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Thirty-Three Days Until the Fiscal Cliff; Two Winning Tickets in Powerball Jackpot; Palestinians Seek Upgrade at U.N.

Aired November 29, 2012 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Suddenly rich. So far we know of two winning tickets for the record breaking Powerball jackpot.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Lunch date. Mitt Romney heading to the White House today to meet with President Obama.

ROMANS: On the run. A pony and a zebra, making a break for it, in New York City of all places and I'm not kidding. Here it is. Those are real pictures.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

SAMBOLIN: You know, this was sent to us yesterday. And they said this is a serious and true story. I thought, no way. And it is.

ROMANS: And cute.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I can't wait to share it with you. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. John Berman is hosting "STARTING POINT", coming up at 7:00. It is now 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Up first, 33 days until we reach the fiscal cliff and things are heating up today on Capitol Hill. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the president's chief fiscal cliff negotiator, will meet with congressional leaders in an attempt to get those talks moving. And there's no time to waste because there may be 33 days to get a deal done, but Congress breaks for the holiday. That happens in just 15 days.

White House correspondent Dan Lothian live from Washington this morning.

Dan, that clock is ticking louder and louder what is the very latest? I hear there are one-on-one meetings happening today.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You have -- these are the president himself not sitting down and talking with lawmakers, but Timothy Geithner will be on Capitol Hill and other level -- senior level members of the administration trying to hammer something out here. This is a complicated process. And so far, it does not appear the two sides have gotten closer.

So, that's why you see the president pushing hard, first of all, through social media, trying to get Americans out there to pass the message along, put pressure on lawmakers to get this middle class tax cut extension done for the middle class Americans, not for upper class Americans. The president sitting down with small business owners, with CEOs of major companies, pushing that middle class tax cut message.

They don't believe that this is the comprehensive solution, but they do believe this is a step towards the final solution, a final agreement to prevent this fiscal cliff scenario.

The president saying he believes that this can get done before Christmas. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A clear majority of Americans, not just Democrats, but also a lot of Republicans and a lot of independents agree that we should have a balanced approach to deficit reduction that doesn't hurt the economy and doesn't hurt middle class families. If both parties agree we should not raise taxes on middle class families, let's begin our work with where we agree.


LOTHIAN: Of course, there are some lawmakers who are not that optimistic. They don't think that there's enough time between now and the end of the year to get a deal done. Nonetheless, the president will continue pushing his message. He heads to Pennsylvania tomorrow. He will go to a manufacturing plant where he will continue talking about extending the middle class tax cuts, not extending them for those upper class Americans.

In the meantime, there's some pushback from Republicans who are saying the president should not be out the road campaigning but should be back here in Washington negotiating -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Dan, I'm going to ask you to look into your crystal ball. President Obama is meeting with former Governor Mitt Romney later today. Do you have any idea what they plan to discuss?

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, there's a lot of speculation about Governor Romney playing some role in this administration. But the president himself, during his victory speech after he was re-elected talked about wanting to sit down with Mitt Romney to talk about ways of moving the country forward. And then, during his post re-election news conference, the president was asked specifically about what role he could play or if -- you know, what the president hoped to gain from him.

And the president talked about how Mitt Romney did a good job with the Olympics, and he thought in turning around the Olympics, some of that could be used to streamline government and make it more sort of user- friendly. And so, that is essentially what we expect for the president to be discussing with Mitt Romney when they sit down today for lunch at the White House. But, of course, everyone is speculating about some possible role that he could potentially play in this White House.

And it's interesting because it's a very high-profile bipartisan showing from the president today at a time when he's trying --

SAMBOLIN: The timing. Yes, the timing.

LOTHIAN: Exactly -- when he's trying to work with Republicans to get something done on the fiscal cliff.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Dan Lothian, live in Washington for us -- it's really nice to see you. Thank you.

LOTHIAN: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Two lucky ticketholders beat the astronomical odds and they will split the record $588 million Powerball jackpot. One ticket was sold in Arizona. The other in Missouri.

If you haven't checked your ticket, the winning numbers are: 5, 16, 22, 23, 29, and the Powerball is 6.

Victor Blackwell is in Mableton, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.

