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U.S. Response to Egypt Crisis; Larger Protests Planned in Egypt; Unrest Could Impact Oil Supply; Tips on Spotting a Shotty Contractor

Aired January 31, 2011 - 11:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Live from Studio 7, I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

Let's get you up to speed on this Monday, January 31st.

Protesters are on the streets of Cairo again today, but not in the numbers that we saw over the weekend. In Alexandria, the army fired warning shots as protesters gathered today.

Protesters tell CNN that they are organizing massive rallies tomorrow. They hope a million people will swarm the streets of both Cairo and Alexandria on Tuesday to demand the president step aside.

Right now you are looking at some live pictures from Tahrir Square.

Now, the United States began evacuating stranded Americans from Egypt today on charter flights to Europe. Now, other countries, including Canada and Australia, are also doing the same. And the State Department says that Americans will have to reimburse the government for travel costs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANICE JACOBS, ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR CONSULAR AFFAIRS: We always encourage American citizens to register their presence with us. And to the extent that they do that, we know where they are and who in country.

So, really the numbers that we give when you mention the 52,000 number is more or less an estimate. And in any case, not all of those people would want to leave. So we're really going to concentrate on the people who contact us and tell us they need our help, and those are the people that we are going to help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Americans Diana and Gaynor (ph) Kelley made it out of Egypt to London on their own, but they told CNN it wasn't easy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANA KELLEY, AMERICAN WHO LEFT EGYPT: We waited in line sometimes six hours, and in long two-hour security lines, only to be told that the flight was canceled, and ushered to other areas of the airport. When we couldn't find food, they helped us find food and water.

We feel very fortunate. There's thousands of people there that didn't have the help that we had, and are stranded, not knowing what to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The uncertainty in Egypt is hitting home on Wall Street. This morning, Dow stocks opened higher today. And right now, as you take a look at it, they're up about 38 points. Keep in mind, however, that the blue chips fell 166 points on Friday as protests in Egypt ramped up.

Well, the Arab language news network Al Jazeera says that six of its journalists were detained briefly in Cairo today. Police came to their hotel rooms and confiscated their equipment. Now, the government has ordered Al Jazeera to shut down in Egypt.

The Obama administration, in carefully chose words, has tempered U.S. support for the Mubarak government, as the days pass and the protests now intensify.

Here's my colleague Wolf Blitzer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- strategic interests are colliding with the political uprising, fueled by anger at a U.S.-backed president in Egypt.

And Nic Burns is an expert at navigating global crises. He's a former U.S. diplomat, was the undersecretary of state. He's now a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

In terms of -- on a scale of 1 to 10, Nic, 10 being the worst crisis, where would you rate this one?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FMR. UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: Oh, this is up to 8 or 9 already, Wolf. You know, the consequences of instability in Egypt for the United States are really, really important.

This country, I think, is the most important U.S. partner in the Middle East. And so as you rightly said, the strategic interests here of the United States are on the line. But as you know, and as President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been saying, we are a democratic country, we affirm our own democratic values.

We have to support the right of Egyptians for freedom of speech and assembly, to demonstrate peacefully. And so we have seen a very difficult balancing act for the United States over the last seven days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: That brings us to a segment we are calling "Talk Back." Now, every day my friend Carol Costello brings us a different take on one of the day's top stories. And we want to hear your take on it as well.

Carol, today's "Talk Back" is about taking sides in the Egyptian uprising. This is common, Carol, when you and I talk. We talk back a lot.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. Egypt is all anyone is talking about these days.

Senator John McCain said of the protests in Egypt, "We need to be on the right side of history." That's a great sentiment, but it's not easy when it comes to Egypt.

It kind of sounded that way though in 2009, when President Obama stood before a large young audience at Cairo University in Egypt. The mere mention of the word "democracy" drew applause.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion. You must respect the rights of minorities and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise. You must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Now, there was huge applause after he said that. And after he got done, someone in the audience shouted, "Barack Obama, we love you!"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: -- alone do not make true democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love you!

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Not so much of that today, as thousands of young Egyptians are calling for what Mr. Obama suggested, a legitimate working of the political process. More than a few of these young people today are holding signs accusing the United States of hypocrisy for not siding with them.

