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Republicans Scoff at Democrats' Fiscal Proposal; United Nations Historic Vote; Protests in Tahrir Square; Need for PTSD Treatment Grows; CNN Heroes Honored

Aired November 30, 2012 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hi, Deb Feyerick. Thank so much, everyone. Nice to see you. 11:00 on the East Coast, 8:00 a.m. on the West Coast. Let's start here. Big news, the White House putting an offer out there on the table, a plan to avoid the fiscal cliff and break the stalemate.

The Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner himself making the rounds on Capitol Hill, presenting the details. Last night, in fact, even. In the SUVs returning to the White House after his meetings with congressional leaders. The press is there. That's an important meeting, folks.

The Democrats are emphasizing this, however, is only a first offer.

So, with that, how was it received? It was received with a cacophony of laughter, essentially.

The Republicans hated it. There's really no other way to say it.

They scoffed at the request for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue, which probably gives us a bit more context to house speaker John Boehner's response to all of this yesterday.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: No substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House over the last two weeks.


BANFIELD: So, let's not forget here just how close we are to this cliff. Cliff day is 32 days away. You might say we're kind of teetering.

Regardless of what the Republicans think, regardless of how loud they may be laughing, the president is "a-walking." He's taking this pitch on the road and he is heading as we speak to a suburb in Philadelphia to tour a toy factory and give a speech there.

But this is not just your average factory. It's not just your average tour. It's not your normal glad-handing here. In fact, the Republicans are saying this is just President Obama campaigning. They're angry that he's off selling this proposal to the public instead of sitting down at the table with them and negotiating back in Washington.

It's a great shot, though, to watch Marine One take off, regardless of how you feel about it.

Dan Lothian gets to watch that on a regular basis.


BANFIELD: He's on the lawn right now. You did? You watched it?

He's off and running and a lot of people are angry about it, Dan, saying that this isn't the time to campaign and sell it to the public. That's a tactic.

But let's get to the nuts and bolts about it because, $1.6 trillion in new taxes, it doesn't ever sit well, but there are versions of this. There are elements to it. Break it down.

LOTHIAN: Right, $1.6 trillion in new taxes over 10 years and Republicans saying that they're surprised by this because they felt that what the president was putting out there was half of that.

And just a short time ago Josh Ernest, the deputy White House spokesman, in a gaggle with reporters saying that he's surprised that Republicans are surprised.

But I'll break it down for you. Timothy Geithner laying out this plan for lawmakers yesterday up on Capitol Hill. In addition to the $1.6 trillion, closing loopholes and limiting deductions, this is a way to bring in more revenue.

In addition to that, as well, raising estate taxes to rates, 2009 levels, and then finally increasing capital gains and dividends taxes.

Again, the White House seeing this as sort of the first, the opening bid, if you will. As you know, when you're negotiating, you come out very aggressive. The other side counters and then you find some common ground somewhere in the middle.

We've seen this kind of posturing in the past over the last four years where sometimes there's some optimism they're going to get things done then it gets like we see it now where it seems like they're very far apart and then they're able to come together.

Everyone is hoping they can do that before the end of the year.

BANFIELD: Yeah, but the rhetoric doesn't sound good right now, that's for sure.

What -- along with the $1.6 trillion sticker shock, what were the overtures being made by the president with this proposal? What was he prepared to give? LOTHIAN: That's right. Well, 50 -- he's also talking about $50 billion in new stimulus and then the things that Republicans have been really calling for is to put things, like, entitlements on the table.

The president has been open to that in the past, and that's part of this, as well, to the tune of $40 billion in stimulus and Medicare and so forth, but no specifics as to exactly how they will come up with that number.

Again, Republicans, as you pointed out just a few minutes ago, are not happy by this at all. John Boehner saying that the two sides are no closer than they were two weeks ago and saying that Democrats really need to get serious about negotiating here.

This could all be a tactic. Maybe it isn't as far apart as it appears, but publicly at least, it seems like there's a lot of distance before they can get a deal here.

