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Criminalizing HIV; Supreme Court Mulls Marriage Inequality; Protecting Astronauts from Radiation in Space; Police Want to Trace Text Messages.

Aired December 7, 2012 - 13:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: The snakes have been multiplying like crazy in the Everglades where they have no natural predators. They say pet owners caused the problems by releasing them in many cases. Among the prizes, $1,500 for the longest python is the prize.

Time now for the CNN "Help Desk."


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, everyone. Today on the "Help Desk," we're talking about estate planning.

With me this hour, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox and David Novick.

David, take a listen to this question.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm the guardian of a relative, and he has special needs. And I want to make sure that when I'm gone, that my assets will be used to take care of him.


HARLOW: What advice do you have for her?

DAVID NOVICK, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, PROMETHEUS CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: One piece of advice is do not give the assets directly to him. What you want to do is set up what's known as a special needs trust. This trust can be used for the benefit of the special needs individual. You'll need to speak with an attorney who specializes in that and set up the trust. If you don't do it that way, what will happen is that if the individual is eligible for government benefits, and the money is directly to them, they may not be able to get those benefits. It's important you set that up in the trust. The trustee can then determine the amounts that can be provided for their benefit.

LYNNETTE KHALFANI-COX, FOUNDER, ASKTHEMONEYCOACH.COM: Even before you do that, as well, as just a basic estate planning move if they can't afford to set up the trust right now, at least make sure you have a will and sort of outline in your will what you want done with your assets and how you would like to care for this person.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Guys, thank you. Great advice.

If you have any questions that you want our experts to tackle, upload a 30-second video with your "Help Desk" request to


MALVEAUX: You may be shocked to hear this. More than a quarter of all new HIV infections in this country are among young people, ages 13 to 24. Most don't even know that they are infected. Plus, more than half of U.S. states have laws that make it a crime for people with HIV to not disclose their status when they have sex.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has the story.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four years ago, Nick Rhoades, an HIV-positive 34-year-old living in Iowa, met a younger man. They hit it off and had sex.

NICK RHOADES, HIV PATIENT: My virus was undetectable. I wore a condom. I did everything to protect him and myself.

GUPTA: What Rhoades didn't do was tell his friend about having HIV. When the friend found out later, he sought treatment at a local hospital. The hospital employee called the police. Rhoades was arrested, charged with criminal transmission of HIV. And after pleading guilty on the advice of his lawyer, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

RHOADES: I served over a year locked up, some of it in maximum security, and some of it in the solitary confinement. I still have to register as a sex offender for the rest of my life.

GUPTA: Scott Schoettes, an attorney for Lambda Legal is Rhoades' new lawyer. He is asking the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn his conviction.

SCOTT SCHOETTES, ATTORNEY & HIV PROJECT DIRECTOR, LAMBDA LEGAL: This case in particular was compelling. It really was a good example of the ways in which these laws are misused by the justice system to punish people in very severe ways for things that should not even be crimes.

GUPTA: About 1,000 miles away, in Louisiana, similar case. Robert Suttle says his partner knew subtle had HIV, but after a messy break- up, his ex went to the police. Suttle was charged with intentionally ebbing posing the man to the aids virus.


GUPTA: To avoid a possible 10-year sentence, Suttle entered a plea, and he spent six months in jail. Under the picture on his driver's license, in bold red capital letters, it says sex offender. He has to carry that tag for 15 years.

SUTTLE: There are a lot of good people in the world that are HIV positive, but that doesn't mean that they're criminals. It doesn't mean that they have malicious intent to hurt anybody. They're just trying to deal and cope with having this disease and, yet, there are these laws that make us look like we're criminals.

GUPTA: At least 34 states and two U.S. territories have laws that criminalize activities of people with HIV. Not disclosing your status to a sexual partner, that can land you in jail. So can spitting on someone or biting them if you have the disease.

