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THE SITUATION ROOM
What the Public wants to Hear; Can the President Deliver?; Sudden Unintended Acceleration; American Quake Victim Thrown Out?
Aired January 27, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Terrorists will be arrested, given a court-appointed attorney, and will be considered innocent until proven guilty, even if they have a bomb in their underpants. That ought to be enough to stop them."
If you want to read more about this you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And many people will, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Well, let's hope so.
BLITZER: Thank you very much. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, it may be one of those make-or-break moments for his presidency. After a rough first year, President Obama goes before Congress tonight and the nation to talk about the State of the Union.
Our latest polls show what you want him to say. Stand by.
Almost 5,000 American citizens are unaccounted for in Haiti right now. Some may never be found. The fate of others shockingly clear.
We're going to Haiti. Anderson Cooper is standing by.
And it can occur suddenly without warning. What would you do if the gas pedal on your car got stuck? Toyota recalling 2.3 million vehicles. We're going to show you why.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, and we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're just coming in as the president gets ready to go before Congress and address the nation. Americans are telling us what they want to hear in the State of the Union address. Our latest CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll has just come in to THE SITUATION ROOM.
CNN's Soledad O'Brien is joining us now.
Soledad, people want to see a change in direction, right?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. And when you ask them, well, what are your expectations for the president's speech tonight, that's exactly what they say.
The question was, should Obama's speech move the administration in the right direction? And when we take a look at the poll, the answer is an overwhelming yes, absolutely, 70 percent of the people say that.
People want to hear a new direction. They want to hear -- they're sort of tired of what's not been working, and that means I think that the president is going to have to get to some specifics, which our panelists have been talking about.
A connection to individuals, he's going to have to talk about what everybody is thinking about which is jobs, jobs, jobs. Now the hill for the president to climb, I think, is this. The question was, Obama's policies will move the country in the right direction, 49 percent say, exactly split with the wrong direction where 49 percent say the same thing.
And this is a big problem for the president because this is indicative of a lack of faith. It's also indicative of a big uncertainty in the environment. And this is a number that he's really going to have to overcome. It's a big problem for him.
The good news for this president, of course, is that he, like Reagan, is the great communicator, gets very high marks on that. And in fact when we asked in the polls how do you rate him as a communicator, Obama now 90 percent say he's a great communicator, a good speaker and communicator.
Reagan 84 -- 84 percent said that President Reagan was a great speaker and great communicator. So he's beating Reagan who was known as the great communicator.
We compare them as well, when you look at economic conditions that we're challenging. Compare them as well when you're talking about congressional resistance. Bur, Reagan, when he was giving his State of the Union address, what he did was to think big picture. He was talking about being transformational, stayed away from specifics.
Can President Obama do that tonight? Is that going to be possible to do that? Will that be his strategy?
You called it make-or-break tonight, and I think that he's going to have to sort of do both, be big picture and also get to those job specifics that everybody in the audience is really going to want to hear. Wolf?
BLITZER: There's no doubt he can deliver an excellent speech. He has over the years. I assume he will do that as well tonight.
Soledad is going to be with us throughout the night. She's getting new numbers. We'll check in with her frequently. There are high expectations for the president. Can he really deliver?
Let's bring in our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley and John Avlon, he writes for "The Daily Beast."
This whole expectation game, Candy, because he does deliver a great speech.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He does. What is that? There's no greater burden than great expectations?
I think probably people are expecting too much from a single speech, but he certainly has to set the table toward an administration that's going to talk about and focus on something different than they did last year, because very clearly, they are reading the same polls we are, and they need to switch to the economy.
BLITZER: If you were helping him to write the speech, give me a nugget, something important you would insist to be in there.
JOHN AVLON, THE DAILY BEAST: I think he's got to reconnect with independents, moderates and the middle-class. I think he's got to declare that the age of play-to-the-politics is over. You know when 93 percent of Americans say that Washington is too partisan, that's not a subtle message.
And the folks who are counseling more to play-to-the-base politics, more populism, I think that's a mistake. That's misreading the message independents have sent in Massachusetts and other place else this year.
BLITZER: Bill Clinton did that rather successfully after he lost control of the Democrats in '94 during his first term.
CROWLEY: He did. But -- also, the American public is used to people saying, well, let's set aside all the partisanship, so I'm not sure tonight they'll be convinced. Certainly, they will hear it. I think he has to make a reach-over across the aisle, not just politically, but practically speaking.
As we know, it's very hard to get things done in Washington, unless you've got some of the opposition party helping you, so he has to do it. I don't think the American people are going to be immediately convinced, because they've been watching this for years.
BLITZER: And it's even a harder admission in an election year -- midterm election year, 435 seats in the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, all up. Is it possible to do what you're recommending?
AVLON: I think it's necessary. Whether it reads in the backrooms of Washington, that disconnect has been there for a long time and to that extent, I think you put Washington, you make Washington the argument.
