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Obama To Meet Mexico's President-Elect; Heads Or Tails? Election Decided By Coin Flip; New Sign Of Housing Comeback; Actor Calls Own Hit Comedy "Filth"; Children Caught Up In Syria's War

Aired November 27, 2012 - 14:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Mexico's next president has a message for U.S. officials: ties between the neighboring countries must go beyond the drug war. Just four days before his inauguration, Mexican President-Elect Enrique Pena Nieto is in Washington meeting with lawmakers. In fact, he'll be meeting with the president, President Obama, next hour.

CNN Espanol anchor Fernando Del Rincon is here with me. Good to see you, friend. President-elect here has said repeatedly that, you know, he doesn't want to as much focus on security and the drug war, that it is really the economy, right, in deepening economic ties with the U.S. That is his priority.

FERNANDO DEL RINCON, CNN EN ESPANOL ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely. That's correct. There is a really interesting numbers out, we can talk about, and why he thinks economics is the main topic. And that's what he's trying --


RINCON: -- to turn around. OK, let's think about this. The general secretary of the Organization of Corporation and Economic Development says Mexico is going to grow 3.8 percent in its economy this year. Now, talking about 2013, we'll be growing 3.6 percent.

In 2014 will be 3.6 percent. That's a much more than we expect from U.S. and Europe. Now, one of the topic is energy. The elected president is focusing a lot on energy. So what is the U.S. looking for? Energy also.

President Obama has said that several times that we want -- we need to be efficient in terms of energy. So that would be a door that would open a lot of opportunities for Mexican government in terms of bilateral relationships and growth in terms of jobs.

That's another thing he's talking about. I don't know if he's selling the idea because of the job situation in the United States, but it could be a reality.

BALDWIN: Helps sustain, I think I read something like 6 million jobs in the United States. He -- the president-elect, Pena Nieto, sat down with Wolf Blitzer just a little while ago. So let's just play part of that interview.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": So what is the biggest problem in U.S./Mexican relations right now?

ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, MEXICAN PRESIDENT-ELECT (through translator): -- good understanding and my purpose then is to create a relationship, to built a relationship based on trust and relationship positive constructive that would allow us to understand the world affairs and matters that both peoples have to face and based on this agreement, we'll reach relationship of brotherhood.


BALDWIN: I know it was tough to hear part of the initial translation, but you heard it, point being, make sure that the trust is there, build on the trust. How does he do that?

RINCON: OK, first of all, because of the declarations like this, because I told you one side of the story, in terms of economics there is numbers, there is growth, but there is a lot of analysts in Mexico that think this is just a --


RINCON: -- well, because they think that's a way he should start, visiting the United States. Why? Because we're neighbors and because --

BALDWIN: Big trade partners.

RINCON: Well, third in the world and there is an economic trade between Canada, U.S. and Mexico. They have to take care of that. And when you think about 1.6 million that the U.S. imports to Mexico to fight against drugs, drug trafficking, well, he has to visit the United States first.

But for a lot of analysts like Eduardo Rosales from the University of Mexico, they don't think this is a big deal. It is just a visit and a way of making his way to the presidency. This weekend, he will take positions.

BALDWIN: There is so much more from the interview. We'll watch "THE SITUATION ROOM with the president-elect. Fernando, thank you very much.

RINCON: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Three weeks here after Election Day, a county in Illinois finally breaks a tie vote for a county board seat. But you have to see how they did it. Wait for it.


BALDWIN: Heads or tails, not exactly a question you want to answer wrong with an election on the line. But that is exactly what happened in Dewitt County, Illinois. This county board seat was up for grabs. Both candidates ended up with the exact same amount of votes.

And with no specific rules on how to settle a tie here, yes, election officials had to get creative to decide the winner. Jacob Long of our affiliate WMBD picks up the story.


JACOB LONG, WMBD (voice-over): Dewitt County Clerk Recorder, Dana Smith, is digging through her purse for a coin.


