American Morning

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August 31st, 2009
04:00 PM ET

We Listen – Your comments 8/31/2009

Editor's Note: Monday’s American Morning story on the SATs garnered divided response, as some felt such standardized tests were nothing more than a barrier to higher education. Others believed the tests were important to help maintain a higher standards for educational institutions.

  • Mickey: Recently my daughter was studying to take the GRE's for entrance to a masters program. Her life long dream is to be a Doctor of Psychology. After several rebellious years she turned her life around. She has her BA in Psyche. Faced with the GRE's, she did not do well because of her severe anxiety. I know she has a deep love and passion to help people with mental illness. If the GRE's like the SAT's makes it unobtainable for her that is a tragedy. Abstract thinking can not always be measured. I think they should not be required to have that much weight.
  • Jonathan: Carol Costello's report on the SATs was grossly misleading. They are not designed to measure intelligence but knowledge. She also presents some air head kids who complain about how hard it is. The great problem with education is that students and their parents want everything to be easy. And CNN goes along with the rest of the media encouraging that self pity. Soon we will have a nation even dumber that it is, unable to do much and certainly not to compete with the children of other countries who require that their children learn even if it is tough. The SATs may be the only generalized measure of how much or how little kids know going into higher education. It is moreover terribly wrong to try and twist this story into an investigation of SAT staff salaries. I took the SATs years ago. It wasn't such an agony. This report of Costello’s was a misrepresentation of facts, an editorial rather than a report and an encouragement to a backward ill educated public.
  • Kathleen: The SAT is a valuable measure of one's learned knowledge, which needed to advance that knowledge and succeed in college. We have had enough dumbing down of our educational system, television and other media. Let's keep our standards high. And what is wrong with a little angst?

How do you feel about the SATs? Are they useful or outdated? What has your experience been with the SAT and other standardized tests?

Filed under: We Listen
August 31st, 2009
01:28 PM ET

Gardening surges in recession

Grow your own. It seems everyone's doing it now. The number of fruit and vegetable gardens in the U.S. has exploded as Americans look to save money during the recession. CNN's Christine Romans takes a look at how gardening has become such a hot hobby.

Filed under: Economy
August 31st, 2009
11:02 AM ET

The good news/bad news for America's banks

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The Treasury Department says taxpayers are earning a return on the TARP investment, so far."]

Romans' Numeral: $79,000,000,000

A profit for taxpayers from the bank bailout? Could it be? So far, yes.

The Treasury Department has netted $79 billion in repayments, interest and dividends from the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program passed into law almost a year ago. TARP is the acronym for the unpopular bank bailout that many thought was a boondoggle for greedy banks and a travesty for taxpayers.

But the Treasury Department says taxpayers, so far, are earning a return on that controversial investment. How much? We asked Treasury to break down the numbers for us:

Bailout Repayment: Cash Received

  • Full Repayment: $70.13 billion
  • Partial Repayment: $87.5 million
  • Dividends/Interest: $6.67 billion
  • Warrants: $2.81 billion
  • Total: $79.70 billion

Also, Chrysler Financial has repaid its loan of $1.5 billion. On paper, at least, taxpayers have earned a tidy profit from the rising stocks of AIG, Citigroup and Bank of America, but the future of taxpayers' investment in those firms is far from certain. Losses on debts backed by the government for those institutions could swamp any profits at all. And huge cash infusions for GM and Chrysler to sustain them through their bankruptcies will not be repaid.

The situation for the banks is complicated. On the same day the New York Times front-page carries a story titled, "As Banks Repay Bailout Money, U.S. Sees Profit," the Wall Street Journal carries its own front-page story: "Raft of Deals For Failed Banks Puts U.S. on Hook for Billions."

Both are true. Yes the taxpayer is earning interest on its bank investments through the bailout and yes healthy banks are repaying the government for their investment. But at the same time, the banks that are failing are being sold off in some cases with guarantees that the taxpayer will backstop future losses tied to bad debt. Some 84 banks have failed so far this year and the FDIC has 416 banks on its troubled bank list.

Many analysts expect more bank failures in the months ahead. Indeed, banks could struggle and fail for two or more quarters after a recovery takes hold. Stay tuned. Nothing is simple and the outlook is treacherous for the banking industry. For now we'll take those dividends and profits, but it does not mean the banking problems are over.

