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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

New Attacks Underway in Mideast; Bad to Worse; Silent Supporter to the Obamas; Pay Equity for Women and Minority

Aired January 9, 2009 - 2300   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, we begin with breaking news out of Gaza: new signs in the air and on the ground that the Israeli military machine may be gearing up. U.N. calls for a cease-fire ignored by both sides, casualties in Gaza growing, and so are concerns on both sides of the border that the Israeli operation may be about to enter a new and bloodier phase, fighting perhaps block by block, house by house in one of the most heavily populated spots on earth.
Nic Robertson is on the Israeli border with Gaza, as he has been all week.

Nic, what are you hearing? What are you seeing?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, one thing we're not seeing tonight are the lights of the town just behind me.

They went off about six or seven hours ago, no indication why. A lot of heavy explosions in the distance behind me, as well. In the last few minutes, we saw Hellfire missiles being fired from the helicopters down onto the ground. We've heard exchanges of gunfire. In the last 24 hours, there has been absolutely no letup in the fighting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: It is as if the U.N. Security Council never met, never agreed to a resolution for a cease-fire. Minutes after it was passed, Israel was on the offensive, attacking deep in northern Gaza. Hamas ratcheting up its rocket attacks, more than 30 by late afternoon; both sides ignoring international calls for calm.

MOHAMMED NIZAL, HAMAS POLITBURO: No one spoke to us. No one put us in the picture of drafting the resolution that the Security Council received. And then they asked us to accept it. This is unacceptable in its form, content and reality.

ROBERTSON: Israel's security cabinet met, the prime minister saying, quote, "Israel has never agreed that any outside body would determine its right to defend the security of its citizens.

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: We think our operation is -- is working. We think it will continue because we want to keep the pressure up on Hamas.

Our goal is ultimately minimalistic. Our goal is ultimately defensive. We want to create a new security environment in which the civilian population of southern Israel no longer has to live in the threat of an incoming Hamas rocket.

ROBERTSON: Two weeks since the offensive began, clouds of smoke still billow over Gaza. It is a stark metaphor for the U.N.'s impotence.

ALLEGRA PACHECO, UNITED NATIONS HUMANITARIAN OFFICER: We have a serious protection crisis now in the Gaza Strip. There is no safe space for civilians. There are no bomb shelters, safe havens, no place to flee. All civilians are very vulnerable at this time to be injured or even killed.

ROBERTSON: Amid the chaos, the U.N. says its hearing accusations of startling mistakes by Israeli Defense Forces.

PACHECO: We received credible eyewitness accounts of an incident where about 100 civilians were evacuated into a house on Sunday. And, on Monday, the house was shelled, and about 30 people, according to the eyewitness accounts, were killed.

ROBERTSON: The Israelis say they are investigating the incident.

While tightening its grip on Gaza, Israel is defending itself against international claims of an unacceptable civilian death toll. Israel denies the United Nations' accusation that two U.N. workers were killed Thursday by Israeli tank and gun fire, implicitly blaming Hamas for the deaths.

REGEV: It's a difficult combat situation. If there have been problems in communication, if there's been problems in coordination, we have to work together, Israel and the international community.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Nic, do we know at what stage this operation is at? And for the last couple of days, we've been talking about, basically, if they move into the cities, that will be kind of a new, more aggressive, more difficult stage, no doubt a bloodier stage for -- for both sides.

Do we know, are they at the point -- we knew they had Gaza City surrounded -- have they actually moved in, in a major way, house to house, street by street?

ROBERTSON: They seem to be still right on the verge of that, Anderson.

We saw them moving a lot more tanks in earlier this evening. And, of course, for the Israeli troops, the longer they sort of remain in those static positions around the edges of the towns, the more they become vulnerable.

And that's certainly going to be a concern for the Israeli generals when they decide what to do.

There seems to be a political period of indecision in Israel, whether they should push in deeper or perhaps go to the negotiating table, try and work out that peace plan that the French and Egyptians are putting together.

But, right now, it's the troops down there that are vulnerable. They stay static outside the towns, they don't change location, Hamas will figure that out and take advantage of it -- Anderson.

COOPER: And the bloodshed continues.

Nic Robertson thanks.

This is going to be President-elect Obama's crisis. Shortly, he named two more members of his National Security team this morning: Leon Panetta to run the CIA, and Dennis Blair to be his director of national intelligence.

But, in Washington, and really around the United States, the event and -- of the day was dominated by fresh economic news: grim numbers, unemployment for December, 7.2 percent the worst in 15 years; epic job losses, 2.6 million last year. It hasn't been this bad since 1945.

Suze Orman is going to be here in a moment to talk about what it means for all of us.

