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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Iranian Nuclear Talks; Embarrassment for the GSA; DOJ Responds; Merchant of Death
Aired April 5, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Iran playing a game of nuclear chicken with the rest of the world. The question is, who will swerve first?
And a new video shows government wastes at unprecedented levels on tape. Pretty wow.
And the latest of the Trayvon Martin case. Brand new analysis of the 911 George Zimmerman call and what word he really used. Let's go OUTFRONT.
I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight countdown to nuclear showdown. The rhetoric rising ahead of a make or break moment for Iran and the rest of the world. A week from tonight, negotiators will be arriving to talk with Iran about the disputed nuclear program, well they won't (ph). A debate over where Iran will talk to the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia may not just be rhetoric.
This could be real talk and send the world down a path towards a military strike. Now, Iran suggested it might move the venue from Istanbul to Baghdad or Beijing. Here's what former Defense Secretary Cohen told me about this move.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. SEC. OF DEFENSE: We have to start with a premise. The Iranians are not interested in reaching any kind of agreement. They are not interested in reducing nuclear power. They're interested in acquiring nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, Iran vehemently says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But it isn't just the United States, which is frustrated at this move by Iran to delay or confuse talks. Turkey's prime minister stepped into it today saying that Iran's offer to move the venue was this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RECEP. TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRIME MINISTER OF Turkey (through translator): The offer going around at the moment Damascus or Baghdad is a waste of time. It means it won't happen. Because of the lack of honesty they, the Iranians are continually losing their international prestige. This is not the language of diplomacy. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And he continued off camera talking about what language it was, way to say, quote, "the name of this is something else, but I won't say it here", which was pretty blunt and frankly not very diplomatic slap towards Iran. France's foreign minister also jumped into the fray saying the talks would only proceed only if Iran makes concessions up front and the Pentagon weighed in as well.
Spokesman George Little (ph) telling reporters this afternoon that quote, "our assessment of the program remains the same. We're very concerned about where they, Iran, might be headed. An Iran with a nuclear weapon is unacceptable."
This is a crucial moment for the world. Philip Mudd is former deputy director of the CIA Counterterrorist Center. Hooman Majd is author of "The Ayatollahs' Democracy". Good to have both of you with us. Hooman you have followed this for many years, the kind of diplomacy, secrecy --
BURNETT: -- lies that goes on with these kinds of negotiations. Are we going to have talks next week?
HOOMAN MAJD, AUTHOR, "THE AYATOLLAHS' DEMOCRACY": I think we are, yes. I think both the Iranians want it and the U.S. and the rest of the P5 (ph) want it as well. So I doubt very much that they are not going to happen. This is a little bit of posturing for sure, but I think Iran also wants to punish Turkey a little bit for their position on Syria, their position on the missile shield. They don't really want to reward Turkey with something that could be potentially a breakthrough negotiation so that the Turks can say, oh we were the ones who brought it together at this point and time geopolitically --
BURNETT: Phil, how -- it's interesting when you think about these talks, with the world so focused on this issue, is there any way to come out of this that doesn't head toward some sort of military action if Iran doesn't give full access to all of its nuclear sites, promise to renounce all sorts of things? I mean is there any in- between here?
PHILIP MUDD, FMR. DEPUTY DIR. OF NATIONAL SECURITY, FBI: I don't think there is much in between. Look, we're going to try to focus on diplomacy because the military is not a very good option. But the Iranians have gone down a path here, and we're deluding ourselves if we think that path is going to be detoured by diplomatic talk. I think this is inevitable.
BURNETT: What is inevitable?
MUDD: I mean I think that the Iranian's development of a nuclear program that has military intent is inevitable. And we can hope that diplomatic talks will detour this, but hope is not a plan.
BURNETT: So Hooman, you mentioned the other day that Iran would need to put certain conditions on the table to actually have a breakthrough. What are those conditions? Before you say whether or not they're going to do them, what are they?
MAJD: Right. Well I mean I think it's expected that Iran would stop their 20 percent enrichment, which is higher than the 3.5 percent they were doing, which is for their nuclear reactor, medical nuclear reactor in Tehran. I think that's an expectation. I don't think it's helpful that the French are saying you have to do that before they start negotiations, but I think Iran is prepared --
BURNETT: You think they are prepared to do that?
MAJD: I think they're prepared to do that. Yes, I mean Ahmadinejad said that back in September.
BURNETT: And allow inspectors in?
