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Lottery Jackpot Hits Half a Billion; Rice's Visit Stirs New GOP Anger; Another Stand Your Ground Case in Florida?; China News Site Takes Satire Seriously; Bachelor's Degrees for $10,000

Aired November 28, 2012 - 09:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

Hey, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Soledad. Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM.

Diplomatic fail. For a woman who might be the next Secretary of State. Susan Rice returns to Capitol Hill this morning still stinging from an earlier closed-door slap-down.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We are significantly troubled.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I want to say that I'm more troubled today.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm more disturbed now than I was before.


COSTELLO: The deadly attack in Libya and the haunting questions today. Could this possible nomination be over before it's made?

Pushing back on plan B. A company files suit against the emergency contraception mandate saying it violates Christian principles.

Hey, could you afford a four-year college if it was just 10 grand? There's a new push to make higher education easier on your wallet. But what would you get for 10,000 bucks?

Plus --


SIR IAN HOLM, ACTOR, BILBO BAGGINS (voice-over): Well, I can honestly say I have told you the truth, I may not have told you all of it.



COSTELLO: "The Hobbit" premiers in New Zealand. And all the hobbit hype has gripped the nation so much so that hobbits and dwarves are now instructing you to put your tray tables in their up and locked positions. This you've got to see.

NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello.

Hey, is your dream worth two bucks? It is for millions of Americans. They're snapping up tickets for tonight's drawing of the Powerball lottery. The jackpot, a jaw-dropping half a billion dollars. That's a billion with a B.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to be 80. I can't never live to spend that kind of money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't conceive what it would be like. It's always good to dream.


COSTELLO: I could conceive it. CNN's Alison Kosik is at a convenience store in New York.

I would have -- I would have expected a long line.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what? There isn't a long line here. But people are stepping up to the counter here today, Carol, and they are buying Powerball tickets. Not buying a lot, in the great, great numbers but enough because all you really need is one. Right, Carol?

COSTELLO: That's true.


All you need is one.

KOSIK: I don't know where to go. I'm circling -- I'm circling the round here.


COSTELLO: Have you bought your ticket yet?

KOSIK: I did. I did. I bought it this morning. And you know what, I only bought one because I really believe that one is all you need because you think about the odds. They're really, really slim. They're really low. 175 million to one. That is the odds. But you know what, it's not -- it's not dissuading these people from coming out and buying these tickets and dreaming. And they're coming in and dreaming, saying, you know what, I'm not going to go back to work tomorrow if I win this today.

COSTELLO: I wouldn't go back to work tomorrow if I -- well, maybe I would for a couple of days just to gloat and brag.

KOSIK: But we'd miss you so much.

COSTELLO: Yes. Sure you would.

KOSIK: There you go.

COSTELLO: I don't know. Do most people like -- are they playing the lottery just for fun, knowing they can't possibly win because you're more likely to be struck by lightning than to -- you know, to have the winning ticket?

KOSIK: Right. Yes, I mean the -- exactly. You have better odds of getting struck by lightning. You have better odds of getting stung by a bee and dying or attacked by a shark. All those odds are better than, let's say, winning the lotto. But you know that's not keeping people away. They really believe that they're -- they've got a shot or they wouldn't be putting their money down. You know, one person I talked to earlier said, you know what, if you're not in it, you can't win it.


COSTELLO: That's right. That's right. You've got to play to win.

Alison Kosik, thanks so much.


COSTELLO: On to politics now. Today another trip to Capitol Hill for Susan Rice, who might be nominated as the next Secretary of State. She meets with Republican Senators Susan Collins and Bob Corker, and certainly hopes today's closed door meetings go better than yesterday's. Rice seemed to make those lawmakers even angrier about her repeated claims that an angry mob and not terrorists launched the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.


MCCAIN: We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get.

GRAHAM: Bottom line, I'm more disturbed now than I was before.

AYOTTE: She misled the American public. I think that she would say that. She'd have to say that.


COSTELLO: White house responded by ratcheting up the attack on Republican critics and their motives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The focus on, some might say obsession on, comments made on Sunday shows seems to me and to many to be misplaced.


COSTELLO: CNN's Dan Lothian is at the White House.

So, Dan, is it even worth -- I mean, is it even worth the president nominating Susan Rice? Because there just doesn't seem to be any meeting of the minds about her on the Republican side.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're right. I mean I guess it's always possible that the White House could give up the fight on her but also possible is that if the president believes that she is the right person for that position, then I don't think that this is something that will move him off of Susan Rice.