You know, Congress has been -- has that lower approval ratings than George Bush when he left office. To some extent, that's been the source of the problem. So I think, you know -- President Obama needs to acknowledge the hopes that he came into office with, the connections he made with independents and voters in the center, and say look, I hear you. I understand what's happening out there in the country. You're frustrated. You're angry. You feel we've fallen short of the expectations. I'm frustrated, too.
Congress, when you play these partisan games, you're letting down the American people. They want to see less ideology, more problem solving.
BLITZER: John makes a really good point because if you look at the president's numbers and all of us have studied those numbers. Among Democrats basically the same, among Republicans, basically the same, but among the independents, that's where you slip.
CROWLEY: Sure. And that's a good way to lose elections.
CROWLEY: Look, independents decide elections. And when you begin to lose them, November begins to look pretty grim. So it is to those independents who are showing a -- certainly a more conservative bent than they seem to have done during the election that he has to talk.
I think, though, at the same time, there has to be some recognition that his goals are still his goals. The things that some of the liberals fell in love with still have to be there because they still does have....
BLITZER: And correct me if I'm wrong, John, but it looks like there are fewer and fewer Democrats, fewer and fewer Republicans nowadays and more and more independents.
AVLON: Independents are the largest and fastest growing segment of the American electorate. That's the big lesson. You know we've been -- being sold as dumb-down version of American politic, this red versus blue, left versus right divide. And Massachusetts blew that straight out of the water.
You know, liberals at Massachusetts actually is 51 percent independent. That was part of the message and that where, I think, Washington needs to wake up. They don't understand what's going on and they really played to the base.
Professional partisan crew in Washington, they need to understand the anger also is largely about fiscal responsibility, and Obama campaigned for fiscal responsibility, the Congress hasn't delivered this year.
BLITZER: We're going to hear a lot about that tonight, guys. Don't go away because you're going to be with us throughout the night as well. We've got a long time. It'll be a great night for all of us journalists. We love this kind of story.
After President Obama's first year in office, we're looking at items from his term. By the numbers. Check it out. With his signature, the president 125 bills into law. He also issued 39 executive orders. The president held three primetime presidential addresses and five White House news conferences. He's also wracked up plenty of miles on Air Force One. The president's visited 20 countries and -- including from Canada to China, from Trinidad to Turkey. And he's visited 28 U.S. states, seven lost in the election and 21 others he won.
Our coverage of the State of the Union continuing now less than three hours away. Lots more coming up. But we're not going to ignore other news as well, including Toyota.
For a million of -- millions of Toyota owners here in the United States, there are problems. We're going to update you on information you need to know.
Also, we're going back to Haiti. Anderson Cooper is on the scene. He's got new information for us.
ANNOUNCER: THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer, brought to you by...
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File." Jack.
CAFFERTY: Here's some heartening news. The United States could be bankrupt in 7 to 10 years, yet our government refuses to do anything about it.
The Senate voted yesterday against a bipartisan commission that would have made recommendations on how to reduce the nation's skyrocketing deficits estimated this year alone to top $1.35 trillion.
A lot of Republicans were against the commission idea because they don't want to support anything that could mean tax increases. A lot of Democrats were opposed, because they don't like the idea of big spending cuts in the entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The truth is there are only two ways to reduce our more than $12 trillion national debt. You either have to raise taxes or you have to cut spending or you could do both.
Washington is choosing to do neither. Republican Lindsey Graham who voted in favor of the commission tells Politico he's disgusted with the Senate's lack of progress on much of anything.
Boy, he is right. Quoting now, "I'm willing to try anything because I am desperate. The immigration, hard, tried it and, nowhere. Social security, hard, tried it, went nowhere. Health care, hard, tried it, went nowhere. We're running out of opportunities to try hard and go nowhere. Time is not on our side."
Meanwhile, President Obama is expected to set up a similar deficit reduction commission by executive order. Details to be revealed in his State of the Union address tonight. It's noble, but in reality, it's just another empty political gesture that means absolutely nothing because unlike the proposed commission that was killed by the Senate yesterday, the president's commission will not be able to force Congress to do anything, nothing, nada.
In other words, it will have no teeth whatsoever. Strictly symbolic.
Here's the question: The U.S. may go bankrupt in the next 7 to 10 years. Why won't our government do anything about it?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: You're going to get a lot e-mail on this one, too.
CAFFERTY: Well, there ought to be a lot of e-mail going to Washington. These people ought to be in jail for the way they're handling this.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much.
CAFFERTY: You're welcome.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Lisa right now. Lisa Sylvester, she's monitoring some other important stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What else is going on, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, in Poland, elderly survivors of Auschwitz were among those marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp today.
Later Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined Polish leaders for ceremonies at Birkenau where about a million Jews were murdered. The tributes mark the day Soviet forces liberated the two neighboring camps in 1945 and a part of the event held around tomorrow to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
AT&T is agreeing to pay $18 million to settle claims that impose unfairly high fees on wireless customers who canceled contracts. Under the settlement from as far back as 1998 could receive as much $140 back.
