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CNN NEWSROOM

Outrage Over Apparent Suicide; Nelson Mandela Hospitalized; Egypt Detains Alleged Terror Suspect; High Court Tackles Same Sex Laws; Obama: Taxing Rich Raises $1 Trillion; Father Fights Secret Adoption; Judge Orders Man Not To Procreate; Nelson Mandela Hospitalized; The Fiscal Cliff And Your Taxes; Get Warm This Winter; Fighting Intensifies Around Damascus

Aired December 8, 2012 - 12:00   ET

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


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, everybody. Outrage and anger is growing over the tragic death of a London nurse who was fooled by a radio prank. The nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, apparently killed herself Friday after she was tricked into giving confidential information about Prince William's pregnant wife while the duchess was in her care.

A short time ago, King Edward VII Hospital where the nurse worked released a statement. It reads in part, it was extremely foolish of your presenters to even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call and went on to call the actions of the Australian radio station appalling.

That radio station issued its own apology for the incident and has taken action against the DJs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RHYS HOLLERAN, CEO, SOUTHERN CROSS AUSTEREO: We have decided that this show will not return until further notice out of respect of what can only be described as a tragedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Let's get more on the story now from senior international correspondent Matthew Chance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what? They were the worst accents ever.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was meant as a light-hearted Aussie prank. Even after the station issued an apology, the two DJs who duped the hospital were making light of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were sure a hundred people at least before us would have tried the same thing.

CHANCE: Now they have been suspended from their jobs and one of the nurses they humiliated and fooled is dead.

JOHN LOFTHOUSE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, KING EDWARD VII HOSPITAL: It is with deep sadness that I can confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha. We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital.

CHANCE: Hospital officials say Saldanha was the nurse who transferred the prank call to the royal ward. Personal details about the condition of Katherine, the Duchess of Cambridge who was being treated for severe morning sickness were disclosed. Two days later, Saldanha's body was found a short distance from the hospital door.

(on camera): There had been a suggestion some kind of complaint from the royal family about the prank call may have put pressure on the nurse. But a royal source tells CNN no such complaint was ever made.

Also this hospital rejects any suggestion that it may have disciplined the nurse for transferring the call, saying it's been supporting her throughout this very difficult time.

(voice-over): The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, so happy on leaving the hospital earlier this week issued a statement expressing their deep sadness at the nurse's death and thanking hospital staff for looking after them so wonderfully well.

If you can believe that the uplifting news that a royal baby is on the way has taken such an ugly, tragic turn. Matthew Chance, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Former South African President Nelson Mandela is in the hospital. A government statement said he was admitted in Pretoria today to undergo test. They say he's doing well and the tests are just routine for someone his age. Mandela is 94 years old. We'll have a live report from Johannesburg on his condition coming up in 20 minutes.

U.S. authorities are investigating whether a man detained in Egypt played a role in the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Egyptian authorities have detained Mohamed Jamal Abu Akmed.

He is a well-known Jihadist who was released from prison after the downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak's regime. Our Susan Candiotti is live in New York. Susan, what do we know right now about the arrest of this alleged terror suspect?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Joe. Well, U.S. authorities are in fact looking at whether this man involved in an Egypt-based terror network is responsible for that attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11.

According to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the investigation, Mohamed Akmed has been detained by Egyptian authorities. The U.S. source tells me the FBI, which is conducting the investigation has not had access to him yet. The source says following the attack, Akmed very quickly popped up on their radar. Now the official would not comment on what led them to him -- Joe.

JOHNS: Now what does this investigation mean in sort of the big picture for the Benghazi attacks?

CANDIOTTI: Well, of course, it's running on several different tracks. They are looking at a lot of different people to find out if they are connected. However, in this case, this man is noted as an ultra radical Jihadist. He is 45 years old with a master's degree in Sharia Law.

After the down fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he was released from jail and is also believed to with be driving force behind a new terror group seeking to align itself with al Qaeda according to both U.S. and Egyptian official.

Now Akmed allegedly confessed to having travelled to Libya several times during the revolution and having joined the resistance there. But an Egyptian official said he has denied any connection to the attack on the U.S. Consulate or affiliation to al Qaeda.

At the time that he was arrested he was armed with two machine guns. However, he's believed to be connected to a terror cell called the Nasr City cell. When that cell was taken down, there was a huge stockpile of weapons including rocket-propelled grenades, explosive belts.