But, first, here's Candy Crowley with the "Raw Politics" and the raw pain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The announcement of two key players joining the President-elect's National Security team was overwhelmed by 524,000 other people; the ones who lost their jobs in December, each a personal story, giving weight to Barack Obama's argument that Congress needs to step it up on a stimulus plan.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning, we received a stark reminder about how urgently action is needed.

CROWLEY: There are many ways to add it up, all dreadful -- 2.6 million jobs disappeared last year; it hasn't been that bad since World War II. And so, the President-in-waiting continues to pound Congress.

OBAMA: For the sake of our economy and our people, this is the moment to act, and to act without delay.

CROWLEY: The jobless rate stands at 7.2 percent, 11 million people looking for work.

OBAMA: Clearly the situation is dire. It is deteriorating, and it demands urgent and immediate action.

CROWLEY: The incoming President wanted his gargantuan stimulus package on his desk in the Oval Office shortly after his inauguration, a tad ambitious. The general outline of Obama's plan seems to have passed muster on Capitol Hill: an infusion of money into cash-strapped states, tax cuts to promote spending, investments that create jobs, much of it money pumped into public works programs, improving roads, bridges, government buildings.

But the proposal ran afoul of some Republicans, balking at a price tag expected to be close to $800 billion.

OBAMA: Well, look, there are some people who have said that it's not big enough. There are others who say it's too big.

CROWLEY: And there are Democratic dissenters, worried that Obama's tax credits for businesses who hire and the $1,000 payroll tax cut will not create jobs.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: We want to make sure that the tax cuts create jobs. And that's what we're working with them on. And we'd like to see more attention paid to the housing crisis in this package.

CROWLEY: The President-elect says he's open to discussions on a fast- track basis.

OBAMA: There are going to be a whole host of good ideas out there, and we welcome all of them. And we're going to sift through all of them, and we are going to work in a collaborative fashion with Congress. What we can't do is drag this out when we just saw half a million more jobs lost.

CROWLEY: It is Barack Obama's first big muscle flex, a test of his power. And, in his words and his repeated warnings, Obama is using the Ronald Reagan template: Get the people behind you, and Congress will follow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Candy, we're hearing the Obama team is considering an overhaul of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. What do you know?

CROWLEY: That's the previous money that was given to the Bush administration, but only half of it. So, half of it, about $350,000 remains under Congressional control and they can go ask for it.

But the problem is that no one can figure out what happened to the first $350 billion. So, they want to go back, the Obama team wants to go back, maybe put up -- set up a team inside Treasury to kind of oversee, provide some accountability. They want to open it up to help homeowners who are financially strapped and under bankruptcy and foreclosure to loosen up the credit market.

So, there's some new things they want to add in for which the money would be used. But they also want to put that oversight there.

When are they going to ask for this money? We're told that it might be before inauguration, but that, of course, would mean that the Bush administration would actually ask for it, and the Obama people would be the ones who would eventually spend it.

COOPER: I don't know whether to laugh or cry that we have spent $350 billion and no one really knows where's it's gone. CROWLEY: And no one asked, according to the report. And I'm thinking, Ok, well, this is -- and that's -- you know, it's really something up Congress where they're saying, you know, we're not going to -- somebody has to oversee what happens.

And they understand that, rapidly, when you put so much money out, it is hard, believe it or not, as big as it is, it's hard to know where it's going. And apparently no one said to these companies that were getting this money, well, what are you going to do with it?

COOPER: Unbelievable. All the -- after all the money that was thrown away in Iraq, and no one knows where it went, there was no oversight to that, now we have the same problem again.

CROWLEY: Yes.

COOPER: All right, Candy, thanks.

Let us know what you think about the economy and the Obama plan by joining the live chat happening now at AC360.com. Also, check out Erica Hill's live Webcast during the break. She's on right now with Suze Orman.

You can send in your questions for Suze. She's going to be answering your questions in the next segment, and also toward the end of the program, so two chances to get your questions answered.

Just click on the Suze Orman link on our home page, AC360.com.

Later, Rod Blagojevich, B-Rod, see how he's answering impeachment charges. And you can bet it is surreal. Hear him bust a rhyme. He's reading poetry again today in a new press conference.

Also, Sasha and Malia's grandmother, the first mother-in-law, makes her decision about living in the White House. We've got the latest on her moving-in plans.

And the emotional goodbye to Jett Travolta -- tonight on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What we can't do is drag this out when we just saw half a million more jobs lost. You know, the American people are struggling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Struggling and suffering, so many families hurting in this economic crisis.

You know the numbers, the highest unemployment rate since World War II; 2.6 million jobs wiped out last year.

