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CNN NEWSROOM

Tony Blair Speaks About Gaza, Israel; Millions in Harm's Way in Gaza, Israel; Alternative Living for Baby Boomers; Obama in Cambodia for Regional Talks.

Aired November 19, 2012 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of messages being passed back and forth between the two sides through Egyptian middle men, so to speak. So there's no question that they're serious. Certainly, both sides have an interest in bringing an end to this latest outbreak of fighting, but, of course, each has very specific demands. And at some point, they're going to have to meet in the middle, unless there's going to be even more bloodshed here and in Israel.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

As you can see, the violence along the Israeli/Gaza border now intensifying. What does this actually mean for the region?

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TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Well, this situation continues, and it escalates, it's going to be really serious and tragic. Not just for Israelis and Palestinians, but actually it will cause a huge amount of upheaval right across the region. And this is a region, as you know, that doesn't require more upheaval right now.

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MALVEAUX: A look at what Gaza and Israel are fighting over.

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MALVEAUX: Just a while ago our Wolf Blitzer spoke with former British prime minister, Tony Blair, about the cross-border battalions between Israel and Hamas. And Wolf joins us now.

And, Wolf, I know that he also serves as the peace envoy, the Middle East peace envoy. Does he believe that peace can be achieved here?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Well, he is not very upbeat in the short-term. He is obviously, like everyone else, would like to see some sort of immediate cease-fire to stop the killing on the Israeli and the Palestinian side in Gaza. He knows there's a lot of diplomatic activity going on behind the scenes. He himself has been in touch with most of the parties, not directly with Hamas since, as a representative of what's called the quartet, including the quartet and European Union. The U.S. and European Union don't recognize Hamas. They regard Hamas as a terrorist organization. But there have been -- he has been involved with Egypt, obviously, with Turkey, many of the other parties who are working feverishly behind the scenes to get some sort of cease-fire.

Look, if there is a cease-fire, that's just the first step. Then there's going to have to be a much more difficult process of achieving some sort of real deal, some sort of real negotiation that he presumably would be involved in that, and that's going to be a while before that happens.

The Obama administration had a special envoy, the former Senator George Mitchell, but he gave up his efforts about a year and a half or so ago, and there's been no U.S. -- serious -- no U.S. mediation since then. But I think with a new secretary of state and new administration, the president just re-elected, there will be an intensified U.S. effort underway fairly soon. But let's see if there's a cease-fire first.

MALVEAUX: Yes, Wolf, we had a chance to talk to George Mitchell last week about some of his efforts in that area. What do you think? Does Tony Blair think this new Egyptian president of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi, will be somebody who really wants to create peace there? Because we know he has a very different relationship with Hamas than the former Egyptian president.

BLITZER: Right. He is much more different than former President Hosni Mubarak. He has a lot at stake right now, and he knows it, President Morsi, of Egypt. He is working to try to improve his country. And he knows if Egypt, for example, were to sever its peace treaty, that would seriously rupture the entire Egyptian relationship with the United States. Egypt still gets a lot of economic assistance from the United States, military assistance from the United States. It's seeking enormous amounts of aid from the International Monetary Fund. Egypt's economy is in deep trouble right now. Exports have dried up. The tourism industry has really suffered as a result of what's going on. So I think the Egyptians, under President Morsi, they want to maintain their relationship on a cool level with the Israelis. And they would like to see the fighting between Israel and Hamas stop because that undermines Egypt's interests right now m region in terms of its relationship believe only with Israel, but obviously with the United States and the Europeans as well.

So I think the Egyptians are trying to play a constructive role. Let's see if what they do behind the scenes can actually work. We should know I suspect the next 24, 48, maybe 72 hours whether or not there's going to be a cease-fire, Suzanne, or there's going to be an Israeli escalation.

MALVEAUX: All right. Well, Wolf, we'll be watching "The Situation Room" more for your interview with Tony Blair. And obviously, you've been doing a lot of travel and reporting from the region, so we're going to be tuning in later in "The Situation Room," and we'll have more on that.