But you know, nonetheless, the White House is pushing very hard in defending her, as you pointed out. And we should point out again that this is all a hypothetical discussion because the president has not nominated her. But nonetheless the White House defending her, saying that, you know, she was only acting on information that came from the intelligence community and really that everyone is focused on the wrong thing. That what the focus should be on is on what happened in Benghazi, who is responsible for it and that those people be brought to justice -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So, OK, Susan Rice is going to have two more meetings today. Will these meetings go on ad infinitum?

LOTHIAN: I don't think so. I mean the sense is that these meetings will happen, you know, for the rest of this week. She, of course, has requested these meetings because she wants to get a fair hearing, she wants to explain exactly what happened, that this information, as she pointed out there, came from the intelligence community.

But again, you know, she -- trying to defend herself. But at this point not nominated to any position at all, just one of several names on a list of potential people to fill that post when Secretary of State Clinton steps down. Also on that list is Senator John Kerry. We've also heard Tom Donilon, another name. He's the national security adviser.

Again, all names that could be put forward by the president. But so far no indication as to when the president will put forth a name.

COSTELLO: Dan Lothian, reporting live from the White House this morning.

Another pressing matter for the White House is, of course, the fiscal cliff. Now just 34 days away. Today President Obama meets with chief executives of some of the nation's biggest companies to gauge how the looming tax hikes and spending cuts could impact businesses.

One of those invited is Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo! Last night she made her first public comments since taking helm and giving birth. And like many Wisconsin native, she invoked some legendary wisdom.


MARISSA MAYER, CEO, YAHOO!: Vince Lombardi says, you know, in my life there are three things, God, family and the Green Bay Packers, in that order. Right? And like -- and, you know, and I think that, you know, for me it's God, family and Yahoo! In that order.


COSTELLO: Mayer was honored at "Fortune" magazine's dinner for the nation's most powerful women.

To Florida now, where this man, 45-year-old Michael Dunn -- you're going to see him in a minute. He's facing a murder charge after he shot into a car full of teenagers. He killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis in the process. The shooting reportedly sparked over a fight about loud music. It's reminding some of the Trayvon Martin case but Dunn's attorney says that's not so.


ROBIN LEMONIDIS, DUNN'S ATTORNEY: Kill that (EXPLETIVE DELETED). That (EXPLETIVE DELETED) dead. You dead (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And sees that much of a shotgun coming up over the rim of the SUV, which is up higher than his Jetta, and it's -- all he sees are heavily tinted front windows that are up and the back windows that are down and the car has at least four black men in it. And he doesn't know how old anybody is. He doesn't know anything but he knows a shotgun when he sees one.


COSTELLO: Martin Savidge joins me now.

So Dunn's attorney says he shot out of self-defense. So tell me more.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is the story that began on Black Friday 7:40 p.m. Not that late at night. Four black youths are in an SUV, and they're listening to music. And it is very loud. They admit that. They're in a gas station, in a parking lot. And Michael Dunn, whose white, pulls up next to them and apparently lodges a complaint, says something. And it escalates from there.

You heard the attorney claim that these young men answered back with foul language and made threats and then apparently somebody produces a gun and so Michael Dunn, who had his own weapon, pulls it out and he fires eight or nine times into that vehicle. And then he drives off and he tells authorities the reason he drove off, he didn't realize he had struck anybody, but he had. He had struck that 17-year-old youth who died just a few minutes later.

COSTELLO: So were any guns found in the teenagers' car?

SAVIDGE: Police said no, they didn't find any gun inside of the teens' vehicle. Now the attorney makes the claim that it was quite possible they could have tossed that gun before police arrive on the scene but the youths maintain -- those that survived -- that they didn't have a gun at all.

COSTELLO: Did Dunn call the police or --

SAVIDGE: He didn't. And that is what has struck many people. Because they thought, OK. You leave the scene -- his attorney says he left the scene because he was afraid, he didn't know after firing into the vehicle how the young men might react. They might come out shooting. If they were gang members, there might have been other gang members nearby that would retaliate. So he leaves.

Well, after you left why not -- when you got to some place you thought was safe, notify authorities? He didn't. Instead he finds out that the young man died by watching the news the next morning. And instead of turning himself in then, he drives back home into Brevard County, Florida, and eventually gets arrested.

GRACE: And is he -- what's he charged with?

SAVIDGE: And he's charged with murder and he's also charged with attempted murder. He's already had his first appearance and he has pled not guilty to that and he's currently being held without bond. So, you know, when people start talking about the Trayvon Martin cases it's possible, possible, Stand Your Ground could be used. We'll have to see the attorneys since they haven't made up their mind in that matter.