LONG: The reason is a first in her more than 20 years working here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never know. Anything is possible.

LONG: Smith's search is successful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a quarter. We're going to go for it.

LONG: When the clock strikes three, she flips the quarter into the air.


LONG: But this is no ordinary coin toss. It is deciding the outcome of a county board race.

DANA SMITH, DEWITT COUNTY CLERK/RECORDER: We just need something to break the tie, so here we are.

LONG: Republican incumbent Terry Ferguson and independent George Miller both want to serve District B. The problem, election results show they're dead even.

SMITH: We waited 14 days for absentees to come in. We counted. We now have a tie between two of them.

LONG (on camera): Since the state has no specific rules for a situation like this, the clerk is getting creative and flipping a coin.

SMITH: It is a head.

LONG (voice-over): As the incumbent Ferguson goes first, calling tails, but the quarter lands on heads meaning he loses.

TERRY FERGUSON (R), OUTGOING BOARD MEMBER: Well, a little disappointed. But, you know, I guess that's the -- that's the way the quarter gets flipped.

LONG: Miller is the winner. He isn't thrilled. He says this process is like gambling.

GEORGE WISSMILLER (I), INCOMING BOARD MEMBER: This is such a departure from anything even putting your democratic election process then I'm simply not willing to do it.

LONG: And to prove his point, he's not taking a paycheck for his seat. It is an ending to an already unique race both men say they didn't see coming.

FERGUSON: I'm glad it's over.


BALDWIN: The defeated incumbent isn't happy with the results of the coin flip. He said now he's looking into a recount, but thanks to our affiliate WMBD.

Now this, an index that measures the pulse of the nation's housing market turned in a strong showing here. Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. Are we talking about a comeback, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what? If you ask the head of this home price index, he'll tell you it is safe to say we are now in the midst of a recovery. Here is a bonus. You know, for so long all of our good news with housing, it's been for the buyers.

So finally some good news for the sellers, what S&P Case-Shiller found with that home prices jumped more than 3.5 percent from July through September. This is the biggest percentage gain for prices in more than two years.

Now a bunch of things are boosting prices, low mortgage rates, the jobs market is getting better, a number of foreclosures is falling, all that helping to boost those home prices -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, now officially behind us. Give me an update on the consumer confidence here.

KOSIK: Yes, so the numbers that we found out about consumer confidence, they actually put that exclamation point in that jump that we saw in spending this past holiday weekend. Consumer confidence hit its highest level since February of 2008.

And Americans said is that they're feeling more optimistic about the jobs market and that's good for the economy. You know, when people are feeling optimistic, they go out there and spend more.

Still though with so many people shopping early, the key is going to see if this momentum continues over the next four weeks between Black Friday and Christmas because what happened last year was they came out in droves at the beginning, right near Black Friday, and then those shoppers, poof, disappeared. So the retailers are hoping we don't see a repeat performance.

BALDWIN: Alison Kosik, thank you.

An actor from the TV comedy "Two And A Half Men" is calling his show filth and asking you not to watch. Find out what religion has to do with this controversy. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: If you don't know who he is, perhaps you know the name, Angus T. Jones. This is the guy who's been starring in the comedy megahit "Two And A Half Men" really since he was 8 years old.

Today he's 19, so he's grown up before our eyes in television and now he's turned against it. He's turned against the millions he's been making, as you will hear in this online clip.


ANGUS JONES, "JAKE" ON "TWO AND A HALF MEN": I can be a Christian and be on a show like "Two And A Half Men," you can't. You can't be a true god fearing person and be on a television show like that. I know I can't. I'm on "Two And A Half Men." I don't want to be on it. Please stop watching it. Please stop filling your head with filth.


BALDWIN: Stop filling your head with filth, he says. From the video, it appears Jones converted to the Seventh Day Adventist Church and is denouncing a contract that pays him nearly $8 million over two years. As for the show, right now they're saying no comment.

