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Investigation into Nurse's Death; Cowboys Player Killed in Crash; New Video Shows Linebacker Before Death; Three Dead After Shooting; American Doctor Rescued in Afghanistan; Fiscal Cliff: Standoff or Stalemate; Food Safety at Risk From Fiscal Cliff; Chavez Going to Cuba for Surgery; Right to Work or Union Busting; Pope Joins the Twitterverse

Aired December 9, 2012 - 14:30   ET


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alison Kosik. Fredricka Whitfield is off.

Let's begin with the latest on that terrible story out of Britain, the investigation continues into the apparent suicide of a nurse at the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated.

She took a prank phone call from Australian radio deejays looking for information on the duchess' condition. Today, the head of the Australian Radio Network wrote a letter to the head of the hospital.

He called the whole thing quote truly tragic and also said we are anxious to review the results of an investigation. The family of the nurse, Jacintha Saldahna, posted about her on Facebook her daughter wrote simply I miss you. I love you.

The Dallas cowboys took the field today against the Cincinnati Bangles without two players. Linebacker Jerry Brown Jr. early yesterday when the car he was riding in hit a curb at high speed in Irving, Texas.

Police say the Mercedes went 900 feet, flipped and caught fire. Police say Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent was pulling Brown from the burning car when they arrived. Brown was pronounced dead and Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter.


OFFICER JOHN ARGUMANIZ, IRVING POLICE DEPARTMENT: Our officers on scene felt as if alcohol was a contributing factor in the accident, so Mr. Price Brent was asked to perform some field sobriety tests.

After he performed those sobriety tests, based on his performance of those tests, along with our officer's observations and the conversations they had with him, he was placed under arrest for driving while intoxicated.


KOSIK: Brent did not enter a plea when he was arraigned this morning. Bail was set at $500,000. An update to last week's tragedy that shocked the Kansas City Chiefs, new video released by police showed Chief's linebacker Jovan Belcher hours before he apparently killed his girlfriend and then himself.

The first dash cam video shows police talking to Belcher after they found him apparently sleeping in his car. He was not arrested and Belcher told police he was going to an apartment to see a woman.

Listen now to what police told him in this video released by Kansas City Police.


UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER 1: You live right here? You just need to go upstairs, dude.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER 2: Yes -- OK, that's going to be your best bet.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER 1: We're trying to cut you a break here.


KOSIK: OK, now, look at the second dash cam video from just five hours later. Officers here are responding to a second Belcher 911 call and at this moment, Belcher had killed the mother of his child and shot himself at the Chief's Kansas City practice facility right in front of his coaches. Listen now to the officers learning who was behind the violence.


UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: We have a confirmed shooting and it is I believe Belcher, played with the Chiefs, we have confirmed that.


KOSIK: A dispatcher says Belcher was outside of the player's entrance.

A shooting in California on an Tule Indian Reservation leaves two dead and four others injured. Police say the suspect, Hector Falia shot and killed three people two and took off in a car with his two young daughters. The police caught up with Falia and exchanged gunfire with him before taking him into custodoy. Falia and one of his daughters are being treated for life threatening injuries.

Coalition forces have rescued an American doctor in Afghanistan. He was working for a non-profit agency when he and two colleagues were abducted while returning from a health clinic near Kabul. His two colleagues were released. There are conflicting reports about the identity of their captures. Forces say they're Taliban insurgents, while two Afghan officials say they're smugglers.

Both sides in the fiscal cliff negotiations are much closer than you might think despite what lawmakers are saying publicly. On today's "STATE OF THE UNION," with Candy Crowley, Jackie Calmes of the "New York Times" picked up on something Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma said recently.


JACKIE CALMES, "NEW YORK TIMES": He said you know, the Republicans really ought to think about just declaring victory by going along with the president and Senate Democrats and taking the 98 percent of the tax cuts they agree on for everybody below $250,000.

And then just work next year on tax reform and see if they can get the top rate down again. It's hard to think that's not going to be where they end up, so why not make it clean instead of ugly.

I think that it is true that many Republicans are saying privately what Tom Cole said on this show, that they believe the politically expedient and right thing to do now is just to cut their losses, agree to tax rates going up for the most wealthy and really try for significant tax reforms so that 39.6 percent is going to be moot.


KOSIK: If nothing is done by the end of the year to avoid the fiscal cliff, automatic federal spending cuts could impact the foot we eat. CNN's Emily Schmidt explains.


EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Preparing for holidays is a reminder of something else around the corner, a fiscal cliff deadline that is personal here.

TRESSA BENNETT, MOTHER: I just can't imagine funding being cut at this point. It would be tragic.

SCHMIDT: Tressa is worried budget cuts would hurt food safety inspection. That's mattered to her since her twins her born in 1999. She and her babies got Listeria poisoning from meat she ate while pregnant.

The Centers for Disease Control says contaminated food sickens about 48 million a year, 3,000 people die. So the FDA and USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service are charged with protecting the food supply.

An 8.2 percent budget cut translates to a combined $157 million. There's no word exactly what cuts would mean to inspector staffing.

