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Supreme Court to Rule on Two Gay Marriage Cases; Should Knowing Transmission of HIV Be a Criminal Offense?; Solving Life Issues with Your Mind

Aired December 7, 2012 - 15:30   ET



DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. Well, we have breaking news. The Supreme Court will take on the same-sex marriage issue. This has just been announced.

Jeff Toobin, Joe Johns, both joining me. Joe, we were talking about it just a little bit -- a few minutes ago. It's very interesting, not just for the cases that the Supreme Court decided to take, but the ones that they did not decide to take. Why?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's absolutely right and there's one case, Gill versus the Office of Personnel Management, which had a whole list of plaintiffs in it, a number of couples that had been denied different types of benefits, that the court did not decide to take.

It's kind of a sprawling case and one of the things that's interesting about that is that in Gill there was at least a possibility that Justice Kagan might have had to recuse herself because of her involvement further down the line as solicitor general.

That would have created the possibility of at least conceivably of a 4-4 tie on the court, but by not taking that case, I think, you can ask Jeffrey Toobin, but my feeling is they increase the possibilities that they're going to get something here that really matters and doesn't just come out as a tie, which sort of reverts backwards.


FEYERICK: All right and, you know, one of the -- go ahead. Comment on that before I go to another question.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That certainly -- it certainly increases the chance that there won't be a tie. I mean, obviously, there is not going to be a tie now because al nine justices are in the case.

But more importantly for supporters of same-sex marriage, they're counting on Elena Kagan's vote. She's a Barack Obama-appointee to the court. She is presumed to be a vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

So, it's not just sort of, well, it's -- isn't it good that it won't be four-to-four? It's going to be same-sex marriage supporters are breathing a huge sigh of relief that they didn't take the Gill case because losing Elena Kagan's vote, which we obviously don't know for sure how she's going to vote, but that would be a tremendous loss for the supporters of marriage equality and they -- and so they're very happy that Kagan is in this case.

FEYERICK: Yeah. And, you know, I want to take a look at a "USA Today" poll that was done just this week. I think it was done by November 26th and 29th and, apparently, 53 percent of those questioned felt that same-sex marriage should be legal. Forty-six percent said it should not be legal. Two percent, they were not sure.

But, Jeff, let me ask you a question and I don't know if I misspoke earlier, but when I said, this is not so much about same-sex marriage, about changing the definition, is that accurate or is this, you know, about just equal protection and that all individuals having the same rights under the United States law?

TOOBIN: Well, what makes this case so momentous, the Proposition 8 case in particular, is that it's really a very simple legal issue, which is if the state of California says gay couples -- straight couple, you can get married. Gay couple, you can't get married.

The question is is that a violation of the 14th Amendment to the constitution, which says equal protection of the law shall not be denied? I mean, it's really very simple. It's not -- I don't know what the answer is, but it is a fairly simple question.

Just that poll, if I can just talk about one aspect of Supreme Court history and how much the country has changed, you know, the biggest issue -- case on same-sex -- on gay rights, before the turn of this millennium, was a case called Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986 where Georgia prosecuted a man for having consensual -- had homosexual sex.

And the swing vote in that case was Lewis Powell, Justice Lewis Powell. And Lewis Powell had a conversation with his law clerk while that case was pending and he said, you know, I don't think I've ever met a homosexual. You cannot imagine a Supreme Court justice saying that today.

Now, as it turned out, that law clerk he was speaking to was himself homosexual, but was in the closet at the time. And, you know, this is just an example of how much the country has changed.

Even the most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, would not say to a law clerk, in 2012, you know, I've never met a homosexual. It just indicates how much the country has changed, as does that poll.

FEYERICK: Absolutely. All right, Jeff Toobin for us here in New York. Joe Johns for us there in Washington, D.C. Thank you, both, gentlemen, for joining us.

Of course, we're going to have a lot more on this throughout the course of the afternoon.

I want to switch gears a little bit. Unlocking the power of your mind. Author, medical doctor Deepak Chopra joins us to tell us how to unleash your mind to battle problems like depression or obesity.


FEYERICK: Well, safe to say every one of us wants a faster, better, smarter brain, but how about a super brain? Deepak Chopra says you can get one and he claims to know how.

Chopra's the world famous mind/body guru who writes a lot of books about the subject in his latest book, aptly titled "Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind To Maximize Health, Happiness and Spiritual Well-Being.

Well, he joins us now from Washington, D.C. Thank you so much for being here. You've written so many books on this topic. This one, though, is a little bit different. Explain how.

