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Congress' Super Failure; Unrest in Egypt

Aired November 21, 2011 - 22:00   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 p.m. on the East Coast.

We begin "Keeping Them Honest" on catch Capitol Hill and the super failure by the bipartisan super committee tasked with cutting the U.S. deficit.

Now, forget about all those promises of solving the budget mess. And forget about all that talk about failure not being an option. The six Democrats and six Republicans on the committee have announced they can't reach a deal to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the budget.

For legislative reasons, they had to announce a deal by today. But there's no deal after negotiating for two-and-a-half months. They don't even have the guts to explain why on camera and take questions from reporters.

Instead, this afternoon, after the markets closed, Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling, the co-chairs of the committee, released this statement.

"After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline. Despite our inability to bridge the committee's significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve. We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee's work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way though works for the American people and our economy."

Now, "Keeping Them Honest," they remain hopeful that Congress can build on their work and they say they are united in the belief the fiscal crisis must be addressed, yet they didn't do the job they were asked to do.

The statement goes on to say this -- quote -- "We want to express our appreciation to every member of this committee, each of whom came into the process committed to achieving a solution that has eluded many groups before us."

You know, here we go again. Politicians thanking one another, and thanking each other for what? I mean, they didn't get the job done. And as far as being committed to achieving a solution, well, it's deadline day and there is no solution.

The fallback plan, in case you're curious, is a set of automatic cuts from the defense budget and elsewhere that would start in January of 2013. And pressure is already building on Capitol Hill to stop that plan. In fact earlier this evening President Obama said no way.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Already some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts. My message to them is simple. No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts, domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one. We need to keep the pressure up to compromise, not turn off the pressure.


GUPTA: Tough talk from President Obama in the last couple of hours, but a lot of people are saying, look, we haven't heard much from him over the past few weeks on the Super Committee. Instead for months, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had been vowing that failure is not an option. Listen to this.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Let me say this about the joint committee. Failure is not an option.

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: We must live and breathe believing that failure is not an option.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: Failure is not an option. Failure is absolutely not an option.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Failure can't be an option.

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MINORITY WHIP: Failure's not an option.

MCCONNELL: Failure is not an option.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Failure is not an option.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Failure should not be an option.

MCCONNELL: My view is that failure is not an option.

ALEXANDER: Failure is not an option.

MANCHIN: Failure cannot be -- cannot be accepted.

MCCONNELL: The American people need an outcome, they expect an outcome, they deserve an outcome. And I expect to get one.


GUPTA: The American people expect an outcome, and they deserve an outcome, as you just heard there. But "Keeping Them Honest," here we are tonight, no deal. Complete and utter failure. And the markets, by the way, noted -- they noticed as well. The Dow took a beating today when news spread about the panel's apparent failure and debt concerns abroad. At the closing bell blue chips had already fallen 250 points.

And back to that statement from the committee co-chairs, all that talk of months of hard work, you know, you'd think they would have spent the weekend in marathon negotiating sessions trying to reach some sort of agreement. But instead many of the Super Committee members instead were on the Sunday talk show circuit yesterday blaming the other side for the failed talks.

In fact, we know of no face-to-face meetings for the group itself over the weekend. A senior GOP aide told CNN there was a conference call. Yes, a conference call. That begs the question, though, why didn't they attempt face-to-face negotiations when they claimed that failure was not an option. Did congressional leaders push hard enough for a deal?

A lot of people asking that question tonight. And here to talk about the raw politics, CNN political contributors Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, and Democratic strategist Paul Begala. And also with us senior political analyst David Gergen.

You guys have all had their busy days.

David Gergen, let me start off with you.

You wrote this dot-com op-ed that asked the question, the headline, have they gone nuts in Washington? I mean what do you think? First, I mean were you surprised at all by this? I mean, what do you think is going on?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Very surprised. The history that I think all three of us have seen in the past is that we've often had contentious politics, deep philosophical differences between the parties, but at the 11th hour typically people on both sides put down some of their differences, found a way to get somewhere close to the middle, and signed a deal that at least got you partway there.

This is one of the first times that I can remember when it's been utter failure. And occurring, Sanjay, in the midst of an economic situation that's very fragile. As you mentioned, you know, we have a real problem in Europe right now. The euro could collapse over there. They're definitely heading towards some sort of recession that could rebound here.

