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Fiscal Cliff Fingerpointing; Same-Sex Marriage Before Supreme Court; Mortgage Deductions Might End for Some; Controlling Killer Robots; Kind Act Draws Worldwide Praise

Aired November 30, 2012 - 09:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It was great having him. It was great having all three of you, guys, Russell Simmons, Abby Huntsman, Ryan Lizza.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks you guys so much. And thanks for having us. We will send things to now Deb Feyerick. She is in for Carol Costello in the NEWSROOM.

Deb, good morning.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody, and happy weekend to you all.

Happening now in the NEWSROOM, we're waiting to see the winners of the $587 million Powerball. This surveillance video, well, it may hold a clue about one of them.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're starting to take over.


FEYERICK: The movie has made killer robots famous. Heard of the "Terminator"? Well, with the rise of machines on the horizon, we ask this morning, could deadly robots soon be flying over our skies?

And a New York police officer getting praise after his random act of kindness to a homeless man on the street.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looked me right in the face and his smile just went from ear to ear.


FEYERICK: The three little words that had this cop rushing out to buy this homeless man a pair of boots. And --


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: You get fat just walking through this store. Thank you.



FEYERICK: That's right, the vice president in a shopping mood as he flashes his membership card inside Costco's newest warehouse store.

NEWSROOM starts right now.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Deborah Feyerick in for Carol Costello. Thanks for joining me. And we begin in Washington where those hopes for compromise may now be on the back burner as Democrats and Republicans dig in and ramp up the rhetoric on the fiscal cliff.

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Harry Reid trading jabs before the cameras on Capitol Hill.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Going over the fiscal cliff is serious business. And I'm here seriously trying to resolve it. And I would hope the White House would get serious as well.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Speaker Boehner made very clear at his press conference that he thinks the ball is in your court and the president's court. He says that Democrats have got to get series about spending cuts. Where is the disconnect, Senator?

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't understand his brain so you should ask him. OK?


FEYERICK: Reid making those comments to our own Kate Bolduan. And I'm joined now by White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

And, Dan, we're learning a bit more about the White House plan to deal with the fiscal cliff. So break it down for us.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And this is the plan that secretary -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner took up to Capitol Hill yesterday. It calls for $1.6 trillion in tax increases over a 10-year period. This of course is more than Republicans had anticipated. In addition to that, $400 billion in spending cuts that will come later. Much of that not really specified. But we're looking at entitlements such as Medicare. And then the plan also includes $50 billion in stimulus spending.

Democrats see this really as sort of the opening salvo in these negotiations. You know, early on in this process, both sides appear to show some level of optimism that this would get done. In the last few days and certainly yesterday it just seems like both sides are so far apart. It's not unusual for us to see this kind of posturing and other negotiations, tough negotiations over the last four years or so. You'll see things build up whether it appears that it's going to get done. Then they fall apart. Then in the end it does happen. The hope is that that would happen here as well. But both sides seemingly very far apart still -- Deb.

FEYERICK: Yes, what's so interesting, Dan, is that neither side wants to say anything that would potentially suggest they're giving up any leverage. Bur Republican aides say that the White House offer is, quote, "completely unbalanced and unrealistic," you know, citing the $1.6 trillion in tax hikes. Yet the tax rates that are being proposed are less than they were during the Clinton era. So where do we go from here? Because we've kind of paid that in the past?

LOTHIAN: Right. Well, where we go from here is the president hits the road trying to gain momentum behind his plan. He heads to Pennsylvania. He will be touring a manufacturing plant there and also making remarks. Again, the bottom line here is the White House sees very little wiggle room when it comes to those upper income Americans paying more.

The president believing that those Bush era tax cuts should be extended, but just for middle class Americans. And so, you know, they're starting from that point in their negotiations, that there's nothing that can't get done here unless upper income Americans pay more.

FEYERICK: So much more work still to be done. Well, hopefully there's more going on behind the scenes.

Dan Lothian, for us this morning. Thanks so much.