BANFIELD: I'll say. All right, Dan Lothian, thank you for that. Do appreciate it.

Want to head to the United Nations now something you could consider one heck of a historic vote. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The voting has been completed. Please lock the machine.


BANFIELD: That is what it looks like when there's official approval to upgrade a member like this member, the Palestinian Authority, at the United Nations.

So, the Palestinian Authority now has a non-member observer status state. So, that is the same status that's held by the Vatican, but it is not the same status that the United States enjoys. It is still a rung away from that.

So, what exactly does it mean? Just how good is it? Is it symbolic? Is it political?

Let's bring in our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth. So, this is an overwhelmingly vote and the United States voted against elevating the Palestinian Authority and the state of Palestine to this status.

Without question the United States is in the minority here. Why?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Well, because the U.S. believes and has consistently believed for decades that only direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians can achieve a long lasting settlement, not through international organizations such as the United Nations, though, the U.N. could eventually be helpful once there is a peace. The United States, Canada, and very few others here voted in the negative. The Palestinians didn't get all the European support they wanted. This morning, Ashleigh, Canada is recalling some of its ambassadors from New York and in the Middle East for consultations probably for security reasons.

Canada gave a very public opposition speech before this vote, but the -- you mentioned, is it symbolic? Is it political? What are the significance -- what is it?

It could be all of it because now the Palestinians could join international organizations and treaties such as the International Criminal Court and perhaps challenge and go after and accuse Israel for war crimes for any future actions, maybe join aviation treaties, maybe control the water off its coast in the Middle East.

It's all unclear how far the Palestinians want to go now with their upgraded observer state status here, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: So, our man at the U.N. is a woman at the U.N. and it's Susan Rice who has been big in the news lately with the controversy over what happened in Benghazi, but this was something different and she was very passionate when she spoke after that vote.

Characterize it for me. Tell me what she said and why?

ROTH: Yes, I've heard Ambassador Rice speak for four years here and I guess I could just sense this was a more powerful and very stern in tone, though, she has spoken out, believe me, on Libya, Syria, and other things.

She doesn't pull any punches, but she was the first to speak in reply to this historic vote from the U.S. chair inside the general assembly and she said, look, pushing a green button inside the general assembly hall is not going to achieve Middle East peace

This resolution really does not create a reality of a state. There is no state for the Palestinians on the ground. It's counterproductive, there will be more obstacles.

I'm sure she knew that many people would be watching not just in the Middle East, but also on Capitol Hill where she will face potentially a nomination battle which is already under way.

BANFIELD: All right, Richard Roth, live for us at the U.N. in New York. Thank you for that.

And, by the way, the Israeli government spokesperson called the U.N. vote on the Palestinian Authority, quote, "political theater."

But the Palestinian Authority chief negotiator says the new status eliminates Israeli justifications for building settlements in the disputed areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: Got a live scene for you in Egypt right now and, as has become obvious to many, that's what Tahrir Square looks like when thousands of people descend upon it in the nighttime.

At this point, live, there are angry crowds who are angry about their president, Mohamed Morsi, and the new constitution that just was passed in that country. They're upset about what they consider a massive grab for power by the president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, this decision is against what I was expecting from him, completely, and I think it's against the benefit and the good for the people and the country.


BANFIELD: The new constitution went through after hours of haggling, and the draft is set to be presented to the president tomorrow.

But it still needs to be approved by the people and critics of the hasty nature of the vote say that this is just an attempt by Morsi's party, the Muslim Brotherhood, to hijack the constitution in that country.

President Morsi has promised Egyptians that his decrees will go out of effect - will go into effect just as soon as the new constitution is ratified in a public referendum.

Not far away, but worlds away, essentially, this is what Syrians are waking up to many mornings and Syrians are waiting for this violence to end.

They may be waiting a long time, though. For the last two days they have now been cut off from the outside world completely. There's no Internet now available in Syria at all. There's no telephone access at all. There's a lot of power outages and it is cold.

