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Syria Action Alarms U.S. Military; Nurse Duped by DJs Commits Suicide; Unemployment Rate Hits 4-Year Low; Air Force Eliminating Smut; Barricades Broken at Egyptian Palace

Aired December 7, 2012 - 14:00   ET



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 down for you and what it all means.

And in Egypt, protesters break through barricades at the president's palace. We will have a live report from Cairo.

But first, U.S. military plans about possible action against Syria are changing. Senior Pentagon officials tell CNN that the Syrian government could be escalating the civil war. There are new concerns that the Assad regime is preparing to use chemical weapons.

Let's get right to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

And, Barbara, how does this change the U.S. military's Syria plan? Are we talking U.S. troops, boots on the ground?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, not at this point, clearly, Deb. But what we do know is that U.S. officials tell us that they are updating some of the military options for action against Syria's chemical weapons capability.

And why are they doing this? Of course we've chatted about this in the last several days. Officials say they do have the intelligence now that Syria has filled aerial bombs with deadly sarin gas. Haven't moved it to airplanes yet, but this is very concerning because that, of course, would be the next step.

So, once you have these deadly bombs, the U.S. has to look at what the options could be, what they might want to target to essentially take out that kind of capabilities. So that's the options that are now being worked on.

Deb. FEYERICK: I mean the implications are just stunning that the Assad regime would actually use deadly gas on its own people. Up to this, up to this chemical weapons news, what was the U.S. military's official stance on action in Syria?

STARR: Well, you know, the Obama administration has been taking the lead on working the diplomatic front, if you will. What they've been doing for months and months now is trying to get Assad to go by putting diplomatic pressure, to a large extent, working through Russia, obviously, which is one of Assad's last allies. A lot of chat out there, could Assad get al-Assad get asylum somewhere, something like that. And by all accounts, they've been willing to continue with the diplomatic track until this development.

Now, we're not saying that there is going to be military action, but certainly the military planning, being updated, the options being updated, because now of this movement of chemical weapons, and a very good understanding, they tell us, of the locations of where they are, and the intent, possible intent to use them, that's what's leading to this potential change. And something that everyone's concerned about, it's why you saw President Obama warning al-Assad so stridently this week.

FEYERICK: Yes, and there's got to be so much discussion and intelligence circles as to why now, what is prompting President Assad to do this. The question really is, what is that line? What is the trigger that would launch a potential U.S. military response?

STARR: Well, let -- I think your first point's really key. Why is Assad even going down this route? Why are his commanders going down this route? We've seen the fighting. Our colleague, Arwa Damon, has been talking about this for days. We've seen the fighting pick up around Damascus. This is the center of power for the al-Assad regime and the fighting is quite intense around there. He is feeling the pressure, it's believed, of that fighting in and around the capital. So perhaps that's why he, number one, is supporting potentially this movement of chemical material.

What the red line is, U.S. officials say, it's moved a bit. It was any movement of chemical weapons. Now it's really they're looking for the intent to use them. That, we are told, is what the U.S. is looking for now.


FEYERICK: Well, it is something that we'll be watching very, very closely. Barbara Starr, thanks so much, there at the Pentagon for us.

Well, outrage and shock in London. A nurse duped by a prank call about Prince William's pregnant wife apparently has committed suicide. The hospital says Jacintha Saldanha was the nurse who answered the call from two Australian deejays, posing as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. She then transferred the call to Catherine's ward where another nurse revealed some details about Catherine's condition. The St. James Palace spokesman says, quote, "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jacintha Saldanha. Their thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time." The palace emphasized that everyone at the hospital took wonderful care of Duchess Catherine. Meanwhile, don't expect to hear from the deejays who made the prank call anytime soon. The Australian radio station's owners say the deejays will not be back on air anytime soon and they won't be commenting on the tragedy. The station expresses deepest sympathies for the nurse's death.

Let's bring in Max Foster live from London.

And, Max, what are we learning about this nurse? People in London, there just must be -- just must be outrage by this.

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. A huge sense of sadness. And we just had a statement actually released from the family by the police. It was very brief. Just saying they feel a huge sense of sadness and they ask for privacy. They want the media to leave them alone.

All we know is that she was a nurse in the hospital behind me. Not necessarily a receptionist, but she did take the call that day. She was staying at accommodation around the corner, a hospital accommodation, which is where she was found dead. She has two young children and a husband, but they don't stay there. They only meet up on weekends. So, thankfully, they weren't there. But, obviously, a huge, huge shock to them.

