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Scams Flourish in Recession; Job Saving Surgery?; Could Natasha Richardson Have Been Saved?; Michelle Obama Plants Organic Garden at White House

Aired March 20, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Obama's damage control: On the road, on air online, seemingly everywhere, the president's full court press to overcome the anger at AIGand the questions about his administration's role in allowing the bonuses.

Also in this hour, recession scammers. Have they followed you yet? They say they're from the government demanding bogus taxes or promising stimulus money to get your bank account numbers. Tonight, how to keep the crooks out of your pocket. And later, Natasha Richardson, disturbing new facts about what happened in the hours, yes, hours between when she fell and when she finally got medical treatment. That and Michelle Obama's victory garden. Talk about a shovel ready project. Not far from the Rose Garden, vegetables for the first time since World War II.

We begin, though, with President Obama fighting to keep his message and economic plans from burning up in the white hot flames over bonuses at AIG. Tuesday, he's going to speak on national television. Last night it was "The Tonight Show." All week town halls. Seems like he has been everywhere this week. But everywhere he goes, outrage and finger pointing follow over the bonuses. $165 million. The question tonight, can he lead the country past that anger and bring the focus back from AIG to you and me? Candy Crowley has the raw politics.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): AIG week consumed most of the Washington establishment. Except ...

BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: Thank you, guys. Thank you.

CROWLEY: If it is Friday, this must be the meeting with state legislators, about the stimulus plan.

OBAMA: I don't need to remind you that the American people are watching what we do. They need this plan to work. They're skeptical. And understandably because they have seen taxpayer dollars frittered away before.

CROWLEY: Just one of weeks 17 Obama sightings from coast to coast.

OBAMA: It is always good to get out of Washington for a little while.

CROWLEY: Especially nice when the places consumed by those AIG bonus payments to executives. The president's treasury secretary Timothy Geithner spent the week inside the ring of fire as Washington bickered over who created a legislative loophole which aloud AIG to give out the bonuses. Turns out, Treasury pushed for it. Though Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd bore the brunt of the criticism.

SEN. CHRIS DODD, (D) CT: I'm disappointed, frankly, those who requested this kind of a change didn't have the courage to stand up a couple of days ago and admit that they were the ones who asked for it.

CROWLEY: Largely above the storm, the president was out and about, everywhere, pushing everything, which one Republican critic said is how you miss things like that bonus loophole.

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If everybody was staying home, doing their job, focusing entirely on the economy, is that something that somebody would have read? You had a thousand page bill, someone would have read it before they signed it.

CROWLEY: But the president thinks now is the time to push big, for health care reform, his budget, and energy plans, education reform, and he is his own best salesman. Secretary Geithner shows no affinity for the public eye, top economic adviser Larry Summers is a master behind the scenes. Paul Begala, who helped manage President Clinton's time doesn't think President Obama is overexposed, not yet.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think the president can be overexposed and there is a lot of danger to it. For one thing, he is a human being, he'll get tired and make mistakes.

CROWLEY: Like, say, a quip about his bowling game.

OBAMA: I bowled a 129.

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: No, that's very good. Yeah. No, that's very good, Mr. President.

OBAMA: It was like Special Olympics or something.

CROWLEY: Before the show aired President Obama phoned the head of the Special Olympics. But to jokingly compare his poor bowling game to an event for a disable is a rare slip for a president who deliberates over every word. Still, next week promises more of the same, the president as salesman in chief for his budget, health care, energy policy, and education.

BEGALA: I think when you have Michael Jordan, you want to give him the ball.

CROWLEY: The problem is, at this moment, the president is the only one on the court. Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: It is easy in all this to get lost in the anger over AIG. Justifiable. But exactly where do we stand with the economy? Has anything gotten better or is it just still heading south. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is now projecting $9.3 trillion in deficit spending over the next nine years in part because government spending rises in a recession and tax revenue drops. It is a measure of how the economy is doing this week. It is not the only one, though. There is some better news to go with it. We're talking about your money, your future. Ali Velshi is here with a quick rundown. Ali, how did the economy fare this week?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: While you were out and while we were talking a whole lot about AIG, some things were actually happening on the economy that weren't altogether bad. We have to be careful to decide on trends based on a week's information. I'll tell you a few things happening that might be of interest to you. Let's look at stocks, your 401(k)s, your IRAs. Look at the Dow, closing at 7,278. Boy, there are a lot of people relieved to see a 7 at the beginning of that. For the week, that's an increase of 0.7 percent. But it is an increase and it is two weeks in a row of increases and that is the first time since May of 2008 that we have seen two weeks in a row of increases on the stock market. That not a trend, but it is encouraging.

