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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Iran's Threat; Santorum's Lead Grows; Secrets of Shopping
Aired February 20, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, John. Five-dollar-a- gallon gasoline, keep telling yourself that it will not happen, but Iran says otherwise by cutting off the crude.
A skier survives a deadly avalanche in Washington State. She had a trick. We're going to show you how she did it.
And worries over Whitney's daughter. In the wake of troubling reports after the funeral, how can Bobbi Kristina avoid the rough road her mother traveled?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Tom Foreman in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Iran's big power play. The new threats, the new fears, and how they could dramatically change the cost to you for a gallon of gas. If you don't think you're going to see $5 a gallon by summer, the Iranians may be telling you to think again.
Oil prices rose Monday to a nine-month high after Tehran announced it was cutting off oil exports to Britain and France, threatening the same to six other European countries. Oil is Iran's lifeline. It makes up for 80 percent of all its exports with the top customers being China, which gets 22 percent of the crude, the EU, which takes 18 percent, then Japan, 14 percent, India, 13 percent, and South Korea, 10 percent. So if those are the customers, why do we care?
Most of our oil comes from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nigeria. We care in America because oil is an internationally traded commodity and when the supply is interrupted anywhere, it causes shock waves everywhere and Iran knows it. OUTFRONT tonight, Iran expert Afshin Molavi of the New America Foundation, and former military intelligence officer, Paula Broadwell.
She's also the author of the "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus". Let me start with you, Afshin, if I can. How much impact do you think Iran is hoping to get from this cutoff of oil from France and Great Britain?
AFSHIN MOLAVI, AUTHOR OF "THE SOUL OF IRAN": Well you know Tom this is largely a symbolic move, because Britain hasn't been buying oil from Iran for over a year. France buys only a modest amount. But as you rightly noted in your intro, when Iran does these kinds of things, oil prices spike. And the reason oil prices spike is because there's so little spare capacity in global oil markets right now, that oil prices spike on the smallest headlines. Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, disruptions in South Sudan, riots in Nigeria. Think of the oil market as a drum that's tightly wound, and the smallest thing -- we basically don't have enough room left in that drum. So Iran certainly benefits when oil prices spike like this.
FOREMAN: So let me ask you, Paula, is this a security concern or purely an economic concern or does it cross over to both for the United States?
PAULA BROADWELL, FORMER ARMY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Tom, it clearly crosses over to both, but you both put this in important context, that really Britain and France don't receive that much Iranian oil. For them, it's a sort of saber-rattling initiative. They're posturing and trying to show that they have some power to increase the cost of oil in the international market. But you have to look at where they send most of their oil, and that is to Asia. And they are not reducing their sales to Asia.
And in fact, Saudi Arabia has stepped up to show great leadership and has said publicly and in the news now that they're able to increase their production by two million barrels per day to assuage Asian concerns over the supply of Iranian oil. So it has the -- you know, the global economy, we're all interconnected, and we have to look at how all the countries will be affected by Iranian oil supply.
But the U.S. is pretty dependent on foreign oil and it does implicate our national security concerns. If you look at how much oil the military uses in these large scale boots on the ground operations, for example. But just our economy to keep it running on a daily basis requires a lot of foreign oil. So it's something to consider in the grand scheme of our grand strategy, for sure.
MOLAVI: And Tom?
MOLAVI: It's worth noting that you know we as Americans, we drive about three trillion miles a year. You know so -- and it's also worth noting that right now we actually are experiencing record gasoline prices. Average gas prices right now are about $3.50. We've never had that high a gasoline price at this time of the year. So most forecasts are looking at the late April/early May, summer driving season going into $4.25, and you mentioned in your intro, $5, that's not unreasonable, certainly if we see a war-like situation --
FOREMAN: And it certainly (INAUDIBLE) any other disruptions in the scale of what's happening here. Let me ask you something, Paula. The underlying tone to all of this is very much a security issue. The cornerstone of all of this is that we're convinced that they're trying to get a nuclear weapon and we don't want them to have it, so we're putting pressure on them, a lot of nations are. Let me start with the first question. How close do you think they are to already having this? BROADWELL: Well, analysts both in the U.S. and with our allies in Europe and close allies are very concerned about Iran's capability to get the nuclear bomb, is Israel, obviously. They think that Iran is about one to two years away from getting the bomb. So I think to bring it back to an earlier point you made, Iran is trying to make a signal that they can stand up to this, and concern the world that they will retaliate or that they can send ripples (ph) around the globe if we are to attack or strike their nuclear facilities. But the reality is that a strike would only kick the can a little further down the road. They do have a high likelihood of getting the bomb, but the question is what should our response be? How do we prevent it?
BROADWELL: There's a unified response --
BROADWELL: Go ahead.
