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Race On To Win $550M Powerball; Michelle Obama Welcomes Military Families; Women Veterans Sue Pentagon; Teen Killed After Music Complaint; U.S. Blocks BP Contracts; Pole Dancing Sport Grows; U.N. To Vote On Palestinian Status

Aired November 28, 2012 - 13:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: The race is on, 42 states, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. People, everybody, lining up to win a chance, $550 million Powerball jackpot, awesome, chances of winning, very slim, yes, really slim, one in 175.2 million.

But ticket sales, they are going mad all over the country. Mary Snow is in New York. Mary, I've got to get my ticket. I've got to get into this. It could be big. I think I'm going to win.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll take care of you later, Suzanne, short of requests from our colleagues. We're on the stretch of 9th Avenue. The big attraction, the store owners have been so busy. They haven't gotten a chance to update that jackpot there.

This is a 24-hour bodega and the owners here said that they've had steady stream of Powerball ticket buyers throughout the night and into the morning and they say they are estimating their sales about five times what they normally do.

Now, we're hearing from a number of different stores. We've talked to a number of ticket Powerball buyers and they are shrugging off the daunting odds. One man, he's a first-time buyer.


SNOW: What made you play?

JUAN HERNANDEZ, BOUGHT POWERBALL TICKET: I found 10 bucks so I decided to take 2 bucks of it and buy a ticket.

SNOW: So you spent $2 of the 10?


SNOW: Do you play Powerball all the time?

STEWART ZUCKERMAN, BOUGHT POWERBALL TICKET: Yes, I play whenever it gets beyond the original posting, the first week when there's no winner, then I jump in.

SNOW: How much would you say you spend every year do you spend on Powerball tickets?

ZUCKERMAN: I would say about $400, $20 each time, about 20 weeks or so I do it.


SNOW: That was Stewart Zuckerman, a pharmacist down the street. He's been buying tickets for friends in various parts of the country. Suzanne, New York state lottery officials just got off the phone with them, they are estimating nearly $2 million an hour in ticket sales -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: That's pretty awesome. Did you pick up a picket? Did you get one?

SNOW: I did. I hate to be the office scrooge. I did not go in on an office poll. But, yes, I did. You have to.

SNOW: Absolutely. We're going to do an office pool ourselves. I heard this, I don't even know if it's right, you have more of a chance of getting hit by a coconut on your head and being killed that way than actually winning in this Powerball, like that's your odd.

SNOW: Yes that -- that sounds about right. And you know, one interesting thing, though, I talked to one economist who crunches the numbers on these kinds of Powerball drawings and he's saying, again, this is one estimate. That he thinks it's more likely that one person will win this jackpot given the size that it is.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you, Mary. Good luck to all of us. Hopefully we'll see you at work tomorrow.

I want to go to the White House. You're looking at a live picture here. This is one of the rooms newly decorated for the holiday season. First Lady Michelle Obama hosting military families. She's going to be entertaining as well. There's going to be arts and crafts in the state dining room. Let's listen.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: At the White House, yes, it's a cool house. I like it. I have said this many times before and I will say it again because I can't say it enough, our military families truly represent the very best that this country has to offer and I've seen it up close.

You all do so much for this country and you do it with such amazing poise and grace. You all are outstanding neighbors. You are just phenomenal focused parents. You all are tremendous co-workers and community leaders in your own rights and you al do this under such extraordinary circumstances.

So many of you are doing it while moving from base to base every couple of years enduring all of those months of long deployments with loved ones serving oftentimes halfway around the world and then there are military kids.

You guys look gorgeous today and handsome and very clean. And we're going to try to change that because we're going to have sugar and glue and stuff like that and it will be OK, moms and dads, because the photos will have been done so they can get a little messy and get the black bow cookies around their mouths.

But you guys are very brave. You all are tremendous heroes in your own rights because we know how hard you all work toll adjust to the changes that go on in your life. How many new schools have you guys been in? Give me some numbers. Have you been -- you go ahead, how many schools have been to?

Four and how old are you? Ten, four schools, ten years old, that is typical. And then you meet these kids and they've been to so many schools but they are adjusting and they are keeping their grades up, right? I can tell. You are an A student. I can just feel it.

And so many of you step up and handle your business while mom or dad is away, right? You do what you can do. And I just want you all to know, all of you, just how proud we are. We are so proud of you. We think you're pretty amazing individuals.

