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AMERICAN MORNING

Breaking Down Obama's Budget Plan; Obama's Iraq Plan: Combat Troops Out by 2010; No Recession for Fargo, North Dakota; General Motors Posts $9.6 Billion Fourth-Quarter Loss; A Father Fights to Get His Son Back; "Al Qaeda of the Netherlands" on Capitol Hill; Recession Goes Global

Aired February 26, 2009 - 06:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up now to the top of the hour. And we begin this morning with breaking news. This video just coming to us from our sister network, CNN-IBN. A fire broke out at the Marriott hotel in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, just five months after a truck bombing by radical Islamic militants killed 50 people there. There are no reports of casualties in this fire.

A doorman says the blaze started in a restaurant kitchen, but a hotel spokesman says the cause is still unclear. We'll bring you the latest just as soon as we have more details.

Slight dip in the price of gasoline. AAA reporting the national average for unleaded regular now $1.88 a gallon. That's down a penny from Wednesday. Over the last 11 days, the price of gas has dropped nearly 8 1/2 cents.

And more proof this morning that the economic meltdown is definitely going global. The Royal Bank of Scotland reporting the biggest corporate loss in British history, $34 billion. That's going to cost as many as 20,000 people their jobs. RBS was one of three major British banks that received $63 billion from the U.K. Treasury.

And now to breaking political developments and right now CNN's White House unit learning new details of President Obama's very first budget. It comes out in about two and a half hours. The numbers, by the way, are nothing short of staggering. And here you go: $634 billion to expand health care paid for by taxing the wealthy and trimming payments to insurance companies, hospitals and doctors.

Also, $75 billion to cover the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And a so-called $750 billion placeholder -- you might call it a rainy-day fund -- just in case the president needs more bailout money.

Well, this morning, we're breaking down how much it may cost you. Suzanne Malveaux live at the White House for us this morning. Ali Velshi and the CNN money team here in the studio. Our online team also ready to take your e-mails and iReports. Just head to CNN.com/am.

Let's start with Suzanne, first of all. And it's looking like certain parts of this budget may be, well, shall we say, a tough sell to say the least on Capitol Hill? SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And not just a tough sell for those on Capitol Hill, but every day Americans. The president obviously is going be asking Americans to make a sacrifice and specifically he is now talking about senior citizens, older Americans, as well, the wealthy of those.

You're talking about 1.5 million seniors. They're going to be asked to pay more for their prescription drugs starting in 2011. Now, these are seniors who are making $170,000 a year. They're going to be asked to increase the Medicare premium on their prescription drugs.

There is another group here, as well, John. Those who are making more than $250,000 a year. The president has said before that their tax cuts are going to expire. He's going to allow that to happen, so essentially that would be a tax increase, a hike for those who are making that kind of money. But he is also going to be announcing that their premium when you talk about some of those things that the itemized deductions when you take out your taxes and you file your taxes, charitable contributions, things like that, there's going to be a cap now. And so they're not going to be able to write off as many of those itemized deductions as they had hoped. And we see that there really is a dramatic decrease when you look at those charitable organizations and what they are actually receiving.

So he's going to be reaching out to every day Americans but specifically to the wealthy saying look, this is the kind of sacrifice that you need to make. Republicans and critics alike have already said this is just a tax and spend way of approaching this and that it is not necessarily fair.

ROBERTS: There will be a lot of debate over this one. No question.

Suzanne Malveaux for us at the White House this morning. President Obama, by the way, unveils his first budget proposal this morning at 9:30 Eastern. You can catch his remarks live right here on CNN. Or if you don't have a television set near you but you do have a computer, you can get it on CNN.com/live.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CO-ANCHOR: OK. So let's tear apart this budget and look what's in it. Ali Velshi is here with us this morning.

Good morning, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Let's take a look at the challenges that the president has.

ROMANS: Sure.

VELSHI: We don't have an idea of how big this budget is going to be. We'll find out in a couple of hours. But let's take a look at the 2009 budget. This can be a little bit confusing because right now, we're working under the 2009 budget until September 30th of 2009. Then the budget that we are going to hear about today, the 2010 budget kicks in. But here's what he's working with to start with, the president. This is the budget for 2009. $3.66 trillion in spending. That's a whole lot more money than the government took in.

The government is over budget at this point by $1.3 billion for this fiscal year. Now, of that $3.6 trillion pie, two-thirds of it are things that you can't actually get out of. They're obligations. They're mandatory spending, things like Medicare and Social Security, money that is owed and spoken for. If it were your budget, think about it as the things that you've got to pay for -- your utilities, you know, loan payments that you have.

About one-third of it is discretionary spending, but off of that one-third, half of it is defense. Now when we say discretionary spending, it means the same thing to government as it means to you. Things that you can change if you wanted to.