DEEPAK CHOPRA, CO-AUTHOR, "SUPER BRAIN": Well, I wrote this book -- I co-wrote this book with Dr. Rudy Tanzi who's a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School and the director of the genetics lab there and we had a conversation after a Ted-Med (ph) conference.

And both of us realized that our brain activities that respond to every nuance of experience, whether it's a mental experience or a physical experience or a perceptual experience.

I have been talking about the mind/body connection for the last 30 years, but this is more about the mind/brain connection. You have to have a mind/brain connection before you can get a mind/body connection.

And in this book, we explore how you can influence your instinctive brain, your emotional brain, your intellectual brain to harness things like creativity and choice and insight and inspiration and intuition and healing and even affect the biological markers of aging.

FEYERICK: What's fascinating about this and I read the -- what you wrote on the Huffington Post in the book section, you said if input is everything, then happiness and well-being are created by giving the brain positive input. So, you've got to maximize positive input and minimize negative input, basically.

How is that different? And how does the -- how did the components of the brain factor into how that information is processed?

CHOPRA: Well, there are many kinds of inputs. There are inputs that come into our brain through the five senses, sound, touch, sight, taste and smell.

There are inputs that come from our physical body, including physical organs. There are inputs that come from mental space, sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, and there are inputs that come from relationships.

To maximize the brain's efficiency and turn it into a super brain, we have to give it positive inputs in these five areas and, in this book, we explore the methodologies of self-awareness, self-reflection, transcendence, conscious choice-making and perceptual experience.

FEYERICK: It's fascinating. The book claims people that can overcome the most common challenges like memory loss, depression, anxiety, obesity.

There are a lot of books that make similar claims, so how is yours different? Let's start with memory loss.

CHOPRA: Well, again, only less than five percent of people who have Alzheimer's, five percent of cases of Alzheimer's are due to what are called fully-penetrant genes.

The rest are somehow related to lifestyle, such as things like obesity, lack of sensory stimulation, diabetes, high cholesterol, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, delta-wave sleep, all contribute to memory loss.

So, by looking at those things, we can improve the quality of our memories and our ability to retrieve them.

FEYERICK: All right. And it is interesting because you have created what you call a matrix for a positive lifestyle based on brain science, though it seems less like science and more so common sense.

You've got to have good friends. You can't isolate yourself. You've got to have a good relationship. I don't know. It seems like common sense.

CHOPRA: It is. A lot of it is common sense. And yet the sad part is that a lot of people don't practice it.

And what we're saying here in this book is you can actually activate the genes through habitual patterns of behavior so that you create what is called long-term potentiation. You create the neural networks so that after a while, it just becomes a habit.

FEYERICK: All right, and a good habit at that. Deepak Chopra, thank you so much. We appreciate your joining us.

CHOPRA: Thank you for having me.

FEYERICK: Well, IBM is trying to save millions by changing how it matches employees 401(k) contributions and it could affect how your company handles your retirement.


ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely confusing jobless numbers released today. Unemployment dipped to its lowest levels in four years, but we should be careful not to read too much into the jobs numbers.

I'm Ali Velshi. This is "Your Money."

The Labor Department announced 146,000 jobs were added last month with the jobless rate dipping to 7.7 percent. Tat is the lowest it's been since December of 2008, which was right after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and right before the worst of the financial crisis.

For more breakdown of the numbers, let's go to Christine Romans.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST, "YOUR BOTTOM LINE": 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 and disparities between the different worker groups.

Here is 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 se more, more than 150,000 jobs created every month. You would like to see that number continue to grow.


VELSHI: Now, these monthly reports are already confusing in normal times them rely on two very different surveys. A phone survey of households which comes up with the unemployment rate, the percentage, and a business survey which estimates the number of jobs added or lost each month.

But November was unique. Besides Superstorm Sandy's aftermath possibly skewing both surveys, the Labor Department says it decided to call people's homes a week early because of Thanksgiving.

Mesirow Financial's Diane Swonk says look for those numbers to be revised.


DIANE SWONK, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MESIROW FINANCIAL: We did see unemployment insurance claims surge in the wake of Sandy and they may not have been totally included in some of the data, as well, because of electrical problems and people submitting on the survey.

So, it is unclear that, although the number looks a lot better than we expected, whether it actually is capturing all of the effects of Sandy because there were so much devastation and so many interruptions and disruptions to reporting that my guess is that that's part of the reason we're seeing this seeing this distortion.


