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33 Days Until The Fiscal Cliff; Obama Hosting Romney For Lunch; U.S. Embassy In Cairo Closed; Rice Faces Republican Critics; Two Winning Tickets In Powerball Jackpot; Palestinians Seek Upgrade at U.N.

Aired November 29, 2012 - 06:00   ET


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

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

ROMANS: And look at this. Only in New York. A zebra hot on the heels of a pony in the last place you might expect to see, New York City.


SAMBOLIN: -- hot on the heels of a pony, but OK.

ROMANS: There you go. Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. John Berman is hosting "STARTING POINT." That is coming up at 7 a.m. It is now 6 a.m. in the east.

ROMANS: All right, first happening right now in Egypt, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is closed. No one is being allowed in or out of the embassy right now. Embassy officials say the entrance is blocked by protesters as clashes erupt nearby.

Massive demonstrations there against President Morsi have threatened the young, new government after a degree last week that extended his powers to a very uneasy level for many Egyptians.

So the U.S. government warning people Americans in Cairo, if they are going to the embassy for business, please don't. No one is going in or out of the American embassy in Cairo right now.

SAMBOLIN: And also this morning, finding a way to steer clear of the fiscal cliff. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the president's chief fiscal cliff negotiator meeting today with congressional leaders to get the negotiations moving hopefully.

There is no time to waste because there are just 33 days left to get a deal done. Congress, listen to this, breaks for the holidays in just 15 days. White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is live from Washington this morning. It's nice to see you, Dan. So the clock is ticking away.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is and you know, after the first meeting that the president had with lawmakers just before he went to Southeast Asia the lawmakers on both sides were optimistic that a deal could get done.

Now you are hearing some very pessimistic as the clock does wind down. So you see the president out there really pushing this Bush era tax cut extension for middle class Americans. The White House doesn't believe that this is the comprehensive solution, but they do believe that it is part of the solution.

So the president is reaching out to small business owners at the White House sitting down with top CEOs yesterday. He will be headed to Pennsylvania tomorrow and then you also saw him at the White House yesterday with middle class Americans.

Who had e-mailed to the White House about how they would be impacted if the middle class tax cuts were not extended for them, the president though sounding optimistic that this deal can get done.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our ultimate goal is an agreement that gets our long-term deficit under control in a way that's fair and balanced. That kind of agreement would be good for our businesses, good for our economy.

It would be good for our children's future. I believe both parties can agree on a framework that does that in the coming weeks. In fact, my hope is to get this done before Christmas.


LOTHIAN: Now Americans are divided as to what the solution should be to reach some sort of agreement on the fiscal cliff. Take a look at this ABC News/"Washington Post" survey that says 60 percent of Americans support raising taxes on the wealthy, 37 percent oppose it.

What about the issue of perhaps reducing deductions? Well, 44 percent say they support it, 49 percent say they oppose it. So Americans, much like lawmakers, they want a solution to this problem, but clearly divided on how to get there.

SAMBOLIN: That's really key the consensus is there to solve it. The question is how. All right, so President Obama is meeting with former Governor Mitt Romney. It's all the big news that's happening today.

LOTHIAN: Big news.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it is. Do you have any idea what they plan to discuss?

LOTHIAN: Well, they are having lunch first of all at the White House this afternoon. The president had talked about this after his re- election. He said that he wanted to sit down with Mitt Romney, talk about ways to move the country forward.

But specifically the president also pointed out that Mitt Romney did a good job in turning the Olympics around. He thought that some of that could work in the federal government. Streamline a lot of different agencies to make it more sort of user-friendly, if you will.

So the president will be talking with him about that. But also the president pointed out that out there on the campaign trail Mitt Romney had good things to say about job creation, about turning the economy around. So they will discuss those things.

SAMBOLIN: And all those rumors about a cabinet position, a potential cabinet position. Earlier on, we were talking to Romney surrogates. They were saying no way would he ever accept a position. There is still talk about it.

LOTHIAN: A lot of speculation, but the White House pushing back on that. The president was saying when he asked about this, that his post-election press conference said he's not suggesting there is any specific assignment that he has for Mitt Romney. But that doesn't stop the rumor mill that maybe the president will tap him for something.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Dan Lothian live at the White House for us, thank you.

ROMANS: We want to head back now to Cairo, Egypt this morning. The U.S. Embassy there has been closed. It is closed right now. Embassy officials say the entrance is block by protesters as clashes erupt nearby. We want to get to Reza Sayah live on the phone for us in Cairo. What can you tell us about what's happening now?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): A short time ago the U.S. Embassy released a statement that the embassy will be shut down until further notice because some of these clashes are getting to close for comfort.

In their statement they said specifically that there is no indication that the embassy is a target of the protests, but the embassy's proximity to Tahrir Square, which is a couple of blocks away, exposes it to the violence. Just as a precautious they have shut down until further notice.

During the past few days during the demonstrations on the side streets, the arteries leading into Tahrir Square, we have seen clashes between protesters and police. Most of these clashes are being triggered by trouble-making elements.