Thanks, Wolf. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, a closer look at the cross-border battle between Israel and Hamas.

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MALVEAUX: War planes, drones, rockets crisscross the sky for a 6th straight days really and Hamas militants turn their region into a war zone.

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MALVEAUX: That explosion you just saw was a precision strike by Israeli defense forces. They targeted four senior jihad officials believed to be hiding in that building. The death toll in Gaza has now reached 100. Many of the Palestinians killed have been women and children. Three Israelis have also been killed.

Well, understanding the conflict certainly means that just how many people could be in harm's way.

Our Josh Levs is here to show us basically what we're talking about in this very concentrated region.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's so important to understand how small or what the distances are and where all the populations are. I've worked with our wonderful folks in our graphics department to put together a really helpful aerial view.

Let's start. We're going to zoom in first to Gaza, why because I want you to see the relative sees of Gaza in that area. Gaza is only about twice the size of Washington D.C., and in there you have 1.7 million people who are squeezed into this region right here. That means lots of dense population centers. One of them, one of the major ones is Gaza City that we're going to zoom into right now. When you look at the aerial view -- I'll step all of the way -- you can see how dense it is with homes and buildings everywhere. There are several areas like this inside Gaza with very dense populations.

Let's zoom back out now. Here you're seeing Israel. Israel is only the size of New Jersey, and the population is about 7.6 million, about three-quarters Jewish. There's also Muslim populations, Christian, and Jews, whereas, Gaza is about 99 percent Muslim. Now, you've been hearing from Israel officials, more than a million Israelis have been living under daily rocket attacks and rocket attack threats, some of them in southern Israel. But what we've been seeing throughout this conflict, especially in recent days, obviously, Hamas rockets can reach farther. For example, there are several that made it as far as Tel Aviv. Some were intercepted. There was one down here in Rishon LeZion, the greater Tel Aviv area. I also marked Herzliya, just as a sign of how many cities are in that area with dense populations.

Another thing to keep in mind, this right here is the West Bank. The West Bank is controlled by Fatah, which is a different Palestinian faction. And Gaza is controlled by Hamas. So, Suzanne, one thing we're hearing about from Palestinian officials, especially in the West Bank, is that they're saying this is time to unify, to come together as one people, to kind of stand up. And we will see how this plays out.

MALVEAUX: Josh, it's such an important point to bring that up, the fact that you have these two factions of Palestinian groups. Talk a little about the surrounding area, how this could impact to the countries that are already facing upheaval in that area.

LEVS: Absolutely. Let's zoom in on the next map because I want to you keep in mind the countries that surround that area.

The country we're going to zoom to is Jordan -- rather, Egypt, on the other side of all of this. You know that Egypt has a new government following the upheaval. Keep in mind, Egypt has also been fighting militants in the Sinai, which is right near Gaza. This conflict plays out in that respect. Over to the east, you have Jordan. Jordan in recent days has major protests there, including some people taking on the king over economic issue, which is very unusual to take on the king in Jordan. Up to the north, you have Lebanon, which has seen violence lately. The intelligence chief was killed in a bombing only weeks ago. Then to the east, Syria, one of the biggest stories in the world, since March of last year. As we know, is there is this huge internal conflict going on, and the opposition there says that the death toll is getting near 40,000.

Suzanne, as we look at that original strip of land, we were looking at there, Israel and Gaza, what we are seeing is a conflict that could, if it were to grow, impact the surrounding area, and that could bring all sorts of problems.

MALVEAUX: It really is a very serious situation that's taking place there. And it's fascinating when you look at it, because it starts at such a small, small region, a small area that's been really fighting for many decades, if not centuries for that piece of land and how that expands out to the whole region.

Josh, thank you very much. Really appreciate that.

LEVS: Thanks, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: War planes, drones, rockets crisscrossing the skies of Gaza.

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(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: We'll continue following the deadly cross-border battle between Israel and Gaza, so stay with CNN for the latest.