Often it doesn't matter if you actually transmit the virus. In fact, the man who slept with Rhoades never got HIV

REP. BARBARA LEE, (D), CALIFORNIA: Jail time is not warranted in these cases.

GUPTA: Last year, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced legislation to get rid of these state laws.

LEE: Many offenses receive a lesser sentence than the transmission of HIV. And these laws, again, they're archaic and wrong and unjust and need to be looked at and taken off of the books.

GUPTA: Prosecutor Scott Burns agrees the laws need updating, but he also says repeal would be a mistake.

SCOTT BURNS, PROSECUTOR & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL DISTRICT ATTORNEYS ASSOCIATION: Any time that someone knows they have HIV or AIDS, does not disclose that to the other party, I think it's wrong. I think this should be a sanction. I just don't think you do that in America. I think most prosecutors would agree with them.

GUPTA: Rhoades and Suttle now work for the SERO Project. It's a group that fights stigma and discrimination, trying to make the case that what happened to them should never happen to others.

SUTTLE: We cannot sit and ignore the fact that this is happening.

RHOADES: I have to fight for this. And I think there are a lot of other people that are fighting as well.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.



MALVEAUX: Supreme Court is widely expected to take on same-sex marriage early next year. In fact, 10 cases related to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, and California's Proposition 8 are pending against Supreme Court justices right now. Chances are at least one of them is going to make it to their docket. We could find out which one today about early next week or so.

I'm joined by our legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, tell us, first of all -- remind us what are the court's options it comes to marriage equality, and the differences here between DOMA and Prop 8.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Defense of Marriage Act -- Defense of Marriage Act was signed by President Clinton in 1996, and it's a law that says the federal government, all aspects of the federal government, including the Internal Revenue Service, will not recognize same-sex marriages, even in states where same-sex marriage is legal. And two appeals courts have held that that is unconstitutional, that it is unlawful discrimination. The Obama administration agrees that this law is unconstitutional. It's now being defended by a lawyer hired by the House of Representatives. And the case about is the Defense of Marriage Act constitutional, that is one. There are several different cases raising that issue that the justices are probably going to decide whether to hear today.

MALVEAUX: California's Prop 8, what would that entail?

TOOBIN: Proposition 8 is a very different case because that's really a more fundamental case that potentially could apply in every state of the union. Basically, that question is does the Constitution require that everyone, gay or straight, have the right to get married. And what makes the Proposition 8 case potentially so earth-shaking in its politics is that it might not apply only in California. It might apply in the 40-plus states that don't have same-sex marriage. It could essentially bring same-sex marriage to the whole country. That's a very different, much broader issue than the Defense of Marriage Act.

MALVEAUX: And, Jeffrey, explain to us, what is the difference. If you are a gay couple and you get married and you have a state -- you get married in a state where it's legal versus if it was a federal -- it allowed across-the-country gay marriage, what is the difference there? Is your marriage recognized actually outside of that state? What kind of marriage is that?

TOOBIN: Well, that's actually one of the open questions now that the courts have not resolved. Various state courts have dealt with it. Just, for example, what if a gay couple gets married in Massachusetts? They then move to Virginia, which doesn't have same-sex marriage. The couple splits up. Who gets custody of the children, because Virginia doesn't recognize same-sex marriage? Those are the kinds of issues that the courts are struggling with now.

If the court held that all states had to recognize all marriages, even if same-sex marriage is not legal in that state, that would be a very important step in the law. But that hasn't happened yet. And so there's a lot of confusion on those sorts of issues.

MALVEAUX: Finally here, same-sex marriage is now legal in nine states, as well as D.C. 30 states have constitutional bans. Could the court simply just allow momentum to occur, to see what these other states do, how this unfolds on the state level before they actually get involved in this issue? TOOBIN: Suzanne, I think that's what most people think the court will do. They will take the Defense of Marriage Act case. They will decide that case. But when it comes to whether states have to do same-sex marriage, have to allow it, they will let the political process run its course.