We all have questions about what we should do. Here to help is personal finance expert Suze Orman. She's also the host of the CNBC "Suze Orman Show." Her new book is "Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan: Keeping Your Money Safe and Sound."

This new jobs report, 2.6 million jobs lost in the last year, biggest since 1945, for those who are out there who are worried about the security of their job, what advice do you have for them?

SUZE ORMAN, PERSONAL FINANCE EXPERT: Prepare for losing your job.

It's that, you know, a job loss really, really affects you when you don't have an emergency savings account, when you have credit card debt, when you're barely making it.

So, for some reason, Anderson, people still aren't getting the severity of this financial crisis.

COOPER: So, when you say prepare for a job loss, how do you prepare?

ORMAN: You prepare by not spending money, by really saving anything, cutting back, even though you're still getting a paycheck.

I need people, you need people, America needs people to start building up an emergency account, so that, in case they lost their job, they'd have somewhere to go to get money, like a savings account, to pay their bills.

Otherwise, what happens is, they take money out of their 401(k)s, they sustain penalties, they charge it on credit cards at 21 percent interest rates, and the whole thing starts to spiral down.

COOPER: So, when you write now about having an action plan, that's what an action plan means?

ORMAN: Well, in the book the "2009 Action Plan" is that all of us have different situations, and we don't have a clue what we should do.

People are just freaked out right now. They're closing down their retirement accounts. They've stopped contributing. They're making serious mistakes because they're just so afraid.

So, depending on your situation, there is an action to take for that situation.

So, this book is credit card debt, savings, spending, real estate, what happens if you lose a job. This is your situation. This is the action that you should take. So, it's very quickly written, so that you know what to do depending on what's happening.

COOPER: There's a big difference, though, between doing something for immediate relief and doing something for long-term planning.

ORMAN: That's correct.

COOPER: And I guess there's got to be a balance between the two.

ORMAN: There is.

But, when you take an action today, hopefully, it's an action that has the long term in mind, because, when it comes to money is -- yes, it could be short term. How do I solve my problem today?

But, if you don't solve your problem correctly today, that problem will be a problem tomorrow, in 2010, 2011.

So, all my advice is always about what do you do now, so that today and tomorrow is always protected?

COOPER: You're going to come back later in the program and --

ORMAN: Yes.

COOPER: --answer more questions. We're getting a lot of questions. I want to try to get at least one in now.

AC360.com, there's where you go to send in your questions. There's a link for Suze.

This is a question from Mohammad, a very simple question. He writes: "I can save only $100 a month. Where should I put that money?"

ORMAN: Mohammad, it will depend really for you if you have credit card debt or not, if you have an emergency fund or not. So, I would say to you, not knowing everything about you, can you just find the highest yielding savings account that you can find, and every single month put $100 in there?

In fact, I just have to say this. If you go to saveyourself.com, you will see that, if you put $100 a month every single month into a TDA Save Yourself account, in 13 months, if you do that, they will give you $100. That's a 15 percent return on your money. That's where you should save it.

COOPER: But, if somebody's credit card debt now that they are paying 21 percent on, that would take priority.

ORMAN: Depends. If they are in an industry where they know -- if you know you're in an industry where maybe you're going to lose your job, you may not want to start paying down your credit card debt. You might just want to save it, because, if you lose your job, what's going to happen? They may just close down your credit cards anyway. And, then, if you don't have any money, what are you going to do?

COOPER: Right.

ORMAN: It depends on your situation.

Suze, we're going to more questions in e-mail form, AC360.com, later on tonight.

Up next: the impeachment, the hair, the poetry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: The House's action today and the causes of the impeachment are because I've done things to fight for families who are with me here today.

And so I'll leave you with this poem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Find out who he's quoting now, Kipling after the arrest, a new poet today -- Rod Blagojevich and his dead poets society coming up.

President-elect Barack Obama gets along with his mother-in-law. Later, we'll tell you why that is a good thing.

Also tonight, how the Travoltas said goodbye to their son.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLAGOJEVICH: Let me reassert to all of you, once more, that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. That issue will be dealt with on a separate course, in an appropriate forum, a federal court. And I'm confident that, at the end of the day, I will be properly exonerated.

In the meantime, I have a job to do for the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich putting on quite a show today. He even brought in people as props -- all part of his response to the Illinois House, which today voted 114-1 to impeach him.

Mr. Blagojevich, also facing federal corruption charges, of course, not addressing the substance of any of this -- of any those charges in the press conference. Instead, he paraded a group of men and women, basically hard-luck cases, before the cameras, claiming the House impeached him because, darn it, he's just been working too hard for ordinary folks.

