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Nurse Duped by Deejays Apparently Commits Suicide; Unemployment Rate Drops; Supreme Court Takes Up Same-Sex Marriage

Aired December 7, 2012 - 15:00   ET


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: The Australian radio station's owners say the deejays will not be back on air anytime soon. They won't be commenting on the tragedy. The station expresses -- quote -- "deepest sympathies" for the nurse's death.

Let's bring in Max Foster, live from London.

Max, what do we know about the nurse?

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that she had two children and a husband. She died in hospital accommodation in London. But her family wasn't with her at the time. They are elsewhere and they meet up at weekends. Thankfully, they weren't there when this happened.

That's all we really know at this point. She was a nurse in the hospital. She wasn't a receptionist. Was she filling in in the role? We're not really quite sure about that. But certainly at the time when this call went through and made world headlines, a lot of blame was put on the telephone systems. Why was this call put through to the ward?

So maybe she felt some pressure from that. We don't know. The police are already saying they're not searching for anyone in relation to this, but it all certainly is all being linked up, certainly a very, very sad situation, the hospital very saddened by it, they say. And they're doing what they can to investigate and help with the police.

And the palace, as you say, saddened as well, adding a bit later on that at no point did the palace complain to the hospital about the incident, so distancing the palace. And Kate was here, of course, and she probably didn't deal with this nurse, and the point is that their privacy was invaded.

But what the palace is saying is they didn't complain about it. This wouldn't have had a knock-on effect from them, at least.

FEYERICK: When I'm surprised about, Max, is especially when somebody from the royal family, you have covered them extensively, when somebody from the royal family is in hospital, for example, I don't understand why there is not a code word or why the call is not vetted even by a member of the royal security team.

FOSTER: Yes. There probably is now to be honest. To be honest, the royal security team, they're in charge of looking after Kate and making sure she doesn't come to any harm. They're not in charge of the hospital systems. They would have come and checked it out, but this is a really well known hospital, it's got a long relationship with the royal family. As far as the code words and stuff you're talking about, they probably are in place now.

It is extraordinary that anyone could ring up and just get put through to the ward. What the hospital is saying is there is no way they could ever have gone straight through to Kate. She's on a secure line. So that wouldn't have happened. As we know, details, personal information was released by the nurse and that was because Jacintha put the call through to her.

We don't know what happened in the last few days but the hospital says she wasn't being disciplined. We're trying to get details together. It is just a tragedy at this point.

FEYERICK: And, Max, by all accounts, the nurse, a young woman, married, two young children, police have called the death unexplained. Why?

FOSTER: Well, they're simply not looking for anyone else in relation to this. They're not saying how she died. It is an investigation. They can't go into too much detail. That will all come out with a coroner's report, an inquest a bit later on. They're still investigating. They have to investigate in some detail. It has only been a few hours.

That is all they're saying at the moment. They're not looking for anyone else in relation to this death.

FEYERICK: OK. All right, Max Foster, a tragic end to a very, very bad prank. Thank you so much.

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 jobs, 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, but on the positive side, again, Hurricane Sandy appears not to have been the job killer that many had feared, at least not right now.

The Labor Department says the havoc wrought by Sandy had no substantial impact on the unemployment picture.

And in Michigan, outrage over workers' rights.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Shame on you! Shame on you!


FEYERICK: Protesters packed into the state capitol building after the Republican-led legislature passed a series of right-to-work bills, which union activists say limit workers' rights.

Poppy Harlow in Lansing.

Poppy, a very heated issue. A lot of these folks think this is just a blatant attempt at union busting. Take it away.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michigan is really considered the heart of organized labor here in America.

This is the birthplace of the United Auto Workers 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? 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.

GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: It is time to make a decision, and the decision 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.

JEFF BRESLIN, UNION WORKER: This is absolutely not what is 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.

HARLOW: Why the opposition and why the massive protests here at the capitol? It is 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 non-union workers when you look at median weekly salaries.

One labor lawyer 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.


FEYERICK: All right. Poppy Harlow for us there in Michigan, thanks so much. Well, should cell phone companies hold on to your text messages? Law enforcement agencies want companies to store them. Is that an invasion of your privacy?