FOREMAN: There has been a unified response to some degree in the world --
BROADWELL: I was going to say there's --
FOREMAN: -- community.
BROADWELL: Right, but if you look at a unified response coming from the U.S. right now you've got the national security adviser --
BROADWELL: You've got the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You've got the Central Command leadership, all sort of saying that we are not going to stand for this. But the economic pressure we're putting on Iran right now is showing some, I think, some success, and I think the Europeans are taking this a little bit more seriously, as far as putting more diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran to stop.
FOREMAN: Let me to come to you with the last question here, Afshin, if I can. Here's the other question though. We've often seen this before, too. When people are under economic constraints, you often see nations do something like they cut off oil supplies. They say on one hand this; on the other hand, they say we want to talk about our nuclear supplies, all of which buys time. Do you think that what Iran is doing right now is aimed at a result, a specific result, or is it all aimed at just this, just keep the shells moving so nobody knows exactly where the "p" is and voila suddenly you have a nuclear weapon.
MOLAVI: You know it's a good point --
MOLAVI: It's a good point you make, Tom. I mean they certainly are trying to buy time here. However, you know as Paula noted and as others have noted, you know these sanctions are really hurting the Iranian economy. The Iranian real (ph), its currency has plummeted 40 to 50 percent. There's not a single major multi-national bank that will do business with Iran. Even the entrepose (ph) the Iran normally does business with such as Dubai and the Persian Gulf are tightening their Iranian business. Iranians are having trouble importing steel --
FOREMAN: And Afshin I'm going to have to cut you off there.
FOREMAN: They have trouble with -- because I'm having trouble with time. Afshin, thanks for being here, Paula as well. Keep it in mind as your gas price ticks up how this ripple effect is going all around the globe.
When we come back, the Santorum surge continues, up double digits. When it comes to eating up Mitt Romney's lead, he's not being conservative at all.
"Under Surveillance" tonight, Target, the big box retailer's bull's-eye is on you. Ahead of the avalanche, a woman survives a deadly snow slide in Washington State and we will show you the amazing product that saved her life.
FOREMAN: A brand-new Gallup poll shows Rick Santorum's lead in the Republican race for the White House is getting wider. He's now 10 points ahead of Mitt Romney among Republican voters, which means in just a week, Santorum has jumped six points and Romney has dropped by the same amount. Notably, Santorum hasn't been gaining traction by focusing on the economy. Instead, he's grabbing headlines for everything else. Look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not about your jobs. It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology, but none -- no less a theology. I refer to global warming as not climate science, but political science. Yes, prenatal testing, amniocentesis does in fact result more often than not in this country in abortion. That is a fact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: All our polls, all the people say over and over again they care about the economy. So the question is, with that kind of talk, how real is the Santorum threat? OUTFRONT now John Avlon, Reihan Salam, and Jamal Simmons joining us. Jamal, you didn't make it, you were caught in traffic Friday, so you didn't make it, so I'll give you the first question today. Look, how happy are you to see Rick Santorum beating up on Mitt Romney?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's -- I think it's good for the Republican Party. No, seriously.
SIMMONS: I think watching the two of them go at each other is what this whole debate is going to be about, from the conservative evangelical Republican stream to the more moderate business-oriented Republicans. You see it nationally. You also see it in places like Michigan. It's very interesting. Mitt Romney in Michigan, you know, I'm from Detroit, so in Detroit, you know, everything is about the palm.
You know Detroit's here. Santorum does very well out here along your pinky finger, which is where the Christian conservatives are, and Mitt Romney does very well over here outside of Detroit, where all the wealthy people are (INAUDIBLE). And that is the place around the country I think you're seeing those lines continue around the country --
FOREMAN: All right. Jamal, you're not going to take the bait here. So let me turn to John. John, what do you think about that? Is he for real? Can he win?
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He can win the nomination. I mean, and look I mean Democrats want to make some popcorn, because this is a fun fight to watch from their perspective. But the problem is, I think, actually, the Republican Party's starting to see -- they're reaping what they sow. When they burn down the big tent and purge the center right, part of the problem of polarization is, is that a candidate like Rick Santorum can throw a lot of red meat rhetoric on social issues and do very well in low-turnout, high-intensity primaries. That does not however translate to being necessarily a good general election candidate when it comes time to pivot back to the center and appeal to independents. That's one of the things Republicans need to resolve.
FOREMAN: Reihan, what do you think?
REIHAN SALAM, COLUMNIST, "THE DAILY": Whenever there's a primary race the thing is that the electorate is moving a bit slower than the elites who are following the election very closely. So for example, in 2004, John Edwards really picked up steam, but he only picked up steam after John Kerry really had locked it down after -- so, similarly, here, we're seeing a situation where Rick Santorum is doing fairly well with primary voters while a lot of people at the center of the action are seeing a lot of his vulnerabilities.