You know, we're seeing polls now, a recent Gallop poll show 53 percent, highest ever, supports same-sex marriage. In the election last month, four states voted in favor of same-sex marriage. 33 states in a row previously had voted against it. So the momentum is certainly with supporters of same-sex marriage.

But where the court -- how the court responds to public opinion is a complicated --


TOOBIN: -- and not always entirely predictable subject.

MALVEAUX: When are we going to find out whether or not the courts will get involved?

TOOBIN: They don't announce when they are issuing orders in an afternoon. It could be 2:00 eastern. It could be 3:00 eastern. That is generally the range in which we should fine out. So it could be 15 minutes away. It could be an hour or so. Or they could put it off for another week. They don't have to announce it in advance when they're going to issue these sorts of things.


MALVEAUX: We're standing by. We're waiting to find out.

Jeff, thanks.

TOOBIN: Me too.

MALVEAUX: Good to see you.

How to keep astronauts from being exposed to too much radiation in space.


MALVEAUX: Outer space, it's beautiful and mysterious. Also, it can be medically challenging for the men and women that explore it. I want to you listen to this. It's rather startling. The daily dose of radiation on the international space station is almost equal to eight chest x-rays. That is right. So NASA is now working on cutting edge project to try to cut down on exposure to radiation.

Joining us via Skype from Houston, Bobbie Swan, the manager of the project here.

So in laymen's terms, tell us how this works. BOBBIE SWAN, PROJECT MANAGER, NASA RADWORKS (voice-over): OK. Hi, Suzanne. One of the things we're working on is called the RADWorks Project, and we're in a project that's looking at advances in radiation protection, detection, monitoring. And we have three elements to us. One is the radiation environment monitor, which is being used to detect -- it is a low cost -- I mean, low cost -- low power, low-mass device to detect particles, charged particles. Then we have the advanced neutron spectrometer, or the ANS, which we're using it again, low power, low mass, to detect neutrons in the environment. And then the third is the storm shelter. And with the storm shelter, it's where we're trying to figure out what logistics and things can we use on orbit. And that's one of our options that we can create the -- so the crew would have a safe haven or place to go to where they have a safer area from the effects of solar particles.

MALVEAUX: Bobbie, I want to bring in Chad Myers here, a space enthusiast, among many other things --


-- a meteorologist, ask some questions as well.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Ms. Swan, I always wanted to know, you know, we know why the earth doesn't get radiation is because of the poles, the north pole, the magnetosphere, all the energy, all the radiation goes around the earth. Why can't we build something like that on the ISS or on a spacecraft where the magnetosphere that we build would send all the radiation away from the men and women up there?

SWAN: You mean like a magnet?


SWAN: Like magnets to deflect? It's heavy.


SWAN: To use something like that, you have to look at the amount of mass that it would take to add that kind of protection.

MYERS: Back when I bought my first house, built in 1961, and there was a radiation shelter inside, because the people that built it --


MYERS: And back in 1961, radiation didn't go around 90 degree angles. You had to walk into the building, turn right, turn left, turn right, turn left, and then you were inside. Don't we know a lot more about radiation now because that really wasn't going to work?


SWAN: Yes.

MALVEAUX: What is the risk, Bobbie, of somebody who is actually up in space? Is this really a very serious dose of radiation? This is just part of the job. They really have to -- they have to accept that amount of radiation?

SWAN: Well, no, that's why we're looking -- what we do is we try to mitigate the risk of their exposure. So that's why we have these detection systems of which we're looking at. The technology we're developing today is so that we can -- when we do future manned missions and we're able to accommodate it with low mass, low-power devices for detection and monitoring. And then we look at ways to mitigate their exposure by developing space havens or locating areas within the habitat module to where they can go so they can minimize their exposure.

MALVEAUX: All right. Bobbie Swan --


MALVEAUX: -- we certainly hope that these experiments are very successful. I mean, obviously, it is quite dangerous with the radiation.