MAJD: I think -- well the inspectors are there. To allow the unfettered access that the inspectors want --
MAJD: -- which is abiding by the initial protocol, which is what Iran did during Hatami's (ph) rule as president. I think they're also willing to do that, but they're going to need something back from the West as well. They're not going to do it just to say --
BURNETT: Like what?
MAJD: Well I think they want -- an easing of the sanctions, at least or some kind of plan, road map for how the sanctions are going to be lifted over time. Something that the Russians talked about almost a year ago. They're going to need something in return. If they don't get it, no, of course they're not going to do it. They're not going to be --
BURNETT: But doesn't that involve, and I want to get you to weigh in on this and then Phil's point of view, but doesn't that involve to a certain extent the leadership of Iran (INAUDIBLE) losing face, which is really hard to do diplomatically when you say you --
BURNETT: -- aren't going to do something and then you go put it on the table. He doesn't want to look weak.
MAJD: No, I don't think he does, but I don't think it would be losing face because he has already said that we would do that. If you give us fuel rods for our nuclear reactor we don't need to -- if you sell us fuel rods, we don't need to enrich 20 percent, which concerns the rest of the world. So there has to be something. I mean he's already said that, so I don't think it's a question of losing face.
BURNETT: So Phil, the way Hooman talks (INAUDIBLE) this sound reasonable, sounds like it makes sense, yet even if this were to happen, there would be a whole lot of talk from a lot of these western countries that Iran didn't really mean it or Iran was obfuscating or Iran was not being honest.
MUDD: I don't buy it. Look Iran has watched us accept a nuclear program in North Korea, in Pakistan, in India, and they have had an aggressive ballistic missile program that I watched at CIA for decades. The chance that this country with thousand of years of history and culture is going to step back now and say, hey, everybody else has got it, we don't want it. I think that chance is minimal. I think the program is going to continue.
BURNETT: And Phil, do you think also that there are some parallels in how the United States is treating Iran with how the United States treated Pakistan which, of course, has nuclear weapons?
MUDD: I think that's true. I mean I think we wring our hands when these countries go down this path. In the 21st Century with the spread of technology and proliferation, the prospects that hand wringing and diplomacy can bring these countries around when they can acquire this technology from Russia, China, North Korea, and when they see threats from us and from others around the Arabian Gulf, I think the prospects will detour are minimal. They're going to engage in talks because they want to detour us, but we're not going to be able to shove the program aside.
BURNETT: But Hooman, it also seems at this point that there is a timeline that there's never been before. Israel has been so vocal about that. They can't really back down, either. And Iran has been vocal and they can't back down. So if this is not clearly resolved --
MAJD: Yes, I would disagree --
BURNETT: -- the ending seems pretty clear. I mean how severe, any kind of military action is a question mark, but that there might be one seems that it would be clear.
MAJD: It seems -- unfortunately it seems like -- I disagree with Paul that the Iranians definitely want to build a bomb or they want to do that imminently. I think it's pretty clear that once you have the technology that they have already and they continue developing it, that they could make that decision to build a bomb, which may be good enough.
BURNETT: Well the lead time becomes --
MAJD: Well --
BURNETT: -- you can get one within months or weeks as opposed to years, so --
MAJD: Six months, five weeks, yes, absolutely. And that's true and I would agree with him that if Iran decides to do that, there's nothing anybody can do to stop them including, in my opinion, military action. So the best solution really is to find a way to be incentivized the Iranian government from actually taking that step. That's really the best we can do.
BURNETT: Phil, will the United States bottom line have to end up backing down and accepting that Iran is moving in this direction, unless it wants to go to an all-out conflict which it doesn't seem that that is something this country wants to do?
MUDD: I think the answer is yes. Look the Israelis bombed an Iraqi reactor three decades ago. Iran has one of the most advanced engineering and scientific communities around. They watched what happened in Iraq and they said let's bury (ph) and disperse our program. If we think we can eliminate this with military strikes, I think we're wrong. I think this is -- I think the program is going to continue to step forward.
BLITZER: Horse it out of the barn. All right, well thanks very much to both of you. Appreciate it.
Still OUTFRONT did the president back down -- we're not talking about Iran -- something else -- or was he just misunderstood? And Victor Boot (ph), the merchant of death sentenced for his crimes and it was a shocking sentence from the judge today. A woman who spent more than a decade tracking him across Africa comes OUTFRONT. And Deepak Chopra (ph) tells us how to be healthier and happier.