So what the president is really got to do is he's talked about pulling troops out of Iraq and ending the war. But until that happens, they still got to spend a great deal of money in Iraq and Afghanistan. So he's got about half of the one-third or one-sixth of the budget where he can start to trim things.

And then, of course, when we think of trimming, it's kind of like job losses, right? It's a combination of jobs added minus jobs that were lost. When you think of trimming the budget, there are some things that are obviously going to be added to this budget, including all of these various stimuli that we've had. Stimuluses.

ROMANS: Stimuli.

ROBERTS: Stimuli.

VELSHI: Stimuli.

ROMANS: I like that. I like that.

VELSHI: So, you know, this is the challenge. He's going to have a budget that's a lot bigger, and he wants to cut this deficit, this $1.3 trillion more than we spent than we took in for 2009. The president says by the end of his term, he wants to cut that extra to only about half a trillion dollars. This is one tall order. You know what he needs? He needs the guy from Dave. Remember the movie "Dave."

ROBERTS: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

VELSHI: Brought in the guy to fix the books. The president needs the guy from "Dave."

ROMANS: Speaking of books...

VELSHI: Oh.

ROMANS: Do you have a book? Give us...

VELSHI: Funny you should mention that.

ROMANS: Do you have a chapter on stimuli in your book?

VELSHI: I don't. That's a good -- I actually do. The beginning of the book is a whole discussion of how we got into this whole mess and when we first had the first bailout bill. But I could write another book about stimuli if you want, "Give Me My Stimuli."

ROBERTS: "Give Me My Stimu Monster" is more like it.

VELSHI: "Give Me My Stimu Monster."

ROBERTS: "Gimme My Money Back," and don't forget to give me back my black (INAUDIBLE).

Thanks, Ali.

ROMANS: Thanks, Ali.

ROBERTS: Day 38 of the Obama administration. We're getting new information this morning on a plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. President Obama is expected to make his official announcement at Camp Lejeune tomorrow.

But our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working her sources hard this morning, and she is live at the Pentagon with the very latest on this developing story. What are you hearing, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, good morning to you. It does seem like we are going to hear about the beginning of the end, possibly, of the war in Iraq. When President Obama goes to Camp Lejeune tomorrow, Pentagon officials say they expect him to announce a 19-month withdrawal for the majority of U.S. forces in Iraq, combat forces coming home in 19 months. But what will really happen on the ground?

Well, tens of thousands of troops will stay on the ground and they will have three jobs, we are told, by the Pentagon until that final withdrawal date in 2011. The three jobs they will have, train Iraqi forces, conduct counter terrorism operations against al-Qaeda, and continue to protect and secure American assets that are left in Iraq. So for a whole lot of troops, they will be staying. And Iraq for them still will be a combat zone, John.

ROBERTS: You know, Barbara, I think most people are familiar with the president's daily brief, that intelligence briefing that he gets every morning. The CIA, the director of national intelligence, folks come over and they talk to him about all the hot spots in the world and what's going on. But what about this economic intelligence briefing? What do you know about that?

STARR: Well, what we've learned, John, is that just yesterday President Obama got his first economic intelligence briefing from the CIA. There will now be a daily briefing about the economic security problems around the world. And why is this? And why is it so important to Americans? Well, as we saw at the top of the show, Royal Bank of Scotland in Britain suffering economic problems, job losses. In Russia, in China, in the Middle East, all of these places suffering from the global financial and economic crisis. And as these parts of the world suffer, it will become very difficult for the U.S. to recover on its own. The intelligence community now saying that this financial crisis really is one of the number one security challenges facing the U.S. -- John.

ROBERTS: Economic securities, national security. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon this morning. Barbara, thanks so much.

ROMANS: OK. It's about eight minutes after the top of the hour. Here's what's new this morning.

A police arrested a man in a Washington suburb for pointing a laser at a news crew helicopter. The district's ABC affiliate WJLA says both the camera and the pilot were blinded by a red laser for a split second.

Police arrested 57-year-old Gary Wort and "The Washington Post" reports he even shined the laser in an officer's face. Wort faces six charges including disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment.

ROBERTS: The guy didn't know he was on camera.

ROMANS: I guess not.

A fractured leg and knee surgery and he hasn't missed a step. Tiger Woods moves on to round two at the Accenture Match Play Championship this afternoon. The players probably enjoyed the honeymoon, but Tiger's comeback couldn't come soon enough for the PGA which was hit by Wall Street's collapse and sinking attendance because of Wood's absence.

And it would be completely irresponsible of us, if I get it out, as journalists if we failed to show you a dog riding a bicycle this morning. This is Dotty the Dalmatian, a YouTube sensation. He weaves past people in cars. Look at that. Oh, my gosh.

His story has even picked up by British newspapers. Those reports say the clip appears to have been originally shot for a Japanese TV show before going viral. Wow.

