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Train Derails, Spilling Toxins In New Jersey; White House Unveils Fiscal Cliff Plan Manning Faces Prosecutors Today; How To Close Guantanamo Bay; Palestinians Celebrate Key U.N. Vote; More Protests As Egypt OK's New Constitution; "Ecstasy" As Treatment For PTSD; Hostess Execs Getting Bonuses

Aired November 30, 2012 - 10:00   ET



DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: The stories we're watching right now. Closing Guantanamo has been on President Obama's agenda since he took office four years ago and it might finally become a reality, but where would all the prisoners go, possibly closer than you think.

More than 7 million Americans suffer from the nightmare of post- traumatic stress disorder, but there's a surprising new treatment, one involving the drug known as Ecstasy.

But you can barely of politicians in Washington to reach across the aisle let alone reach a bipartisan agreement on anything so how could dating across party lines possibly work out?

Two winning tickets, almost $200 million new friends we'll soon learn who Powerball's newest millionaires are. This surveillance video may help us figure out who one winner might be.

NEWSROOM starts right now.

Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Deb Feyerick in for Carol Costello. Just in, the big story that we're keeping an eye on for you this morning. A train in New Jersey has derailed after a bridge collapsed in the community of Paulsboro.

The train was carrying some 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 lots more as soon as it comes in.

Also, just in, the president in Pennsylvania today, and we're learning new information about what he's going to say. Let's get to the White House and Dan Lothian. Dan, what are you hearing?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president will be heading to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, to a toy manufacturing company there, a company that the White House says depends on middle- class consumers.

And the message that we'll hear from the president is the one we've heard over the last few weeks, and certainly over the last year or so on the campaign trail, is that a middle-class America needs to have the relief from the Bush era tax cuts extended, upper-income Americans do not need that benefit.

So, the president will continue pushing that. It's a nonstarter, the White House says. This deal cannot get done unless upper-income Americans pay more and so that will be the message from the president as he takes his campaign if you will on the road -- Deb.

FEYERICK: Look, some on the Republican side are calling the president's proposal unrealistic, but at least is he moving the ball just a little bit ahead of where it was yesterday maybe?

LOTHIAN: Well, they're certainly hoping that he will be able to move it forward. It does seem like both sides are far apart, as you pointed out. This is sort of the opening round in negotiations as Timothy Geithner took the plan up to the Hill, $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years.

Something that Republicans were not expecting and saying is too much, $400 billion in spending cuts, something that they don't believe is enough, and then $50 billion in stimulus spending.

Again, you know, this is kind of the posture that we've seen over the last four years in tough negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill, where at times it seems very optimistic that they can get a deal done.

Then it seems like sides are very far apart, but in the end, it does happen. Before this sort of fiscal cliff scenario plays out.

FEYERICK: Yes, absolutely. And clearly neither side willing to give up any leverage before -- probably before they reach the eleventh hour. But President Obama heading to Pennsylvania today, he's taking his plan directly to voters. You know, earlier this week the White House encouraged Americans to tweet about tax cuts. Any sign the strategy's paying off?

LOTHIAN: We haven't seen anything yet, but they do believe that that is a smart strategy. We saw that happen with payroll tax cuts before where they brought Americans here to the White House who would be impacted by, you know, $40 less in their paycheck.

They did it again this time, bringing middle-class Americans here to the White House this week, who say that they will be impacted to the tune of $2,200 more a year in taxes. So, they believe that going to the American people, using social media is an effective tool. So far we don't know how that's paid off for them.

FEYERICK: And clearly, a lot of Americans wanting to see some sort of a deal so we can move ahead. All right, Dan Lothian, appreciate it.

Well, the other big story that we're watching for you, the army private accused of the biggest leak of classified documents in history is facing prosecutors today. It's part of a pre-trial hearing, Bradley Manning, his lawyer trying to get the charges against him dismissed or reduced. If convicted Manning could get life in prison for allegedly stealing the documents while serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Chris Lawrence joins us from the Pentagon. And, Chris, Manning has complained about his treatment. What is he claiming in his testimony so far?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Deb, at one point when talking about the first couple months he spent in a prison in Kuwait, he said he felt like his life had constricted to the point of a cage. He said, I thought I was going to die in that cage.

