may be a rally effect every time they see him assume the mantle of the presidency, give a big speech, make a big policy pronouncement. When they actually look at the details, sometimes, they're not so hot on the details.
CROWLEY: And the poll did find widespread skepticism of some of the president's key talking points.
OBAMA: I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits.
CROWLEY: No sale. Three-quarters of Americans believe the president's plan would increase the deficit.
And about that public health insurance option...
OBAMA: Now, my health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a government takeover of the entire health care system.
CROWLEY: And a solid majority of Americans still think that -- 55 percent, including some who think it's a good idea, believe the Obama plan will eventually lead to a government takeover of health care.
As for the night's sideshow...
REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie.
CROWLEY: ... a huge majority said shouting at the president was inappropriate, but on the issue itself...
OBAMA: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
CROWLEY: Sixty percent say the president did not lie in his speech. Still they are split on whether his plan would provide insurance for illegal immigrants. And, finally...
OBAMA: In fact, I want to speak directly to seniors for a moment.
CROWLEY: They are his toughest constituency when it comes to selling health care.
OBAMA: I will protect Medicare.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CROWLEY: The CNN poll found seniors are unconvinced, leading to high numbers in overall disapproval of the plan. Younger people overwhelmingly support it. The middle-aged are split, while the 65- and-older crowd are overwhelmingly opposed.
Before the president pitched health care on Capitol Hill, White House aides said no single speech can change things, and they were right.
CROWLEY: And, in the end, the president's best chance of getting overwhelming public support for his health care reform is to sign a bill into law. And, if it works, Wolf, he will have all the support he needs.
BLITZER: And that's the question. A, will he get that bill? And, B, if it works. It's a big question.
CROWLEY: Exactly. A long way to go. BLITZER: The fascinating thing about the seniors, people 65 and other, they vote in disproportionately large numbers, and they're the most concerned.
CROWLEY: Certainly in non-presidential years, that's true. And they are the most concerned. And that has to be the one thing -- I was talking to Keating about what they should be most concerned about, the White House. And he thought that the White House should be most concerned about their -- those senior numbers, because they do vote.
BLITZER: Got some work to do with the seniors. All right, thanks very much, Candy, for that.
Do you use a cell phone? You could be at risk from the radiation they admit.
Our Brian Todd has details on a brand-new study that may give you second thoughts about upgrading to a so-called smartphone.
Brian, tell us what this study is all about.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is from an environmental advocacy group. It has got new warnings not only about smartphones, but about other wireless devices, warnings aimed at so many of us who have used them over long periods of time.
TODD: Ellie Marks thinks it may be too late to save her husband, but she's determined to tell his story in Washington. Allan (ph) Marks has brain cancer, and Ellie says his doctors pin it on one device.
(on camera): About how much did Allan use his cell phone?
ELLIE MARKS, WIFE OF BRAIN CANCER VICTIM: Allan used his cell phone a lot. He was -- it was glued to his ear. He's in the real estate industry. He used it -- probably averaged about 22 hours a month.
TODD (voice-over): Marks concedes this was in the 1990s, when cell phones were bigger and emitted more radiation. But she's also concerned about current cell phones and so-called PDAs, personal digital assistants. And she is not alone.
A new report from the Environmental Working Group warns of radiation risks and has a top 10 list. Motorola has five models on it. BlackBerry has two.
TODD (on camera): This is a BlackBerry Bold, one of the top 10 emitters on your list. What is wrong with phones like this, basically, according to your study?
RICHARD WILES, ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP: Those phones emit high levels of radiation that has been associated with increases in brain cancer in the most recent studies that looked at people who use cell phones for more than 10 years.
TODD (voice-over): The Environmental Working Group says it didn't test the phones itself, instead used existing data. And it admits the science is not definitive.
To clarify, the study says these phones emit higher levels of radiation, but does not assert the phones themselves increase the risk of cancer. Contacted by CNN, Motorola issued a statement saying radiation levels in its products are within safe exposure limits.
A representative for the BlackBerry manufacturer did not respond to our calls and e-mails. The Wireless Trade Association cites FDA and American Cancer Society studies showing no adverse health effects from wireless phones.
A researcher from the National Institutes of Health, who studded the risks, says some data concerns him, but when pressed:
(on camera): Taken as a whole with the studies that we're talking about and the ones that you have done, are these devices really emitting radiation levels that are concerning or unsafe?
