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In Conflict's Wake, A Stronger Hamas; Children of the Conflict; From Peacemaker to Dictator?; Hundreds Protest Walmart Nationwide; Painful Journey Inside a Horrifying Past; Top Secret Twist in Petraeus Probe

Aired November 23, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


JOE JOHNS, HOST: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a week of deadly conflict, and now a growing consensus that Hamas is stronger than it was before.

Also, the probe into the Petraeus scandal -- did he give classified information to a secret lover?

And why hundreds of people are protesting outside Walmart stores on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Wolf Blitzer is off.

I'm Joe Johns.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A major test of the two day old cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The militant group says Israeli soldiers fired on farmers trying to reach their land near the border, killing one person and injuring 25 others. The Israeli military says the people were protesters trying to enter Israel and that they ignored warning shots.

While that incident is being disputed, there is broad agreement that the recent fighting has left Hamas in a stronger position than it was before.

CNN's Brian Todd has more for us -- Brian, what's going on with Hamas?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, right now, it certainly looks that Hamas is stronger politically than it was before this. This is an organization that both the U.S. and Israel consider a terrorist group. But at this moment, it is the major power among the Palestinians.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In Gaza, celebrations and declarations of victory. This is the side which had scores of its facilities destroyed, more than 100 of its people killed. Yet for the leaders of Hamas, it signifies a strategy that works.

GHAZI HAMMAD, SENIOR HAMAS OFFICIAL: I think people will feel now that the only way which can push Israel to go -- to give concessions is the resistance.

TODD: Many observers agree Hamas emerges from this conflict stronger than it was before.

YOSSI MEKELBERG, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: So in many ways, it's consolidated its support in Gaza.

TODD: It was Hamas' rockets that put the Palestinian cause back on the world stage, not the diplomatic tack taken by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his rival Fatah faction.

Hamas also has the support of regional powers Turkey, Egypt and Qatar, making the group much less isolated than it was before.

Many analysts say internally, Hamas' street cred among Palestinians has grown stronger. In the West Bank, the stronghold of Fatah, Palestinians demonstrating in support of Hamas during this conflict signaled who they thought was fighting for them, while Abbas remained almost invisible.

PETER BEINART, "THE DAILY BEAST": Mahmoud Abbas never looks good when he's standing by while Palestinians are dying. Of course, Israelis are dying, too. But for Palestinians, who are naturally going to feel a very strong sense of empathy and solidarity with their brethren in Gaza, it doesn't make Mahmoud Abbas look good to be standing idly by.

TODD: Hamas also may come out of this with a key economic victory -- the opening of important crossings into Gaza that Israel had blockaded.

But what does the strengthening of Hamas, which the U.S. and Israel consider a terrorist group, mean for security in the region?

MEKELBERG: I don't think that the -- the Hamas will become more moderate. But it's -- I think it's much more pragmatic than many more -- many people actually attribute to it.

(INAUDIBLE) to the alternative to a cease-fire will be a ground invasion by the Israelis, which they knew would hit them even further.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: And Yossi Mekelberg and other analysts point out it's not as if Israel never negotiates with Hamas. The Israelis spoke at least indirectly with them to achieve this cease-fire. And after Hamas had captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and held him for five years, Israel negotiated to get him released -- Joe.

JOHNS: So the takeaway here is they may be stronger politically...

TODD: Right.

JOHNS: -- but not necessarily militarily.

TODD: That's right. I mean during this conflict, their rocket launching capability was decimated, at least in part, by Israel. That's reduced right now.

Some of their military commanders, top military commanders, were killed by the Israelis over the last week. So that means, in the long run, if Israel decides to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities and Iran turns to Hamas to want to hit back at Israel for that, Hamas might not have the firepower to do it, if all of that plays out soon.

JOHNS: Brian Todd, thanks for that.

TODD: Sure.

JOHNS: When it comes to the children caught in the middle of the conflict, there are no winners, but there are victims.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Sara Sidner, has that part of the story -- Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, in all the madness of war, we found a place that is really a zone of peace -- a place where families of both sides of the border can find some common ground.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Four-year-old Josef (ph) is listening to an age-old bedtime story, but he's not at home safe in his bed. He's in the hospital a victim of an age-old conflict that has shattered his family life.