She only put the call through, but many people, at the time when this whole prank took place, was -- were blaming the system in the hospital. How did the call get put through to the ward? So perhaps she blamed herself in some way. We don't know. The hospital says she wasn't facing any disciplinary action. And I can also give you another line from the palace. They gave me another line a bit earlier on. "At no point did the palace complain to the hospital," they say, "about the incident. On the contrary, we offered our full heartfelt support to the nurses involved and the hospital staff at all times."


FEYERICK: Do you know -- clearly there was something going on. Did she leave some sort of a suicide note to determine a definitive link between that call and her death?

FOSTER: They're not saying it's suspicious, the police, but any more information than that, they're not searching for anyone. So we haven't got any more information on that. We can't say if it was a suicide or not. That's not the information that's been put out. But certainly she's just been through a major event. The hospital is deeply sorry about everything that happened. And the palace has commented on it as well. So clearly this has gotten very, very complicated.

I mean the duchess went in early to hospital on Monday. She had to announce that she was ill. Then we had this prank and now this. I mean it's been an extraordinary series of events here. Certainly not the way Kate would have wanted things to unfold. FEYERICK: Oh, my gosh, of course not. I mean not only was this a massive invasion of privacy, but it was also an extreme breach of security as far as the royal family goes. And just very quickly, Max, will there be changes at the hospital to make sure that this young couple is protected?

FOSTER: Yes. Well, they say they're reviewing their telephone systems and I think that is certainly going to come down to, you know, you have to vet anyone that goes through to the ward. They keep emphasizing that there's no way that this call would ever have been put through to Kate herself because there's a direct, secure line into the room and that was never available to anyone just calling in. But, yes, they're very regretful. They have come out and made comments today. They've got a PR company dealing with things.

This is a very respected hospital. It looks after VIPs. It's really high end. They're in a complete sort of crisis control right now. It's been a disaster for them. But the real disaster is for poor Jacintha's family.

FEYERICK: Oh, absolutely. Two young kids and a husband left behind. All right, Max Foster, thank you so much, for us.

Well, the nation's rate of unemployment stands at a four-year low. It is now 7.7 percent, with the economy adding nearly 150,000 new jobs last month. The numbers issued today by the Labor Department easily beat most economists' expectations. A loss of manufacturing jobs did serve to dampen the outlook going forward. The manufacturing sector shed 7,000 jobs last month.

On the positive side again, Hurricane Sandy appears not to have been the job killer many had feared. The Labor Department says the havoc wrought by Sandy had no substantial impact on the unemployment picture.

With us now, Jill Schlessinger, editor at large,

And the jobs that we're looking at, how many of them are part-time jobs, how many of them are, you know, seasonal jobs?

JILL SCHLESSINGER, EDITOR AT LARGE, CBSMONEYWATCH.COM: Well, not so many seasonal. We saw some broad based gains. And we continue to see some really robust gains in retail, in business services, health care is really continuing to show great improvement. You mentioned manufacturing and mentioned one other area. Twenty thousand jobs lost in construction. That may be a little bit of Sandy related.

FEYERICK: But also one of the interesting things, you looked at the numbers and you said that there was some 300,000 people who said that weather did affect the job search. Why is that not considered Sandy related?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, it's sort of weird because there are two different surveys when you look at these jobs numbers. One comes from the businesses. The businesses, they take that survey, November 12th, and the businesses are for the job creation number. The other survey is called a household survey. That's how we determine the unemployment rate. And part of that household survey is, did you look for a job last week, yes, no, and why not? So a lot of people said weather related.

So when I was digging into the numbers, I said, wow, a normal November, you have weather related, be about 60,000. Here we had 300,000. That's one of the reasons that we saw the unemployment rate go down. Look, I want to feel good about the unemployment rate being low, but 7.7 percent happened because fewer people were part of the labor force. That's not the right reason that we wanted to see the jobless rate go down.

FEYERICK: Absolutely. And I want to read you something that Paul Krugman wrote in "The New York Times" earlier this week. He said, "long-term unemployment remains at levels not seen since the Great Depression. As of October, 4.9 million Americans have been unemployed for more than six months, and 3.6 million had been out of work for more than a year."

You know, fiscal cliff negotiations, they're really focused on fixing the debt. How can you fix the debt if you can't fix the economy? If you can't fix the jobs situation?