FOREMAN: You raise an interesting point here, because all along as I've looked at the polls this is what you can say about Mitt Romney. He has pretty consistently stayed at the sort of higher level. And first it was Herman Cain, and then it was Newt Gingrich, and now maybe it's Rick Santorum. They spike up from down low. They dominate for a while, but they can't hold it. What do you think? Can they hold it?
AVLON: That speaks to two different dynamics. One is that Romney is an unusually weak front-runner. You know I mean reluctantly Romney could be a bumper sticker. Someone is going to make a lot of money off that at some point, but he's got the money and the organization to really be able to withstand the various fluctuations. And the other thing is this surge of support is quickly then followed by a fall over partisan support in part because of Romney going negative on him in part because of the scrutiny that being the new top, in the top two candidates brings on these folks, which then many of them cannot sustain.
So I do think it does speak to Romney. He has got some real organizational strengths but he has some real weaknesses. And that's why these other candidates keep surging and one thing Reihan said I've got to take issue with. He does not have this locked down. Mitt Romney does not have this locked down and if he were to lose Michigan, his home state, you're going to see --
SALAM: Oh I definitely don't mean to imply that he has it locked down. What I mean to say is that a lot of Santorum's vulnerabilities that are catching on with people who are focusing on the election very closely, it hasn't caught on with voters who still see him as a happy warrior, rather than as someone who is a huge K-street enforcer.
FOREMAN: Jamal, Jamal, let me have you jump in here. Let me ask you a question. There's a sort of rumble out there that the Democrats are beginning to triangulate Rick Santorum and go after him, at the same time, I hear Democrats saying, oh, I would love it to be Rick Santorum, because we can beat him. If you can beat him so easily then why are you triangulating him?
SIMMONS: Well it's a little bit of a whack-a-mole. I mean every time one of these people pops up what you want to do is knock them down. You don't want them to gain so much steam that people start thinking about them as being serious people. The fact is Rick Santorum has some positions that are so far outside of where the mainstream, not just the Democratic Party is, but kind of independents particularly independent women which is where Democrats really think they have a case to make that you know you don't want him to ever really build up a head of steam.
And right now you are seeing this fight take place. The one difference between Santorum and Romney, I have to say this, and Hillary and Obama in 2008, is that Hillary and Obama have very strong bases in their parties. They have devoted people who are behind them. You don't see that kind of devotion for any of these Republican candidates --
FOREMAN: Oh, I don't -- maybe not for the candidates, but for the idea of conservative. And Reihan, I'm going to wrap it up here pretty quickly. Let me ask you a quick question here. What's the good news in all of this for Mitt Romney, if there is any good news?
SALAM: I think there is no root -- no good news for Mitt Romney in all of this.
FOREMAN: Nothing good in all of this?
SALAM: Yes, I think that even he's eroding in Arizona he's eroding in all of these places that should have been his firewalls, so I think it's very bad.
AVLON: He needs to plant a flag and say you know what I'm the most electable candidate. I can bring independents into the tent if you give me a chance, but if we go -- instead he's hitting Rick Santorum, calling a rhino. That doesn't even pass the laugh test --
AVLON: In name only.
AVLON: He's resorting to that kind of color --
FOREMAN: Reihan, John, and Jamal, thank you all for being here. Gosh, we're going to be talking about this more, I'm sure, before November. Join us at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday for a lot more talk about it at the Arizona Republican Presidential Debate, moderated by our own John King. You don't want to miss it.
Tonight, in our "Under Surveillance" segment, the big business of big brother. The next time you go shopping, there's a chance the store knows what you want long before you walk through the door. This is kind of spooky, when you think about it. Cashing in on your consumer habits is nothing new, of course. But there's one chain that is reportedly taking it to a whole new level, Target.
"The New York Times" magazine made some strong allegations this weekend with an article on how the chain uses credit cards, surveys, and a guest ID number to find out just about every facet of your life. "The Times" says the store uses algorithms to know whether someone is getting a new job or even having a baby, and then sends coupons tailor-made for that occasion. Personalizing your shopping experience, is that what this is really about? OUTFRONT tonight CNN legal contributor Paul Callan joins us. Paul, this sounds kind of spooky. What do you think?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's another example of sort of big brother in the private sector. It's amazing how much they know about us. And to think that Target has developed an algorithm that can figure out when a woman's pregnant when nobody knows but she. It's truly amazing. But I think it's a future that we're facing. Technology has become so sophisticated that they're able to figure out buying habits and make predictions.