Angela Curry, who is the same prosecutor gong to be -- in the Trayvon Martin case, George Zimmerman, is going to be the same prosecutor in this particular case. But you didn't have the long, drawn out, was the person, the shooter getting arrested. That has happened. It happened quickly. There's no question about how law enforcement acted. It's how he acted that right now is the focus.

COSTELLO: Fascinating. Martin Savidge, thanks so much.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: Jill Kelley, remember her? She's launching a campaign to save her reputation after reports liking her to the Petraeus scandal. Look at these pictures here. It's released to show Kelly as a charitable family woman. You see her feeding the homeless here.

Remember she's the woman who tipped off the FBI and accused Petraeus' mistress, Paula Broadwell, of sending her harassing e-mails. Kelly's legal team is also accusing government sources of leaking information about her and accusing others of violating her privacy.

A Chinese news site ran an article from the satirical Web site "The Onion" as if it was a real news story. And here's the story it ran. The "Onion" named North Korea's Kim Jong-Un the sexiest man alive. And it seems China's communist news agency missed the punch line.


Well, come on, Zain Verjee. Really?


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Finally, finally, Kim Jong-Un, the sexiest man alive.

Carol, as I like to call him Kim Jong-Un. You know? But here's why I think that. OK? Because I find him devastatingly handsome. Round face, boyish charm, he's strong, sturdy frame. This Pyongyang bred heartthrob is every woman's dream come true.

This is "The Onion," OK?


With his impeccable fashion sense, his chic, short hairstyle and, of course, that famous smile. You know the one I'm talking about. Right, Carol?

COSTELLO: Oh, yes.

VERJEE: Well, anyway, the people -- the "People's Daily Online" picked the story up. They thought it was for real. They thought it was serious. They missed this whole little thing called satire and they printed it as a true story. And so the "Onion" is saying, yay, we fooled China, China saying, how dare you do that? But they pulled the -- they pulled the story off because they got it wrong.

Kim Jong-Un. What do you think of him?

COSTELLO: Well, I don't think he's the sexiest man alive, I'll just put it that way. Did the Chinese people have a chance to respond?

VERJEE: You know, they did. There was someone from the online, "People's Online Daily", that said this. "It is impossible that the 'People's Daily' will quote from unreliable media. It is impossible." They went on to say, "We do verify our news and our sources."

You know, the interesting thing here, that does underscore that China and North Korea, they have a very close relationship and they do look out for each other, they kind of scratch each other's back. And they were showing the guy in a good light. The other thing is satire, like the "Onion's" work, is totally lost on foreign media like that sometimes. So it was totally lost in translation.


COSTELLO: I think that's true. Zain Verjee, thanks so much. We needed a good laugh this morning.

Hey, it takes a lot of money to go to college. You know that. But what if prices were slashed? There's a new push to offer a four-year degree for just 10,000 bucks. But what would that degree really be worth? We'll talk about that.


COSTELLO: Sixteen minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

Three managers at a clothing factory in Bangladesh, you the factory that went up in flames, they are now under arrest, accused of locking the gates preventing employees from escaping the fire. More than 100 people died in that fire, at least 200 were injured.

A second lawsuit field against Kevin Clash, the former voice of Elmo on Sesame Street. An unnamed man claims he was 16 when he engaged in a sexual relationship with Clash in 2000. Another man filed a lawsuit earlier this month, saying he was just 15 when Clash coerced him into a sexual encounter. Clash's attorney says the lawsuits have no merit.

Tennessee is looking into a series of bomb threats. The threats were called into courthouses in government buildings in 30 state counties, but no explosive devices were found. Tennessee is the fourth state this month to receive the threats. Oregon, Nebraska and Washington reported similar incidents.

Facebook will now ask its users if they want to give up their right to vote on its policies, including privacy rights. A vote could take place as early as this week, but will need at least 30 percent of the sites 1 billion users to count.

If you could afford it, a college investment is one of your best chances for success. But not everyone has the money or can borrow money for tuition.

In Florida, though, the governor is proposing something interesting. He's challenging state colleges to create a bachelor degree program that costs $10,000, tuition fees, everything. And so far, at least seven schools have signed up.

Joining us now, Steven Wallace, the President of Florida State College at Jacksonville. His school is considering the challenge right now.

Welcome. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.


COSTELLO: Good morning.

So, in theory, this sounds like a great idea. So, why not just say yes?

WALLACE: Well, we're intrigued by the concept. And we're exploring the best way to approach this. And I believe that we absolutely will accept the governor's challenge and develop one or more bachelor's degrees at that target price.