But he said at that point he did think about killing himself. This is the first time we have heard publicly from Bradley Manning. And he went on to talk about the conditions he was held in Quantico, under a suicide watch for part of that time, in solitary confinement for about five months.

He said basically that he would not see another person for 23 hours a day, that sometimes at night he would have to sleep naked, that one day after an officer heard that he might hurt himself, he was forced to stand naked.

So, all of this contributing to what the defense is trying to put forward, which is look how harshly he's been treated. Some of these charges should be dropped or at the very least he should be given some credit for time served.

But, again, Deb, right now we just heard from the Manning side. Prosecutors just got started about a couple minutes ago cross- examining him.

FEYERICK: You know, it's interesting, I've covered a number of terrorism cases and that's one thing the lawyers always try to do is they try to describe the conditions as being so awful that they want to try to do some sort of a deal, but is there any chance for a plea deal in this particular case?

LAWRENCE: There is. Because Manning basically, his defense team, put forward an idea, you know, basically here's if I did plea, here's what I would like, here's what I would do. And the judge basically said that's OK.

That's an authorized deal. Now, Manning hasn't submitted it yet, but it's some framework for a deal that would probably net him about 16 years in prison. It sounds like a lot. His crimes are very, very serious. He's facing life in prison.

So, we'll just have to see what happens as the prosecutor, again, starts to cross-examine him this morning. And then the prosecution will start to call some of those jailers to the stand to describe why manning may have been kept in this manner.

FEYERICK: Right, absolutely. And also prosecutors clearly, then, it would be easier for them to do this plea deal because other charges might be more difficult to prove. OK, Chris Lawrence for us at the Pentagon. Thanks so much.

LAWRENCE: You're welcome.

FEYERICK: Well, it might be the most well-known military prison. A lot of people want that detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, they want it closed, but what can you do with the prisoners who are there? A new report says U.S. prisons could handle them with changes. Here's our Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He sits in a cell some 500 miles from American shores, Khaled Shek Mohammed, accused mastermind of 9/11 could be a step closer to residing on the very soil he allegedly conspired to attack.

A newly released GAO report says military and federal civilian prisons inside the U.S. would need several operational changes if detainees like Mohammed were to be transferred from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the U.S.

But to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairwoman of the Select Intelligence Committee, the report shows that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperilling our national security.

The report says there are about 2,000 state, federal and local prisons that could be suitable for those dangerous detainees and six military facilities.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Certainly the most likely place the prisoners would be sent would be the maximum security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, that is set up for maximum security. There have never been any escapes. That's the most likely.

TODD: Some civilian supermax facilities inside the U.S. already house well-known convicted terrorists, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's nephew, 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef.

(on camera): But Senator Feinstein is running into staunch opposition here on Capitol Hill where Republicans passed a law banning the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo onto U.S. soil.

(voice-over): GOP Congressman Frank Wolf is chairman of a subcommittee dealing with funding for the Justice Department.

(on camera): What about someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, at a supermax locked away, isolated, very secure?

REP. FRANK WOLF (R), VIRGINIA: But you would then give him all the constitutional advantages of being an American citizen. You would then have security provisions to bring him here. Then to give him years and years of a show trial whereby he could do things and the 9/11 families think this is a very, very bad idea.

TODD (voice-over): Among the changes at U.S. facilities that would need to take place to bring Mohammed and other detainees to America according to the GAO, the risk to the American public would have to be minimized.

Some potential military jails are on bases close to the public, identities of the personnel working with the prisoners would need to be kept secret. Military prisoners by law would have to be kept separate from foreign nationals.

TOOBIN: It seems to me that the likely result is status quo. These people are here in Guantanamo now and they'll be here in Guantanamo four years later.

TODD: Jeffrey Toobin says the Obama team has already been burned over Guantanamo repeatedly, after promising early on in the administration to close it down. And he doesn't think the president will burn any more political capital on this issue. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


FEYERICK: Well, celebrations reverberated across the West Bank late into the night after the U.N. voted to declare Palestinian territories a non-member observer state. The only other entity to hold that position is the Vatican.