JOHN BUCHER, NATIONAL TOXICOLOGY PROGRAM, NIH: Right now, I cannot answer that question. We just don't have the data to answer that question yet.
TODD: But the Environmental Working Group also has an issue with the safety standards but out by the U.S. government. It says standards set by the Federal Communications Commission are based on 1992 recommendations and, therefore, are very outdated.
Now, contacted by CNN, the FCC said it has always relied on the advice of government health agencies for its safety standard and so far no agency has suggested that those standards be changed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How does this group say you could decrease your risks, Brian?
TODD: Well, they say that hands-free devices where you don't have the phone right up to your head are the best things to use. But they also have a special warning about teenagers and younger kids that is kind of disturbing on its face. It says these kids are at particular risk because their skulls are thinner, not able to shield the brain as much from radiation.
And, Wolf, we all know more and more teenagers these days are getting cell phones.
BLITZER: What do we know about this group, the Environmental Working Group, that's making this study? Because it's going to be alarming to a lot of our viewers out there.
TODD: Well, it's an environmental advocacy group. It's a lobbying firm that does some of these studies. And again it's important to realize here that this group says that it didn't test the phones themselves. It relied on data, existing data, that the manufacturers provide to the government about the radiation levels.
There are some in the medical community who say the study -- you have to take everything into consideration. It is considered a credible group, but take into consideration that it did not test the phones itself and is relying on existing data that is already out there.
BLITZER: And other -- the NIH, you're saying, and others they're saying, don't worry so much; it's safe?
TODD: They're saying that they found no definitive link between the radiation, well, at least the phones themselves and brain cancer. There are a lot of studies that have been done over the last several years and on so far no definitive links.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much -- Brian Todd reporting.
An Ivy League campus in shock right now. Who killed a young Yale University graduate student? Police say they're questioning several people in the case. We will have the latest on the investigation.
Plus, Senate health care negotiations, the negotiators say they're very close to a deal that would stop illegal immigrants from getting government-subsidized health care. We will have an update on today's talks.
And a huge chunk of ice hits and damages a Detroit man's home. Where did that ice come from?
BLITZER: An autopsy has positively identified a body found inside the walls of Yale University lab as that of Annie Le. Her remains were found yesterday, the same day the 24-year-old graduate student was to be married.
CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from the scene in New Haven, Connecticut, right now.
Mary, what's the latest?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, all signs really have been pointing to an inside job. And police are saying they don't believe that this was a random act.
And Yale University has also been briefing students throughout the day. The president of Yale, Richard Levin, has told students a short time ago that there were a limited number of people inside the basement where Annie Le's body was discovered yesterday, and that the limited number of people, those names have been turned over to authorities. Annie Le's body was found about 5:00 p.m. yesterday. She was last seen on Tuesday at about 10:00, seen on a security camera going inside that research lab. And investigators found her body lodged behind a wall inside a basement. And why there's a limited amount of people is because everyone who goes into that building has to swipe an I.D. card. Now, police are saying they don't have any suspects in custody at this time.
But they say they are -- they are questioning many, many people. And they have been continuing their investigation throughout the day. The president of Yale said he is confident that the culprit will be arrested, but he did not have a time frame for that arrest -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow is on the scene for us.
We will check back with you, Mary. Thank you.
He apologized once for his outburst, but Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina says he won't apologize again for shouting "You lie" at President Obama during a speech to Congress.
The president calls it a distraction, but House Democrats are pushing ahead with plans to publicly slap Wilson on the wrist. Why? We will talk about that and more with our senior political analyst David Gergen.
And how one Democratic senator hopes to raise money with Rudy Giuliani's help.
BLITZER: We could be close to seeing a long-awaited bipartisan deal among senators negotiating over health care. A key Democrat says Republicans and Democrats in that so-called gang of six are finding common ground.
The Senate Finance Committee chairman, Max Baucus, says he expects strong bipartisan support when details of the bill become known. One detail they're discussing, how to make sure illegal immigrants don't get government subsidies to buy health coverage.
You will recall concerns about illegal immigrants possibly getting health coverage is what caused last week's outburst during President Obama's speech in front of Congress. That's when Joe Wilson, the congressman, shouted out "You lie."]
Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that outburst has spurred what is shaping up to a partisan showdown in the House of Representatives, a showdown the White House is distancing itself from.