And investigators obviously now have a lot of work to do, Joe, to figure out Akmed's suspected role in that U.S. consulate attack.

JOHNS: Those denials are very interesting. Thanks, Susan Candiotti. I know you will be staying on top of that.

Next march, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to tackle laws governing same-sex marriage. It has agreed to hear two arguments and two controversial cases. One involves the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same sex spouses.

That case was brought by 83-year-old Edith Windsor who was required to pay hundreds of thousands in estate taxes when her long-time partner died. An appeals court ruled that violated the constitution's equal protection clause.

The Supreme Court will also look into the constitutionality of California's controversial ban on same-sex marriage known as Proposition 8. Striking it down could have an immediate impact on gay spouses currently denied benefits.

CNN's Casey Wian introduces us to one California couple that has a lot riding on this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): November 1st, 2008 was the most important of Tracey Harris and Maggie Cooper's lives. Their union blessed by a state court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

(on camera): Did you think that four years later you would be fighting a legal battle for the rights that other married couples enjoy?

MAGGIE COOPER-HARRIS: On that particular day it wasn't really on our minds.

WIAN (voice-over): Three days later Californians voted to outlaw future same-sex marriages. Their union still is recognized by the state, but not by the federal government Tracy served as a 12-year highly decorated Army veteran.

TRACEY COOPER-HARRIS (RETIRED) U.S. ARMY: Especially after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," there are other veterans that are going to be facing this same issue.

WIAN: For them, the immediate issue is spousal disability benefits for which Maggie is ineligible.

MAGGIE COOPER-HARRIS: I look forward to a time when it's a fully recognized marriage in the eyes of the federal government. And that we don't have to worry about burdens that are going on in our daily lives.

WIAN: Burdens such as Tracey's diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, which the Veterans Administration has determined is related to her military service during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are suing the federal government.

(on camera): Tell me what you hope to accomplish in this lawsuit?

TRACEY COOPER-HARRIS: Long story short I want to make sure if and when something does happen to me, if any service-connected issues get worse, I get really sick or incapacitated that Maggie is provided for.

WIAN (voice-over): Unless the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages Maggie won't be eligible for about $1,200 in monthly survivor benefits if Tracey dies. They also can't be buried together in a military cemetery. The Justice Department would not comment on the Cooper-Harris' case because it is in litigation.

MAGGIE COOPER-HARRIS: There is an injustice. I figure we would try to do what we can to try and fix it.

TRACEY COOPER-HARRIS: You have so much love for another person. You want to build a family with them. You want to have that start with them. I can't think of anything better. This is a good civil rights fight.

WIAN: Casey Wian, CNN, Pasadena, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS: Let's bring in our legal guys. Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor in Cleveland, Ohio and Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense lawyer and a professor joins us from Las Vegas.

So I want to start with you, Richard, the Supreme Court has choices of cases it could take here. It decided to take these two, DOMA and Proposition 8. Why do you think they took these and not others?

RICHARD HERMAN, NEW YORK CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, after this election, this issue is so ripe for the Supreme Court. The jurisdictions are so split in their laws, many states recognizing same-sex marriage and performing same-sex marriages.

Some states not recognizing them. This is the perfect scenario for the Supreme Court to step in and ultimately make a ruling. There are over 1,000 cases, Joe, in which federal laws are impacted by marital status. The time has come. It's ripe. Prop 8 was on the doorstep for the Supreme Court. Here we go.

JOHNS: Avery, we were trading e-mails a little bit a while ago. One of the questions I asked you was whether the Supreme Court essentially gave itself an emergency escape hatch with one of the cases it chose. Can you talk a little about that?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, late yesterday, as you know, Joe, the Supreme Court actually amended its grant of review when it said we want to know about the issue of standing.

Meaning does the person involved in the challenge have the right to be there in the first place. If the court doesn't then what it means in practical terms is if you don't have the right to be in court, you don't have standing, the Supreme Court though it looked like a constitutional show down never has to take the case.

It's sort of a Supreme Court rope a dope because they will duck out on procedural issues and that may very well happen here.

JOHNS: Right, talking about the standing for the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, group of members of Congress who decided to take this on and defend the Defense Of Marriage Act.

Now another question here is whether either of these cases being decided will actually settle it or whether other same-sex cases are coming down the pike and still need the court's attention -- Richard.