However, unlike his last surreal press conference, he did not read a passage from Kipling. He read a passage from Alfred Lord Tennyson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAGOJEVICH: And so I'll leave you with this poem by Tennyson, which goes like this.

"Though we are not now the strength which in old days moved Earth and Heaven, that which we are, we are. One equal temper, of heroic hearts, made weak by time and by fate, but strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And Elvis has left the building.

Talking strategy now with senior political analyst David Gergen, Joe Johns and Tara Wall of "The Washington Times."

David, Rod Blagojevich's news conference today was among the more absurd ones I think we've ever seen. His essential argument was completely false. I just want to show it to viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAGOJEVICH: And so what we are here today to talk about and what I'm here to talk about is the fact that I understand the House's action. I'm not at all surprised by it.

But I took actions, with the advice of lawyers and experts, to find ways -- creative ways to use the executive authority of a governor to get real things done for people who rely on us. And in many cases, the things we did for people have literally saved lives.

I don't believe those are impeachable offenses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He is trying to pretend or act as if he's -- he's been impeached because he's working too hard for average people.

Does he think the public is that dumb?

I think we're having a technical problem with David.

Joe, what about that? I mean, it's -- his argument is basically completely false.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was a highly ridiculous news conference, but it wasn't the first one.

He really doesn't have a whole lot of wiggle room to go in any direction. This is a governor who has simply run into a lot of trouble with a lot of people who are looking at this thing, not as a court of law, but essentially as a political question, which is what an impeachment is.

And there's nothing else he can do. So, what can he do? He can -- he can cite poetry. And, then when you think about the kind of poetry he was reciting, it was -- it was pretty ridiculous as well, because the -- the sense of eloquence, and you balance that against the transcripts, or at least the statements quoted in -- in the court documents, where you find a very profane, a very lowbrow kind of individual talking about the --

COOPER: Yes, you don't -- you don't hear him spouting Tennyson or Kipling --

JOHNS: Right.

COOPER: -- or at least in the transcripts of those quotes. COOPER: David, I mean, it's staggering to hear him talk about health care and saving lives, considering he was allegedly caught on tape scheming to withhold money from a children's hospital.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, one runs into more and more people from Illinois who say, this guy's nuts, he's crazy.

But he's also crazy like a fox, you know, that -- you know, he put Burris in there. And he -- and he's made some progress with that.

But I think it's laughable. What's most interesting and what's most important to see in this impeachment that has come forward now is it came out of committee unanimously and -- in the House -- in the state legislature in the House, 114-1 to impeach him.

You wonder where that one person -- what he did -- who is that person?

But with that kind of overwhelming sentiment coming out of the state legislature, there is a huge wave of rejection going on against this guy. And, again, I can't tell you how many people I run into who say, this guy's just a little nuts.

COOPER: And, yet, Tara, it doesn't seem like this is going to have any impact on -- on Roland Burris.

TARA WALL, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, it may or may not. You know, it is -- as one representative said, you know, it's time to stop this freak show that has become Illinois politics. And in the middle of the freak show is the freak himself, Blago, as -- as many would -- would say.

But I think that the Senate actually has hinted that they may wait until the impeachment proceedings are over -- this is expected to be wrapped up in February -- before they move on or move forward with the Roland Burris appointment.

So, I mean, Roland Burris -- and, by all accounts, others believe that he will be seated, that he doesn't need the -- the Secretary of State's signature or certification.

But, if the Senate, as it has indicated today, it may wait until this impeachment wraps up, you never know.

I mean, the Lieutenant Governor could step in and say that, "I now want to make the appointment" and rescind what Blagojevich did.

COOPER: Let's talk about the economy a little bit, David, President- elect Obama saying today that he's basically growing impatient over political posturing by members of Congress about the stimulus plan.

Did he misjudge his clout on Capitol Hill?

GERGEN: I think that the -- they were a little surprised in the Obama camp that people in the Congress said they would get this done by January 20th. That set them up for some sense of, well, there's the delay, there's opposition.

But, yesterday, when -- when his people went up and met with the Senate Democrats, there was some pushback from the Democrats. But I think it was all within the bounds of saying, wait a minute, we -- we support you, we want a stimulus package, but we want to be at the table, and we want a voice in this. We're not saying no. We just want a voice in this.

And I think it's now clear he's not going to get exactly the stimulus package that he wants.

But the Obama people were doing a little pushback of their own today, saying, wait a minute, if you have got some real problems, why don't you tell us, instead of telling the press? Let's get this calmed down.