At issue is $175 early termination fee charged by AT&T t regardless of how much time a customer had left on the contract. The firm began prorating the fee in 2008.
And in Belgium, the Belgian city of Liege emergency workers are digging through rubble after a five-story apartment building collapsed today. Officials tell the Associated Press that at least seven people are dead, 21 were injured in the collapse. Officials believe it was caused by an explosion due to a gas leak. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lisa. We're going to get back to you because I know you're monitoring other stories as well.
We've got an important new development on the Toyota recall. The suspension of sales of certain models of Toyota here in the United States. New information coming up.
Also, we're going back to Haiti. Anderson Cooper has a remarkable story to share with all of us.
BLITZER: Then at two and a half hours from now the president of the United States will walk into the chamber of the House of Representatives, a joint session of the House and the Senate. We'll hear those famous words, "Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States." He'll then walk in. A lot of applause. And eventually begin his speech.
We'll have extensive coverage, that's coming up. Full analysis as well.
Other news that we're following right now. What would you do if the gas pedal on your car got stuck? And there was nothing you can do to get it unstuck?
In an extraordinary move Toyota has recalled 2.3 million vehicles here in the United States and is stopping sales and production of models that make up the heart of its U.S. inventory.
Let's go to CNN's Deborah Feyerick. She's got more on this story that resonates.
Lots of people are very nervous right now if they drive one of these Toyota models.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Wolf. And you know the hit to Toyota's reputation cannot be underestimated. This latest recall brings the number up to five million total vehicles affected. Toyota surprising many by stopping production on a number of popular models.
FEYERICK (voice-over): It happens without warning.
LARRY WEBSTER, POPULAR MECHANICS MAGAZINE: Well, now, I'm going to hit the brake while the throttle to floor, watch.
FEYERICK: The technical term is sudden unintended acceleration. But Toyota's latest problem involves a new twist. The gas pedal gets stuck even after the driver lifts their foot.
Larry Webster, an editor of "Popular Mechanics" magazine says Toyota's 2.3 million vehicle recall and the halting of production is unprecedented.
WEBSTER: The car sort of floors itself and it just accelerates with the driver's input, and -- which is a very scary ting.
FEYERICK: Webster says Toyota's 2.3 million vehicle recall and the halting of production is unprecedented.
WEBSTER: Nobody knows how long it's going to take for Toyota to fix this. And I don't think Toyota knows how long it's going to take to fix it. And that's why stopped production.
FEYERICK (on camera): Are we talking about a major parts change?
WEBSTER: You know, they don't know yet. Recalls can -- they run the gamut. Sometimes it's replacing a part, sometimes it's adding a part, or sometimes it's just sort of adjusting a part.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The recall affects eight models including Toyota's three most popular in the U.S., the Camry and Corolla and RAV 4 SUV.
Toyota believes the problem may be a faulty gas pedal assembly, a claim the pedal manufacturer disputes.
WEBSTER: I don't know why they would have to stop production, because usually you use two suppliers so in case you have a problem with one, the other one can pick up the slack. So it's a little bit of a mystery right now what's going on.
FEYERICK: Dealers don't know how to fix the problem yet, but if it happens to you...
(On camera): So you're driving, the car suddenly begins to accelerate. So you take your foot off the pedal and jump on the brake with both feet or one foot?
WEBSTER: It doesn't matter. Just press the brake as hard as you can with all of your force and then move the shift lever from drive to neutral, and then turn the car off.
FEYERICK (voice-over): It's not smooth. But as we see, it definitely works.
(On camera): So as long as the driver knows how to stop the car in the event the accelerator does not return.
WEBSTER: Yes, I mean...
FEYERICK: You should be OK?
WEBSTER: I think we need to come up with a song or something, like hit the brake, shift to neutral, hit the brake, shift to neutral.
FEYERICK: Now in California there is a class action lawsuit against Toyota Motor Corporation alleging design defects may have caused over 2,000 Toyota and Lexus cars to suddenly speed out of control. Well, it's unclear whether this latest problem contributed. The suit claims that at least 16 deaths and 243 other injuries resulted. Wolf?
BLITZER: Bottom line, people have to be careful if they're driving those models right now.
FEYERICK: Absolutely. And practice.
FEYERICK: Know how to jump on that break and your car into neutral. People don't do that until there's an emergency.
FEYERICK: They really should be practicing.
BLITZER: Yes. All right. Deb Feyerick, thanks very much.
All right, we're going to go back to Haiti and see what's going on over there. We're told there are some important new developments. Anderson Cooper is on the scene. Much more of our coverage on that coming up.
Also, we're getting ready for the president's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress, only about 2 1/2 hours away. We'll lead up to the speech with full analysis and more after this.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you 're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the Haiti earthquake survivor says he was buried in the rubble for two weeks. How did he survive? We're uncovering new details of his remarkable story.