He and his parents were staying inside this apartment building in Southern Israel when a rocket from Gaza slammed into it. The blast sheared off several of Josef's tiny fingers, badly injured his father and took his mother's life. She was among the first to die on the Israel side of the border.

CHAYA SARAH SCHARF, GRANDMOTHER (through translator): He was saying, "My mother is not here, she's with God. He knows it will be a hard time," his grandmother says.

Hard is putting it mildly. He has just been through a second surgery.

Doctors at the Sheba Medical Center at Talshamir Hospital reattached four of his fingers, but in the end, they had to re- amputate two of them.

SCHARF: He lives in the south and there are rockets all the time in that area. Hamas doesn't think about where the rockets are going, she says.

(on camera): While Josef is being treated in this hospital room, just one room away, there's another child with the same kind of war injuries, except she is from the other side of the conflict -- she's from Gaza.

(voice-over): Eight-year-old Bissan al-Agram (ph) lost three fingers when the war came to her home.

"I heard the sound of a missile that hit. I didn't even have time to ask what happened and then a second one hit," she says.

When the dust cleared, she could see the bones of her child's fingers in small pieces on the floor. She was taken to Al-Asheeba Hospital (ph) in Gaza, but it was too crowded and they couldn't give her the best care. So the family asked Israel for permission to cross the border.

Initially, her mother was terrified -- terrified at the prospect of people considered an enemy in their country putting their hands on her wounded daughter.

"It's a strange situation and it's my first time entering Israel. I was afraid, but they treated me and my daughter in a very nice way and I understand that medicine has nothing to do with politics," she says.

SOAD AL-AGHRAM, MOTHER:

PROF. ZEEV ROTHSTEIN, CEO, SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER: All the tension is blocked outside the hospital. Here, there is an island of sanity in the stormy water of the Middle East. Here, we treat people. We don't actually look from where they are and what they do and what they did before coming here and what they are going to do after leaving us.

SIDNER: Dr. Batia Yaffe is treating both children.

DR. BATIA YAFFE, HAND SURGEON: It will never be normal. It will affect her life from now on and his life from now on, in choice of profession, in choice of hobbies, in choice of a future partner for life, everything.

SIDNER: She has worked in this Tel Aviv hospital her entire career, treating everyone from soldiers to suicide bombers and the civilians in between.

YAFFE: What is it in this piece of land that everybody is fighting about it all the time?

This is what comes to my mind, is whether this is our lot for eternity, from now on, you know. We always have the injured on both sides, always fighting.

What's the point?

SIDNER: If there is a point, it is lost on a 4-year-old boy and eight-year-old girl from either side of the Israel/Gaza border, who just want to be children, but now share a similar fate, their innocence interrupted by a war they had nothing to do with. (END VIDEO TAPE)

SIDNER: With the fragile cease-fire becoming even more fragile, the families and the staff in this hospital are hoping that this zone of peace, as they called it, this island of peace, could extend to the rest of the region -- Joe.

JOHNS: Thousands of Egyptians are protesting in the streets against the man who helped broker the truce between Israel and Hamas. Just days ago, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was hailed as a peacemaker.

Now some accuse him of turning into a dictator, after a dramatic power grab that has the U.S. concerned.

CNN foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is at the State Department -- Jill, what's the reaction there?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, the State Department says that it's concerned. It wants more information. And it also says that the -- one of the key aspirations during the Egyptian revolution was to make sure that power was not concentrated in the hands of one individual person or any institution.

This move comes just days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broke off a trip to Asia, raced to the Middle East to try to broker a cease-fire.

And now CNN has a behind-the-scenes look at that mission.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: The president and his secretary of State, high profile, high risk diplomacy on Gaza.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I will carry this message to Cairo tomorrow. I will also be consulting with President Abbas in Ramallah.

DOUGHERTY: A senior State Department official telling CNN, "I have the beginnings of an ulcer to show this was not a done deal."