I think there's been a little pushback on both sides. I think it's going to get settled down, Anderson. And I think that, on the major -- there's going to be another meeting with the Senate Democrats on Sunday, when his -- when Obama representatives are going to go up there. I think they're going to come very close to reaching agreement after Sunday.

COOPER: Joe, how much of this is going to end up as sort of political horse-trading?

JOHNS: Well, sure, there's got to be a lot of political horse- trading, quite frankly, because, when you think about it, he said again and again he wants a lot of votes. You know, he wants this thing to be sort of a landslide in the House and Senate.

And, if you're saying that, then you're really talking about negotiating. You're not going to get everything you want on the first try. He knows that.

He's also put the feelers out everywhere: OK, you're going to complain about my plan, complain about my ideas, come with yours. Show me something that works, I'll take it. I'm not proud. I don't have authorship, ownership on this thing.

COOPER: And problems from the Democrats, and, Tara, also from the Republicans here. And do you think they will, in the end, go along with this?

WALL: Well, I think they have to, in some ways. I think there will be -- you know, there will be concerns raised where they need to be raised.

But, you know, Republicans can't be seen as being these big bullies that come in and just -- you know, and say no just to say no.

But there are some real concerns. I mean, there are concerns among Democrats that the tax cuts went from $100 billion to now $300 billion. There are concerns among Republicans about, you know, spending vs. the tax cuts and how much spending is actually going to take place. But I think, overall, there is a general consensus already that there is going to be work to do; we're going to work together; it's going to be a bipartisan effort to get this thing done.

COOPER: Tara Wall, David Gergen, Joe Johns, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Have a good weekend.

WALL: Thanks.

COOPER: Still ahead: When the Obamas move into the White House, they're going to have to make room for one more, Michelle's mom. Apparently, even if you're President, you cannot escape your mother- in-law.

We've got new information about what their life will be like at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Also ahead, Sarah Palin lashes out at the media again. (Audio Gap)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Off to class, they go -- pictures of the next first family released this week showing the proud parents as their daughters leave for school. Sasha and Malia are attending Sidwell Friends, a private academy in the Washington area.

By the time the Obamas move into the White House, Sasha and Malia will have a familiar face with them. It is official. Today, we learned the President-elect's mother-in-law is making the move to D.C. and moving into the White House.

Marian Robinson's address will change. Her role, apparently, will not.

Erica Hill takes us "Up Close."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She is the silent supporter; the grandmother who quit her job to make sure her young granddaughters could have a normal life of school, tennis and piano lessons while their parents were stumping for votes across the country.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: There is nothing that makes me rest more, now that I have to work, than to know that my kids are being loved and cared for by someone who's teaching them values and discipline, and giving them a little extra candy every now and then.

HILL: A role Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, told the "Boston Globe" she was more than happy to take on.

MARIAN ROBINSON, MICHELLE OBAMA'S MOTHER: I'm doing it, but I really want to do it. It's not even a job. It's like, somebody's going to be with these kids other than their parents, it better be me.

HILL: And she will continue to be there for Sasha and Malia. Today the Obama transition team confirmed the president-elect's mother-in-law is already in Washington, helping the family get settled, and she'll move with them to the White House.

Of course, it won't be the first time the Obamas lived with Mrs. Robinson, as the president-elect told Steve Kroft in an interview with "60 Minutes" shortly after the election.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Right here is my mother-in- law's house, the house that Michelle grew up in. And we lived on the second floor before we could afford our own apartment.

This is the favorite place to hang out for my two daughters.

STEVE KROFT, "60 MINUTES": Really?

B. OBAMA: They still love coming over to grandma's house where she basically lets them get away with anything they want.

HILL: Whether Grandma will stay in their new home remains to be seen. According to the transition team, the move to Washington is not permanent, at least not yet.

What is clear: Marian Robinson is a rock for the entire Obama family.

M. OBAMA: I want my mommy to stand up. This is the woman who keeps me grounded, who stays at home with my girls and makes sure that they're OK. I love you.

HILL: On election night, that same strength and love obvious in these moments, captured in time as 71-year-old Marian Robinson watched the historic election returns with her son-in-law, soon to be the 44th president of the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: And some other developments to tell you about at the White House. One person who is staying is the White House chef. Michelle Obama has said that she will be keeping on Cristeta Comerford, who came aboard in 2005. She says the chef comes very highly -- highly recommended from the Bushes, Anderson. And that she also likes the fact that she's a mother of a young daughter, and she feels the two share a perspective on the importance of healthy eating and health family.

COOPER: There you go. It's all coming together. Erica, thanks.

Up next, are you getting paid less than your co-workers if you're a woman or a minority? The answer probably is yes, believe it or not. It could soon be easier, though, for you to do something about it. We'll tell you why.