BURNETT: So another embarrassment tonight for the government. We're talking about the GSA, it's the General Services Administration. That's the agency actually charged with minimizing costs for the government. So the head of the GSA resigned this week, you may recall, because of some details which came to light about a lavish conference held in Las Vegas that featured a clown, the mind readers, some trust games. Now a Web video has surfaced which shows another GSA employee joking about excessive government spending. Dana Bash has been covering this for us, and what's in this video.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You have to see it to believe it, Erin. It is absolutely stunning. It turns out at that conference you just talked about, which cost taxpayers $822,000, it wasn't just the clown and the mind reader that embarrasses the administration. The GSA held a video contest for the event, kind of a talent show and an employee from the regional office in Hawaii won. Take a look at his video and listen for him making fun of excess spending and saying he would never be under investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, SINGING: ATF can't judge (INAUDIBLE). I'd buy everything your field office can't afford. (INAUDIBLE) Donate my vacation. (INAUDIBLE) I'll never be under (INAUDIBLE) investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, the other thing you heard in that rap was him saying that every GS-5 would get a top hat award. Well a GS-5 is an entry level government employee, and the top hat award, we've learned today, is something that the GSA gave out to employees. It was an award worth $200,000 and it was taxpayer-funded, iPods and electronics and gift cards. Meanwhile the GSA they just didn't have those videos come in. They actually held an awards ceremony at that conference for the video, and what you're about to see is the deputy commissioner of Public Building Service, a federal employee, a top one, giving out the award. And listen to the way he mocks oversight, or appears to, of the GSA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) now, there are just a couple of small matters. The hotel would like to talk to you about paying for the party that was held in the commissioner's suite last night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to take care of that, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, our chairwoman on the Oversight Committee, called. She has a couple of questions about the proposed pay increases for executives you mentioned outside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) going against the Obama administration's discussion about executive pay and incentives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now we got this video from Capitol Hill today, and I'm told that the House Oversight chairman, Darrell Issa's office got this on a disk from the GSA inspector general as part of the congressional investigation of all this excess spending. Now I also just obtained, Erin, a letter that Issa sent to the inspector general just yesterday saying that guess what, it turns out the GSA administrator was briefed on all of this in May of last year. That's right, 11 months ago, and they sat on it.
BURNETT: Wow. I mean at least the kid doing the rap looks like he could be successful in another industry. Everybody else seems a little -- all right. Thank you very much.
OK, the Department of Justice has responded to a highly unusual demand from a federal judge in Texas. This is pretty neat -- supposed to acknowledge in writing, the court's power to overturn laws believes are (ph) constitutional. Now why would it have to do this? Well because President Obama weighed in on the Supreme Court hearing over his health care law on Monday saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a Democratically-elected Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: That's when you say, gosh, I wish I'd stuck with the prompter. Some critics interpreted that statement as a challenge to the authority of the court system, but asked today if the president misspoke, the White House press secretary said President Obama was only misunderstood because as a law professor, he was speaking in shorthand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The premise of your question suggests that the president of the United States, in the comments he made Monday, did not believe that the Supreme Court could rule on the constitutionality of legislation, which is a preposterous premise (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right, our political panel joins me now. John Avlon, Michael Waldman former speechwriter for President Clinton with me in New York, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez in Washington. Michael, as you said, these are the moments we live for in our industry. (INAUDIBLE)
MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE, NYI: I think he was talking in shorthand, but what he was saying broadly was that it's very unusual, really extraordinary, for an economic regulatory measure like this to be struck down by the Supreme Court. Believe it or not, there is actually a famous footnote -- I said I was going to get this footnote on national television, that says we want the judges to be really vigilant about protecting individual rights, but when it comes to economic policy, something like regulating health care, we want them to defer to Congress to the give-and-take of the political process, and I think that's what the president was saying. And it's a big issue and I'm actually glad he did it.
BURNETT: Right. Well the context there that you provided does make it seem a little bit different, John, than what he actually seemed to say. The footnote means a lot. It's true.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely, but I mean I think the larger debate really shows how much in Washington that where you stand is a matter of where you sit. Normally it's conservatives who are railing against judicial activism who are saying the court should have excessive deference to the legislature and in favor of a strong executive when they're in the White House and now the roles are reversed. It just shows how much of this has become political and situational ethics.
BURNETT: It's true and almost, I guess, Michael, maybe he just shouldn't have said anything at all. I know it's his law, but just stay out of it --
WALDMAN: It's a tough --
BURNETT: -- because you are the executive branch. WALDMAN: He's the executive branch and they're deliberating on the one hand. On the other hand, it's a big issue and it will -- the next president may appoint a bunch of these justices. But it is really true. John is right. It is rich to hear the conservative politicians bemoaning this when for decades they've been attacking the Supreme Court, attacking Roe v. Wade worrying about judicial --
BURNETT: They've been saying activism --
BURNETT: Activism is in the eye of the beholder. Leslie, I wanted to ask you about something that came out of this though. Department of Justice had to submit this letter to Texas court. They requested three-page, single spaced -- I mean do kids even know what that is anymore? We all probably don't, but -- OK -- by noon that made reference to what the administration thought. Could courts overrule laws? And they got it and they got it in time. And here's a quote from the letter.
