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Obama, Romney to do Lunch at White House; Syria's Internet Goes Dark; Preventing Head Injuries in Sports; Now Cool to be Nerdy

Aired November 29, 2012 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. You know, everybody is joking about this. It's just become this big joke. Should it be, this luncheon?

SEAN SPICER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: No. I think it's actually a very nice part of modern American history, where the two candidates get together and show what a great country it is that you can go at it during a political campaign, present ideas to some degree, you know, talk about the other candidate. And then sit down afterwards as two civilized adults, come together for the good of the country, and show how great our process and our democracy is.

COSTELLO: You've been in politics a long time. I can't imagine being such bitter rivals. And this was a bitter partisan campaign. I can't imagine these two men sitting down and it not being awkward.

SPICER: Well, I mean, as you said -- I mean, that's part of politics. I think that there are plenty of people in Washington -- I used the phrase before, I think you can be a fierce partisan and a good person.

I think there are plenty of times when you can sit down, go at it, disagree philosophically, be on two sides of an issue and say at the end of the day we're two people that love -- both love our country. We want a better country. We approach issues in a different way. And I respect your side or your opinion, but I just disagree with it.

So I think to some degree this is a very helpful process to show the American people that two people can really go at it pretty strongly and then sit down afterwards, have a meal together, and show that this is how a civilized democracy can work in the end.

COSTELLO: So if the improbable happens and President Obama offers some sort of position to Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney agrees to take that position, would the Republican Party be happy about that?

SPICER: I -- I mean then you should have also added in "if I had won Powerball". I mean, I don't see any of that happening. I -- but I think Governor Romney is someone who has always put his country first. And so -- I don't -- I don't -- but I just don't see that scenario ever occurring.

I don't think the President -- clearly, he didn't agree with his positions on the campaign trail. I don't see him saying that that I want you to come into my administration. I think Governor Romney would be more than happy to probably offer his advice and his -- his opinion. I think the exit polls showed by 60-30 that people believed that he had a better plan and was trusted more to deal with deficit reduction and issues like the economy.

But at the end of the day, President Obama is clearly philosophically in a different place than Governor Romney and the Republican Party, and -- and so I don't see any of that ever materializing.

COSTELLO: So, you know, many Republicans haven't been exactly kind to Mitt Romney since he lost the election. So I'm just wondering, are they happy that he's sitting down with the President and he's in the limelight once again, and are they hoping that once this is over he just goes away?

SPICER: Again, I think -- this is a part of modern American political tradition, where the two folks sit down afterwards and show that you can come together. I don't think we should read more into this. This isn't some sort of budget summit. It's, you know, probably an hour long or less meeting between the two candidates where they'll probably share some stories and hopefully a laugh or two and a meal.

But I -- so I don't see this as some kind of more than -- more than what it is. As just a very good gesture on both of their parts to sit down and set an example for people when it comes to how civilized and -- and smart, intelligent adults can conduct themselves post campaign.

COSTELLO: And that is a good thing. Sean Spicer thanks so much for being with us today. We appreciate it.

SPICER: You bet, Carol. Thank you.

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: This information just in to CNN.

We understand the Internet in Syria has been completely shut down. Now, as you know, there's been a terrible, bloody civil war going on in Syria for the past months. Rebels are trying to overthrow the government of Bashar al Assad. Hundreds and hundreds of people have died.

We just got video in a short -- yesterday, a video posted on YouTube of rebels supposedly shooting down a helicopter, using a rocket. Some sort of rocket. And we saw the pilot's bloody body, at least we think so, on the ground. And now the news comes today that the Internet has been shut down in the entire country of Syria.

So what does this mean? Nick Paton Walsh is in Beirut, Lebanon, he's on the phone. Nick, can you explain the implications of this for us?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): We don't know why it's gone down. I think the implication is the government has chosen to cut it off. That's a suggestion from most observers. That would suggest they have made the calculation in their heads that the Internet is providing the opposition, the rebellion, who place online much information about their progress, videos about what they have been able to achieve, but that's been assisting them more, and, in fact, assisting the government.

It would suggest some sort of crisis perhaps, in the heart of Syrian government. Remember, we've been in a stalemate now for months in this conflict. But if it is the case today that they have chosen to take the Internet off and this is the perhaps the result of some technical hitch or even a rebel action perhaps if the government have chosen to take the Internet down, that would suggest they are experiencing some sort of crisis to take this kind of radical step -- Carol.

COSTELLO: It's just interesting that this move supposedly comes. I mean, if the government did indeed shut the Internet down in Syria, it comes after this YouTube posting of this helicopter being shot down in the skies over Syria.

WALSH: Absolutely. There are been some remarkable advances and I think it's fair to say, by the rebels in the past few weeks or so. You point out the surface the way of missiles where they appear to have been looted from all accounts from a regime, weapons, caches and bases the rebels has overrun. And then used to damage the one advance this regime certainly had against the rebels, which is air power, helicopters and jets that can attack civilians and rebels from the air at will.