HERMAN: Joe, this is going to be the ultimate definitive determination on whether or not the federal government recognizes a marital union between a man and another man or a woman and another woman. This is going to be the determination on federal law to set it straight.

JOHNS: Richard, do you think there is a possibility the court can decide at least the Defense Of Marriage Act case without reaching the constitutional question and just sort of talk about the benefits that people get or don't get depending on whether they are same-sex or not? HERMAN: No. I think they have to make this -- I'm sorry. Go ahead, Avery.

JOHNS: Go ahead, Avery.

FRIEDMAN: I was going to say very simply stated the court can basically invalidate DOMA, which is a screwy law, Joe. It was a compromise act signed by Bill Clinton, never made any sense, always seemed like it was unconstitutional.

Even the Justice Department won't defend DOMA. So they can wrap it just on invalidating DOMA without answering the question of the validity of same-sex marriage. That's an easy way to do it. Frankly, that's what Supreme Court decisions often will resolve cases by. Look at the procedural issue, avoid the substantive issue.

JOHNS: Richard, do you want jump in there real fast?

HERMAN: Yes, Joe. I don't agree with Avery respectfully on this. This is an answer the American people want. The Supreme Court recognizes that. They will make a ruling on it. This court will decide this.

JOHNS: All right, hang on, guys. A Wisconsin dad is on the hook for $90,000 in back child support. He had nine kids with six different women. What the judge said he can't do anymore until he pays up. Legal guys will weigh in on that as well.

And the looming fiscal cliff, the president says raising money on the wealthiest Americans could raise a trillion dollars.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: If Congress and the president can reach a deal on averting the fiscal cliff it may well mean higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans. CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser explains what that means.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Hi, Joe. Raising taxes on high earning Americans, you know, is the biggest sticking point between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans as they try to hammer out a deal to avert the country falling off the fiscal cliff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Let's allow higher rates to go up for the top 2 percent. By doing that alone, we raise almost a trillion dollars.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Increasing rates will hit many small businesses that produce 60 percent to 70 percent of the new jobs in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STEINHAUSER: It appears most Americans agree with the president. A majority say they are OK with raising taxes on people with incomes over a quarter million a year. This Quinnipiac University poll is one of three surveys out over the past week and a half to indicate the public gives a thumbs-up to raising taxes on high earners.

But these polls also indicate a big partisan divide with Democrats and independents supporting such a move and a majority of Republicans opposed. The polls also suggest that most people want cuts in government spending as part of any deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

But not when it comes to entitlements. According to three new surveys including the Quinnipiac poll, a majority say no to raising the eligibility age for Medicare. Does the public think politicians in Washington will hammer out a deal before the end of the year deadline?

Americans appear divided, a plurality in one poll say yes, but a plurality in another are pessimistic. But one thing most people agree on -- they want both sides to compromise to get a deal done -- Joe.

JOHNS: CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser, thanks.

Coming up, a story and you ask yourself how could this happen? A baby girl caught in a middle of a custody battle between her adoptive parents and her biological father who said he never knew she was put up for adoption. Our legal guys weigh in on that case too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: A little girl in Utah is the focus of a custody battle between her biological father who never knew she was put up for adoption and the adoptive parents who want to keep her. Reporter Dan Rascon from our affiliate KUTV has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RASCON, KUTV REPORTER (voice-over): A beautiful 21 month old girl at the center of a long and emotional legal battle. Her biological father, Terry Achane, who lives in South Carolina and spoke to us by phone, calls her Talia.

TERRY ACHANE, BIOLOGICAL FATHER (via telephone): I have been with her six hours total out of her whole life. That's hard to deal with.

RASCON: Her adoptive family, the Fryes who live in Spanish Fort call her Lia. In a statement they say Terry abandoned Lia and her mother therefore they had a legal right to adopt her and make Lia part of their family.

But a judge didn't agree with the Fryes and ruled in favor of Terry saying the Fryes had no justification for withholding Talia from Terry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Utah has become an adoption meal. You follow the rule of law.

RASCON: Mark Wiser represent Terry Achane.

MARK WISER, ATTORNEY: They are buying and selling children is what's happening here. In this case they simply went too far and took a child away from a married father.

RASCON: Talia was born in March of 2011. Her mother and Terry who was in the military were having marital problems. A month before Talia's birth, Terry left for duty in South Carolina and he says his wife cut off communication.