And the crisis in Syria, we will take you inside a war-torn neighborhood and show you what it is like to live in a war zone.


FEYERICK: So get this. It is something you should definitely think about. Law enforcement agencies are pushing Congress to pass a law requiring carriers to store your text messages, not just who you send them to and receive a text from. No, they want every word you type. They say they need it for future investigations.

CNN's Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michelle Medoff says she started getting the 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 are 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, 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's those kinds of texts that U.S. law-enforcement authorities want more power to investigate. Several law-enforcement groups, including chiefs of police, sheriff's associations, are pushing Congress to pass a law, saying your carrier has to record and store your text messages. It's 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's a homicide, whether it's evidence of a crime, it's crucial. I mean, 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's faster and more efficient to get from the carriers. And he points out that, 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's too much private information that would be stored.

CHRIS CALABRESE, ACLU: And that's not just something law enforcement could get. It's divorce attorneys, other investigators, it's the press. Even if you feel like you have nothing to hide, it'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 being hacked into.

We contacted the major wireless carriers to see what they think of the proposed law to store texts, 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.


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 some of the victims. Stick around. It is an inspiring story.


FEYERICK: This story should come with a warning. You may need a box of tissues. This is Nathan Norman of Rustburg, Virginia. He's 6. He lives fire trucks and police cars, especially when their sirens are sounding and lights are flashing. Nathan also has terminal brain cancer. When asked what he would like for Christmas this year, Nathan said he would like to get cards from police and firefighters that he so admires.

That wish was heard in Boynton Beach, Florida, and Nathan's newfound friends do what they do best. You could all it a quick response. Listen to the spokeswoman for Boynton Beach Police.


STEPHANIE SLATER, BOYNTON BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT: He's our hero. And that's why we decided we were going to put a smile on his face, and answer his wish. And as soon as I put the e-mail out, officers jumped at the opportunity to participate.


FEYERICK: And he's getting dozens and dozens of cards from around the nation now. As for Nathan's mom, all she wants for Christmas is one more Christmas with Nathan.

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 the 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 personnel records helped identify those service members. Today, a moment of silence at the ceremony at Pearl Harbor to remember the 2,400 men and women who lost their lives that day.

Well, more than 400 people killed when the largest typhoon in decades hits the Southern Philippines. A 17-year-old girl named Jane tries to salvage her waterlogged school yearbook after the typhoon devours her family's home. Jane is one of a quarter-million people left homeless now from this disaster, hundreds of people still missing. The grim death toll is expected to rise. Landslides have blocked roads and knocked out power and communications.

Well, U.S. military plans about possible action against Syria, they're changing. This comes as rebel firefighters take on Syrian forces house to house in the country's largest city of Aleppo -- the latest developments next.


FEYERICK: And we have breaking news for you.

The Supreme Court will, will take on the same-sex marriage issue. This was just announced.

We're going to go straight to Jeff Toobin, who is with us here.

You have been waiting for this development. This is a big deal.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is a major event in American history, not just in Supreme Court history. The Supreme Court is not just going to decide whether the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional. They are also going to decide whether Proposition 8 in California, that case, whether the ban on same-sex marriage there is unconstitutional.

And that could affect all 50 states. So there is at least the potential that, by the end of June, all 50 states will be ordered to have same-sex marriage. There is a long way between here and there, but that is now a possibility.

FEYERICK: What is so interesting about this, Jeff, is that this is not just really about sort of the marriage issue, so much as it is an equal protection issue, because so many people have been denied benefits under federal law.

TOOBIN: Well, that's the Defense of Marriage Act case. What the Defense of Marriage Act case, what the law says, passed in 1996, signed into law by President Clinton, that law says that the federal government will not recognize same-sex marriages, even in the states where it's legal. So if you are a married couple, same-sex couple in Massachusetts, you can't file a joint tax return, you can't inherit tax-free the way heterosexual married couples can.

The Obama administration says -- agrees that law is unconstitutional. That law is now being defended by a lawyer hired by the Republicans in the House of Representatives. So, that is one case. The other case is the Proposition 8 case in California. If you recall, California, there was a referendum -- the California Supreme Court ruled that there had to be same-sex marriage under the California Constitution. Gay people had the right to get married there for a brief period of time.