VELSHI: But Labor Secretary Hilda Solis says her agency takes all those things into account. Her agency's report said, quote, "Its analysis suggests that Hurricane Sandy did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates in November.


HILDA SOLIS, LABOR SECRETARY: They make judgments for that. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does their calculations and they look back at what happens happened previously.

They use the same data-methodology that was used even during Katrina. And this was slightly less, I think, the impact. And that's what you're seeing in this report.


VELSHI: Well, just maybe the economy is heading in the right direction despite the uncertainty businesses feel over the fiscal cliff or November's job numbers could be an anomaly and the data thrown out the window in next month's report. We'll have to see.

Speaking of workers, IBM, a company at the forefront of employee benefits, says it's going to overhaul its retirement benefits program. Like many companies out there, IBM matches employee 401(k) contributions by 6-to-8 percent of pay, every pay period.

Now, the company says it's switching the matches it makes to just once a year, so the amount employees get from IBM isn't changing, but the workers who leave before December 15th's matching date won't get their payment for the year.

Look out for companies to follow IBM's move with similar ones of their own in an attempt to save on employee benefits. And be careful when you decide to leave the company you work for because bad timing could cost you.

For more detailed coverage, tune in to "Your Money," this weekend, Saturday at 1:00, Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Ali Velshi. This is "Your Money." Same time Monday.


FEYERICK: The criminal transmission of HIV, it is a charge that HIV- positive people may face for having sex with someone, spitting on someone or biting someone.

But as Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports, the severity of the laws are being questioned.

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

NICK RHOADES, CONVICTED OF CRIMINAL TRANSMISSION OF HIV: My viral load was undetectable. I wore a condom. I did everything I could to protect him and myself.

GUPTA: What Rhoades didn't do is tell the friend about having HIV and, when the friend found out, he sought treatment at a local hospital and a 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 solitary confinement, and I still have to register as a sex offender for the rest of my life.

GUPTA: Scott Schoettes, an attorney from Lambda Legal, is Rhoades' new lawyer. He is asking the Iowa supreme court to overturn Rhoades' conviction.

SCOTT SCHOETTES, HIV PROJECT DIRECTOR, LAMBDA LEGAL: This case 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 a thousand miles away in Louisiana, a similar case, Robert Suttle's partner says his partner knew Suttle had HIV, but after a messy breakup, his ex- went to police.

Suttle was charged with intentionally exposing 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 were people in the world that are HIV-positive, but it doesn't mean they're criminals. It doesn't mean they have malicious intent to hurt anybody.

They're just trying to deal and cope with having this disease and, yet, there's these laws 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, they're wrong, they're unjust, and they need to be looked at and taken off the books.

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

SCOTT BURNS, 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 is wrong.

I think this should be a sanction. I just don't think you do that in America. And I think most prosecutors would agree with me.

GUPTA: Rhoades and Suttle now work for the CIRO 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 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: And, Deb, I'll tell you, you know, there's a significant percentage of people that still don't know their status and part of the reason they say, as well, is because of these laws.

They say, if you don't know your status and something like this happens, you're not as likely to be charged with a crime.

So, these laws, they say, sort of act as deterrent towards people getting tested, Deb.

FEYERICK: And, Sanjay, how common are these type of prosecutions anyway?

GUPTA: You know, in 39 states in part of our investigation, we found there's been some sort of prosecution, either for transmission or simply even for nondisclosure.

But what I think is even more striking, I think, is some laws haven't been updated for 20 years, Deb. So, people can be charged for spitting on somebody.

The science has obviously taught us a lot about how HIV is transmitted. You can't be -- you can't transmit the virus through spitting, yet that can still be something that is illegal in states, so it's quite extraordinary.

FEYERICK: What's also interesting to me is also, you know, usually when couples get together, you know, there is a question. You know, you should be asking that question regardless, so where's the personal responsibility? You can't just say, whoops.

GUPTA: You know, if you read the language closely in some of these laws, it does talk about that personal responsibility, but ultimately for the person who is HIV-positive, these laws are really targeting those people specifically and I think that this whole notion of what they're obligated to do and what sort of punishment they may incur is really what's at the heart of the issue.

FEYERICK: Still a question mark. OK, Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

And you can see more reporting from Sanjay, of course, this weekend. "Sanjay Gupta MD" airs Saturday afternoon, 4:30, Sunday morning, 7:30 Eastern.

We now go to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Deb, thanks very much.