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CNN NEWSROOM

Branson Says End War On Drugs; Right-to-work Bills Spark Outrage; Today Is Pearl Harbor Day; Thousands Have Fled Syrian's War; Thousands Have Fled Syria's War; Ex-Navy Sub Man Arrested For Spying; The Help Desk

Aired December 7, 2012 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Suzanne Malveaux. This hour in the CNN NEWSROOM, why economists are surprised by today's unemployment numbers.

Also, how NASA is protecting astronauts from radiation in space and how Floridians can actually cash in on invading pythons. I want to get right to it.

A new picture of the job market being painted today. It is a picture that really is surprising a lot of folks. The Labor Department says that 146,000 jobs were added in November. That is almost double the 77,000 that economists were actually expecting, and unemployment fell to 7.7 percent. That is the lowest level in nearly four years. Christine Romans, she is breaking it down.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: By now, you've seen the headline, a stronger than expected jobs report for the month of November. Let's look inside those numbers. You've got 40 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or longer. That's called long-term unemployment. Still something we got to work on. We need to get better next year. The underemployment rate 14.4 percent. Those are the number of people who are out of work or are working part-time but would like to be working full-time.

People who are not fully, fully employed in the labor market, 14.4 percent. Sometimes that's also called the real unemployment rate. Let's look at the sectors. You can see here 53,000 jobs created in retail, those are likely, some of them temporary jobs for holiday shopping season, so those are not necessarily a sign of a durable recovery for next year. Many of those are temporary jobs.

I want to look over here at professional and business services, 43,000 jobs created there. The government pointing out in its report that computer systems analysts and related fields are showing strong, strong demand and strong growth. Those fall right there in that business and professional services.

Breaking down the different worker groups, 6.8 percent unemployment for whites, 10 percent unemployment for Hispanics, and African- American unemployment fell just slightly, just slightly to 13.2 percent. But you can see that structurally there are some big, big differences in disparities between the different worker groups. Here's the trend going back to the financial crisis and the recession afterward. These are all those hundreds of thousands, millions of jobs lost then in late 2008, 2009. And now, this has been the attempt, now two years in a row, of steady job creation, but you want to see more, more than 150,000 jobs created every month. You would like to see that number continue to grow. Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

MALVEAUX: Danny Boston, he is with me now. He is an economist professor at Georgia Tech, and he predicted this, right? Everybody else thought it was dismal but you're -- you've been the optimist for many, many months now.

DANNY BOSTON, DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS, GEORGIA TECH: That's right, that's right.

MALVEAUX: Why did this catch so many people off guard?

BOSTON: Because they've not yet come to grips with the fact that the economy is growing, and it's growing in substantial sectors. If you look at auto sales. If you look at the housing sector, it's coming back. So -- and then, retail sales over the holiday season were very strong, 5.8 percent in store fronts and 20 percent on-line sales. So, there's a lot of strength there, and economists have thought that Hurricane Sandy would have an adverse affect. And it hurt some but there's so much strength going on that, you know, the economy --

MALVEAUX: Is it possible we haven't seen the full impact of Hurricane Sandy, that we still might see some of those jobs lost, and we -- it just hasn't been -- you know, the numbers have not caught up to it yet, to the reality?

BOSTON: Yes, you're absolutely right. We do have to wait another month --

MALVEAUX: OK.

BOSTON: -- to get the full picture of it. But it was interesting that we saw initial claims for unemployment compensation initially spiked up right after Sandy and then they began to go down. And so, I suspect next month there will be some effect but not nearly as strong.

MALVEAUX: How strong is this job growth? Does this really get us out of the recession conditions that we've been in for so long?

BOSTON: Well, interesting question. It has the potential to do that because -- think of this. All right. While we've had Sandy and we have all of this debate going on over the fiscal cliff that's driving us all crazy, right?

MALVEAUX: Yes, it is.

BOSTON: And what it's also doing is that it has gotten the corporate sector in a position where they're not investing so they're waiting to see what's happening. Nonetheless, we're still creating jobs. And so, if you take into consideration that we have those things, those neglect factors, and at the same time we're generating jobs, and that means that there's a significant potential for the economy to grow. MALVEAUX: Is it possible that this whole debate and the fiscal cliff, whether or not we go over it or not, would impact how many people are working the next year?

