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Israeli Air Strikes Continue in Gaza; Talks Continue on Fiscal Cliff; David Petraeus Testifies on Capitol Hill; Obama's Historic Trip to Myanmar; Debate on Causes of Benghazi Situation; The Civilian Victims of Air Strikes; Forty-Five Days until the Fiscal Cliff; Affirmative Action Ban Struck Down; Deadly Dose; 100 Places to Eat Like a Local

Aired November 17, 2012 - 08:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. Victor Blackwell is on assignment.

It is 8:00 on the East Coast, 5:00 out West. Thanks so much for starting your day with us.

We start in the Middle East. This has become a fairly common sight in Gaza this week. Israeli planes have been carrying out air strikes over Gaza since Wednesday. Meanwhile militants on the other side have fired more than 200 rockets into Israel. Israel is massing troops near the border with Gaza. They have got 30,000 troops there now and have 75,000 reservists getting ready.

At least 42 people have died since the operation began. Meanwhile, world leaders, including representatives from the United States and the U.N. are calling on both sides to show restraint, but restraint seems to be in short order right now.

Our Sara Sidner is live in Gaza this morning with a bird's eye view of the conflict there.

Sara, are you seeing more air strikes right now?

SARA SIDNER, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and in just the past few minutes we could hear the loud blasts of air strikes all night long and into the morning until about 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning. It was just blast after blast after blast and we also could look into the sky and see rockets coming from here in Gaza City into Israel

. I want to show you a picture that our photographer Dan Morgan was able to take last night around 3:30 in the morning. He's pointing his camera towards what was the police headquarters, Hamas police headquarters when he saw this picture. It was a big blast and then a big ball of fire.

Now, I want to show you what's happened since then, the result of that air strike. I'm going to move out of the way here. We are about 11 stories up looking down on the main part of Gaza. You are hearing now some of the traffic. There's only been a few cars, but it's a bit loud up here. I want to let you see the result of that blast. You're seeing the smoldering rubble there from the air strike last night on the police headquarters.

We also know that another huge Hamas building has been hit today and can you see that building destroyed. Half of it is standing, half of it is collapsed. This has been a very scary day as you might imagine for civilians as well. We are not seeing almost anybody in the streets.

We were at the hospital overnight and we saw quite a few people coming in there. Again, the death toll now at 39 here and we're talking about more than 250 people who have been injured by all this.

KAYE: How are they actually preparing there for the possibility of Israeli troops coming in?

SIDNER: Well, because the militants and the government here, the Hamas government tries to keep some of their weapons really in secret and not really letting people get close to them, it's really hard to tell. You're really not seeing any action in the streets, so to speak, but you are seeing in the sky the result of rockets going over into Israel. You see that kind of telltale sign that a rocket has gone through the sky because you see the smoke from it.

What we do know is that civilians are scared. They are scared of the idea that they will see troops on the ground here. The last time that happened was in 2008 and 2009 during Israel's operation (INAUDIBLE). And during that operation, hundreds of people ended up dying here. Israel has been saying time and again that it is trying to do very targeted air strikes and we know that that is the case because we're listening to drones in the sky.

If you've ever seen these drones and what they can do, it's absolutely amazing how close of a picture they can get. They can see actually people in the street, walking and get details, for example, even a license plate, that's how good they are. But in some of these strikes, we know that civilians have been killed and injured. We also know that members of Hamas and its leadership have also been killed -- Randi.

KAYE: Sara Sidner in Gaza for us this morning. Sara, be safe. Thank you.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is on the southern Israeli side of the border with Gaza.

Fred, set the scene for us there if you will. You've been seeing Israeli troops massing there.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We've been seeing Israeli troops massing there. In fact, in the past I would say less than an hour ago, we had a big column of Israeli armored vehicles come right past our position. You can also sort of seeing in the border area, fairly close to us as well.

Also, what's going on is that we've seen an increased number of rocket attacks coming out of Gaza, rocket and possibly also mortar attacks. There was one particular barrage that actually went straight over our heads and was then intercepted about 300 meters over our heads by an interceptor system that the Israelis have which is called the iron dome. So that's been going on for the past 30 minutes or so, I would say.