Let's take look at jobless claims. These are the number of people who have filed for unemployment benefits for the first time: 658,000. That is an enormous number of people, 658,000 people at the unemployment office or online for the first time. But take a look at that. Down 12,000 from the week before. So, again, not a trend, but it is encouraging.

Finally, mortgage rates, somewhere in the middle of this week while worrying about AIG, the Federal Reserve injected more than $1 trillion into the economy. $750 billion of that went to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy mortgages from your bank giving your bank more ability, more money to lend people money. That made it easier to get a loan and to sell a house. Mortgage rates, a 30-year fixed mortgage, if you put 80 - 80 percent down, going down to 4.89 percent and that is tying the record that we had down in January for the lowest rates on record, 4.89 percent means that it becomes very attractive for people to buy a home. We have a few things, again, I really don't want to jump on a bandwagon or suggest we're getting better. But we are looking at better numbers than we have seen in weeks.

COOPER: There have been some bank closings this week.

VELSHI: That's right. In fact, they typically happen on Friday night and they happened tonight. We had three bank closures and two credit unions closing. But they are orderly. These are small banks and it is an orderly closing. The FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation moved in and they do what they always do, they're protecting the deposits of people who are under those limits and those bank accounts will be accessible to clients as of Monday morning.

COOPER: All right. Maybe no trends. But a little bit of good news.

VELSHI: We'll take it.

COOPER: That's something good for weekend. Ali, thanks. Want to talk about the damage control the president has been engaging in all week with our panel. But I want to point out to something else the president did today. He reached out to an adversary, in this case, Iran. In a taped message, Mr. Obama tried to reach beyond the mullahs who control Iran directly to the people. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: So in this season of new beginnings, I would like to speak clearly to Iran's leaders. We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community.

This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.


COOPER: Let's dig deeper on the president's week. We're joined by Joe Johns, Dana Bash and Ed Henry.

Ed, what is the consensus if this week was a win or a loss for President Obama in terms of trying to get his message out?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president said on "The Tonight Show" last night, being president is a little bit like being on "American Idol" and all the critics are Simon Cowell. I think if this were an "American Idol" episode, he would say it was awful, one of his worst weeks but the president has a point, this crisis didn't take a week to get into it. We're not going to get out of it in a week either. He clearly needs more time. This is a one week they're glad is over though. Right now they want to move on to next week quickly.

COOPER: Dana, you and Joe have been reporting all week, talking to a lot of people, Dana, you were talking to Chris Dodd in which he reversed himself on this involvement in the AIG bonus. How do you think the president ends his week?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I agree with Ed. President Obama said on the AIG issue, he's angry and ended pretty much with him saying blame me. It is no doubt in part at least of what we uncovered this week from Democrats on Capitol Hill. That's right. President Obama's fellow democrats saying that it was the Obama administration that resisted and actually rejected the idea prohibiting the bonuses. And I can tell you even right now, Anderson, the action going on Capitol Hill, sources are telling us, the White House is not happy about it, even at this very minute.

COOPER: Joe, what are they particularly not happy about?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're certainly not happy about the fact that this bill that passed the House of Representatives could actually be a remedy that is worse than the original problem. And when people are talking about, for example, a bunch of the banks that got so much of the bailout money, actually giving it back and taking liquidity out of the economy, that is sort of going in the wrong direction for them.

You know, there is the issue of going back on contract law, a whole number of things connected to this bill that they certainly don't like. And are going to have to decide what they do with it once it gets to the president's desk. It is tough right now.

COOPER: We're going to have more with our panel in a moment. Let's see what you think. Join the live chat, happy now (ph) at about to logon myself and check out Randi Kaye's live Web cast during our commercial break tonight.

So up next, Sarah Palin, she is back, she wants to give back some stimulus money, even some money for kids with special needs. Is that a principled stand or just presidential politics at play? You can decide for yourself. We'll tell you the facts.

Later, some of President Obama's message on "The Tonight Show" that some of the pundits missed. Sounds like a major admission on the banking mess. And this.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Let's hear it for vegetables.

Yeah! Woo!

Let's hear it for fruits! Yeah! Boy, did I hear a boo?


COOPER: Not a big fan of vegetables myself.

They might not like all fruits and vegetables but with First Lady Michelle Obama's help, they're planting them at the White House. We'll tell you where and why the White House now has a vegetable garden when 360 continues.