"The power of the courts to review the constitutionality of legislation is beyond dispute." And then referencing the president's comments you just heard. "The president's remarks were fully consistent with the principles described herein."
Leslie, this is an unusual thing to request a letter like this. Is it -- is it out of line?
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think so. I think if they felt -- if the Department of Justice felt it was out of line it would have asked for some sort of relief from a higher court and clearly it didn't. It proved that it was something that deserved merit and they responded. Justice did not ask them to, you know write it 100 times in cursive on the chalk board, but they certainly asked them to the important point of precedence. You know very much I have to just make a point and just agree with my -- your two intelligent colleagues that you have with you.
SANCHEZ: No, what I'm -- what I'm saying is that this -- the president clearly misspoke, with all due respect, to where the debates (INAUDIBLE) out. It's become a very dangerous debate in the sense that it's tried to intimidate, it sounded as if the president was trying to intimidate the Supreme Court. We can look at a long line through history of presidents that have tried to politicize a very revered institution. We have co-equal government and branches of the government and there -- I think there is a very dangerous precedence being set there and the Supreme Court, as we know, has overturned cases 165 times. That is not unusual to indicate (INAUDIBLE) like the president did, so there's a lot more of a political battle brewing here than there is a judicial one.
WALDMAN: But it really is very unusual for them to take something that is a signature regulatory economic law of a president and strike it down if they do it because they basically don't like it. And so actually, for that reason, I actually think they will uphold it. It's up to the opponents of the law to prove that it's unconstitutional. Look President Obama is making these remarks in a vacuum.
This is the same Supreme Court that gave us Citizens United, which he believes and I believe was a very, very intrusive decision struck down decades of laws and gave us the rise of the Super PACs and a lot of other things. And you really have almost a structural conflict between the kind of conservative justices on the court and for the first time in decades they're facing a more liberal -- at least for a time a more liberal politically elected branches. There's always going to be these kinds of fights.
SANCHEZ: Erin, I think the truth is the president is anticipating a political defeat on his major piece of landmark legislation being Obamacare. And as that he's laying a political groundwork putting the courts, you know, very much in the position of being the bad guy in this kind of tactic for a fall campaign. That's the part that people are most concerned about.
BURNETT: Final word John.
AVLON: Look I think that there is battle lines drawn around the Supreme Court. It's going to be a general election issue for both sides. For the first time people are going to take the power of a president to appoint a Supreme Court justice very seriously beyond abortion. That's significant --
BURNETT: That's incredible in and of itself. That might be a good thing too. I mean people realizing how important this court is --
AVLON: It absolutely is --
AVLON: But I mean you know his comments -- President Obama's comments were nothing compared to threats of the past like FDR trying to pack the court. I mean so this is relatively mild --
BURNETT: Court packing.
AVLON: That's a serious judicial you know brush-back pitch with serious constitutional implications --
BURNETT: All right. Thank all three of you. Appreciate it.
Well there's been a surprising sentence for some shocking crimes involving terrorism. Late today, a federal judge gave the man known as the "Merchant of Death" 25 years behind bars. Now that was the minimum. All right, he could have gotten life. Viktor Bout is the man I'm talking about. He made a name for himself as one of the world's most notorious arms dealers fueling violent conflicts around the world, selling well in just some cases 10 million rounds of ammunition, surface-to-air missiles, sniper rifles. Nicolas Cage obviously played him in 2005; he was the inspiration for the movie "Lord of War".
The Russian is 45 years old, was convicted of conspiracy to kill American citizens, delivering anti-aircraft missiles and providing aid to a terrorist organization. Kathi Lynn Austin spent two decades investigating the arms trade, 15 years alone tracking Bout. She was in the court today for his sentencing and I know we've had a chance to talk as you were getting ready for this case. What do you think about this sentence, 25 years, the minimum?
KATHI LYNN AUSTIN, EXEC. DIR., CONFLICT AWARENESS PROJECT: Erin, I'm both shocked and disappointed. I cannot believe the verdict. I think the prosecution went into this case thinking it was a slam-dunk. There are a number of us investigators who wanted to bring forth evidence of his past crimes, and the judge said, look, you just didn't present to me enough facts to show that this was a violent individual, that he had a lot of bloodshed on his hands, and so she gave the minimum sentence.