KEILAR (voice-over): Congressman Joe Wilson on the House floor Monday. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, during the August recess, I was honored to host the largest congressional town halls in the history of South Carolina.
KEILAR: It wasn't what Democrats wanted to hear. They want Wilson to apologize for shouting "You lie" as President Obama addressed Congress last week.
OBAMA: The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
WILSON: You lie.
OBAMA: It's not true.
KEILAR: Wilson said Sunday he's done saying sorry.
WILSON: I called immediately. I did apologize. But I believe one apology is sufficient.
KEILAR: Now Democratic leaders want to slap him on the wrist with a resolution of disapproval that could come to the House floor as soon as Tuesday, one leadership aide saying: "Failure to respond would mean consent for that kind of conduct. In the absence of an apology, the House must act to admonish his behavior."
The typically reserved Southerner has become a hero of sorts to those who oppose the Democrats' health care plan. A campaign aide says Wilson has raked at least $1 million for his reelection. Cameras caught him signing the infamous photo of his outburst. And Tea Party protesters cheered him on.
WILLIAM GREENE, RIGHTMARCH.COM: I thank God for Congressman Wilson that had the courage to say, "You lie"!
KEILAR: Fellow Republicans are circulating a letter in support of Wilson and defending him on the House floor.
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: So, I stand with Joe Wilson. Let's get on with the business of this House. Let's start running this country, instead of doing cheap political points.
KEILAR: This vote on a resolution of disapproval is expected to be along party lines, Wolf, Republican aides telling us that most Republicans are expected to vote no on this.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, thanks very much.
Let's talk about this and more with our senior political analyst David Gergen. He's here in "The Situation Room."
I want to play, David, what the president said on "60 Minutes" last night when he was asked about this uproar following Joe Wilson's outburst.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: See, this is part of what happens. I mean, it just -- it becomes a big circus instead of us focusing on health care. In the era of 24-hour cable news cycles that the loudest, shrillest voices get the most attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think? I mean, he's got a point.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He does have a point. There has been a coursing of the political discourse. I think the polarization of the country unbelievably seems to be worse today than it even was under George W. Bush. We didn't think it could get any worse. It was worse under Bush than it is was under Bill Clinton.
BLITZER: Do you remember a time when it's been this bad, the course nature of the public discourse?
GERGEN: I don't remember a time since the Vietnam War when it's been this rough. We've had very tough demonstrations and we had a lot of ugly things said in the country. And there was a question whether we were going to hold together or not. So I think there's a serious question about governing.
I also think, Wolf, that those who are, quote, "the talking heads," need to take seriously the president's challenge about how do we make civility -- how do we bring civility into the conversation? How do we do that?
CNN has cared a great deal about this issue, tried very hard to be where there is a fair exchange, but it's also done in a civil way. And, you know, I think we ought to be taking up the president's charge on this.
BLITZER: If you look at the financial fallout from Joe Wilson's outburst, he's raising a ton of money for his reelection campaign, I think $1 million over the past few days, and his Democratic challenger is raising a ton of money. It's been good financially for them.
GERGEN: It's been a bonanza. And it's like an arms race with the two of them raising money on each side. I think it's a side show. I think it's sort of bread and circuses.
I think the real news today is that finally the Senate Finance Committee is moving forward on a bill and there's some rising hope that not only can they possibly get some Republicans to join in, but they can get the costs down.
I think that's where we're heading. I think we'll probably get a bill, but I think the costs are going to be a good deal lower than what we thought they were.
BLITZER: And it's interesting that in this Senate version that's emerging from the Finance Committee, they've agreed, we just heard Brianna's report this, they've agreed to include language specifically requiring individuals to prove they're here legally, whether they're U.S. citizens or U.S. residents, some that the House Democrats thought was not necessary.
GERGEN: Well, Joe Wilson, he made his point, and they responded to it.
But I do think that it's also sobering today, though, to see this new poll out of "Washington Post"-ABC showing that even after the president's speech, 48 percent to 46 percent, Americans still oppose this health care reform. That means they either have to change the public or they've got to pass the bill over the objections and in the teeth of a very divided country. I think that's hard to do.
BLITZER: You did see he still has 58 percent job approval.
GERGEN: He has a good job approval number, but on health care itself.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
GERGEN: It's good to see you.