ROBERTS: Bears riding bicycles and now dogs riding bicycles.

ROMANS: We try to give you everything that's making news in the morning.

ROBERTS: There you go. We have fulfilled our journalistic...

VELSHI: I once had a dog and it was a crazy little dog running around all the time and I wondered if I could attach a Swiffer to it.

ROMANS: I remember that little dog.

VELSHI: You remember in little Benji (ph)?

ROMANS: I remember this dog.

VELSHI: Yes.

ROMANS: I'm sorry.

VELSHI: Yes, Benji (ph) is not with us anymore.

ROBERTS: Only you would attach a Swiffer to your dog.

VELSHI: Wouldn't it be great? My apartment would have been the cleanest thing around.

ROMANS: Put little socks on him, you know.

VELSHI: My vet said that they might inform animal cruelty people if I did that. But look, I'm about efficiency.

ROMANS: I remember little Benji (ph).

ROBERTS: Oh, God bless you, Ali.

What recession? That's what people in Fargo, North Dakota are asking this morning. They say that you can quit your job today and find a new one before the sun goes down. So what is this small town doing right that the rest of the country might be able to learn from? We'll find out.

It's 10 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Home prices holding steady. Unemployment low, morale, sky high. You may call this Utopia, we call it Fargo -- Fargo, North Dakota. CNN's Gary Tuchman takes us to the place where they're saying, what recession?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whatever happened to those bullish economic days? When the housing market was vibrant, when there were plenty of jobs, when government budgets had surpluses?

(on camera): Those days still exist, but probably not where you are. You have to come where I am. To Fargo, North Dakota, where the typical morning temperature this time of year is around zero, and the unemployment rate isn't much higher.

(voice-over): Dennis Walaker is the mayor of Fargo.

Is the city of Fargo, North Dakota, in recession?

MAYOR DENNIS WALAKER, FARGO, N.D.: No. We're not. TUCHMAN: The unemployment rate is 3.4 percent, so low that most economists consider it full employment. At Appareo Systems, an aerospace firm, the 44 employees here are not enough.

DAVID BATCHELLER, APPAREO SYSTEMS: So we're going to grow it more than 50 percent this year and personnel more than 100 percent in revenue.

TUCHMAN: This iron worker is so busy he has no time to talk to me on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The way we go.

(on camera): OK, let's go.

So how is business out here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really good.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Business downtown is booming. The housing market is still decent.

So the homes aren't losing value here in Fargo?

WALAKER: No, they're not.

TUCHMAN: And North Dakota has the largest budget surplus in the nation, one of only four states with a surplus this year. So what the heck is going on here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's just a work ethic up here that you don't see everywhere.

TUCHMAN: Yes, North Dakota has oil production and agriculture, but so do a lot of places. What seems unique in this region --

WALAKER: We didn't get caught up in the subprime mortgages. And I think our bankers need to be significantly applauded for that.

TUCHMAN: The Gate City Bank is one of the largest in North Dakota.

(on camera): You think you make less money because you don't give riskier loans?

STEVE SWIONTEK, CEO, GATE CITY BANK: Yes, I believe we do, but that's OK.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): North Dakotans seem to believe conservative bankers and savers have helped keep their economy steady over the years. Not too many highs, not too many lows.

SWIONTEK: We have well over 12,000-plus mortgage loans that we service. And we had three foreclosures last year. And this year, I don't see it to be much greater. It could be three to five. TUCHMAN: There is concern here. Business isn't as robust as it was a few months ago. And the unemployment office is a bit busier. But --

BATCHELLER: Somebody I was talking to said, well, we're not signing up for the recession.

TUCHMAN: Even in the frigid cold, the iron is still hot.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Fargo, North Dakota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: All that and you get to curling, too. I mean, what more could you want?

ROMANS: Gary Tuchman is such a good writer. I love that line. The temperature's just above zero and so is the unemployment rate. I mean, that's a great line.

VELSHI: It's very impressive. I mean...

ROBERTS: What about this idea, though, that it's OK if we make less money? I mean, it's almost un-American.

VELSHI: Well, I think -- I think that's going to be a reality for a lot of people. Christine and I have talked about this where there are companies where you see if they're not laying off, they're cutting back on their 401(k) matches and then there are some that are taking pay cuts across the board.

Now the problem with the pay cut across the board is you then annoy every last employee in the company. If you lay off five percent of your workers, the other 95 percent think they're lucky for not getting laid off.

ROMANS: I would argue what's un-American is making money at all costs and not taking any kind of regard to risk.

ROBERTS: No, I was joking.

ROMANS: Oh, all right. No, I'm just like, I'm from the Midwest, so I really get very defensive.

ROBERTS: Yes. Hey, I'm from Canada, so is Ali.

VELSHI: That's why we like the curling.

ROMANS: Some like it cold.