Two days before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boarded her plane in Cambodia, beginning a whirlwind of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East, the planning began. Clinton, President Obama, top aides, debating the pros and cons of a trip that would put American credibility and influence on the line.

She and her staff, the official says, were still working out the timing of her meetings as they drove to the airport. It was a textbook case of on the ground diplomacy, the official says -- Clinton working on a draft cease-fire agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

CLINTON: This is a critical moment for the region. DOUGHERTY: -- then Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. She was literally sitting there with a paper, pen in hand, making small edits, underlining things, debating phrases, the official says. And all the while, also stepping back and saying, what's the larger strategic picture here?

Even after reaching agreement with President Morsi in Cairo, Clinton, as this photo provided to CNN by the State Department shows, went upstairs to a study to call Prime Minister Netanyahu, to make sure the deal would be accepted.

As a former politician, Clinton could make the case to Netanyahu and Morsi. But this also was an issue of life and death, existential threats, and the official says she had to be as much diplomat as politician.

On the way to the airport, deal in hand, Clinton was not jubilant, the State Department official says. "We recognize that this is a first step. It remains risky. There are very real underlying problems."

(END VIDEO TAPE)

DOUGHERTY: And one problem has already raised its head. And that is that bid for power by President Morsi, even as a constitution is being written. A senior official tells CNN that Secretary Clinton, when she was in Cairo, actually did discuss that constitution with President Morsi. She was urging more protections for women and for minorities.

And these officials, Joe, tell us the U.S. is not trying to write the constitution of Egypt, but it does say that the rule of law is paramount -- Joe.

JOHNS: Jill Dougherty, thanks so much.

Black Friday shoppers greeted by protests at some Walmarts across the U.S. Demonstrators say the company is trying to silence its workers.

Plus, the fiscal cliff -- why it could be disastrous for charities like the ones helping victims of super storm Sandy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Hundreds of people, some of them employees are converging on Walmart stores across the country protesting what they say is company retaliation for speaking out against better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care.

CNN's Kyung Lah is standing outside a Walmart in Paramount, California.

Kyung, you were in the middle of these protests today. Tell us what happened. KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a very large protest here, Joe. There were at the height of this the L.A. County Sheriff's Department estimating about 1,000 protesters in or around this particular Walmart. And this protest, it was loud, it was ruckus, it was the very opposite of what you might expect on a Black Friday shopping day here at a Walmart.

And that's the point. The employees who walked off the job joined by many supporters and the labor group say that they wanted to make the point to management that they want to have a fair discussion about pay, about health care as well about the hours that they work. They chose Black Friday, a very potent day, to make that point.

Here's what an employee as well as a shopper told us what they think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say do this, do that. None of it works. So this is the only way we can get our voice out there is speaking with the media, speaking to the public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a matter, you know, that they have to, you know, do things right for the employees. You know, that's all.

LAH: Doing things right for the employees means you have to pay more for your TV, what do you think about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's something else. You know, when your pay is low and everything is charged up high, that's something that's not going to work. But that's a country problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: So as you can hear right there, customers certainly not deterred and Walmart says that is the primary reason they are still going to be posting what they are calling the best Black Friday that this retailer, America's largest retailer, has ever had. Walmart estimating about 50 employees they believe walked off the job or didn't show up as scheduled although protesters certainly taking issue with that.

Now, as far as what happened here at this particular Walmart it did become a bit more tense after the main protests, nine of the protesters sat down at the big thoroughfare right in front of the Walmart. They refused to leave. So the L.A. County Sheriff's Department announcing that they were going to arrest them if they didn't get up. They were very peacefully handcuffed and led away. Of the nine four were wearing the Walmart protest neon green shirt.

So, Joe, we believe that four of them were Walmart employees.

LEMON: All right. And Kyung Lah, thanks so much for that report.

A critical part of the Democratic Republic of Congo falls to rebels. Our Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what do you have?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Joe. Well, the fast-moving military campaign intended to overthrow the government is being condemned by the United Nations. Civilians are fleeing as the rebels move towards the next potential battleground. Regional leaders will meet in Uganda tomorrow to address the crisis and a relief organization is warning of a growing humanitarian crisis.