And that kind of volatility in the marketplace, dampening consumer, you know, confidence, you could have a lot of things start to unwind here. And people get hurt with loss of jobs. So this is, -- to my way of thinking -- a reckless, reckless, irresponsible gamble on the part of Congress.

GUPTA: I mean, part of the reason, David, I ask -- I'm going to ask Paul this as well -- is that I mean a lot of people -- it has been two and a half months, a lot of people thought that there's just no way that they're going to come to some sort of agreement out here.

In fact, Paul, some people are saying that President Obama wanted -- the only thing he wanted more than a deal was no deal so he could spend 2012 running against Republicans in Congress. Is that a fair characterization?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I just don't think so, no, Sanjay. There's been a good deal of reporting that the president was pushing for a big deal. We know back when this Super Committee was created that the president was pushing very, very hard, not for the $1. 2 trillion in deficit reduction that they couldn't meet today but for $4 or $5 trillion.

So no, I have to say, the thing I'm frustrated about in this and some of the coverage is that the natural thing is to say well, a pox on both their houses. Democrats don't want to cut spending, Republicans don't want to raise taxes.

That's not the truth. Democrats had agreed to hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts and spending programs that they love. That's a hard thing for a Democrat to do. Republicans refused to raise a nickel in taxes even from the wealthiest people which is very popular, actually with the American people.

It wasn't even a hard thing to do. Republicans wouldn't do something easy, Democrats willing to do something tough. The story here is this fetish that Republicans have developed about tax cuts in the last few years. And it is a fetish. It's a perversion.

President Reagan, whom David Gergen served, he had -- he didn't want to but he raised taxes significantly many times as president because he had to try to pay down some deficits. And that's what Republicans have to adjust to today and lose this fetish that they have about taxes.

GUPTA: David Gergen served a lot of presidents, as you know, to be fair. And Paul, you know, let us be fair here. I mean, there's a lot of people very entrenched on both sides. I mean compromise was not an adjective that immediately springs to mind no matter how you characterize it.

I mean, Ari, some are saying Republicans didn't want to make a deal now either. They wanted to punt until January 2013 when they're hoping to control Congress sand the White House so they wouldn't have to make any kind of deal with Democrats at all.

I mean what do you think about that?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Sanjay, I have been a part of two of the last major budget agreements that were reached between Congress and the White House. And there have been three in recent times. One was George H. W. Bush that with a Democratic Congress in 1990, President Bill Clinton did it with a Republican Congress in 1997, and George W. Bush had a budget agreement with a 50/50 Senate in 2001.

In all three of those instances, you had a coming together of Congress with the president and the president in the room. The president's people in the room. What separated this failure, which is a very disappointing failure, from the previous successes, was the absolute lack of presidential involvement.

And that's where I am troubled process wise. Where is President Obama? Why didn't he help and put his shoulder to the wheel as his predecessors, Democrat and Republican with different make-ups of the Congress, Democrat and Republican did? There's a pathway to success and it always involves the president and the legislature.

It's always messy, but when you take the president out of the equation, you know, Congress is almost always out to lunch, but what you have here is a president who just seems in over his head and is not trying to help because he's really focused just on protecting his brand and not forging the hard compromises, the hard agreements that we know are necessary to get an agreement like this kind.

GUPTA: And you know, Ari, some have said the Republicans on the committee were reluctant to have President Obama involved at all with the Super Committee, right? So it may have been some of that as opposed to, as you're saying, lack of leadership.

FLEISCHER: No, I really don't think that's the case. I think they did as Congress always does, Congress overextends what it thinks it can do on its own and almost always they need to get helped out by the executive. That is how our system is built. That's why there were three precedents, three modern era successes dealing with divided government.

You know I just think we're in an era where so long as Barack Obama is president, divided government will not work. It has worked in the past, and I just don't think it will. I think you either have to go back to re-elect President Obama and give him the majorities that the Democrats had in 2009 and 2010. And you'll get more of what happened in 2009 and 2010, which is this buildup of debt, or elect a Republican to the White House and elect all Republican majority in the Congress and then I think things will get done.

GUPTA: You know, David Gergen, you know, I was at the hospital part of the day today. And a lot of people talking about this. And the refrain seemed to be that, look, compromise -- if you compromise, you lose support. You lose support among your constituents. So there's a lot in the system that sort of sways people -- sways these legislators away from compromise.

I mean, do you agree with that? And if so, I mean, how do we get anything done?

