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Los Angeles Port Strike Drags On; Newark Mayor Takes Food Stamps Challenge Thanks to Twitter; Creating a Gender-Neutral Easy- Bake Oven

Aired December 4, 2012 - 13:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: For more than a week, two of the busiest ports in this country have been effectively shut down. I'm talking about the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, right near each other on the California coast. As we zoom in, you can see just where they sit. And they are basically closed by a strike of warehouse clerks.

What does that have to do with things you want, perhaps even for the holidays? Some retailers are saying some of the hottest holiday items might not make it to store shelves because they can't get unloaded from the cargo ships because of the picket lines and the strikers. And it is costing this economy in the United States up to a billion dollars a day. It's a lot of money. It's a lot of frustration.

You know what? I'm sure the strikers aren't enjoying what they're doing either. The International Long Shore and Warehouse Union, which represents 800 clerks, is saying employers are trying to outsource their union jobs. But the group representing management says that's just not true.

We haven't heard a lot about progress in the talks up until now. But, and that's a big but, the mayor of Los Angeles has decided it's time to get involved, and here's what he had to say about it.


ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: We have met all night. We have worked across the table with a number of proposals. It is still clear to me that we're some bit apart but progress has been made. But what I'm here to announce is that both parties have agreed to federal mediation and to a federal mediator.


BANFIELD: Miguel Marquez is live for us on this story.

That's a development, Miguel. That's pretty good news. Is everybody hearing it so far there?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's news. I don't know how good the news is. There is a lot of discussion this morning, early this morning, that there would be a deal, that the deal was at hand, and both sides sat down. They were talking about some of the issues. The mayor did say, during the press conference, there's a wide chasm between the sides as well. That federal mediator has not been named yet. Who it is, is expected to be here shortly. It may slow things down a bit though because that person will have to get caught up with what's happening here before they can get down to business.

What both sides want is that attention being paid from the federal level though. They remain hopeful, the mayor and his aides, and the union folks, that a deal is still possible today. Even if they don't reach a deal -- because these guys have not had a contract for 2.5 years. Even if they don't reach a deal, they may get back to work and at least get the port open again -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: That was the next question. What have they said to you in terms of the intractability of the argument right now? Might mediations mean they will at least get of the picket lines while the two parties hash it out in a different venue?

MARQUEZ: It is possible. It depends on what the atmosphere is in that room. It sounds like -- you saw those individuals behind the mayor, all nodding their heads. They all seemed to be in agreement. Those are the main people sitting down and negotiating that deal. There seems -- the big sticking point is over these jobs. 800 clerical worker jobs, only 600 full time. They get paid $41 an hour. Very good jobs, and they want to keep them here. They don't want them outsourced as they're calling it. But they include in that outsourcing, jobs going to Texas, Colorado and Arizona. But also to Panama and other places as well. So they -- that's what they're trying to hold on to. That's where the sticking point has been. Management not wanting to give on the principle of saying where those jobs can be placed, and the union wanting those jobs to stay right here in the Los Angeles, Long Beach ports -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Miguel, this is a local story. We put statistics up on the screen during your first comments and it's astounding. 40 percent of all U.S. cargo comes through.


BANFIELD: That's wrong?

MARQUEZ: No, 40 percent of all U.S. cargo. Nearly a half trillion dollars comes through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Two ports, but they're one essential location here. It is absolute massive undertaking here.


MARQUEZ: There are 10 ships right now with containers on them berthed at the port, waiting to be unloaded, and another 11 off port, at anchor, waiting to come in, and 17 ships so far have been routed to other ports, some of those in Mexico, some of those farther north in the U.S. So that's just in seven days. It's an absolutely massive operation here.

BANFIELD: I can only imagine what is in those containers behind you, Miguel Marquez. But I think a lot of kids will be disappointed this Christmas.

Miguel Marquez, reporting live for us from Los Angeles. Thanks, Miguel.