BURNETT: I'm also curious to your thought, Kathi Lynn, on the money here. Prosecution asked the judge to sign and order -- to force Bout to forfeit $20 million. All right that may sound like a lot of money to everybody watching, but apparently he has $6 billion and assets in net worth because of the arms deals he's done over the year, so what's going to happen to that money?
AUSTIN: Well first of all, the judge decided she would only fine him $400 and then the forfeiture would only be 15 million, so again, the prosecution failed to make a strong case where, at the minimum, $20 million would be forfeited. The biggest concern here now is, as you're mentioning that money goes right into U.S. government coffers. None of that money as far as we know right now will be repatriated back to any of the victims of the crimes for which Viktor Bout is responsible, or to build, rebuilding the communities and the war crimes where his weapons have fueled massive devastation.
BURNETT: Kathi Lynn, I know you obviously spent more than a decade tracking Viktor Bout, but you're tracking other arms dealers. I'm curious right now are there Americans, American arms dealers who are doing things in places like Syria, right now?
AUSTIN: Well we're really concerned about the intermediaries. These are the arms brokers, the financial agents, the transporters who are bringing weapons into Syria. We've seen recently from the Libya situation where we now have a coup in Mali where weapons were dragged 1,000 miles across the desert to support that particular conflict. There are these intermediaries where it just seems like they're evading justice. They are the ones we should be going after, and like, again, we saw today with the Viktor Bout trial, they just keep getting off lightly.
BURNETT: Well Kathi Lynn, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. And Kathi Lynn continuing to do the task of finding these people around the world.
Still OUTFRONT the latest developments in the Trayvon Martin case. We have an expert who listened again to that tape to find out what word George Zimmerman really used to describe Trayvon Martin in that 911-call and we have -- actually a rather surprising take away of what that word was and Russia adds a new ray gun to its arsenal. We'll tell you about it.
BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our own reporting, do the work and find the "OutFront 5".
First, the Masters began today without any sign of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty in a green jacket. IBM is one of the three sponsors of the Golf Tournament. The past four CEOs of IBM have all been given memberships and green jackets to Augusta National Golf Club. The club though only has male members and we're told they have never invited a woman to join.
Today the White House said President Obama's personal opinion is that women should be admitted to the club. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney took to Twitter and also said he believes women should be given memberships. Newt Gingrich said he thought his wife should be a member. We're hoping Ginni Rometty will break her silence. She's the boss of a huge sponsor for the Masters. She got her job the hard way and history has handed her a big moment.
Number two: rebels in northern Mali have called for a cease-fire after capturing several cities. The Tuareg say they have accomplished their mission and have put down their guns. But the military leaders of the coup called off today's national meeting with politicians to talk about the future. Neighboring countries have closed their borders with Mali, hit the country with crippling sanctions.
Amnesty International warned Mali is on the brink of a major humanitarian disaster. The human rights group called for aid agencies to get immediate access to the country.
Number three: hacking group anonymous is taking credit for defacing Web sites belonging to Chinese government. We have confirmed at least 428 sites have been defaced, with the message urging people to protest and revolt against the Chinese government. Anonymous says it's in response to Chinese Internet restrictions.
The government has blocked some Web sites spreading rumors of a coup in China. They emerged after the mysterious death of a British businessman, followed by the disappearance of a major Chinese leader Bo Xilai, a former communist party star.
Number four: initial jobless claims dropping by 6,000 to 357,000. This is a crucial jobs indicator. If you look at the one-month moving average, it also dropped. Economists say this is a strong sign that we're going to keep seeing job growth in this country. Tomorrow is a big day. The Labor Department will put out those March job numbers. We polled some economists. They predict 200,000 jobs will be added and the unemployment rate will go down to 8.2 percent.
It's been 245 days, though, since America lost its credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?
Well, today, the president signed the Jobs Act, which will make it easier to invest in Startup businesses. It was bipartisan. Eric Cantor was a part of it. Everybody agreed.
I mean, this is incredible. If we keep getting more things like that, we're going to get our AAA back, because the reason we got downgraded was because they wouldn't get anything done. That's good news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: No justice, no peace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Race had nothing to do with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're asking for justice, justice, justice!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, did George Zimmerman utter a racial slur moments before he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin?
Forensic voice expert Tom Owen says no. You saw him in our program the other night. He's now listened to this and he used a computer to analyze Zimmerman's voice on the 911 call. That's the call where many people said he used a derogatory word to refer to Martin.