Well, there are signs Wall Street is encouraged by Black Friday shopping trends. The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq all closing up more than 1 percent in an abbreviated post-Thanksgiving trading day. It is the fifth straight day of gains for the stock market. And the first time since Election Day the Dow closed above 13000.

Black Friday started early for a number of leading retailers who opened their doors to shoppers last night.

And you are looking at the hall from a massive drug bust. In Kentucky police say a garage was stacked to the ceiling with trash bags filled with thousands of pounds of marijuana worth more than $2.5 million. Authorities also seized more than $1 million in cash. Four illegal immigrants are under arrest and police say the suspects have ties to a notorious Mexican drug cartel.

And the official White House Christmas tree has arrived here in Washington. First Lady Michelle Obama, she's on hand to welcome the tree along with daughters Sasha, Malia and there you see him there, the first dog, Bo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: It's beautiful. It's exactly what we need. We just got the right (INAUDIBLE). We're going to take it. I think we're good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: It's time to decorate that thing, I think. This year's tree is a 19-foot Frazier fir from Jefferson, North Carolina. It's going to be on display throughout the holiday season in the White House Blue Room. This is a tradition that dates back to 1966.

So it looks like a pretty good tree.

JOHNS: Wow.

SYLVESTER: Definitely one to put us all in the holiday spirit if we weren't already, Joe.

JOHNS: Absolutely. And they really decorate that tree, too. It's just amazing what they do with it. People all over the country want to emulate it.

SYLVESTER: Yes. Well, it's going to be nice to see. And I saw they had the official man and the top hat and everything else.

JOHNS: Yes.

SYLVESTER: So --

JOHNS: With the Clydesdales.

SYLVESTER: Yes. Exactly. I'm getting a bit of the holiday bug now between that and the shopping, of course.

JOHNS: Yes. Of course.

(LAUGHTER)

Thanks so much, Lisa Sylvester.

Rebel forces in Syria seize control of desperately needed tanks. Just ahead, could it be a critical turning point in the bloody civil war? You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: President Obama made history this week becoming the first American president to visit Cambodia as part of his Asian tour. It's a country still very much haunted by a horrifying past.

CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian traveled with the president on that trip and gives us a chilling look at history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The roads to the killing fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh is dusty and at times only partly paved. A 30-minute ride into this country's painful past when some two million people were killed under Pol Pot's brutal rule, a man some referred to as the Hitler of Cambodia.

(On camera): This is the truck stop where people were brought, some from prisons or elsewhere. Sometimes it was hundreds by truck each day. Some held out hope, others knew it was the end. This is where they came to die.

They were all accused of crimes against the state. Most were killed the night they arrived here. Others were kept alive for a few more hours in small steel and wood structures that were once right here on this spot.

(Voice-over): This man who begs for money and food every day along the fence surrounding the killing fields says his brother was arrested, brought here and murdered by the Khmer Rouge.

"It's sad," he says, while CNN can't verify his account, our translator says it's credible. There are grim stories at every turn, across fields where a dip in the ground means another grave.

(On camera): This is one of the largest shallow graves where 450 bodies were found. Sometimes when it rains you'll find pieces of cloth and bone fragments on the surface. And it's not just in there. All around. Right here you'll find a tooth.

The prisoners weren't killed with bullets. That was considered to be too expensive. Instead they were beaten and hacked to death falling into these shallow graves. Pol Pot's motto, it's better to kill an innocent by mistake than to spare an enemy by mistake.

(Voice-over): That twisted logic resulted in a genocide in the mid to late '70s. Today at this site, one of more than 300 killing fields in Cambodia there's a tower of skulls and bones, a hunting memorial to the victims.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: The Obama administration has concerns about the human rights situation in Cambodia today. It doesn't rise to the level of past atrocities, but when President Obama met with the prime minister of this country here, he pressed him to hold free and fair elections and to release political prisoners. And while Cambodian officials say the situation is being exaggerated, the president warned that lack of reforms would be an impediment to a deeper relationship with the U.S.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Phnom Penh.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: A sex scandal with the top secret twists. New details of the FBI probe of General David Petraeus. Was his lover given classified information?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: We're following the probe into General David Petraeus. The FBI is looking into whether his biographer-turned lover Paula Broadwell was given classified information.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us.