The Obama administration is not taking sides. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not openly called for President Mubarak's ouster. Instead, calling on the government to reach out to those who have advocated a peaceful, orderly transition to democracy.

Some analysts like conservative William Kristol say the administration must act faster, because, "Uncertainty and dithering is what helps the Lenins and the Khomeinis in revolutionary situations. Acting boldly to prevent more disarray and more chaos offers the best chance for an orderly outcome."

The problem, Suzanne, is no one really knows what these protesters really want. Do they simply want Mubarak gone, or do they really want a change in the way Egypt governs? And there's the rub.

So the question for our audience today: How forceful should President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton be with President Mubarak? What does it mean to be on the right side of history?

You can get in touch with me at Facebook.com/CarolCNN.

MALVEAUX: Carol, I bet you there are going to be a lot of comments coming your way. We'll see what voters have to say.

Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: Sure.

MALVEAUX: A quick look at what's "On the Rundown." We take you to the front lines of the protest on Egypt.

Then, a dangerous situation in Indianapolis. Firefighters warn people to beware of, yes, exploding manhole covers.

And we are putting the power in your hands, giving you a chance to choose the news. We're going to tell you about three stories, and you get a chance to vote on the one that you would like. The story that gets the most votes is going to air in the next hour.

Well, first responders race to reach a woman stranded in a car in the middle of rushing waters. We'll take you "Cross Country" for her rescue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MALVEAUX: On a more serious note, seven days and seven nights of relentless protests in Egypt. Organizers planning even larger rallies in the days to come.

Our Ivan Watson, he's in central Cairo. He has been on the ground for days at the heart of these demonstrations.

Ivan, give us a sense of what is taking place on the streets right now. Have things calmed down?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the demonstrations are continuing here. The focal point, of the people power opposition movement here in Cairo to the presidency of Hosni Mubarak. We have got thousands of people here despite the curfew, Suzanne, who are gathering and chanting for Hosni Mubarak to resign and flee the country, really. Now, as you move out from the center of Cairo, you see that the numbers of demonstrators that have swelled, that has gone in parallel with the amount of soldiers and tanks and armored personnel carriers that are currently deployed all across this sprawling city, seeking to fill in the vacuum left by the police, which have largely disappeared from the streets. And that has allowed a wave of lawlessness that has plagued the city.

In addition to the police, we have the self-appointed neighborhood protection groups, these basically vigilante groups of young residents without military training, with makeshift weapons, trying to protect their streets and neighborhoods, blocking off -- barricading streets with things like old sofas to make sure that looters can't get into there.

We went all the way to the Great Pyramids of Giza (AUDIO GAP) for this unrest and for these protests. The cost of living, one taxi driver told me, has gone up. Bread and cigarettes, the cost of these basic commodities, have gone up. We saw in one location the military distributing loaves of bread to poor Egyptians -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Ivan, I've been speaking to some of those folks that are on the ground there, friends in Cairo. And it is difficult, they say, sometimes to tell the difference between the protesters and the vigilantes, and some of the looters, the hooligans.

Can you give us a sense of who is on the ground there? Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys?

WATSON: Well, this is a chaotic and very fluid situation where you have a mass movement that is challenging a government that's been in place for nearly 30 years. And what we see are ordinary people, some of the demonstrators, who are starting to fill in roles, positions that they say have been vacated by the states.

We've seen young volunteers out sweeping up the streets around here, collecting garbage. And we see volunteers basically protecting their streets and neighborhoods and homes. These are people without military training.

I talked to an accountant, I talked to a real estate broker, who are picking up clubs and bats and axes to protect against what they say were attacks night after night on their neighborhood. And they've been urged by the military in a statement that was released over the past 24 hours to do this, and working very closely with the armed forces on the streets to help protect themselves.

So, as I walk around, young men will just walk up to me and ask for my identification card. They'll ask who I am and what I'm doing. And these are guys that perhaps were out-of-work university students until they've suddenly been empowered by this movement and the disappearance, for the most part, of the police force here.

MALVEAUX: Ivan, thank you very much. Please be safe. And obviously we'll get back to you as the news warrants and there are more developments on the ground. Thank you, Ivan. Well, Egypt's uprising impacting you. Find out why the crisis may soon be felt as close as your neighborhood gas station.