MYERS: And we are going to be going to Mars soon. Soon is a relative term. And we have to protect the astronauts for a 90-day period. 90 days in space. The way we protect them now is the same as 370 years on the surface of the earth.

MALVEAUX: All right. We have to wrap this up. We'll continue this later, Chad. We love this stuff.

MYERS: All right.

MALVEAUX: We're going to take a quick break.


MALVEAUX: When somebody commits a crime, there is usually evidence to track down what happens. But if a simple text message is part of the evidence, investigators are usually out of luck.

Brian Todd reports that police now are trying to change that.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michelle Medoff said she started getting harassing texts in early November. An anonymous person threatened to send nude pictures of her to her mother, then to a wide circulation. One text said, "I am so close to f - ing sending them to everyone. You're so sexy. You'll be an online star in no time unless you answer me." The threats came from different cell phone numbers.

Medoff, a model and college student, was terrified.

MICHELLE MEDOFF, MODEL, COLLEGE STUDENT & TEXT THREAT VICTIM: I was very, very afraid. I mean, that week I didn't go to a night class because I didn't feel safe to walk by myself. TODD: It is those kinds of texts that U.S. law enforcement authorities want more power to investigate. Several law enforcement groups, including chiefs of police, sheriffs associations, are pushing Congress to pass a law saying your carrier has to record and store your text messages. It is not clear how long they want them stored.

Scott Burns, of the National District Attorneys' Association, one of the groups pushing for the new law, says his group favors a period of three or four months, maybe longer if an investigation is urgent.

SCOTT BURNS, NATIONAL DISTRICT ATTORNEYS' ASSOCIATION: If you're in the middle of an investigation and bad guys are communicating back and forth, whether it is a homicide, whether it is evidence of a crime, it is crucial. 20 years ago we weren't talking about this. Today, everybody has a cell phone, everybody texts and e-mails and is on social media and that's where the evidence is today.

TODD: Or not. As of 2010, major carriers like AT&T, Sprint and T- Mobile didn't retain any content of customers' text messages. They got rid of them immediately. Verizon keeps them only for up to five days.

(on camera): Why can't law enforcement get the texts from individual cell phones? Scott Burns says it is faster and more efficient to get it from the carriers. And he points out, of course, the bad guys often erase their incriminating texts.

(voice-over): But many believe the law enforcement benefit of mining texts doesn't outweigh privacy concerns.

Chris Calabrese, of the ACLU, says, with some 60 billion text messages sent every day, there is too much private information that would be stored.

CHRIS CALABRESE, ACLU: And that's not just something law enforcement can get. It's divorce attorneys, it's other investigators, it is the press. Even if you feel like you have nothing to hide, there's a lot of embarrassing and personal information there.

TODD: Experts point out this does become a security issue with the carriers. If they store your texts for any length of time, they're not invulnerable to be being hacked into.

We contacted the major wireless carriers to see what they think, reached out to Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. None of them would comment. The Wireless Association, the main lobbying arm for those carriers, also wouldn't comment.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


MALVEAUX: New York, as much as $1 million wasted as the city recovers from Superstorm Sandy. The "Wall Street Journal" now is reporting that scores of hotel rooms paid for with public money have been vacant for weeks. They're 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 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, back in Caracas after getting medical treatment in Cuba. He has not been seen publicly in three weeks. But Chavez was all smiles when he returned to Venezuela today. Venezuelan officials say that Chavez received hyperbaric oxygen treatment in Cuba. That involves breathing pure oxygen in a sealed pressurized chamber. It is meant to heal bone damage from radiation therapy. Chavez received radiation and surgery for a cancerous tumor last year.

CNN NEWSROOM continues with Deb Feyerick.

Hey, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, there, Suzanne. Thanks so much.

Well, I'm Deb Feyerick, in for Brooke Baldwin. We've got a lot of news coming up.

New jobs numbers out today and the markets are reacting. We're going to break it --