COOPER: We saw at the top President Obama adding new ways he says of adding new accountability to his recovery plan and eliminating the influence of lobbyists and how the money is spent. California's Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger applauded his efforts and eagerly is taking stimulus money for his hard hit state. Take a look.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CA: Democrats and Republicans have to work together in order to solve the problems. That is the important thing. So that's why I'm supporting the president. And I am appreciative of the economic stimulus package that he put out there. California is benefiting. It is putting people back to work. I think that's the case all over the country. So I will always be supportive.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin though not so much. As other Republican governors with presidential ambitions have, she is trying to turn down a huge chunk of money even though according to the "Anchorage Daily News" she's giving up $170 million for education including money for special needs students. Even though there is $642 million and Palin requested spending in the stimulus. Here is Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Alaska, spring came chilly and Governor Sarah Palin is giving the stimulus a cold shoulder too, taking $642 million for roads, airports and more but turning away nearly $290 million, over 30 percent of the funds marked for her state.

GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) AK: The strings attached to Washington's stimulus package are real and they're binding.

FOREMAN: The governor is saying no to money for what she calls expanding unemployment benefits, immunization, senior care and more, including $171 million for education, which could include new and expanded programs she says the state will not be able to pay for when the stimulus money runs out.

PALIN: We can't afford to have the federal government give us back our own income tax money to build a bigger, more expensive government, then leave it to us to fund this growth in two years.

FOREMAN: Some other Republican governors were already opposing stimulus money along the same lines. Despite opposition in their own legislatures. In Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama. In South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford wants to buy down state debt. The white house said no. The whole point of the stimulus is to spend it. They're going back and forth. Democrats have been attacking.

ANNOUNCER: South Carolina is facing stuff times, but Governor Sanford is playing politics instead of doing what's right.

FOREMAN: Governor Palin says she will listen to her critics if they can show her how to take more money without taking on future budget problems.

PALIN: Public discussion has got to ensue on all the other dollars that some would say you left on the table.

FOREMAN (on camera): But this issue underscores a genuine difference between those who say any governor who takes this money without looking for the strings is shortsighted and those who say any governor who turns down help in these hard times is foolish. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Up next, more of President Obama's appearance on "The Tonight Show" and what he's saying about why it is still so tough to get a bank loan.

Also Bernie Madoff, new letters and e-mails released today from the court from his victims and a judge ruled on whether or not he can get out of jail before sentencing. We'll tell you what happened.

And painful new questions tonight about the care Natasha Richardson got and crucially when she got it. All that ahead.


COOPER: So nearly 13 million Americans watched President Obama last night on the "Tonight Show" on NBC and before I ask the panel how they think he did, take a look at the president's take on how he did the first two months in office.


LENO: It is only, what, 59 days now, right?

OBAMA: Yes, 59 days.

LENO: And so much scrutiny. Is it fair to judge so quickly?

OBAMA: Well, look, we are going through a difficult time. I welcome the challenge. I ran for president because I thought we needed big changes. And I do think in Washington it is a little bit like "American Idol" except everybody is Simon Cowell.

LENO: Wow. Wow. That's rough. That's rough.


COOPER: And back with our panel, Simon Johns, Simon Bash and Simon Henry.

Ed, a lot of people still talking about his Jay Leno appearance. I want to play something else about what he said about the billions of taxpayer dollars that have gone to the banks so far. Take a look.


OBAMA: Well, what's happening is a lot of these banks are keeping it in the bank because their balance sheets have gotten so bad that they decided, you know what, for us to stay solvent we need to maintain certain capital ratios, we have got to have a certain amount of capital in the bank and they haven't started lending it yet.


COOPER: So if the whole part of giving banks all the money was to get credit flowing again and the banks, by the president's admission, are not lending anything, is the president basically saying the plan is not working?

HENRY: Yes, in a way he was. And what is amazing about that is in the next few days, the president and treasury secretary are going to come out and tell the American people, we need to give some of the banks even more money. That's how messed up the situation is. In another moment, in the last couple of days, when I was in California with him, that didn't get a lot of attention, the president had a town hall meeting and said dealing with AIG and some of the other institutions is like dealing with somebody who has got a suicide bomb strapped to their chest and they have got their hand on the trigger and you're trying to get them to talk -- talk themselves down. I mean, that's pretty remarkable for the president of the United States to compare some of these institutions to essentially suicide bombers. If you don't give them what they need, they're going to blow up the economy, essentially.

But this is a situation he's in where he's got to deal with these institutions and if he lets them fail, this could get a lot worse. He's in a tough spot.

COOPER: So Dana, how is that going to be received on Capitol Hill when the president goes and asks for more money?