We've been forced to take cover a couple of times. Again, the Israelis, we see more and more troops amassing here. We've seen a lot of tanks come into the area. We've seen a lot of armored personnel carriers and armored bulldozers collecting at collection points, of course, awaiting the order to go into Gaza if that is what the Israeli government decides -- Randi.

KAYE: So is there any sense, do you have any sense, is a ground invasion looking more likely?

PLEITGEN: It's a very good question. You know, I posed that question to a spokesperson for the defense minister and he said at this point in time he's not willing to comment on military options that are on the table and also not on military planning as well.

What the Israelis have been saying consistently is that the option of a ground invasion is on the table and that it is something that they are very much willing to do, if they feel that they are not achieving their objectives with these air strikes that they are conducting alone.

Of course, the objectives that the Israelis have set out is to silence the rockets coming out of Gaza and so far what we're seeing is a lot of rockets coming out of Gaza. Four in particular hit a town north of Gaza called (INAUDIBLE) Several people were injured there. A kindergarten was hit there as well and in return we're also seeing more Israeli air strikes.

How long that's going to go on and whether or not they are going to launch an operation is unclear, but it certainly seems that by the hour the Israelis are getting more ready to go into Gaza if they feel that they have to -- Randi.

KAYE: And the U.S. and other nations certainly have been urging both sides to show restraint. Are you getting the sense at all that it's escalating actually instead?

PLEITGEN: I would say from the view that we have down here that it's escalating though at a slower pace than it did at the beginning. As you'll remember this conflict began when the Israelis struck a senior Hamas military wing leader and since then you've had these air strikes. They have escalated, especially during the course of Friday.

Right now, it's sort of reached a level where it's pretty high intensity pretty much throughout the entire day. I wouldn't say that it's escalating a lot, but it's still escalating.

One of the other things, of course, a telltale sign of an escalation is more and more Israeli troops coming in here as well. One of the things that we can say is that there certainly isn't any de-escalation and certainly that neither of the two sides seem to be willing to take their foot off the gas at this point in time -- Randi.

KAYE: Frederik Pleitgen in southern Israel for us, Fred, thank you.

We want to show you some live pictures right now. President Obama, we told you, is departing for his first overseas trip since winning the election. These are some live pictures here from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. You can see Marine One there carrying the president, taxiing over towards Air Force One.

The president will be spending a few days in Asia. He'll be visiting Thailand. He'll be visiting Myanmar and then he will go on to Cambodia. On Tuesday he will be departing Cambodia and heading back to Washington. The president will also meet with leaders from Japan and China.

This will actually be a first for a U.S. president when speaking in terms of his visit to Myanmar which we said is also known as Burma, so there you have it. We'll see the president departing shortly here for his trip to Asia. We'll continue to watch these live pictures this morning for you.

Back in Washington, it seems a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff may happen before January. President Obama met yesterday with the four top leaders of Congress. Republicans John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: We had a very constructive meeting with the president to talk about America's fiscal problem.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We all know something has to be done.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It was good. I feel confident that a solution may be in sight.

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


KAYE: Tax hikes and spending cuts could go into effect simultaneously if no deal is reached on the fiscal cliff by the end of the year. Both sides have said they are willing to compromise. House Speaker Boehner says Republicans realize that neither side will get everything it wants.

Exactly one week after he abruptly resigned as head of the CIA, David Petraeus was back on Capitol Hill. He met yesterday behind closed doors to brief lawmakers on the September 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

According to lawmakers who were there, Petraeus now says the attack was an act of terrorism and not the result of a spontaneous anti- western demonstration as initially reported. Four Americans died in the Benghazi incident, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

We've got much more ahead this hour. Here's a look at what's coming up. Battling over Benghazi. Lawmakers are furious. The president is standing his ground and there is still no one in custody. All morning we're putting the conflict and the players in focus.

On the brink of war as fighting escalates between Israel and Hamas. Experts say there will likely be a lot more bloodshed before the violence stops.

And a Michigan law struck down. Why judges ruled a ban on affirmative action unconstitutional and how the state is prepared to fight all the way to the Supreme Court.


KAYE: And once again we want to show you here, there's the president getting ready for his trip to Asia, walking down the steps there of Marine One at Andrews air force base and he'll be getting ready here to climb up. It happened just moments ago to climb up Air Force One to take him on his trip. He'll be visiting Thailand, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma and Cambodia.