Also, we are counting down to the president's State of the Union speech tonight. The best political team on television is here with analysis you won't see anywhere else.
Also, it's part smart phone, part laptop. Apple unveils its iPad. Will it live up to all the hype?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's go to Port-au-Prince, Anderson Cooper is standing by.
Anderson, I take it there is an indication that another survivor may have been pulled out of the rubble on this, the 15th day of the -- after the earthquake.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we should be cautious about this, a 16-year-old girl was pulled out of rubble by French rescue workers today. She is now at a hospital, but there is no way of knowing at this point whether or not she's from the original earthquake or perhaps from one of these aftershocks.
A lot of people, you know, go into the rubble searching for things, and then in the event of an aftershock rubble may fall on them and they could get trapped.
I talked to one rescuer yesterday who said it is highly unlikely or virtually impossible that somebody -- unless they had a large store of food or water with them in the rubble could survive this long alive underneath the rubble.
That being said, somebody was pulled out today and we're going to have -- we have people on the scene, we're going to try to investigate exactly when she may have been trapped in that rubble.
But it is a sign of just that -- that there are still operations going on. There are still rescue crews out there. Much of this has turned to a recovery operation, and for the 4,500 to 5,000 missing Americans in Haiti, for their loved ones, that is a somber reality, that they are just now coming to grips with.
COOPER (via phone): The search for missing Americans goes on, but in the rubble of the Montana Hotel, it gets grimmer by the hour.
BIL HAWKINS, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Our intent and mission is to get everyone and that's what I told the parents when they were here, is to get everyone that we can.
COOPER (on camera): And at this point, is it -- it's not search and rescue.
COOPER: But it's not -- is it recovery?
HAWKINS: Well, recovery is a word, it's a definition, I mean -- we are -- that's what we're doing is trying to recover bodies with respect and dignity and honor. We are trying to recover. Not just the people that are here, the bodies, but recover some sense of closure for the parents and the people and the loved ones and the family that are out there.
COOPER (voice-over): It's believed there are 50 to 60 people still buried here, as many as 17 Americans among them.
Veronique Wehder from Miami is waiting to get word about her 7- year-old son, Aile.
(On camera): How are you holding up?
VERONIQUE WEHDER, MOTHER: I have my moments of breaking down and I have my moments that I have to be strong and still keep going, because we want to have either closure, you know, know what happened, or there's still -- the glimpse of hope is little, but still have some kind of hope, I guess, until we, you know, find him.
COOPER: So there's a part of you which is holding on to hope?
COOPER (voice-over): The names of those missing, the lost, are written on two small boards, a flickering candle a constant memorial.
(On camera): The Montana Hotel is one of the most searched sites in Port-au-Prince, and there's a good chance that many of those who died there, well, at least their bodies will at least be recovered.
In other parts of Port-au-Prince, however, the dead still trapped in rubble may never be found. The wreckage like this is so dense and so dangerous to search that it's likely it's just going to be bulldozed, and the terrible truth is that anyone whose body is still inside this kind of rubble, they're simply going to be discarded along with the debris.
(Voice-over): Some Americans who died have already disappeared. The morning after the quake, we were shown the passport of an American woman.
(On camera): This man has lost four family members. He just showed me his wife's body which is under a shroud and he's now worried about another family member who's an American whose named is Rose Marguerite Olivier, and he believes she is trapped inside that building as well, and he's pretty sure she's dead.
(Voice-over): We contacted the State Department and told them of her death and her location, but no one ever came to collect the body. Days later, her husband found her corpse in the rubble. He shows me a picture of her remains on his cell phone.
After finding her, he says, he briefly left to get a coffin. A Haitian government bulldozer arrived and dumped her body in the back of a truck.
"They threw her out," he says. "I couldn't throw out my wife. She was an American citizen."
(On camera): So you don't know where she's buried now?
(Voice-over): "No, I don't know," he says. "I don't know. It's very difficult."
Not only did the U.S. government do nothing to retrieve this American citizen's body, they told our office in Washington that she'd been buried in a coffin in a cemetery. We went to the U.S. embassy for answers.
(On camera): Do you know why we would have been told by the State Department in stateside that this particular woman was put into a coffin and buried in a cemetery?
GORDON DUGUID, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I don't know why. I don't know where that information came from. From our perspective here, we don't know the disposition of the remains, the presumption of the family, as I understand it, is that the body was taken to a mass grave.
That would seem consistent with the way things are done now.
COOPER (voice-over): The mass graves are just outside Port-au- Prince. Two weeks after the quake, we thought we'd find them cleaned up, covered over, but it's much worse than that.
The dead are still just dumped on the ground. Little effort it seems has been made to actually bury them.
American or Haitian or whatever the nationality, this is not how anyone expects their dead to be treated. This is not how anyone wants their loved one's life to end.