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MALVEAUX: College costs growing, but you don't have to front the bill. Christine Romans takes a look at ways to pay off college in this week's "Smart is the New Rich."

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: At this college fair, high school junior, Veronica Woodley, is exploring her options.

VERONICA WOODLEY, HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR: Finding schools that are pre- med, and I could major in biology to become a dermatologist and minor in Spanish.

ROMANS: Picking the right college is a high-stakes decision with a high price tag. Average tuition per year at a public college is more than $22,000 for in-state students, a private college more than $43,000. Community colleges cost $15,000 a year.

Not all kids borrow for college, but those who do, graduate with $27,000 in debt on average. With a price tag like that, college choice is a careful investment that depends on a student's talents and finances.

(on camera): Most important, you have to graduate from school in four years. No more five years. And you have to pick the right school. If you haven't saved any money, you can't pick the super expensive school and graduate five years later.

And you say there's a certain rule of thumb, Carmen, for paying for school.

CARMEN WONG ULRICH, PRESIDENT, ALTA WEALTH MANAGEMENT: Here's the thing. If you are a parent saving, I don't know why and how you would think you have to pay for the whole thing. Don't try to save the full price tag. You can basically try to save one-third, and then have you to go for scholarships and grants for the other one-third, and borrow one-third. It's much more manageable, and can you do it.

ROMANS: That means the part of the burden is on the kid, but part of the burden is on the parents. Carmen, a lot of people aren't saving.

WONG ULRICH: Exactly. Now, listen, if you can't save, if you just things are too tight to save, I always say to parents, take care of yourself first. Your child has a lot more time to pay off loans than you do, and stick with federal. More flexibility when this comes to repayment, and if they can't pay, they have ways to go ahead and defer it, forbearance, income-based repayment. Look at the loans first.

ROMANS (voice-over): For students like Veronica and her mom, Cathy, it's an exciting time and a lesson in high finance. They're crunching the numbers and considering all the options.

WOODLEY: I mean, on scholarships, financial aid, and then I'll work. But my mom -- I feel like my mom will do most of the paying, but, I mean, I will help her out, of course.

ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

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MALVEAUX: Well, before you go, stock up on Hostess cakes. Hostess is in bankruptcy court today, and there's a good chance that Twinkies won't go extinct after all.

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GREGORY RAYBURN, CEO, HOSTESS BRANDS: Our investment bankers will try to sell our brands and trademarks and we'll try to -- you know, in a liquidation, you try to sell everything you've got for whatever you can get. We'll certainly try to market the individual brands and see if we can find homes for them.

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MALVEAUX: All right. There's also a potential buyer out of Mexico called Rupo Benbo.

NASA getting ready to roll out its newly revamped mobile launcher. It's a huge steel platform used to launch the shuttles. It happened in the past. The mobile launcher will send the next American-made vehicles into space. NASA plans a rocket launch later this decade, which it hopes will advance human exploration even further beyond the earth's orbit.

Teen pop idol, Justin Bieber, had a big night at the American Music Awards.

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MALVEAUX: The 18-year-old heartthrob won artist of the year, favorite pop rock artist and favorite rock album. In his acceptance speech, Bieber said, quote, "This is for all the haters," who thought he would be just a short-timer.

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(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: Nicki Minaj was the big female winner of the night. She got favorite rap hip-hop artist and favorite rap hip-hop album.

All this week, we're talking about the baby boomer generation, everything from refusing to grow old to inspirational second lives. Up next, baby boomers living in alternative communities where they're getting inspiration and neighborly love.

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MALVEAUX: If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you're one of more than 80 million Americans who can officially call themselves baby boomers. All this week, we're telling you stories that affect this generation. The oldest baby boomer turned 66 this year and many are thinking about where and how to live the rest of their lives. There is one alternative living in what is called co-housing, communities where families of all ages live in a development of a couple dozen or more homes, cooking and eating together a few times a month in a common house, attending a communal garden together, and making decisions for the common good of the group. There are about 120 of these communities across the country.

Joining me is Jennifer Ryan. She is a member of the Timmon School Creek (ph) Co-Housing in Oakland, California.