SCHLESSINGER: Oh, boy, this is the magic question. And this is why people like Paul Krugman are kind of freaking out and saying, wait a minute, we go over the fiscal cliff, it's not that the world's going to come to an end, but it's austerity and it's bad for job creation and that could be a problem.

The bigger issue I think in the long-term unemployment problem is we've never really dealt with it from the beginning of the jobs crisis. So 12 million people out of work, 40 percent of them, more than six months, that's insane. But we have not had a real program to get those long-term unemployed back to work.

And, you know, frankly, I don't see anything happening in the future. As we look at that fiscal cliff, what is that really doing? It's saying government's going to spend less money. Less money means less job training, less ways to get the unemployed back to work. That really says that we're probably going to be stuck with an unemployment problem for a long time.

FEYERICK: So avoiding a fiscal cliff doesn't necessarily mean getting people back to work?

SCHLESSINGER: No. And, look, the economy is only growing by less than 2 percent.


SCHLESSINGER: And, you know what, when you've got sub 2 percent growth, we are not going to be creating hundreds of thousands of jobs a month. That's what we need to see to see that unemployment rate come down and get us out of this hole.

FEYERICK: All right, Jill Schlessinger from, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.


FEYERICK: Well, this week the Air Force is conducting a big sweep of work spaces. What are they looking for? Well, they're looking for pictures of scantily clad women. Yes. We'll explain.

And, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer, joins me to talk about his own battle against a rare form of blood cancer.


FEYERICK: Well, the head of the Air Force has launched a campaign to make life around the base more friendly towards women. Calendars, photographs, any type of images that might demean or objectify women, those are gone. Chris Lawrence standing by for us at the Pentagon with more on this -- on this really large house cleaning.

And, Chris, you know, the chief of staff, General Mark Wells (ph), said, "if we're going to get serious about things like sexual assault, we have to basically get serious about an environment that could lead to sexual harassment." What's going on over there?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, basically, Deb, this is unprecedented. I mean starting today, Air Force commands and supervisors in every work space, every public space, are going to be going through and inspecting it, scrubbing them for pictures, inappropriate pictures, scantily clad women on calendars, on photos, even briefing slides that were shown in some training. They're going to be going through and trying to get rid of all of that.

In fact, the Air Force chief of staff said, quote, "quite frankly, if we have 20 percent of our people who don't feel that they are fully respected and valued, then that's just not the Air Force we want to be." Basically saying that a lot of women felt that they had to go along to get along, that there were jokes being told, that there were photos out there that made them extremely uncomfortable, and they just could not get anyone to listen.

FEYERICK: And, Chris, you know, you would think that with all this awareness that the number of sexual assaults would be going down, but that's not even the case.

LAWRENCE: They're going up in the Air Force. I mean they expect to have more than 700 sexual assault cases this year. That's 100 more than they had last year. In fact, at one training base, they had a problem that was so bad they've now instituted a wingman policy where the recruits and trainees are not supposed to go anywhere outside their dormitory alone, just specifically to prevent the kind of assaults that have been taking place.

I mean when you look at that, I mean that's like saying to you, well, Deb, the only way we can really, you know, protect you is if you don't leave the newsroom unless somebody else is with you. I mean it shows the length of the problem. Now, they're not saying that every, you know, photo on a calendar or every inappropriate joke directly leads to sexual assault, but what they are saying is if there is a link, they want to make sure to sever it. And if people are feeling very uncomfortable in these situations, then that's unacceptable in any sort of professional environment.

FEYERICK: And, Chris, is this sort of a suggestion that there is, you know, going on from here on out, that there's a zero tolerance policy in terms of anything that might be deemed inappropriate? And, look, we all like a good joke, OK, but there is a line that you shouldn't cross.

LAWRENCE: No, this went beyond just a joke here or there. I mean, the chief of the staff of the Air Force said he had heard from a lot of people, a lot of people, who said they felt, you know, very, very uncomfortable. A lot of women and even some men about things that were said, about photos that were put up in public places.

Now, this isn't going to be a witch-hunt. They're not going to go into people's personal computers or start rummaging through their lockers or anything like that. But they want to make sure in the public spaces, where everyone is working together, that there are not, you know, blatant things out there that will make people feel very uncomfortable in trying to do their job.

FEYERICK: Absolutely. Sort of a very subtle intimidation.

OK, Chris Lawrence there at the Pentagon, thanks so much.


FEYERICK: Well, a special mission decades after the Pearl Harbor attack. A Pearl Harbor veteran is honored for his work to properly identify remains of Pearl Harbor victims. Stick around. This is a story you don't want to miss.