ACHANE: She just made the decision not to let me be a father and went behind my back deceived me and gave up my child for adoption.

RASCON: Terry says he has been trying to get his child back from the adoption agency since June of 2011. But the Fryes say terry took almost no efforts to determine the whereabouts of his child after birth. He has never requested any update on her health and well-being and say they consider that abandonment.

ACHANE: She couldn't talk on the phone at the time. How could she know who she was talking to?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Let's bring our legal guys back, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor is in Cleveland. Richard Herman, New York criminal defense attorney and law professor joins us from Las Vegas.

So you know, when you look at a situation like this the first thing you ask if you've been to law school is if there is a policy problem here. Do either of you see a policy problem that there is a rule where the left hand isn't telling the right hand what's going on -- Avery.

FRIEDMAN: You know what, Joe. You know about going to law school. But the truth is that I don't see a policy issue at all. The fact is that every married mother or father has a constitutional liberty interest in their child. That's what this case is.

Judge McDade wrote a 48-page opinion saying what the adoption agency did in refusing to turn over this child essentially was -- he said it was indefensible and the fact is that even though the child will suffer because the child is going back to the natural father that there is no claim.

The Jared and Kristy Fryes basically are saying God is on their side. God is on the side of the child here. Legally, the child, I think, is going back to the natural father.

JOHNS: Richard, what about this issue of abandonment?

HERMAN: Yes. That's a nice argument to make here except for one thing. The biological father was duped and defrauded by mom of the year who told him she lost the child at birth. The child was then placed with this adoption agency. During the course of the adoption proceedings, this biological father called the adoption agency and said, listen, I understand you have my daughter. I want her back. Give me the information about her.

The adoption agency said, no. We're not going to disclose anything to you. You cannot underestimate the power of the Mormon Church in Utah who feel they determine the best interests of the child and that should be with a husband and a wife raising the child. That's the problem.

FRIEDMAN: That's not our case.

HERMAN: The judge deemed this case utterly indefensible. It is -- these people who have the child right now ought to be incarcerated immediately. The child must be returned to the biological father.

FRIEDMAN: You can't blame the church. I think this is just a battle between two people who love this child. Judge McDade did exactly the right thing.

JOHNS: We all know the main thing controlling here is the best interest of the child. Do you think a court ruling taking the kid back to the father is the best interest of the child?

HERMAN: No question about it. It's a biological father, Joe. That trumps anything. It's the biological parent has the right. If these people do not turn the child over, they will be incarcerated for contempt of court. They should be.

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

JOHNS: We have a full screen statement here, the "Salt Lake City Tribune" said Kristy Frye wrote after the ruling, we have only ever wanted to do right by Lia. We have been acting in her best interest to keep her with our family and raise her as our own. Our hearts have demanded it. There has never been any question to us that she's ours. What about that?

FRIEDMAN: Well, that's a loving mother and father who were given a child by the adoption agency wrongfully. Now the consequence, the best interest of the child, is governed by the law, Joe. The law says, a natural parent who didn't abandon a child has the right to that baby. That's what's going to happen here and frankly it's what should happen here.

HERMAN: These are mental cases. They've got to turn the child over. Their statement is ridiculous.

JOHNS: Let's go to this Wisconsin judge telling this man to stop making babies. At a recent sentencing hearing a judge ordered Cory Curtis who has nine children with six women to stop his compulsive procreation and pay the $90,000 he owes in child support.

He's now prohibited from fathering another child unless he can demonstrate his ability to support the child. It's a condition of his probation. Guys, isn't there a right to privacy and a right to procreate that a court can't put any constraints on -- Avery?

FRIEDMAN: That's great. In a general sense, there is a right to privacy not in Curtis's case. This guy is out there. He considers himself a love machine, I guess. He's out there procreating all over the place.

But I think Judge Boyle in this case did exactly the right thing. Pay up the child support. Do the other things that are required. Unfortunately, he has other crimes he's been convicted of.

And the fact is if there is a number ten child he's going to jail. There's not going to be a number 11 or 12. I think Judge Boyle did the right thing. I don't see it as a privacy issue. This guy's really out of control here.

JOHNS: Richard, $90,000 as a condition before you can have more babies.

HERMAN: This is -- I'll tell you something. First of all it's only $50,000 he's in arrears and $40,000 is interest on top of that.

FRIEDMAN: Good.