BOSTON: It will definitely impact it, but I think what the numbers are telling us and what we've seen for the last couple of months is that the affect will not be as great as most people are predicting. You know, we kind of got this Y2K kind of syndrome that's going on. It's not going to be that bad. Now, I don't want to understate it. It will certainly have an effect but it also means that we can -- we're in a position to really craft a real comprehensive way to adjust it (INAUDIBLE.)

MALVEAUX: And are these good jobs? What kind of jobs are these?

BOSTON: Well, they are. It's interesting, if you look at where jobs are being --

MALVEAUX: Sure.

BOSTON: -- created, most of them are administrative management kind of jobs. But people are being re-employed at a much lower salary than the jobs that they had when they were unemployed, and they're also coming back into part-time jobs.

MALVEAUX: All right. So, it's a mixed picture.

BOSTON: It is.

MALVEAUX: But, Danny, I know you've always been predicting the good news, so we're always happy when you're right. Thank you, Danny.

BOSTON: OK.

MALVEAUX: A labor issue that is drawing outrage in Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Protesters packing into the state capitol building yesterday after the Republican-led legislature passed a series of right to work bills. Now, the new measures limit workers' rights to strike and picket. Employees also cannot be forced to pay union dues.

Poppy Harlow reports from Lancing, Michigan.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michigan is really considered the heart of organized labor here in America. This is the birthplace of the united autoworkers, and the future of unions in this state is really in question at this hour. Late on Thursday, three bills were passed here at the state capitol, two by the Senate, one by the House, all focusing on right to work legislation. What does that mean? Well, if this state becomes a right-to-work state, that means that unions and employers could not mandate that employees join a union or pay any money to that union. That would likely play out, meaning less union members, less money for unions, that means less power, and that is at the core of all of this. The Republican governor here, Rick Snyder, a big supporter of this right-to-work legislation saying he will sign it if it makes it to his desk. Many union workers vehemently oppose it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it's time to make a decision and the decision that I believe best for Michigan is don't our workers deserve the right to choose, the freedom to choose, and I think this is a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is absolutely not what's right for the worker. Right now, there are corporate special interests that are trying to pass right to work in many different states, and Michigan right now is up front right on the chopping block.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE.)

HARLOW: So, why the opposition and why the massive protests here at the capitol? Well, it's because those labor members really believe that this would result in lower pay for them, fewer benefits, less bargaining power, and what the data shows us is that typically union workers do make higher wages than nonunion workers, when you look at median weekly salaries. One labor lawyer that I talked to said this is hugely significant saying this could be devastating to the labor movement in America as a whole.

What will happen over the weekend is that opponents of this right to work legislation will be out pounding the pavement trying to get the message out and convince their representatives to vote down this measure. The vote could be taken up as early as Tuesday here in Lansing, Michigan. Back to you.

MALVEAUX: Here's what we're working on also for this hour. The photographer who took a picture of a man moments before he was killed by a subway car says he used his camera's flash to alert the train conductor. Hear what else he told our Anderson Cooper.

And the U.S. military has updated its plans now for a potential strike against Syria. Hear what they are. Up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Today is the anniversary of the date that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, we'll live in infamy, December 7, 1941. Japanese bombers launched the surprise attack on the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. That was 71 years ago today. Well, just a few moments ago at the exact minute it happened Hawaii time military veterans, active duty service members and Americans of all ages paused for a moment of silence at the Pearl Harbor Memorial and U.S. Arizona Memorial. You are actually looking at live pictures now of that ceremony that continues there. They are remembering the 2,400 men and women who lost their lives that day. U.S. military actually might be reworking plans for possible military action against Syria. Senior Pentagon officials tell CNN that the Syrian government may have escalated the civil war. I want to get more from the Pentagon and Barbara Star.

Barbara, first of all, tell us what is -- what is happening inside Syria that has now the Pentagon and the military, the U.S. military, so concerned?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, all week long, Suzanne, we've been talking about these chemical weapons. What we now know is that a U.S. official confirms to CNN that the intelligence they have in the U.S. government tells them that the Syrians have been putting Sarin inside aerial bombs that can then be put on fighter aircraft, bomber aircraft and dropped on civilians. That's the big intelligence concern right now.