Victor, the frenzy, the fantasy gives away to reality for most of us. And, you know, one person on Facebook yesterday said to me, you know, it's better to burn the ticket, at least you get heat from it. For two people, it was good they didn't burn it.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, it's 29 degrees out here, I wish I had the ticket I bought so I could get some heat. Yes, I was one of those people this morning, when I rolled over and check my iPad first to determine if I was in the city where the winning ticket at least was sold. And I found out that I wasn't.

Millions of people are going to have that moment this morning because so many people put their tickets down, $2 on the counter to try to win the largest Powerball jackpot ever at $588 million, the second largest lottery jackpot. That was $656 million last March.

And this is happening because Powerball actually made a strategic move at the beginning of this year, increasing the ticket price from $1 to $2, which doubled the starting jackpot from $20 million to $40 million. And then the potential top winning jackpot average from $141 million to $255 million.

Now, I got to tell you why I'm in Mableton, Georgia, because this is one of the busiest locations in the state of Georgia for buying Powerball tickets. Why the tiny town of Mableton? Well, there's a sign on the front window that tells you.

In 2010, they sold a winning ticket worth $116 million. So, a lot of people thought this would be a lucky location, Christine.

ROMANS: More than a half billion dollars. What's the cash pay out I guess then? BLACKWELL: Cash pay out is about $385 million. And a lot of people were chasing that. We know at the peak, 133,000 Powerball tickets were sold per minute across the 42 Powerball states.

Now, for the people who did not win the jackpot, there's still some good news. There are about 8.9 million winners of smaller prizes, ranging from $4 to $1 million. So, a lot of people smiling this morning.

ROMANS: So $385 million before taxes. After you take taxes out, it's going to be quite a bit less. You know, if we went over the fiscal cliff, taxes would be much higher next year on that winning. And I like to report for the record, Victor, that our crew here, we won a grand total of $4. We're going to let it ride. Thank you. Thank you, everyone.

BLACKWELL: And you split that between how many people?

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh! The list is so long.

ROMANS: Between 41 people. That's why we're going to let it ride.

Yes. Thank you very much, Victor Blackwell, in Georgia.

BLACKWELL: All right.

SAMBOLIN: He was smart. He bought his own ticket. He gets to keep his whole $4 if he own.

All right. Seven minutes past the hour. Susan Rice is still struggling to find support among her many Republican critics. The U.N. ambassador making a second visit to Capitol Hill, that was yesterday, again insisting her comments in the aftermath of the Benghazi consulate attacks were based on intelligence reports and were not intended to mislead the American people.

But Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins saying that is a tough sell.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election.


SAMBOLIN: Rice is considered a leading candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Senator Collins said she would need additional information before she could support her nomination.

ROMANS: Egypt rushing a vote on a final draft of a new constitution as protests continue against the president, Mohamed Morsy. Some former assembly members have gone so far as to call this morning's vote treasonous. Morsy has faced bitter criticism since he decided to grant himself power beyond the checks and balances of the courts until the new constitution is drafted.

SAMBOLIN: The state of Texas has filed papers to seize a large ranch owned by the FLDS, a fundamentalist radical Mormon sect that believes in polygamy. Its leader, Warren Jeffs, is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting two underage girls. State officials say dozens of children were molested on that property.

ROMANS: You never know what you're going to see on the streets of New York City and this might be a first. Caspar the pony and Razzi the zebra roaming free on Staten Island. Somehow, they got out of their pen at the home where they lived. But eventually, they were corralled. They returned home safe and sound.

SAMBOLIN: I love that.

ROMANS: So cute. I'm glad everyone is safe and happy.

SAMBOLIN: Can you imagine, mommy, mommy, look? How fantastic is that? They are getting along just fine as well.

Nine minutes past the hour. Moment of kindness captured with a camera. Coming up, a young police officer's deed goes viral for all the right reasons.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 12 minutes past the hour now.

An important vote is expected this afternoon in the United Nations General Assembly. Palestinians are asking the U.N. to upgrade their status from permanent observer to what's called nonmember state. The resolution is expected to pass. If it does, it's an implicit U.N. recognition of Palestine statehood.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in New York to witness the vote. And yesterday, he met with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The United States, Israel and other Western countries oppose this move by the Palestinians.

