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Twinkies: A Pop Culture Icon; Edging Closer to War; Gaza-Israel Conflict Escalates; Obama Begins Three-Nation Asian Tour; Why So Many Lost Power From Sandy; Helping Sandy's Furry Victims; 45 Days Until Fiscal Cliff Deadline; Israelis, Palestinians Wage Online War; Sandy Victims Struggling To Recovery

Aired November 17, 2012 - 11:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: I once remember having a deep-fried Twinkie at the Minnesota State Fair. That's a good memory.

We have much more ahead in the next hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING, which starts right now.

From the CNN Center this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. I'm glad you're with us.

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.

We are only 45 days away until the fiscal cliff deadline. Could a deal get done before it's too late? We'll take a look at the likelihood of that happening or not.

And pets abandoned because of Superstorm Sandy. Four-legged victims in need of help. I'll take you on a ride along with their new guardians.

Despite calls around the world for restraint, the situation along the Israeli-Gaza border is deteriorating by the hour. Israeli soldiers backed up by tanks and armored vehicles are massing near the border there with Gaza bringing both sides closer to all-out war. In all, 30,000 troops have been mobilized, 75,000 more on standby.

Palestinian militants are raising the stakes as well, firing rockets deep into Israel. Air raids sirens wailed for a third straight day in Tel Aviv, warning of an impending attack just a short time ago. That rocket was intercepted.

As the situation escalates, so does the death toll. Four days of back and forth attacks have left three people dead in Israel. At least 40 are dead in Gaza. Nine of those killed just today.

Tunisia is showing its unconditional solidarity to the Palestinians, sending a delegation into Gaza today amid the constant bombardment. Our senior international correspondent Sara Sidner is live in Gaza City. Sara, what is happening there right now?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We can, again, hear the sound that has been here all day long, really, the sound of drones. We about an hour ago saw rockets from here in the middle of Gaza City towards Israel. We saw those rockets going and that is what we expected, those loud booms, the air strikes.

Usually the rockets go out and eventually you'll hear the drones and then you hear the planes overhead and then the sound of booms and huge plumes of smoke coming up. This has been the scene here for three days now. Last night was particularly difficult we couldn't sleep because there was so much banging. There were so many things going off that it was very difficult to sort of get your thoughts together.

We also went to neighborhoods where civilians say they too are being caught up in all of this. Let me let you see what was going on in the hospital and let you meet a family who lost a child.


SIDNER (voice-over): A scene no parent should ever have to endure, playing out in front of our camera at the Al Shifa Hospital. Four- year-old Mahmoud Sadalha 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 (through translator): 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: This is where little Mahmoud's family lived 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.

(voice-over): 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 (through translator): He was very sweet. He was intelligent. I liked everything about Mahmoud, he said. As he speaks, another plane flies overhead delivering another airstrike.

SIDNER (on camera): Right, we're having to leave this area now because there are air strikes, we can hear the planes and we're also seeing rockets coming from a neighbor just on the other side.

(voice-over): From inside Gaza City, it was also possible to see the vapor trails of the rockets 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was here and I saw the child who was martyred. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The blood is on both of our hands ours and the Egyptian hands.

SIDNER (voice-over): 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 SHIFA EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR: As a doctor and as a human, I am crying, I can't do anything for him because I know he has died now, you know? And -- and you can imagine if it's your baby, how do you feel? Why? These raids, why?

SIDNER: The 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.


SIDNER: And what you're hearing behind me are the sounds of evening prayer beginning here in Gaza City. Throughout these prayers, oftentimes we're hearing again, the sounds of booms and we're seeing the lights of rockets headed towards Israel. A lot of people are talking about whether or not war has been declared. To most of the people here, it really doesn't matter because they feel like war has already arrived -- Randi.

KAYE: Yes it certainly has, a long time ago. Sara Sidner thank you, Sara.

The demonstrators are taking to the streets in Arab countries to protest Israel's unrelenting bombardment of Gaza. Take a look here. This is Egypt tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Cairo to show their support of the Palestinians. Egypt's relations with Hamas have strengthened under the new administration.

Protesters in Turkey set an Israeli flag and photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ablaze during a demonstration last night.