After separating Zimmerman's voice from the interference, Owen says he came to the conclusion that the word Zimmerman used is punks.
We put it on the loop to give you a sense of what it sounds like.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: These (EXPLETIVE DELETED) punks.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Martin's family says the volunteer neighborhood watchman racially profiled their son. Zimmerman says he acted in self-defense. No charges have been filed.
Martin Savidge is in Sanford, Florida, for us tonight and he has the latest.
And, Martin, I know the tape is still difficult to understand, but you hear the unk or something like as opposed to the oo (ph) which would have gone along with the other word that some people thought George Zimmerman used on that call.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And you've actually picked up on what was the key part, the reasoning that Tom Owen said that he came to the deduction that it was punks.
He was listening for the oo sound that was never there. And in fact, when he enhanced, when he slowed it down, and he was able to take out the distortion that he said was in there that actually gave people that misimpression, you get more of the un sound or punks. And he also passed that by a number of linguists and they verified what he thought.
BURNETT: It's pretty amazing. And this is same voice expert that earlier this week actually said it wasn't George Zimmerman calling for help on that 911 call. So, certainly, it doesn't appear that he has any dog in that fight.
Why is this word choice so important to determine if this is a racial slur?
SAVIDGE: Well, I mean, you're right, first, on what he just said. And it's the fact that he came out with something earlier in the week, what appeared to be damaging to George Zimmerman. Now, he's come out with something that could appear to bolster his defense.
It's significant here, because, of course, if there was no racial slur, it probably will have a significant impact on any federal investigation, especially one that may be pertaining to violation of Trayvon Martin's civil rights, hate crimes, because, in other words, if George Zimmerman, many people have felt because of the racial slur they thought they heard that he was actively going after Trayvon Martin for more reasons than just because he was the neighborhood watch captain.
So, remove that, you take away some of the inflammatory language and you may also remove a large part of the federal case.
BURNETT: All right. Some crucial analysis there. Martin Savidge, thank you.
And investigators are continuing to look into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
We have a task force meeting right now in Ft. Lauderdale that's trying to evaluate this controversial law which is the law that prevented police from arresting George Zimmerman. Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law says you have the right to kill if you feel you're being threatened, and it doesn't seem to matter who is initial aggressor which is fascinating.
Senator Chris Smith says the law is flawed because it does protect people when they are the aggressor.
Remember this call that Zimmerman made to 911.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) OPERATOR: Are you following him?
OPERATOR: OK, we don't need you to do that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Many believe Zimmerman instigated the situation. As a result of that, he said, he was told not to follow him. He shouldn't be protected under the law.
It's important to note that his attorneys have told us that they're using self-defense, not "Stand Your Ground" as defense.
Justifiable homicides, though, have tripled in Florida since that state passed the "Stand Your Ground" law in 2005.
Senator Smith is doing something about it. He's OUTFRONT.
And, Senator, I know earlier this week you and I talked. You were talking about this commission you're putting together to evaluate. What's happened?
CHRIS SMITH, FLORIDA STATE SENATE: Well, we met today and we're still meeting behind me. The state attorneys, public defenders, law professors and criminal defense lawyers and former prosecutors and actually former judges, we're going through the statute line by line and trying to really discuss the statute and seeing where the ambiguity and where the problems are, and to come up with some actions to try to push the governor, as well the legislature that maybe we need to clean up this statute and give people proper direction of what we consider the right and responsibility of Floridians.
BURNETT: And I'm just talking about this aggressor issue which you gave such an incredible example of on this show the other day? Could you -- would you consider keeping a "Stand Your Ground" law but be very clear to change the -- if you were the aggressor, you can't use it in your own defense?
SMITH: And that's exactly the point. We're meeting and we've been discussing, a few people had mentioned to get rid of the law, but the discussion has been amending the law, especially with this aggressor part, that for someone to start the altercation or starting the fight, and then using this as a shield for prosecution, we're looking at ways of more clearly defining that, because I don't think we believe that in a civilized society.
BURNETT: And so, are you -- I mean, obviously, it's early, but does it seem you're going to try to push the government to repeal the law or just to modify it?
SMITH: We're looking to modify the law. I think the law is being misused, but it is, the premise of it is something the Floridians believe in. But it's being misused and misapplied. So, I think we need to clarify the law more and especially send a signal out to people that this is not what we expect the Floridians. We do not expect to be the aggressor. We do not expect you to start the fight and then avail yourself of this law and hide from prosecution.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Smith, thank you, and good to talk to you again, sir.
Well, there is a sequel to viral hit "Kony 2012" video. It has just come out and we have first look for you.
