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Day 3 of Israel vs Hamas; Obama in Asia

Aired November 17, 2012 - 16:00   ET


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's the top of the hour, you're in the "CNN Newsroom," I'm Gary Tuchman, in today for Fredricka Whitfield.

We start in the Middle East where an Israeli air strike has blown up the Palestinian cabinet building in Gaza City. The bombing is one of several Hamas targets hit by Israel on its third day of the crisis in the region. Take a look, the video we're about to show you. This is from the Israel Defense Forces, that follows the track of one of its navy missiles. And it hits what they say is a Hamas building.

Media in Gaza say, so far today, 13 Palestinians have died. No reports of deaths in Israel today. But a Hamas rocket aimed at Tel Aviv was intercepted. For a second time, air raids siren sounded in Israel's largest city.

World leaders calling for both sides to stop, fearing a repeat of the 2008 war that left 1,400 people dead, most of them were Palestinian. Israel says it is mobilizing as many as 30,000 troops right now. Another 75,000 reservists have been put on standby.

Since the assassination of the Hamas leader Wednesday, Palestinian official say 44 people have been killed in Gaza, another 440 were wounded in the air strikes coming out of Israel.

CNN's Sara Sidner is live right now in Gaza City. Sara, it seems like Gaza has just gotten pounded again, has tonight been the worst of what you have seen so far?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It hasn't just yet. But it is very hard to tell, because usually the really strong blast and the pounding from both the sea and the sky come around 4:00 or 5:00 or 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning. Usually, there are several hours there, in the wee hours of the morning where you really start noticing a barrage of air strikes and blasts. We know that there are also rockets going from here. Because usually when you wake up and you look in the sky and once it's light, you can see the sky criss- cross with the smoke from rockets that have been leveled at Israel from here in Gaza, but this has been a night, it's very similar to what we've seen over the past several days when we arrived here. And that is the sound of drones in the air, which have been more constant today than we heard before and the sound of air strikes and rockets as well.

It has been quite busy, we know that there have been several places that have been hit, several buildings destroyed. We understand now from sources that there are three homes that have been hit. Those homes may have been the homes of militants that were being targeted by Israel. But we know also that civilians have also suffered injuries and deaths here in Gaza today, Gary?

TUCHMAN: Sara, the Arab League just held an emergency meeting in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. What happened? And why is the meeting significant?

SIDNER: The meeting is significant because we're talking about a lot of countries that are very nearby. And Egypt, in particular, where they're having this meeting has been the mediator between Israel and Gaza in times past. We know that there have been real difficulties with the mediation, because there was an incident when the rockets were raining down on Israel and Israel responded with air strikes that there was a reaction from the Egyptians that they decided, they will take their ambassador out of Israel. Not a good sign for mediation there.

But we do understand that there is some effort to try and start a mediation on a potential cease-fire. Though we're now hearing from Israel officials that they are not involved in any mediation. So there are conflicting sort of reports about whether or not a mediation is happening. Oftentimes, all of this stuff happens behind scenes trying to stop what is looking like it's going to be a full-scale war with tens of thousands of troops on the border, waiting to see if a ground war is necessary, Gary?

TUCHMAN: Sara, you have done great courageous work. Thank you for joining us. Sara Sidner reporting from Gaza.

Well, President Obama makes history this weekend with a three-nation tour of Asia. The president is on his way to Thailand right now, but it is the second leg of his tour that makes this trip very unusual and historic. He is visiting Myanmar, something no other U.S. president has ever done. The president wraps up the overseas trip in the nation, Cambodia. He will attend the East Asia summit before returning to Washington on Wednesday.

January 1st, won't only be New Year's day, it could be the day that America falls off the fiscal cliff if Congress and the president can't reach a deal on taxes and spending.

CNN's Tori Dunman looks at how seniors can be affected at the $7 trillion doomsday comes.


JOY STROMBERG, SENIOR CITIZEN: I fear that now we'll live until at least 100.

TORI DUNMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like many retired couples, 87-year-old Bob Stromberg and his 86-year-old wife, Joy, like a good debate.

BOB STROMBERG, SENIOR CITIZEN: She is more optimistic than I am. I think another five years.

DUNMAN: There's one debate they're keeping closer tabs on than others.

JOY STROMBERG: I am scared. I'm just hoping for the best.

DUNMAN: The lawmakers are going back and forth on how to avert the fiscal cliff. A series of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect January 1st unless Congress acts.