So, they are effectively in a black hole, a cold black hole, and a frightening one. And it gets worse every day.

The Syrian air strikes today hit rebel targets near the Damascus airport and all flights now have been grounded, that airport closed.

The next step for the rebels is the "Friends of Syria" meeting in Morocco. Hard to think anybody being friendly with images like that.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be at that meeting and actually may announce if the United States is formally going to recognize this new group of unified opposition members as actually representative of Syrian people.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are doing what we can to support the opposition, but also to try to support those inside Syria, particularly in the local councils who are committed to the kind of continuity in the Syrian governmental institutions so we don't see a collapse and disbandment of institutional forces that we know from our Iraq experience could be extremely dangerous.


BANFIELD: CNN's Ivan Watson is live with us now from Istanbul in neighboring Turkey.

Ivan, a lot of people got a chill about this blackout, effectively a communications blackout. Do we know for sure that it is the government of Syria that effectively cut its country off from the rest of the world or is there something else afoot?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't know exactly. Government officials have been quoted suggesting this was a rebel sabotage, but some of the Internet security experts that we talked to suggest that this must have been a centralized decision.

And you've got one organization called CloudFlare out of California that published this fascinating video which shows how the route to Syrian upstream-providers, one by one, were shut down all starting after noon, local time, on Thursday, effectively plunging 20 million Syrians into Internet darkness.

Now, it's the opposition that has made very effective use of the Internet, thus far, Ashleigh, using the Internet to upload opposition videos to YouTube, get their voices out to the outside world, so, it doesn't seem like they would have much of an incentive to plunge Syria into Internet darkness.

And despite the fact that the state Internet providers went down, the opposition activists have still been getting their images out of Friday, the traditional anti-government protests, via alternative methods of communication, satellite phones, for example, that we know the U.S. and the British governments have been supplying to activists. We've seen them out in the streets calling for the downfall of the Syrian regime as they've done every Friday for 20, bloody, deadly months. Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Well, let's talk about the months ahead because there have been several significant recognitions coming for the new unified opposition members.

I'm looking at Britain, France, Turkey, and the Gulf Cooperation Council. They've all said we believe the new group of rebels unified is the representative group, but the United States hasn't done it yet.

Are we going to, and what's holding us back?

WATSON: It's not clear entirely. This is -- was a U.S.-backed initiative, this what's called, shorthand, the Syrian National Coalition.

But here's one problem. Not all of the groups inside Syria, not all of the rebel groups, have agreed to recognize this political umbrella opposition group.

And I think what's very disturbing is that we've seen some armed opposition groups in particular one that's called the Nusra Front. That is a hardcore, Islamist group that some have accused of having links to al Qaeda that I've seen active in broader and broader areas of Syria and they've come out publicly denouncing and rejecting this Western-backed Syrian National Coalition.

So, whoever the Western capitals support outside of Syria, that may not correlate to what the fighters on the ground who are killing and dying in this uprising, they -- those fighters may not support this Western-backed umbrella opposition group and that could have very disturbing consequences in the weeks and months ahead.

BANFIELD: Well, we'll see what happens when the secretary of state ends up in the "Friends of Syria" meeting in Morocco.

Ivan Watson, thank you for that. Do appreciate it.

We're back in a moment.


BANFIELD: You have probably heard about PTSD. You probably feel like you have a fairly good grasp on what it is or at least the parameters of it.

Here's something we really don't know about PTSD -- how to treat it or at least how to treat it right, how really to get to the bottom of this horrible disorder that 7 million Americans are suffering through.

And then along comes Dr. Sanjay Gupta to tell us that there is something out there that is really off the rails that may be working. Have a look.


RACHEL HOPE, TREATED WITH ECSTASY FOR PTSD: Some part of me was on- guard. It just wouldn't stop. Couldn't shut it down.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: 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 ENDR, rapid eye movement therapy, hypnosis, Gestalt, yell-it-out, scream-it-out, you know. Nothing worked. GUPTA: And then she discovered an experiment run by Dr. Michael Mithoefer, he's a psychiatrist in Charleston, South Carolina.