As you know, he's leaving right in the middle of a whole lot of chaos in the Middle East, where fighting is certainly escalating there in Gaza on the border there with Israel.

You also have the Benghazi situation, the hearings there happening in Washington, the situation of trying to figure out who knew what when and the whole debate over terrorists and talking points. So the president I'm sure will be keeping up to speed on exactly what's happening on those two situations.

We have reporters traveling with him, of course, and we will continue to keep you up to date as well. Now these are live pictures of Air Force One as the president gets ready to depart for Asia through Tuesday of next week.

The battle over Benghazi. We're putting it in focus this morning as lawmakers try to figure out what the Obama administration knew when. The administration came under fire in the immediate days after the attack for blaming it on that anti-Islam video. We've since learned that it was an act of terrorism, but what are the reasonable expectations of fast intel in a case like this?

Retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt joins me now from Washington.

We live in a society, General, where we're used to getting information instantly. Has Twitter, Facebook, and emails, on PDAs spoiled us to the point that when information, even on a national security issue is incomplete or delayed? I mean, there is an uproar.

BRIGADIER GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, there may be that expectation and I think the government needs to be very, very careful as we've seen in this incident of getting out in front of the story, getting out in front of the facts. There has to be some wisdom and maturity before you make pronouncements of national security importance before all the facts are known.

KAYE: But in terms of pressure, I mean, what kind of pressure is put on Washington for some quick answers?

KIMMITT: Well, there's a lot of pressure being put on by the press, but that's what we pay our government to do, take a deep breath, think your way through the issue, think about all the ramifications. Just because the press is clamoring for the story, doesn't mean you need to put out a story that's either incomplete or incorrect.

KAYE: And in terms of the immediate intel from the White House following September's U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi which we've been talking about, that was wrong and we know this now.

So why was there such a rush to get any information out as opposed to maybe waiting, finalizing that information or even for the full investigation instead of going with these unclassified talking points?

KIMMITT: Randi, I think you're asking the same question that many Americans are asking. Why was it necessary to put a story out that turned out to be untrue rather than simply saying, like you see at every crime scene when the police spokesman stands up, that says we don't know what happened. We're investigating the situation. As soon as the information is known, we'll let you know.

I've been a former spokesman before and I used -- had to use that line quite a bit of time because I wasn't certain of the facts and I think it's more important to the credibility of the spokesman and quite frankly the credibility of the organization that you represent, that you wait until you get the facts in a pretty convincing way before you go out and put it out to everybody.

KAYE: Yes. You think they should have said we don't know, it's that simple.

KIMMITT: Would we be having this discussion today if they had said that?

KAYE: No, certainly not all the hearings as well as a result of that. But the first e-mail announcing the attack in Benghazi came in at 4:05 p.m. Eastern time, about a half hour after that attack started, and the political spin really started just hours later.

So is it fair for the public and the media, do you think, to want answers in real time or as close to that as possible?

KIMMITT: Well, I would ask the question differently. Is it fair to four dead Americans that we were putting out a story to meet a deadline rather than soberly reflecting what happened on the ground before we make those pronouncements to the American people?

KAYE: Thank you so much, General Mark Kimmitt for your time, appreciate that.

KIMMITT: Thank you. KAYE: As many recover from super storm Sandy, some are also looking ahead to better prepare for the storms of the future. In this week's start small, think big, Gary Tuchman takes a look at a new vehicle designed to take over during natural disasters


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The flooded streets and destruction in the aftermath of Sandy left many people stranded and many streets in New York and New Jersey impassable. Natural disasters like this are the inspiration behind a new vehicle designed to handle it all.

JOHN GILJAM, AMPHIBIOUS RESPONDER DESIGNER: The amphibious responder is a purpose-built search and rescue vehicle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's meant to go in and just anywhere there's a storm, anywhere there's a flood.

TUCHMAN: The first responder vehicle has a unique mix of fire truck and boat.

GILJAM: This is designed to be able to go into the worst of the conditions, go right into when the hurricane is still putting out dangerous wind and debris.

TUCHMAN: John Giljam and his wife Julie make a living building and designing amphibious vehicles, but the first responder is a personal endeavor for John.