FEYERICK: Well, the army private accused of the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history will face prosecutors today in his pretrial hearing. Bradley Manning's attorney is trying to get charges dismissed or reduced. Manning says his time in the military was harsh, so harsh he considered suicide. He says he spent up to 23 hours a day alone, was not allowed to sleep during the day and was forced to sleep naked one night, stand naked the next morning after telling an officer that he could potentially had hurt himself.

The WikiLeaks published the classified documents Manning is accused of stealing while Manning was an army intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Celebrations rocked the West Bank late into the night after the U.N. voted to declare Palestinian territories a nonmember observer state. The only other entity to hold that position is the Vatican. This historic victor gave the Palestinians reason to cheer but it also came as a huge disappointment to the United States, which had staunchly oppose this measure, a sentiment that was echoed by Israel.

The vote was 138 in favor and nine opposed. Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, had very different reactions to this decision. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (Through Translator): We came to a firm legitimacy of the state that must now achieve its independence and that is Palestine.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We have always been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve.


FEYERICK: Well, Palestinians view the U.N. vote as a big step toward eventual statehood.

But hours before the U.N. General Assembly vote, the U.N. put out a statement on its official Twitter account. Well, we all do that except theirs had a glaring typo. This says tweet from the U.N. information officer says, quote, "On day of solidarity with Palestinians, Ban Ki-moon stresses urgency of a one-state solution."

Oops. The U.N.'s official position is actually a two-state solution. The mistake was acknowledged and corrected about half an hour later.

Well, the state of same-sex marriage now rests with nine Supreme Court justices. The national debate on all sides includes ads voiced by actor Morgan Freeman.


MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Freedom, justice and human dignity. They've always guided our journey toward a more perfect union.

Now across our country, we are standing together for the right of gay and lesbian Americans to marry the person they love.


FEYERICK: Today the highest court might decide whether to take up the case about same-sex marriage and Joe Johns joins us now from Washington.

And, Joe, break it down for us.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Deborah. What we're waiting for today is whether the Supreme Court will even agree to hear a case on gay marriage. It's what the Supreme Court calls granting certiorari. There are around 10 different cases that have been brought to the court's doorstep and the justices decide as a group whether the case is going to be heard.

We don't know if that decision will come today. If the Supreme Court is anything right now, it's unpredictable. That said, the eventual battle is likely to be over the 1996 law passed by Congress called the Defensive Marriage Act, which allows only federal benefits for marriages between a man and a woman. A few lower courts have recently invalidated that law, saying gay couples deserve the same rights as everybody else. So the question the justices could take up on this is whether it's OK for the federal government to try to regulate marriage, which throughout history generally has been regulated by the states. Tricky calculation for the court on one hand.

Nine states and the District of Columbia already allow same-sex marriage, including three that just voted in favor of it in the last election. We also know that 41 states have a legal definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Thirty states have constitutional amendments on it. So the question right now really is whether the country is ready for it -- Deborah.

FEYERICK: And so, Joe, really, so it comes down to equal protection. And one of the reasons the Supreme Court is really looking so closely at this is because you've got state laws that essentially are invalidating federal laws. And that's why it's gone to the highest court.

JOHNS: Right.

FEYERICK: If they do --

JOHNS: There's a conflict.

FEYERICK: Yes. And if they do agree to take this, how long do you think it will take for them to make a decision that, yes, they're going to go into it?

JOHNS: Right. Likely we wouldn't actually get this case heard before the court before March. But you're absolutely right. When you have that conflict between the state laws and the federal laws, the Supreme Court will look at it and say, maybe we need to do something about this. Of course, this all started with a law passed by the Congress. So there is reason to try to get some definition here.

FEYERICK: All right. Well, it's going to be an interesting one to watch. And Joe Johns we are going to be checking in with you a little -- a little later on during our show. So thanks so much.

Well, no doubt life will likely change for those holding the two winning tickets in this week's massive Powerball jackpot. Soon we may know who they are. One of the winners in Arizona may actually have been in a Maryland gas stations 2200 miles away from where he bought the ticket, OK?