Let's go now to the Israelis side of the border as we've been reporting Israeli tanks and troops have been taking up positions. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins us live now from the border there. Fred, good morning. What are you seeing in terms of military activity at this point?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of military activity going on Randi. Basically what we're seeing is a huge military build-up here on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza. We're seeing a lot of trucks coming through the area, a lot of soldiers coming through the area as well. Buses full of soldiers that are moving towards the border with Gaza.

We've also seen Israeli soldiers take up positions near there. There was one forward reconnaissance patrol that we saw that was sort of hiding behind a tree line. They said to keep out of site of Gaza because they fear that if they're in the line of sight they could themselves become the targets for rockets as well.

Now one of the big questions that of course is being asked here is whether or not this ground offensive is actually going to happen and there Israeli officials are telling us that so far no decision has been made yet. However, it is an option that they say are -- is still very much on the table and what they point to of course, is the things that Israeli civilians are having to go through as well.

They say for them it's simply unacceptable for a group like Hamas to possess and to use rockets that can use -- that can reach large population centers here in this country like Tel Aviv, like Jerusalem as well. And you said before, earlier today air raid sirens went off in Tel Aviv and a rocket was picked off there closely -- or very close before it was going to impact close to that city -- Randi.

KAYE: So we've talked quite a bit about a possible ground invasion and what that would look like if Israeli troops went into Gaza. How likely is that, do you think?

PLEITGEN: Well I mean, they said that it's something that is still very much on the table. The big question is going to be whether or not they are going to be to achieve the objectives that they've set out for themselves with the aerial campaign that's going on right now.

So far what the Israeli military is telling us, that they believe that the aerial campaign is a success. They say they've taken out hundreds of missile launching sites they've also hit other strategic buildings for Hamas as well.

But the big question is are they going to be able to stop rockets from being fired out of Gaza into Israeli territory and so far it seems the air campaign has not been able to do that. We've just said hundreds of rockets have come out of Gaza so far. I think the Israeli military is putting it at somewhere over 600. Some of those have been intercepted by an interceptor system called the Iron Dome.

However, we see that the militants are still able to target these big population centers and certainly as long as that is the case, the Israeli military is not going to be able to say that this operation has been a success. And as long as that drags on, it makes the likelihood that the ground offensive could happen bigger and bigger -- Randi.

KAYE: All right, Fred Pleitgen there. Fred, be safe on the border. Thank you.

President Obama has spoken to Israel's Prime Minister about the escalating crisis. Benjamin Netanyahu called the President last night to voice his deep appreciation for the U.S. investment in Israel's Iron Dome Defense System, which Fred was just talking about there, which is an intercepted a slew of rockets fired from Gaza.

President Obama reiterated U.S. support for Israel's right to defend itself and discussed options for diffusing this situation.

In Egypt, 47 children are dead after a bus crashed into a train. The Minister of Transport and the head of the local railroad agency have resigned because of this. Sixty students were onboard the bus when the accident happened. Officials are investigating.

Back in the U.S., victims of the Aurora movie theater massacre will soon get monetary compensation.

Donors sent in over $5 million to the Aurora victim relief fund for families of those killed or injured in the shooting. The fund's special master is deciding who gets how much. He has handled similar disbursements for victims of the September 11th attacks and the Jerry Sandusky abuse case. The fund was established by Colorado's governor and a local charity.

Setting the scene in Israel. The battle is heating up there between Israel and Hamas. We've been showing you that all morning. And we will take a closer look at the fire power at play.


KAYE: The conflict between Israel and Hamas will undoubtedly come up during the President's trip to Myanmar whether it's on the agenda or not. The White House is keeping a close eye on the conflict as Israel troops mass near the border with Gaza.

Our Tom Foreman takes a closer look at the fire power in place.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's look at how the battlefield is shaping up over the Middle East. Here's Israel alongside the Mediterranean (AUDIO GAP) -- it's about the size of New Jersey, 7.5 million people, 75 percent Jewish. The economy is good, unemployment below seven percent.

Gaza by comparison, geographically very small only about twice as big as Washington, D.C. predominantly Palestinian. The economy there is quite bad and unemployment is very high. has called Israel the tenth most powerful military in the world, so let's break that down and see why. They have compulsory military service. That means every young person must go into the military for a while, 176,000 active troops are available. And they have about a half million that they can call from reserves very quickly. Ground forces also impressive, some 3,000 tanks. If you count all the artillery pieces and mortars, things like that, you get it to about 12,000 units that can operate on the ground.