GILJAM: Years ago, I was a firefighter and there was always a need for being able to get to flood victims. I just have always wanted to be able to help people. I think this is a great way to do it

TUCHMAN: The government of Thailand is purchasing this vehicle for its own storm preparation after flooding in Bangkok last year. John hopes this vehicle can play a part the next time a storm like Sandy or Katrina hits.

GILJAM: We can go where nobody else can go. Give us a bunch of fuel, give them (INAUDIBLE) and turn them loose.



KAYE: Keeping up to date on the escalating violence between Hamas and Israel. CNN has the story covered. You're looking at Israeli and Hamas television networks here in the region. Our assignment editors are monitoring those feeds. We also have reporters covering all sides in Israel and Gaza and all along the border.

Dozens of people in Gaza have been killed by Israeli air strikes this week. The intent of the strikes is to target rocket-launching operations, but in crowded neighborhoods, innocent civilians are being caught in the crossfire. CNN's senior international correspondent Sara Sidner has more, but do I want to warn you, some of the images are disturbing.


SARA SIDNER, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A scene no parent should ever have to endure playing out in front of our camera at al Shife hospital. Four-year-old Mahmoud (INAUDIBLE) lies dead in the arms of a neighbor, a child of Gaza, another victim of an air strike.

We went to the neighborhood where he lived and met his aunt.

(on camera): Where were you when this happened?

HANAN SADALHA, AUNT: I was in the house over here. When I heard the boom I went running out. I went out screaming and hollering. It was a terrible scene, such a scary scene, she says.

SIDNER (voice-over): This is where little Mahmoud's family lives and to give you some idea of what this family went through and what he endured, all you have to do is look at the damage to the home. He was playing just downstairs when the bomb fell.

While there were plenty of Hamas flags flying in this neighborhood, five hours after the attack we saw no evidence here of military activity, though it was impossible to look in every building. We did find Mahmoud's father mourning his son.

RAED SADALHA, FATHER: He was very sweet. He was intelligent. I liked everything about Mahmoud, he said.

SIDNER: As he speaks, another plane flies overhead delivering another air strike. All right. We're having to leave this area now because there are air strikes. We can heart planes and we're also seeing rockets coming from a neighborhood just on the other side. From inside Gaza City, it was also possible to see the vapor trails of the rocket launched from inside Gaza towards Israel.

At the hospital Mahmoud quickly became a symbol of the war in Gaza when the visiting prime minister of Egypt and the Hamas prime minister touched the dead child.

HISHAM KANDIL, EGYPTIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I was here, and I saw the child who was martyred.

ISMAEL HANYEN, HAMAS LEADER (through translator): The blood is on both of our hands, ours and on the Egyptian hands.

SIDNER: We watched more children being brought into the hospital. The doctors say several have died, including a child burned to death.

AYMAN AL SAHABANI, AL SHIFE EMERGENCY DEPT. DIRECTOR: As a doctor, as a human, I am crying. I can't do anything for him because I know he's died now, you know and you can't imagine if it's your baby how you feel. Why (INAUDIBLE) Why? SIDNER: Influx of casualties, men, women and children, is overwhelming this hospital underlying how this war is not just between soldiers. Civilians on both sides of the border are enduring the grinding pain of loss.


KAYE: That was Sara Sidner reporting. Israeli civilians are also getting caught in the crossfire. Our Frederik Pleitgen reports that several rockets fired from Gaza caused injuries in southern Israel this morning. We'll take you live to that region next hour.

Four hundred bullets, two assault rifles and a ticket to "Twilight." Why police believe this man was planning another massacre just like the one in Aurora, Colorado.


KAYE: Bottom of the hour now. Welcome back everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. Victor Blackwell is on assignment. Thanks so much for starting your morning with us. Here are some stories that we are watching this morning.

Just a few moments ago President Obama departed for his first overseas trip since winning re-election. He'll spend three days in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia where he'll attend an Asian summit. The President will also meet leaders from Japan and China. His stop in Myanmar formerly known as Burma will be a first for a U.S. president.

In Missouri police arrest a man who is allegedly planning an Aurora- style theater shooting at the premiere of "Twilight". The suspect is 20-year-old Blake Lammers. Police were tipped off by his mom. According to police he purchased two assault rifles, 400 rounds of ammunition and was off his medication and says that he was also thinking about shooting people at Wal-Mart.