Also ahead, Sarah Palin is still talking about how the media treated her unfairly. What she said today about the campaign rumor that bothered her the most.

And actor Patrick Swayze admitted to the hospital; the latest on his condition ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Congress today waged war on pay discrimination in the American workplace. First, the House passed a bill that requires employers to give a legitimate reason for paying men more than women for doing the same job.

Then lawmakers sent the Senate another bill. This one makes it easier to sue for pay discrimination.

So how big is the problem? Tom Foreman tonight is "Uncovering America."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amid the roar of the tire business, Lily Ledbetter worked 20 years at Goodyear, and near retirement, found that her male counterparts were making more money. She sued for lost pay and won. Until 2007, when the Supreme Court said such accusations must be made when the discrimination begins, not years later.

Ledbetter said she didn't even know when it started.

LILY LEDBETTER, SUED OVER UNEQUAL PAY: A lot of women, minorities are not being paid as fairly as they should be in the workforce. And there is also very little -- it's very difficult to do anything about it.

FOREMAN: So congressional Democrats are pushing a bill to allow workers to sue, even if the offense began long ago. And they're convinced the measure will go all the way through the Senate, the White House and into law.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Pay equity, fairness to women in the workplace, the Lily Ledbetter act, this is the -- these are our priorities.

FOREMAN: "Keeping Them Honest," discriminatory pay practices remain a real issue. The federal government receives 4,000 to 6,000 complaints a year about unfair pay, based on race, sex, religion or national origin.

Studies have found full-time working women earn only 75 to 80 cents for every dollar white men make. Black men a little more than 60 cents on the dollar, black women just 56 cents.

And a new Canadian study in the journal "Science" suggests many of us may be more tolerant of discrimination than we think. It found 63 percent of the time a white person would choose a white partner for an activity over a black one, even if the partner had made racist statements.

Still, some Republicans say the Ledbetter act will allow troublesome new lawsuits over unprovable old accusations, and it's really just about Democrats paying labor back for election support. REP. HOWARD MCKEON (R), CALIFORNIA: What we have before us is a partisan product that is fundamentally flawed.

FOREMAN: Maybe, but supporters say pay is not always equal and not always fair, and they must try to fix it.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, more about your money and your job tonight. Suze Orman is going to be answering your e-mails, as I said. Go to AC360.com. Send us your question.

First Erica Hill has a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, politics -- rather, police are on the scene of a shooting at a Chicago high school right now. Officials say five people were shot. Two of them right now are in critical condition. There is no word yet on what triggered that shooting. That school is on the city's South Side. We'll continue to follow it.

Plus, the release of a pirated supertanker being held up tonight; Somali pirates seized the ship back in November. The U.S. Navy took photos of the ransom drop today. Reportedly, $3 million parachuted onto that tanker. The release of the ship, however, and its 25 crew has been delayed. A journalist told us four pirates drowned when they left the tanker with some of that ransom money.

Sarah Palin has been on the warpath against the media all week, and today was no different. The former Republican vice-presidential candidate accusing today some members of the media of supporting, quote, "the sensational allegation" that her son, Trig, is in fact, not her child, which of course he is.

And Patrick Swayze checked himself into the hospital with pneumonia today. The 56-year-old actor told the public last March he is battling pancreatic cancer -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right.

Next on "360," the final farewell for Jett Travolta, his memorial service held today. We'll tell you who was there and how it ended. That's coming up.

And Suze Orman is here, answering your questions on money and her plan of action to help. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: One week ago tonight, we learned the sad news out of the Bahamas that John Travolta's son, Jett, had died. There was no funeral for the 16-year-old who was cremated in the Bahamas, but the family did hold a memorial service for Jett, and tonight we have new details on a private and very somber ceremony.

Gary Tuchman reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sprawling compound, the plane parked beside it. This is John Travolta's home in Ocala, Florida. And by the front entrance, inside this white tent, is where yesterday his son, Jett, was remembered.

Local newspaper "The Ocala Star-Banner" said today the private memorial service was brief, lasting ten minutes. Travolta, his wife, actress Kelly Preston, and their 8-year-old daughter were surrounded by friends and family. The paper says the only speaker was a minister from the Church of Scientology. It concluded with the parents kissing a photograph of Jett.

The paper also reports several celebrities were present, including singers Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Hall of Fame baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. and stars Kirstie Alley and Forest Whitaker.

In a statement, Whitaker said, "We have watched each other's children grow and cannot imagine the loss of Jett. He was a bright and beautiful young man, and we are honored to have known him."

The 16-year-old Jett was on a family vacation in the Bahamas last week when he suffered a fatal seizure. Friends of Travolta and Preston describe the loss as devastating, among them Tom Cruise. Here's what he told ABC's "The View."