Barbara, what's the latest?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, we know that classified information was found at Paula Broadwell's home. But now the probe is turning to figuring out who gave it to her. And the federal law enforcement officials are looking at Petraeus' own inner circle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An unidentified Afghan individual --

STARR (voice-over): Inside David Petraeus' Command Center in Afghanistan, the briefings regularly included classified information.

Did some of that information make its way to Paula Broadwell, his biographer, at the time?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: She would have received material from a number of sources, a number of individuals.

STARR: Law enforcement officials confirmed to CNN contributor Tom Fuentes that investigators are looking at whether Broadwell, who later had an adulterous affair with Petraeus, was given classified material by Petraeus aides because they may have thought Petraeus wanted her to have it as she was in Afghanistan gathering material for her book "All In," a biography on the four-star.

"The Washington Post" had first reported the details about the Petraeus aides. Petraeus has authorized former aides and friends to tell reporters he personally never gave Broadwell classified information. Government sources have told CNN Broadwell had material such as PowerPoint presentations and schedules.

But Fuentes says while Broadwell would have gotten her research material from a lot of sources, be careful about jumping to conclusions.

FUENTES: So say that the implication when the FBI is looking at someone, you know, makes it sound like they're the subject of a criminal investigation. And right now it's -- that part of it is still in the let's determine how this material is provided and who gave it and under what circumstances.

STARR: Even if the information the FBI removed from Broadwell's home was not a risk to national security, she and whoever gave it to her will have plenty to answer for.

FUENTES: The military and the intelligence -- the rest of the intelligence community agencies, don't want every individual on their own to determine what's sensitive and what isn't.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Look, there are very strict rules in the U.S. military as you would expect about the possession and handling of classified information. So Paula Broadwell still may have to explain not only what she had, why she had it, what she was doing with it, but why it was inside her house -- Joe.

JOHNS: A lot of questions for sure in this investigation. Thanks so much for that, Barbara Starr.

Syrian opposition groups say the death toll from 20 months of civil war now tops 42,000 people. And rebel forces appear to be making some small but potentially critical gains in their effort to topple the regime.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has the latest from Beirut -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Joe, at least 600 people killed in the last week as rebels report significant advances in the north and east of the country. We've also seen the troubling possibility of NATO stationing its missiles along the border between Syria and Turkey and maybe, just possibly, being drawn closer towards this conflict.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): This is the slimmest glimmer of hope for the rebels, a key base west of Aleppo, not only overrun but also looted for badly needed weapons. Regime aircraft now vulnerable to these, regime tanks now driven by rebels.

Similar scenes in the east (INAUDIBLE) rebels claiming they've purged the regime from a whole swath of land near the Iraqi border. Both victories mean the regime is less able to project brute force in the north and east. Perhaps they're also having to concentrate forces here on Damascus' suburbs.

This is Daria. Rebels have camped regime troops out so it's instead being pounded by nearly a fourth night by three separate army units. Thirty-five dead on first day alone. But that didn't stop this unusual outburst in the capital's very central old market. In wedding dresses demanding an end to military operations discreetly filmed, they were soon led away by uniformed men.

Little sign Bashar al-Assad is cracking, Friday he met with key Iranian power broker, Ali Larijani, perhaps bolstered by Moscow's swiftly moving to criticize Turkey's demand for Patriot missiles like these along the volatile border, a move that could drag NATO into the war, Russia warned.

SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: As I already said, the main concern is that the more weapons there are, the greater the risk that they will be used. And also any provocation could trigger it.

WALSH: Winter will be unkind to the regime and its opponents. More refugees, at least in Turkey, will struggle in freezing temperatures. But worse weather will also make it harder for the regime's main advantage, air power, to fly. The hardest months for Syrians may still be ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Joe, I should point out what we've just seen in the report, so many people most traveling the intense shelling of these Damascus suburbs, namely there in Daria. It seems to be that the regime is unable to push into these rebel strongholds there and is resorting to this heavy bombardment. But I'm sure there are people in the inner circle around President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus perhaps feeling nervous tonight -- Joe.