GERGEN: So what -- so what if they lose some support back home? They were elected to do a job. They can't get -- if they can't get the job done, they should lose office, not just support, they should lose office. You know in corporate America, you know, if you're a CEO, if you've got a leadership role and you fail in your job, you're out. And I just think that a lot of citizens have gotten to the point now that they really don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat, if you can't get the job done, let's get somebody else in there who can protect the country.

You know I think -- Americans are more than fed up with this. I think the -- and let me just say two things. One, Paul Begala was right about President Reagan, he did raise taxes, like, 11 times, small increases to sure, but he did it in order to get progress. That's what we need to see from Republicans now.

But I also think Ari has a point. We've had a passive president on these negotiations. He's been on the sidelines. And frankly the issue now, is he going to take the lead in the days ahead and do something fruitful and get these deficits down or is he going to sit on the sidelines and simply campaign from now until November 2012? That's his choice.

GUPTA: Of course, leave it to David Gergen to arrive at some compromise between Paul Begala and Ari Fleischer.

Thanks all of you, though, for joining us, and Happy Thanksgiving if we don't talk before then.

GERGEN: Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

GUPTA: Be sure to -- be sure to tune in for the CNN Republican National Security debate as well live from Washington tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. I'm sure some of these issues will come up again.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook and Google Plus. You can add us to your circles. Also, follow me on Twitter @SanjayGuptaCNN. I will be tweeting throughout the show tonight.

Up next, though: deja vu in Egypt. Deadly protests on the streets of Cairo. Egypt's cabinet offers to resign, but will the military that really controls the country even allow that? We're asking these questions and "Keeping Them Honest."

And later, inside the mind of Jared Loughner. He's the man accused of wounding Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killing six others in Arizona. Tonight we have some startling new details reporting about his mental state that could prevent him from facing trial.

First, though, let's check in with Isha Sesay.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, there's new fallout from the use of pepper spray against protesters at U.C. Davis. The action taken against the police chief on campus -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: Another "Keeping Them Honest" report tonight, chaos returns to Egypt's Cairo Tahrir Square. You know all those promises of the country's military weakening its grip, well, false promises they are.

There are new clashes now between security forces and protesters. And now Egypt's entire cabinet has offered to resign. They're outraged by this crackdown. But the prime minister's office says the military leadership has not yet accepted the offer of resignation.

At least 24 people have died since Saturday. More than 200 protesters were injured just today.

Take a look at this. It's tough to watch. But this man there in the square -- not just one or two. Take a look at this. Not just one or two security forces but several of them using their batons on this man.

Again, it is just hard to watch as this is happening there in Tahrir Square. Some kick him. He can't even fight back, obviously. At this point, we don't even know what happened to him.

You know we thought those days were over in Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February. That's when the military took over Egypt's government. For months that the military has talked about repealing emergency law, but that's all talk. So far that still hasn't happened.

They have also talked about handing over power to a new government when it's elected. Parliamentary elections are a week from today. But a presidential election could still be a year away. And that's what seems to be fueling this new violence. The people of Egypt want change and they want it now.

Take a look at this, gunfire today in Tahrir Square. Rubber bullets as far as we can tell and tear gas was being used as security forces chase after protesters.

"The New York Times" reports a representative of the ruling military council spoke in the square today saying the council respected the protester's right to peaceful demonstrations. And the "Times" says he insisted security forces had not entered the square.

Take a look there for yourself. And "Keeping Them Honest," it looks like they're already on the ground already.

Now we've seen what it looks like to be in military vehicles in the middle of the clashes but when asked about reports of gunfire from security forces, the military representative said the victims were -- quote -- "thugs, not peaceful demonstrators."

Again, you can watch this video for yourself. Once again in Egypt, protesters are being beaten, they're being dragged through the streets. This victim is a thug in the eyes of the military. We've got the victim there who probably sees it a little differently. We've found this on YouTube, like the man hit by with the batons. We don't know what happened to him either. On its official Facebook page Egypt's military, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, issued a statement saying, it's extremely sorry for what these events have led to.

And it calls for -- quote -- "All political coalitions and the youth of the revolution to join in solidarity and work together in order to contain the events that have negatively affected the country's security and safety."

We'll see if that happens in the days and weeks to come. What's clear tonight is something else. The celebrations we saw in the streets of Cairo back in February, well, they're a distant memory. Back then the military celebrated with the people. Now they are fighting one another and there are some deadly consequences.