And of course, their air force is formidable; about 800 aircraft out there including some 200 helicopters. This is largely what they've used to have these strikes within Gaza.

Now if you look at Hamas, their forces are much smaller in terms of their official forces, certainly. If you look at people who are really in uniform -- soldiers, police, whatever you want to call it -- about 12,500. Of course, they have nothing like the weapons that the Israelis have.

However, Palestinian militants do have lots and lots of rockets, and I want to bring in a model of one of them here. This is a Kasam 2 -- you probably heard about this a good bit. These rockets are popular because they're cheap, they're easy to make out of steel tubes. They only weigh 70 to 100 pounds. And they're fueled essentially by commercial grade fertilizer and they can pack quite a punch. They're not very accurate but if you fire enough of them, they don't have to be accurate.

If you go beyond this to some of their more robust and better targeted rockets and missiles, then you also start talking about range. In this conflict so far, we have reports of weapons fired from Gaza traveling as much as 50 miles to hit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

In fact, Israeli officials now believe as much as a fifth of the population of Israel is subject to these rocket attacks. That's something they say they simply will not tolerate anymore and that's why we keep hearing all this talk, this speculation about a possible ground invasion of Gaza.


KAYE: Thank you, Tom. We've been bringing you details about the escalating conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza. As Israel mobilizes its troops to the border, there are global fears of that ground war. Earlier, I asked Danny Danon, deputy speaker of the Knesset what triggered the conflict.


DANNY DANON, MEMBER OF ISRAELI KNESSET: Today there is no Jewish settlement or occupation in Gaza, and we see hundreds of missiles flying from Gaza into Israel, into civilian populations and we ask ourselves why? Why they are doing so? It's all coming from Iran.

So you cannot blame any incident on that. And unfortunately, we hear the leaders of the Hamas saying it very clearly. We are determined to fight against Israel. By the way, this is the same leadership that condemned the U.S. for assassinating Osama bin Laden.

We cannot allow the situation that Israelis cannot live in Israel; four million people now under the threat of missiles. We are very determined to take care of this problem and we will do whatever is necessary to get rid of the Hamas regime and to bring stability to the region.

KAYE: So you do believe that it was Hamas who started this then?

DANON: It's a fact. I can count hundreds and almost thousands of missiles that Hamas shot at us, and it's on a daily basis. So we waited once, twice. If it would happen in the U.S. and you had missiles flying to New York City or Washington, D.C., I'm sure the U.S. would have acted long before we waited, maybe too long. But now we are determined, we are calling for the troops to get ready and we will tell to Hamas leadership and to the people in Egypt today, we cannot wait anymore.

KAYE: Let me ask you about the troops, because as you mentioned, there is the possibility of this ground campaign. Israel has approved the call-up of 75,000 reservists. Do you see Israeli troops going into Gaza? And under what circumstances? What would make that happen?

DANON: Prime Minister Netanyahu said it very quickly. The goal of this operation is to bring peace and quiet to the region, to the southern part of Israel. If the air strikes would not be efficient, if the Hamas would not understand that we are talking business; we mean that we will not allow missiles to fly over Israel on a daily basis. We will call the ground troops to be involved. We do not want to do it, but on the other hand, we cannot wait until we see more missiles coming.


KAYE: Once again, that was Danny Danon, deputy speaker of the Knesset.

I also spoke with Mustafa Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and asked him about the conflict.


MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL MEMBER: Well, first of all, let's put things in order because the responsible side for escalating this new round of violence is Israel and not Hamas. In reality, there was a truce, a ceasefire during the last two and a half years and the side that violated this truce was Israel. And, of course, each time Israel conducts airstrikes on Gaza, Hamas responds with rocket attacks and then Israel claims that it is the victim in this conflict.

Of course, we don't want any person to be hurt in this conflict, whether Palestinian or Israeli. But in this case, it's not -- it's not right or just to say that Israelis have the right to defend themselves but Palestinians don't have the right to defend themselves.

KAYE: Let me just say first of all we're certainly not saying that Palestinians don't have a right to defend themselves. But for its part, Israel says it only began attacks in Gaza after enduring months of rocket attacks on southern Israel by Palestinian militants.