JOHNS: Nick Paton Walsh in Beirut.

They're known for helping those in need. Now some charities are worried they might need their own lifeline with the country on the brink of a fiscal cliff. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHNS: With the country on the brink of a financial crisis, there are growing calls for help from the very organizations used to doing the helping, charities.

Let's bring in our Lisa Sylvester with details -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Hi, there, Joe. Well, you know, this is actually primetime season for charities. Between now and the end of the year is when they receive the bulk of their donations. But aside from fundraising, there is something else they are thinking about. The fiscal cliff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): The power of philanthropy on display after superstorm Sandy hit. But now it's the charities that are hoping to get a lifeline from Washington with a message, don't push us over the fiscal cliff. Charities are basing it on two fronts. Many nonprofits receive government funding that could be slashed. And Congress could reduce or cap the charitable deduction donors receive. Among those worried, the Urban Institute.

EUGENE STEUERLE, THE URBAN INSTITUTE: On the one hand you might say it's the taxpayer who obviously gets the tax break because they get to take a deduction and their taxes are lowered. But the flip side is if that tax deduction induces them or encourages them to give more to charity, you may argue that the ultimate beneficiary of the charitable deduction is not the taxpayer but is actually the ultimate recipient of the charitable gift.

SYLVESTER: One proposal supported by President Obama would limit the amount the wealthiest Americans could write off in charitable donations to 28 percent of their contribution instead of the current 35 percent. An idea from the Simpson-Bowles presidential commission would get rid of the charitable deduction for most taxpayers and replace it with a 12 percent flat rate. Either would have an impact on major institutions that rely on big donations like hospitals and universities.

JOHN LIPPINCOTT, CASE PRESIDENT: Let me give you an example. A 1 percent decline in giving to American higher education would result in a loss of $300 million a year to colleges and universities.

SYLVESTER: Nonprofits have launched a new lobbying effort including this Web site asking charities to contact their members of Congress. The deduction has broad support with 68 percent of Americans opposed to making changes according to a Gallup Poll from last year. But Washington is running out of time and options with the fiscal cliff looming at the end of the year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And the charitable deduction is not the only one on the negotiating table. Congress could also make changes to the home mortgage interest deduction, there could be changes to the property tax write-offs. Also another popular one is the capital gains exemptions on home sales. So there's a lot riding on the line here. And it could of course impact, you know, all of these future tax seasons come next April -- Joe.

JOHNS: Yes. You start messing with the mortgage deduction, you're going to have steam going out of a lot of taxpayers' ears.

SYLVESTER: Yes, you know, we're talking about a lot of big ones that are on the table. The property tax, that's another huge one.

JOHNS: That's huge.

SYLVESTER: You know, people are -- everybody says, yes, the deficit, it's all a big problem. We can't continue -- and it's true. You can't continue to run these trillion-dollar deficits. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty about what you're actually going to cut, that's what's really hard -- Joe.

JOHNS: If they don't fix it, it's going to be in everybody's backyard. Thanks so much.

SYLVESTER: That's right.

JOHNS: Thanks, Lisa.

Does the Israel-Gaza ceasefire prove the U.S. can negotiate with what it defines as a terror group? What about al Qaeda? We'll look at the implications next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Fresh clashes between protesters and riot police in Cairo within the past hour. Demonstrations have been going on throughout the day and night against President Mohamed Morsi who's made what has been seen by some as a massive power grab just yesterday, announcing his decrees are absolute and cannot be appealed or overturned until a new constitution is in place.

We want to talk about it with Fouad Ajami, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

And so you've seen these reports and headlines as I have. And you look at this, what does it tell you if on one day Mohamed Morsi is playing an integral role in this deal with Hamas and the very next day he's being referred to as some sort of a modern day pharaoh? What does this tell you?

FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, it tells us that the revolution never really has a straight trajectory. They twist, they turn. And it tell us that Morsi is a very, very cunning man. He knows what he's doing. What he did when you take a look at what brackets this decision by Morsi to impose, in fact, dictatorial power for himself, what he ended up doing is he did first, he signed a deal with the international monetary fund to secure a loan for $4.8 billion.