Joining us to talk about this from Cairo, senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman and Egyptian protester Khalid Abdalla. He's on the phone with us. He was the lead actor in the movie "Kite Runner" if you recognize him. Also with us at Princeton University, Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department.

Thanks all of you for joining us.

Ben, first of all, you know, we saw some just frightening video, tough to watch. What is the latest on the situation there tonight?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we still have the thousands of people in Tahrir Square and clashes still ongoing on the main road leading to the Interior Ministry. And I think it's important to keep in mind that really a lot of the anger is focused on the Interior Ministry.

It is the symbol for many Egyptians of the kind of police brutality they revolted against on the 25th of January, and they're revolting against yet again today.

And it's important to keep in mind, Sanjay, that this is not the first time that the military and the security forces have been unleashed upon the population since Mubarak was overthrown back in October. Twenty-six people, most of them Coptic Christians, just in the streets below us here, were killed in -- when the military drove in some instances armored personnel carriers over unarmed demonstrators.

So this really is just boiling over of anger and frustration at the military, at the security forces.

GUPTA: So many people, Ben, have been focused on the story and again since February. I mean with Egypt's parliamentary elections starting on Monday, why is this happening now? I mean does this show a lack of faith in the elections, a lack of faith that the military will hand over the power to the elected government?

WEDEMAN: Well, I think it's really just mistrust of the military leaders. In fact, it's starting to -- one is starting to forget that there actually are elections in a week given that this has exploded and the way it has. And really it represents a certain level of incompetence by the authorities here because these demonstrations were sparked when the security forces were called in to Tahrir Square to clear away just about 200 people, demonstrators, relatives of those who were injured or killed during the revolution.

And they tried to clear them away with a level of brutality that shocked many Egyptians. And when word spread around Cairo that this crackdown had begun, people flocked to the -- sort of as we're saying deja vu, it's the same thing all over again.

GUPTA: Yes, there are a lot of people surprised to be watching video that looks so similar to many months ago.

And Khalid Abdalla, you have been visiting some of the morgues I think in -- Khalid, are you still with us? I think -- we may have lost Khalid there. Anne-Marie --


GUPTA: OK, Khalid, I think you're back with us. On the phone there, on Skype it looks like. You've been visiting some of the morgues in Cairo, I understand? I mean we just watched some of the video of these people being beaten pretty mercilessly. What are you seeing in the morgues and the hospitals as well over there?

ABDALLA: I mean, the images in the morgue were pretty horrendous, really. I mean, as well -- I mean, I think, officials are trying to -- they're sort of playing a bureaucratic game to make it more difficult for the families of people who've died to identify bodies thereby slowing the official numbers of people recognized that have died. And it was pretty horrible.

GUPTA: You're out there as a protester. I mean is it frightening for you? I mean, does the violence scare you?

I think we may have lost him again. Difficult, as you might imagine, to establish these connections.

Anne-Marie, you know, the Brookings Institute released a poll today that shows the majority of Egyptians believe their current military rulers are undermining or reversing the political freedoms gained with the overthrow of Mubarak.

You know I remember at the time that the military seemed like the only honest broker in the whole equation. What has happened over the last eight or nine months?

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, the military did say back in February that they were taking over -- as Mubarak was leaving, they were taking over, but they were taking over as caretakers until they could restore civilian power. And that's the promise that they have clearly broken. They last week released these constitutional guidelines that essentially said the military will have the power to intervene in the civilian government whenever it want to and the military budget will be completely secret. So any efforts to hold corrupt military officers to account would have been thwarted.

So that's what started these demonstrations back on Friday. They were largely peaceful -- they were peaceful. Then as Ben said, there were 200 demonstrators left and the police brutally assaulted them.

And then you've got now the military is actually succeeding in uniting 37 parties against them for -- planned for a march tomorrow. So the military is breaking its promises.

GUPTA: Well, and again, this video is playing, it's hard to watch. I don't know if you can even see that. But the -- is there a point when the United States says that this is in our own interest, Anne-Marie, and we need to get involved again? Is there a point where you think that happens?

SLAUGHTER: Well, Sanjay, that's really the hard question here. From my perspective, we have every interest in making clear that any violence against the protesters, we absolutely condemn.

I'm fairly certain we're working very hard behind the scenes our military to the Egyptian military to try to get the military to stop and to have elections proceed and for the military to actually deliver on allowing for civilian transition.

But publicly we have not been willing to take a stance until now and really tell the military government -- denounce what they're doing.