FOREMAN: Let me take it beyond Target here because by the way, Target said about this article that they weren't so keen on this. They felt like a lot of this was -- the information was false, it was misleading to people, Target really did not like -- we tried to call them today. They wouldn't call us back. That's what they told the "The Times," they didn't like this information out here.
But let's go beyond that Paul. What about the general idea -- there's the Target response right there. "Almost all of your statements contain inaccurate information and" and on and on. You see what they have to say about it in any event. The point is though let's take it beyond Target, Paul. Is there anything illegal in any of this? We've put this technology in the hands of all sorts of companies to track everything we do. And sometimes it feels kind of invasive, but are they doing anything illegal?
CALLAN: No, they're not doing anything illegal. What they're doing is in a very sophisticated way, I suppose doing the same thing that Macy's and Gimble's (ph) did, remember in "Miracle on 34th Street," they're figuring out what consumers like and then they're --
FOREMAN: Paul, are you blaming this on Santa Claus? You're blaming this on Santa Claus, aren't you?
CALLAN: Heaven forbid, they'd be on to Santa Claus, too, if they could. And you know all they're doing here is being very sophisticated about marketing and figuring out what our tendencies are. But here's what scares me about it, Tom, if they can figure out that a woman is pregnant, what about when will they be able to figure out if she has a sexually transmitted disease or if she is suffering some sort of if she is suffering from some sort of disabling condition? And then can they sell that information to employers who maybe wouldn't want to hire her, because she's pregnant?
FOREMAN: And frankly, let me tell you something, Paul, your profession makes me nervous about this, because I can also see attorneys out there, rubbing their hands, saying, if all of this information is there when a divorce comes up, when a child custody case comes up, when all sorts of things come up they're going to start saying to the courts, you know, I'd like access to that. How about giving me the paperwork I need to get it.
CALLAN: Absolutely, Tom, and you know, we've already seen that. In matrimonial litigation they look at Facebook. They get access to your e-mails. The case -- I litigate business litigation cases; the first subpoena that goes out is for your G-mail account and your business account. So all of this information is potentially available to lawyers, to the courts, and to now Target.
FOREMAN: And I love the way you throw out that term, "matrimonial litigation" that's got a warm feeling --
CALLAN: I hate those guys --
FOREMAN: Makes you want to curl up in front of the fireplace. Paul, stick around. We're going to talk to you later on.
There are reports that Whitney Houston's daughter got high right after the funeral. Listen, this kind of stuff goes around all the time in terms of reports. Some of it is rumors, some of it's not. Here's a legitimate question though. Is Bobbi Kristina headed down the same dangerous path as her mother?
And if you haven't noticed, Linsanity continues. Jeremy Lin and the Knicks play New Jersey tonight, but wait until you hear about what he left in the locker room and what it is now worth. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
FOREMAN: Yes, stop the Linsanity. It continued last night, as Jeremy Lin had 28 points and a career-high 14 assists to lead the Knicks over the Dallas Mavericks. But the most impressive numbers might be the ones he is posting off the court. The New York Knicks have seen a -- get this -- 750 percent increase in sales of their merchandise since Jeremy Lin began his magical run, and his own jersey has been the league's top seller for weeks now. And it's not just his Knicks jersey that fans are after. Spike Lee, there he is, is sporting some retro Jeremy Lin jerseys at this week's games, including the ones he wore while playing for Harvard and Palo Alto High (ph), which brings us to tonight's number, which is $4,000.
That is the current bid for the jersey worn by Jeremy Lin when he played one game for the Erie BayHawks. On January 20th, the Knicks sent Lin down to the NBA development league. It's like a basketball minor league. And in his one and only game for the BayHawks, a win, Lin had a triple double wearing this jersey, there it is. According to the eBay post, the jersey comes with a letter of authenticity signed by the BayHawks team's president, you know you can trust him, and portions of the proceeds will benefit local Erie, Pennsylvania, charities. Unbelievable way that story's going on -- be interesting to see where it goes in the long run.
We've got more to get on to tonight. Whitney Houston's daughter reportedly gets high right after the funeral. I guess we always hear these rumors. Who knows what the truth is right now, but we do have a fair question. Is she headed down this same dangerous path as her mother? And if so, how would she or any teenager be stopped? (INAUDIBLE) more when we come back.
FOREMAN: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, when we focus on our own reporting. We did the work and we found the OUTFRONT five.
First, Iran's power play. There's a chance you could see $5 a gallon by summer for your gasoline. And the reasons may be happening right now, oil prices surged to a nine-month high today after Iran announced it was cutting off oil exports to Britain and France, and warning to do the same to six other European countries.
While most of our oil comes from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, places like that, oil is internationally traded, so Iran's threats will have an impact here at home. We'll have to see how much.