BLITZER: David Gergen, always helpful to all of us.
In news around the world, here are some other stories we're following right now. In London, three men convicted of a plot to blow up flights from Britain to North America were sentenced today. They planned to hide liquid explosives in drink bottles.
The ring leader got at least 40 years in prison, two of his accomplices got sentences of at least 36 and 32 years. The plot led to restrictions on liquids passengers are allowed on board aircraft.
In Baghdad, the Iraqi man who threw his shoes at President Bush is due to be released from prison tomorrow. He served nine months behind bars. Red tape held up the journalist expected to be released today.
His family and supporters have been waiting outside the Baghdad jail and have planned a hero's homecoming.
In Germany, at Stuttgart airport, look at these dramatic pictures. A passenger jet makes an emergency landing on protective foam. The plane reported problems with its reporting gear. A German political party official was among the 73 passengers. They all got off on emergency slides.
A spokesman says for Lufthansa's Contact Air says one person was injured and a flight attendant was taken to a hospital for observation.
In Kampala, Uganda, more than 20 people are dead in the wake of three days of rioting. The violence erupted last Thursday when the Ugandan government prohibited the king of the Buganda tribe from traveling to an area inhabited by a renegade rival tribe.
Government officials and the Bugandan Kingdom have been at odds for years over land, sovereignty, and political power. The state department has warned U.S. citizens about the potential for more violence.
There's a new hidden camera video emerging in the scandal surrounding a controversial grassroots group and activists posing as a pimp and prostitute. Our special investigations unit uncovers new developments.
And celebrity scorn heaped on Kanye West. One says it's like he stepped on a kitten. CNN Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look at the verbal flogging over his award show antics.
BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring some other important stories coming into "The Situation Room." Betty, what's going on?
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: A judge has ordered the children of Martin Luther King Jr. to sit down and talk about the estate dispute that they are arguing over. Bernice and Martin III accusing brother Dexter of taking and misappropriating funds from the father's estate.
Dexter has the 90s (ph) allegations and at a hearing today the judge told the civil rights leader's children to hold a shareholders meeting to discuss their father's estate.
Well, there's new data released today by the FBI, and it shows overall crime fell almost 2 percent around the country. Murder and manslaughter were down almost 4 percent last year. Also on the decline, property crime by 0.8 percent.
Crime typically rises during hard economic times, but one expert says last year's data was too early in the economic psych toll reflect that.
And a man suspected of robbing 14 banks in six states says he wants to return to Tennessee to face charges. Chad Schaffner made the request in federal court, two days after his arrest at a Missouri motel. He was caught after a former state trooper recognized him from media reports.
He's suspected of robbing banks in, get this, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and Tennessee.
Federal aviation officials are investigating a chunk of ice that slammed into a Detroit home. There's some video of it.
Gerald Young says the ice hit his house last fight, leaving a gaping hole in his attic. Neighbors say the plane was flying overhead just before something that sounded like a missile hit Young's house.
The FAA told him to take pictures of the ice and the hole, which, obviously, he did, and nobody was hurt. Sad news to tell you -- former White House Press Secretary Jody Powell is dead. A spokesman for the Carter Center says Powell died of an apparent heart attack. Powell served as press secretary for President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981, and after leaving the White House he headed a Washington PR firm. Jody Powell was 66 -- Wolf?
BLITZER: He was a really good pan. My deepest condolences to his family.
Thanks very much for that, Betty.
Another city, another undercover sting. This one in New York City where activists impersonating a pimp and prostitute once again used a hidden camera to target a liberal grassroots group. CNN special investigations unit Abbie Boudreau is here with more on this.
Abbie, how many of these videos are there so far in?
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: This is the third video that's been released. It's pretty much the same story as the other two from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., where a filmmaker named James O'Keefe and his friend pose as a pimp and prostitute.
Using an undercover camera, they walk into the ACORN office in Brooklyn, New York, and ask for help setting up a brothel using underage girls from El Salvador.
The workers actually try to help them. They give advice about how to keep his name off of the property records and still run an illegal operation using teenage girls as young as 13 years old to turn tricks.