So, first of all, do you believe that's the case? And if so, can you fault a government for fighting to protect its people?

BARGHOUTI: I don't agree with this Israeli statement. I think it was Israel that started the airstrikes. And if they speak about 200 rockets falling to Israel, there were more than 300 airstrikes on Gaza. But the question here is how to stop that.

It seems to me that this Israeli government, Mr. Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel is using Palestinian and Israeli blog for his election campaign. And that is unjust, unfair and unacceptable.


KAYE: That was Mustafa Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. And as always, our international desk is keeping us up to date on all the developments out of Israel and Gaza. We'll get the latest news on the violence from there.

And remember, if you're leaving the house right now, you can continue watching CNN from your mobile phone. You can also watch CNN live from your laptop. Just go to


KAYE: Welcome back.

Israel is intensifying its campaign against Hamas targets in Gaza. Today it hammered the headquarters of the Hamas-run government, and it has massed troops and tanks near the Gaza border for a possible ground invasion.

Nick Valencia is in the newsroom right now getting updates from the international desk. Nick, what is the latest?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have new video and new casualty numbers to share with you, Randi. I want to bring you back here. This is a special desk that we created today to monitor all the live feeds, incoming routers from Gaza and Israel as well to give you the latest information.

These are two of our experts in the Middle East. I want to bring in Yousuf Basil, he's an international desk editor. Yousuf, you were showing me some new video that the IBF just posted on their official YouTube page. Tell us what we're looking at here.

YOUSUF BASIL, CNN INTERNATIONAL DESK EDITOR: Yes. What we're looking at here is the video from aerial strikes on Hamas, according to IBF. They're stating heavy ammunition located under a building of Hamas or some brigades commander. And you can see the video that they posted.

VALENCIA: You can see the bombs going in there right there.

BASIL: Bomb going in and explosion.

VALENCIA: And this is a strategic position that Hamas had in Gaza.

BASIL: According to the IBF. They claimed that this is the house of one of the commanders of the Hamas brigade and they targeted -- and also according to IBF used to be storage for ammunition for Hamas.

VALENCIA: Now, we've also been in touch with the ministry for interior for the Palestinian territories. They have fresh casualty figures they released a short time ago. What do we know?

BASIL: Yes. So far they're saying that the death toll at present according to -- 40 people have been killed so far and 385 wounded since the conflict started and escalating.

VALENCIA: Conflicted started midweek, Wednesday is when we started hearing about this conflict in Gaza and in Israel. It's not just affecting Gaza, of course, Randi. This is affecting residents living in Israel.

We've got new information coming out of there as far as casualties as well. Earlier today, five civilians and four members of the IBF were injured from rockets launched from Gaza into Israel. More than 400 rockets, Randi, since Wednesday according to the IBF have been launched into Israel territory. I believe we have video of that.

What are we hearing, Yousuf, from the Israeli side? Any other updates? Any other new video that we've seen from Israel?

BASIL: Well, we've seen the video of the rocket that Hamas has fired. Hamas claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Tel Aviv. Of course the IBF confirmed it but they say they intercepted the rockets and the interception was successful according to IBF.

VALENCIA: And that's with their iron drone rocket intercepting device that they have?

BASIL: Part of their defense system.

VALENCIA: Part of their defense system.

So we've got more information coming to you. We'll bring you the latest as it develops. But this is the latest here from the International Desk -- Randi.

KAYE: Nick, thank you for the update. Appreciate it.

Lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy. Millions lost power during the storm. We dig deeper and take a look at how this can be prevented in the future.




RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, President Obama is on his way to Thailand, the first stop of a three-nation tour of Asia. Tomorrow, the president is scheduled to meet with Thailand's king, prime minister, and the U.S. Embassy staff in Bangkok.

Then he's on to Myanmar, a country no U.S. president has ever visited before. After holding talks there, Mr. Obama will head to Cambodia for the East Asia Summit.

Closer to home now, nearly three weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit, most of the power has been restored to the east coast, but many are still asking why did so many people lose electricity. And what might be done to prevent that from happening again?

Tom Foreman takes up that subject in this week's "Building Up America."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For all the angry people still without power after Sandy, there may be few more frustrated than a man who lives hundreds of miles away.