Number two, South Korea fired live artillery near the border with North Korea. Despite a warning of retaliation, South Korea's military conducted drills near five islands off the southern coast of North Korea.
Gordon Chang, the author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World" gave us some reasons why the threats could serve in Pyongyang's interest, including Kim Jong Un's need to rally the army under his leadership, the need for food from the international community for impoverished citizens, and the North's desire to undercut South Korean conservatives in the upcoming elections. Stay tuned.
Number three: Arizona sheriff Paul Babeu stepped as co-chair of the Romney campaign. That's after his ex-boyfriend accused the sheriff of threatening to deport him if he revealed the relationship.
He spoke exclusively with our Miguel Marquez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At some point, you felt --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Used.
MARQUEZ: Used, and then threatened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MARQUEZ: Why threatened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got a text from him, directly, on my phone saying that I will never have business, that my family will be contacted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Sheriff Babeu responded, telling my friend, Wolf Blitzer, that his ex-boyfriend was in the U.S. legally, but he stole computer passwords and photos from the sheriff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF PAUL BABEU, PINAL COUNTY, ARIZONA: I said, how can you think you're going to do business? He had a business with Web sites. He just stole my Web sites and put slanderous information on my Web sites, and how can -- how can anybody expect to do business?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Number four, we're getting the latest fund-raising numbers from the major candidate super PACs. Ron Paul's endorsed liberty super PAC raised $2.4 million in January, $1.7 million came from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future raised $6.6 million. Big first-time billionaire donors include Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman and hedge fund manager David Tepper.
Gingrich's Winning Our Future raised about $11 million, $10 million of that came from billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife.
And it's been 199 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? That's the perennial question. Just hours after her famous mother was laid to rest, Whitney Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina, was reportedly found getting high in a hotel room. That's according to "The Daily Beast". The reports say Bobbi Kristina snuck away to use drugs after the emotionally charged tribute. That's what they alleged, leaving friends and family panicked about her whereabouts.
A Houston family spokesperson denied any drug use by Bobbi Kristina, saying, quote, "There was some confusion about Bobbi Kristina's whereabouts, but she's OK. She needed some time alone."
But concern is obviously growing among a lot of people for Whitney Houston's 18-year-old daughter. Since news of the pop star's death, Bobbi Kristina has been admitted to the hospital twice for stress and anxiety.
As part of CNN's week-long in depth series on addiction, we're joined now by Dr. Drew Pinsky of HLN's "Dr. Drew."
Dr. Drew, let me ask you something -- you have been, I think, a champion over the past week for saying over and over again that the adults around Whitney Houston who knew she was at a party, who knew she was drinking, were fooling themselves if they said, "Oh, she's OK," knowing the problems that she had leading up to her death.
In that environment, what are your thoughts --
DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: Absolutely.
FOREMAN: -- for an 18-year-old who is in that same environment?
PINSKY: Well, we have two issues here. One is an individual, poor Whitney Houston, who had current, recalcitrant addiction, was with treated and failed multiple times, who continued to drink and use, and people around her co-signing that, saying, oh, isn't it wonderful she's out socializing, toasting with champagne.
As opposed to saying, my goodness, we have a very serious problem here with Whitney. She is in harm's way. She's still drinking, she cannot maintain abstinence. We've got to get her out of the limelight, away from work and into treatment. That is one issue.
The other issue is poor Bobbi Kristina. People are obviously concerned about her. She has been hospitalized a couple of times with psychiatric symptom methodology. She apparently has a history of suicide. So what 18-year-old in this situation, particularly given a broken family, given two parents with substance abuse, with now a dead mother, what 18-year-old wouldn't be in extreme duress under these situations?
The question that keeps coming up about Bobbi Kristina is -- is it possible that she to will develop an addictive process? And the probability of that is somewhere around 50 percent.
FOREMAN: What's that based on, Dr. Drew, the family -- the dynamics of the family or what?
PINSKY: No, it's more about the genetics than about the dynamics of the family. The situation the family will determine whether she develops severe addiction or not, but really, you have to first have the genetic predisposition for this disorder. And whether you have one or both parents with this disease, on average, give or take, it's about 50 percent that you're going to inherent that genetic potential.
One of the ways we say this is that 60 percent of addiction is on the basis of genetics alone. And of the 10,000 or so addicts I've treated in my career, I can name on one hand the number where I couldn't have seen a genetic heritage. So, that is there. That doesn't mean, necessarily, though that she's going to develop addiction.
What we do know is that she's in distress -- of course, she's in distress. She's had chaos in her family system. Her mom is gone. Thank God she has a very supportive grandparent, grandmother there, and hopefully she can reconcile with her biological daughter.