JOY STROMBERG: I'm really worried about it. If they do this, as far as Medicare I'm talking about, I don't know exactly what we would do. I mean, I've had cancer four times.

DUNMAN: So with the fiscal cliff comes cutbacks to Medicare.

GARY BURTLESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: If they don't reach any agreement, seniors could be affected if they are receiving Medicare and if their doctors become less willing to accept Medicare as insurance, in view of the fact that the reimbursement that Medicare is providing is going to be less generous.

DUNMAN: But a deal to avert the crisis could also create problems for seniors. Reforms through entitlement programs could be used as a trade-off for revenue increases. That means changes to social security, Medicare and Medicaid could be on the table.

BURTLESS: If they're more ambitious and they try to resolve the funding problems of the federal government over a longer span of time that is when I think senior citizens have more to worry about, because then it becomes more inevitable through programs helping aged people through health insurance benefits and government pension benefits, are going to be scaled back.

BOB STROMBERG: I really thought that the entitlements were here to stay. I thought they were a firm fixture of government.

DUNMAN: On Friday, congressional leaders and the president displayed optimism.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I feel confident that a solution may be in sight.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: We're prepared to put revenue on the table, provided we fix the real problem.

DUNMAN: But the Stromberg says they will take the wait and see approach.

BOB STROMBERG: Who knows what is going to come out just because they're smiley doesn't mean that they're actually going to come to some sort of a compromise that would be OK with us.


DUNMAN: Because the future is unknown, the Strombergs say they're watching their budget closely, even canceling this year's vacation. Gary?

TUCHMAN: Tori, thank you very much. We'll certainly be watching to see what happens.

It is the end of an era in America, this time it is a favorite snack food many of us enjoy whether we admit it or not. The Twinkie, Hostess is closing down for good in just hours after the Twinkies declared the shutting of the company, grocery stores nationwide began experiencing a run on Twinkies, a Twinkie run and the company's other iconic products.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I got zingers and cupcakes and Hohos and everything else that is left over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you stock up on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little bit of everything for the kids, some chocolate Twinkies, the scary cakes, mini muffins, cinnamon bread. That kind of stuff.


TUCHMAN: It is a Twinkie run. Twinkies merchandise also hot on eBay. A lunch box featuring Twinkie the kid started off at $14.99 last week, and yesterday somebody bid $690 for it after word the company was closing down.

A lot of questions, in a veterans parade tragedy in midland Texas. It is a community with a rich patriotic history. And that makes this loss all the more tragic.


TUCHMAN: It is a New Year's celebration that draws thousands to a tiny North Carolina town. The lowering of the possum. But it is all changing this year, a fascinating legal case, right, Avery?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, the animal rights group, PETA, playing possum? I don't think so. We got the answers for you and more, coming up.

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, PETA says don't drop the possum, it agitates the possum. But you can go get a gun and blow the possum up. Sounds wrong? Let's hear what happens.

TUCHMAN: Our legal guys will have much more on this very interesting case in 90 seconds.


TUCHMAN: There are a few people who start the New Year with the ball drop in Times Square. But there are also a few people who flock to a tiny town in North Carolina for the annual possum drop, that is right, possum, a real possum. This year's celebration may be a different since a judge is now nixing the 20-year tradition.

Let's bring in our legal guys, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor. He's in Cleveland, Ohio. And Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor joins us from Las Vegas, Nevada. Gentlemen, thank you very much. This is not the most serious story we have but it did go to court. That is why it is a legal story and we want to tell our viewers -

FRIEDMAN: Well, if you're a possum, it is.

TUCHMAN: If you have a possum, it is.

FRIEDMAN: And also if you're PETA, and we'll talk about that in a second. First of all, I tell you about the history. Clay Logan, the owner of the Logan Corner Store has hosted the annual possum drop and the annual New Year's eve tradition, is in the town of Brasstown, about 100 miles west of Asheville in western North Carolina. And it involves trapping the possum in a cage and lowering it at midnight. Brasstown calls itself the possum capital of the world.

Now the judges ruled that the state agency did not have the authority to issue a permit for the event and that Logan did not qualify to capture (INAUDIBLE) wild animal, possum, for amusement and he order the store to either release or kill the animal. That's the weird irony. So PETA sued, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Gentlemen, Avery, what do you think of this case. Yes, I mean it sounds funny, but there is a serious legal issue involved, right?