BASH: I cannot even imagine what that is going to be like, Anderson. Because the last time the president actually both presidents at the same time came and asked for money it was incredibly, incredibly difficult. It was a wrenching vote. I just -- it is hard to imagine congress with the kind of outrage that they're hearing from their constituents, it is hard to imagine them actually being able to do this. But the reality is, you heard Ed say it, they know on Capitol Hill that it is likely going to come. They're going get a request. Boy that is going to be a debate that is going to be fascinating to watch.

COOPER: Joe, I want to play something else the president said last night on Leno. Take a look.


OBAMA: I do think, though, the American people are all in a place where they understand it took us a while to get into this mess.

LENO: Right.

OBAMA: It is going to take a while for us to get out of it. And if they have confidence that I'm making steps to deal with issues like health care and energy and education, that matter deeply to their daily lives, then I think they're going to give us some time.


COOPER: This has become a familiar refrain from the Obama administration that they need time. Is that working? His approval numbers are still good, right?

JOHNS: Yeah, his numbers are very good. It looks like Americans are giving him some time. On the other hand, there is a question of Congress and the people he's got to deal with to get his plan moving. For example, this thing -- again, going through the House and the Senate right now has the possibility of sort of keeping the private investors who would be helping out on the public/private bailout investment plan from jumping in.

So those are the kinds of people they have to deal with right now, along with the public. The other issue, of course, is there Obama fatigue? Apparently not yet. They will know when the public gets sick of them and they'll know it from the numbers.

COOPER: I want to show just, Ed, one more moment from Leno last night. Another humorous moment from the president.


OBAMA: I don't see why they would throw the game, except for all those Secret Service guys with guns around them.

LENO: Right, exactly. Exactly.

OBAMA: I will say I don't think I get the hard fouls that I used to.

LENO: All right, yeah. Reggie goes, ooh, I missed. Ooh!

OBAMA: Reggie doesn't do that. Reggie, my assistant, he played for Duke, very competitive guy. He doesn't let me win because as he pointed out, if you lose to Obama, you never hear the end of it.


COOPER: Clearly, Ed, the White House wants to put the president out there as much as possible. Clearly in a situation like this, you know, he's a very likable person. That comes across, even though those who may not agree with him, that was him talking about playing basketball and stuff. Is there any concern among the White House staffers that he's over exposed?

HENRY: Top White House aides continue to tell me that they don't think he is overexposed. They think he's their best asset and they also look back to former President Bush and their strategy behind the scenes is that basically they think President Bush missed an opportunity to use the bully pulpit on issues like the economy, the war in Iraq and lost the backing of the American people. They're going to continue to go out there and the proof is in the pudding that they're not worried about the overexposure. He's going to be on "60 Minutes" this Sunday night and he's going to be having a second primetime news conference Tuesday night. They're putting him out there again.

COOPER: If he shows up on "American Idol," we're in trouble. John Johns, Dana Bash, Ed Henry. Thanks, have a good weekend.

Turns out hard times -- times are hard, of course, for fraudsters. Recession scammers are out in full force trying to take your money. Just ahead, Joe Johns and how the crooks are trying to fool you.

Also ahead, some disturbing new details about the crucial hours after Natasha Richardson's skiing accident. CNN has learned that the actress didn't reach a hospital until nearly four hours after she fell, that's almost three hours later than that resort where it happened, where they first said.

So why the discrepancy and did the delay cause her death? We'll take a look at that. Also Michelle Obama getting some help breaking ground for 21st century victory garden. She takes a break to talk up vegetables.


M. OBAMA: That's what I found with my kids. Especially if they were involved in planting it and picking it, they were much more curious about giving it a try.


COOPER: As if times weren't tough enough, recession fraud is on the rise. I don't know if any of you have gotten these phony e-mails or calls but they are really outrageous, even as your family is struggling to stay ahead, a band of mini-Madoffs out there is trying to take your hard earned cash, they're promising a quick fix for your credit problems or a phony windfall. Joe Johns tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."


JOHN JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last week Demetrius Wilkins of the Washington area got this authentic-looking check in the mail from Canada for almost $5,000. And a letter saying he had won the lottery. But it also said he owed almost 4,000 bucks in taxes and needed to pay up. Suddenly Demetrius wasn't feeling so lucky and he knew this was too good to be true.

DEMETRIUS WILKINS, RECEIVED FAKE CHECK: The document itself looks real in all accounts, like it is just not. Because I didn't enter any specific sweepstakes and this is basically just to get your hopes up in the hard economic times.