DR. MICHAEL MITHOEFER, CONDUCTED MDMA/ECSTASY STUDY: This is the place where we do the study. This is where we meet with people and then this is where we do the MDMA sessions.

GUPTA: Intense psychotherapy, including eight-hour sessions after taking a capsule of MDMA, of "Ecstasy."

Now, listen closely. On this tape you can hear Rachel along with Dr. Mithoefer.

HOPE: I really need to keep driving, keep driving, keep driving.

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

MITHOEFER: Sometimes, usually people did have 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.

BRIGADIER GENERAL LOREE SUTTON (RETIRED), PSYCHIATRIST: 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 leads. We'll leave our politics at the door.

GUPTA: Now, I point out that none of this means that street "Ecstasy" is safe. Apart from being illegal, you don't always 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 it can be safe.

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.


BANFIELD: That is really amazing.

And that's not the last of Sanjay's research in to this, as well. He's got a whole lot more coming up this weekend.

So, if you want to tune in, there's some good stuff coming, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Eastern and, if you miss it Saturday, you got a second shot, Sunday morning, 7:30 a.m.


BANFIELD: We are prepping for a big Sunday night here at CNN. It's our live broadcast of "CNN Heroes - An All-Star Tribute."

I think you know by now it salutes the top ten CNN Heroes that you voted on and, of course, we named the CNN Hero of the Year, and it makes a lot of people feel really, really good.

One Marie Da Silva is one person who felt pretty good because she was a CNN Hero back in 2008. She lost 14 family members to AIDS and then turned that loss around to build a school for aids orphans in Malawi.

Our Nischelle Turner is sitting live with her right now. Nischelle, Marie, welcome.


Yeah, Marie and I were just talking earlier. That school is called the Jacaranda School that you founded and Ashleigh was telling us about some of the good work that you have been doing in Malawi and that led you to being one of our Heroes in 2008.

Can you tell me, because we're gearing up for our big event on Sunday here in Los Angeles -- can you tell me, when you found out you were one of our honorees, what was that like? What did you think? What kind of emotions did you feel?

MARIE DA SILVA, CNN HERO 2008: It was -- literally, I can't even explain to you what it felt like because I was -- you know, I'd never been, you know, had an award before like this.

It was the best thing that you can imagine, and it was excitement, and it was just loving, loving every minute of just hearing that, you know, that I was one of the top ten.

TURNER: And because -- and since Hero, you were telling me, because before you were a nanny here in L.A., but you were also doing your work with the Jacaranda School and helping the children in Malawi get educations.

But it kind of exploded and now you've stopped being a nanny because the Jacaranda School has grown so much that you have to concentrate on your works with that? Yes?

DA SILVA: Yes, before Heroes - like, when Heroes came in, there were 230 kids in my house.

Straight away within six months, I built a secondary school. Today, we have 412 orphans at the school. We have a physics and science lab. We have toilets with running water. We have a clinic built on the premises. Things just changed.

Within the last couple of years, from 2008 until today, the amount of stuff that has just turned over is amazing.

TURNER: Oh, fantastic.

DA SILVA: Amazing. Literally, the kids are going to college. The kids are graduating. The kids are -- I just came back from London, one of our kids, a 12-year-old boy met the Queen.

TURNER: Oh, my goodness.

DA SILVA: Who would have known this?

TURNER: That is wonderful and all of this kind of exploded since 2008 you were one of our honorees.

Well, thank you for joining us and kind of updating us and telling us your story.

Ashleigh, these are kinds of stories we're going to hear on Sunday night here at the Shrine Auditorium, 6:00. Anderson Cooper is our host. He always does a great job.

I call "Heroes" a "four-tissue event," but they're tears of joy, definitely.

Nine p.m., Eastern - I'm sorry. Nine p.m. Eastern ...