FRIEDMAN: Well, let me tell you something, I do animal rights case. I represented Timmy, the gorilla. I actually feel bad for the possum, I think the North Carolina Department of Wildlife made up a permit so that they could issue this to Mr. Logan. And I think the administrative law judge who wrote an 18-page opinion, among other things, Patrick Henry, was right. There is no such right or capture or hold a wild animal.

So at the end of the day no possum drop in Brasstown, North Carolina unless the state legislature changes the law, I don't think that is going to happen.

TUCHMAN: Avery, who is Timmy, the gorilla, by the way?

FRIEDMAN: Who is Timmy, the gorilla? Actually a very famous gorilla, now in - actually, he passed away this year, was in the Bronx Zoo. And they were concerned about whether or not he was procreating enough. That was the case in federal court and we were able to show he was not.

TUCHMAN: You go to law school to learn that kind of stuff? That's pretty amazing.

FRIEDMAN: I never dreamt I would be doing that, never dreamt.

TUCHMAN: Richard, what do you think about this? I mean, what's the difference? I mean, to take it seriously. What is the difference between a possum being lowered like that and a person going in a Ferris wheel and going in circles, what is the difference?

HERMAN: Gary, it's ridiculous, I mean the judge, Fred Morrison, Jr., said give me liberty or give me death. And that is basically what is at stake for this possum. Clay can go out and get a gun and kill the possum, that's OK. But he can't capture the possum, drop hi on New Year's and then release him. That is not OK. Isn't that ridiculous. As Paul Moony says, "Let's be real." Come on. Why can't he capture it, release it and it is the end of the story there? Because PETA says the fireworks, the large crowd agitate the possum, therefore, we cannot have this type of activity. It's ridiculous.

TUCHMAN: Just so you know, we have a New Year's special every year on CNN with Anderson Cooper. I'm going to be covering a very unique kind of drop. I'm going to keep it a secret where it is, what's being drop. But I will tell you, Avery and Richard, it is not a possum. It is not a live animal and I'll leave it there.

FRIEDMAN: All right. There you go.

TUCHMAN: Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.

And don't forget you can catch the legal guys every Saturday at noon and 4:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

There are a lot of questions today about how a freight train slammed into a parade float carrying wounded veterans and their families. Four army vets were killed. The horrifying accident happened Thursday afternoon in midland Texas, during the hunt for heroes event. The NTSB is investigating. Police say the last two floats in the parade were flat-bed trucks that were carrying vets and their spouses. The first one made it across the train tracks but the second did not and was hit by the train. The city of Midland said 26 people were on the train, some people were able to jump off right before the crash. The tragedy is hitting the town hard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My job - my job was taking care of soldiers. And I didn't get to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were blocks away from where they were supposed to be, the incident occurred. Minutes could have changed the outcome of this. And -just hard to deal with.


TUCHMAN: It is so terrible, the question now, how did this happen? Union Pacific says the crossing gates and warning lights were working, and the train crews sounded the horn before the crash. The NTSB wants to know how fast the train was going. It had a camera on board that could help the investigation.

They are a big part of New York City's heritage, we'll find out why Harlem's churches are an extremely popular stop for tourists.


TUCHMAN: When you think popular tourist stops, in New York City, you think Times Square, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty. But you can also add to that list Harlem churches. Here's my colleague, Jason Carroll, with this week's "Black in America."


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Gospel choir had parishioners on their feet, singing, hands raise, waving, an inspirational scene playing out at many black churches on any given Sunday. But this is Harlem, New York. Take a second look at the congregation and you will see the black church here changing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very inspiring, and I'll definitely come back. Yes, why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are no pictures, no video (INAUDIBLE) worship.

CARROLL: Tourists, many European, have been packing the pews of Harlem churches in increasing numbers. Michael Henry Adams specializes in Harlem's history.

MICHAEL HENRY ADAMS, AUTHOR, HISTORIAN: It is voyeurism to some degree but thought of it initially as something bad. But I say, I realized it is to be able to know each other better and to learn more about each other. So there's nothing bad in that.

CARROLL: So what's happening the pews is not just white tourism. It may be a reflection of something greater.

(on camera): Do you see the identity of Harlem changing or shifting?

REV. MICHAEL WALROND, JR., FIRST CORINTHIANS BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, I think demographically, you would have to see that there is a change. The Harlem of my youth when I would come to Harlem, it doesn't look the same.