That's an enormous advance for the rebels if it turns out they are now able to shoot down the regime's air power. We've also seen today a very interesting development as well. Quite uncertain now what it means. But there is certainly heightened tension around the key international airport near the capital, Damascus.

Yesterday we heard a regime loyal to a television station saying it was closed for maintenance. Today we hear from activists that the road to it is blocked because of heavy fighting. And also today, Emirates Airlines say they're suspending flights until further notice because of concerns for safety of their staff.

So certainly, tension there and activists saying, that in fact, rebel fighters are within two kilometers of that airport. So it's important to paint all of these incidents with the fact that we can't verify everything, because we can't get in ourselves but certainly from activists and of course from this indication that the Internet has been shut down by the government, we are seeing remarkable change inside Syria.

And I should also point out we are also hearing that much cell phone signals have gone down across the country. That could be another sign of crisis too -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thanks so much for the information. We sure appreciate it. Nick Paton Walsh, reporting from Beirut, Lebanon this morning. Let's talk a little sports now Michael Vick will have some added protection when he returns to the field from a concussion. We'll talk to the makers of the Dome.


COSTELLO: Palestinians are hoping a U.N. vote later today will recognize them as a non-member state in the General Assembly. The move, which is mostly symbolic, would bring legitimacy to their movement, but it would come without the support of Israel or the United States.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER: As for the rights of the Jewish people in this land, I have a simple message for those gathered in the General Assembly today. No decision by the U.N. can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.


COSTELLO: The Palestinians have had a permanent observer status at the U.N. since 1974, when the Palestinian Liberation Organization was recognized as an observer, a position which is not defined in the U.N.'s charter.

And for the first time since the election, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney will meet. They're going to have lunch at the White House. Before that happens, Romney will meet with his former running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan.

Former Baltimore Orioles Doug DeCinces faces federal charges for insider trading. DeCinces was indicted Wednesday on 42 counts of criminal securities fraud and money laundering for a stock sale in 2008. The feds claim DeCinces bought $160,000 of stock in a medical device company and then sold it for $1.3 billion after a friend alerted him to a takeover bid.

Let's talk -- real sports now. They say you can't lose your job to injury. Tell that to Alex Smith. The 49ers' quarterback was on a roll this season, completing 70 percent of his passes and leading the team to the top of the power rankings. And then he suffered a concussion in the November 11th game against St. Louis. Cue Colin Kaepernick, the second-year backup won his first two starts and even though Smith has been cleared to play, the coach, Jim Harbaugh, is starting his second stringer on Sunday.


COLIN KAEPERNICK, 49ERS QUARTERBACK: I don't know if it's a hot hand or whatever you want to call it. But I'm just happy I get to go back out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: So, there's a reason players don't want to come off the field when they know they might not get back in again. Michael Vick, also concussed in a November 11th game, will likely be on the bench when the Philadelphia Eagles play on Sunday. But when Vick does come back and he wants to come back, he'll be able to thank Robert Vito for some added protection. Robert is the president of Unequal Technology and -- Technologies and producers of "the dome". Good morning, Robert.

ROBERT VITO, PRESIDENT, UNEQUAL TECHNOLOGIES: Good morning, carol. Thank you for having me on.

COSTELLO: Oh, this is fascinating. I see you have the dome right there. Tell us how it works.

VITO: Real easy. It has CRT built into it, which is called concussion reduction technology. It's sort of like an air bag for the helmet. And what it does is reduces the possibility of head injury. And simply Mike Vick will put it on his head, and this will take up to 50 percent of the severity index out of the helmet, and reduce up to 25 percent of the G-force. And then other styles of this concussion reduction technology, like James Harrison and Troy Polamalu are using CRT pads that go inside the helmet.

COSTELLO: And you actually got the inspiration for this stuff from the military. Tell us about that.

VITO: We were asked by the military to make a safer helmet that would reduce greater impact and reduce the soldier's trauma by 40 percent. Out of 15 companies that tested, only Unequal passed, which was very interesting. So we took that technology and adopted it now for sports.

We say that Unequal is born on the battlefield and forged on the gridiron. And so far we've made our way into 27 of the NFL teams, and we've covered quarterbacks from A to Z.

So is the cap comfortable? What exactly does it do? Does it hold your head into place so it can't move around inside the helmet?

VITO: Well, no. It has the CRT pads. I'll turn it inside so you can see it. But essentially, what it does is it gives you the CRT, the concussion reduction technology that's taking out 50 percent of the severity index, built inside. So just what athletes are used to using now, which is a do-rag or skull cap. We have a skull cap with the CRT built in. So they'll simply put it on their head and then put the helmet over top.

COSTELLO: So why aren't all NFL teams using this?

VITO: We are moving faster in that realm. It's a new technology. So everybody wants to see what is happening with it.

But I will tell you, just last week, we did four quarterbacks, not only for ribs, but also CRT and their helmets. And it's growing nationally. We have colleges, high schools, and now professionals in X games.