ROBERTS: You want to talk about unassuming.

VELSHI: Let me tell you what's interesting here. You see a lot of those middle states have actually done well. They've got the lowest unemployment rate in the country, starting from the Canadian border going down all the way to Texas. Part of that is there has been less shift in unemployment and there were substantial gains in agriculture.

ROMANS: Right. That's right.

VELSHI: So, this is an important piece of the pie to consider as people lose their jobs.

ROMANS: And good education system.

VELSHI: Right.

ROMANS: Fantastic education system.

VELSHI: Sometimes it's worth moving.

ROMANS: It's not available everywhere else.

VELSHI: Sometimes it's worth moving, yes.

ROBERTS: Please, I was just kidding with the un-American thing.

ROMANS: I know, I know, I know.

No, GM, though, breaking news from General Motors.

ROBERTS: General Motors.

VELSHI: Yes. We've got news from General Motors. The full-year results are in for the company and they are bad.

First of all, what you're seeing on your screen is a fourth quarter loss of $9.6 billion versus an expected loss of $6.9 billion. I'm hoping GM just didn't invert the numbers because they're exactly the opposite of what they're supposed to be. But a full year loss for General Motors of $16.8 billion.

ROMANS: Wow.

VELSHI: And for those of you with shares in the company, that's a loss of $29 per share.

ROMANS: Right.

VELSHI: The shares are trading at about $2.50, $2.50 right now.

ROMANS: Right.

VELSHI: The loss for the year was $29 per individual shareholder. I should tell you the loss of $9.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, which, by the way, may well be the worst quarter in the history of business was compared to a year earlier where they made not much for GM, but they made $46 million. I mean, that last quarter of 2008 was treacherous whether or not you blame the U.S. automakers. It was treacherous for Toyota. It was treacherous for Nissan, for Honda. It was just the worst quarter for auto sales that we have ever seen.

ROMANS: I think the worst quarter in history to business, doesn't it go to our parent company? I think it was Time Warner?

VELSHI: I really mean business in terms of purchasing. I mean, that was a really bad -- I mean, excluding the depression, people just couldn't buy things.

ROMANS: Oh, for business, right.

VELSHI: Or actually doing business.

ROBERTS: Borrowing all of this money, too, and I asked the COO the other day, you know, can taxpayers be guaranteed you're going to pay all this back? And he said there's no guarantee.

VELSHI: There's no guarantee. There is a plan, I should say that. They have put a plan but those plans assume that people will buy cars and those plans assume that people can get credit to buy cars. And what crushed the auto industry is that people went in with credit scores of 650 or 700 thinking they would close the deal on a car. Guess what? They couldn't get the loan.

ROBERTS: OK. All right. We got to wrap it out because we got a lot more to come. In fact, Suzanne Malveaux just got the new budget for 2010, so we'll be running that down for you coming up.

Right now, it's 18 minutes after the hour.

ROMANS: Big international custody battle over a little boy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's going to break your heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: He's haunted by the last thing he said to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GOLDMAN, FIGHTING FOR CUSTODY: I love you and I'll see you soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A father's quest to get his son back. And why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is getting involved ahead on the Most News in the Morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's an emotional and enraging international custody battle, so intense that the secretary of state is involved. In the middle, an 8-year-old boy.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick has got the latest on the battle to get him home and she's here with us now. This is really a tragic, tragic story of a father.

FEYERICK: Absolutely. And, John, you know, this is every parent's worst nightmare. You send your family off on vacation with the kids in the way, expecting everyone to be back in a few days, then your life comes crashing down and you're left searching for your own child.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Four months before his abduction, you had taken him to Disney. You had no idea anything was wrong.

DAVID GOLDMAN, FIGHTING FOR CUSTODY: No, we were on a family vacation.

FEYERICK (voice-over): The last thing David Goldman said to his 4-year-old son Sean as he waved good-bye at the airport was...

GOLDMAN: I love you and I'll see you soon.

FEYERICK: But Sean never came back. Goldman says his wife took their child to her family in Brazil on vacation never intending to come home warning Goldman not to go to police and threatening if he did...

GOLDMAN: I would never see my son again and spend all my money trying. And so far, she's right.

FEYERICK: According to the State Department, more than 800 American-born children have been abducted by a parent and taken to another country. Of those, 66 are being held in Brazil in direct violation of international treaty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brazil has actually been one of the worst violators of the treaty.

FEYERICK: Then in a strange twist late last summer, Goldman's estranged wife died giving birth to a daughter by her new husband.

(on camera): Did you think it was your chance to get your son back?

GOLDMAN: Yes, I believed that he would be coming home, and we'll finally be able to reunite.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Instead, a Brazilian family court judge granted custody to the new husband.

GOLDMAN: To allow a man with no blood relation to keep another parent's child is against their own laws, national laws let alone international and American laws.