GUPTA: All right, some sobering news out of Egypt.

Ben Wedeman and Khalid Abdalla, please be safe out there.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, thank you so much.

Still ahead on 360, a former FBI director is now called in to investigate at Penn State. The question is, will he be able to uncover some facts about just who knew what regarding former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky about allegedly abusing young boys. Also when they knew it and why it wasn't reported to police, important questions.

And the fallout continues after these terrible pictures from a campus protest in California. They have been seen around the country. We'll tell you who's paying the price for pepper-spraying student protesters at U.C. Davis -- when 360 returns.


GUPTA: An independent inquiry is under way into Penn State University's response to recent child sex abuse allegations.

And former FBI Director Louis Freeh will head up the investigation. The school's Board of Trustees wants to know who knew former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky had been seen allegedly sexually abusing a young boy in the school shower room and what they knew and when they knew it. Of course one big question still lingers nearly 10 years later, in the midst of all that, why didn't anyone call the police?

National correspondent Jason Carroll joins me now with the latest on this ongoing scandal -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Freeh is promising, Sanjay, a thorough investigation. That's what he said to us a little bit earlier.

But, having said that, he's going to face some restrictions. As you know, he will not have subpoena power when he conducts this particular investigation. But, having said that, we spoke to an attorney general spokesperson today. He also told us that Freeh will only have access to public records, say, for instance, that grand jury report, which is basically just a summary.

But even with all those challenges, Freeh is a man who has an extensive law enforcement background. He knows what he's going to be able to get here. He knows what he will not have access to. And he spoke about that just a little earlier today.


LOUIS FREEH, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: We will certainly request that they share any non-grand jury, non-sensitive information with us. I made the same request to the attorney general. And having been on the law enforcement side of things, there are many parts of what they do that can be shared appropriately and legally with us. So we'll certainly ask for that and take advantage of that.

We also understand that, you know, we're not conducting a criminal investigation, which is why I highlighted a few points that, if we find or run across any evidence of criminality, we will report that immediately. We're not conducting the criminal investigation, but we will ask the criminal investigators for their help and assistance.


GUPTA: So Jason, as far as you can tell, I mean, what types of tools or special resources will Louis Freeh have available to him to conduct this investigation?

CARROLL: Well, Sanjay, he's going to have access to former FBI investigators. He also tells us that he'll be using former prosecutors to help him, as well.

Also, we spoke to one of Freeh's people tonight, a spokesperson telling us, he said, quote, "Hundreds of corporations routinely and regularly conduct similar investigations without subpoena power and have had great success finding facts, interviewing witnesses, and making recommendations."

Now, in terms of when these recommendations will be coming out, Freeh was asked about that, as well. He didn't put a timeline on it, Sanjay, but he did say he recognizes the urgency of the situation and trying to get the findings out as soon as possible.

GUPTA: And again, Louis Freeh was the director of the FBI up until 2001. Jason, thanks so much for that report.

We are following several other stories tonight. Isha Sesay joins us now with a "360 Bulletin."

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, more fallout tonight from the shocking video at the University of California at Davis police pepper spraying a group of protesters staging a campus sit-in. The university police chief has been placed on administrative leave while an investigation into the incident continues. The two officers in the video you see there had already been put on leave.

Today, hundreds of students and faculty members returned for another protest.

Family, friends, faculty and students packed the Oklahoma State University gym today to say good-bye to women's basketball coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna. They were killed in a plane crash last week. The coaches were remembered for turning the basketball program around, earning the team a top ten ranking.

A slightly different role for Hugh Grant today. The actor testified before a government panel investigating phone hacking by U.K. tabloids. Grant believes his voice mails were hacked by the newspaper "The Mail Sunday." Rupert Murdoch's "News of the World" was shut down after their investigators hacked the voicemails of murdered school girl Milly Dowler, leading her parents to believe she was still alive, an act Grant called cowardly and shocking.

And one Marine got to take his dream date to this year's Marine Corps ball. Sergeant Scott Moore escorted actress Mila Kunis to the party in Greenville, North Carolina. Moore invited the "Friends with Benefits" star by YouTube -- by video on YouTube, I should say.

Sanjay, it is becoming quite the trend.

GUPTA: Yes. I'm surprised no one has asked you yet, Isha. Or have they?

SESAY: You know what? You took the words right out of my mouth. I was wondering, anyone queuing up to take Sanjay to the ball? Not so much.