COOPER: And Wolf, I have seen a lot of mass graves in a lot of different disasters. I have never seen anything as horrific as what we saw in that piece of that mass grave. The fact that the Haitian government has nothing to actually really bury these people is simply shocking. They went to the trouble of picking up the bodies. They did in an organized manner. They have a state-run company that has collected the bodies very efficiently, has dumped them out there.
They even went to the trouble of blocking the access roads, to make it difficult for us to go out to the site, or for anyone to go out to the site and see the conditions. They could have taken the extra effort, the extra 10 minutes and put some dirt on their own people. They have not done that at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: The heartbreaking element in all of this, Anderson, is so many people are never going to know for sure, with certainty, what happened to their loved one, because they're just dumping these bodies. This is maybe a naive question, but was there no way they could stack these bodies somewhere or catalog them and let people at some point come out and bury their loved ones in a decent way?
COOPER: Well, what happened in Sri Lanka in the wake of the tsunami, was that they photographed the bodies and at least they posted the photographs at morgues and that way, loved ones could come and had the potential to identify the dead. That was very difficult. They need to bury the bodies quickly, that's certainly understandable, but photographing, or even at least counting. There's no accurate count going on.
You talk to the drivers whose driving these dump trucks, they say they're not counting the bodies. I've been there when they dumped them out. They don't count. The government -- the Haitian government says they have an actual death toll, a death count, but it's not clear who's actually doing the counting.
And as for the Haitian government responding to this report, they actually are now literally hanging up on us when we call both the embassy in Washington and representatives here on the ground in Haiti.
So, I think there are a lot of Haitians who would like some answers as to why their loved ones and, potentially, American citizens, are not at least being buried. I mean, it's not being counted or their names taken or photographs taken, just being buried. They are literally dumped on the side of a road.
BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much for that report.
We're going to stay on top of what's happening in Haiti. We're not going to leave this story. So much -- so much at stake right now. We'll continue our coverage.
The build-up, the lead-up to the president's State of the Union address and more, when we come back.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Lisa Sylvester. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, what else is going on?
SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, former Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, is calling it, quote, "extraordinarily a sad moment." A source close to his wife, Elizabeth, says that the couple is legally separated.
And in a statement just released, John Edwards says, "I love my children more than anything and I still care deeply about Elizabeth." Last week, he admitted he fathered a child with to having a child with Rielle Hunter, a videographer who worked on his campaign. And he admitted the affair more than two years ago. But he denied that he was the infant's father, saying the relationship ended before Hunter became pregnant.
And we have some dramatic video from Turkey now. A dump truck hits a pedestrian foot bridge in Istanbul -- take a look at this -- sending one person tumbling off the bridge to the road below. There are no immediate reports on the condition of that pedestrian. Police say they're investigating why the driver of the truck was travelling with the bed raised.
And emergency management personnel in northern Arizona are using planes to drop food, water and medicine to Native American communities cut off by a major snow storm last week. The air drops are being made to people on the roughed Navajo and Hopi Reservations, who are using mirrors and bread fabric to signal their locations to aircraft. Flagstaff, just south of the reservation, recorded -- get this -- more than 4.5 feet of snow over seven days.
And if you're looking for a way to liven up tonight's State of the Union address, the "New York Post" reports that two former Princeton University students -- they just may have the answer. They have come up with a game that involves taking swigs of beer -- you know this game -- or something harder when the president mentions words like "hope," "change" or "stimulus." A camera shot of either the first lady's arms or Vice President Biden looking like he wants to interrupt, well, that also earns you a drink.
This game was invented in 2002 and updated. Rules are posted on the Internet.
Although, you know, if they want to have a really good time, Wolf, they should probably add words like "jobs" and "economy" for this State of the Union.
BLITZER: Jobs, jobs, jobs. You know what? I'll be drunk after a few sentences, no doubt, about that, Lisa. Thanks very much.
We're getting closer and closer to the president's State of the Union address. We're going to have complete coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Standby, much more on that.
Coming up: Also, Steve Jobs, he unveils a new toy today. How significant of a development is it? Potentially, very significant. We'll give you a full report when we come back.
BLITZER: Everyday this week, CNN has been your stimulus watchdog. We've assigned hundreds off anchors, correspondents, producers, editors, photojournalists to track down how that $862 billion stimulus package is being spent.
Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is following $10.4 billion that went to the National Institutes of Health.
UNIDENTIFIED KID: Draw a medium circle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Listening to him now, you would never know that a few years ago, 7- year-old Ryan Wallace did not talk.
GERALD D. WALLACE JR., RYAN'S FATHER: He was tapping us on the arms or pointing to things or making noises.
COHEN: Diagnosed with autism when he was two, Ryan lived in a world of silence, that was until his parents brought him to Vanderbilt Center for to Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences in Nashville, Tennessee. There, therapists and doctors worked with Ryan to improve his vocabulary and speech, something that's difficult for some children with autism.