I just did Sidney Crosby's helmet for the NHL. And we're moving through. We even just did some major actors, Hollywood royalty, over in London. So this is spreading globally. And people are catching -- getting the word.

We also have it built into a head band for soccer. And for volleyball. Because, again, the requests keep coming in on how can I take this powerful technology that's used by the military and different sports and adopt it so that all of our kids are safe and protected.

COSTELLO: Fascinating. Robert Vito, thanks for sharing. We appreciate it.

Thank you so much.

Sweaters, collars, argyle. That's Kanye West, one of the new black nerds. A "blerd", if you will. We're going to introduce you to another one when we come back.


COSTELLO: The black nerd, used to be defined by this guy.




COSTELLO: Today Steve Urkel is so passe. Today's black nerd is certainly no Urkel. He or she is now a blerd. Even the word is hip, right? And so are the names who proudly carry the title.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strange specific stuff. That's what makes a nerd a nerd. If you like strange specific stuff, that's a nerd, OK? Kanye West is a black nerd. He likes strange, specific stuff. If you go up to Kanye West and say hey, what are your favorite things? He'll be like robots and teddy bears. That's a nerd.

Joining me now is Eric Deggans, self-proclaimed blerd, "Tampa Bay Times" TV and media critic and author of the new book, "Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation." Welcome, Eric.


COSTELLO: So you're a proud blerd.

DEGGANS: Very much so.

COSTELLO: Tell us what that means. DEGGANS: Well, for me, I guess it just means that I'm into a lot of nerdy stuff that maybe people wouldn't expect me to be into. When I was a kid, you know, I passed the time by reading astronomy books and I was into "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" and all that stuff. And now as an adult I still collect comic books, although I call them graphic novels. Thank you very much.

And you know, don't ask my wife and kids how many times I've watched "The Avengers" movie on my Blu-Ray at home. So I, you know, freely admit I'm into a lot of nerdy stuff and that it may make me seem like a geek to some. But I wear that flag proudly.

COSTELLO: You sound just like my husband. So when you were a kid, could you proudly come out and say, I'm a nerd?

DEGGANS: I think it was harder to find role models in pop culture, especially African-Americans, who were nerdy, but also were cool. There were some. And I am not trying to say, you know, I've done pieces on this for National Public Radio and for the "Tampa Bay Times" and I'm not suggesting the black nerd got invented with Steve Urkel or even got invented now.

But I do think that a worm has turned a little bit in pop culture and we're at a point where you can look at pop music, you can look at TV and film, you can look at novels, and you can see black nerds just excelling without having to disguise their nerdom, which I just think is wonderful.

COSTELLO: Why did black nerds have to disguise their nerdiness in the past? Explain that to us.

DEGGANS: Well, in my own case, in my own neighborhood, I disguised my nerdiness because I didn't want to get beat up. But, you know, I think we've reached a point where nerdiness -- some aspects of nerdiness are considered cooler.

It's OK to be into comic books, for example. When I was a kid, if you were 20 years old, 25 years old, and still reading comic books, people looked at you funny. But, you know, when you have, you know, $500 million films based on comic books, you know, people are a little more willing to accept that maybe they're -- there's some value in reading those books beyond a severe case of arrested development.

COSTELLO: OK, should I take it deep and say how does this help the African-American community now that blerds are accepted and are hip?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, and, again, you know, I just want to make the point that we've always had black intellectuals who have been considered hip. If you look back to Malcolm X, you can even make an argument that, you know, guys in that era, James Baldwin, black intellectuals that were certainly considered hip.

But I do think it gives people a little more room to be themselves. It relieves them from maybe the straightjackets of certain roles that maybe you're expected to fulfill. And it just allows you to aspire to be something different. I mean, one of the things -- and Donald Glover said it in the clip you played. One of the things that's cool about being a nerd, you just get to be yourself without being called weird, without being ostracized, maybe have that and be valued. So I look at music nerd like (INAUDIBLE) from The Roots. This is a guy who's so into old music and he digs through old records and he turns them into new hits. And all of a sudden, that's really cool.

So, you know, when I was a kid, having a record collection that was 30 years old might be considered kind of strange. But now, you know, it's considered something cool. And at least to advances in pop music and I think that's a wonderful thing.

COSTELLO: Right. Thanks for being with us in all your nerdiness. We appreciate it. Eric Deggans, thanks so much.

Talk Back question today, what should come of the Obama-Romney luncheon? Your responses next.


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question today: What should come of the Obama- Romney luncheon?

This from Daryle. "A lot should come of this. We teach our kids to get along. All through life we're told to get along and work together. Why shouldn't our politicians be held to the same standard?"

From Steven, "Obama needs to have Romney explain to the GOP that Social Security and Medicare are not entitlements. That we actually pay into them every paycheck."

And this from Gary. "Carol, after having lunch, President Obama should take Mr. Romney to see the movie Lincoln and they can both share a large bucket of buttered popcorn."

Sounds good to me. Thanks, Gary.

Please, continue the conversation.

I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining us today. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Ashleigh Banfield.