GUPTA: Well, I'm a married man, Isha, but you know, if there's any YouTube videos out there for you, we're going to be sure to dig them up.

Stick around, Isha. We've got our "Beat 360" winners now. It's our challenge to viewers, a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the photo that we post on our blog every day.

Tonight's photo: Taylor Swift accepts the artist of the year award onstage at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. That was last night.

Our staff winner tonight is Chuck. His caption read, "Taking a page out of the Palin playbook, Taylor Swift reads her talking points off of her hand." Ouch.


GUPTA: Our viewer winner, though -- there we are. Our viewer winner, though, is Jennifer. Her caption: "Maybe if I can't see him, Kanye can't see me."


GUPTA: Jennifer! That's pretty good, pretty good, making a little -- little allusion to last year's music award. Jennifer, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Just ahead on 360, new details tonight about the mental state of Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and more than a dozen others. A video camera now records him 24/7 inside his prison cell. Is he getting any saner with the medication?

Also ahead, there's new concerns about the safety of seafood in the Gulf of Mexico. What a new study says about the fallout still from that BP oil spill.


GUPTA: You know, it's nothing short of amazing, really, that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will celebrate another Thanksgiving in just a few days. Ten months after she was nearly killed, she's begun to talk about her remarkable survival story in her own words.

In fact, she gave her first television interview last week on ABC's "20/20," saying she felt pretty good. She's also written a book with her husband, Mark Kelly.

Now, the ordeal that changed their lives forever came out of nowhere last January. While Giffords was talking with constituents in a shopping mall parking lot, a gunman began firing. He killed six people. He wounded 13 others, including Giffords.

The alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, was tackled. He was arrested at the scene. And tonight we have some startling new details about him and his mental illness which for now prevents him from standing trial.


GUPTA (voice-over): Jared Loughner spends most of his days isolated in a federal medical facility in Springfield, Missouri. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a federal judge ruled in May that the Arizona shooting suspect was not competent to stand trial. So for months now, cameras have watched Loughner's every move, and guards keep logs of it in a color-coded chart. This is all according to court testimony obtained by "The Arizona Republic."

Blue means he's in bed. Green means he's up and awake. And red? Well, red indicates Jared is pacing in his small cement cell.

On July 12, a federal court ruled Loughner had not been convicted of a crime and, therefore, had the right to refuse medication. Without the meds, prison psychologist Christina Pites (ph), who sees Loughner daily, testified that Loughner complaining of hearing voices, had suicidal thoughts, flung feces onto his bed, stayed awake for 50 hours, spinning in circles for two hours. All these behaviors are consistent with paranoid schizophrenia: delusions, anxiety, anger, violence, hallucinations.

By the end of July, a federal appeals panel reversed the court's decision and ordered that authorities could force Loughner to take anti-psychotic meds. And within a month of taking those medications, Pites (ph) reportedly testified that Loughner's charts included a lot less red activity. There was a major shift in his behavior, sleeping eight to ten hours a night, ordering three meals a day. And far fewer angry outbursts.

The newspaper says transcripts from Loughner's September 28 competency hearing reveals he now believes that she, Giffords is now alive. He understands that he's murdered people. He talks about how remorseful he is.


GUPTA: You know, based on that testimony, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns extended Loughner's stay at the federal hospital until January of 2012. The judge believes Loughner will eventually be fit to stand trial.

Loughner has pled not guilty to 49 charges, including murder and attempted murder.

The A.P. is reporting tonight that Loughner's lawyers have filed an appeal challenging a federal court's decision allowing prison doctors to forcibly medicate him.

This issue has come up before. And joining me now to dig a little deeper into it is forensic psychiatrist Helen Morrison.

Helen, thank you for joining us.

This is fascinating. So he was -- he was at one point not being medicated. Then he was forcibly medicated, and now he's possibly taking it voluntarily. Have you dealt with this sort of issue before? What is the obligation of people in terms of treating him?

HELEN MORRISON, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Well, one of the things is the restoration of competence is not an uncommon thing. It's guaranteed by the Sixth and 14th Amendment of the Constitution, the right to due process and the right to be able to have an effective counsel.

The problem was that people talk about forced medication. It was only given because he was so suicidal, so dangerous to himself, he had even injured himself because he had been walking and pacing in such an agitated fashion that he got a huge blister that -- with the infection going up his leg. And so the courts have always said that, in order to protect an individual, he can be forcibly medicated.