Then there was a ballot put -- there was an initiative put on the ballot, Proposition 8. California voted in a close election to overturn same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage was banned after it had been briefly legal.

The federal district court had a trial there, and said that law, Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional. That was affirmed on appeal. That has now been appealed to the Supreme Court and they will now decide whether Proposition 8 is constitutional or not.

FEYERICK: When we talk about this as being a historical sort of review, clearly, there were different laws passed at the state level. So now it is really up to the federal government to kind of step in and say, OK, this is where we have to come together on our thinking, no?

TOOBIN: It is up to the United States Supreme Court, not the federal government. The federal government, the last word they have is the Defense of Marriage Act.


TOOBIN: And what makes this so significant is that the Supreme Court has not really engaged with the issue of gay rights since 2003. It's nine years. That's a long time.


TOOBIN: The country has changed dramatically in those nine years. There is a new Gallup poll out that just says 53 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage.

Our CNN exit poll said 49 percent of people support same-sex marriage. In the '90s, that number was in the 20s. The country is changing very quickly. But that doesn't necessarily mean the Supreme Court will follow along.

Look for a lot of attention between now and when the case is argued, probably in March, on Anthony Kennedy, because he has been the swing vote in all of the gay rights cases. And he is the author of the two most important gay rights decisions at the Supreme Court.

And even though Kennedy is usually with the conservatives, he has always been with the liberals on gay rights. So he will be very much the focus of the argument.


FEYERICK: All right, and, Jeff, stay right there, because we want to bring in Joe Johns, who is also in Washington for us.

And, Joe, we're talking about the Defense of Marriage Act here. In the end, assuming that the Supreme Court rules in -- you know, on this particular issue, could it be that marriage is no longer defined as between a man and a woman, arguably?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's certainly the question here, you know. And now we know the case that at least potentially could decide that, and I don't know how much Jeff talked about it, but I would just like to talk a little bit more about Windsor, this Windsor case.

It is an attack, as you said, on the Defense of Marriage Act. It's called Windsor against the United States. It is about a woman named Edith Windsor and her partner, who is named Thea Spyer. These are two women who had a long 40-year relationship. They were married in Toronto, Canada, in 2007. And then Spyer died in 2009 in New York at a time when New York recognized same-sex marriages that had been performed out of the state.

So Spyer dies. And then Edie Windsor, the woman whose name is on the case, was required to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes on the inheritance. And this is money that she would not have had to pay if federal law had given their relationship the same status that opposite sex marriages get.

So this is a pretty clean case right here for the court to decide, whether they decide it on benefits, whether they decide it on the issue of equal protection. The Obama administration has already said it doesn't think the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act can really withhold this kind of a legal attack.

So we will see, but I think the question you raised, Deborah, is the question that is before all of us right now.


TOOBIN: And if I can just get a little technical here, there are ways that the Supreme Court could resolve both of these cases without engaging the substantive issues.

When the court grants certiorari, granting certiorari means they agree to hear the case. They have now granted certiorari in both the Windsor case, which is the Defense of Marriage Act case, and the Proposition 8 case out of California. They also agreed to decide the question of standing, which is do the -- do the -- are these cases even legitimately before the court? For example, in California, there is now a situation -- and this was the situation when this case was brought -- the governor of California, the attorney general of California all agree that this Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. So who has the right to challenge the law? It is usually the governor and the attorney general who challenge the law.

What happened in that case was a group of outsiders, essentially, came in to say Proposition 8 is constitutional. All through that case, there has been the question of whether they even have the right to defend the law. That is a way this case could maybe just go away without a big 50-state ruling on same-sex marriage.

There are ways that the Supreme Court could dodge the big issue. But they did accept the case for review. So, you have to believe at least some of the justices are interested in ruling on the question of same- sex marriage, but it is not necessarily the case that they will do that. There are procedural routes to get out of this case, but they're in a lot deeper now than they were an hour ago.


FEYERICK: Yes, Jeff Toobin, Joe Johns, hang on for one quick second.

We're going to take a very quick break and we're going to have a lot, lot more on this particular conversation on this topic. So, stay with us -- more to come.