HERMAN: I think the judge has a problem. Here's the issue. In the state there is precedent to do this in an instance where a similar set of circumstances nine children, $100,000 in arrears. The father was a deadbeat, didn't pay.

But he had the ability to pay. The judge in that case said you cannot have any children unless you clear up your arrears and pay child support. In this case, Joe, this individual does not have the ability to pay and he should appeal this case.

FRIEDMAN: Sure he does.

HERMAN: I think the judge will be reversed because he doesn't have the ability to pay.

FRIEDMAN: Not a chance.

HERMAN: He will not appeal it. He says he'll abide by the decision.

JOHNS: We're going to wrap up here. I have to say according to the smoking gun the court records show this guy has been arrested and charged with failure to pay child support on numerous occasions over the last 11 years.

FRIEDMAN: And burglary and hot checks, Joe.

JOHNS: You got it.

FRIEDMAN: He's been convicted, right.

JOHNS: All right, we're going to come back to you in about 15 minutes. We'll also talk about a woman sued for defamation over her negative reviews on Yelp. Former South African president is in the hospital. We have a live report from Johannesburg.

If you have to go out today, just a reminder you can continue watching CNN from your mobile phone. You can also watch CNN live from your laptop. Just go to cnn.com/tv.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: We learned today that former South African President Nelson Mandela is in the hospital. A government statement said he was admitted to the hospital in Pretoria today.

CNN's Robyn Curnow joins us now live from Johannesburg. Robyn, what are officials saying about why he's been hospitalized?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is not a lot of information coming out from the presidency here. The statements that you alluded to there was very placatory to give the South African public and no doubt the international public a sense that everything's OK. They said he's well. There is nothing to worry about.

That this medical attention is consistent with his age, remember, Mandela is 94. That said, Mandela has around the clock medical attention at his rural homestead in the Eastern Cape. His doctors must be sufficiently concerned about his health, Joe, to fly him across the country to this hospital in Pretoria.

JOHNS: You have been able, being there, to get at least a bit of an assessment as to how his health was when you last saw him. Give us a sense of that.

CURNOW: Yes, I was fortunate to be at his birthday party in July at his homestead. He turned 94. He looked old. There's no doubt. He's much frailer than the previous year I saw him. He struggles to walk, I understand.

Particularly in the last few weeks, he hasn't been saying much. He's been, quote, quiet. That said he's robust. He has an extraordinary will to live. Look at his life story.

There have been other health scares and he's always bounced back. We are unclear at this moment how serious it is. When I did see him a few months ago he looked pretty strong for his age.

JOHNS: He is certainly very resilient. Thanks so much for that report. We'll keep up with you. Robyn Curnow in Johannesburg.

Now let's check stories trending on the web. Loyalist paramilitaries are behind some of the recent violence seen in Northern Ireland. Twelve people including a 13-year-old boy were arrested in Belfast overnight. Authorities are appealing for calm ahead of more protests planned in the area.

The Korean pop star Psy is apologizing for an anti-American song he sang in 2004, the singer who became famous for his Gangnam style song. He said he had become emotionally charged, but he's learned, quote, "there are limits to what language is appropriate."

The Los Angeles County coroner's office is releasing an autopsy report on a former rap star, Christopher Wallace, also known as the notorious BIG was shot to death more than 15 years ago. The 23-page report offers fresh details about his death.

For more on what's trending log onto cnn.com. If you're selling your house now you could be hit with serious tax implications if we go over the fiscal cliff. We'll explain that coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: A lot of people are making financial decisions based on what's going to happen if the U.S. goes over the so-called fiscal cliff. As Christine Romans reports, some homeowners could face a big tax bill.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Marketing firm Realty Trac reports one in three homes sold in the third quarter sold short. That's when you sell a house for less than you owe on it and that bank agrees to absorb the loss.

Right now you don't owe taxes on the forgiven debt. On the other side of the fiscal cliff you do. The mortgage forgiveness debt relief act gives homeowners a tax break on unpaid mortgage debt. It expires on December 31st unless Congress acts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAREN BLOMQUIST, VICE PRESIDENT, REALTY TRAC: The average amount that homeowners are short in a short sale is $95,000. If this tax break goes away as part of the so-called fiscal cliff, those homeowners could be taxed on the $95,000 as additional income starting in 2013.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: How much homeowners will owe in taxes on that amount depends on the tax bracket they are in. But on average it would be between about $20,000 to $25,000. The banks have extra incentive to sell short and absorb the loss.