In Aurora, Colorado, details have finalized for dividing up the $5 million in donations for victims of July's theater shootings. Here is how it breaks down families of the 12 people killed and five people who suffered permanent brain damage or paralysis will get $220,000 each. Six people who spent at least 20 days in the hospital will get $160,000 each and 13 others who spent less time hospitalized will get $35,000 each.

The Coast Guard is still searching for two missing crew members from an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. An explosion ripped through the oil platform yesterday. At least 11 people were injured. The platform is about 20 miles from Louisiana. Only about 30 gallons of fuel spilled into the Gulf.

One of the most iconic brands in America is calling it quits. Hostess blames a labor dispute for the decision. Bakers have been on strike to protest a new contract. Well yesterday, Hostess said it will ask a federal bankruptcy court for permission to shut down all 33 of its bakeries. Twinkies and Wonder Bread are just two of the company's well-known products. After the Hostess announcement some scooped up Twinkies to resell them, believe it or not, on eBay.

We're only 45 days until the fiscal cliff deadline, $7 trillion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts could be triggered in January if Congress cannot reach a deal. President Obama met with bipartisan congressional leaders at the White House on Friday in hopes of reaching a compromise. The main sticking point has been over increasing taxes on the wealthy versus closing loopholes and limiting deductions to raise revenue.

Congressional leaders from both sides emerged from the meeting optimistic. Listen.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We had a very constructive meeting with the President to talk about America's fiscal problem.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: But we all know something has to be done.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: It was good. 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.


KAYE: So will they make the deadline? That's the question. Joining me now is Trish Regan, host of Bloomberg TV's "Street Smart". Trish, good morning. So what is the likelihood --



KAYE: -- of not reaching a deal do you think in time?

REGAN: Oh wow, you know I can tell you it's certainly keeping the market held hostage right now Randi because it changes from minute to minute. Investors will feel optimistic and suddenly the market was a little higher and then suddenly they get very pessimistic.

You can see how -- how the market reacted just yesterday when you saw Nancy Pelosi out there. You saw John Boehner out there saying we are hopeful we can get a deal done, and the market had a positive reaction to that, yet it lost that upside throughout the day.

Teetered back and forth between positive and negative territory, finally closing the day out positive, so perhaps that suggests that maybe we are a little bit closer, but here's the thing, Randi. They've got to get something done.

KAYE: Yes.

REGAN: They've got to solve this issue because if not the consequences are severe.

KAYE: But you know, you listen to some people and they suggest that the fears of falling off the cliff are overblown. I mean what are the real consequences here?

REGAN: Oh the real consequences are -- another recession. I mean, I can tell you every CEO that I'm talking to right now says I'm not making major decisions. I'm waiting. I'm standing by the sidelines. I can't hire a lot of people. I can't invest in a lot of infrastructure because I don't know what the landscape is going to be in the next 45 days. I don't know what the landscape is going to be in the next three months, so there's a lot of holdup.

Now, eventually, once they solve all of this. Hopefully we see some pent-up demand and that helps spur the economy forward, but in the meantime, Randi the damage that is being done to the economy by these companies not hiring, by these companies not investing in new projects, can be quite severe.

KAYE: Yes everything is on hold, it seems. But what about the Republican strategy -- I mean does -- does that strategy of avoiding increased taxes on the wealthy while closing tax loopholes and deductions help economic growth, as the Republicans are claiming?

REGAN: Well, that's a -- that's a big economic debate that that we love to have, of course -- a lot of questions as to whether or not higher taxes on the wealthy would in fact result in economic growth.

I think on the -- on the fiscal conservative side the argument could be, well, these are the people, that are one paying the most percentage-wise in taxes, and these are also the people that are -- rather, I shouldn't say percentage-wise, but rather the most dollar- wise that are paying the most in taxes and these are the people that are doing the most spending and thus if you want to keep all that spending going you would keep them in a lower tax bracket.

And then the flip side, of course, is that you know the people that are really feeling the pain are the people that are struggling and living paycheck to paycheck. They are paying effectively a larger portion of -- of the burden, so it is, in fact, a big economic debate which has become, Randi, very much a political debate, of course.