He's with the American Society of Civil Engineers, his name is Otto Lynch and he is certain the storm's impact did not have to be so bad.

OTTO LYNCH, AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS: No, the damage did not have to be this bad at all. With a little better planning, we could have certainly eliminated much of the damage.

FOREMAN: What he's talking about is the subject of some highly advanced research at Georgia Tech, a lowly but critical part of the electrical grid, the power pole.

REGINALD DESROCHES, GEORGIA TECH PROFESSOR: It is focused on trying to get a better understanding of the vulnerability of some of these wood poles as they're exposed to in this case extreme wind loads.

FOREMAN: Specifically researchers are studying what makes a power pole break, its age, the stress from wind, water, ice or flying debris. Combine all that with weather patterns and they are creating a comprehensive map of tens of millions of poles so utility companies can replace vulnerable ones before big storms hit.

MIROSLAV BEGOVIC, GEORGIA TECH INSTITUTE: It is important to identify which ones are the most compromised and how to direct those funds without wasting huge sums on unnecessary treatments and unnecessary replacements.

FOREMAN: Others believe the National Electrical Safety Code should be rewritten to require more robust poles, especially where powerful storms are likely.

(on camera): Lynch insists that would cost less than $100 per pole, and he says if such measures had been put into place years before Sandy came calling, he estimates power losses might have been half as bad.

LYNCH: You know, even if it is just 25 percent, that's 25 percent less people that didn't lose power.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And in a tough economy, building up America begins with keeping the lights on. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


KAYE: Pets abandoned because of Superstorm Sandy. Their owners and their homes may be gone, but the animals are still there. I'll take you along on a mission to save those missing pets.


KAYE: Welcome back. I spent part of this past week in New York on Staten Island, and I walked through broken homes and the shattered lives that Superstorm Sandy left behind. But people we know are resilient. They will rebuild or they will move elsewhere. But there are some victims who can't speak for themselves or care for themselves. As we found, though, they're not alone anymore.


KAYE (voice-over): Robert Misseri is on the move. On this day, he and his team from "Guardians of Rescue" are in Staten Island trying to find, feed and save pets lost or abandoned during Superstorm Sandy.

ROBERT MISSERI, PRESIDENT, "GUARDIANS OF RESCUE": We are going to leave you kitty litter. We will leave you dog food and cat food.

KAYE: Robert's team has rescued 100 cats so far. He says residents underestimated the amount of water the storm would bring so pets either drowned or ran far from home to escape the rushing water. Of those found --

MISSERI: Many of them are suffering from stress to start. Some of the cats had blood in their urine. Some had internal injuries. Some of them had exterior wounds. We found several cats with sea water in their lungs.

KAYE: It's a big job, which is why Robert called on his friend, Hush, a hip-hop artist from Detroit. Hush is a rapper, but he's also an animal lover, who has helped animal rescue efforts in his hometown.

Hush's contacts in Detroit donated nearly 8,000 pounds of dog and cat food. Then he drove 12 hours through the night to New York to help Robert's group.

(on camera): What worries you most about the pets that are probably out there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being displaced, you know, and just being out of their element, they're probably freaking out.

KAYE (voice-over): Hush and the volunteers went door to door, looking for pets that may have been left behind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got plenty of food.

KAYE: And dropping off food and supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. The dogs will be very happy, too.

KAYE: Along the way, they picked up whatever pets they could find.

MISSERI: We will put him in this carrier, OK? It's all right, baby. It's OK.

KAYE (on camera): This house is typical of this midland beach area of Staten Island. You can see the big red sticker here on the front door, it says unsafe area. So clearly, somebody came by to check the home. They found it to be unsafe, but whoever that was probably wasn't looking for cats or dogs. They were looking for humans and to check on the condition of the home.

But when we pulled up, we did find a group of four cats eating from this cat food here so obviously, somebody left this behind for the cats. The question is, though, how long will they be able to survive on this food and will somebody be able to save them before this food runs out?

(voice-over): Robert marks the house so they know to come back for the cats. If they find them, they'll try to catch them. Otherwise, they will set humane traps to save them.

HUSH, CO-FOUNDER, DETROIT DOG RESCUE: They can't talk, you know. They can't say, you know, my owner left me behind or, I'm stuck, I have nowhere to go, I need food.