Plus, Deepak Chopra comes OUTFRONT. That's next.
BURNETT: We're back with our "Outer Circle" -- where we reach out to sources around the world.
And tonight, we begin in Greece where continued clashes over the devastating financial crisis turn to mourning. An elderly man took his own life in central Athens. His suicide a reaction to the debt crisis weighing on individual lives.
Monita Rajpal is covering the story for us from London.
Monita, I'm curious as to whether this suicide which we've heard so much about, whether it's an isolated incident or more widespread?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONITA RAJPAL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Erin, according to the Greek health ministry, the number of suicides and attempted suicides had soared after a government reduced stiff austerity measures as a response to the country's staggering debt. Seventy-seven-year-old Dimitris Christoulas shot himself at the height of rush hour outside parliament building in Athens on Wednesday.
In a suicide night, the retired pharmacist said the reforms made it impossible for him to live with dignity and that he could not face a future, in his words, rifling through garbage cans for food.
Now, Greeks paid tribute to Christoulas on Thursday. One left a note on the spot where Christoulas has died saying, this is not suicide, this is murder -- accusing the government for not taking care of its own people -- Erin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Thank you, Anita.
And now to South Africa where after an editing delay and a bizarre semi-release featuring a video that would not actually play, part two of the most successful video of all time, "Kony 2012," is now out and it's going viral.
Errol Barnett is in Johannesburg, reporting on the new video. And, Errol, how has it been received so far?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, reaction to the Kony 2012 sequel has been generally positive, except in the page of this document released Thursday. It is purportedly from the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony's LRA. It has their insignia, but CNN cannot independently verify its authenticity.
However, the group calls the campaign a facade and they say Invisible Children are simply a front for the U.S. government to extend its influence in Central Africa.
This response video, so to speak, addresses those concerns. They show on the ground how money is being used in Uganda and neighboring countries as well.
And Luis Moreno Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, appears in the video saying thanks in part to what Invisible Children is doing, it's more likely that Joseph Kony could be captured.
Erin, back to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Thank you.
And now, let's check in with Wolf Blitzer. He's in for Anderson.
And what's coming up on "A.C. 360" tonight, Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Erin.
We're keeping them honest. Ahead on "360", new developments and seemingly contradictory claims in the investigation of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Now, what exactly did George Zimmerman say in those 911 calls the night Trayvon Martin was shot? Some think they heard a racial slur, others are harmless comment of the weather.
Today, a third interpretation is coming in. We'll play all of them for you, and let you decide.
Also, "360's" groundbreaking study, "Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture," tonight -- interracial dating. The study exposed the generational divide between teens and parents. Anderson and Soledad O'Brien sat down with parents of kids who had some provocative things to say when it comes to interracial dating.
It's all ahead at the top of the hour -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Talk to you soon, Wolf.
BURNETT: So just a couple moments ago, I was talking about the unemployment rate and telling you how it had signs of promise ahead of tomorrow's number for the actual unemployment rate.
But the question is, is it enough? Our economy has been in a terrible position and the jobs increases we've seen has just been not great. They have also not lead to bigger paychecks. Income in February grew two-tenths of 1 percent, not even close to what happened to gas prices. Same thing in January. More than 12 million Americans are still looking for a job, 5 million out of work for 27 weeks or more.
Unemployment is having long-lasting effect on Americans' psychological health. More Americans take anti-depressants than go to the movies every week. Thirty million people, double what it was 15 years ago.
Tonight's "IDEA" guest, Deepak Chopra, has made a career out of helping people. He's known about as a poet prophet of alternative medicine around the world. He's written more than 60 books, including his latest, "Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life's Greatest Challenges".
And tonight, he's OUTFRONT to share his idea for making America confident again.
DEEPAK CHOPRA, AUTHOR, "SPIRITUAL SOLUTIONS": All the creativity comes from here. Where did Yahoo start from, Google start from, Apple from --
CHOPRA: -- Facebook, Twitter, all the social networks, Apple, iPhones, iPads? So it's on here still.
What happened is we created a false economy by creating these derivatives and which were not based on value or service or product, and we kind of bamboozled the country into spending money that they hadn't earned, to buy things that they didn't need, to impress people that they didn't like. And now, we have a crisis.
So I think once we recognize the creativity and the innovation, this is the level of innovation. Once we realize that hasn't changed, our ability to produce and create, innovate has not changed. So, this is a psychological crisis.
BURNETT: What do you say to people out there? I mean, the numbers are still stunning when you look at people who -- in this country who -- not just that don't have jobs, but that haven't had jobs in a long time, had part-time jobs, had full-time jobs. What can those individuals do?