I know you may not feel that way, but you're special and we're just so happy to have you here. We're grateful for your sacrifice. We're grateful for your service and that's really why we wanted to invite all of you here today. To say thank you.

This is one big huge thank you from me to you all. Thank you. We have found some wonderful ways to pay tribute to your service and sacrifice as an important part of our holiday decorating efforts here at the White House. And it starts, as you all have seen, the minute visitors walk through the White House for their tours.

The first thing they say, the very first tree they see honors our men and women in uniform for the extraordinary sacrifice their and their families have made and thanks to several of you here today. I know that this tree is now decorated with special gold star ornaments bearing the names of some of America's greatest heroes.

Those who gave their lives for our country and any gold star family who visits the White House during the season will have an opportunity to decorate their own ornament and hang it on that very tree for the entire holiday period in honor of their loved ones.

But there's more because in that area there's also an opportunity for visitors to fill out operation honor cards and I filled out many myself. But these cards are used to pledge an individual service to their community in honor of our military families, service members, and veterans.

And guests will also be able to write a note expressing their gratitude for the service that all of you have given to this country. And we are also honoring our military families with some very special decorations on the official White House Christmas tree that's in the blue room.

It's the biggest tree in the house. It's huge, stands close to 19 feet tall. It is one of my favorite trees. MALVEAUX: We've been listening to the First Lady Michelle Obama. She is paying tributes specifically to the military families, the men, the women, as well as their children who have been invited to the White House and she is giving them their due.

Women in the military excluded for more than 200,000 jobs. Why? Because not allowed to serve in ground combat roles. Well, now there are four female war vets taking issue with that and now fighting back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The policy limits my future in the Marine Corps. I would be assigned to positions based on my gender rather than on my qualifications or my accomplishments.



MALVEAUX: Four American women, four American war vets, they are now suing the Department of Defense saying that the military policy that keeps women out of ground combat is outdated, unfair, and actually bad for their careers.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is joining us. Tell us who these women are and what exactly do they want changed?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, this is a group of women. These particular women are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and like many military women, they are getting very frustrated about the rules here.

Because basically many jobs have been opened to women, but women are still legally prohibited by the military from serving in frontline combat positions, these women say it's keeping them from advancing in their careers and that the reality of war, of course, is that women are in combat these days.

One of them even helicopter pilot, she was shot down, wounded, and got a Purple Heart. Listen to what one of these women had to say about their concerns.


CAPT. ZO BEDELL, U.S. MARINE CORPS RESERVE: The policy limits my future in the Marine Corps. I would be assigned to positions based on my gender rather than my qualifications or accomplishments. This doesn't make sense to me personally or professionally and frankly doesn't make sense to the military.


STARR: So what they are saying is, look, here's the reality. Thousands of women are serving. In fact, the statistics we have from the Pentagon, over 250,000 military women have served in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 250,000. Eighty four women killed in action, over 1,000 women wounded. So the reality, Suzanne, of course, is that women already are out there. Now they just want a level playing field.

MALVEAUX: So Barbara, we know that they've had these challenges before. Is this case any different? Do we expect anything different to come of it?

STARR: Well, it comes at a very interesting time because Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has changed some of what he can within the rules that he controls inside the Pentagon, opening up a lot more jobs, combat-related jobs to women.

And the military is experimenting right now with the scene if women can serve in some of these more frontline units. Can they pass the physical tests? Some of it ran in to a bit of a glitch.

Not too long ago, two women who were trying to pass the Marine Corps' infantry training program failed that program due to the physical standards that that program has.

So it's a lot of questions right now about whether women can pass the physical rigors of some of the most stringent combat jobs they have and even if they can, is the country willing to have women in those front line combat jobs, right in the foxholes -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Barbara, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

It started with a complaint over loud music and resulted in the death of one teen, Jordan Davis. How his death is now being compared to Trayvon Martin's.


MALVEAUX: A dispute over loud music leads to a deadly shooting in Florida. A man fires into a car full of teenagers killing a 17-year- old. The death of Jordan Davis is already being compared to the Trayvon Martin case where an unarmed black teen was shot by a volunteered neighborhood watchman.