Just again take a look at this man, all right, on surveillance video. He is wearing a neon yellow safety gear, so we checked his ticket, OK? Looking at it now. Looking at it now. Showing it. He's getting all excited. And he starts jumping around. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then he says, is this the right numbers? And I looked down, and I said yes, that's the numbers, man. You got them all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely amazing, I couldn't believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Came back a minute later and said I forgot to get my gas. What am I thinking?


FEYERICK: Well, the ticket still does need to be verified. But the winning ticket sold in Dearborn, Missouri, already has been checked and confirmed. The winner expected to come forward just about three hours from now.

So chances are the man may not be turning up to work tomorrow, well, on Saturday. So that's another reason why it's probably not showing up. But the guy that might worried guy about the U.S. hitting the fiscal cliff, but some homeowners should be watching negotiations on Capital Hill and state, because whether you're going to be able to keep deducting your mortgage interest on your taxes.

Christine Romans is in New York following the story. And, Christine, boy, the mortgage interest deductions is really part of what makes homeowners so appealing. Could that change everything?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And that guy is not going to need a mortgage. He'll be paying cash so this will not apply to him. But look, for the first time in a very long time, serious discussion about the mortgage interest discussion, how much it costs and whether it should be on the table. And all of our discussion over the fiscal clip.

So, first of all, who guessed it? Forty-one million Americans get this mortgage issues reduction. Basically you write off the interest in your mortgage the government is paying about $100 billion a year back to homeowners just for owning their homes. So is that fair, well, some people are saying look, this really mostly -- this mostly, his helps, richer people, upper middle class.

Take a lock. If you make $250,000 a year, on average, you're getting back about $5500 in mortgage interest. Right? That adds to the deficit. Somebody makes more like $40,000 a year well, their tax savings is more like $91. So this is something that's cherished middle class tax cut. The critics say it's more like a cherished upper middle class tax cut. And frankly we can't afford it.

But look the housing industry spending an awful lot of money lobbying to make sure this doesn't change because they say at a time when the housing market is just starting to recover, the last thing you want to do is take away that tax break. You would see home prices drop 15 percent.

I've heard 20 percent. So this is not the right time in a very fragile recovery for housing to start changing the tax advantage of home ownership. So this is a fight that you're going to see play out and quite frankly there are people on the coasts and in those high- cost -- high housing cost places like Chicago as well who are nervously watching to see what happens with the home interest deduction. By the way, that guy in Maryland, who bought the tickets in Arizona, he won't need to know this but mortgage rates still very, very low.

Can I show you yesterday's mortgage rates, 30-year fix, 3.32 percent, Deb. Wow. Fifteen-year fix, that's a popular refining tool, 2.64 percent. Very low mortgage rate.

FEYERICK: You know, it is -- what's interesting is it's so attractive right now to want to buy a home because the interest rates are so low. But by taking away that deductions it's going to redefine homeownership. And I show you had two categories, the 40,000 and then those making $250 and above. But what about those folks in the middle? How does it affect them?

ROMANS: Absolutely that they're -- the homeowners, and look, there are people who also take out home equity lines. You can write off the interest on your home equity line up to $100,000, that also would be affected.

You're talking about this write-down but should the government be subsidizing home ownership basically when we're already spending more money than we're bringing in to such a large extent. When you hear people, Deb, talk about limiting deductions and loopholes, this is one -- that's right out there in the middle, unclear if both sides are going to be willing to take this one away.

Some folks in Washington are telling me that if the president can raise rates, tax rates on the rich that maybe the mortgage interest deduction would be -- would stay. But if he can't raise rates on the rich then you'll start to see some of these deductions either capped or go away -- Deb.

FEYERICK: Yes, it's so interesting. And we've spoken about this before. But so many folks bought a home because homeownership was the goal. But now with the deductions potentially going away, maybe they're going to be rethinking whether, in fact, that is a possibility.

Christine Romans for us there in New York. Thanks so very much.

Well, the next generation of drones, they could carry bombs and need very little hands-on control. We'll tell you what the Pentagon is doing to prevent those from killing innocent people.


FEYERICK: Look, Terminators are not just for the movies. Real-life killer robots could be deployed in 20 years or so. But the Pentagon is moving now to ensure human controls will be in place.

Here is CNN's Chris Lawrence.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind every Hellfire missile, there's an actual human being, someone back at base remotely pulling the trigger.