This historic victory gave the Palestinians reason to celebrate, but it also came as a disappointment to the United States, which has staunchly opposed this measure, a sentiment which is echoed by Israel.

The vote was 138 in favor, 9 opposed, 41 abstained. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, have very different reactions to the decision.


MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translator): We came to affirm the legitimacy of a state that must now achieve its defenders and that's clarified.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE 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 towards eventual statehood.

In New York as much as a million dollars in wasted funds as the city recovers from Superstorm Sandy. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that scores of hotel rooms paid for with public money have been vacant for weeks.

They were supposed to house residents displaced by the superstorm, but those rooms are unoccupied. More than 1,000 people are still homeless a month after the storm hit the east coast.

And the Newark, New Jersey mayor who accepted a challenge to live on food stamps has a starting date. Beginning this December, Tuesday, Mayor Cory Booker, will live on just food stamps for a week. He accepted the challenge earlier in the month from one of his Twitter followers.

An illegal drug may just hold a key to successfully treating post- traumatic distress disorder. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has exclusive access to this therapy and the patient.


FEYERICK: Well, we are checking our top stories for you. Protests in Egypt today after the new controversial constitution criticized as a power grab by President Mohammed Morsy was approved. He's expected to sign the document Saturday, but not the end of the conflict. The Egyptian constitution needs to be approved by citizens many of whom are still angry at the Morsy government.

NASA said it has found large deposits of ice on Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. While some areas of Mercury can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit, some areas are completely shielded from the sun allowing the ice to form. NASA plans to send its messenger spacecraft to that area for a closer look in the coming months.

Groundbreaking therapy is under way to help patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. What's revolutionary about the work is the use of an illegal drug commonly referred to as Ecstasy.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has had exclusive access to the patients and their sessions. Here's his report --


RACHEL HOPE, SUFFERED POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (voice-over): Some part of you is on guard. It just wouldn't stop. I couldn't shut it down.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Rachel Hope, the mental agony began in childhood when she says she was abused and raped at age 4. As a grown-up, the smallest trigger, like a familiar smell even, would bring it all back.

HOPE: I would get very extreme stabbing sensations in my body, you know, and then, like, fixed vision -- visuals, like being, for instance, raped.

GUPTA: Mental breakdowns, four hospitalizations, and along the way Rachel tried almost every treatment in the book.

HOPE: I tried NDR, rapid eye movement therapy, hypnosis, g gestalt, yell it out, scream it out, nothing worked.

GUPTA: And then she discovered an experiment, run by Dr. Michael Mithoefer. He is a psychiatrist in Charleston, South Carolina. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the place where we do the study. This is where we meet with people and this is where we do the MDMA sessions.

GUPTA: Intense psychotherapy, including eight-hour sessions after taking a capsule of MDMA, of Ecstasy. Listen closely you can hear Rachel along with Dr. Mithoefer.

HOPE: I felt as if my whole brain was powered up like a Christmas tree, all at once, boom!

DR. MICHAEL MITHOEFER, CONDUCTED MDMA/ECSTACY STUDY: Sometimes usually people did have some very positive affirming experiences, but a lot of the time it was revisiting the trauma. It was painful, difficult experience, but the MDMA seemed to make it possible for them to do it effectively.

GUPTA: Within weeks, Rachel says, about 90 percent of her symptoms were gone.

HOPE: I don't scream. I don't have flashbacks anymore.

GUPTA: And in results just published, Dr. Mithoefer says that 14 of 19 patients were dramatically better more than three years later.

MITHOEFER: The question is, OK, was this just a flash in the pan? Did people just feel good from taking a drug? So the answer to that turned out to be, no, it wasn't just a flash in the pan for most people.

GUPTA: Now, of course, 19 people is still just a tiny study, but it is getting attention. Loree Sutton was the Army's top psychiatrist until she retired in 2010.

BRIG. GENERAL LOREE SUTTON (RET.): I've certainly reviewed it, and the results look promising. It's, like, with the rest of science, we'll apply the rigor, we'll follow where the data leaves. We'll leave our politics at the door.

GUPTA (on camera): Point out that none of this means that street Ecstasy is safe, apart from being illegal. You don't know what you're getting. It's often contaminated. Pure MDMA can cause a higher body temperature, it can cause dehydration.

