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Iran Says It's Seized Another U.S. Drone; Newark Mayor on Food Stamp Challenge; White House Rejects GOP Counter Proposal; Military Judge Removed from Fort Hood Shooting Case; Booker's Food Stamp Challenge

Aired December 4, 2012 - 09:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'll see everybody back here tomorrow morning.

Hey, Carol. Good morning.


Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM, bragging rights. Iran claims they captured an American drone and issues a warning, "We shall trample on the United States."

Intoxicated. "SI" reports Jovan Belcher drunk and partying the night before he shocked the NFL and fans.

Oscar talk. "Zero Dark Thirty." Director Kathryn Bigelow talked about the controversy over her bin Laden death movie.


KATHRYN BIGELOW, FILM DIRECTOR: I think it's nice because now the film can speak for itself and I certainly have a feeling that a lot of those debates will transition to something, you know, slightly less controversial.


COSTELLO: The full interview straight ahead.

Plus this.




STREEP: And before today you had never heard of me.


STREEP: And you have no style or sense of fashion. HATHAWAY: I think that depends on what your --

STREEP: No, no, that wasn't a question.


COSTELLO: The devil's diplomacy. Vogue editor Anna Wintour, a U.S. ambassador? Maybe.

NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Carol Costello.

This morning Iran is bragging. It claims it capture d an American drone. The U.S. is denying it. But Iran has made that drone a star on state TV.

According to Iran's state-run news agency, the drone was captured immediately after entering Iranian air space. The drone, now being shown on Iranian television. On TV behind the aircraft is a map of the Persian Gulf with the words, quote, "We will trample on the U.S."

The United States says all of its U.S. drones in the Middle East have been accounted for. The drone Iran says it has is a ScanEagle, made by Boeing, and is being used more by the U.S. Navy.

Reza Sayah joins us now from Cairo.

Good morning, Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. First off, we should point out that it's not clear what, if anything, Iran has captured. We're getting two very different stories from Tehran and Washington. Washington denying that Iran has done anything. Iran with a very different story and they're already using this to say that they've scored a big intelligence victory over the U.S.

The reports in state media in Iran started early Tuesday morning. According to Revolutionary Guard Iran capturing a U.S.-made drone right after it flew into Iranian air space and at northern Persian Gulf region. This is southern Iran. Iran describing this drone as a ScanEagle, this is a small spy drone, about a 10-foot wingspan. It can go about 24 hours without refueling.

And Iran already boasting a win, putting it on display. A video clip posted online, Carol, showed what appeared to be two military officials examining what looked like a U.S. drone with that poster that you mentioned with the title "We will trample on the U.S."

COSTELLO: Yes. I don't mean to change the subject. But we hear the yelling behind you. You're in Cairo, Egypt. What's going on behind you, Reza?

SAYAH: Well, these are the opposition factions here in Cairo, who are back in pretty big numbers, a few thousand of them here in Egypt, protesting against President Morsi's decrees and this draft constitution that appears to be going full speed ahead on a national referendum. On December 15th, the road seems to be clear for Egypt to vote on this constitutional referendum. Of course, these opposition factions believe they've been sidelined, squeezed out of the process for which it was drafted. The president saying this is the best way to move the country forward -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Reza, we're going to let you go. Thank you so much.

Back to Iran for just a second. This is not the first time Iran has gone public with the capture of a U.S. drone. Last year Iran says it shot down a stealth aircraft used by the CIA. In about an hour we're going to talk to our security expert Fran Townsend about all of this.

Also this morning, we're learning new information about the hours leading up to a Kansas City Chiefs player's murder-suicide. A law enforcement source telling Jovan Belcher was out partying with another woman the night before -- the night before he shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. reports Belcher and the other woman became separated. He wound up returning to her apartment complex. And when Belcher couldn't find her, he crashed at her neighbor's house and the neighbor said Belcher was drunk. Belcher returned home the next morning, several hours after Perkins got back from a night out. Police say the couple argued and then Belcher killed Perkins, before later killing himself.

Belcher's aunt spoke to reporters outside the couple's home.


MARY KIMBLE, BELCHER'S AUNT: We will cherish the wonderful memories we have of Jovan and pray that those memories will bring us peace as we grapple to understand the unpredictable and tragic ending of his life and the life of Kasandra Perkins.