One of the ACORN workers even suggest the prostitute hide her income in a tin can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you buying a house?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uh-huh.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With a backyard?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you get a tin, it Tom Jones is going to come and beat you and want money, you get a tin and you bury it down there -- in there and you put the money right in there and cover it and put it -- and you tell a single soul but yourself where it is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A tin? I put the money in a tine?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A tin. And put it in there and put the grass over.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Abby, as you know, ACORN is a liberal group primarily known for helping low-income folks get affordable housing out there. So why are they giving this kind of advice?
BOUDREAU: Right. Well, that is the big question. ACORN has already fired four of the employees caught on tape for what they said. But the three workers from the Brooklyn video are under investigation at this point.
We talked to Republican Congressman Steve King about the videos. He says he doesn't understand why the workers didn't just call the police when the pair claimed they were trafficking in young girls from El Salvador to be prostitutes. King is calling for a Congressional and Justice Department investigation -- Wolf?
BLITZER: I know you spoke with a spokesman from ACORN earlier in the day. What did he say?
BOUDREAU: We did interview Scott Levinson, a spokesman from ACORN. He calls it a "right-wing setup." Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT LEVENSON, ACORN SPOKESMAN: It's a shame, is what it is. It's an orchestrated shame. It's journalism by Borat. They're attempting to create news rather than report the news and are doing so in a deceiving, not genuine way, and trying to trick people who are trying to help people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOUDREAU: OK. Wolf, we have reached out the ACORN employees from all of the videos and no one has called back -- Wolf?
BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this story. Thanks very much, Abbie Boudreau.
It seems everyone is talking about angry outbursts today, especially singer Kanye West's most unusual performance at last night's VMA awards. We're taking a look at the growing backlash.
Plus, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand finance director asks her supporter open their wallets to help "fend off one of the biggest attack dogs," that's a quote, in the GOP. What was going on? Stay with us, you're in "The Situation Room."
BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour? Lou, what do you reckon on?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you. At the top of the hour, no more reckless behavior, that's the president's harsh message to Wall Street today. Is anyone actually listening?
Also, did he or didn't he? The truth on whether President Obama really lied about illegal immigrants receiving health care coverage.
More workers for the left wing activist group ACORN caught in a hidden camera sting. And today the Senate voting to cut off millions of federal money to the group.
Also, a new CNN poll showing a majority of independents in this country now disapprove of the way the president is managing the economy, government bailouts, massive spending, and a potential health care takeover. What's not to like?
And we'll tell you about his approval ratings, which are rising.
Join us for all that, all of the day's news and more at the top of the hour -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Lou, thank you.
On our political ticker, a Senate Democrat hoping to make money off Rudy Giuliani. "The New York Post" reporting that the former Republican mayor and presidential candidate may challenge Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's seat.
Her campaign wasted no time firing off a fundraising e-mail asking supporters to help Gillibrand fend off what it calls, and I'm quoting now, "one of the biggest attack dogs in the GOP."
In the race to replace Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate, another Democrat decides not to run. Congressman John Tierney in a statement, he says he can best serve Massachusetts in the House of Representatives.
Who says bribery and racketeering convictions and seven years in prison will end your political career? Former Ohio Democratic Congressman James Traficant just go out of jail last week, and already he's telling CNN he's considering another run for Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES TRAFICANT, (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I'm not sure at this point. The only way I can get back to the Justice Department is probably to go back to Congress. Both parties would not want to see me in Washington, believe me.
I'm going to have a lot of political opposition if I do run, but quite frankly, I don't give a damn. Beam me up. I'm ready if I decide to run.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A former Buffalo Bill wants to be a Michigan Congressman. We're talking about Jay Riemersma, who says he's running for the seat being vacated by fellow Republican Peter Hoekstra, who is running for Michigan government.
Riemersma, who played tight end for the Bills, says he is ready to help lead a Republican renaissance and vowed never to vote to raise taxes.
Jack Kemp was once a Buffalo Bills quarterback who became a United States congressman.
Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out CNNpolitics.com.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty file. A few football players become United States lawmakers.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I'm still stuck on Traficant. You suppose he wore that horrible hair piece while in the joint for seven years?
BLITZER: I don't know.
CAFFERTY: Huh? Piece of road kill on his head. It's awful.
The question this hour, should an employer have to play for an employee's weight loss surgery? A 340-pound employee of a pizza joint in Indiana, the pizza place ordered by an appeals court to pay for his surgery.
Bea says "Absolutely not. So the law says you have to hire the fat guy, but then you get penalized when he needs surgery for an accident for which his obesity was very possibly a contributing factor.