COSTELLO: OK. But you have to give up something to offer a college degree for just 10 grand. So, what do you give up? You give up professors teaching classes? Do you use grad students? You give up on the research part of the university altogether? WALLACE: The two ways to make this model work and we're convinced that it can work, is, first of all, as you indicated, to manage the faculty costs but also corporate support. With the faculty costs, we have to be very selective about the programs, degree programs that we would apply this model to.

It will work best with practitioner-oriented applied programs. And we feature those. We have several good options. We're looking currently at logistics, which is a hugely important degree for our region.

COSTELLO: So, when you say manage faculty costs, that means professors, full professors probably wouldn't be teaching these classes, right? A lot of students and parents complain that grad students teach their classes and they want professors in the classroom because, frankly, they're better.

WALLACE: Well, that's one of the great strengths of State College, Carol. We have an average class size of 23. All of our courses are taught by full professors.

But going back to that issue of applying this to practitioner-oriented programs, what we'll end up with is a hybrid model, which is a blend of courses being taught by full-time professors, students will get general education courses and their theory courses typically from full-time professors. But in those specialized discipline-related courses, they'll be taught by current practitioners, professionals in the field that really are on the cutting edge of the discipline.

It's really the best of both worlds. It's a very, very strong academic model.

COSTELLO: Some people say that you have to get some of your college courses taught at the high school level and then they would qualify, you know, for credit towards a college degree. So would that be in the plan, too?

WALLACE: Absolutely. It's an important consideration, particularly in Florida. In Florida, we have probably the best dual enrollment program in the country. So, students come to us from high school very often with transcripted college credit.

But we have to design the program so that it will also work for returning adults who won't have that dual enrollment advantage.

COSTELLO: OK. Here is a tough question. If you're an employer, you have two candidates, both qualify for the job. You like them both. One has a degree from Harvard. The other has one of these $10,000 degrees.

Who do you hire?

WALLACE: Well, we would hope that the cost of the degree wouldn't be an employment consideration.

But once again I can't emphasize strongly enough -- with these applied degrees, if I was hiring a logistics professional, I would look for a highly qualified specialized program and would be highly impressed by the program at Florida State College.

COSTELLO: But, you know, I ask you that because it does make a difference out there in the workforce, right? I mean, what college you go to still matters and how much you pay for the degree seems to -- you know, you pay a lot more for a degree at Harvard than you would in some place, like I went to Kent State.

So, how can you convince parents that you can get a great education for $10,000?

WALLACE: Well, part of our culture is focused on prestige of degrees. A state college, though, we're very, very focused on providing our graduates with career advantage. And that's why the more specialized programs are a real strength and real important consideration. Employers will look past prestige in many, many cases because they're very, very series about the capabilities and competencies that the applicant has.

And we do a very good job of preparing students for those professional roles.

COSTELLO: Steven Wallace, President of Florida State College at Jacksonville -- thank you so much for being with us this morning.

WALLACE: Thank you for having me on.

COSTELLO: President taking his fight to raise taxes directly to the people. Only you can avoid the fiscal cliff.

Talk back question today, will the President's fiscal cliff road tour work?


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning: will the President's fiscal cliff road tour work?

Thirty-four days and counting, still no deal in sight. And only one face-to-face meeting with the principals involved. Maybe one meeting is enough.

You would think they would be meeting every day like this to avoid the dreaded fiscal cliff. But, no. No, no. Meeting, shmeetings.

The President is taking the show on the road to rally the public against middle class tax hikes. Obama seems to be saying that you and only you have the power to avoid the fiscal cliff.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President believes very strongly that the American people matter in this debate, because this debate is about them. The question of whether taxes go up on 98 percent of American taxpayers is very important to ordinary Americans.


COSTELLO: Let's see. President Obama has been meeting with a lot of non-Boehner's -- business leaders, union leaders, and the White House launched the twitter hashtag #my2k, as in 2,200 bucks. That's the amount taxes will go up for an average middle class family if nothing is done.

The new campaign even has a name, Obama for America. What's that, you say? Election 2012 is over, right? No, not if you ask Senator Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Rather than sitting down with lawmakers of both parties and working an agreement, he's back on the campaign trail, presumably with the same old talking points we're all quite familiar with.


COSTELLO: President Obama is gambling that people power will prod Republicans into making a deal. After all, people power thing got him re-elected. But ultimately will the public be the decider?

So the talk back question for you today: will the President's fiscal cliff road tour work?, Your comments later this hour.

Plan B, the emergency contraception pill that some companies say is forcing them to choose between their faith and Obamacare, which requires them to provide it. How one CEO is fighting back.