But the Pentagon is preparing for the day when robots are capable of killing on their own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Machines are starting to take over.

LAWRENCE: It conjures up images of the Terminator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, I need to make myself very clear. If we uplink now, Skynet will be controlling your military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll be in control of Skynet, right?

LAWRENCE: The Pentagon just issued its first directive on autonomous weapons, effectively forbidding the development of lethal weapons with no human control, to minimize failures that could lead to unintended engagements.

DAVE OCHMANEK, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECY. OF DEFENSE: That's a sterile term for me, meaning harming innocence, killing the wrong target.

LAWRENCE: The Pentagon's Dave Ochmanek admits these weapons are still 20, 30 years away.

(on camera): That technology doesn't exist yet. So why now?

OCHMANEK: The thought was technology is dynamic. And we'd like to get out ahead of it.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Just this week, the Navy tested its next generation drones, which could carry bombs, and land on an aircraft career with hardly any human control.

The directive only applies to lethal systems, and still allows the military to develop autonomous spy planes.

OCHMANEK: As we begin to approach the possibility of having machines select and engage targets, we want to be very careful not to cross that line without high-level policy review.

LAWRENCE: Human Rights Watch applauds the Pentagon's move.

BONNIE DOCHERTY, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: We do not believe it solves the problem, however.

LAWRENCE: So, the group is calling for governments to ban autonomous weapons outright.

Bonnie Docherty points to Syria and wonders what killer robots could do in a conflict like that.

DOCHERTY: Because the weapons are emotionless, they could serve as a perfect tool for a dictator, who would not have to worry about the danger of a human soldier turning on him if fired -- if ordered to fire on his own civilians. A robot would not do that.


FEYERICK: And Chris Lawrence for us -- with us at the Pentagon right now.

And it's fascinating. I mean, what if something were to go haywire and all these killer robots were kind of meant to take over? How does -- what does the Pentagon think about all this?

LAWRENCE: Well, they're concerned, you know. And it's tough because the technology doesn't exist yet. So, you're kind of forecasting what your concerns may be 20 years from now.

But what this directive does is say there's got to be some inherent fail safes built in. So, if something were to go wrong we've got to have a way to minimize that damage and cut it off immediately.

And it's really a message to a lot of the weapons developers out there not to build these systems because the Pentagon is not going to buy them unless they fall into really strict parameters.

FEYERICK: It's fascinating, because how would you even neutralize a robot that's gone crazy. And I guess it sounds a little bit ridiculous. But at the same time, you know, we've sat through enough movies, Chris, to know that it could happen.

LAWRENCE: Yes. I mean, exactly, Deb. I mean, you look at the Navy testing, you know, that semi autonomous drone that for the first time could possibly launch and land on an aircraft carrier. That is one of the toughest skills for any human pilot to master.

So, you can see with the grid of technology just how quickly this could sort of get out from under the Pentagon. So, I think it was an attempt to sort of get out ahead of it a little bit.

FEYERICK: Yes, and interesting and probably wise in the long run, obviously, just to put your faith in human beings. Working the joystick as it would be, as we saw in that picture.

Chris Lawrence --



LAWRENCE: But it brings up some amazing ethical questions like, you know, Bonnie brought up with Syria, when you think about this technology in the hands of dictators, without that human being to say, "I'm not going to take that shot," you know, it just brings up a whole host of issues that we haven't had to grapple with yet.

FEYERICK: Yes, no question. And, obviously, minimizing loss of human life is critical.

Chris, stick around for us for a minute because we're going to talk about the robot fish. This is a BIOSwimmer, an unmanned underwater vehicle. The Homeland Security drone is mechanical fins and tail moves through water just like a real fish.

Chris, what kind of missions could this BIOSwimmer go on?

LAWRENCE: I don't know. I could tell you some fishermen who might be pretty disappointed when they think they have prime great sushi and end up with that thing in their net.

But, you know, I got to tell you. I was out in Bahrain, out in the Arabian Sea with the Navy just a couple of months. They are already using underwater drones to look for mines. Now, they don't look anything like that. They look like big, hulking machines.