FEYERICK: Recently, Goldman was able to visit his son in Brazil for the first time since he last saw him four years ago and though Sean's now 8, Goldman says the bond is strong.

GOLDMAN: He asked me where have I been for this amount of time? How come I never came to visit him?

FEYERICK (on camera): So he didn't know that you were looking for him, that you were trying to get him back?

GOLDMAN: No, apparently not.

FEYERICK: It's going to break your heart.

GOLDMAN: Yes, it did.

FEYERICK (voice-over): U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Brazil's foreign minister Wednesday. A senior State Department official telling CNN Sean's case was the first thing they talked about. Asked if he's angry, David Goldman says he has no time for that.

GOLDMAN: My focus is to do what I can by every legal means and all matters of law to reunite with my son and bring him home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Now, we did attempt to get a comment from Brazilian officials and lawyers from the wife's family without success. But prior to her death, the wife had argued in court that the boy was happy and attending good schools and this is at the highest level of Brazilian courts, John.

ROBERTS: What a nightmare for this fellow and for his son. Now, when the two of them were together and the son said where have you been, did he tell him hey, I've been, you know, trying to get you back for the last four years?

FEYERICK: You know, he wasn't really able to because this was a supervised visit and David Goldman was so worried that if he did anything inappropriate that it might jeopardize any chance he'd have even though this is his own son and by all international treaties, this boy should be back in the U.S.

ROBERTS: Wow. As a parent, I just can't imagine something like that happening.

FEYERICK: His son, he says, is being held prisoner.

ROBERTS: Yes. I think that's a pretty fair assessment.

Deb Feyerick, what a story. Thanks so much.

Christine?

ROMANS: John, because of his beliefs, he's not allowed to set foot on British soil. So, why is a Dutch politician who wants to ban the Koran in his home country sitting down with lawmakers on Capitol Hill? We're live from Washington just ahead.

But they're a few bucks short, edged out of a first class education because of the economy, our ongoing special look at education and financial aid.

It's 25 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Twenty-eight minutes after the hour. Just in to CNN, new details on Obama's, President Obama's budget plan.

Let's go right to Suzanne Malveaux. She is at the White House. This is a little bit of a tease, though, Suzanne, because the books that you were just handed are actually embargoed for a little while.

MALVEAUX: Some of those details, John, are embargo, that this is hot off the press. Obviously, this is what all of us are going to be pouring over in the next couple of hours making sense of it.

A lot of the details we already do know. But inside I've been taking a look at this, it's 135 pages. It begins with the president's message. It is very familiar.

As you see the cover, the new era of responsibility, renewing America's promise. Very much the theme of the president's message in the beginning of this talking about an era of accountability, transparency. Also in the budget an explanation of how we got into this mess in the first place talking about a decade of fiscal irresponsibility, and each one of the departments, the agencies, has their own little outline about what kind of cuts they're going to be making, what kind of investments they're going to be making. You've got tables and things like that as all a part of this.

So clearly, this is something that everybody's going to be looking at. We're all going to be going through these pages the next couple of hours, looking at the billions and billions of dollars that the president is reallocating. But he is going to be making all those details clear later this morning when he outlines this.

And essentially the message here, John, is that this is a big financial mess that our country is in right now. The president believes that he has the formula to fix it, but it's anybody's guess in terms of whether or not this is actually going to work. But at least this is the blueprint -- John.

ROBERTS: And we should point out too, Suzanne, that it's a nice tight little book that you've got there but it comes with -- what is it? -- two or three other ones that add up to about...

MALVEAUX: Right. This is...

ROBERTS: This big, right?

MALVEAUX: Look at the summary version here. Well, the cliff note version. We'll be going through this first, John.

ROBERTS: And that will probably take an hour or so. Suzanne, thanks very much. We'll get back to you soon -- Christine. ROMANS: All right. Turning to a controversy on Capitol Hill, Dutch politician Geert Wilders is sometimes referred to as the "al Qaeda of the Netherlands" because of his controversial views about the Koran and Islamic culture. That's made him persona non grata in at least one country but not here.

This week Wilders is touring the U.S. and meeting with lawmakers in Washington. He sat down with our Carol Costello who is live in the nation's capital right now.

Carol, what did he say?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, he's a fascinating man, Christine, and the question is, is he a crusader for free speech or a hate monger after being banned from Britain, for what some call as anti-Muslim views. The Dutch politician is heading to Capitol Hill today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): Geert Wilders is making the rounds of the United States, surrounded by security because of death threats for his beliefs. He's making several appearances in Washington, including an eyebrow raising visit to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The Dutch lawmaker is a controversial figure. Sparking demonstrations around the world for his views on Muslims. He's likened Islam to Fascism, the Koran to Mein Kampf, and says Islam's holy book ought to be banned.