I mean, you talk so much about meditation and spirituality -- yes?
CHOPRA: This is -- for an individual, I would say right this moment, there are certain questions you should be asking yourself. Is there an opportunity for me in this crisis? Ask the question, even if you don't have the answer -- because if you kind of reflect on that question, you may certainly have an insight what that opportunities.
BURNETT: And you're thinking optimistically about opportunities --
CHOPRA: Yes, because that's what the blame set point. Some people see problems, some people see opportunities given the same problems.
Secondly, connect. This is the time for you to cultivate relationships, especially with people who share the same interests, the same talents, the same abilities.
Thirdly, put it out there. There is no telling who is looking for work. Join something like LinkedIn. There are so many things people can do and I know these people who are actually right now using the crisis to make a better life for themselves, and also figuring out what their priorities are, you know -- their families, their relationships.
BURNETT: And do we need to think about that differently, priorities? You think about so many people in the world have nothing. Live on less than $2 a day. In the United States, it's not just during a crisis, but it's a very consumer-driven society in so many ways.
CHOPRA: That's right.
BURNETT: And we have so much in this country, so many things.
CHOPRA: Yes. It's such an ugly word to describe a human being consumer. You know, here we are as human beings with insight, intuition, creativity, inspiration, imagination, choice, and we call ourselves consumers. It makes me shudder just to think of how we describe a human being.
This is a time for everyone to ask themselves: how can I be happy? How can I cultivate relationships? What's the meaning and purpose of existence?
BURNETT: Well, Deepak makes consumer -- the word consumer seemed bad. And it really maybe. But next, why Americans are consuming something that could be saving our economy.
And Vladimir Putin building a zombie ray gun. We're going to tell you why and how it works. It's like a burning fire and a prick in your arm. That's next.
BURNETT: Gas prices are up 20 percent this year, and that's a painful thing. It's been hurting Americans. According to the AAA fuel gauge report, prices were up 5 percent in March alone. The current cost for a regular gasoline, $3.94.
And considering that the American economy is about 75 percent powered by consumer spending, there is a lot of fear that gas prices will send the economy back into recession, because Americans don't have money to spend on discretionary things.
It's a nice number, 7.3. That's the percentage gained in sales from Macy's and Target in March. Some retailers are even better. Gas Unlimited posted gains of 8 percent. Zumiez up 14.1. All of that trouncing the increase of gas prices.
Analysts credit the weather and new fashion trends. But, you know, whatever the reason is, Americans gave the recession and doom and gloom-sayers a piece of their mind. It's good thing, Deepak Chopra has us thinking optimistically. And now, we can see it in practice.
Well, still OUTFRONT, a Russian president wants a zombie ray gun. And, yes, I explained a little bit about how it will prick your skin. We're going to tell you how it works and what America has to fight back.
BURNETT: So, we saw this headline in London's "Daily Mail". Putin target foes with zombie gun which attacks victim's central nervous system. So, according to the piece, Russia is developing a gun that uses radiation to boil internal organs, control their behavior and drive victims to suicide. So, it's got a mind control aspect to it.
The Russian military plans to use the gun against its enemies, and according to the report, against Russian dissidents. Now, there is even a quote from Vladimir Putin comparing the effect of the gun to a nuclear weapon, but, quote, "It's more acceptable in the terms of political and military ideology."
All right. This is -- this is messed up. The media picked up a story as more example of Vladimir Putin's relentless quest for power. We were suspicious, though, of a story of a zombie ray gun published just a few hours before April Fools Day.
We tracked down the writer behind the original story. He was at home with the flu, but he answered the question of whether this is true. He said it is. According to Christopher Lee (ph), the Russians are developing this weapon and even though it's still years away, it's a good indication of where Putin's headed, because if the Russians do have zombie technology and it confirms a lot of things we've heard about Putin -- some of them funny, and some of them not.
But it's also a reminder, right, of how civilized America is. But there's a problem, we already have a gun like that, our own radiation ray gun. It's called the active denial system or pain ray. It's a directive energy weapon developed by the American military for security and crowd control. It is the ability to penetrate under the skin, hitting you like a needle and then raising your body temperature like opening a microwave oven. Unlike the Russian gun, it can't actually control your mind.
So, basically, the Russians are trying to make a better zombie ray than the one the United States has. The Cold War is over, but the one-upmanship of toys continues. The only problem is, if you actually ever imagine these things being used, as opposed to kind of thinking about it life some kind of comic strip, it makes you really sick to your stomach.
Thanks so much for watching.
"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.