FEYERICK: Seventy-one years ago today, Ray Emory survived what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called a day that will live in infamy. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Now the 91-year-old is being honored for his detective work. For the last 10 years, Ray has been helping put names with graves of service members killed that day. For one man, it was a broken tooth. For another, it was a broken leg suffered as a child. Ray Emory's memories and personal records helped identify those service members. A moment of silence today at a ceremony at Pearl Harbor to remember the 2,400 men and women who lost their lives that day.

And in Michigan, outrage over workers' rights. Protesters packed into the state capital building after the Republican-led legislature passed a series of right to work bills. Union activists are angry at the new measures, which they say weaken unions and limit workers' rights. The governor has made it clear he's ready to make it law. That would make Michigan, which is considered the birth place of organized labor, the 24th right to work state. Well, for a second straight day, growing outrage in Egypt as protesters attacked President Mohamed Morsi's house. And others demonstrate in Tahrir Square. A live report on the protests right after this.


FEYERICK: Protesters in Egypt pushed through barricades surrounding the presidential palace today. Police tried to keep the demonstrators from the nearby state TV studios. Meanwhile, in northeastern Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi's house was tacked for the second day. It is just the latest violence since Morsi addressed the nation yesterday, angering crowds by refusing to back away from his controversial edict giving him more power. Reza Sayah joins us now from Cairo.

And, Reza, what do you know about the protests outside Morsi's home at the palace and also in Tahrir Square?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in Tahrir Square, the protests continue outside the palace. They did break through the barricade of the Republican Guard. But for the most part it's peaceful. And, of course, tension outside his house in a city outside of Cairo.

But, Deb, we want to pass along some new information that we've just confirmed, and we're not sure what this means in the grand scheme of things. But the president's adviser has announced that the vote for the constitution for ex-pats, these are Egyptians living outside of Egypt, that vote was scheduled for tomorrow. It has been postponed until Wednesday.

And we're not sure what the significance of this is, but certainly pretty interesting. Of course, these opposition factions, Mr. Morsi's critics, want the vote for next Saturday taking place here in Egypt. That's the referendum on the constitution. They want that to be canceled. That hasn't happened yet. That's why they're out here protesting again.

And also rejecting the president's speech from last night. A lot of people were anxious to see what the president would say. If he could somehow resolve this conflict, back down from his position. He did not. What he did was call for calm. He called for the political factions and their leaders to come to the palace tomorrow and meet. He also issued a stern warning to protesters not to resort to violence. But, again, he didn't back down from his core position, and that is the national referendum on the constitution will take place next Saturday. And he also did not rescind his controversial decrees that he announced last week that gave him additional powers. That's why, Deb, this impasse still remains.

FEYERICK: And, you know, Reza, it's fascinating to watch from over on this side, which is, you know, there's so much money riding on this, not just from the United States, but from, you know, the International Monetary Fund, by the World Bank. Morsi, yesterday, talked by phone with President Obama. What have you learned about this?

SAYAH: Well, President Obama, Washington, obviously keeping a close eye on the situation here in Egypt. President Obama expressing his concern about the violence and the people who died a couple of days ago. But beyond that phone call, it doesn't look like Washington is getting any more involved. But they're certainly going to keep a close eye.

Egypt is going to be an important country for Washington moving forward, especially for the U.S.' stated priority of keeping Israel secure. Egypt is going to play a role on that. And rest assured that they're going to assess President Morsi and this Egyptian government based on how they handle this political crisis.


FEYERICK: Is there also concern, I mean, look, a lot of these people who are demonstrating, you know, they are going to be able to vote on this constitutional referendum. First of all, is there any concern that perhaps the vote will not be legitimate, that something will go wrong with it? Or, you know, if they don't like it, why not simply vote against it?

SAYAH: Certainly there is that possibility. I think all eyes are going to be on next Saturday, December 15th. Are there going to be mass protests? Are there -- is there going to be violence again? And you're also going to have to keep an eye on the judiciary. They have been charged with monitoring, overseeing this vote. Some judges have said they're going to boycott it. Some have said we will oversee it. If enough judges boycott it, that could certainly undermine the legitimacy of this national referendum next Saturday. So a lot of uncertainty moving forward. That's why there's a lot of drama and intrigue here in Egypt these days.

FEYERICK: It's remarkable to watch it as it all plays out. All right, Reza Sayah, thanks so much.