So you have heard the numbers by now, almost 15 million U.S. households rely on food stamps. And now one of those households belongs to this man. He's the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. And Cory Booker has decided to find out firsthand what it's like to live on food stamps. And get this -- it happened because of Twitter. We'll explain in a moment.


BANFIELD: You've probably heard the name Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Busy, busy man. This is why you probably heard about him, because, in April, he saved his next door neighbor who was stuck in a house fire. OK, so he's a hero. And then in June, he came to the aid of a man who had been hit by a car. OK, so he's a superhero.

Now, Mayor Booker has another project, it's to help people. He's going on what he calls a food stamps diet. And this whole thing got started on Twitter.

Our Alina Cho is live in New York with details now.

Some people --

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You call him super hero. They call him super mayor.

BANFIELD: Super mayor. This is going to be tough for him. It is no easy feat to get on food stamps --


CHO: It isn't. It isn't. And part of the reason is he said he wanted to have a deeper understanding of what people on federal food assistance go through.

You're absolutely right. Seven consecutive days, Ashleigh, starting today, that's how long he will live on food stamps.

I want you to have a good look at something Mayor Booker posted on his Twitter account. I hope we can get that for you. There it is. Hard to see, but --


BANFIELD: What is it?

CHO: -- you can tell, Ashleigh, that is a grocery store receipt from Path Mark. It is a list. If you look very closely, you can read what he'll be eating over the next week. They include red delicious apples, yams, broccoli, chickpeas and lots and lots of black and pink beans. Something I didn't know until today is that he's vegetarian. These are the types of thing his likes to eat.


BANFIELD: He can afford the vegetables?

CHO: He could. He could. Remember, he will be living off of about $30 off a week in groceries. That works out to a little more than $4 a day. And over the course of a month, that's $133.26.

Hard to understand, for most people in the middle class that they would live off of $4 a day, but this is something that he says he's up to and he wants to take the challenge.

BANFIELD: $4 a day means he must give up something he really likes.

CHO: Oh, he most certainly does.

You and I, we love coffee.


CHO: Mayor Booker says he's already going to have to give up coffee this week. He can't afford it. He did say on Twitter he'll be drinking lots of water instead.

Now, you said that this whole thing started on Twitter, Ashleigh. If you're wondering why, and how, here's how. It all started with what was a heated back and forth, sometime back, on Twitter with a woman from North Carolina who goes by the handle @mwadenc. She wrote to Booker, quote, "Nutrition is not a responsibility of the government." Booker responded, "We have a shared responsibility that kids go to school nutritionally ready to learn." And 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. Are you game"?

BANFIELD: Do we know if she's going to do it?


CHO: It is.

BANFIELD: OK. Is she going to do it?

CHO: She's a 30-something mother of two, who spoke to the Associated Press. Did not reveal her name because she said she received threats after saying what she said on Twitter.


CHO: She said she was up to the challenge. She wanted to do it with Mayor Booker but was never contacted by his office.

BANFIELD: Cory Booker's not the first politician to do it.

CHO: He isn't. He's getting a lot of attention. He's not the first. If you can believe it, four governors, nine mayors and 20 members of Congress have taken up this challenge.

Again, Booker says he wants to have a greater understanding of what it is to live like this. And he also says that he wants to try, in his small way, to remove the stigma of what it's like and for people who --


BANFIELD: Let's us know how this goes Friday.

CHO: I will. We'll be following it very closely.

BANFIELD: I wonder if he'll lose weight, honestly, because he's got to cut back.

CHO: It's interesting, the people who are actually on food stamps, interestingly enough, tend to be overweight because those types of cheaper foods are higher in fat and calories. But we'll watch it closely. He did buy a lot of vegetables.

BANFIELD: Alina Cho, it's always good to see you. Thank you for that.

An eighth grader, an eighth grader has made it her mission to get gender-neutral Easy-Bake Ovens. And all because her little brother wanted one and they're being marketed to girls. You'll hear all about it in a moment.


GAVIN POPE, MCKENNA'S BROTHER: I'm cooking cookies.