DR. STEVEN CAMARATA, VANDERBILT'S WILKERSON CENTER: The hidden side of this is they also have a lot of difficulty understanding, comprehending, auditory comprehension, listening. COHEN: Because of the success of their programs, Vanderbilt University researchers received a two-year federal stimulus grant of $670,000 to evaluate sensory integration therapy, a widely-used but controversial method for improving communication skills in children with autism. Ryan was one of the participants.
Sensory integration therapy is a type of occupational therapy that places a child in a room specifically designed to challenge all of his senses, which helps to stimulate speech. It's controversial because scientific data on its effectiveness isn't very strong. Vanderbilt doctors are trying to build data on the therapy.
CAMARATA: When these parents are seeking answers, we, as researchers, can come to them with answers that have been tested and validated scientifically.
COHEN: In the study, Ryan is given pictures on the computer screen and asked to name and identify the items. He's also given a story that engages all his senses.
RYAN WALLACE, KID WITH AUTISM: You can try to draw a circle.
COHEN: The study is twofold. Once Ryan has gone through this therapy, he's fitted with special headgear that records his brain language sensors while he watches a video that incorporates that words he's just learned. By getting a picture of the brain, it gives doctors the insight into how the autistic brain works.
CAMARATA: When you learn a new word, you see it and then somebody tells you the name of it, and you link those things in your long-term memory. People with autism have a very hard time doing that.
COHEN: Ryan's parents say the program has made a huge difference.
GERALD WALLACE: Like when we talked, say good night now and saying we love you, I love you, and he'll repeat it, "love you," and went from "love you" to "I love you."
COHEN: And for Dr. Camarata, the stimulus has helped jump-start a program that would have taken months to get it off of the ground.
CAMARATA: We're finally starting to get where we can test different interventions and see what works and what doesn't work, and that's crucial.
COHEN: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, reporting.
BLITZER: This is what CNN does on the stimulus desk. Everyday this week, we're sifting through the raw data so you don't have to, then reporting on the stories you want to know about.
Let's go to the stimulus desk right now. Our CNN chief business correspondent Ali Velshi is drilling -- drilling down.
What are we picking up today, Ali?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, we have $3.5 billion worth of stimulus projects under review at the stimulus desk. We got some people working here. They're taking projects we learn about, making phone calls and finding out where the money went and how many people were employed.
Let me tell you about this one, Wolf. And listen, I don't judge, so you should not, I'm just going to tell you what it's about. Two hundred and twenty thousand dollars, a grant to the University of Texas in Austin to track 250 individuals who recently started a romantic relationship. You do not qualify if you've been in a relationship for more than three months. It measures the hormones in the subject's saliva, following people around for nine months and doing bi-weekly surveys and then they come in for the stress test.
What does it create in terms of job? Well, it's hired one graduate student and one undergraduate student. Well, it's hired one graduate student so far, and going to hire two more this summer. It buys laboratory supplies, software and kits from a Pennsylvania company called Salametrics, which I'm going to assume means it's a company that measures something to do with your saliva.
The university says that grants like these allow the university to open up more spots for graduate students who want to do pursue higher education by allowing to be teaching assistants. That's the one we're on right now.
Like I said, Wolf, don't judge.
BLITZER: Saliva? Help me.
VELSHI: Saliva, early romantic relationships. Yes. I don't know.
BLITZER: All right. And how many jobs did you say that will create?
VELSHI: At the moment, they got one -- one graduate student has been hired. They're expecting two more this summer.
BLITZER: All right. Good. We'll look...
VELSHI: We are on the case. We got all sorts of different ones.
BLITZER: I'm looking forward to that.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Ali, for that.
Tomorrow on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," a bridge built to make a resident safe, but why some do one small town residents say it's a complete waste of their money. "The Stimulus Project" all this week only here on CNN and at CNN.com/stimulus as well. You can follow, by the way, our week-long look at the stimulus plan online to see what our investigation revealed. Once again, go to CNN.com/stimulus for that.
We've got more. We're only a little bit more than two hours away from the president's State of the Union address. We're going back to Congress. We're going to the White House.
Much more of the coverage right after this.
BLITZER: It's a cross between a smartphone and a laptop. Apple boss, Steve Jobs, himself, unveiled the new iPad tablet computer in San Francisco today -- Jobs calling it magical and revolutionary.
But we wanted a more objective opinion. So, we asked our own Mary Snow to get a review from one of "Wired" magazine's senior editors.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nick Thompson, thanks for joining us. You've seen the iPad now.
NICK THOMPSON, WIRED MAGAZINE: Yes.
SNOW: Does it live up to the hype?
THOMPSON: It would be impossible for it to live up to the hype. The hype was extraordinary. It's a very good device. It has some flaws. It has some great things about it.
It's not going to revolutionize technology the way the iPhone did. I don't think. But it's still something that's pretty good.