GEERT WILDERS, DUTCH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: I believe that we should be proud and stand up and say, well we don't want our children and grandchildren living in a world, in a country dominated by Islamic culture that is only at the end of the day costing us all our freedoms.

COSTELLO: Wilders produced a 15-minute film in which he tied verses from the Koran to pictures of terrorist attack by Islamic extremists.

Well, some might say that you chose those verses and you twisted them to mean what you wanted them to mean.

WILDERS: No, I didn't. I believe that there are many verses and (INAUDIBLE) that indeed are an incitement of direct (INAUDIBLE).

COSTELLO: But critics say Wilders is using verses from the Koran in the same way terrorists do to justify extremism.

RADWAN MASMOUDI, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF ISLAM & DEMOCRACY: I know he doesn't have a beard and he looks nice with his blond hair, but his views and his opinions are extremely mirror image, exactly mirror images of what al Qaeda has been trying to teach. He is the al Qaeda of the Netherlands.

COSTELLO: He is the al Qaeda of the Netherlands. WILDERS: Yes.

COSTELLO: That's what some Muslims think of you.

WILDERS: Well, of course this is total nonsense. I have nothing against Muslims, but I am very much afraid of the Islamization of our continent.

COSTELLO: Wilders will take his views to Capitol Hill. In the spirit of free speech, Republican Senator John Kyl has invited Wilders to show his film to lawmakers in a Senate building near the Capitol. Because the senator says "he believes that all too often, people who have the courage to point out the dangers of militant Islamists find themselves vilified and endangered."

But the British government had a different view. It recently detained Wilders, refusing to allow him into the country to show his film to British lawmakers, calling Wilders a threat to community harmony and therefore to public security. Wilders is also charged with inciting hatred in his own country. Charges he calls a violation of his right to free speech.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Now, Muslims I talked with in the United States will not protest Wilders's visit to Capitol Hill, saying Wilders has a right to express his views. He told me though he's saddened by it because it gives Wilders legitimacy -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fascinating stuff. Carol Costello. Thanks, Carol --John.

ROBERTS: Well, months after the mantra "drill, baby, drill" exploded as a chant on the campaign trail, executives from big oil are back on Capitol Hill, trying to make that a reality. They told lawmakers not to get lulled by lower oil prices. They also said expanding offshore drilling will help create jobs and fuel economic recovery.

Marvin Odum is the president of the Shell Oil Company. He made his case yesterday in front of the House committee on natural resources. This morning, he's live in our Washington bureau. Mr. Odum, it's good to see you again. So, question many people...

MARVIN ODUM, PRESIDENT, SHELL OIL: Good morning, John.

ROBERTS: A question many people might have is that oil prices have collapsed, gasoline prices are down. There's a new push for renewable energy, so why the need now to go after more oil offshore?

ODUM: Well, now is actually the perfect time to be - for the United States to be looking at going for more offshore oil and gas production. The fact is that it takes years for that to develop, to go the leasing process, to do some exploration and then develop those resources. So we need to get started with that now. And it's completely consistent with this transition to a green economy, with green energies.

ROBERTS: The question that many lawmakers have is how much would offshore oil contribute to domestic supplies? The chairman of the House committee on natural resources Nick Rahall said that offshore would be nothing much more than a drop in the bucket. He said yesterday "best case scenario, would, in 2030, provide no more than five percent of our total daily energy needs and displace only eight percent of our oil imports." He is basically saying that the tradeoff here supply versus environmental risk is just not worth it.

ODUM: Well, I think the numbers -- some of the numbers you're hearing I think are very conservative. But even think in terms of five to 10 percent, if we could reduce the amount of oil that we import into this country, which means, of course, has national security implications, lots of dollars flowing out of the country, jobs that don't get developed here. If we could offset those imports, that's a very significant piece.

ROBERTS: And another big question though is, Mr. Odum, how much oil is actually out there? Most of the survey data that people talk about is 30 to 40 years old, there have been some new surveys that have shown particularly in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico more oil than was thought there was. But some of these surveys could actually show -- more oil than thought that there was. But some of these surveys could be exactly the opposite. There could be less oil out there. Do we really know how much oil is out there?

ODUM: Well, we have an idea. I think we have an idea that tells us it's big enough to go look for and to find further. Think about the technology over the last couple of decades. And it is really slide rulers to laptops. I mean, the amount of technology that's gone into this industry is tremendous. And there's a history in the area of the U.S. offshore that is open, the Gulf of Mexico, where year after year the resource estimates have grown as we've learned more about the area. The same thing should be expected to happen in the other areas.

ROBERTS: Now, I'm sure you're watching closely the president's address to Congress the other night where he talked about the need to develop renewable sources of energy. Let's listen to just a little bit of that address.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To truly transform our economy, to protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Now, your predecessor at Shell, John Hoffmeister, who is now leading a non-profit for affordable energy says that the president just doesn't get it when it comes to energy, that we need to focus more on existing sources of energy. But the question I had is, if we use this lull in energy demand to further develop renewable resources, will we need as much from traditional sources in the future?