All eyes are on Egypt as Mohamed ElBaradei calls for "a new era of government." Well, now another leader in the Middle East is echoing that exact same phrase. He's our "Most Important Person of the Day."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: As we watch anti-government protests continue to unfold in Egypt, nearby, in Syria, President Bashar Assad is telling "The Wall Street Journal" he backs the protesters. Mr. Assad says the violence in Cairo is "a revolution against whomever wants to oppose the belief of the people." He is promising to push for reform in his own country before it's "too late."

That makes him our "Most Important Person of the Day."

Well, the protests in Egypt could affect your bottom line by bumping up oil prices. Huge shipments of oil pass through Egypt each day, on their way to European and U.S. markets.

Business news correspondent Stephanie Elam joins us from New York.

Stephanie, it's great to see you.

Obviously, a lot of people, they are looking at this crisis, they're worried, but they don't know how it affects them personally. Can you break it down for us?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Happy to do that, Suzanne. And it's good to see you as well.

This is something that I know is like a world away for most Americans, but it could really have been an impact. And what we want to do is demonstrate for you just how key this region is, because you've got the Suez Canal there, which is in Egypt, it's controlled by Egypt, and there's also the Sumed pipeline.

So let's take a look first at the Suez Canal.

You can see right there that in 2009, we know 1.8 million barrels a day flowed through the canal. You also have the Sumed pipeline, which is just to the west of the Suez Canal. And through there, 1.1 million barrels a day actually flow through that pipeline.

So this artery -- these two arteries are just key for the region, because without this, what shippers would actually have to do is ship it all the way around Africa to get it over to Europe. And that would add 6,000 miles to the journey.

No doubt about it, A, that would cost a lot more. And B, it would also mess up with some supply and demand on when it would actually show up in Europe and the rest of the world that needs to get this key oil from such an important region, oil-producing region. So that's why we've been paying so much attention to this. Also, if you take a look at oil prices, they were actually going down before the unrest started to pile in here. And since then, we did see oil prices start to tick back up to about the $90-a-barrel mark, which we did see overnight. We've been watching it.

It hasn't been too crazy today. In fact, we saw it tick up a little bit, and then come back to about where it was on Friday. And it did drop on Friday as well.

So oil prices we will be watching. The key here, though, Suzanne, things truly could change on a dime.

We know right now that the Egypt government is saying, hey, the Suez Canal is safe, everything here is fine. There's no issue there at all. The same thing with the Sumed pipeline.

What the issue is for shippers is that they're having communication difficulties. We do know communication was shut down for a bit. That could have been causing some difficulty for the shippers. But overall, the two arteries are fine.

That said, as long as it stays that way, things could be fine. If it ever looks like something is getting a little bit shaky, then, Suzanne, that's when we may see a change here in what we're seeing with the markets and also with oil prices. And that would affect our gas prices here. So we have to keep our eyes on it.

MALVEAUX: OK. We're going to be keeping a very close eye on all of the developments out of Egypt, obviously, affecting our bottom line, as well as the freedoms of those people in that region.

Thank you very much, Stephanie.

ELAM: Indeed.

MALVEAUX: Now a chance for you to choose the news. We told you about it.

We've got three stories. You vote, via text message, which one you would like to see. And we're going to put it on air in the next hour.

Now, here are your choices. One, 25 years old and in the first grade. This is a Pakistani mother so determined to get an education, that she goes to school along with her children.

Also, another, the story behind the badge. A young police officer killed in the line of duty. Now, his parents are both members of the force. How his mother's badge is providing hope and inspiration.

And lastly, a boy and his dog, a lost child and trusted canine. And a happy ending.

So vote by texting 22360. For the mother in first grade, vote 1. For the story behind the badge, vote 2. And for the boy and his dog, vote 3.

We'll look forward to hearing from you.

(WEATHER REPORT)

MALVEAUX: Well, a lot of the military hardware that you see on the streets of Egypt's big cities, well, they are made by American companies and paid for by American taxpayers. We're going to examine the U.S./Egyptian partnership with a former secretary of defense.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: A reminder to cast your vote in our "Choose the News" segment. Vote by texting 22360. Your choices, vote 1 for 25 years old and in the first grade, the Pakistani mother determined to get an education. Or vote 2 for the story behind the badge, hope and inspiration after the death of a young police officer. Or vote 3 for a boy and his dog, a lost child, a trusted canine, and a happy ending.