COSTELLO: Kasandra Perkins' family released a statement saying, quote, "We appreciate the outpouring of love and concern for our Kasandra 'Kasi' Perkins. Our hearts are truly broken for Kasi. She was a beloved daughter, granddaughter, sister, mother, cousin, and friend. Please keep us in your hearts and prayers as well as the Belcher family for two lives were lost," end quote.

Coming up later this hour we'll talk with a former college teammate of Belcher's who presents a whole different side of him.

A new image linked to the night of the Trayvon Martin killing. Attorneys for George Zimmerman have posted a photo online of their client with blood on his nose and lips. The attorneys released the high-resolution picture they say was taken by police after prosecutors had previously handed out a black and white copy.

Zimmerman claims he killed the unarmed teenager in self-defense. Republicans, they took the bait. They delivered a counter proposal to President Obama's plan to avert the fiscal cliff. And guess what, the White House rejected it, calling the GOP proposal unbalanced and not serious. Translation? The proposal did not contain tax hikes on the wealthy so Democrats said forget about it.

But we thought you should take a look. The Republican plan totals $2.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. The part that stood out to us was $600 billion in proposed savings in Medicare reforms. How? Well, in part by raising the age of eligibility from 65 to maybe 67.

And turning down the GOP proposal, White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer singled out this item, saying, quote, "It includes nothing knew and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they would close or which Medicare savings they would achieve."

So let's head to the White House now and Dan Lothian.

OK, Dan. So the White House is not going to offer a counter proposal, right? So what's going on here?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think the White House is digging in. The president said early on in this process that he would only sit down and really move forward, negotiate on this in any meaningful way if the tax hikes for the wealthy expired. And Republicans have been pushing back on that -- tax breaks rather for the wealthy expired and Republicans have been pushing back on that, saying that they believe that that won't be harmful for the economic recovery because wealthy Americans are the ones who are creating the jobs and are helping to turn this economy around.

So that remains the big sticking point. Those Bush era tax cuts, White House saying it should be extended for middle class Americans but not for those upper income Americans -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Dan, how seriously should we take these negotiations? I mean, both sides are negotiating right out in public, which is not the greatest way to negotiate in the world, right?

LOTHIAN: Right. Well, you know, you sort of have to take it based on the information they give you. But there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes. You know, we've seen this play out over the last four years where both sides will sort of throw these sharp elbows publicly, but then they do hammer something out. So we do have to take it seriously. But you have to get a sense that, you know, both sides understand the serious nature of this fiscal cliff and they do want a deal to get done.

And so they are looking for ways to find some kind of agreement. You know, they are looking at outside groups today as well. Today the president will be meeting with a group of governors, about half a dozen governors from states like Delaware, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Minnesota, Utah, even Wisconsin. Republican governor from Wisconsin, Scott Walker, who's been a critic of this president, he'll be meeting with them.

Those governors also meeting with Senate majority leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner.

And the reason they're here and they want their voices heard is because if, indeed, this worst-case scenario happens, this fiscal cliff, as we've been calling it, it will impact their state's economies because according to the Pew report, about a third of these states' revenues depend on the federal money. And so if this money goes away things like education will be impacted. So they're here trying to put pressure not only on the president but on lawmakers up on the hill to get this deal done.

COSTELLO: Yes. That meeting takes place in just about an hour.

Dan Lothian, reporting live from the White House.


COSTELLO: You've heard the numbers by now. Nearly 15 million households rely on food stamps. Republicans say that's far too many. It's government assistance out of control. It was certainly a major theme during the Republican primary.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama has been historically the most effective food stamp president in American history.


COSTELLO: In light of the continuing controversy over food stamps, New Jersey Democratic Mayor Cory Booker -- Newark mayor, I should say -- will live on food stamps for a week. He decided to live the life of those less fortunate after a Twitter exchange with the woman who wrote, "Nutrition is not the responsibility of the government."

CNN's Alina Cho is in New York to tell us more.

Good morning, Alina.