This now has led the Pentagon, as I think you'd expect, to update its military options planning so that it has options if President Obama were to ask for them. And the big thing here is they now have some locations that they're looking at, multiple sources of intelligence, they tell us, that they have that shows this activity is taking place. So, it's not that President Obama has necessarily made a decision to do anything. We don't know that, but what we know now is that inside the U.S. military really stepping up the planning, stepping up looking at the options so they know how to do this if the president asks.

MALVEAUX: Barbara, are we any closer to this red line that we heard from the president when he said that if it seemed that there was some sort of intent by Syria to use these weapons on its own citizens, that would be the red line? Are we closer to that today?

STARR: You know, we've talked to a lot of experts about this, and what people are observing -- the people I've spoken to are observing is that red line seems to be being pushed a little bit on both sides. Originally, when the president spoke about it over the summer, it was any movement or use of chemical weapons. Well, we know they moved some over the summer to put them in more secure locations. So, now it's use.

Now, we've also heard intent to use. And I think there's a good reason you're seeing some of this. Bashar al-Assad clearly pushing as well, taking this move to put chemicals on bombs, waiting to see if there's a U.S. response. The U.S., the coalition, Europe, the allies do not want to have to do military action against Syria. That's clear. They're hoping all the rhetoric, all the strong statements this week will convince Al Assad not to take this step and not to have to deal with it.

MALVEAUX: Yes, nobody wants that to happen, another war. Barbara, thank you. Appreciate it.

STARR: Sure.

MALVEAUX: While fighting rages in Syria's cities, a humanitarian emergency, a crisis, really, is brewing all around the country's borders. We're talking about thousands of Syrian people who have been pushed from their homes by this civil war that is occurring and they're now too afraid to return. U.N. secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, he visited this refugee camp in Jordan, this was yesterday. And our own CNN's Ivan Watson, he is in a sprawling refugee camp on the border with Turkey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in a camp for around 7,000 Syrians on the edge of Syria. These people, some of them have been waiting a month, two months to be allowed into Turkey. Turkey says its refugee camps are full right now.

These people have been supplied tents. They get about two meals, hot meals, a day. But everybody here complains that the water is seeping into their tents. And none of these tents really have heat either. So you can see how people are trying to heat up their tea and water, making fires right outside these shelters.

Now, this is just a fraction of the hoards of people who have been displaced by the conflict in Syria. We don't really know the numbers of displaced people inside Syria. The United Nations says close to half a million have been pushed outside of the country to neighboring countries, like Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan.

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, he's visiting camps in Jordan and Turkey, calling for more international assistance for these refugees and warning also that the numbers could dramatically increase in just the next month or two if the conflict drags on.

In the meantime, the people here, well, it's only December. We've been here an hour or two, and I'm freezing from the freezing rain here. And it's just the beginning of December. Winter is coming.

Ivan Watson, CNN, on the Syrian border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: A man is arrested and charged with trying to give classified information about U.S. submarines to Russia. We're going to have more on this seemingly cold war era story up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: This is kind of like something out of a Cold War spy novel. You've got an ex-U.S. Navy submarine warfare specialist in trouble now for trying to give information to the Russians. Want to bring in Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon to talk about how this all unfolded.

Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, Suzanne, he thought that he was giving this information over to Russian spies, when in actually he was handing it over to undercover FBI agents who had been tracking him. What he allegedly gave them was a document that described not only the procedures you would use to track the movements of U.S. submarines, but the specific technology that you would need to do so.

So the big question is, how would he know all of that? Well, he spent more than 20 years in the Navy. He worked in the intelligence field. He was a submarine warfare specialist. He had not only a top secret clearance, but also authorizes for what's called "special access," which limits the amount of people who can view highly sensitive material. He had that access. He hadn't been out of the Navy for more than a year when FBI agents started tracking him, set up this sting and this undercover operation. And that's how they caught him.

MALVEAUX: Chris, do we know if there was any classified information that was actually released?

LAWRENCE: No, there were never actually any real Russian agents, so to speak. These were all undercover agents. But it is very, very serious. I mean the Navy will almost always tell you exactly where their carriers and surface ships are located in any given moment.

MALVEAUX: Sure.

LAWRENCE: They never reveal the location of the submarines. So that is a highly classified part of the U.S. Navy. And he faces life in prison if he's convicted of this charge.