SNOW: What does it have that other devices don't have?
THOMPSON: It doesn't actually have a whole lot that other devices don't have. It's really a big iPhone that does all the wonderful things an iPhone does. On the screen, that makes it much more functional and easier.
So, for example, people started reading books on their iPhones. It's actually going to be a lot easier to read a book on the iPad. So, there are techniques and tools and things that people started doing on the iPhone, and Apple has kind of realize, wait a second, we should make a bigger and bigger and better and organized device to do that.
SNOW: But is there a real need for it then?
THOMPSON: Well, I don't know whether there's a need, but there's a want. There are a lot of people who, you know, travel and are going to want a better way to read newspapers, a better way to watch videos. And watching a video on your iPhone is kind of a hassle. If you want to have one device that you bring with you on the transatlantic flight where you watch video and read newspaper, this would be great.
SNOW: Now, the starting price.
SNOW: It's listed as $499.
SNOW: Will people spend that?
THOMPSON: So, that's actually cheaper than people expected. So, the starting point...
SNOW: People are expecting about $1,000?
THOMPSON: The funny thing is it is about $1,000. So, the cheapest version is $500. But it only has Wi-Fi connectivity. It doesn't have 3G connectivity. So, if you're near a wireless router, you won't be able to access the Internet. You won't be able to do all the things that it does.
If you actually want that connectivity, you have to pay an extra $130. So, suddenly, you're at $630 and then you have to get a service contract which will cost $30 a month for a year. So, that comes out to about $1,000 for the lowest level, for 16-gig memory space. If you want 3G, and if you have it for a year, it will cost $1,000. More memory will cost a little bit more.
SNOW: So, $499 starting price. There are a lot of other costs.
THOMPSON: Right. If you have an iPod Touch, which is basically an iPhone without the phone and without the 3G, it's $499. It's an upgrade of the iPod Touch. It's probably what I'm going to get. I have an iPod Touch, I love it. I'm going to upgrade to this, but I probably wouldn't get the other services.
SNOW: All right. Now, the big question, what other companies will this impact?
THOMPSON: It's going to impact all sorts of companies, and we don't really know right now. It seems like the company that most be hit, that might be hit the most clearly is Amazon. This is a real shock to the Kindles and they have a bookstore built into the iPod.
So, the argument that Apple will make, they'll say: Hey, you can get a book on a Kindle, and you can read it. But it's kind of dim. There are no pictures. It won't be exciting.
Or you can get this device. Not only will the experience of reading a book be better, but it can do all these other things.
Now, Amazon might counter that the battery life is better on the Kindle. There are other advantages of the Kindle. You don't have to have a service plan. But there's going to be a real contest. E-books are huge. And Apple is aiming to get a big share of that market.
It also, though, could have a very big beneficial effect on companies like "The New York Times," for example, which will have a new way of serving its stories along with its graphics to readers.
SNOW: All right. Before we let you go, the coolest feature?
THOMPSON: The coolest feature. I think the ability to integrate with the app store as well that. It's not surprising. But the app stores will turn the iPhone from something cool to something revolutionary. That's going to be fully baked into the iPad and going to be all sorts of wonderful things that people are going to build for it.
SNOW: All right. And biggest disappointment.
THOMPSON: And actually, I should add, the other surprising cool feature is the battery life, which is 10 hours, which is more than I expected it would be.
Most disappointing, it felt there's nothing that shocks me. Everything that's built into it is something they expected. Before it came out, people were talking about, you know, you'll look at it, it will sense what you're thinking and will do whatever you want it to do.
THOMPSON: And we kept waiting through the presentation for Jobs to say and, "Here's this." And that really never came. So, very good device, not transformative, not stunning.
SNOW: So, did Apple overhype it?
THOMPSON: I think the world overhyped it. You can't really blame Apple. They didn't say anything about it. They kept it completely under wraps. They hyped it a little bit in the last week. But Apple is generally a company that keeps a tight lid on everything and they certainly did that this time.
SNOW: All right. Nick Thompson, thanks so much for joining us.
THOMPSON: Thanks a lot for having me here.
BLITZER: And you can get a lot more on the iPad, including full coverage of Steve Jobs' speech on our Web site. Go to CNN.com/Tech if you're interested.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for the "Cafferty File." People will want this.
CAFFERTY: I don't get my typewriter cleaned.
(LAUGHTER) CAFFERTY: The question this hour: the United States -- it's not funny -- the United States may go bankrupt in the next seven to 10 years. Why doesn't our government -- why doesn't our government do anything about it?
Kevin in Ohio writes: "How do you defeat the most powerful military in the world? How do you weaken the will of the people who live in the land of the free or the home of the brave? Not with missiles or bombs or tanks or bullets.
This financial collapse is more than it seems. It could possibly be the beginning of the end of the United States. I'm not big on conspiracy theories, but the lack of confidence in our government is getting ridiculous."