ODUM: Well, I think it's all a very important point. Anybody that points you in one direction or the other is giving you the wrong story because it is clearly both. Now, renewables will clearly continue to play a larger and larger part of our energy mix, but we have to recognize that that technology has a long time to develop, that that cost will need to come down over time as we develop those technologies. So we just have to be realistic about how long it takes to build up that portion of the energy mix. Oil and gas then fills the gap in the meantime.

ROBERTS: A real quick prediction on where you think energy prices are going to go when the economy finally does recover.

ODUM: Well, I don't predict future energy prices. And I could tell you I wouldn't have seen about $140 plus last summer and I wouldn't see $35 right now. So it's a very difficult one to predict.

ROBERTS: Marvin Odum, the new president of the Shell Oil Corporation. Thanks for being with us this morning. It's good to see you.

ODUM: Thank you, John.

ROBERTS: Christine.

ROMANS: John, edged out of an education when loans, grants, and part-time jobs just aren't enough. Kids making the grade aren't making it to college. Our special series on education and financial aid.

And the real secret to losing weight. Now, get this, it may not be some fancy weight loss program after all. And best of all, it's simple. I'm not kidding. It's 37 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: So tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be a community college or a four-year school. Vocational training or an apprenticeship. Whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looked just at me when he was talking and said, do not worry about college, we will make sure you will go and it'll be affordable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: IReporter Manny Dorado proudly displaying the Dodger blue, and the red, white and blue on his wall saying that President Obama put his young mind at ease with his address on Tuesday night.

The president really upped the ante for students in his address to the nation calling on all Americans to commit to at least a year of higher education. But many students who have the grades and not the means are now being edged out of a first-class education. Christine now continues our special look at education and financial aid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Freshman Nicole Suissa, an aspiring lawyer, a 3.73 GPA at the University of Hartford. She may not make it to sophomore year. Balance due, almost $5,000.

NICOLE SUISSA, COLLEGE FRESHMAN: If I can't stay for next year, I'm pretty much in the water. I'm done.

ROMANS: She's on her own paying for college. After her father abandoned them, Suissa says she and her mother spent time homeless and on welfare. She wants a first class education. But university grants, subsidized student loans, and a part-time job aren't enough.

SUISSA: It's become so expensive and it feels like it's so out of reach.

ROMANS: Especially for lower-income students. Education experts say every year there are 600,000 qualified students who don't get a two or four-year degree within eight years of high school graduation. The reason, money.

ANTHONY P. CARNEVALE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: These kids are qualified. They're in the top half of their class, but they never do get the degrees that they're quite ready to get if we funded them and supported them properly.

ROMANS: Suissa's classmate Gary Pelkey dropped out. His family's credit wasn't good enough for private loans. He wants to be a civil engineer. The first in his family to go to college.

GARY PELKEY, FORMER STUDENT: I don't want to suffer like my family has. Through the years, I don't want to live from paycheck to paycheck.

ROMANS: Suisa's options are limited because she owes the school money, her student accounts and transcripts are frozen, meaning she can't even transfer to a less expensive school.

SUISSA: Why should I have to? All the kids who can afford it don't have to and their grades aren't as good. That's not fair.

ROMANS: She's still hoping for more aid. Because of the recession her school has budgeted an extra $1.5 million for financial aid.

WALTER HARRISON, PRESIDENT, UNIV. OF HARTFORD: We're committed to helping our students. We want them to succeed here.

ROMANS: But her success is not without struggle.

SUISSA: There are other things at my age I should be thinking about and that shouldn't involve how I'm going to stay in college.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: She is a remarkable young woman, and my prediction is that she's going to make it. Here's the thing. She gets grants from the school, she gets student loans. She is still looking to see if her Stafford loan is going to be up. Because another loan that her mother applied for was rejected because of her mother's credit.

It's all very complicated. But this is a woman with a lot of drive and she's going to try to figure out how to come up with the extra few thousand she needs every semester. Very, very bright girl.

And Gary, her friend who dropped out, he's going to take a year off. He's going to work, save some money, and go to a less expensive state school if he can next year. You know, where the tuition is less than at a private school.

ROBERTS: It's really a shame, though, that you have these high- achieving kids, the ones who are the future of America, the ones that could really help push this country into the next decades and do it in a great way and then they can't get the education.

ROMANS: Even if Nicole gets it and can make it, it's going to be a real struggle for her over the next four years to get this education. As I said she's an inspiring attorney and I'm sure she will be a very good one. Because I said to her, why don't you go to a community college. You know, come on, you don't have good credit, your mother doesn't have good credit, she's never even had a credit -

ROBERTS: You can't go to law school with a community college -

ROMANS: Right. And she said why should I have to? Why should I have to? I want a great education. Why should I have to be different than the other kids here who happen to be from middle class or upper middle class family?