Well, with Egypt in crisis, it is worth noting that Egypt gets more U.S. aid than any other country except for Israel. And the vast majority of those American aid dollars go to the military.

Well, William Cohen served as defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, and he currently leads The Cohen Group, an international consulting firm that represents defense contractors.

William Cohen, good to see you again. Nice to speak with you.

I know that in your experience, you've met with President Mubarak. And you know he hasn't been a perfect ally, but he certainly has been a reliable one. At this point we see he's making some changes. He's appointed a cabinet, he's allowing subsidies.

Do you think that Mubarak can survive?

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, it remains in doubt. A lot depends on what happens in the street. It depends on what the role of the military is going to continue to be.

President Mubarak has indicated he's open to change, obviously, by appointing a vice president and new members in his cabinet. That's probably not going to be sufficient to satisfy those who are demonstrating and protesting against him. And I think more will have to be done.

MALVEAUX: Who will --

COHEN: But in any event, I think -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.

MALVEAUX: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Who will be satisfied? If Mubarak is ousted, who would satisfy the protesters? Do you think it would be Mohammed ElBaradei whose come back into the scene? The opposition leader, the Muslim brotherhood?

COHEN: I don't think we know at this point. He is a known figure certainly to the international community, not so well known to the Egyptian people. If he were to come into power over a period time, if there are Democratic institutions that are set up, if there's an orderly process to bring it about, he might be just a transitional figure.

There are other elements in Egypt, the Muslim brotherhood being one of the most obvious quote, "political parties" in Egypt. They may have a far different candidate with a far different philosophy.

So, much remains in doubt at this point what the administration -- our administration has said is we want to see an orderly process, we want to see democratic institutions formed. We want to see this unfold in a way that promotes stability in the region. Hopefully that can be achieved. But right now it's anyone's guess how that's going to occur.

MALVEAUX: And a lot of Americans, they're looking at these scenes on the street unfold and, you know, they're thinking about, obviously the reforms, the freedoms. But also their tax dollars because Egypt receives about $1.3 billion in the military aid from Washington every year, second only to Israel. It's nearly received about $30 billion in economic aid since 1975. The State Department says -- throws out these figures here.

Is the United States getting its money's worth? What is it getting for its money?

COHEN: Well look what Egypt has done? Egypt has been if the forefront promoting peace with Israel, along with Jordan. You have two Arab countries who have been in the forefront of trying to build better relations with Israel.

We've seen wars take place in the past. That cannot be in anyone's interests. So Egypt has been in the forefront of trying to promote stability through the region. They've been very much opposed to what the Iranians are doing in seeking to build nuclear weapons. They've been very much opposed to the smuggling of weapons going through Egypt into Gaza, where you have Hamas, another organization devoted to the destruction of Israel.

So it's very important we maintain these relationships with the military to military. And it's been very beneficial to those who believe stability in the region is important not only to Egypt, not only important to the region, but to the global economy.

MALVEAUX: All right, Bill, I want you to stand by. We're going to have more with that discussion -- my discussion with former defense secretary William Cohen in just a moment.

We're going to turn out focus to the Egyptian military's response to those protests.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Back with former U.S. defense secretary William Cohen in Washington. I want to focus on the Egyptian military's role in this revolt. We know that Mubarak is a friend to the military, but we also see these very bizarre pictures in some way, of the military posing for pictures with protesters on the streets. We know that nearly every Egyptian family has a family member that's in the military.

Is it up to the military, do you think, that determines whether or not Mubarak survives?

COHEN: I think the military will play a crucial role here. It's been reported that the Egyptian people have great reverence for the military. I would point out that the relationship between the Egyptian military and the U.S. Military has been very good, very positive, very reinforcing in terms of subordinating the military to control of the leadership. And they've got very restrained in this entire effort that we see taking place on the ground.

That could change, and it could be that a direction comes from President Mubarak saying I want the military to take a much tougher stand in order to maintain order and stability on the street. It may be that the military itself is gauging whether or not President Mubarak is going to continue to remain the head of the country, and whether or not it's going to be supporting a new leadership at some point.

So it's hard to say at this point. Right now they're playing a very calming role. And I think that's important. I think the people have a great trust at this point and that's -- it's a positive thing.