B. in Mississippi writes: "You are so wrong today as you were yesterday. There's another way to reduce the deficits. The best way to reduce them is to increase GDP. When gross domestic product goes up, revenue goes up without raising taxes and that revenue can then be used to pay down the debt. The best way to have GDP go up is to invest money in the short term. And those things will increase GDP in the long term and those things will increase GDP in the long term, for instance, clean energy technology."
Ron, who's an American living in Copenhagen -- remember Copenhagen: "Not much new here, is there? Same as always, rich get richer, poor get poorer. The entire normal population of the U.S. just suffers again and again and again. No politician willing to risk his or her privileged position for something so frivolous as trying to save the U.S. economy."
Jarrett in Minot, North Dakota: "People are so disgusted, even long-term politicians are retiring, among them, my state, North Dakota's senator, Bryon Dorgan. He voted for the Senate Deficit Reduction Commission Bill, as did our other senator, Kent Conrad. Both Democrats. Fiscal responsibility is gone."
And Derek writes from Cincinnati: "It's too hard for them to understand the idea of the deficit. I think the best bet would be to tie politician salaries to the budget deficit. The higher the surplus, the higher their salaries. Watch how fast they'd fix the problem."
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile and you can go to yesterday's blog to find out how wrong I was then.
CAFFERTY: According to whoever.
BLITZER: Remember Ross Perot?
CAFFERTY: Of course.
BLITZER: He used to talk about this. CAFFERTY: At length.
BLITZER: And nobody was really -- some people were paying attention, but not enough.
CAFFERTY: And he got, what, 19 percent of the vote.
BLITZER: He was doing well on that point.
CAFFERTY: Yes, he did very well.
BLITZER: He has to pull out and then he went back in with that.
CAFFERTY: Yes. But then he got nuts at the end. Remember, all these Martians were landing in his yard and stuff. He was crazy.
BLITZER: But he had some good ideas.
CAFFERTY: Oh, he did. No question.
BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thanks.
Jeanne Moos is standing by with a "Moost Unusual" look at something. We're going to tell you what it is. Standby for that.
And then, we're only be two hours away from the start of the president's State of the Union address and a lot more coverage after this.
BLITZER: Let's bring in Gloria Borger, our senior political analysts as we get ready for the president's State of the Union address.
Gloria, standby for a moment because I want to first go to CNN's Jeanne Moos, she has this "Moost Unusual" report.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama took it all off.
(on camera): You cannot call this the Obama jacket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not. Where is the black Obama jacket?
MOOS (voice-over): We know where it's not. Not anymore. The Times Square ad showing the president in a Weatherproof jacket bit the dust. At the demand of the White House...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't want to, in any way, alienate the White House. MOOS: The folks at Weatherproof noticed President Obama wearing their jacket on the Great Wall of China.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's majestic.
MOOS: The president meant the wall. But the coat company thought he looked majestic in their jackets. So, they bought rights to an "Associated Press" photo and slapped it on a billboard. "A leader in style." You can say that to everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look great in that, by the way.
MOOS: To avoid any kind of legal problem, the company officially refers to the Obama jacket as style 2821.
The White House doesn't want the president's image to be used to sell any product. So, after milking the controversial for a few weeks, Weatherproof cheerfully took down the billboard and asked Sarah Palin if she would model one of their jackets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Categorically said no.
MOOS: When they spotted Conan O'Brien wearing one the other day on NBC, they asked his folks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were not interested at this point.
MOOS: But an Israeli satellite TV company knows the next best thing to having the actual first couple pedaling their product...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mister, I'm going to change the world, maybe you can start with this boring TV.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: They hired an Obama look-alike.
JOSE WILLIAMS, OBAMA IMPERSONATOR (through phone): He looks like me, Jose Williams.
MOOS: On Jose's way to shoot the ad in Romania...
WILLIAMS: It was nonstop. When I got on the plane, people thought they were being privileged by the president sitting in economy class.
MOOS: Jose says he loves the president, and when he impersonates him...
WILLIAMS: I'm very careful that it's going to be in my mind, good taste.
MOOS: Catch you later Obama billboard. It was replaced with Mt. Rushmore, fit for a president, it's safer to use a dead president or...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if you're available in terms modeling.
MOOS (on camera): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you look fabulous on the jacket.
MOOS (voice-over): Forget Weatherproof, call me weather-beaten.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: And happening now, we are learning more about what's in the president's State of the Union address and what liberal Democrats will get out of it.
Standby, we are counting down to the big speech just two hours from now. The best political team on television is here.
The stimulus package helped bring hope to a community hammered by layoffs. But did it really bring jobs? All this week, CNN is bringing -- breaking down how billions of yours dollars are being spent. We have new information.
And we're following another rescue in Haiti. Right now, we just learned about a teenage girl pulled from the rubble. Is it possible that she was trapped and survived for a full 15 days?
I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.