KAYE: Like this cat, who was hungry and alone. We were finally able to coax her out of an abandoned house.

(on camera): She's starving. She's eating so fast.

(voice-over): Eventually, she was put in a cage. She'll be held in foster care until the owner can move home again or she'll be put up for adoption. After a terrible storm that took so much from so many, a reason to be thankful.


KAYE: And I really want to point out, not only the great work that these groups are doing, but that none of these animals are going to be euthanized, none of them will be put down. They are all in foster care or they will be adopted.

If you want to help out the groups who are working so hard to save these guys, you can check out these two websites, That is the New York-New Jersey based group and Hush's group,

There is a lot of talk going on, on Capitol Hill about the fiscal cliff. We'll tell you if all the chatter is helping the U.S. get any closer to a resolution.


KAYE: We are only 45 days away from the so called fiscal cliff deadline, $7 trillion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts could be triggered if Congress doesn't reach a deal.

I spoke earlier with Trish Regan, host of Bloomberg TV "Street Smart," and asked her what the fallout would be if a deal isn't reached in time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TRISH REGAN, HOST, BLOOMBERG TV'S "STREET SMART": 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 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. 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 fears of fallen off the cliff are overblown. I mean, what are the real consequences here?

REGAN: 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 this, hopefully we see some pent up demand and that helps spur the economy forward. But in the meantime, 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 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 big economic debate 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 fiscal conservative side, the argument would be well these are the people that are paying the most percentage-wise in taxes, and these are also the people that are -- 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 if you want to keep all that spending going, you would keep them in a lower tax bracket.

The flip side is the people that are really feeling the pain are the people that are struggling and living paycheck to paycheck. They're paying effectively a larger portion of the burdens.


KAYE: Forty five days and counting. We'll keep you posted on what Congress is doing to fix this before time runs out.

The escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza is moving to another dimension as the fighting continues. Both sides are turning to cyber space.

But first, when traveling to other cities and countries, the best way to get a real taste of the place is through local foods. CNN I-Report has teamed up with "Travel And Leisure" magazine to create a global list of 100 places to eat like a local.

And your recommendations will play a big part. Here's a sample from Becky Anderson.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Becky Anderson in London, my home city and when I want to eat like a local, I come here. Peter Langen was quite a character.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peter Langen was a famous restaurateur. He called a few of his friends to invest some money and Michael Caine was one of them, but another one was David Hockney, so you have a wonderful star.

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

BRIAN CLIVAZ, MANAGER, LANGEN'S BROSSERIE: Yes, Princess Margaret, Princess Margaret telling Peter Langen crawling under the table, pretending he was a dog.

ANDERSON: This is what you get in Britain in a wet Sunday afternoon. Yours --

CLIVAZ: It's the first dish that Peter Langen put on the menu.

ANDERSON: Why did he want a spinach souffle on the menu in what is this quintessentially English restaurant?

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

ANDERSON: Doesn't get much more basic than this, fish and chips and sausage. How can you make this in 2012?

CLIVAZ: It's a classic. If I wanted to make it to my next birthday, I don't, actually.

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


KAYE: Well, I-Reporters, here is your chance to help us create a food lovers map of the world. Just go to and send us a photo of your favorite restaurant and dish, why it's special, how you discovered the place, anything else you want us to know.

The definitive list of 100 places to eat like a local will be revealed in March and some I-Reporters will be on that list. So stay tuned to see if you're one of them.


KAYE: Welcome back, while rockets fly between Israel and Gaza. A parallel war is raging between the two sides. It is a war unfolding on the internet. Atika Shubert tracks the online battle.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a surreal of battle. This video uploaded to YouTube from Israel, pedestrians stroll by, music plays, sirens wail as Israel's missiles successfully intercept rockets launched for Gaza or these snapshots uploaded to Instagram by an Israeli reservist now called into service.

THOMAS RIDD, KING'S COLLEGE LONDON: If you look at the people inside the Israeli forces who started putting videos up on YouTube or tweeting, they're young people. They're in their early 20s.

For them this is normal. If you're a supporter of Israel anyway and you see a smiling reservist, you have a human connection with the Israeli army.