JOHNS: We called telephone numbers connected to the company offering this deal and asked a man who answered the phone if he was ripping people off. Several times he repeated a phrase he can't say on TV but never answered the question.

In New York, Heather Dunleavy had her identity stolen twice. It cost her $15,000 in 2007 and $2,500 last year. Both times she got her money back and police even got a picture of the suspect in a bank. But so far, no arrests.

HEATHER DUNLEAVY, IDENTITY STOLEN TWICE: The worst part is just not knowing who is doing this and knowing that there is someone out there who has all this information about you. I think that's just scary to think about that someone out in -- who knows where -- has this information about me, so it is really something that never stops.

JOHNS: There are even scams playing off of the recent stimulus package.

JOHN KROGER, OREGON ATTORNEY GENERAL: People purporting to be from the federal government ask people to provide information such as a bank account number where their stimulus package can be deposited and unfortunately, you know, if a small number of people go along with this, that means big bucks for the criminals.

JOHNS: Oregon Attorney General John Kroger has a scam alert network, and business is booming, thanks mainly to foreign fraudsters on the Internet.

KROGER: We've received an enormous volume of complaints. They're up about 55 percent from last year this time.

JOHNS: So what's a law-abiding citizen to do? Guard your personal information, of course. Check your credit reports.

Nicole Robinson, once a victim herself, is now an identity theft consultant.

NICOLE ROBINSON, IDENTITY THEFT CONSULTANT: My demand over the last year has gone up probably about 50 percent.

JOHNS: She says don't fall for official-sounding requests for personal information.

ROBINSON: What people need to know is that the government is never going to send you an e-mail and ask you for your Social Security number. The government is not going to call you on the phone and ask you for your Social Security number.

JOHNS (on camera): Common sense, but more may be needed. The Oregon attorney general is calling for new federal legislation to crack down on thieves using the recession as an opportunity to steal from you.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Watch out for that stuff.

Still ahead, Michelle Obama breaks new ground, literally. Why the first lady and a small army of fifth graders spent the afternoon digging up the White House lawn.

First, Randi Kaye has the "360 News & Business Bulletin."

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, 20 states launching AIG bonus investigations today, as Connecticut subpoenaed CEO Edward Liddy and 11 other top executives.

Home to many AIG employees, Connecticut is demanding employee contracts and other documents related to the $165 million in bonuses paid out last week. AIG officials are citing a Connecticut law to justify those payments.

Madoff Ponzi scheme victims in their own words. A Manhattan court today released dozens of letters and e-mails that victims sent to prosecutors expressing their outrage and even suggesting specific punishment.

Bernard Madoff is facing a potential 150-year prison term. An appeals court denied his request for bail pending sentencing.

Meanwhile, Madoff's wife, Ruth Madoff, ventured out of her New York penthouse last night for a little grocery shopping. She and her bodyguard reportedly got as far as aisle 2 before paparazzi chased them back home.

And finally, a hero story, publisher William Morrow announcing today a two-book deal with U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger. The first will be a memoir touching on his boyhood, his military service and, of course, his odds-defying perfect landing on New York's Hudson River.

COOPER: Wonder what the second one will be about, then.

KAYE: What will be left after that?

COOPER: I know.

All right. We all know the job market is more competitive now. But did you know a growing number of job seekers are having plastic surgery? Here's a before and after picture of one woman who wanted to look younger to stay competitive, and she already has a job. More tonight on jobs and cosmetic procedures.

And Michelle Obama breaking ground on a White House vegetable garden with the help of fifth graders. And the president promising to pull weeds. See if that happens. The first family is growing their own vegetables. That means plenty of leafy greens for the White House table and a lesson in healthy eating for kids.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I've been able to have my kids eat so many different things that they would have never touched if we had bought it at a store, because they either met the farmer that grew it or they saw how it was grown. They were curious about it, and then they tried it and usually they liked it.



COOPER: Tonight, a financial face-lift, a sign of how bad the job market is. Older Americans seeking work are increasingly having plastic surgery to look younger and be more competitive. In tonight's "Uncovering America" report, here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When 69-year-old George Dorsett retired in 2005, the businessman couldn't wait to spend more time with his children and grandchildren and live on his savings and Social Security.

GEORGE DORSETT, RETIRED JOB SEEKER: Between the two, the combination of the two, I should be all right. Didn't happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if you go to the Web site, you'll have access to this.

TUCHMAN: So now George is un-retiring, attending a New York City seminar with other people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, learning the best way to find a new job. With this economy, they can't afford to live their golden years like they dreamed.