So tell me, what do you want for Christmas?

G. POPE: I want a dinosaur and an Easy-Bake Oven.

M. POPE: Why don't they have boys in the Easy-Bake Oven commercial?

G. POPE: Because -- because only girls play with it.



BANFIELD: Women cook and men work. Hang on! Who is trying to sell that message already? It's almost 2013. We'll talk to an eighth grader trying to change those stereotypes, and she's starting with the Easy-Bake Oven. And she's adorable.

First, though, let's talk "Help Desk," shall we, with answers to your questions about how you can make money off the money that you already have.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. Here on the "Help Desk," we're talking about putting your money to work.

With me this hour, Greg Olsen and Carmen Wong-Ulrich.

Carmen, Toba had a question about savings.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Earning dreadfully low interest for numerous years and is there anywhere that I can put my money that it's going to do any better?


KOSIK: And that's going to be like that for a while with the Fed doing its thing, right?

CARMEN WONG-ULRICH, PRESIDENT & CO-FOUNDER, ALTA WEALTH MANAGEMENT: Absolutely. I don't think this is a bad thing. If this is your cash emergency savings you cannot risk, basically what you're saying is a small opportunity cost. Like insurance. So let's say you're earning 1 percent on savings and inflation eating away at it a bit. It's lower interest rate than having to go into credit card debt because you have this cash. Make sure that you put that somewhere where at least it's growing a bit. Go online, shop free at Look for online-only banks 1.3 percent interest on that low and no fees. That's sitting there for a reason and the price you're paying is worth while.

KOSIK: Greg, do you agree?

GREG OLSEN, PARTNER, LENOX ADVISORS: I do. But is there is any money to allocate for the stock market, people are living longer and longer, just a little bit of risk capital over time might yield a higher interest rate over time.

KOSIK: Great advice. Thanks.

If you have an issue you want our experts to tackle, upload a 30- second video of your "Help Desk" question to



BANFIELD: So you know that whole Easy-Bake Oven thing when you were a kid and how it's likely it was you, if you're the female part of the audience, not the male part of the audience? You're about to meet a 13-year-old girl who thinks the Easy-Bake Oven should be marketed to all the boys as well as all the girls. And she wants to put an end to what she says is gender stereotyping.

Her name is McKenna Pope and she's here with me now. This is such a cute story. This all started, McKenna, with you and your bother, Gavin -- there he is, your 4-year-old brother, Gavin, with your mom, Erica. He's adorable -- because he likes to cook and he likes to bake but he doesn't think that the Easy-Bake Oven is for boys. Why is that?

M. POPE: I think it has to do with the way that Hasbro is marketing their product. If you look in the commercials, it's always girls cooking with their mothers. I've never, in this particular product anyway, the Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven, which is supposedly like their best product yet, there's never a boy. And it's all coming in that one color -- well, those two colors, pink and purple, which society has made out to be a girly color.

BANFIELD: Girly colors, right? And so -- and your brother actually had a reaction to it.

I want to play a little sound byte. By the way, you're adorable.


And I can't believe you're only in eighth grade. You sound like you should be working for a marketing company already.


You did an interview, reporter style, with your little brother, who is also clearly adorable.


I want to play a little sound byte of that interview about the Easy- Bake Oven. Have a listen.


G. POPE: I'm cooking cookies.

M.POPE: You are? That sounds fun.

So tell me, what do you want for Christmas?

G. POPE: I want a dinosaur and an Easy-Bake Oven.

M. POPE: Why don't they have boys in the Easy-Bake Oven commercial?

G. POPE: Because -- because only girls play with it. And because I don't know how and why they only put girls in the commercial.

M. POPE: You think --


BANFIELD: He's 4. He's 4 and he already knows it's just girls in the commercial. What about your friends? Do they feel the same way? Have they noticed what you considered to be the gender inequality in the marketing of toys?