FOREMAN: Hopefully, indeed. Hopefully the rumors are simply not true. And hopefully she's off she's (INAUDIBLE).
Dr. Drew, thanks so much for being here.
PINSKY: Right. Thank you. Appreciate it.
FOREMAN: A real nightmare in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. Three experienced skiers killed yesterday by an avalanche near the Stevens Pass Ski Resort, about 2 1/2 hours out of Seattle. One woman, Elyse Saugstad survived, because of a device that looks like a backpack known as an avalanche airbag. It provided a buffer of sorts between her and the suffocating, crushing snow.
She talked what it was like this morning on the "Today" show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELYSE SAUGSTAD, PRO SKIER WHO SURVIVED AVALANCHE: It's not like you're taking an inner tube ride down some snowy field. You definitely are in the avalanche and it feels like you're in -- like a washing machine and you're being flipped and tumbled and it's white the entire way. It's very scary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Dale Atkins has participated in dozens of avalanche rescues and is president of the American Avalanche Association. He's OUTFRONT now to tell us more about this device and others that can help save your life in extreme conditions.
Dale, thanks so much for being here.
Let me ask you this. You've been doing this for a long time, for decades, rescuing people. How much do you think the technology, overall, has improved to help people in these extreme backcountry environments?
DALE ATKINS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN AVALANCHE ASSOC. In the last 10 years, we've seen a huge improvement in the technology. And it's -- and now, technology can make a difference for people. So it's real important that people invest in this technology and learn how to use it.
FOREMAN: I want to show the device you just demonstrated for us a few minutes ago, this actual air bag device that Elyse Saugstad relied on. You pull a little lever there like a rip cord, and you see how out of this backpack, these two air bladders fill up -- and what do they do, Dale? Why does this make a difference?
ATKINS: What it does, we think of an avalanche as a river of snow, but it's really not like a -- it's not a liquid, it's a fluid, but it's a granular flow. And what this means is the small particles of snow settle down towards the bottom and big particles get risen to the top or forced to the top. And the avalanche air bag makes you a very big particle, so it forces you up to the surface of the snow and helps prevent you from getting buried.
FOREMAN: It doesn't put you entirely on top, but generally in a better position, is that correct?
ATKINS: Well, it's generally a better position, and often it is on top. And this works on something call the Brazil nut principle. If you take a bowl of mixed nuts and shake that bowl of nuts, the big nuts rise to the top. And the same thing happens in the avalanche. And that's why the air bag works.
FOREMAN: Let me ask you another question about this. I was watching the speed at which it inflated there had and the fact that you have to grab a control to do it. Avalanches, from my experience living out West, happen really quickly and sometimes they're upon people before they know what's happening.
This is still a second measure. The first measure is to be careful about being in an avalanche zone.
ATKINS: Absolutely. The best way to survive an avalanche is don't get caught.
This gives you a little extra protection. And you have to grab that handle and activate it right away and get it inflated and deployed.
But people have to remember that this isn't Superman's cape. There's no guarantee of surviving an avalanche. So even if you are able to deploy it, it doesn't mean that it's going to save you. And in fact, here in Colorado earlier this week, we had a very unfortunate snowboarder outside of ski area, deployed his avalanche air bag, but he was swept into trees, and he was probably going 60, 80 miles an hour when he hit trees, and nothing's going to save you in those circumstances.
FOREMAN: Talk to me about a few other things. I know for years, people have promoted the idea of people carrying beacons with them. I know you're involved, also, with a company that helps make a beacon to help locate people.
Still a pretty good idea?
ATKINS: Oh, beacons are really the best tool to carry for companions. And I actually don't have anything to do with the manufacturing or production of these devices, but these are the rescue beacons, these are the best tools to find your friends. So these are the tools of companion rescue.
And with the transceiver, you have to have a shove and a prop hole. This will get you right on top of the person.
FOREMAN: I appreciate your expertise and all the years you've spent out there working. I'm aware of it for a long time, and helping people with that. And hopefully, so people will get some new tools there that might help them out, those who are really going to go into the very extreme backcountry.
Dale, thanks so much.
ATKINS: Thank you.
FOREMAN: A prosecutor cries as he describes the death of a UVA lacrosse player. Now, the question for the jury: was it murder or a tragic accident? We'll take that up.
And does being a lefty help or hurt President Obama's chances in the upcoming election? The answer on this Presidents Day may surprise you.
FOREMAN: We do this the same time every evening. It's our "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources all around the world.
First, to Syria where the residents of the city of Homs are hunkering down in shelters at this hour. They're hiding from government forces who just keep shelling the city. It's been going on for 17 straight days in an effort to defeat the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al Assad. The opposition says 18 people killed today, 9,000 are dead since the uprising began.