CHRIS WALDROP, CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA: Both FDA and USDA are already stretched pretty thin when it comes to the inspection activities and the food safety work they do. They really need increased resources and not fewer resources.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Agencies always say they're stretched.

SCHMIDT: Dean Clancy is with "FreedomWorks," an organization that promotes smaller government and he says the cuts leave nothing to fear. DEAN CLANCY, FREEDOMWORKS: Arguing that getting spending under control endangers public health and safety is a really irresponsible scare tactic especially when you realize that these aren't real cuts. These are reductions from anticipated increases in spending.

WALDROP: Cut the budget for the work these agencies do, it's going to significantly impact them today, tomorrow.

BENNETT: You made that one, didn't you?

SCHMIDT: Tressa Bennett and her kids are now healthy and food safety advocates.

BENNETT: Remember, we all have to eat.

SCHMIDT: And they say nobody should have to fear what they eat.


SCHMIDT: A company that tracks food recalls says there was 414 last quarter, the highest level in at least two years. Most of the recalls came from worries about food borne illness. Emily Schmidt, CNN, Washington.

KOSIK: So got any questions about the fiscal cliff, well, here's what I want you to do, tweet them right to me @alisonkosik, that's my Twitter handle and we're going to answer as many as we can during our 5:00 hour.

Venezuela's leader says his cancer is back, so he must go to Cuba for treatment. A live report is next.

And former South African President Nelson Mandela is still in the hospital. We'll tell you how he's doing.


KOSIK: Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, will soon return to Cuba for cancer surgery. He's already taken the extraordinary step of preparing for a successor. CNN's Patrick Oppmann, joins us now live from Havana. Patrick, any word when he may arrive?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alison, Hugo Chavez has said he is now battling for his life. We don't expect him to delay. Venezuela's parliament has cleared the way for him to come here. He had to ask under the constitution permission to leave the country for more than five days.

He, this afternoon, received that permission, although some opposition lawmakers criticized Chavez for lack of transparency, for saying he had been cured of cancer and now that he obviously is suffering from the disease yet again. It's the third instance that cancer has struck Mr. Chavez in the last year and a half.

All eyes now really on the man who could succeed Chavez, his vice president, who essentially will be running the country in his absence. He is a union leader. Has been a foreign minister for Chavez and one of the big questions is will he continue some of the policies of Chavez.

Chavez essentially gave away billions of dollars of Venezuela's oil wealth to prop up countries like Cuba, so making him one of the more influential leaders in the region, but hasn't always been very popular in Venezuela, but all eyes in Cuba on the Venezuelan president as he's expected to arrive perhaps as soon as today to begin immediate cancer treatment here in Havana -- Alison.

KOSIK: So, why did Chavez need permission to go to Cuba in the first place?

OPPMANN: You know, we've seen this as he spent months and months here over the last year and a half as part of this country's institution, if he spends more than five days out of the country, he needs permission and if he were to spend more than 30 days, he would be removed from power. That's not going to happen.

He's dealing with a national assembly that's full of his supporters, but there was rare criticism today from members of the opposition and even doubts about his health, about the wisdom of leaving the country for so long.

About why he needs to go to another country to receive health care that he perhaps could receive in Venezuela, but at the end of the day, Chavez still remains incredibly popular in Venezuela.

But at the end of the day, Hugo Chavez (inaudible) incredibly popular in Venezuela, we've seen thousands of Venezuelans taking the streets today to voice their support for Chavez, so send him best wishes as he begins the battle for his life.

KOSIK: OK, CNN Patrick Oppman from Havana, thanks.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela has spent a second day in the hospital. South African President Jakob Zuma visited him and said he's comfortable. There are no other details of his condition. The 94-year-old Mandela was rushed to a hospital in Pretoria yesterday for tests.

And this programming note, CNN's Soledad O'Brien examines provocative questions about skin color, discrimination and race. "Who is Black in America," the documentary appears tonight at 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Is it fighting for the right to work or is it union busting? That battle's being fought right in the heart of the American labor movement and the workers have stormed the state capital.


KOSIK: Michigan. It's the corner stone of the American labor movement, but could be in for the biggest shake up in its history. Despite rallies of union workers in the state capital, Michigan lawmakers are on the verge of passing a right to work law. Experts say it would be massive symbolic blow to the labor movement.

Susan Candiotti is on the story for us now. Susan, this legislation would essentially relieve workers from being forced to pay union dues even though they still will enjoy the benefits of union-negotiated contracts. So if this becomes law, what would it mean for unions and what kind of political path they can carry after this?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alison, that is the question, isn't it? Politically, it could be a major blow to unions. Last month in Michigan, for example, voters rejected a referendum that would have made this right to work law unconstitutional.

Passage could also make unions in the private sector obsolete. If the right to work law passes, union supporters are convinced pay and benefits could take a big hit. The latest bureau of labor statistics for 2011 put the median salary for full time union workers at about $940 a week compared to about $730 a week for non-union workers. The head of the United Auto Workers in Michigan, not happy.