KAYE: Yes, no question about that, but critics, there are those critics who say that the middle class would certainly be hurt the most, and since the President has emphasized helping this group, do you see him caving in on the sticking point of not taxing the wealthy?

REGAN: I don't foresee him --


KAYE: Caving at all do you?

REGAN: -- caving in on that one. Well I mean and you know he won the election so he can point to the Republicans and say, look, this is what Americans want. KAYE: Right.

REGAN: He does have the upper hand here in the sense that he was just elected to four more years, so from a negotiating standpoint that's something that will really probably aid him, but, you know, I think that the Republicans are going to have to come to the table. The Democrats are going to have to come to the table.

We have seen such tremendous gridlock in Washington over the last four years, and the reality is this is this president's legacy. He's got four more years, a lot of big issues when it comes to the economy on the table, this obviously being the most pressing one.

He's incentivized to get a deal done and the Republicans are certainly incentivized to get a deal done because nobody wants to see this economy slide into recession because Washington can't figure it out.

KAYE: That's certainly true. At least both sides are talking and hey you know what? Maybe we'll see a compromise. We'll see, Trish Regan, thank you so much.

REGAN: I hope so. You bet, Randi.

KAYE: Enjoy your day.

It's a huge victory for minority students in Michigan. A federal appeals court strikes down a ban against affirmative action for college admissions, but is that the last word on this heated issue? We'll have a live discussion about it next.


KAYE: Welcome back. 40 minutes past the hour now.

A federal appeals court has struck down Michigan's ban on affirmative action. The ruling is the latest development in the six-year long battle over whether race and gender should be considered in college admission.

Let's bring in CNN legal contributor Paul Callan to talk about this. Paul good morning. So this is a --



KAYE: -- big ruling for minorities. The state of Michigan has said it will appeal. What's -- what's the next step, the U.S. Supreme Court perhaps?

CALLAN: Well -- oh, yes, most definitely the U.S. Supreme Court. This is big for minorities because you know there's a case in front of the Supreme Court right now and there's a lot of speculation that affirmative action and race consideration in college admissions might be struck down. But here a lower federal court has said that a constitutional amendment that was adopted in Michigan saying you can't consider race in college admissions is unconstitutional, that it's in fact discriminatory.

So this is a big win for people who favor race consideration in college admissions --


KAYE: Yes.

CALLAN: -- to create diverse student bodies.

KAYE: Now before Michigan voters approved the ban the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that Michigan universities can use race as a factor in choosing which students to admit but can't make race the determining factor in accepting students, so does this give us, do you think, any insight on a possible future ruling?

CALLAN: It's -- it's interesting that, you know, this whole thing started in Michigan back in 2003 and Sandra Day O'Connor, who really was the swing vote on the Supreme Court, wrote a fascinating decision. She said, you know, I hate approving race consideration, but we need more minorities and hopefully we won't need this rule in the future.

Well, apparently in Michigan, you know, the claim is that minorities are still underrepresented and so the court -- now the federal court has said it's still proper to consider race.

Opponents have said this is absolutely unconstitutional. It's unfair to Caucasian students who get better test scores and better grades, who are being denied seats in college.

Another court in California, by the way, the 9th District, ruled the opposite way, so what happens usually is it goes to the Supreme Court and we're going to do a monumental ruling from the Supreme Court on this question I think in the very near future.

KAYE: Yes, it sounds like it. Michigan's Attorney General says the ruling may take a while though to go into effect, if ever. So what does this mean then for minorities seeking admission to Michigan universities now and those who sued actually to overturn the ban?

CALLAN: Well, ironically people have the courage to bring these lawsuits and get the whole ball rolling I rarely see the benefit of it, because by the time it wends through the court. Four years is up or three years if it's law school so you wouldn't -- you'd be out of law school by now because the person who brings the suit goes to another law school or another college in graduate.

So they won't see the benefit of it, the person who actually brings the suit, but other students throughout the United States, of course, will be affected, and they will have an enormous effect on social policy in the United States.

KAYE: And what effect do you think that the Supreme Court's next ruling could have on other states facing similar affirmative action cases? CALLAN: Well, the case in front of the court now is the Fisher case which arose, by the way, out of the original Michigan case. You know as I said, this started in Michigan.

KAYE: Right.