MALVEAUX: Wow. OK, Chris, thank you. Appreciate it.

LAWRENCE: Yes.

MALVEAUX: Photographer R. Umar Abbasi just happened to be at the New York City Subway Station on Monday. That is when a 58-year-old man ended up on the track right in the path of a speeding train. You remember this. Well, Abbasi says his instincts took over. He started snapping pictures hoping his flash would get the conductor's attention, but the train did not stop and that man died. Well, now another man is facing second degree murder charge, accused of pushing the victim. So since then Abbasi has been viciously criticized for actually taking those pictures and one ended up on the cover of "The New York Post." He talked with our Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Feel you should have done something different or could have done something different.

R. UMAR ABBASI, FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER: Until one is in that situation, it is very -- it's very hard to say. And, on hindsight I would say I would have said, Mr. Hahn (ph), run the other direction. And looking at the image on it, there were only about three cars into the station. And all he had to do was outrun three cars and he would have lived.

COOPER: His wife had earlier reports said he had been drinking. I believe some alcohol was found on him as well. So it's unclear what his --

ABBASI: I'm not aware of that, and I'm not aware of his interaction with his wife.

COOPER: Interaction. Right. For you, what has this been like? I mean not only to witness an event like this is horrific, but then to come under the kind of criticism you have come under from people who were not there, what is that like?

ABBASI: They were not there. They are -- I look at them as arm chair critics. And when you're in a situation, you realize what it is, and it was a very fluid situation. The photographs are still. You see the train and you see Mr. Hahn at one spot, but in reality the train is moving towards him. I do not know what speed it is, but it was really fast.

COOPER: Have you ever seen somebody being killed before?

ABBASI: No. I have never. And it's a very traumatic experience. And it's like every time, if I have to narrate the whole thing, it's reliving it, I did not sleep for close to 36, 40 hours.

COOPER: And, obviously, we talked about his funeral. To his family, what would you say?

ABBASI: I, as I have said earlier, that Mrs. Hahn, if i could have, I would have saved him. It wasn't important to get the photograph.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Today's positive jobs reports means the lowest unemployment rate that we've had in four years, but are the markets responding well? We're going to check, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: The national Christmas tree all lit up on the National Mall. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, here he is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Santa.

OBAMA: Santa.

CROWD (singing): You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I'm telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: That's always such a great celebration. It was the president, the family, of course, who flipped the switch and helped lead the crowd in singing the annual tree lighting ceremony yesterday. It's the 28-foot blue spruce that replaced last year's fir, which was knocked down in a recent storm. Now, the new tree arrived to the capital just days before Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast in late October. Nice ceremony.

Want to get a quick look at the stock market update. Investors seem to be taking the jobs numbers in stride there. Right now the Dow up by 58 points. We heard earlier that 146,000 jobs were added in November. That is almost double the number economists were actually expecting.

And the man charged with killing Trayvon Martin is making some legal accusations of his own. George Zimmerman is now suing NBC, claiming the network unfairly edited an audiotape of his 911 call to make him sound racist. Zimmerman, who's Hispanic, is accused of shooting Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager, back in February. Well, Zimmerman's lawsuit claims that NBC made it appear as if he used a racial slur while describing Martin on that 911 tape. Well, his lawyer says race has been a part, a major focus in the case when it should not be. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This case is going to hurt racial relations in this country no matter what the outcome. And that's absurd. This could actually have been an opportunity for us to have a conversation about how we're going to treat young black males in the criminal justice system better if this was the focus that we wanted to take on it. But the divisive racism focus, horrid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: NBC is denying all accusations in Zimmerman's suit. Now, the network insists, "there was no intent to portrait Mr. Zimmerman unfairly." And it says it will "vigorously defend" its "position in court."

Well, if you're a hunter and you've got deer season, turkey season, now, what, python season? Wildlife officials in Florida just announced the python challenge. The goal of the month long contest, which starts January 12th, is to thin out the state's population of Burmese pythons. The snakes have been multiplying like crazy in the Everglades, where they have no natural predators. Officials say pet owners caused the problems by releasing these snakes into the wild. Now among the prizes, $1,500 for the longest python.

Time now for the CNN "Help Desk."

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Hey there, everyone. Today on "The Help Desk" we're talking about estate planning.