However, he's not being forcibly medicated. He is voluntarily drinking his medication every single day.

GUPTA: And if he is 100 percent competent, they say, then he will be fit to stand trial. But he's starting to show signs of remorse, it sounds like. So he was mentally ill at the time. Now he's medicated and showing remorse. What does that all mean? From a psychologist's perspective, someone who's worked in the area, how does this play out?

MORRISON: One of the big dangers of anyone suffering from a paranoid schizophrenia is that, once you get the dangerousness under control, the high risk of a completed suicide increases dramatically, because an individual now understands what they have done. They now know the facts of what they've done.

And you don't have to be 100 percent to be declared competent. All you have to do is to be able to have a factual understanding of the court and a rational understanding of what's going on in that courtroom.

And factual means that you know the facts of the case, you know what the roles of people in the courts are. The rational understanding is that can you make a decision based on those facts on what you're planning to do, and then are you able to assist your counsel? It doesn't mean that you're practicing law, but are you able to understand what your lawyers are doing? Are you able to accept what they're doing?

You don't have to want to work with your lawyers. That's not the point. The point is are you capable at the present time of assisting in your own defense?

GUPTA: That's fascinating, frightening and very sad, as well. Dr. Helen Morrison, thanks so much for joining us.

Still ahead, authorities are calling him a lone wolf. A man arrested in New York for allegedly planning bomb attacks on police and military personnel.

Also ahead new questions about the safety of seafood in the Gulf of Mexico. The FDA says there's no danger. But a new study says children might, in fact, be at risk. We'll explain.


GUPTA: Tonight a question that's never really gone away, and now it's back in the spotlight. How safe to eat is the fish and the seafood that comes from the Gulf of Mexico?

Now, we all remember those images of oil gushing out of the broken BP well last year. By the time the leak was capped, 205 million gallons of oil had spilled into the Gulf. How much harm all that oil may have done to marine life, though, is still -- still not clear.

About a week before the leak was capped, I talked to a doctor about this very question who was involved in the testing of seafood.


GUPTA: Is the seafood safe? You say?

DR. JOHN STEIN, NOAA SEAFOOD SAFETY PROGRAM: Yes. Yes. We have an extensive program in place. It's a cooperative program between NOAA, FDA, the EPA, the Gulf states, and we're all working together to ensure that seafood is safe.


GUPTA: In case you missed it, the FDA was in that alphabet soup of agencies he just mentioned. It says that the seafood from the Gulf is safe to eat. But there is a new study I want to tell you about tonight that says the FDA didn't factor in the small size of children or a developing fetus.

Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tom Barrios relies on the Gulf of Mexico for his livelihood. He's a Louisiana crabber and shrimper who, since the BP oil disaster, has been losing lots of money.

(on camera) How scary of a time is this for you and your wife and your family?

TOM BARRIOS, SHRIMPER/CRABBER: If we had a way out, we would probably get out.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Leaders in the seafood industry say catches are way down compared to before the disaster. There's just not as many fish, and there is also this.

(on camera) Are you concerned about the safety of the food?

BARRIOS: I'm very concerned. I have children. Very concerned.

TUCHMAN: So you're concerned as a businessman and as a father?

BARRIOS: Correct.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Fishermen certainly don't like to speak negatively of their cash crop, but you don't only hear it from the fishermen. You hear it from their leaders, such as the president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association.

(on camera) Do you feel safe for you and your family to eat the shrimp?


TUCHMAN: But do you feel 100 percent confident it's as healthy as it was before the oil spill?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): The Food and Drug Administration says Gulf seafood is safe to eat.

ROBERT DICKEY, FDA'S GULF COAST SEAFOOD LABORATORY: I eat it every day and actually barbecued some shrimp last week. So I mean, it's safe.

TUCHMAN: But there are other physicians and scientists who disagree in alarming fashion.

DR. GINA SOLOMON, NRDC: There's an increased risk of cancer if you eat a lot of seafood contaminated from this oil spill.

TUCHMAN: Dr. Gina Solomon is a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental group. She says a study by the NRDC indicates Gulf seafood is safe for the typical adult, but chemicals from the BP oil make it much less safe for their children.

SOLOMON: Kids who eat a lot of seafood could be at increased risk of cancer. If a mom eats seafood, her baby could be at increased risk of cancer if she eats enough of it. So what the chemicals in the oil do is they damage chromosomes, interact with DNA, cause cell mutations.