Why is all of this happening? Why is joins saying what he is? And what does this have to do with being a Seventh Day Adventist? religion editor Dan Gilgoff joins me.

Dan, let's just, you know, begin with you see the clip and you see him sitting there next to a man, there is this other man on his right-hand side, this is Christopher Hudson. You've talked to him. Who is he?

DAN GILGOFF, RELIGION EDITOR, CNN.COM: Right. I just hung up with Christopher about an hour or two ago. He describes himself as an evangelist for the Seventh Day Adventist, he is based in Alabama.

It was just last week that he was put in touch with Angus, the actor, flew out to California and spent some time filming him for the testimonials that have caught all this attention online.

This guy, Christopher, says that ever since the videos went up a couple of days ago, his phone has been ringing off the hook and so he feels like mission accomplished.

The message about the church is getting out there. He also tells me that he just talked to Angus yesterday. That he's doing well and he's happy with how everything is going in terms of reaction so far.

BALDWIN: OK, so take me back, you mentioned the message of the church or this group, Seventh Day Adventist. Who are they and what is their message?

GILGOFF: Sure, well, the Seventh Day Adventist really believed in this kind of purity of lifestyle and of body. So that they are vegetarians, they avoid alcohol, and it is helpful to think about them in terms of believing that the end times are very near.

That we're inhabiting the end times and that Jesus Christ's return is imminent. It actually grew out of this movement, this apocalyptic movement that happened in the United States about 150 years ago.

Now when this scheduled or predicted apocalypse failed to occur, the Seventh Day Adventists were born as a kind of apocalyptic movement 2.0.

BALDWIN: OK, so with all that said, do you think Angus Jones wants to leave the show and the multimillion dollar contracts because, you know, his faith is telling him to do so or was this his own call?

GILGOFF: It is hard to know if this is something that has to do particularly with the Seventh Day Adventist Church or if this is something that speaks to kind of the zeal of the converted. He appears to have converted just earlier this year, from what Christopher, the guy who shot the video says.

And so it might not have anything to do with the Seventh Day Adventists per se, it may have to do with him being a new religious person and these new converts oftentimes adhere more tightly to the scriptures of the church than anyone else. That is the phenomena we may be seeing playing out right now.

BALDWIN: Dan Gilgoff, thank you for coming on and explaining this to us. Appreciate it.

GILGOFF: Good to see you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Good to see you. Innocent children killed when a bomb went off in their schoolyard, just out and about playing in Syria. My next guest is from the group called "Save The Children" and they'll explain why it is much more to this attack than merely a cluster bomb.


BALDWIN: Now to Syria where the human cost of war took a very heavy, heavy toll this week. As we have been showing you, on this newscast, video surfaced of an attack that I have to warn you right now it is really just horrible beyond words.

But here it is. What you're seeing what you're hearing, panicked parents, adults, carrying young children from a playground to a makeshift hospital. The scene is frantic. You can hear the shock in the voices of the parents as they cry out for help.

So many children, they're injured, they're bleeding, ten of them dead. The Syrian activist who posted this video on YouTube say the children were killed by a cluster bomb, a device so terrible, most of the world bans the use of them.

Kimberly Brown is a conflict adviser with "Save The Children." She joins me now from London. I know, Kimberly, you are working to confirm that the activists' claim this was or was not a cluster bomb. Can you confirm that? KIMBERLY BROWN, CONFLICT ADVISER, "SAVE THE CHILDREN": I understand that groups are still working to verify this, but the evidence is very compelling, yes.

BALDWIN: A cluster bomb, explain it to us, it is one big bomb that explodes, right, and shards fall.

BROWN: Yes. A cluster bomb is a large ammunition that can be fired from the ground or dropped from the air. It opens up in the air and scatters dozens or hundreds of smaller ammunitions on the ground. And you can understand there are very serious problems with this.