Then he did the international community a favor and he demonstrated his moderation by negotiating a deal with Hamas. And then what he does is he turns around and he asserts his powers domestically.

In a way -- in some way, it's almost borrowing a page from the book of Hosni Mubarak. But that is -- that is what this -- what this revolution has come to in Egypt now.

JOHNS: Now -- and I hope -- I saw you tinkering with your IFB there, I hope it's OK.

AJAMI: Right. It is OK.

JOHNS: One of the things that is a bit fascinating in all of this is you had large groups of people headed out into the streets almost immediately. It seemed just about spontaneous. Does that tell you a little bit about the volatility of this regime?

AJAMI: You're exactly right, Joe. In fact, two crowds came out. The liberal crowds, the people who feel that the revolution, their revolution, their revolution in Tahrir Square that excited the world was stolen from them. And then there was another crowd, the crowd that Morsi spoke to. It was his own crowd. It was basically the Muslim Brotherhood. He turned them out and he spoke to them. And you have these two forces. And then -- and we know that the people who pulled this -- who pulled off this revolution in Tahrir Square never really wanted this kind of reign. They just ended up with this.

We ended up with a situation where there were two candidates for the presidency, one from the old Mubarak regime and one from the Muslim Brotherhood. And the liberal secular forces divided themselves and were betrayed in the process because they did not know how to play the game.

JOHNS: Have we just seen a quiet sea change in the notion of negotiating with so-called terrorist organizations? The United States say they won't do it, Israel says it doesn't do it, but there's been this negotiation with Hamas. And I suppose the question is, at some point at the end of the day, do these governments have to negotiate or talk to the real enemy?

AJAMI: Well, Joe, we really do negotiate. We deny it, but we negotiate under the table. And we think of the great communicator, we think of Ronald Reagan in the '80s insisting he doesn't deal with terrorists and we discovered otherwise. Sometimes governments should not make these absolutely moral statements because indeed what do you do about Hamas? It controls Gaza. It holds Gaza in captivity, if you will. It is the rogue government in Gaza.

Do you deal with it? Well, you try. And how do you deal with it? You designate the Egyptians as middlemen. So we negotiate with terrorists even though we deny it all the time.

JOHNS: Part of the deal is for the United States to help stop the flow of weapons into Gaza. But do you suspect Egypt is really going to help the United States do that? AJAMI: I think Egypt will look after its own interests, Joe. Because one thing the Egyptians are very worried about the Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai Peninsula is now a place for smugglers, for terrorists, for Bedouin raiders, and the Sinai Peninsula it has a heavy presence in it by Hamas. And so the Egyptians, first and foremost, they must secure the Sinai Peninsula, they must make sure that they have American aid, and they must in the end try to be a broker between the Israelis and Hamas. It's a game that Egypt knows and it's a game that Egypt capitalizes upon.

JOHNS: How much do you think Hamas won or gained throughout all of this? We --

(CROSSTALK)

AJAMI: No, please, I'm a heretic on this one. I heard a lot of people say Hamas gained, Hamas had -- you know, people came from all over the world, the Arab and the Islamic world, the foreign minister of Turkey came to Gaza, and et cetera, et cetera. But when you look at the conditions of Gaza, when you look at the economics of Gaza, when you look at the destruction of Gaza, it's really there is no gain there.

It was said, some years ago, six years ago, that Hezbollah in Lebanon gained and emerged victorious from its war with Israel, it did not. It's brought destruction on to the people of south Lebanon and on to the people of Beirut. These are pyrrhic victories. They are false victories by terrorist groups who had very little to offer the population.

JOHNS: Fouad Ajami, always good to talk to you. Thanks so much for coming in.

AJAMI: Thank you, Joe.

JOHNS: One of the most famous bands in history had their first audition tape rejected. The long lost Beatles' demo tape ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: It's crunch time at airports around the country. More than 24 million people are expected to fly during this Thanksgiving holiday. We're going behind the scenes for an exclusive look at what it takes to get flights turned around safely and on time.