ROBERTS: It's not a sense of entitlement, either, is it?. It's this idea that you've got a really bright person who can really do something with their lives and contribute to the future of this country. Help them out.

ROMANS: Yes. I'm pretty sure she is going to make it, and I'm hoping that Gary's going to be able to save some money this year, transfer to a state school and he'll make it too. He wants to be a civil engineer. We need engineers, boys and girls. You know.

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Yes, a great bunch of kids we talked to.

ROBERTS: I predict if she makes it through and goes to law school, she will probably use her education to do something about this situation.

ROMANS: She's going to have a lot of loans when she's done though. She's going to be working hard to pay off those loans I'm sure.

All right. So you have your diploma, now what? Tomorrow Gerri Willis takes a look at the collapse in college recruiting and the added pressure to students jumping into the real world during really tough times. You can also follow all these stories online, you can head to our Web site at cnn.com/am.

ROBERTS: Well, we're hearing a lot of competing statements about the new administration's plan for fixing the economy these days. So what is really true? We'll fact check the claims of Washington's most outspoken. The truth-o-meter will reveal all. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Forty-eight and a half minutes after the hour. A decent winter storm cranking itself up in the Midwest. Rob Marciano is watching the extreme weather for us from Atlanta this morning. What do we got, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This thing looks like it wants to strengthen, John. It's going to bring some snow to a lot of folks, some severe weather and it will slowly make its way across the U.S.. Here it is right now. And these arrows indicating the wind will become more numerous as it begins to develop.

We are getting a low impulse of energy moving across the northeast this morning. A little bit of light snow north of New York City. Shouldn't amount to a whole lot. Pretty dry air is moving through, and it's pretty weak, but it may slow down some travel on the road upstate or at the airports in the New York metropolitan area.

Here's part of that storm across parts of the Midwest where snow is beginning to fall. Winter storm warnings posting five to 10 inches potentially between Minneapolis and Green Bay. Notice that Chicago should be out of the mix as far as being south of the rain-snow line. South of that, still warm across parts of Texas. Temperatures there will be right around 80 degrees, 46 degrees in Chicago, 37 degrees in Minneapolis and severe potentially across the mid south today and tomorrow. John, back up to you.

ROBERTS: All right. The south the place to be today. Rob, thanks so much.

MARCIANO: You got it.

ROMANS: All right. Are you trying to lose a little bit of weight. Before you agonize over which diet is best, you've got to see this new report. Success losing weight. There is a simple formula. I'm not making it up. Forty-nine minutes after the hour.

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ROMANS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. You know, for years now, we've been getting all kinds of mixed messages when it comes to dieting. Low-fat, low-carb, even no carb, dairy is good for you and dairy is bad for you. Now, finally, there is one study that claims to sort of clear the air.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is live in Atlanta to break it all down for us. There are so many different diets but it all boils down to sort of some common sense, doesn't it?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it certainly does, Christine. You're standing up or else I would say, hold on to your seat, I have a shocker for you.

The key to successful weight loss: Eat less, move more. Yes, that is it. Following these rules you actually can lose weight, according to this new study in "The New England Journal of Medicine." Let's take a look at some of the basic rules that folks follow in this study. They cut their caloric intake by about 750 calories a day. They ate less saturated fat. That's the kind of fat that's in red meat. And they also ate whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

And by doing that, they were able to take off and keep off, which is the key, eight pounds over two years and, of course, they also exercised regularly. Christine?

ROMANS: Keeping it off is the hard part because a lot of these diets is like a yo-yo diet. You know, you go without the carbs for a long time and you try to go back to a normal diet but eating less, exercising more. You know, less in, more out is the way it should go. So what about a typical breakfast, for example, someone watching this program right now who has a big old -- a bear claw sitting in front of them. The bear claw is not something I think that you recommend?

COHEN: No, right, I'm going to day bear claws are probably not the greatest thing to losing weight. I'm going to out on a limb here. Let me show sort of a breakfast that someone in this study might have eaten in order to lose weight. For example, a 400-calorie breakfast would be an egg, some fruit and an English muffin and glass of skim milk. That's it. That's 400-calorie breakfast.

So, that's part of reducing caloric intake by about 750 calories a day. So, it's a fair amount of food. You will see this protein, there's carbs, there's a little bit of everything.

ROMANS: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

ROMANS: John.

ROBERTS: All right. It's 54 1/2 minutes after the hour now. We're going to put some of the statements about the budget and the budget bills and other things before Congress and all things political to the test. We've got the truth-o-meter coming up. Stay with us. You'll want to see what we've got to tell you.

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