CARROLL (voice-over): Statistics show Hispanics and whites out-pacing the number of blacks moving into Harlem.

WALROND: You can no longer make the assumption that all persons who are not African-American, who are white were tourists, just like anyone else. There were persons who live in the community, who came to the community and wanted to find a place to have a transformative encounter with god.

CARROLL: The changing face in Harlem, still being moved by the age- old gospel.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


TUCHMAN: Who is "Black in America?" Is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says, or is it something else? CNN's Soledad O'Brien examines provocative questions about skin color, discrimination and race. "Who is Black in America," the documentary, premiers Sunday, December 9, 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

A good will donation turns into a great opportunity for art lovers. Recognize these skillful strokes? Someone gave away this original piece from a master artist, Salvador Dali, and now it is up for auction.


TUCHMAN: You can get news any time you want on, and here are some stories trending on right now.

Victims of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre will soon get monetary compensation. Donors sent more than $5 million to a relief fund for families of the shooting victims.

ESPN has 73-year old NFL icon Mike Ditka is recovering from a stroke. Ditka, who coached the Chicago Bears, won the Super Bowl in January 1986, the Bears fans will never forget that. Now works as an analyst for ESPN. He says he is fine, and that it's not a big deal.

And an etching by surrealists master Salvador Dali, believe it or not, was discovered at a Goodwill location in Tacoma, Washington, this week. The signed artwork was dropped off by an unidentified donor and is now being auctioned off on the store's Web site, and those are some of the stories trending on

Understanding the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza means keeping in mind just how many people could be in harm's way. Our Josh Levs is here to show us more. Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Gary, before we go here I wanted to pull out and help us get a big picture look at the millions of people who are impacted by what we're seeing by this violence and who could be affected in various ways and we're going to do that by literally zooming on, taking a look of this map here. Let's start right here. You're taking a look here at Gaza and Israel, we're going to zoom in to Gaza. And what you're going to see here is that the area itself, Gaza, is only about twice the size of Washington, D.C. and in that area, the population is about 1.7 million people.

And so it is pretty dense in many areas. We're going to zoom in to one example, which is Gaza City. What you'll see when we go in there, you can tell from the aerial shots, it is a dense area and what Israel has been doing is targeting areas that it says have terrorist infrastructure, and they can be in various parts of Gaza. So you're looking at a lot of people throughout Gaza, very concerned about safety.

Now let's take a look at the Israel side of this equation, you got a population of 7.6 million people throughout Israel. And what we have heard, Israel, by the way, just about the size of New Jersey, again to put it in perspective. Now, what we've been hearing for a long time, Israeli officials have said more than a million people, including parts of southern Israel have lived with a daily threat of rocket attacks coming in from Gaza, and what they're talking about now is that these rockets are going farther and farther. We saw one get near Tel Aviv in this area called (INAUDIBLE), Israel saying millions of people can now be impacted and be affected and we put (INAUDIBLE) as an example of another city that is nearby that area because there are many dense populations in those areas as well that Hamas rockets can now apparently reach to.

Keep in mind, when we talk about this, also this is important, the West Bank is run by Fatah, whereas Gaza is operated by Hamas. One more thing, we've been hearing a lot of world leaders say they're concerned about spillover violence or the impact, the effect on the larger region. Let's take a look at this next video here. And what you're going to be seeing is a reminder of the countries that surround this. And really quickly, one of the most important right here is Egypt.

Egypt has been dealing with upheaval, as you know, also has got this new government in place and has been battling militants in Sinai, up near Gaza. You also got Jordan over here and Jordan in the recent days has had some clashes in which some protesters have said about the economy actually taking on the king which is extremely unusual. Finally, you got Lebanon, where there have been violence recently as well including one major official killed in a bombing, and some violence spilling over from Syria, which is up to the north, as you know, we have been covering the Syrian civil war.

So obviously, a volatile region and obviously a lot of people there concerned about safety. Gary.

TUCHMAN: Josh, I think a lot of people don't realize how small Israel is and how small Gaza is.

LEVS: Exactly. Two little dots. Look at that, right there in that big map.

TUCHMAN: Josh Levs, thank you very much.

LEVS: You got it.

TUCHMAN: That will do it for me, "CNN Newsroom" continues at the top of the hour with Don Lemon. And right now keep it here for "SANJAY GUPTA MD."