Filed under: Business
August 31st, 2009
09:52 AM ET

Life after being kidnapped

We're learning more today about what life was like for Jaycee Dugard during the 18 years that she spent with her alleged kidnappers. This past weekend she was reunited with her family, but there are still many unanswered questions about the case.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children."]

Ernie Allen is president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Monday about what life is like after a kidnapping and what needs to be done to prevent these crimes.

Kiran Chetry: There's so much to talk about in this case. Certainly there’s cause for celebration on the part of the family that after thinking their daughter was probably dead they find out that she is alive and are reunited with her.

But at the same time there’s so much tragedy involved. She had two children while being held prisoner for 18 years. What are the most important things that need to be kept in mind now as she’s starting to reintegrate with her real family?

Ernie Allen: Well, I think the most important test here is the need for patience. So often parents had these children frozen in their minds as a 10- or 11-year-old and everybody wants to go back to where they were. This is going to be a journey, a long process. This is going to be a process of life-long recovery for Jaycee. But she’s alive. There's hope for the future. She's young. We're very encouraged about the steps that are happening already.

Chetry: What about her children? An 11-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old daughter, fathered from what she’s saying and what this man Garrido is saying – are his children, as well.

Allen: Well, that's another challenge. And it represents really a two-sided picture. One is to these children he's their father. You can't suddenly go from dad to Satan to this evil person. So that's going to be very sensitive. The other thing is, apparently the children have been very sheltered. They’ve never gone to school. They had never seen a doctor before. But our hope here is that Jaycee will be a mom and that it will help her in her care for them as she goes forward.


Filed under: Crime
August 31st, 2009
06:32 AM ET

PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter: Health care fact vs. fiction

Editor's Note: is a project of the St. Petersburg Times that aims to help you find the truth in politics. Every day, reporters and researchers from the Times examine statements by members of Congress, the president, etc. They research their statements and then rate the accuracy on their Truth-O-Meter.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele says VA has a manual that encourages vets to commit suicide

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="RNC Chairman Michael Steele addresses a meeting of state party chairmen May 20, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland."]

The Department of Veterans Affairs has "a manual out there telling our veterans stuff like, 'Are you really of value to your community?' You know, encouraging them to commit suicide."

-Michael Steele on Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 in a Fox News interview

The Truth-O-Meter says: PANTS ON FIRE

Pants on Fire

Read more: VA does not encourage suicide

Health care bill does not 'force' employers to drop coverage

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) on Capitol Hill March 30, 2006 in Washington, DC. "]

"Any government-run 'public' plan ... forces more employers to drop employee coverage due to rising costs and pay an additional 8% payroll tax for each worker."

-Ginny Brown-Waite on Monday, August 24th, 2009 in a mailing

The Truth-O-Meter says: BARELY TRUE

Barely True

Read more: Creative interpretation of the health bill

Boxer claims that it costs $1,100 per person to cover the uninsured

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on Capitol Hill April 2, 2008 in Washington, DC."]

"It's costing every American who is insured $1,100 to pick up the cost of uncompensated care that goes on at the emergency room."

-Barbara Boxer on Monday, August 10th, 2009 in an interview with Rachel Maddow

The Truth-O-Meter says: BARELY TRUE

Barely True

Read more: There's some dispute over the "hidden health tax"

Filed under: Truth-O-Meter
August 31st, 2009
06:08 AM ET

What's on Tap – Monday August 31st, 2009

A firefighter drives away from a wall of flames August 30, 2009 in Acton, California. (Getty Images)
A firefighter drives away from a wall of flames August 30, 2009 in Acton, California. (Getty Images)

Here are the big stories on the agenda today:

  • Firefighters have lost two of their own, fighting out-of-control flames north of Los Angeles.  The wildfire has already swallowed an area the size of our nation's capital, about 66 square miles.  Right now, thousands of homes are at risk.  We are live on the front lines of the fire fight and talking to the man in charge of stopping its advance.
  • New developments in the case of the kidnapped girl, found and returned to her mother after 19 years.  You won't believe what Jaycee Dugarg's first words to mom were.  The stunning reunion taking place as authorities bring shovels and chainsaws to search a convicted sex offenders backyard.  Our Ed Lavandera will be live there with the latest.
  • Almost every high school student stresses out over taking the S.A.T's.  So why are more and more colleges making the test optional?  Today, in our American Morning series, Educating AmericaCarol Costello takes a look at whether it's really worth all those extra classes, and all those extra thousands.

Filed under: What's On Tap