TUCHMAN: The FDA strongly disagrees, saying the data was miscalculated and that the seafood is safe for everyone, including children.

DICKEY: The amount of seafood that someone would have to eat would be the equivalent of 63 pounds of shrimp or five pounds of oyster or nine pounds of fin fish every day for five years before they would exceed levels to be concerned about.

TUCHMAN (on camera): When the BP oil well was capped, this story started fading from the memories of people, but not for the people whose livelihoods depend on this water. Their fear and anxiety only made worse by the lack of public attention now being paid.

(voice-over) There will now be more public attention, though, because of the NRDC-FDA dispute and because of anecdotes like this.

GUIDRY: Fishermen are bringing in shrimp without any eyes. And they're not just, you know, eyes pulled off. There's something that they've evidently lost their eyes and are still alive. TUCHMAN (on camera): What does that tell you?

GUIDRY: That tells me something is wrong.

TUCHMAN: So on an average day before the oil spill, you could have 30,000 pounds of shrimp?

RANDY NUNEZ, SEAFOOD: Definitely. And that's not a good day; that's just an average day.

TUCHMAN: Thirty thousand pounds?


TUCHMAN: And how many come in today?

NUNEZ: Zero.

SOLOMON: It's likely that the population declines in the shrimp are due to the same contaminants that we're worried about if people eat them.

TUCHMAN: There is disagreement over the health risk but no disagreement about how life has dramatically changed on the Gulf Coast.


GUPTA: And Gary, you and I spent a fair amount of time down there together. To be fair, the FDA says you have to eat quite a bit of seafood, as you said, to have an increased risk. The Louisiana health officials say that you have to eat about 1,500 shrimp a day for five years to have health concerns. To give a little context here, what's the NRDC's response to numbers like that?

TUCHMAN: Well, I mean, that's right. It's actually kind of humorous: 63 pounds of shrimp every day for five years, which is more than 1,800 days. I mean, even the Nathan's Hot Dog eating champion can't do that. So obviously, the FDA feels it is very safe.

But the NRDC said that the FDA's logic and numbers are flawed. It's very important to point out, Sanjay, the FDA, the most important job the FDA has is to protect our food and our medicine. The FDA could back down if it wanted to. It is strongly saying this food is safe for everybody.

GUPTA: Yes, and it sounds like they've been saying that all along. And if you wanted to eat that much shrimp, incidentally, it sounds like it would be pretty hard to do, because there's a pretty serious decline in the harvest this season. Is that right? I mean, how bad is it?

TUCHMAN: Yes, there's no question about it. I mean, we talked to a lot of shrimpers and oystermen and crabbers and the leaders of these people who work on the water. They say their catch is 50 to 80 percent down from before this oil spill. Now there's been nothing scientific about this. Right now the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are compiling a report that will come out in 2012 about this.

So we don't have the science yet, but everyone is saying this. Or they're saying it could be one of two things, or two things it could be. One is the oil spill, and also the people of the Gulf coast have been dealing with severe flooding. So it could be both those things together that have resulted in so few fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

GUPTA: Well, it's god to see you down there, Gary. Again we spent a lot of time down there. Excellent report, as always, Gary. Thanks so much.

Coming up, the tragic death of a 24-year-old Major League Baseball player. He was stabbed to death. We'll have the latest on this shocking crime and the shocking arrest, as well, next.


SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

A 24-year-old centerfielder for the Seattle Mariners has been stabbed to death in the Netherlands. Greg Halman was found dead this morning. His 22-year-old brother was arrested. Halman played amateur baseball in his hometown outside Amsterdam before making his Major League debut in September 2010.

In New York, a man has been arrested in an alleged plot to attack police, military service members, and postal facilities. Authorities say 27-year-old Jose Pimentel was caught on camera at an informant's apartment, drilling holes in pipes to make bomb casings. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Pimentel was inspired by al Qaeda propaganda but was not part of a larger conspiracy.

There may be a lot more money missing from MF Global than first thought. The trustee administering the brokerage firm's bankruptcy says about $1.2 billion in customer funds may be missing. That's about twice the amount originally reported.

And Pippa Middleton's buzzed-about bridesmaid's dress can be yours at For a cool $1,700, it's the only version made by the actual designer, Sarah Burgeon, for Alexander McQueen. It's almost identical to the gown Middleton wore except it has a zipper, not buttons up the back.

And that does it for this edition of 360. Thank you for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.