CNN foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott joins us to explain what it all means. Good morning to you, Elise.


LABOTT: So, more than a dozen European countries are supporting -- supporting -- this resolution. The U.K. says it may vote yes pending a couple of conditions that they have. The U.S. has supported a two- state resolution for Israelis and Palestinians.

So, why do American officials oppose U.N. recognition?

LABOTT: Well, because, Zoraida, for the most part, it's not going to give the Palestinians what they want, which is an actual state. This vote is largely symbolic. It would have no effect on the Palestinian sovereignty or borders or any of the things that they're looking for. And Israel is vehemently opposed to this vote. It said it threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinians, impose new checkpoints if they do so.

So, what the U.S. is fearing here is that if this vote goes ahead, and we see that it's pretty much a guarantee that the Palestinians will be upgraded at the U.N., basically, it's not going to lead to anything good on the ground. What the U.S. is afraid of is that's going to lead to more violence if the Palestinians don't see their state actually realized, and there are more economic measures from Israel. Really afraid that it's going to destabilize the region, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Who is weighing in on this? Do we know anything from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton perhaps?

LABOTT: Yes, Secretary of State Clinton yesterday was asked about this from reporters. She was in Israel last week. And she met with President Abbas.

Let's take a listen to what she said about U.S. objections to this vote today.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have made very clear to the Palestinian leadership, you know I met with President Abbas just last week, that we oppose Palestinian efforts to upgrade their status at the U.N., outside of the framework of negotiations to achieve a two-state solution.


LABOTT: So the U.S. isn't supporting it, has been really rallying its supporters in Europe trying to get President Abbas to abandon this. No luck, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has come out in support of the Palestinian bid. And he says it, quote, "lays the foundation for a two-state solution."

Is there any fear that once the Palestinian get the recognition, that they will not go back to the negotiating table with Israel?

LABOTT: Well, that's what the Palestinians have said they will do. In the resolution, it calls for immediate peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. President Abbas has pledged to immediately seek peace negotiations with Israel.

What others afraid of, the U.S. and Israel, is that this vote could also give Palestinians access to the International Criminal Court where they could go after Israel for war crimes and things of that nature. And so, because this vote is so antagonistic to Israel, it's not going to lead to negotiations, and what the U.S. and Israel are afraid of is that President Abbas won't go back to the table because Israel is so opposed, and he'll seek these other U.N. measures, and that would really exacerbate the crisis, Zoraida. SAMBOLIN: All right. Elise Labott, live for us, thank you.

ROMANS: It's about 17 minutes after the hour. Let's get you caught up on the top stories.

Mitt Romney is on his way to the White House for lunch with the president. It's not clear if they will be discussing the fiscal cliff or a possible role for Romney in the Obama administration, or if they're just having lunch.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner also entering the fray, by the way. The president's chief fiscal cliff negotiator will meet today with congressional leaders in an attempt to get talks moving.

SAMBOLIN: And this Alabama teen alleged beaten by her girl friend's brother on Thanksgiving night insists it didn't happen because she is gay. Natalie Owens and her girlfriend say the real story will come out when the time is right. But for now, that is all they are saying.

Owens family saying it is a hate crime and they want 18-year-old Travis Hawkins second degree assault charges upgraded to attempted murder. He, right now, is out on bond.

ROMANS: A Texas man is in custody this morning for allegedly making terrorist threats against a San Antonio mosque. A witness tells police that 42-year-old Christopher Bane (ph) intended to go to the Islamic Academy of San Antonio and shoot as many people as he could and then kill himself. He was arrested without incident on Tuesday.

SAMBOLIN: We are looking at two manatee calves that are getting some much TLC. This is Miami Sea Qquarium. The newborn Rae was found hungry and all alone over the summer. Keepers became her adopted parents. And then there's Pilgrim, who is rehabbing after being hit by a boat. He broke a rib, which then tore a lung. Keepers say he will be released back into the wild when his ribs heal.