CNN's Sandra Endo is at the Houston airport.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, it takes a team of people to make sure flights coming in get prepped and ready to go right back out. We got exclusive access to a ground crew team at United Airlines to see how they get it done under deadline.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENDO (voice-over): At the gate the action starts when these wands stop the plane. We got an exclusive up close look at United Airlines' highly choreographed ramp services crew at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport. First unloading a flight from Amsterdam. These metal containers are filled with luggage.

ANTWON WARDEN, RAMP SERVICE AGENT: People don't realize there's a lot of processes that go through getting the bag from one destination to another, but we do it proficiently.

ENDO (on camera): Timing is everything when you turn a plane as these guys unload the cargo off the plane. You can see up there catering is restocking the plane with food.

(Voice-over): There's refueling, filling the water tank, and replacing pillows and blankets. BB Chavez watches over it all from a control center at the airport.

BB CHAVEZ, MANAGER, STATION OPERATIONS CENTER: I like to think of myself more of a orchestra conductor. It's a very complex operation. Everybody has a responsibility, everybody has a critical part of the mission.

ENDO (on camera): You have cleaning crews and maintenance checking to make sure everything inside the plane is ready to go for the next flight.

(Voice-over): The pilots arrive while as many as 35 employees continue to ready the aircraft for departure.

(On camera): Workers can see just how long they have to complete their task by the countdown clock over there, and typically it ranges depending on the size of the plane from 40 minutes to about an hour and a half.

(Voice-over): I got to climb inside a cargo hold being filled with bags for the flight back to Amsterdam.

SIMI KALASA, RAMP SERVICE AGENT: We stay ahead of the game and get yourself organized in order to organize everything, you'll be all right.

ENDO (on camera): But it's heavy lifting?

KALASA: Yes, it is. But when you do it so long, you'll get used to it.

ENDO (voice-over): Efficiency is key. The head of operations said it's not only good for passengers, but for company profits.

STEPHANIE BUCANAN, UNITED V.P. HOUSTON OPERATIONS: The faster we can turn an airplane, the sooner we can get it back in the air flying and earning revenue for us.

ENDO: And a little over an hour since it landed, this plane is, again, filled with passengers and ready to go. After a push away from the gate, the ramp crew is done. All that's left is a taxi to the runway and takeoff. (On camera): Each ramp services team turns around six planes a day per shift, and while speed is certainly a factor, the airline says safety is their number one priority -- Joe.

JOHNS: Sandra Endo in Houston.

If you think you've heard everything the Beatles have done, think again. A long lost demo tape by the Beatles has just resurfaced.

CNN's Phil Han has the story behind it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL HAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were four unknown guys in 1962. John, Paul, George, and Pete. Trying to break into the music business by making this audition tape. They handed Deco Records their demo which included this song, "Sweet Cool Cats."

But the group was rejected by the record company and told they had no future in show business. That groups like theirs were on the way out.

Boy, were they wrong.

TED OWEN, AUCTIONEER, THE FAME BUREAU: The quality is absolutely -- it's like you're sitting in a -- in a cinema when you have headphones on. It's actually brilliant, and that's the most amazing part about this tape is the -- is the quality.

HAN: The Beatles recorded a total of 10 songs on the demo, listing all of them on this handwritten tape cover. Songs including "Money," "Crying, Waiting, Hoping," and this one, "Searching."

This is the first time the audition tape is being heard in public, and it could be yours.

OWEN: For anyone who spends over $20,000 on it, it's going to be -- you know, they're going to be -- they're going to be telling everybody on the planet that they own it, you know, so it's a trophy.

HAN (on camera): But you can't afford the price tag and you are a Beatles fan, at least now you know how it all began.

Phil Han, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, new turmoil in Egypt.

Angry protesters call their president a dictator after he assumed sweeping new powers only days after he helped broker the truce between Israel and Hamas.

Plus, surprising new details of Osama bin Laden's burial at sea. Revealed in secret e-mails now being made public. And I'll ask the leader of the anti-tax movement, Grover Norquist, why some Republicans are breaking with him and his no-new taxes pledge.

Wolf Blitzer is off, I'm Joe Johns, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.