Tonight on AC360°, we’ll look at President Obama’s campaign promise to fight for gay rights – a promise that’s being put to the test. He’s getting pressure to do away with the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bars gays from serving openly in the military. Mister Obama says he plans to scrap the policy, but he’s already getting push-back. He’s also under pressure to expand health-benefits for same-sex spouses. The White House says the president supports repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, a move that would remove one obstacle in the battle. He’s also being warned by conservatives that moving now on these issues will alienate a lot of people. What do you think? We want to keep tonight’s live blog on this one topic. So, please share your thoughts on equal rights for gays and lesbians below.
And, don't miss Randi Kaye's webcast on gay rights during the commercials. Watch our WEBCAST
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/13/art.mayorvilla1.jpg caption="L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tells Anderson that electric trucks designed for container transport create more “green” jobs in his city and cut down on pollutants."]
AC360° Senior Producer
Green trucks could help rescue the economy. That's what L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is telling us - and the Obama Administration.
Villaraigosa wants the government to give $6.8 billion in stimulus money directly to Los Angeles, where the unemployment rate has hit 12% - up from 8% just since October.
What would L.A. do with the money? For starters, it would buy some "green" trucks using alternative fuels, such as electricity and natural gas. The electric trucks are made right in Los Angeles by a company called Balqon. So buying more of them would make L.A run reduce pollution and create jobs at home.
The mayor showed us one of the trucks during an interview with Anderson. And he also showed us the Port of L.A. where some of those trucks would be used. The port handles 44% of all seaborne goods coming to the U.S., Villaraigosa told Anderson. It also generates more than 25% of carcinogens in the area. He wants to make the port greener - cleaner, more efficient, and more competitive with other ports around the world. And he says upgrading it would create a ripple effect of more money and jobs across the country.
Tonight on 360, a story that will make you see red when you learn who’s pulling in the green by profiting off of unemployment benefits. Some of the same big banks that took billions in taxpayer bailout money are now making money from the unemployment benefits they’ve been hired to process. Out-of-work Americans who choose to receive their jobless benefits on a bank-issued debit card(rather than waiting 10 days for a standard check) are getting hit with fees, over and over again – charges that are lining banks’ coffers. Drew Griffin is Keeping Them Honest.
We’ll have all the day’s economic news, from the White House to Wall Street. President Obama met with his economic team today and afterward put a positive spin on the staggering economy, saying he’s confident the country will get through these hard times. Meantime, his top economic adviser, Larry Summers, said that the economic crisis has led to an "excess of fear" among Americans that must be quieted to reverse the downturn. Is the president’s message working? Is it at odds with Summers’? There’s plenty to talk about.
On balance, the bulk of economic news is grim these days. But when it comes to buying a new home, there are some great deals out there. We’ll take you inside a foreclosure auction, where you’ll meet a woman who’s hoping to buy a house within her budget. Banks are taking a bath on these deals, but for buyers these hard times have created deals of a lifetime.
See you at 10 p.m. eastern…
Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from Tony Perkins on AC360° at 10pm Eastern.
Family Research Council
In 2004, a younger Barack Obama sat down with a reporter from the Windy City Times and made no secret of his disgust over laws that protect traditional marriage. "When Members of Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, they were not interested in strengthening family values or protecting civil liberties. They were only interested in perpetuating division... Despite my own feelings about an abhorrent law, the realities of modern politics persist."
If the latest reports are any indication, those "realities" are about to face their biggest test yet. Two federal appeals court judges in California have launched a fierce strike on DOMA, ordering the federal government in two separate cases to disregard its own law and provide health benefits for the same-sex partners of federal employees. The rulings, which smack of judicial activism, are a direct challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act which defines the word "spouse" as a person of the opposite sex. Initially, Uncle Sam's HR department–the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM)–fired back, directing insurers not to comply with the court orders because they violate federal law. Now, the decision to act may have fallen in President Obama's lap, leaving him to choose between ignoring the court and implementing his extreme social policy.
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Actor Mickey Rourke visits a Butyrka jail in preparation to work on a new film on March 13, 2009 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Gennadi Avramenko/Epsilon/Getty Images)
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/03/13/unemployment.fees/art.jobless.fees.cnn.jpg caption="A brochure that goes out to Pennsylvanians seeking unemployment via debit card lists a number of fees."]
Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick
CNN Special Investigations Unit
If you’re out of work like Steve Lippe, who was laid off from his job as a salesman in January, you know you already have problems. But looking at the fine print that came with his new unemployment debit card, he became livid.
“A $1.50 (fee) here, a $1.50 there. Forty cents for a balance inquiry. Fifty cents to have your card denied. Thirty five cents to have your account accessed by telephone,” he recited.
He was quoting fees listed in a brochure that goes out to every unemployed person in Pennsylvania who chooses to receive benefits via debit card. He was given the option when he filed for jobless payments: wait ten days for a check or get the card immediately. Like most of the 925,000 state residents who received unemployment benefits in February in Pennsylvania, he chose the debit card. And only then, he says, learned about the fees.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Usually when I need reliable predictions I look to Ouiija boards, moss on the sides of trees, or Las Vegas odds makers. After all, folks don’t mess around when they have money on the line. But a new prediction from the United Nations caught my eye – they believe the planet’s population, which is currently 6.8 billion souls, may top nine billion by 2050.
I’m not a demographer, but that sounds like a lot.
Let’s do the math. There are roughly 41 years between now and then. Divide the growth of 2.2 billion extra folks by the days and you get about 147,000 babies joining to the family of man every 24 hours. That’s 100 per minute, or 50 since you started reading this.
A researcher I know put it into stark terms for me. Remember the day the tsunami hit in the Indian Ocean and destroyed all those towns and killed all those people? If we accept the more conservative death toll, the world’s population got bigger even on that terrible day.
Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”
In Session Anchor
Yesterday we reported a mistrial in the case of Raynella Dossett Leath, the so-called black widow of Knoxville, Tennessee. We subsequently got a slew of emails expressing frustration about the "lack of a result" in the case. But the fact is: Juries hang.
Nobody much likes it: Not the judge, who has worked so hard to protect the process; not the lawyers, who have worked day and night to win it; not even the defendant, whose freedom still hangs in the balance; and certainly not the victims seeking justice. The folks who are most disappointed with a deadlock, however are the jurors. They have given up days, weeks, and sometimes months of their lives to serve. They have listened to all the evidence. They have worked hard to reach a verdict. So as frustrated as we may be with a deadlock, we shouldn't criticize. After all, we trial-watchers have the least at stake in the outcome. Besides, a deadlock is a result. It means that at least some of the jurors were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. In a murder trial, justice requires unanimity. When there isn't any, justice calls for a mistrial.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/WORLD/europe/03/06/money.forbes/art.buffett.gi.jpg caption="Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway was stripped of its “AAA” credit rating."]
CNN Financial News Producer
Will Friday the 13th be a lucky day for investors? After posting its first three-day winning streak since late January, Wall Street is hoping to post a fourth straight day of gains.
Giving the blue chips a boost are shares of Citigroup, which jumped nearly 15 percent before the opening bell after Chairman Richard Parsons reportedly said the bank does not need any more government capital injections and expressed confidence Citi would remain in private hands and not be nationalized.
Since hitting fresh 12-year lows on Monday, both the Dow and the S&P 500 are up about 10%.