But the lawyer for the accused in this case says there is no comparison. I want to bring in Martin Savidge who has been following the story for us. Why does she say that? What are the similarities and differences here?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, there are a couple of things. Let me explain first of all what happened. It was Black Friday, last Friday, at 7:40 at night. You got four teens, all African-Americans, in an SUV, sitting in the parking lot at a gas station.

And then pulls up this gentleman who is white, 45 years old of age. He is white, Michael Dunn, and he starts complaining to the youths about the loudness of the music. Everybody admits that it was loud.

Well, somehow that complaint turns into a confrontation. He claims that one of the young men starts cursing at him and making threats and then he says that somebody pointed a gun in his direction.

Well, he happened to have his own concealed weapon, which he was licensed to have and he fired eight or nine shots into the SUV and then amazingly he drives off. He says he didn't know that he left behind a young 17-year-old who had been shot twice and who dies a few minutes later.

So, you know, this is that altercation. The reason the attorney says it is not a George Zimmerman, she says this wasn't a vigilante case of justice. This was a case of a man defending himself.

Now, police say, look, there was no gun found in the car of those teenagers. And that's where it got things complicated.

MALVEAUX: Has anybody been arrested or --

SAVIDGE: Michael Dunn has been taken into custody. He was arrested the day after. That's another significant difference. Remember in the George Zimmerman case, you had this -- for over a month.

Now this man was taken into custody. He's been charged with murder. He is currently being held without bond. So, you know, he's moving forward in the legal process. He is charged with one count of murder and one count of attempted murder.

MALVEAUX: How is the community responding or reacting to this? Because you have these already these comparisons and these parallels that are being drawn, is that from some sort of racial divide or --

SAVIDGE: A couple of things. I mean, you know, certainly the sensitivity still exists in the state of Florida. There is still the issue of stand your ground, which has not been resolved in the Zimmerman case and that may be the defense used in this particular case.

We don't know just yet. Then on top of that, it is another 17-year- old African youth that is gunned down and killed by a person of a different race or ethnicity, so you have that.

And then on top of that, it happened in Jacksonville, which happens to be the jurisdiction of Angela Curry. Angela Curry is the one prosecuting George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case. So there are a number of connection, that doesn't necessarily make it the same thing.

MALVEAUX: And is there any community activism that's going on? Because that was the one thing Trayvon Martin really very vocal and very public because you had people going out on the street and responding.

SAVIDGE: Again, because of the fact this person was taken into custody, very quickly, you haven't had it yet. The other thing that should be pointed out, though, this all happened on a holiday weekend. And this story really hasn't gotten much attention because of that fact. It is coming out now. We'll see.

MALVEAUX: All right, Martin Savidge, thank you, Martin. Appreciate it.

BP agreed to pay the largest criminal fine in U.S. history for its connection to the 2010 gulf oil spill. Now the company takes another hit from the U.S. government.


MALVEAUX: U.S. government is not going to be doing any new business with oil giant BP at least temporarily. The reason is that the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010, an oil rig explosion that killed 11 people and released more than 200 million gallons of oil into the gulf.

Well, the Environmental Protection Agency says BP lacks, quote, "business integrity." BP pleaded guilty earlier this month to 11 criminal charges in the explosion at the spill. Today, the oil company said it is working to have the contract suspension lifted.

Pole dancing, that's right, has become a big sport. There are contests all over the world. We're going to show you one and tell you about the hopes of taking it to billions of people as an Olympic sport.


MALVEAUX: The world is taking sides on the issue of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. The general assembly votes tomorrow on whether to upgrade Palestinian status. That would put them on par with the Vatican's U.N. status and it would implicitly recognize Palestinian statehood.

France, Russia, and Spain plan to back the bid. Britain, the U.S. and, of course, Israel oppose it. No country has veto power in the general assembly so no one can actually block it.

Now to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the Pole Dance South America championship, this is called the competitors artistry in fitness, very clear in the images. Men and women competed in pairs and for individual titles.

Now, pole dancing, it is a sport that is growing despite its strip club origins. The International Pole Sports Federation is hopeful it will be introduced as a sport at the next Olympic games.

"CNN NEWSROOM" continues with Brooke Baldwin. Hi, Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Suzanne. Good to see you. I'm Brooke Baldwin coming to you live here from New York. But all eyes on Capitol Hill as we get word of a major development here and talks over this so-called fiscal cliff. We're going to have that --