MALVEAUX: Some would see that, when they say you talk about the military exercising restraint here.

Isn't there inaction against these protesters action itself? Doesn't it say to Mubarak, you know what, we're not turning against you, you get to stay?

COHEN: It depends on the directive is coming from President Mubarak. There was a show of planes flying over the gathering crowds. I'm not sure what that message was other than saying the president saying the military is still behind me. It may or may not have been the case.

But I think if the president is sending a directive, hold back, don't be aggressive in cracking down, at this point, it could only provoke greater chaos and anarchy in the streets. It may be -- that's the directive, that he's saying, hold back. It may be that the military is saying we're not so sure that we want to take this action against our own people.

So, we're not clear entirely what the role of the military is, whether it's being directed or acting on its own. It may be a combination of both. I think we have to wait and see how it plays out. But right now the military is respected by the people. I think they want to see it remain that way.

MALVEAUX: One of the things that we saw back in June of 2009, President Obama went to Cairo. He promised pressing the reset button, if you will of relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world.

Some polling indicates that Egyptians, you know, they're disappointed by U.S. policy in the Middle East, quite frankly. I've spoken with people on the ground there, who say that they don't believe that Washington and this president have done enough to put pressure on the Mubarak government to really bring about some social and Democratic change.

Do you think they have a legitimate point?

COHEN: Well, there's obviously a point saying we have a double standard. We say we are favoring Democratic rights, and yet we're supporting President Mubarak. I think it comes down to an issue that we've always had to contend with.

We have to balance our ideals and also our strategic interests. That balance may have been too far in one direction and not the other.

But I think the administration is working very actively behind the scenes, putting in phone calls at all levels, from the president on down, to see if we can't have a more positive influence and shape the outcome of these events in ways that, again, promote Democracy, the evolution toward a much more Democratic, open and free system. At the same time, not wanting to see this descend into chaos or anarchy or see a regime that takes power that would be totally adverse to the interests of the entire region, including the United States.

MALVEAUX: Secretary Cohen, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

COHEN: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Well they have debated and voted on health care reform. Now lawmakers on both houses of Congress are talking repeal. More is on the way in our political update.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: All right. Want to remind you again, cast your vote in our Choose the News segment. Vote by texting 22360.

Here are your choices. Vote 1 for 25-years-old and in the first grade, the Pakistani mother determined to get an education.

Or vote 2, for the story behind the badge, hope and inspiration after the death of a young police officer.

Or vote 3 for a boy and his dog, a lost child, a trusted canine and happy ending.

Please vote.

In the halls of Congress, the battle over health care reform is far from over. Our Shannon Travis, part of the Best Political Team on Television joins us from the political desk in Washington.

Shannon, good to see you. Tell us what's crossing now. SHANNON TRAVIS, POLITICAL PRODUCER: Hey there, Suzanne. How are you?

Well, we've been following a lot of the Tea Party movements. They've been getting a lot of attention. They've been telling Republican leaders, hey, you better pay attention to the things we care about -- cutting taxes, reducing spending.

There's a new Gallup poll that says that a lot of Republicans actually agree with the Tea Party ideals and want Republicans to embrace those ideals. According to the Gallup poll, nearly 90 percent of Republicans say that they want Republican lawmakers here in Washington to pay attention to those Tea Party ideals.

But when you look at the breakdown in terms of the approval, in terms of how many Republicans actually approve of the Tea Party movement, interesting numbers here -- 47 percent, only 47 percent say they approve, while 42 percent say they disapprove. So, the Tea Party has getting a lot of attention. But it seems like a lot of Republicans say, hey, we want Republican lawmakers to pay attention to what they're talking about.

MALVEAUX: And meanwhile, Shannon, Republicans lawmakers, they seem to be acting on one big Tea Party gripe.

Tell us about it.

TRAVIS: That's right. One of the biggest gripes from the Tea Party movement is what they call, Obamacare. We know that that's the newly passed health care legislation law -- that's the law of the land now.

Forty-two senators we're hearing right now are signing onto Senator Jim DeMint's -- of South Carolina -- his legislation to repeat the health care legislation. That number was 34 percent they told us last week. But listen to some of these names that stood out to me. Some of the senators that are signing on -- some of the ones that enjoy Tea Party support, like Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Mike Lee of Utah. But even some of the Moderates. Listen at this, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

So it seems as if that list is growing. We don't know when that legislation will be up on the Senate floor, but it looks like more Republicans are signing on board.