Under the National Mortgage Settlement Act that went into effect earlier this year, the nation's biggest lenders get a credit for short sales as a form of foreclosure relief. Foreclosures also sell on average for $30,000 less than homes sold via short sales.

So as we're nearing the fiscal cliff, you could expect short sales to jump even more as homeowners look to avoid getting hit with taxes and banks look to avoid getting stuck with foreclosed properties.

If we go over the cliff the tax bill homeowners face with the short sale may be steep enough to walk away instead. That would push foreclosure rates higher in 2013. For "Smart is the New Rich," I'm Christine Romans.

JOHNS: Coming up, a huge legal headache for pop star Shakira. She's being slapped with a $100 million lawsuit by her ex-boyfriend and former business partner. Does he have a case? Our legal guys share their thoughts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Some legal trouble is brewing for international pop star Shakira. She's being sued for $100 million by her ex-boyfried and former business partner, Antonio Dela Roa. He claims he turned her into an icon and now wants he wants the singer to pay up.

Our legal guys are back, Avery Friedman in Cleveland and Richard Herman in Las Vegas. So, if I get this right, the gist of this question that's been filed is whether this guy can collect on what was essentially a verbal contract. This is basically a breach of contract case. Do you think he can collect on a verbal contract for this kind of money -- Avery.

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know what? Shakira made "Hips Don't Lie" famous, but she is claiming that her ex-boyfriend is lying. I think when it comes to the question of the existence of the contract I think you're actually are right on point.

There is no evidence except for one thing, Joe. That's that in October of 2011 Shakira writes an instruction to her lawyer that's gone public that says fire Dela Rua, as if he were an employee. If not an employee why would Shakira give instructions to fire him?

While there is no contract, the court will dismiss most of this. What remains is that one question. I think that's ultimately what goes to a jury. That's where Shakira is facing some problems.

JOHNS: Richard, there is a little bit more evidence when you think about it from her web site January 2011 a statement where she said, quote, "we continue to be partners in our business and professional lives." Is that flimsy evidence or enough to say, this guy wins?

HERMAN: This guy will absolutely win this case. Shakira must settle. The fact that there is no written agreement -- while it would be nice -- is not controlling. What the courts will do is look at the course of conduct between the parties.

Does it corroborate? Does it substantiate terms of an agreement? He was with her since 2004. He made her explode on the pop scene. He is responsible for all of this. He was paid during that period of time and then when she got a new boyfriend she left.

Joe, listen, she not only said that. He said, he continues -- when they broke up. He continues to oversee and conduct my business interests as he has always done. She further said, we continue to be partners in all our projects.

When you post that up to a jury, she's done. She is done. Look at the course of payment over the time. That will control. He has an absolute lawsuit here, an absolute right to collect. He will collect. Joe, she'll settle this case.

FRIEDMAN: I agree she'll settle it, but I don't know that she wins on the merits. JOHNS: CNN reached out to Shakira and so far, we haven't gotten a comment back.

FRIEDMAN: She never called you back.

JOHNS: You know --

HERMAN: They never call Fred back either.

FRIEDMAN: I know, I know. What's the matter with these people?

JOHNS: The Yelp defamation suit. This has gotten a lot of publicity. A woman in Virginia hit with a defamation suit after claiming in an online Yelp review that a contractor damaged her home and possibly stole her jewelry.

There are a lot of people out there shocked by this. The contractors, Christopher Dietz, he files a $750,000 an internet defamation suit against Jane Perez last month saying postings on Yelp and Angie's list, for example, were false and scared customers away.

You know, people are a little bit surprised are they not that they can hit with a defamation suit for something they write on the internet, should they be? Richard?

HERMAN: It's an interesting question, Joe. You know, each jurisdiction in our country is struggling with cases like this as social webs ites grow and as the eyeballs that view the sites grow, court wills struggle with these issues in the future.

What can you do if you're slammed on the internet? What can you do? Write to people and say, stop? Or go to court to try to stop them which this contractor did. In the end an opinion is an opinion.

It's not actionable for defamation cases. In this case, this contractor in the end will be dismissed in court. This person has every right to state her opinion as to the shoddy workmanship.

FRIEDMAN: Her opinion, right.

HERMAN: And she cannot state that he stole anything. That's what the judge said.