DORSETT: It really makes you feel terrible, because you feel like you paid your dues. And you should be able to travel, kick back, and relax and enjoy the rest of your life.

TUCHMAN: A survey of workers over 60 by shows that 60 percent have decided to postpone retirement due to the impact of the financial crisis.

(on camera) Did you right away know that it would be harder to find a job because you were older than a lot of other people looking for jobs?


TUCHMAN: Gary Peters is 58, a Baby Boomer, who was just laid off from a management position. He feels he looks older than his age and that it works against him when he's up against younger people for job openings. So...

PETERS: I'm contemplating having these sacks under my eyes removed. And I guess then the doctor would lift my face up and help remove this chin that I have.

TUCHMAN: Dr. David Whiteman is a board-certificate plastic surgeon in Duluth, Georgia.

DR. DAVID WHITEMAN, PLASTIC SURGEON: We have had people that have frankly said, you know, "I have been laid off. I'm not as young as I used to be. This is a very competitive job market. And I need to be able to compete with younger people vying for the same position."

TUCHMAN: This is 54-year-old Debbie Scott, or this was Debbie Scott a few months ago. This is her today. She is a patient of Dr. Whiteman.

DEBBIE SCOTT, PLASTIC SURGERY PATIENT: I just can hold my head back up again. It gives me the confidence back that I've lost a little bit.

WHITEMAN: Scars look like they're doing fine, actually.

TUCHMAN: Debbie is a real estate agent who felt her pre-surgery appearance was affecting her livelihood.

SCOTT: It just gives me an overall better image of myself, and I'm sure that I portray that to other people and to my customers.

TUCHMAN: As for George Dorsett, he figures he needs to work for another five years and then, hopefully, retire again.

DORSETT: I can relax a little bit in that period of time.

TUCHMAN: But first, he needs to find another job, just shy of birthday number 70.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: So hard for so many people out there.

Next on 360, loved ones remember Natasha Richardson. Today's wake held for the actress. Liam Neeson, Vanessa Redgrave, many others were there. We'll have the latest.

Also tonight, questioning the ski resort's account of the tragedy. Did it take hours longer than originally reported for Richardson to actually reach the hospital? The story coming up.

And then, on this first day of spring, something new for the White House. Michelle Obama, we've been talking about a lot tonight, bringing a vegetable garden to the South Lawn. We'll show you how she planted it with local fifth graders. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Tonight, new developments in the tragic death of Natasha Richardson.

A wake for Richardson was held in Manhattan today at the American Irish Historical Society. Richardson's husband, Liam Neeson, who attended an emotional vigil on Broadway last night, was joined by Richardson's mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and sister Joely Richardson, along with other family members and close friends.

A private funeral service will be this weekend.

Richardson died Wednesday of blunt trauma to the head after falling on a beginners' ski slope in Canada. Now, the resort where the incident happened said that the 45-year-old actress was taken to a local hospital about an hour after the accident.

But today the ambulance service that was called to the resort disputes that timeline, saying Richardson did not arrive at the hospital until nearly four hours after she fell. That's nearly a three-hour difference from what the resort originally said.

These new developments are raising serious legal and medical questions. Could her life have been saved?

Joining us tonight, chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a neurosurgeon, and attorney Chris Davis, who specializes in medical malpractice and personal injury.

Sanjay, now that we have this full timeline of events, directly after Natasha Richardson's fall, would you say that timing played a role in her death?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, absolutely. I think when it comes to these types of injuries, where there is blood accumulating underneath the skull, you have to try and operate on these as quickly as possible.

It's tough to give an expect timeline, but if you look at an image like this, and pay attention to that red spot, that red collection of blood starting to form, it has nowhere to go, Anderson, but push down on the brain.

The operation to remove something like this is pretty -- relatively simple, as far as neurosurgical procedures go, but timing is key.

If I can just show you really quick, Anderson, on a model like this. If you're looking at a skull model here, you basically have to try and just simply remove some of the bone and take that pressure off the brain and then put the bone back after the blood is removed. That's what you have. And it's a pretty short operation, but you've got do it quickly.

COOPER: Chris, could the ski resort be liable in her death?

CHRIS DAVIS, ATTORNEY: Well, I think that's a possibility. I think there is some serious questions that need to be answered. I mean, from my understanding, initially, which reported that she received fairly prompt medical attention. And now we're learning from reports that perhaps the EMT or the emergency crew never even made contact with her.

COOPER: Right, the ambulance said that they basically saw her from a distance, but that she declined to be treated by them.