There's also cases where people overcompensate and actually die from drinking too much water. But in a controlled setting, which is what we're talking about here, the evidence does seem to suggest that it can be safe.

(voice-over): Similar studies are under way in Europe and Canada and Mithoefer is halfway through a study offering this treatment to combat veterans, firefighters and police officers. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


FEYERICK: Fascinating, possibly opening up the mind. Well, you can watch more of Sanjay's fascinating report on the PTSD study this weekend. "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." airs Saturday afternoon at 4:30 Eastern and Sunday morning at 7:30 Eastern.

Well, here's something you probably didn't know about the bankruptcy case facing the makers of Twinkies. With thousands losing their jobs, some execs, yes, they are going to get bonuses. We'll tell you how that happened.


FEYERICK: Well, move over Cheetos, the new snack for the vending machine, caviar, of course, why not? The machine which is located in a Burbank, California mall was custom made in Spain. It's the first in the world to dispense the delicacy.

And yes, you probably guessed it will take a little more than 75 cents to get this treat. Prices range from $12, OK, possibly reasonable, to $500, a little less so.

Well, bankruptcy judge has officially given Hostess the go ahead to pay out bonuses to its senior executives. Felicia Taylor joins me from New York. Felicia, the company is liquidating almost 20,000 people losing their jobs. The executives are getting bonuses. How does that -- I'm not good at math, but how does that work?

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't quite seem fair, does it? But that's exactly what one New York court has sort of ruled on and the bonuses range from about $7,500 to $130,000 and it's only for 19 of the top executives.

A judge says that, you know, in these cases payouts are actually appropriate since an independent report found that the bonuses are well below market value for companies that are in similar circumstances.

Now, these execs, though, are those that are going to have to meet certain benchmarks in order to get their money, but also in doing that the judge says that they're going to have to do a lot of work because those positions are going to be part of what is going to be winding down the company.

They serve, like, as an incentive, really, to keep people around as the company is being wound down, and that's what, you know, happens in these situations. Hostess has 30 plants in 22 states, so this is a long process.

It's not an easy thing to accomplish. The CEO, Gregory Rayburn, did rule out a bonus for himself, by the way, which doesn't always happen and, you know, there are other workers that aren't going to be left completely out in the cold.

About 3,000 employees are also going to get some help winding down the company and they'll get extra, you know, money for, you know, a little bit of their work in addition to those salaries.

But naturally, you know, obviously, there are thousands of workers out there that are going to lose their jobs and for them, it's no comfort whatsoever. You're right -- it's not fair on a lot of levels.

FEYERICK: Yes. A little bit of a slap in the face to all those people who will find themselves unemployed shortly. Well, speaking of, we've heard that there are more than 100 buyers interested in scooping up Hostess. Does it look like the Twinkie may live to see another day, possibly?

TAYLOR: Yes, absolutely. This may not be the end of the Twinkie or the Snoball, which I have never -- anyway, yes, there are plenty of people out there. It's pretty unlikely that the Twinkie and other popular brands will totally disappear. At least one banker has backed that up in court on Thursday saying, like, as you mentioned, there are over 100 potential buyers out there --

FEYERICK: Amazing.

TAYLOR: -- that want Hostess to stick around, bakeries, competitors, consumer food companies and all kind of different grocery chains and there's actually one banker representing Hostess that said there are large investment banks that have already been consulted and they're hoping that a deal can be done as soon as January.

FEYERICK: That's right.

TAYLOR: So, don't give up hope. It's not just about caviar in that vending machine.

FEYERICK: It's the countermove to organic, overrate, so overrated. Felicia Taylor, thank you so much.

TAYLOR: No problem.

FEYERICK: Well, at least two people are more than $200 million richer right now, they hold the winning tickets to this week's record Powerball jackpot. Wait until you see what one man did when he checked his numbers.


FEYERICK: And a good morning to all of you. Thanks for joining us. I'm Deborah Feyerick in for Carol Costello. Just in, 18 people are being treated for respiratory issues when a train in New Jersey carrying toxic chemicals derailed when a bridge collapsed in the community of Paulsboro.

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 lots more information as it comes in.