Jennifer, very nice to see you.

I understand you've been living with your partner, Bill, for about 20 years or so in this community. Tell us why you decided you would live this alternative lifestyle.

JENNIFER RYAN, CO-HOUSING RESIDENT & ADVOCATE: Well, co-housing is kind of a laboratory. We're trying to find ways to live where we can support each other and nurture each other in our day-to-day lives at a time when most people in society don't have family and friends close by. And co-housing we have a network of closely connected people right in our backyard. We share our daily lives. We help each other reach our dreams.

MALVEAUX: We're watching -- we're looking at pictures you sent actually. Really fascinating to see. You have a community garden here. Looks like people are eating together. Explain to us what are the benefits of this compared to, like, if you're living in a regular neighborhood, let's say, or in a retirement community?

RYAN: Yes, well, in co-housing -- one of the hallmarks of co-housing is we share meals together, we take turns cooking, and in my community, for example, we have meals together twice a week. And for me, it is really a highlight of my week to get together with my neighbors, you know, to see what's going on, to chat and to share and catch up with the kids. In my community, we're a multigenerational community. And for me, that's great because I have an opportunity to interact with, you know, little kids, with teenagers, with the tweens, as well as with people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

MALVEAUX: It sounds like a lot of fun. I know you have some rules in the group here. And you call them work parties. How does that work actually? Do people have to follow the rules? Who makes the rules? How do you do that?

RYAN: Well, we have work parties in my community we have them once a month. We mostly work on the outdoor areas in the gardens. We do a lot of food raising, especially in the last couple of years, and we have summer gardens and winter gardens. One of the things I just love about my community and working in the gardens is it is really terrific to see the fruits of our labor, literally. You know, we're sharing that with each other instead of, you know, if I were living in a -- in my own home, just by myself, I wouldn't have that fun of sharing with other people.

MALVEAUX: And, Jennifer, is there a moment where, if you decide, you know, I'm not really up for this anymore, you can simply move. You don't have to, like, stay and be part of that community all the time?

RYAN: Well, of course, you don't have to stay. A few people leave co-housing because it doesn't work for them, but most people stay. It is actually a very -- much lower turnover in co-housing communities than in the rest of the country.

MALVEAUX: Tell us what the highlight is. Any interesting, funny stories that happened that don't usually -- kind of unique in your situation? I see people around the trees together.

RYAN: Yes, well, we -- one of the trees, that was -- we had to take down our oak tree because it was dead, and everyone was very sad about that. That was sort of the last day of the oak tree.

You know, another sort of multigenerational tale, a good opportunity, is that on election night we gathered to watch the returns. And one of my young neighbors, Miles, came around and was trying to understand the Electoral College. And so I sat with him for a while and showed him an ap where you can move the bubbles around with the different electoral votes. And he was just -- he was just enthralled. I don't -- I wouldn't have that kind of opportunity if I just lived on my own.

MALVEAUX: Sure. Well, Jennifer, it sounds like a really nice community. And it certainly works for you and your family. So we wish you the very best.

Thank you for coming on. We appreciate it.

RYAN: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Tomorrow, we'll have be talking about how baby boomers can avoid falling into the trap of reverse mortgages.

Before we wrap it up, we want to let you know, President Obama in Cambodia this hour. It is the last stop on a visit to Southeast Asia. He's holding talks with the Cambodian prime minister and leaders of Japan and China as well as attending to two summits with regional leaders.

The president flew to Cambodia from Myanmar. He is the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country, also known as Burma. He extended a hand of friendship while visiting a university there. Let's watch.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I took office as president, I sent a message to those governments who ruled by fear. I said, in my inauguration address, we will extend a hand if you're willing to unclench your fist. And over the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun as a dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip.

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MALVEAUX: The president says his visit is not an endorsement of the regime, but an acknowledgement of a reform process.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Deb Feyerick.

Hey, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, there. Thanks so much, Suzanne.

I'm Deborah Feyerick, in for Brooke Baldwin.