DAVIS: Yes. And that raises a serious question, because certainly, in our jurisdiction when an emergency crew arrives on the scene, they have a duty to at least make contact with the person that's been injured, check that person out, ask the person questions, especially in cases of head injury, when oftentimes the person -- the judgment is the first thing that may go.

COOPER: Sanjay, though, if someone has fallen, though, and, you know, if it takes two or three hours for them to really feel -- start feeling effects, would an EMT crew be able to determine something just by casually interacting with somebody?

GUPTA: Well, you know, keep in mind that the amount of force to cause this sort of bleeding on the brain was probably a significant force. She developed what is called an epidural hematoma, which is that blood collection that we showed.

If someone were to watch that fall, Anderson, they probably would have noticed her take a pretty hard hit to the ground.

Also, almost without question, she probably had some disturbance of her overall consciousness. While she may not have lost consciousness, she may have been confused. She may have been unable to do some pretty simple tasks like counting backwards from 20, knowing where she was, what day it was. There are just sort of simple things you can check for in the field.

So, you know, there were probably clues even early on, Anderson.

COOPER: Chris, at this point, what else as an attorney would you look at?

DAVIS: Well, you know, I would certainly look at the situation. I look at a case, and I say, "OK, what was -- how could this incident have been prevented? Either what was done or not done that contributed to this horrific event?"

And I certainly would start with the resort and their policies and procedures. Did they have those in place? Were they followed in this situation when somebody is being taken off the hill after an injury?

COOPER: Does it also raise questions to you that the resort came out very quickly -- I mean, they were the initial source on a lot of the information that was out there days ago. And they were the ones who were saying, "Look, it was an hour, and she was walking around and laughing." And now, according to this ambulance, it was actually four hours.

DAVIS: Yes. That's very questionable and suspicious. And like Dr. Gupta said, I find it hard to believe given that there is a death here that she did not exhibit some clear head injury symptoms soon after the initial trauma, like feeling dazed and disoriented and, you know, acting -- the feeling that she's not herself.

COOPER: Sanjay, what you said before is important, I think, for a lot of people just so they don't freak out every time they fall. I mean, it's got to be a pretty significant fall. And what should somebody look for in the immediate aftermath of a fall to see if they may be having a problem?

GUPTA: Yes, it's a really good point. What happened here is a very rare occurrence, and it was sort of touted as this unusually innocuous fall. It probably was a pretty severe blow.

If someone, certainly, loses consciousness at the time, that's obviously a sign that something more is going on. Or but if their consciousness has been disturbed in some way, they just seem out of it, they get a really bad headache, if they get any weakness or numbness on one side of the body, those are all signs. And these can all be vague.

But it's important to know that even -- even with a -- what may have seemed like a -- not that big a deal as far as a fall goes, if it looked bad, if it -- if she had some sort of disturbance of consciousness, it needs to get checked out and get checked out as quickly as possible.

COOPER: Chris Davis, I want to thank you for being on.

And Sanjay, welcome back. I know this is your first time back on the air since you had -- you have a new arrival. How is your family doing?

GUPTA: They're doing great. Thanks for asking, Anderson. It's three girls now, and we're -- we're delighted and overwhelmed at the same time. So not getting much sleep, but really happy. Thanks for asking.

COOPER: You're glowing, so must be good. Great to have you back. Thanks.

GUPTA: Thanks, sir.

COOPER: Michelle -- Michelle Obama's garden party at the White House coming up, planting vegetables on the South Lawn and getting a little help from her friends.


OBAMA: So, are you ready to get to work?




OBAMA: All right, Sam. Tell us what we're going to do. Let's get up, get some shovels. Come on, let's go, let's go. You guys have pairs?


OBAMA: Let's go is right. We're going to have more of Michelle's big day coming up.

And at the top of the hour, President Obama's busy week. Did he succeed in moving the spotlight away from AIG anger and back onto his plans for the economy? We'll talk about that ahead.


COOPER: Michelle Obama went green in a big way today. With the help of about two dozen kids, the first lady broke ground on the White House vegetable garden. They're going to grow spinach and snow peas, carrots and more, apparently.

Michelle Obama wants Americans to eat better and hopes her backyard addition will help spread the word.


OBAMA: That's what I found with my kids. Especially if they were involved in planting it and picking it, they were much more curious about giving it a try.


COOPER: I still don't like vegetables.

Mrs. Obama says she's been talking about the garden since she first moved into the executive mansion. But who inspired her to plant those first seeds?

Randi Kaye takes a look.


OBAMA: You can lift up the grass with the pitch fork. Go, go, go.