ROMANS: The holiday season is officially underway in New York City. The lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, an 80-foot Norway spruce that made it through superstorm Sandy. The tree came from a Mount Olive, New Jersey home that lost power and washed several other trees in the hurricane. Thirty thousand lights later, it's serving as a powerful symbol.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely gorgeous.

Eighteen minutes past the hour. It's time for your "Early Reads", your local news that is making national headlines.

"The New York Times" reporting on a city cop who is now an Internet hero. That is officer Lawrence Deprimo. He is leaning down on a cold night last week to put a new pair of boots on a homeless man. The 25- year-old officer purchased them at a nearby shoe store after noticing realized the homeless man was barefoot and that he was blistering. Can you believe the story, folks? A woman from Arizona snapped the photo with a cell phone camera, mailed it to the NYPD, who posted it on its Facebook. It has been viewed more than 1.6 million times.

Officer Deprimo says he keeps the receipt for the boots in his vest to remind himself that sometimes other people have it worse than he does.

I would like to meet that man. Incredible.

ROMANS: Wow. In Michigan's "MLive", "There is no place for sexy at school." That's the reason high school principal JoLynn Clark gives for taking on teens in tights. Earlier this month, she sent a video message to teens and their parents, reminding them that leggings, Spandex and tights are not pants and they could violate dress codes.

In the message, she also asked girls to really think about what about your message is and what message your clothes are sending. Clark says Spandex is a major problem at her school. She says she just wanted to be clear.

SAMBOLIN: I'm so confused by that story.

ROMANS: I actually am, too. For the expanded look at all of our top stories, go to our blog and you can see more about that story, if you are, too,

SAMBOLIN: It's really cold in Michigan, so I would be wearing leggings. I guess they just, you know --

ROMANS: The skirts are real short or maybe they're just wearing leggings.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, 20 minutes past the hour. Financial markets all over the world are reacting to the words of one single man. What John Boehner said that had so much of an impact. That's coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Well, good morning to you. Welcome back. It is 24 minutes past the hour. Christine is minding our business.

ROMANS: Yes. And stock futures and stock markets around the world are up right now. Commodities are, too. All up this morning after comments made yesterday by President Obama and the House Speaker John Boehner, both expressing optimism on those fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington. You know, the Dow rallied 100 points yesterday off of those comments.

How many times have you heard me say Congress will mess it up, right?

All right. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein opening the door to raising taxes on the rich. He and a bunch of other Fortune 500 CEOs met with the president and leaders of Congress yesterday for those fiscal cliff talks.

Listen to what he told Wolf Blitzer when asked if taxes should be raised on those making more than 250 grand a year.


LLOYD BLANKFEIN, CEO, GOLDMAN SACHS: If that's what it takes to make the math work, when you look at entitlement side, when you look at the revenue side, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't preclude that. Of course, we would have to do that if the numbers drive that way.


ROMANS: He just said, you know, America can't afford itself right now the way we're going.

Fiscal cliff talks continue today with Treasury Secretary Geithner making the rounds on Capitol Hill.

Later this morning, third quarter GDP expected to be revised higher. Meaning the economy might be growing faster than first thought. Economists expect the GDP for July to September to be revised from 2 percent to 2.8 percent. That would be good news.

That's the trend over this past year, though. This is still, Zoraida, modest growth. Everyone hopes that next year will be a better year than this one in terms of growth. You want to see more like -- you want to see more than 2.5 percent growth consistently, for sure.

SAMBOLIN: I'm going to say amen to that, Christine.


SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-five minutes past the hour. If at first you don't succeed, coming up, South Korea trying to launch another rocket. Find out how it went this time.

And if you are leaving the house now, you can watch us any time on your desktop, perhaps on your mobile phone. Just go to


SAMBOLIN: The president's point man, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, sent to start fiscal cliff talks today.

ROMANS: The president's guest. Mitt Romney headed to the White House today for a sit-down with the commander-in-chief.

SAMBOLIN: You'd like to be a fly on the wall there.

And the winning ticket, we know where two Powerball jackpot winners were sold. Who are you this morning?

Welcome back to EARLY START. We are very happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: And it's not us. We're not the winners. I'm Christine Romans. I'm in for John Berman this morning. It's about half past the hour.