CALLAN: So Texas came up with a rather clever plan. They said, all right, well we can't consider race in admitting people, so here's what we're going to do. Top 10 percent of all students in Texas, high school students get to go to the University of Texas and because many of those high schools are in minority areas that would automatically mean large numbers of minorities in the University of Texas.

So that's what they did and it seems to be working in Texas but Texas wants more minorities than the 10 percent plan and so that's why even Texas is facing a lawsuit in this area, so the Texas case is going to be decided now by the Supreme Court. And a lot of people think because there are a lot more conservatives on the court now appointed by the Bush administration, affirmative action and race consideration may in fact be thrown out in this coming decision and we may see a radically different admissions process throughout the United States.

KAYE: It is fascinating to watch this all unfold and we're glad we have you on it. Paul Callan, thank you.

CALLAN: Always nice being with you, Randi.

KAYE: You, too.

Every 19 minutes someone dies of an accidental drug overdose. But we're not talking illegal drugs. These are perfectly legal prescription drugs. Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells us why after this.


KAYE: Every 19 minutes, someone dies of an accidental drug overdose. And what might surprise you is those drugs are perfectly legal, and the people using them come from all walks of life. In fact, prescription drugs now kill more people in America each year than car crashes.

Earlier I spoke with CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the growing problem.


KAYE: So Sanjay, what alerted you to this epidemic to begin with?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I had certainly seen an increase in the number of pain prescriptions being given out. But President Clinton, former President Clinton, had called me to talk about this. He had had a -- he was pretty distraught when he called, Randi. He had had two friends who both lost sons within a few days of each other because of accidental prescription overdose deaths. I mean, it was really tragic, and he started talking about the numbers and how big a problem this was. And we started doing our own homework.

I talked to the President specifically about some of these issues and here's what he said.

This may be a statistic that you know -- I was surprised by it -- but 80 percent of the world's pain prescriptions are in this country, 80 percent. Does that surprise you?


GUPTA: Is that a cultural problem?

CLINTON: Yes, it is cultural. You know, people think oh, I've got a headache or I've got this, my elbow is sore or whatever. Look, I don't want to minimize -- there are a lot of people who live courageous lives in constant pain. They are in pain all the time for reasons they can't control. They need relief and they should get it.

But there's no question that since we represent 5 percent of the world's people and far less than 80 percent of the world's people with above average incomes we've got no business popping as many pills as we do.

GUPTA: Just to give you a little bit more context in that, Randi. Every year we prescribe enough pain pills to give every man, woman and child a dose every four hours for three weeks.

KAYE: Yes, and to the President's point, Sanjay, there are people who have legitimate issues with pain and take these medications but who aren't addicted. Are those people at risk, too?

GUPTA: Absolutely they are at risk. You know, again, we pay more attention to this when we hear about either people who are celebrities or who have known addictions. But, you know, the vast majority of people, the common scenario as somebody put it to me is somebody who has never taken pain pills really, no narcotics in their lives, in their 40s and 50s, usually a male and they have a back problem of some sort -- back sprain, lower back pain or something, and they get their first prescription for narcotics.

That's the beginning of it usually, and on average, Randi, on average within three years, that's the person who dies. Oftentimes they are called naive users because they haven't developed a tolerance sometimes for these pain pills, and it's those people that can be hit the hardest sometimes by these.

KAYE: And if you are taking a prescription pain killer, what should we know?

GUPTA: I think that, you know, the warnings need to be more emphatic. I don't want to sound dramatic here but I need -- I think the warning needs to be, "Look, if you misuse this, if you combine it with other things like alcohol, you could die."

It happens every 19 minutes in this country, but I think the biggest thing is this isn't just a bad idea. This isn't just potentially a little unsafe. This is lethal if it's misused, and I think that's what people need to hear.

KAYE: Sanjay, thank you so much -- a really important discussion and a great topic.

GUPTA: I hope it helps Randi. Thanks for having me.


KAYE: And don't forget Sanjay's documentary "DEADLY DOSE" airs tomorrow night, Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it right here on CNN.

When traveling to other cities and countries, the best way to get a real taste of the place is through the local food, right? CNN iReport has teamed up with "Travel and Pleasure Magazine" to create a global list of 100 places to visit like a local your recommendations will play a very big part. Here's a sample from our Becky Anderson.