But even last year, we were at a demonstration of a hummingbird drone. This is sort of the next threshold of drone technology, getting things that mimic insects and animals that already exist in nature. They are looking at the way that birds flutter, the way that fish move through the water and say those are natural ways to move through an environment and they don't stand out. So, that's really what you're seeing sort of the next level of these drones.

FEYERICK: Yes, almost clandestine drones or camouflaged drones. It's like "Men in Black" actually. I just feel like I just watched a real life "Men in Black" with you, Chris.

All right. Chris Lawrence, at the Pentagon, always a pleasure.


FEYERICK: And we have a short break. We'll see you right after.


FEYERICK: New York City police officers often see homeless people. But one officer could not get the image of a shoeless man on a very bitter cold night out of his mind. So he decided to do something.

Here is Mary Snow.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Had it not been for a tourist from Arizona who snapped this photo with her cell phone, Officer Lawrence DePrimo's act of kindness, giving boots to a homeless man, may have gone unnoticed.

Tourist Jennifer Foster e-mailed the photo to the NYPD. They posted it to their Facebook page. Tens of thousands of comments followed.

Like this one: "In a time when our hearts are in despair and we are bombarded with bad news, it is the human spirit and acts of kindness who really define who we are. God bless."

(on camera): Are you surprised by all the attention?

OFFICER LARRY DEPRIMO, NYPD: Absolutely. I didn't know this was going to be such a big deal. SNOW (voice-over): The 25-year-old officer was on patrol in Times Square on a cold night two weeks ago when he saw the homeless man with bare feet.

DEPRIMO: You could see the blisters about the size of my hand, and my heart just went out to this man. I didn't think anything of it. I just went towards him, asked him if he wanted a pair of socks. And he said, no, but thank you and God bless you for asking.

And that I found amazing, because you know, here he doesn't even have a pair of socks to his name, and he has the heart to say God bless me. It was absolutely -- it was just inspiring.

SNOW: Officer DePrimo went to this Sketchers to get the man boots and had to run back out to ask him his size. It was a 12.


SNOW: Manager Jose Cano offered his employee discount to the officer.

CANO: We realize, you know, just a cop on the beat, you know. He's just passing by. And it just -- it came natural for us to want to help, maybe make the best out of the situation.

SNOW: Officer DePrimo never found out the name of the man he helped, but he remembers his reaction.

DEPRIMO: He looked me right in the face, and the smile just went from ear to ear. And again, he said God bless me and, you know, be safe. I just couldn't believe it was coming out of his mouth. You know, it's just -- for such a small gesture, you know, he was so appreciative.

SNOW: The officer says he keeps the receipt in his bulletproof vest as a reminder of those less fortunate.

(on camera): With all of the tension, what do you hope comes out of this?

DEPRIMO: If it pushes someone else to go out and do another kind act towards another person, then you know, I'm going sleep well tonight. You know, it's actually amazing to me.


FEYERICK: It really makes you stop and think.

Well, good morning. I'm Deb Feyerick, in for Carol Costello.

Stories we are watching right now for you in THE NEWSROOM:

A train in New Jersey is derailed after a bridge collapse in Paulsboro, New Jersey. The train was carrying toxic and flammable chemicals. Residents in the entire community of Paulsboro are being asked to stay inside and keep their windows closed while the Coast Guard works on cleaning up the scene. We'll bring you more information as soon as we have it.

And in California, decriminalizing marijuana is paying off with fewer arrests for juveniles. That's according to a study which found a number of people under age 18 been arrested for marijuana possession, it is now at record lows. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the law changing possession penalties from misdemeanor to an infraction.

Scientists say the ice covering Greenland and Antarctica is melting faster than originally thought. Research shows Greenland is losing ice at a rate five times faster than in the 1990s. Overall, the study finds all that melted ice has caused global sea levels to rise nearly half an inch in the past decade.

Well, cyber bullying is every parent's fear. And the recent suicide of Canadian teen Amanda Todd show deadly online bullying can be.

But how do we keep our kids and teens safe online? A new game is here and it is to help. Meet Alex Wonder, cyberdetective.