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": What are your thoughts?

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: You know, I -- it's horrific. You have -- it's just horrific. I mean, here is a man who is, both of them doting parents -- you know, just wonderful people. And they -- it's just...

TUCHMAN: Travolta, Preston and Cruise are members of the Church of Scientology which opposes the use of drugs to treat psychiatric conditions, such as antidepressants.

WALTERS: One of the things that was said was that your religion, there is not a medication and you don't necessarily take a member of your family or anyone to a doctor. Is that the case?

CRUISE: That's not true. It's actually -- that's just not true. It's actually the opposite, where you -- you know. They say, look, get your physical -- get medication, get your physical illnesses handled. It's actually the exact opposite.

WALTERS: Go to a doctor if you need to?

CRUISE: These people are, I have to tell you, you all know him and you see him and Kelly. And they're -- no one -- no one, you know, I -- it's just horrible.

TUCHMAN: On his Web site, Travolta and his wife and daughter posted a response to the words of comfort they've received: "Jett was the most wonderful son that two parents could ever ask for," it reads. "We are heartbroken that our time with him was so brief. We will cherish the time we had with him for the rest of our lives."

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A sad day indeed.

Coming up, Suze Orman. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back.

Your home, your money, your job. The new numbers out today, showing 2.6 million people lost their jobs last year, the highest number since 1945. And given the bleak news about the economy and the dire warnings, it may get much worse. The question is what can we all do to survive the crushing recession?

Tonight, Suze Orman is answering your questions with advice we all need to hear. The personal finance expert's latest book is "Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan: Keeping Your Money Safe and Sound."

Appreciate you joining us again.

We've been getting a lot of questions in to AC360.com. We just want to get right to them.

The first question is from Jennifer. She says, "I'm 29 years old. I'm single, and I bought a home about two years ago. I'm in about $20,000 of credit-card debt. What's the best way to get out of debt? There's never any extra money to put toward these bills. Do I need to look into a loan to consolidate or go through a consolidation company?"

SUZE ORMAN, PERSONAL FINANCE EXPERT: Jennifer, the first thing you have to do is get rid of the word "never" from your vocabulary. Of course, there is money to put towards these credit-card debts that you have.

First, you got to try to get a lower interest rate if you can. But here's what I'd like you to do -- excuse me -- go to SuzeOrman.com. And right on SuzeOrman.com, look to where it says "Action Update" to the left. Click it.

Look at an expense sheet. There's an expense sheet there that, if you put in all of your expenses, do everything it asks you, it will literally show you, it will come up with areas of where you can cut money. Do the things that are right there for yourself and I'm telling you, we can show you how you can cut $10 here, $50 there, $30 there, so that you can come up with an extra $100 or $200 a month to get rid of your credit-card debt.

COOPER: All right. The next question is about retirement investing, which you have, I think, a whole chapter of in your book. Mo wants to know, "I'm 59 years old and only have $66,000 left in my 401(k). I would like to retire in six years. Should I keep putting the maximum into my 401(k)? Or should I lower what I'm putting in to pay off credit-card debt?"

ORMAN: Mo, I have to tell you, I would lower what you're putting in. If your 401(k) plan matches your contribution, you put in a dollar, and let's say they give you 50 cents, usually an employer will only match up to about 6 percent of your base pay. You have got to contribute up to that point.

After that point, I would stop contributing to my 401(k) and absolutely take the extra money and pay off your credit-card debt. Please be careful: the money that is in your 401(k), you do not have that many years until you retire. That is not money that belongs in the stock market. Be very careful.

Money that belongs in the stock market is money that you do not need, usually, for about 10 years or longer, because if these markets continue to go down, you retire, you're not going to be able to make it back. Keep what you have safe and sound.

COOPER: All right. Beth in New York writes, "My partner and I are due to marry this spring and have been looking at arrangements for our money. At the moment, we have separate accounts, however, I have heard suggestions that in this downfall, combining our funds would be a better idea. Your thoughts?"

ORMAN: Now, I don't know why, in this downfall, combining your funds would have anything to do with it. I think everybody should always have separate accounts. If you want, you could have separate accounts and a joint account, where you put in equal percentages of money for your joint expenses.

But I would keep your separate accounts. Are you kidding?

COOPER: So even a married couple, you say, have a separate account?

ORMAN: Absolutely. You know, you enter a relationship an autonomous human being. When you're in one, you're still one, and just because you may be responsible with money, maybe your spouse or your life partner, they aren't. So how do you balance a joint checking account? Keep the money separate.