KAYE (voice-over): Armed with a pitch fork and a shovel, first lady Michelle Obama digs into her next project: an 1,100-square-foot vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House.

OBAMA: I want to make sure that our family, as well as the staff, and all the people who come to the White House and eat our food get access to really fresh vegetables and fruits, because what I found with my girls, who were 10 and 7, is that they liked vegetables more if they taste good.

KAYE: Everything grown here will either be cooked in the White House kitchen or sent to a local soup kitchen.

(on camera) Judging from this map of the new garden, there will be plenty to go around. Spinach, kale, fennel, rhubarb, collard greens, even mint. And there will also be a couple of beehives, homemade honey.

OBAMA: We need a wheelbarrow.

KAYE: The first family, White House staff and more than two dozen students from D.C.'s Bancroft Elementary will tend the garden year round. These kids have a garden of their own at school.

OBAMA: Let's hear it for vegetables! Yay! Woo, woo! Let's hear it for fruits! Yes! What, did I hear a boo?

KAYE: The first lady hopes this will encourage parents to talk with their kids more about making healthy choices.

OBAMA: I've been able to have my kids eat so many different things that they would have never touched if we had bought it at a store because they either met the farmer that grew it or they saw how it was grown.

KAYE: Renowned California chef Alice Waters, a long-time proponent of locally grown and organic food, has envisioned a vegetable garden at the White House for two decades. She tried convincing Hillary Clinton. No luck. She sent this letter to the Obamas. And it worked.

ALICE WATERS, CHEF AND AUTHOR: I call it the victory garden because it certainly harkens back to a time when -- when people cared enough to work together, to make gardens as part of that war effort. And we can band together now and help each other. The victory garden represents that.

KAYE: During World War II, victory gardens, as they were called, helped feed troops and their families. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt had one. That's the last time there was a victory garden here. Since then, just herbs and limited container gardening on the White House roof.

But Michelle Obama has a real interest in promoting healthy families.

OBAMA: Are we done yet?


KAYE: And she isn't afraid to get her hands dirty getting the word out.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: All right. Maybe I'll try vegetables.

Next on 360, Madoff meets the Muppets. How would Sesame Street describe Bernie Madoff's $64 billion scam? See what Cookie Monster and Ernie have to say.

And at the top of the hour, spreading his message or fanning the fire? Hounding -- hounded by those AIG bonuses and finger pointing., is President Obama's media blitz back firing? Take a look.


COOPER: For tonight's shot, Randi, Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, kind of confusing. No doubt about that. But thanks to Ernie and Cookie Monster, even a child can understand it. Here's Jimmy Kimmel's "Sesame Street Explainer." Watch.


ERNIE, MUPPET: OK, kids. Let's say I have money to invest. Hi there. And let's say Cookie Monster is Bernie Madoff.

COOKIE MONSTER, MUPPET: Me want to invest your money. Me love, love your money.

ERNIE: Now, these cookies are my nest egg. It's all the money I have in the world.

COOKIE MONSTER: Money, money, money.

ERNIE: And I give them to Bernie Madoff to invest.

COOKIE MONSTER: Me make you 40 percent interest.

ERNIE: Thank you so much, Mr. Madoff.


ERNIE: OK. Here it is.


ERNIE: Let's see now. One dollar and...


ERNIE: Bernie Madoff, all of my money is gone.

COOKIE MONSTER: Me so sorry, Ernie. Bad market. Maybe you put off retirement. Bye-bye.

ERNIE: What do I do now? I don't have a penny to my name.

COOKIE MONSTER: Wrong. Me find one penny right here.

ERNIE: That's mine.



COOPER: And that about sums it up. Oh! Yikes. Didn't see that coming.

KAYE: Violent there in the end.

COOPER: You can see all the most recent "Shots" at our Web site, We'll have "Beat 360" coming up in just a moment.

Oh, let's do it now. Shall we?

KAYE: Sure.

COOPER: Sure, we've got a few minutes.

Our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption better than the one that we can come up with for a photo we put on the blog every day. That's how it works.

Tonight's picture, President Obama speaking during a meeting with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the White House.

Our staff winner tonight is Jill. Her caption: "Hmm, looks like it's time to share my Just for Men secret with the president."


COOPER: What? What was that?

Our viewer winner is Janine from Pennsylvania. Her caption: "President Obama calls on the Terminator to go after the AIG bonuses."


COOPER; Janine, congratulations. Your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

Busy week for President Obama. He's been at damage control over the $165 million in AIG bonuses. That's coming up. And his late-night appearance on Leno making history. One gaffe. The fallout over his Special Olympics remark. We'll have more ahead.