But if you don't like what Israel is doing, you may think, wow, how can they do this? Isn't this tasteless? So people don't really think when they look at the social media.

SHUBERT: The battle on both sides of the Gaza-Israel border is unfolding online. In Gaza, uploaded pictures of masked fighters and defiance amid destruction. Much more than is too graphic to show.

Verifying what is authentic online is another problem, already some graphic photos tagged from Gaza are in fact from other conflicts. But does the battle online change the war on the ground?

RIDD: At the end of the day, conflict is about the use of force or the use of violence for a political objective. So bullets and bombs matter more than tweets.

SHUBERT: What has changed is how the conflict is documented, in real time, directly by those on the front line. Atika Shubert, CNN, London.


KAYE: CNN "NEWSROOM" starts at the top of the hour. Gary Tuchman is here to tell us what he have coming up. Hello.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all coming up is Randy Kaye's birthday. I've known you since you were too young to drink.

KAYE: No, that would mean I'm really old.

TUCHMAN: All right, well, happy birthday, Randi.

KAYE: Thank you.

TUCHMAN: I do want to talk what you've talked about the fiscal cliff. Forty five days until the end of the year, we'll be talking to Ben Stein, Warren Buffett and Robert Reich. They will all joins us with insights.

We'll also be talking, of course, about the air war in the Mideast. We'll have the Israeli spokesperson, Mark Reggae and Palestinian legislator, Hanan Ashwari. They'll have perspectives from both sides of the conflict.

And of course, Spielberg's "Lincoln," I cannot wait to see that movie. It opened up to rave reviews, Randi. We're talking to stars and we'll have the best and worst Lincoln movies of all time.

There have been a lot of Lincoln movies. And holiday shopping and Black Friday approach, we have the must have apps you need to save time and most importantly, money. Will you be shopping on Black Friday?

KAYE: I shop online. I can't deal with the crowds. I'll tell you the must-have app is the parking app. That is the one to have at the mall.

TUCHMAN: See, I just park illegally and run really quick.

KAYE: Have someone wait in the car for you.

TUCHMAN: I hire someone to do that.

KAYE: I'll do it. I'll help you out this year.

TUCHMAN: Thank you, Randi.

KAYE: All right, Gary. Thank you. I'll see you in just a moment.

Victims of Superstorm Sandy possibly out of their homes now for more than a year.


KAYE: Many people hit hard by Superstorm Sandy are still out of their homes. In New Jersey alone, about 32,000 people are in shelters, hotels or temporary apartments.

And as CNN's Mary Snow report some may be there for a very long time.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What normally is a busy thoroughfare at Sea Bright, New Jersey now serves as a painful reminder of what was. Sandy's storm surge devoured home after home including the house Christopher Cappilllo lives in with his wife and daughter.

(on camera): Where are you living now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm at a friend's house. I've been like a nomad. You know, you go here. You go there. Whoever has room and cousins and stuff like that.

SNOW (voice-over): In the best case scenario, he says he will be without a permanent home for more than a year and he's not alone.

CHRISTOPHER CAPPILLLO, SEA BRIGHT, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT: We have families that will be out for a long rebuilding process, where homes have been completely destroyed. And our experience is that a small group but some families it will take years.

SNOW: Overseeing the rebuilding is part of a new role for Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan. The president tapped him to work with elected state officials to oversee recovery efforts from Superstorm Sandy.

SHAUN DONOVAN, HUD SECRETARY: The president's made absolutely clear that our job first and foremost is to make sure we cut every piece of red tape, slash every regulation that we need to make sure help is on the way as quickly as possible.

SNOW: Donovan's new role will look at long term plans to rebuild. That includes a massive transportation system with lessons learned from the devastating storm that crippled New York and New Jersey.

New York's governor alone has requested $30 billion in federal aid, but the more immediate impact on homeowners like Christopher Capilllo, rebuilding is daunting enough.

(on camera): How massive is the job ahead?

CAPILLLO: The key here is for me, it's a mess. You rebuilding from scratch.


KAYE: And that was Mary Snow reporting. Red Cross donations, by the way, for Sandy victims are now hit $145 million. You can log on to for more information about ways to donate and to volunteer.

CNN "NEWSROOM" continues with Gary Tuchman who is in for Fredricka Whitfield.