BOB KING, UAW PRESIDENT: The data and the facts from all of the right to work states show that it's right to work for less.


CANDIOTTI: In Michigan, 17.5 percent of the workforce is unionized, one of the highest of any state -- Alison.

KOSIK: All right, Susan, so supporters including Republicans, led by GOP Governor RICK SCHNEIDER, they think the bill is going to wind up boosting the economy there, not hurt it and that's the whole point of this law, right?

CANDIOTTI: Exactly. The governor and others insist that right to work laws will save jobs and in fact, bring more work to Michigan and even increase salaries by not forces union dues on workers. Here's Michigan's governor.


GOVERNOR RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: To give freedom of choice to the workplace and that legislators move promptly and efficiently in moving that through the legislature and when it arrives on my desk, I plan on signing it.


KOSIK: So, Susan, what kind of turnout is going to be expected this week at Michigan capital when lawmakers are expected to vote and they are expected to vote by when?

CANDIOTTI: Well, Tuesday, as early as Tuesday. Some people, Alison, are predicting 7,000 demonstrators coming into town. Last week when supporters and opponents jammed the capital, the state police locked the doors.

They said for safety reasons and union reps had to get a court order to reopen the halls. Now, if the bill is passed, some people are talking about recall campaigns like we saw in Wisconsin or maybe legal challenges. We'll see.

KOSIK: OK, looks interesting to follow. Thanks, Susan Candiotti.

You can now talk to the pope with just a click of a mouse. That's because he's joined Twitter. Find out what he'll be tweeting about and how you can join in the conversation.


KOSIK: More than a billion people follow the pope spiritually. Now, they can also follow him virtually. That's because he's officially joined Twitter. The pope is set to send his first tweet this Wednesday, December 12th.

Joe Johns talked to Greg Burke, he is the senior communications adviser for the Vatican about what the response has been so far.


GREG BURKE, VATICAN SENIOR ADVISER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Some are very nice questions. One lady who obviously likes gardens says what's your favorite place in the Vatican Garden to pray and then more serious things, you know, people saying what are you reading to prepare for Christmas?

And another one I liked a lot, which I think probably a lot of parents can relate to, could you please pray for my children to that they return to the church? So, there are all sorts of questions coming in. In terms of what will be selected and what the pope will answer, I keep telling people, this is the Pope, it's going to be a spiritual message.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: So, tell us, just how tech savvy is the pope? Is he an iPhone guy? Is he a Blackberry guy? Does he actually send e-mails?

BURKE: The pope, I tell people you know, they say, does the pope have a computer? That's sort of like asking if the pope has a car. He has several, but he's normally not the one driving and unlike the rest of us, the pope is not looking down at his iPad during the meeting or the Blackberry doing that.

He's a pen and paper guy very much, but he is a word guy and he certainly does realize, or a word person. That doesn't sound very reverential or a word pope. I think appreciates Twitter because of that. He recognizes this is a way to get the message out.

JOHNS: The pope is going to be tweeting this seven languages, English, German, Italian, Portuguese and Arabic. Why include Arabic and leave the Latin out? BURKE: Why leave the Latin out? That's the good question and don't, don't, don't, don't think it's out for good. We'll see what happens because there are actually a lot more people in the Vatican who speak Latin than Arabic, but Arabic is an outreach especially after the trip to Lebanon.

After the trip, the pope started doing a short thing in Arabic and it's a shout out, if you will, to the Christians, many of whom are living in difficult circumstances, Arab Christians in northern Africa and other parts of the Mideast. The biggest response is in English and then a very, very big response in Spanish as well.

JOHNS: It's pretty clear this is sort of a social makeover for the Vatican, if you will. What are they going to do next?

BURKE: Who knows? You know, we've got some apps coming up in terms of being able to connect on their tablets, on their smart phones right away with the Vatican. You know, any legitimate means basically, that's it. This is old meeting new. We'll see how it works.

I think it certainly can work. Twitter is certainly a way to get your message out, all over the world. Globally, the church is a global institution as you've seen all the different languages and it's a way to do it which is not real labor intensive either. So we'll see.


KOSIK: And if you want to join in on the conversation on Twitter, tweet @pontieffect using the hash tag @askpontiffx We'll be right back.


KOSIK: Let's check on stories trending on the internet today. Boxer, Manny Pacquiao has lost a nontitle bout to Juan Manuel Marquez. He was knocked out in the sixth round. Now before the match though, this is kind of strange, Mitt Romney, who was there, wished him luck.

Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has made history. He was named the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner yesterday. Manziel is the first freshman to win the Heisman college award. >

The Los Angeles Police Department is apologizing for releasing the notorious B.I.G.'s autopsy without telling the late rapper's family first. The report revealed fresh details of his 1997 death.

I'll be back in one hour. The game of political chicken over the fiscal cliff is still being played in Washington. Why Congress emptied out this weekend with no deal in hand.

Plus, what are the most intriguing images of 2012? From the disturbing to the hilarious, we'll look at the year that was. "YOUR MONEY" starts right now.