MALVEAUX: All right. Shannon, thank you so much. Appreciate the update.

For the latest political news, you know where to go, CNNPolitics.com.

Well, if you can afford it, now may be the best time for a home renovation. But some contractors may offer you a deal that's too good to be true.

Our Stephanie Elam is here to help us spot some of those warnings signs in today's Top Tips.

Stephanie, what should we look out for? STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne, this could be tricky one. But if homeowners are only recouping 60 percent of the remodeling investment, you may thinking, you know what, it's not redoing our kitchen right now.

But, if you're planning to stay in your home long-term, that actually may not be the case, especially when the National Association of Homebuilders points out that contractors could be offering prices 10 percent to 20 percent lower than they were at the height of the real estate boom. But, before you sign on the dotted line, make sure the deal is legit. And one huge red flag you have to look out for, any huge, special one-time offers you may get from a potential contractor.

Now Lou Manfredini, he's a former remodeling contractor and ACE Hardware's home expert. He says those one-time offers simply just don't exist. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry says don't fall for these high-pressure tactics. And if someone shows up at your door unsolicited, say we have enough materials, we could finish it, we got it leftover from your neighbor's project, don't fall for it. That is not the way you want to go.

In fact the Better Business Bureau says one of the top scams of 2010 was actually at hands of these door-to-door salesmen offering to fix up your house. So any reputable contractor is going to let you take your time to do the homework. And the NARI says watch out for these offers, especial during storms and disasters because there's contractors -- they're always out prowling, Suzanne, looking to make a quick buck.

MALVEAUX: We've seen them before.

Is there anything you can look out for in the appearances to tip us off, perhaps a red flag that this guy is not on the up and up?

ELAM: Yes, maybe their work clothes are too clean. But, no, that's not the real one we want to go with.

What you want to do is take a look at the van, their truck, however they showed up at your house. If there's no logo or company identifier, then that could be a warning sign. Ask for proof of insurance and if they're licensed, you want to see that, and for references, as well, for someone they worked for five years ago.

Manfredini says that way you can get an idea of how well their work has held up. Then check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org, and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry by going to NARI.org. Also, you got to keep in mind, some elderly folks out there, they may not have access to internet. So before they get any work do, help them out by making calls to their local Better Business office and looking up the information for them -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Great, Stephanie. And when we come back we're going to tell you how many bids you should get before selecting a contractor.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: We are back with Stephanie Elam taking a closer look at contractors. We want to talk about money. How many bids do I get? How much money do I put down with a contractor?

Stephanie, tell us, how do you go about this?

ELAM: Yes, this is what always freaks people out, Suzanne, and it's really important. The rule of thumb is to get about three bids or offers on your work.

And Manfredini says, when it comes to picking a contractor, don't give anything more than a 10 percent deposit. Get everything in writing, including down to your payment plan with different milestones on when you will pay them along the project. And you always want to be left holding about 20 percent so you ensure the contractor comes back and finishes what they started.

Now, if they do ask you for payment in full and in cash before the work has even started, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry says, yes, be skeptical about that. And of course, ask lots of questions. Don't be afraid to do that. And you know what mom and dad used to say is true. If it's too good to be true, then it probably is, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: It's just too good to be true.

OK, thank you, Stephanie. Appreciate it.

ELAM: It is, yes. Sure.

MALVEAUX: We are checking back in with Carol Costello to get your responses to our talkback question. What should President Obama do about the uprising in Egypt.

Carol, what do they say?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, we got lots of responses, Suzanne. Senator John McCain said of the protests in Egypt, we need to be on the right side of history. A great sentiment. Of course, as you said, not easy when it comes to Egypt. If you look at it simplistically, yes, the world's greatest democracy should not sign with a dictator. But Hosni Mubarak has been America's friend for 30 years.

So we asked you via Facebook, how forceful should President Obama be? Should he pick a side and ask Mubarak to step down?

This from Aya. She says, Mubarak has been in power for 30 years. Imagine if we had a president ruling for 30 years. I see double standards here. I'm Egyptian-American and my relatives and friends in Egypt have had enough.