CNN's Arwa Damon was in one of the shelters. I asked her what it's like for Syrians there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, as so many of those who we met inside these bunkers put it, it's like living in hell. They never imagined that their lives would come down to this.
You just need to imagine a situation where the shelling begins at 6:00 in the morning, some of the rounds landing so close they shake buildings. Children are constantly crying and life has been like that for more than two weeks now. And now, they're also experiencing severe shortages in food and things like baby's milk.
And at this point in time, there is nothing that is going to save them. As one woman put it, what is the world waiting for? For us to die of hunger and fear -- Tom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: On to Egypt, where top U.S. senators are pressuring the country's leaders to resolve a growing diplomatic crisis revolving around 19 Americans accused of working for civil society groups.
Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain are meeting with Egypt's political and military leaders in Cairo, less than one week before the American aide workers are scheduled to appear in criminal court.
Ian Lee is in Cairo. I asked him if the senators have made any progress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tom, not much progress was made in securing the freedom of the 19 Americans, so that they can leave Egypt. The senators did talk to Egyptian authorities. But this trip was more about building closer economic ties between Egypt and the United States.
That being said, they did talk about the 19 Americans. And after their meeting, they said they are optimistic that they will eventually be released. The senators were adamant that this wasn't their rescue mission, that this solution will come between the United States embassy and Egyptian authorities -- Tom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: And now to Greece, where European finance ministers are hoping to secure another vital bailout for that debt-laden country. The Greek parliament announced further austerity cuts, ahead of today's meeting, while protesters and police continue to clash on the streets of Athens.
Jim Boulden has been on the story. I asked him how the Greek people are responding to the idea of a second bailout.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tom, the austerity being imposed on the Greek people by the country's lenders is, of course, deeply unpopular. It's hard to convince people who have lost their job to pay higher taxes and tell young people that the minimum wage will be cut by more than 20 percent.
Still, the euro itself remains popular. Something like seven in 10 Greeks say they want to remain at the heart of Europe and continue to use the single currency. To do that, of course, Greece will have years of economic pain -- Tom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: All right. Thanks to all.
And now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's ahead on "A.C. 360" -- Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hey, Tom.
We're keeping them honest tonight on the program. Rick Santorum surging in the polls, but his target this weekend was not his Republican opponents, it was President Obama. Santorum said the president has a, quote, "different theology." Santorum then tried to clarify, then stopped using the phrase all together. He's now close to the front-runner status, his words matter. We'll talk it over with our panel.
A second keeping them honest report tonight. Get this -- teachers in Buffalo, New York, qualify for all kinds of plastic surgery, nose jobs, facelifts, breast augmentation, and they don't pay a dime for it. Taxpayers foot the bill, 100 percent paid for. What's really incredible, everybody, including the teachers' union, agrees this should be done away with, but it's not.
We're going to look into a lot of these stories, and tonight's "Ridiculist," Tom, at the top of the hour.
FOREMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Anderson. Also a great show, "A.C. 360." Don't miss it tonight.
Emotional closing arguments in the Yeardley Love murder trial. The University of Virginia lacrosse player was found dead in her off- campus apartment last year. The prosecutor cried, along with Love's family as he described how she allegedly died a slow death at the hands of her boyfriend, George Huguely. The cause of death: blunt force trauma.
Huguely's lawyer says the couple did have a drunken fight in Love's apartment the night she died, but when Huguely left, she was alive.
Now, it's up to the jury whether it was an accident or if Huguely planned to kill Love.
Joining me now, former prosecutor Holly Hughes, and Paul Callan, CNN legal contributor and criminal defense attorney.
Let me start off with you, if I can, Holly. What is -- the closing arguments were on Saturday. Then they went into Sunday and then the holiday and then Tuesday, they don't come back until Wednesday. Is that a good thing for a trial? That seems to me that's a long time for a jury to be out there thinking things before they start deliberating.
HOLLY HUGHES, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Tom, I don't think it's a good idea for either side. There's too much time that passes. When you close a case, that is your opportunity as a lawyer, one of only two you get in a trial, you get opening, you get close, to talk directly to that jury, to look them in the eye. You want them feeling your emotion.
You want them to go back in the jury room echoing your words and maybe repeating your argument, to give them this much time, not only are they forgetting the emotion and the words but they're exposed to media, Tom. This is a national story. We're doing it on CNN.
They cannot turn on the television or open a newspaper without seeing or hearing about this. So, it's dangerous on a lot of levels.
FOREMAN: Paul, one of the things that came out here was the prosecutor cried during the closing here. This startled you and you think it's kind of a big deal.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: It did startle me. And as I thought about it, you know, I'm a former homicide prosecutor myself and I've defended murder cases as well. And I was speaking to a homicide prosecutor in Manhattan who's been there for 30 years. He said never has he heard of a prosecutor crying in a closing argument.