FRIEDMAN: Good point.

HERMAN: She said missing jewelry.

FRIEDMAN: That's the point.

HERMAN: She can't say that. Everything else she can say.

JOHNS: Go ahead. We're looking at pictures, by the way, of some of the work she contends was shoddy. You be the judge.

FRIEDMAN: You know, Christopher Dietz responded on the site saying it didn't happen. We went to high school together. A court is intervening and I'm struggling with this. If the first amendment means anything it means Americans are supposed to sort these things out.

Again it's an interim order, not dispositive of the case. Here is an example of oh where technology is leaps and bounds ahead of the law. We'll see mixed opinions by judges. It is a struggle. I think at the end of the day though the first amendment suffers with this kind of opinion.

JOHNS: Avery and Richard, thanks so much. I guess I have to cut it off at this point. Appreciate it. Always good to see you guys. The legal guys are here every Saturday at this time at 4:00 p.m. Eastern to give us their take on the most intriguing legal cases of the day.

Forget the winter blues. If you want sun, fun and relaxation, stick around. A travel expert tells us her top spots for a warm getaway. I'm ready for that.

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JOHNS: It's 72 degrees and sunny sounds pretty good in December especially when many of us are dealing with a cold, gray winter. If you want to escape the cold, you can visit some place warm. Kate Maxwell, the editor-in-chief of Jetsetter explains.

KATE MAXWELL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, JETSETTER: It's a fantastic time of year to go to Costa Rica. I was there over Thanksgiving. It was in the 80s, sunny every day. Parador Resort and spa is a great place to base yourself. It's on the edge of the Manuel Antonio National Park, which is a jungle-filled wonderland.

You will see everything from sloths to three types of monkeys, white- face monkeys, spider monkeys, howler monkeys and loads and loads of birds. It's a great place to go if you want to combine adventure with beach because there are also four spectacular beaches. The Parador itself is a European-style resort. It has a spa, mini golf, tennis. Some of the rooms even have their own Jacuzzi on the balcony.

Tortuga bay is a hotel within a hotel. It's on the east coast of the Dominican Republic, really stunning part of the Caribbean. The hotel is designed by Fashion Designer Eschar Dela Renta so it has a super chic look, tan and black interior. It's really, really up scale.

The service is second to none. There are lots of restaurants. A Six Senses spa, they do some of my favorite spas in the world. Swimming pools, water sports on offer. You can go snorkelling with stingrays and nurse sharks. You can go kiteboarding. There is lots of golf as well.

At the Saguaro Palm Springs is a real breath of fresh air for Palm Springs. Most of them have a desert look. They're tan, beige colors. This is the exact opposite. It's a pop of color in the desert, multi- colored place. It has rooms that look onto an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

They start at just $139 a night. A fantastic restaurant called Tinto, which is by Iron Chef Jose Garces. It serves cuisine from the north part of Spain and there is a tequila bar. Lots to do in Palm Springs, you can take the tramway up the mountains where it's about 30 degrees cooler. Great for trekking. You can go to Joshua Tree National Park or on architecture tours.

JOHNS: For more travel tips and ideas visit jetsetter.com. Tonight, they will be awarding Colleges Heisman Trophy and it could be life- changing for one player. It could be historic for the Heisman Trophy itself.

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JOHNS: Now checking top stories this hour. The fighting in Syria is intensifying around Damascus airport. Reuters reports the government still controls the airport, but rebels say they are blockading it from most sides.

Meanwhile the international community is worried President Bashar Al- Assad's troops may launch chemical weapons attack. Syria says it won't use chemical weapons against its people.

Next March, the Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments challenging two controversial laws on same-sex marriage. One is the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies benefits to same-sex partners. Also before the justices is the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8. Rulings could come as early as June.

So can he do it? Just hours from now Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel or "Johnny Football" could become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel is favored to win college football's most coveted award. The two other deserving finalists are Notre Dame linebacker, Manti Otea and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

Coming up at 2 p.m. Easter, we'll talk to a worker in the Philippines about the devastating typhoon and the search for survivors. And also the pope's senior communications adviser tells me about the Pontiff's social media strategy. The pope will send out his first tweet soon.

And at 3 p.m., former NFL player, Coy Wire joins me on the set to talk about the idea of completely eliminating kickoffs and why he says it's a good idea. "YOUR MONEY" starts right now.