These are teenagers, young men, 20-somethings who continue to throw rocks, debris, Molotov cocktails at police and police respond by firing teargas, stun grenades. That's what we have seen today. A little bit more intense.

It will be seen usual and again, it's approaching the embassy. The embassy is not a target as the statement said. But again, just as a precaution they are shutting things down. ROMANS: Reza, I know this weekend the embassy is also urging Americans to stay away from Garden City they say this weekend. I mean, there are -- the Muslim Brotherhood is broadcasting that they would like to have a million-man march this weekend. So we could see gathering people. This is sort of something to look into, into the weekend.

SAYAH: Yes, I mean, the stage is set for more tension in the coming days especially on Saturday. That's because the Muslim Brotherhood has called for demonstration in support of the president in Tahrir Square.

Of course, Tahrir Square is where we have seen anti-Morry protesters taking in, camping out for the past few days. Again, the stage is set for more turmoil, for more conflict and that's why the embassy is just taking precautions, telling people to keep away until things calm down.

ROMANS: The embassy reminding U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings at all times. All right, Reza Sayah, thank you so much.

SAMBOLIN: So let's stay in Egypt here for a minute because this could cause more controversy and conflict as well. Egypt is rushing a vote on a final draft of a new constitution as protests continue against President Morsi.

Some former assembly members have gone so far as to call this morning's vote treasonous. Morsi has faced bitter criticism since he decided to grant himself powers beyond the check and balances of the courts until a new constitution is drafted.

ROMANS: All right, if Susan Rice is nominated to be next Secretary of State, she's not likely to find much support among her many Republican critics. America's U.N. ambassador making a second visit now to Capitol Hill yesterday.

Once again claiming her comments in the aftermath of the Benghazi consulate attack were based on intelligence reports and were not designed to mislead the American people. But Maine's Republican Senator Susan Collins is not convinced.


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.


ROMANS: Rice is considered a leading candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Senator Collins says she would need additional information before she can support the Rice nomination.

SAMBOLIN: It is 8 minutes past the hour. Two ticket holders beat the astronomical odds. They will split the massive record breaking $588 million Powerball jackpot. Is it you?

One winning ticket was sold in Arizona and the other one in Missouri. If you have not checked your tickets yet, the winning numbers are 5, 16, 22, 23, 29 and a Powerball of 6.

Victor Blackwell is in Mapleton, Georgia, that is just outside of Atlanta. Didn't I say Missouri and Arizona? What are you doing there?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I didn't win apparently. I put a few bucks into the Atlanta bureau pool and we didn't even win the $4 that you get for just hitting one number. I shouldn't be surprised, right, because the odds of hitting the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 175 million.

You have a better chance of walking up to a random woman anywhere in America and guessing her name correctly and let me just say, and on a personal note, as someone who has walked up to a stranger and tried to guess the name as part of a lame pick-up line that's really tough to do.

You're always, always wrong, but you can't blame someone for at least trying to win the Powerball jackpot. This was the largest Powerball jackpot and the second largest jackpot in lottery history. That was $656 million back in March.

Now we know that at the peak, there were hundreds of thousands of tickets sold across the 42 Powerball states. Why did the jackpot get so large? In this specific case there was no winner for 16 draws.

Two months it rolled over and over. We know this was part of a strategy from Powerball to increase the ticket price to $2 from a single dollar. The larger jackpots could happen more often throughout the year -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So what's the big cash payout? That's what Christine Romans is suggesting that these winners take is the cash payout.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the cash payout is $385 million. Of course, that will be split two ways between the winners in Arizona and Missouri. Not everyone won big. Of course, we know just two tickets, but 8.9 million people won smaller prizes ranging from $4 all the way up to $1 million.

SAMBOLIN: So Victor, we did a lot better than you did. Our pool won $4. We'll share with you.

BLACKWELL: Yes. You can split a coffee 16 ways.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you so much. We appreciate that.

ROMANS: Those winners, you know, they need to take the money this year because they could pay higher taxes next year if the tax rates go up.

SAMBOLIN: Always good financial advice. It's 11 minutes past the hour here. A moment of kindness captured with a camera. Don't miss it, folks. A young police officer's deed goes viral for all the right reasons. We can't wait to share the story with you.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 14 minutes past the hour.

Today promises to be an important day at the United Nations for the Palestinians. They are asking the general assembly to approve a resolution that will upgrade their status from permanent observer to what's called a non-member state.

Mahmoud Abbas is in New York. He will witness the vote scheduled for this afternoon. If it's approved as it's expected to be, it will be implicit U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood.

The United States and Israel are opposed to this resolution.

CNN foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott joins us to explain what this all means. And I'm going to add in lay terms here -- good morning to you, Elise.