ALINA CHO CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Carol. Good morning to you. As you mentioned this all sort of began as a back and forth on Twitter. And we'll get to that in detail in just a moment. But first, I want you to look at something that Mayor Booker posted on his Twitter account. It is a grocery store receipt from Pathmark, detailing some of the things that he bought.

You can't really see it closely but we can tell you that some of the things that he bought include red delicious apples, yams, broccoli, corn, chickpeas and lots of black and pink beans. Now remember Mayor Booker documenting his week on food stamps on Twitter. That means that he will live off of about $30 a week on groceries. That works out to about $4.32 a day. And $133.26 a month. Now the mayor says he is already going to have to give up coffee this week because he simply can't afford it. He did say on Twitter that in exchange he will be drinking lots and lots of water. Remember this will be for seven consecutive days.

And now back to that sort of Twitter exchange that this all -- where this all began. It started with a woman from North Carolina who goes by the handle @mwademc. And she wrote to Booker, quote, as you mentioned, Carol, "Nutrition is not the responsibility of the government." She asks why is there a family today that is too poor to afford breakfast? Are they not already receiving food stamps?

Now Booker responded, "We have a shared responsibility that kids go to school nutritionally ready to learn." And he added, "Let's you and I try to live on food stamps in New Jersey. High cost of living and feed a family for a week or a month. You game?"

Booker, Carol, believes that people who are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, it's known as SNAP, and that actually, I should tell you, replaced the name food stamps, deserved deeper consideration and he also wants to do this to help reduce the stigma of people who are on federal food assistance.

And I have to be honest, I mean, we are talking about it right now. It's an -- it's something -- an issue that doesn't get a lot of attention. And we'll have to see how Mayor Booker does over the next seven days.

COSTELLO: Or if it makes any difference at all. Because the week will end, right? Things will go back to normal and people will get back to their lives, if they pay attention at all. Right?

CHO: True. But he is avid on Twitter, he has tons of followers. We are talking about it. And remember, Carol, he's not the first person to do this. I mean, I know you well know the celebrity chef Mario Batali documented being on food stamps for -- it was this year, actually, on his show "The Chew." The Colorado governor did it. The mayors of Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Phoenix, have all previously participated.

You're right it gets -- it gets a little bit of attention for the time being. We'll have to see if it really makes a difference in the long term.

COSTELLO: Alina Cho reporting live for us from New York.

Question for you this morning, did you get your flu shot? Still ahead, a warning that this year's flu season is starting earlier.


COSTELLO: Sixteen minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

Need a reason for a flu shot? How about this? The CDC says this year's flu season is off to an early start for the first time in nearly a decade. Parts of the South already reporting unusually high case numbers. But there's a silver lining: doctors say this year's flu shot is an excellent match to the strain.

Hillary Clinton for New York City mayor? That's what outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants. According to "The New York Times," Bloomberg reached out to the Secretary of State and asked her to consider running next year but says Hillary Clinton declined. Secretary said she will leave public service once her successor is in place.

With one of the world's leading experts in fashion add the title of ambassador to her name? "Bloomberg News" says Anna Wintour, editor- in-chief of "Vogue" magazine, is one of several people President Obama is considering for the ambassador post to the United Kingdom or France. Wintour is a U.S. citizen, but was born in the United Kingdom. She is one of the president's biggest fund-raisers.

A federal judge temporarily blocks a California law banning the use of conversion therapy. His ruling applies to only three providers who want the law overturned. The therapy is aimed at helping change a minor's sexual orientation from gay to straight.

It's hard to believe it's been three years since the U.S. Army major was accused of opening fire at Fort Hood. When it was over, 13 people were dead, and 32 wounded. Now the judge in the case has been removed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces says the judge, Colonel Gregory Gross, showed bias when he ordered Hasan be forcibly shaved before his court-martial.

Hasan argued that he grew a beard in accordance with his Muslim faith and the order violated his religious freedom.

Sig Christenson is a reporter with the "San Antonio Express-News". He joins us this morning.



COSTELLO: Well, this clear this up right away, because I thought it was against Army regulations to have facial hair.

CHRISTENSON: It generally is. The regulation is so strict, in fact, that most of the people I've known in the military don't even wear mustaches. And when they did, they were in the war zone.

For example, invasion of Iraq, one of my buddies wore a pretty thick mustache. And I know that was out of regulation but no one cares when you're in the war zone.