And what point did Americans stop taking responsibility for themselves, and when did judges lose their ability to use common sense?
Ralph writes "The pizzeria should not have to pay for the surgery. If this goes through, employers are going to take more caution when hiring employees and this will lead to discrimination issues. It's the employee's problem that he's obese, whether he's to blame for it or not."
Pairs (ph) writes "Wouldn't this question be moot if there were a decent health care system which covered everybody with no preconditions? If there was ever an argument for health insurance reform, this is it."
Ed in Montana, "OK, let's go with the employer has to pay for weight loss surgery because you're overweight. Then we can have them pay for school because you're ignorant, give you a trust fund because you are poor, hair because you are bald, and plastic surgery because you're ugly. Give me a break. At what point do we say a person's responsible for themselves"
Lou writes "Overweight people already face a lot of rejections when looking for a job. This won't help. If this case is successful, no one in their right mind would hire an obese person again." John writes "I'm 65 pounds overweight because I'm lazy and I overeat. We need to be more responsible for ourselves, take better care, and exercise. People want the easy way out with surgery. We need to get off our lazy butts and diet and exercise. It's a win-win for everybody. My weight loss begins today." John, good luck to you.
And Darren in Fairbanks says "I work the door at a strip club I think and my boss ought to pay for my surgery for eye strain. You think I have a case?" I think you're an idiot.
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there.
Some of you are not taking this stuff seriously -- Wolf?
BLITZER: But funny, Darren.
CAFFERTY: Very funny guy.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
He ruined singer Taylor Swift's big moment, so what should Kanye West do now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Kanye owes Taylor Swift a really nice gift basket, maybe a day at a spa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Good advice.
Now, the rapper catches a lot of heat, plus most unusual treatment from Jeanne Moos when we come back.
And look at that rock, very sparkly. It's one of the day's images in our hot shots.
BLITZER: A look at hot shots in Afghanistan. A German soldier shows children pictures on his camera.
In New York City, President Obama and former President Bill Clinton talk outside after their power lunch.
In India, a man applies makeup to a boy dressed as a character from a Hindu methodology.
And in Switzerland, a Christie's employee shows off, get this, a 32 carat diamond ring which could fetch up to $5 million. Hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.
It's the faux pas heard around the world, the rapper Kanye West elbowing his way on to the stage and bullying the singer Taylor Swift. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look at the backlash.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know you've made a boo-boo when the bad things people say about you sound like a top ten worst insults list.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a jerk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a dope.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a moron.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kanye got a little nuts last night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was kind of a bullying moment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think he's an idiot. He's a waste. He's a toolbox.
MOOS: Who could be worse than having singer Pink call you a "toolbox." Well, pop star Katy Perry tweeted "it's like he stepped on a kitten."
By now you've all seen the kitten, 19-year-old country singer Taylor Swift getting stepped on as she accepted her MTV Music Video Award.
WEST: I'm really happy for you. I'm going to let you finish. But Beyonce had one of best videos of all time!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Kanye owes Taylor Swift a nice gift basket, maybe a day at the spa.
MOOS: Even teenagers weren't making excuses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kanye, I think that was really messed up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should have gave her her moment. It destroyed her moment, that was O.D.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: O.d., like he overdid it.
MOOS: Pardon us, while we overdo covering what he overdid.
You know, it's not an award that Kanye West is going to be remembered for holding at this show. It's that bottle of cognac he was swigging and brandishing and passing around on the red carpet on the way in. The last time Kanye interrupted the MTV Europe Music Awards --
WEST: A little sippy-sippy.
MOOS: -- He blamed the sippy-sippy for crashing the stage when he didn't win best video.
WEST: If I don't win, the award show loses credibility.
MOOS: But at least Kanye's latest shenanigans produced a bunch of mash-up videos and made that new lie stuff yesterday's news.
OBAMA: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
I'll let you finish. But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!
OBAMA: Not true.
MOOS: Our second favorite mash-up.
WEST: But Beyonce had one of best videos of all times.
REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: On what planet do you spend most of your time?
MOOS: It's another one of those leave Britney alone moments.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leave Kanye alone!
MOOS: We leave you alone with a parting thought --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hubris. Hubris goeth before a fall, Kanye.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grow up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go to Lou Dobbs. "Tonight" starts right now -- Lou?