M. POPE: Well, not my friends in particular, but after started this whole petition, they're like, wow, you're right. Because if you look at it, walk into any toy store, there is the boys aisles and there is the girls aisles. The girls aisles are lined with plink and flowers. The boys' aisles are --


BANFIELD: Do you like Transformers, for instance?

M. POPE: Oh, Transformers were my childhood.


BANFIELD: You're clearly out of your childhood, right?


Because they're definitely marketed to the boys as well. Did you have the same feeling that your little brother has about Transformers?

M. POPE: Yes, I really did. Same thing with race cars. I loved them when I was little. But it is like they only have boys in the commercials, so apparently, there is something wrong with me for wanting to play with them.

BANFIELD: I want to read a response -- you actually reached out to Hasbro and they responded to you. And I just want to read for you, what they sent you. They thanked you, thanked you for your feedback, and they said this: "We can tell you we have used images of both boys and girls on our product packaging over the years. The 2009 Easy-Bake "Baker of the Year" contest included a brother and sister duo who were both contestant finalists, and each whipped up some delicious desserts.

Mom, Erica, how proud you must be of your daughter for being sort of this willing to get out there and take a stand and actually get a major -- say hello to Gavin. We can see him in the corner there. You must be so proud of her for doing this.

ERICA BOSCIO, MOTHER OF MCKENNA & GAVIN: Oh, yes. It's -- I don't know, she's made me proud my whole life, I guess, as my daughter, but just saying on a cause that I -- of course I love her, Gavin. But when it comes to taking on a cause that I actually believe in, it is just phenomenal how much change she is making.

BANFIELD: Do you think there is change being made? We watch the commercials. And you and I probably had a Barbie heads when we were kids. And my brothers thought they were verboten. They were not going to touch the Barbie heads and do their hair. But really, that's decades ago. Have things really changed? And do you see things are going to change much? BOSCIO: I don't think they have really changed at all. The funny thing is, even if they did change, in addition to gender inequality, I think it would be fiscally better for the companies if they can target to both genders. They would actually profit on it. So it would be a win-win situation, I think, for everybody involved.

BANFIELD: Quick question, McKenna. When do you want for Christmas for yourself, and what would you like to get Gavin? He doesn't have an IFB in, so he won't be able to hear you say it, but what do you want to get Gavin for Christmas and what do you want to get yourself?

M. POPE: What do I want to get him for Christmas? Well, what I really want to get him for Christmas is a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven.


But if Hasbro doesn't come out with that, then we're thinking of maybe getting him one of those play kitchen sets that doesn't actually cook. You know, I think that would be a pretty good present.

And what do I want for myself?


M. POPE: That's pretty difficult. Probably, a lot of books.


BANFIELD: You know what, you're awesome. I adore you. You had me at "hello."

It is nice to meet you and good luck with your campaign.

M. POPE: Thank you so much.

BANFIELD: And good luck with your Christmas list, too.


I hope you're going to do very well. Me thinks your mom will make sure you do very well.

Thanks to all of our guests this morning.

Erica, give Gavin a squeeze for us. He's absolutely precious. And thanks for coming on today to tell the story.


That's awesome.


That is all for us. Thanks so much for watching.

And, by the way, check us out here on We're going to post this interview and you can find out a whole lot more about it.

We're back in a moment.


BANFIELD: That's it for me. Thanks for being with me this afternoon. I'm going to pass over the baton to my pal, Brooke Baldwin, who is doing an excellent job in Atlanta -- Brooke?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: My friend, Ashleigh Banfield, have a wonderful rest of your day.

Good to see all of you. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The question we're asking here, is Bashar al Assad, is he bluffing as fears grow his regime will unleash chemical weapons in Syria? We're digging on what the saran gas could do and, of course, where it is coming from.

But first, the president has a plan to avoid the fiscal cliff. But Republican House Speaker John Boehner dismisses it as, and I'm quoting, "La La Land." The Republicans offered their proposal. We talked about that. That happened about 24 hours ago. The White House quickly labeled it as nothing new.