Back in garrison, at Fort Hood, for example, that's a different matter. And so, people are very generally very careful about it and there have been no exceptions as far as I know for Muslims. There have been some for Sikhs. But there's a very complicated process for that. COSTELLO: So why did the court of appeals rule that the judge was wrong in this case to force this guy to shave his beard off?

CHRISTENSON: You know, I talked to a couple of lawyers last night. I have other experts I'm talking to today because I'm sure we'll have a follow-up story. I can't exactly explain why they ruled that.

And one thing I can tell you is that all the people I talked to last night were absolutely shocked about that decision. They were not expecting it.

COSTELLO: The court also ruled that Colonel Gross, the judge in this case, had allowed the proceedings to become a duel of wills between himself and Major Nidal Hasan rather than an adjudication of the offenses with which Hasan was charged. How so?

CHRISTENSON: Well, you know, if you've sat in the courtroom and I've sat there some, I haven't gone to all of the 39 hearings they've held. But you can tell that Hasan has decided that he is going to do things his way. He has grown the beard and he has said in a very soft spoken way, "I'm not out here to defy you, your honor, but this is what I believe."

The judge in the meantime is a soldier. And he also has the right to control his courtroom. And he believes -- and it was very clear that he believed that the growing of that beard was a challenge to him. And he was going to run his courtroom as he saw fit.

Maybe that is where the appeals court saw this dueling going on. I don't know. But it's an interesting thing. And I wonder whether the next judge will have the same issues or whether he will simply allow him to keep the beard.

COSTELLO: Exactly. So, it's been a couple of years since this terrible thing happened at Ft. Hood. So, when might the trial begin?

CHRISTENSON: You know, my experts have told me they expected it in January. This throws a real wrench into the process. One thinks it will be in the spring. Another thinks it will be in the summer.

The Army JAG office up in Washington will have to select a new judge. They will pick that judge from a circuit that's down here in the Texas region. That judge will be a senior-ranking colonel and it will be a pretty experienced individual.

Just exactly when that judge gets on the case and how that judge decides to handle all the appeals processes that have been in place for, what, more than two years? The case has been three years since the shooting. No one really knows.

I mean, this could be into the summer. It could be into the fall. People who have been highly critical of the process will be howling if this thing goes into the fourth year without a trial. No one really knows yet. It's completely up in the air.

COSTELLO: Wow. Sig Christenson, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

CHRISTENSON: Thank you very much for having me.

COSTELLO: One of the big stories of the day involves food stamps. It's also our talk back question. Is Cory Booker's food stamp challenge helpful or a pointless exercise? I'll be back.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the stories of the day.

The question for you this morning: Is Cory Booker's food stamp challenge helpful or a pointless exercise? Cory Booker, the hero mayor of Newark, the guy who runs into a burning building to save lives, invites superstorm Sandy victims into his home and rushes to aid a pedestrian hit by a car. Heroism so out of the norm, it's been lampooned by Booker himself and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.


MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Gov, sit tight. I got this.


BOOKER: Governor, stand back!

I got this. I got this.



COSTELLO: Now Booker says he will honor a challenge he made to one of his million plus Twitter followers to live on food stamps for a week to see how the other half lives. Although it's fair to ask, as mayor of Newark, doesn't he already know? The SNAP challenge, as Booker calls it, means eating on just $4.32 a day. He says he's doing to, quote, "raise awareness and understanding of food insecurity, reduce the stigma of SNAP participation, and amplify compassion for individuals and communities in need of assistance."

Booker's follower told him nutrition is not a responsibility of the government -- a familiar conservative theme. The Democratic mayor seems to be itching to prove her wrong. Never mind the ongoing speculation that Booker could run against Christie for governor in 2013 or run for the Senate as 88-year-old Frank Lautenberg retires.

I'm not saying Booker is insincere. I'm just wondering what living for just a week in someone else's shoes really proves. It's not like the food stamp challenge hasn't been done before. The mayors of Philadelphia and Phoenix, even super chef Mario Batali have done it. What will it tell us that we don't already know? The talk back question for you today: is Cory Booker's food stamp challenge helpful or a pointless exercise?, Your responses later.