SAMBOLIN: More than a dozen European countries support this resolution. The U.K. says it may vote yes, but it is pending conditions that they have. The U.S. has supported a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

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

LABOTT: Well, first and foremost, Zoraida, the U.S. knows it isn't going to give the Palestinians what they want which is a state. Now, this vote is -- it's largely symbolic. It's going to have no effect on the Palestinian sovereignty, borders. Secretary of State Clinton was in the region last week. She met with President Abbas and she tried to pressure him not to go ahead with this move.

Let's listen to what she told reporters yesterday.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: No matter what happens at the United Nations, it will not produce the outcome that this government, this president and certainly, I strongly support. And the only way to get a lasting solution is to commence direct negotiation.


LABOTT: So Israel is vehemently opposed to this and has threatened sanctions against the Palestinian if it goes through. They're threatening about $100 million a month withholding of Palestinian revenue and the U.S. fears this could lead to renewed violence between Israelis and Palestinians and lead them even further away from a deal, Zoraida, so much so that the U.S. is threatening to withhold aid to the Palestinians if this goes ahead.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has come out in support of the Palestinian bid and he says, quote, "It lays the foundation for a two-state solution."

Is there any reason to believe that once Palestinians get U.N. recognition, that they will not go back to the negotiating table with Israel?

LABOTT: Well, that's exactly what President Abbas said he'll do right after the vote. The Palestinians think this would give them leverage in peace talks. But if you listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning, he doesn't buy it. He issued a statement a statement this morning. Let me read a little bit to you.

He said, "Israel is prepared to live in peace with the Palestinian state. But for peace to endure, Israel's security must be protected, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all. None of these vital interests -- these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put before the General Assembly today. And that is why Israel cannot accept it.

The only way to achieve peace is through agreements reached by the parties directly through valid negotiations between themselves and not through U.N. resolutions that completely ignore Israel's vital interests and national interests. And because this resolution is so one-sided it doesn't advance peace. It pushes peace backwards."

So, Zoraida, that doesn't sound like the vote is going to lead to negotiations any time soon which is why, incidentally, President Abbas said he's taking this move, because there's been no progress in negotiations for several years.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Elise Labott, thank you for breaking that down for us. We appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. About 19 minutes past the hour. Let's get caught up on the morning's top stories.

Mitt Romney is headed to the White House for a private lunch with the president this afternoon. Nothing official, but they are expected to discuss strategies for dealing with the fiscal cliff.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the president's chief fiscal cliff negotiator is going to meet today with top congressional leaders to get the negotiations moving.

SAMBOLIN: So, while you were sleeping, Lindsay Lohan was arrested -- again. The New York Police Department took her in after some kind of a fight broke up around 4:00 at a club right here in the city. Officers say there is a possibility Lohan hit a woman, but they did not confirm if she's being charged with anything at least at this point.

ROMANS: Lindsay Lohan, club, 4:00 a.m., New York, bad combination. Anything can happen on the streets of New York City, even this odd sight. Caspar the pony and Razzi the zebra running free on Staten Island. Somehow they escaped from their pen in the yard where they live. But they eventually they were corralled and returned to the owner.

SAMBOLIN: Is the zebra chasing the pony?

ROMANS: Looks like it.

SAMBOLIN: Follower.

"The New York Times" reporting on a city cop is now an Internet hero. Come on over to the TV. That right there is Officer Lawrence Deprimo. He is kneeling 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 that the man was barefoot and that he was blistering. So, a woman from Arizona snapped this photo with her cell phone camera. She mailed it to the New York Police Department. They posted it on Facebook and guess what? It went viral, more than 1.6 million views.

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

ROMANS: What kind of random acts of kindness will you do today?

SAMBOLIN: That was incredible, wasn't it?

ROMANS: Right.

All right. Financial markets all over the world reacting to the words of a single man. What John Boehner said that had so much impact -- coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Welcome back. Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

Christine, you are minding our business this morning.

ROMANS: I am. And, well, it's good news for stock markets. At least stock futures are up now. World markets are up. Commodities are all up.

All this morning higher after comments made yesterday by the president and House Speaker John Boehner, both expressing optimism on fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington. The Dow rallied a hundred points yesterday off those comments. Wall Street investors, people who have money invested really want to see this fixed.

And Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein opening the door to raising taxes on the rich. Blankfein and other Fortune 500 CEOs met with the president, they met with leaders of Congress yesterday for these fiscal cliff talks.

Listen to what he told Wolf when asked if taxes should go up on families making more than $250,000 a year.


LLOYD BLANKFEIN, CEO, GOLDMAN SACHS: I think if that's what it took to make the math work when you look at what -- when you look at the entitlement side and 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 also said the way we're going now America can't afford itself. Fiscal talks continue today with Treasury Secretary Geithner making the rounds on Capitol Hill.

And later this morning, third quarter GDP expected to be revised higher. That would mean the economy is growing faster than first thought. Economists expect GDP for July to September, the last blue bar there on your chart, to be revised from 2 percent that you see there, to 2.8 percent. It would good news.

Look at the trend over the past year. This is still pretty modest growth except for that fourth quarter of last year.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

Even as he sits in prison, polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs continues to draws attention from authorities. We have the story coming up for you.