BECKY ANDERSON, ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL: I'm Becky Anderson in London, my home city, and when I want to eat like a local, I come here.

Peter Langan was quite a character.

BRIAN CLIVAZ, MANAGER, LANGAN'S BRASSERIE: Peter Langan was a famous restaurateur. He called a few friends of his to invest some money and Michael Cain was one of them. But one of his other friends was David Hawkney so you know, you had a wonderful start.

ANDERSON: I also know there's a right royal story to this restaurant.

CLIVAZ: Oh, yes with Princess Margaret. Princess Margaret saw (ph) Peter Langan was crawling under the table and nibbling her ankle, pretending he was --

ANDERSON: A right royal nibble. Pretending he was what?

CLIVAZ: Pretending he was a dog.

Oh, very nice.

ANDERSON: This is the sort of the thing you get on the coast in Britain on a wet Sunday afternoon (inaudible) shrimp (ph) --

CLIVAZ: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: -- in butter. Yours.

CLIVAZ: It's the first dish that Peter Langan put on the menu. Souffle (inaudible).

ANDERSON: Why didn't he want a -- let me put it in England -- a spinach souffle on the menu in what is this quintessentially English restaurant?

CLIVAZ: He hated chaps. He wanted to be really difficult.

ANDERSON: It doesn't get much more basic than this, fish and chips and sausage. How do you make this 2012 sort of nouveau cuisine?

LIAM SMITH-LAING, HEAD CHEF, LANGAN'S BRASSERIE: It's a classic. If I want to make it to my next birthday, I don't touch it.

ANDERSON: There are restaurants you can take your friends to. There are restaurants that you can take your boss to, but when it comes to getting a real taste of this city, my city, Langan's in London is the only place in town.



KAYE: Welcome back.

Online secession petitions have been flying around since last week's election outcome so much so that citizens in all 50 states have signed petitions to withdraw from the U.S. One Texas petition has more than 100,000 names actually supporting it. Nick Valencia is here to talk about this. So what is going on?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a little wacky, isn't it?

KAYE: 50 states.

VALENCIA: States wanting -- at least 50 -- yes, all 50 states wanting to secede or having this petition to secede but it looks a lot more than it is on the surface. Once you start looking in the numbers a little bit Randi, you notice it's only a small fraction of the United States that wants to secede. Even in a place like Texas, 100,000 signatures. Wow, you've got 100,000 signatures --

KAYE: Yes.

VALENCIA: Less than one percent of the state though. What is interesting though and I think our audience would find interesting is that at least seven states have reached this 25,000-vote threshold. You see the states there -- states like Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and what happens after 25,000 signatures is that they need a formal response from the White House.

It is worth noting as well that there are counter petitions in play as well, Randi, so people petitioning those that are petitioning to secede, if you follow that.

KAYE: Yes, I think I follow that. But it's also important, we should note, that they take a lot of money these states that want to secede. Right, I mean they take a lot of money from the federal government as well. But how serious is this? I mean how serious are some of these people who want to do it? Do you think it can happen? VALENCIA: Well, the Texas Nationalist Movement, I spoke to one of their members yesterday and they think it's very serious. They think it's a legitimate possibility. They say over the last 100 years the United States has been straying from the U.S. Constitution; that this should be a federation of sovereign states, and they feel that Texas can sustain itself. Why, because Texas, they say, is the 15th largest economy in the world; they already had defense in play, the Texas National Guard. They say there's only minor things for them to, you know, hash out like the Postal Service, like Social Security.

But it's worth noting. You mentioned, a lot of these states -- that's the irony -- they get more federal funding. They get a lot of federal funding, sometimes more than they put into the federal government. Texas last year in 2011, $200 billion in federal spending; that includes a lot of military bases as well.

KAYE: Right. Well, that's why it's probably just a small fraction there. What else are people doing -- other people doing to try and make this reality?

VALENCIA: Well, the Texas Nationalist Movement actually had several of their members run for congressional seats. They ran unsuccessfully, but they did tell us that since news broke about their petition they have had 17,000 new members and 6 billion with a "b", billion hits on their Web site. So they are very hopeful. They think that they have a good chance.

KAYE: Wow. It's going to be interesting to watch this. Nick, thank you.

VALENCIA: Yes. Thank you.

KAYE: Appreciate it.

CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues right now.