COOPER: All right. Lilibeth in Washington asks, "Do you agree that those who still have jobs, no debt, and have money in the bank should keep spending money to keep the economy going? I know people have cut back substantially, even though they don't need to. Doesn't this hurt the economy even more?"

We had on Ben Stein the other day who said just this: that if you have a stable job and you have money in your pocket, you should spend it to help the economy.

ORMAN: Yes. You know, yesterday, I actually was on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and one of the pledges that I asked everybody to make is do not go out to eat for at least one month.

I happened to be talking to people at the time and, anyway, in my mind, people who had credit-card debt, they were going to lose their homes, going to lose their cars. They didn't have a penny to their name, and they're going to lose everything. So of course they shouldn't go out.

But here's my statement. Like me, I did tonight. If you don't have any credit-card debt, you have more money than you know what to do with, you're totally solid. Doesn't even matter if you lose your job, go out to eat every night. Take all your friends with you. Spend as much money as you want to help the economy.

But if you are not in that situation, don't you dare.

COOPER: All right. The next question has to do with real estate and credit-card debt. Pat writes, "My husband and I are thinking of refinancing our home to pay off credit-card debt. Our monthly mortgage would be less than it is now. We're considering this due to not knowing whether we will have jobs this coming year." What do you suggest?

ORMAN: Do not do it. Do not do it. Do not do it.

Why? Because even though you have lowered your payments, what you have done is you have transferred unsecured debt, which is credit-card debt -- you can't pay it, what are they going to do to you? They can't take away -- anything away from you. You're going to transfer that debt to a secured debt, which is the equity in your home.

If you lose your jobs and you can't pay that mortgage, guess what? You're going to lose your home. So please, don't do that.

COOPER: All right, that's about it. Suze Orman, thank you so much.

ORMAN: It goes so fast doesn't it?

COOPER: It does. It does, indeed. It's always good to have you on, appreciate it.

ORMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: A programming note: this weekend, inside the alleged scam of the century, the Ponzi scheme that shook Wall Street. How did Madoff allegedly pull this off? "Secrets of a Scandal," the CNN/"Fortune" magazine special investigation, airs this Saturday and Sunday, 8 p.m. Eastern.

Did you know this guy? Have you ever heard of this guy?

ORMAN: I have to tell you, I had heard of him, but I just cannot believe that it happened. I just -- I never, obviously, put a penny with him or knew anybody who did. I just can't believe that it happened.

COOPER: Suze again, thanks. Up next, Wolf Blitzer busts a move. Need I say more? It's our "Shot of the Day."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption for a photo we put on our blog that's better than the caption that we can think of.

Tonight's pictures, embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich jogs in Chicago while the Illinois House of Representatives votes to recommend his impeachment.

Our staff winner tonight is Jack. His caption: "Vidal Sassblagojevich runs down the block to pick up his hairspray."

HILL: It's just fun to say "Vidal Sassblagojevich," isn't it?

COOPER: It is. Our viewer winner is David from Costa Mesa, California. His caption: "How much do you think people will pay to watch me touch the tip of my nose with my tongue?"

COOPER: David, congratulations. "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

And Erica, it's the end of the week, and that means of course, tonight's "Shot" is a Friday dance party throw-down.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: And guess who's working the floor?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC -- Wolf Blitzer dancing on the "Ellen Show.")

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Oh, yes.

COOPER: Get into the groove. It's our very own Wolf Blitzer with Ellen DeGeneres.

HILL: That's right.

COOPER: It's clear Wolf is a dance machine.

HILL: No surprise there. You know, as one of Wolf's favorite artists would say, "Those hips don't lie." He loves him some Shakira. Let's not forget.

COOPER: I have heard that about Mr. Blitzer, that he likes his Shakira. Yes. Is there more?

HILL: A little. There is a little bit more. In fact I think he called you out on "Ellen."

COOPER: Really?

HILL: You who doesn't dance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: And then, of course, the "Ellen" color muffler.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Very nice.

DEGENERES: You can put it around.

BLITZER: I'm not sharing this with Anderson Cooper.

DEGENERES: Oh, no. You don't need to. He can get his own.

BLITZER: Up there, but you know, I'm from Buffalo, New York, originally, so I'm fine.

DEGENERES: You're used to the cold?

BLITZER: I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: There you go. Wolf Blitzer on "Ellen."

HILL: Did you get a scarf when you went on "Ellen"? No, because you didn't dance.

COOPER: Because I didn't -- does she only give gifts to people who dance?

HILL: I don't know.

COOPER: I did not dance. You're right; I'm a wimp. What can I do?

That does it for "360." Thanks for watching.

"Larry King" starts right now.

See you on Monday.