One, the bomb does not discriminate between military targets and civilians. The other being that many of the smaller bomblets that scatter everywhere fail to detonate on impact. So they can kill civilians, maim and kill civilians for years or decades after the conflict has ended.

BALDWIN: Seeing these children dead, one report I read all under the age of 15 here, just out playing, do you think this represents a new height of desperation in this bloody civil war?

BROWN: I mean, this is -- it is a horrible thing. When we see use of these cluster munitions, which are banned under international humanitarian law, it is a very dire situation. This is a huge problem that it is going to new lows, these banned weapons are being used and civilians and children are being killed.

BALDWIN: One of our international -- senior international correspondents, Arwa Damon. She actually filed a report from the Syrian border with Turkey. She shows this refugee camp right on the border that is being actually targeted.

The camp is being targeted by air strikes. Turkish officials wouldn't let our reporter into the camp. It is not at all safe for her to do that. She actually spoke on the phone with a teacher, let's listen and we'll talk on the other side.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Turkish military asked us to move from our other location, but the teacher was just telling us that she's been living in the camp for four months. He said there are around 12,000 people who were there.

He was in the process of giving one of his classes when the first strike took place. He said it was complete and total chaos, the children were screaming, yelling, the entire camp began trying to run for the borders for safety.


BALDWIN: So even in refugee camps, children are not safe. Have you ever seen this kind of thing before, Kimberly?

BROWN: I mean, for us, our key concern is we're working in the refugee camps in Iraq, with refugees in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. We're seeing children who are traumatized from the experiences that they have had within Syria.

"Save The Children" is working with those children to get them past that. But it is very difficult and these experiences are very traumatizing including this use of explosive weapons and populated areas, and other horrific things we have seen reported from inside Syria.

BALDWIN: The Syrian regime says they are targeting terrorists, but children are certainly not that. Kimberly Brown with "Save The Children" from London. Kimberly, thank you.


BALDWIN: For the very first time, the Department of Education has released state by state high school graduation rates using this new rigorous formula. Topping the list here, four-year high school graduation rates with 88 percent here, you have Iowa followed closely by Vermont at 87 percent. Coming in at the bottom really is New Mexico and Nevada.

Last is our nation's capital, Washington, D.C., with just 59 percent. But even more shocking than the dismal graduation rates are the obvious achievement gaps. For example, Ohio, graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students was 65 percent. For all students it was 80 percent.

Advice now on making smart decisions when it comes to managing student loan debt, here is Alison Kosik with today's "Help Desk."

KOSIK: Hi there. Here on the "Help Desk" we're talking about managing your student loans. With me this hour are Greg Olson and Carmen Wong Ulrich. Carmen, here's your question.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just wondering how I'm going to afford a minimum wage job with all the student loans I have to pay for and I just graduated from college.


KOSIK: I feel for her.

CARMEN WONG ULRICH, PRESIDENT AND CO-FOUNDER, ALTA WEALTH MANAGEMENT: Wow, wow, wow. It is a tough situation, but here's the thing. We got to know what type of loans does she have? If she's got private loans, unfortunately she's in a real big pickle because here's the thing, low flexibility, but call them right away.

If you're pro active about this, you can actually try to work with them before you get into trouble. If she's got federal loans, though, there is the income-based repayment program. She's got to look into that. So basically it is only a part of your discretionary income that goes to pay it every month. So as her income goes up, her bill will go up. That's good because it will never too unmanageable.

KOSIK: Any suggestions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom, how's my bedroom doing.

ULRICH: Exactly.

KOSIK: It is really hard because you want to go to school, you have to take out the loans and figure out how to pay them back in a market where it is hard to find a decent wage.

ULRICH: What type of loan is absolutely key to any student out there borrowing right now. Go for federal all the time.

KOSIK: All right, good advice. If you have an issue you want our experts to tackle, upload a 30-second video with your help desk question to