This is from Brandon. He says, it is imperative for Obama to clearly declare America's position. After all, he was swept into power under an umbrella of change. He must tell the people of Egypt that we stand with them.

And this from Whitly. Whitly says, I think the United States is using the perfect amount of force in this fluid situation. We don't want to ram democracy down anyone's throat, we don't want to lose an ally, but we want those protesters to be able to protest peacefully.

Of course, it'll be much more interesting tomorrow, Suzanne, because the protesters are now calling for a million people to hit the streets in Cairo and Alexandria to protest. We'll see if they do.

MALVEAUX: Oh, yes. We'll be all over that. And obviously, I guess Obama would say yes, he's for change, but change takes time. So, we'll see. We'll see how it all develops.

Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Well, you're online right now and we are, too. One of the top stories that you're watching, -- bio-engineered meat. Would you eat a steak made in a lab? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, you know, there's not much time left to cast your vote in our Choose the News segment. Text 22360.

Vote 1, for 25-years-old and in the first grade. The Pakistani mother determined to get an education.

Or vote 2, for the story behind the badge. Hope and inspiration after the death of a young police officer.

Or vote 3, for a boy and his dog, a lost child, trusted canine.

And you know, (INAUDIBLE) happy ending. I guess that's my preference.

Saturday Night Live clip is one of the hot trending videos online. Another hot trending topic is the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The Hollywood awards ceremony could be a predictor for the Oscars. "The King's Speech," a British film about the stammering father of Queen Elizabeth took the top award for Ensemble Cast.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: I hear it's very funny. Actor Colin Firth who plays the king, confessed as he accepted an award for Best Actor, that he used his Screen Actor's card to impress women.

Now, I haven't seen this one, but it is on my to do list. Rob, I have not seen "The King's Speech."

(CROSSTALK) ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Now, this is more on the topic of celebrities. This is my specialty, celebrity gossip. The other things that are trending.

MALVEAUX: OK.

MARCIANO: Do you want to hear about this?

MALVEAUX: Yes, yes. Tell me.

MARCIANO: Nicole Kidman had a baby and Keith Urban.

MALVEAUX: Oh, did they?

MARCIANO: For nine months, she looked fabulous, didn't gain a pound.

MALVEAUX: Couldn't even tell.

MARCIANO: Born to a gestational carrier on January 17th. That's the way to go. So she -- The name of the baby is Faith Margaret, born on January 17th to both Keith and Nicole and they couldn't be happier. But this was a big secret. Just kind of came out and made that announcement. And it's created a bit of a buzz as far as our trendingness is concerned on CNN.com

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: I think before the SAG awards, she was talking about why she kept her new daughter a secret. She said she wanted to keep it just family thing between her and country superstar husband Keith Urban. Kidman has had other children, including two from her marriage to Tom Cruise. And so, you know, that's what her thinking was behind it.

MARCIANO: Expanding the family. And you got to feed them, too. You've been talking about this story.

We've been seeing this story all morning long about how they're now growing meat in a lab. Artificial meat, I guess. I know there's a script for this but this is what they're doing in University of South Carolina.

Basically --

MALVEAUX: There's this professor. I guess he's a medical university of South Carolina. He's trying to grow meat in a lab. He's been trying to for about 10 years. And I can't imagine. He's one of few scientists worldwide bioengineering cultured meat. He believes it could help solve future global food crisis.

Would you eat the meat?

MARCIANO: I don't know. I had a big steak last night. It was fantastic. I don't know. It was marbleized. If he get it marbleized just a little bit of fat on the end, that would be fantastic.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Well, we call it the Punchline. The best social commentary from the world of television. And the big laugh came during an awkward, yes awkward moment on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared alongside the host, Jesse Eisenberg. Well, Eisenberg, he's currently up for the Oscar as Best Actor for portraying, well, not such a flattering portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in the movie, "THE SOCIAL NETWORK."

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSE EISENBERG, ACTOR: So --

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: So --

EISENBERG: Yes, it's good. I really liked you on "60 Minutes."

ZUCKERBERG: Thanks, man.

EISENBERG: Yes. You ever end up seeing the film, "The Social Network"?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes, I did.

EISENBERG: Cool. Thanks. And what did you think?

ZUCKERBERG: It was interesting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)