FOREMAN: Why is it a problem, though?
CALLAN: Well, you know, you'd think and the public would think from watching this stuff on television that anything goes in summations. But it's not that way. Courts look at what prosecutors say and whether they're using emotionally charged words as opposed to evidence to persuade the jury of the rightfulness of the case.
And the second thing I think is, juries like to just get facts from prosecutors. It's really over the top for a prosecutor to be crying -- and that's not to minimize what a horrific murder this was, but it's just too much emotion being thrown at them by a prosecutor. It could be reversible error.
FOREMAN: Holly, you buy that?
HUGHES: No, I don't. And here's why: we are all human beings. You know, it's always -- the problem with the system is it's made up of human beings, Tom. If the prosecutor did not comment on his crying, if he just teared up a little bit, if a couple tears came down his face, that makes him human.
I don't see it as reversible unless he actually commented on it like oh, my gosh, I'm so story but I'm so upset at this tragedy, I can't help myself, then we have a problem.
CALLAN: Hey, Holly, when you were in -- you were in a prosecutor in Georgia, I understand.
HUGHES: Yes. Atlanta.
CALLAN: Did you ever cry in a summation?
HUGHES: One time I teared up. I did not have tears come downing my face.
CALLAN: No, that doesn't count. You need tears to cry. You need tears to cry.
You would agree it's very unusual for a prosecutor to cry, though, in a closing argument.
HUGHES: Oh, absolutely. Yes, no question about it.
CALLAN: I have had defense attorneys cry, but they get paid to do that.
FOREMAN: It's a different matter for defense attorneys.
FOREMAN: Let me ask you one more thing about this. Really, the fundamental question here is coming out of this question of whether or not he went there with an intent to kill her or to have a vicious assault against her, or if it was an out-growth of something else. They have left the law open in this case, they don't have go with premeditated murder, they can go with something else. That legally is probably good in this case.
CALLAN: Well, it's very good for the defense because they'll have the option to look at this and say, he didn't plan to kill her, it wasn't intentional murder, it was sort of an accidental murder.
Also, the other really strange thing about the part about the way they charge this, and Holly may disagree with me on this, they have made it look like it was a robbery, he was breaking in to steal her computer and he killed her during the course of it. It's called felony murder. You see it kind of a store heist or a bank heist when somebody gets killed that wasn't intended to be killed.
That's so inappropriate in this case. I don't see any view of this fact pattern that would support felony murder, which is what they charged.
FOREMAN: Holly, jump in here with one last comment if you would very quickly. The same question here -- do you feel Paul was talking about what's good for defense having this flexibility, what's good for the prosecution in having the flexibility in the final decision?
HUGHES: Well, you know, they can charge the top count, which they did, first degree murder -- in addition to the felony murder because felony murder rule is, hey, you know what? It's in for a penny, in for a pound, if you go there to commit another felony, somebody dies during the course of it, you're on the hook.
So, by charging first-degree murder, they get lesser included, they're going to get the manslaughter and a second degree murder charge as well. So, if the jury doesn't necessarily buy a whole lot of premeditation, you don't think he went there to kill her, they can go with a lesser count on the first degree murder but if they buy, he was there to take the computer and maybe do away with evidence, try to hide evidence, they might get him under felony murder.
FOREMAN: And I know a lot of people are going to be watching very closely for all of it.
Holly, Paul, thanks so much for being here.
There's is only one thing left to do on our program tonight, a special Presidents Day story that you don't want to miss is OUTFRONT next.
FOREMAN: So, what's left on this Presidents Day? Or rather we should say, what's not left? One of the more peculiar attributes of modern presidents has been a pronounced tendency to be left-handed. In fact, since 1929, when Herbert Hoover signed in, half of the presidents have been left-handed, including Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, who could use either hand, the first George bush and Bill Clinton. That is five times higher than the normal population where only one of about every 10 of us is left-handed.
No one knows why lefties are so good at grabbing the Oval Office. Among other theory is that left handed people operating in the right- handed world all the time, so they become more adaptive, more innovative, more skilled because both sides of their brain are more active. A long parade of talented folks give credence to the theory, Leonardo da Vinci for example is a lefty. So is Mozart, Picasso, Einstein, Madame Curie, Mark Twain, Babe Ruth and Jimi Hendrix.
And getting back to presidents, in case you have not noticed, so is Barack Obama. So, does that give him a better chance of winning re-election next fall? Maybe.
But remember, there is another lefty looming large out there right now. His name is Mitt Romney. No kidding.
The left-handed Erin Burnett is back tomorrow. I'm Tom Foreman. Thanks for being here.
"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.