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Boehner at the White House; Investigation on Nurse's Suicide; Mandela Still in the Hospital; 2012's Biggest Stories

Aired December 9, 2012 - 16:00   ET


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, thanks for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik, Fredericka Whitfield is off.

An encouraging sign in the fiscal cliff negotiations. President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met today at the White House. We're not getting any details yet from the White House as how those negotiations went, except to say that the lines of communications remained open. Both sides of the fiscal cliff negotiations are much closer than you may think despite what lawmakers say publicly.

On today's "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley, Jackie Calmes of "The New York Times" picked up on something that 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 the Senate Democrats and taking the 98 percent of the tax cuts that they all 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 back down again. And it's hard to think that that's not where they're going to end up so why not make it clean instead of ugly.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's true that many Republicans are saying privately what Tom Cole said publicly on the show. But they believe that the politically expedient and right thing to do right now is just to cut their losses, agree to the tax rates going up for the most wealthy and really try for significant tax reform so that 39.6 percent is going to be moot.


KOSIK: So the good news is that negotiations do continue, there was a meeting today between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. That happened at the White House today. We are trying to get more details. We're trying to get our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin on the phone to give us more of those details and when she gets more we will bring it to you.

You've heard the fiscal cliff could put a hit on your family income but you really know how much its going to cost you. CNN's Lisa Sylvester does the math.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) At the Whitlow's on Wilson Restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, plenty of food and drink, but there's something else cooking up. Worry. Co-owner Jonathan Williams concern about the pending government fiscal cliff.

JONATHAN WILLIAMS, PARTNERS, WHITLOWS ON WILSON: There's a real simple correlation, people have jobs they spend money. If people are worried about losing their jobs, or don't have a job, they're not going to go out that much, they're going to cook at home or stay home.

SYLVESTER: Just a couple miles from the Pentagon, many of the patrons here work directly or indirectly for the Defense Department and it's contractors. The defense industry is facing $55 billion in discretionary spending cuts next year unless Congress acts to avert this so-called fiscal cliff.

In addition several key tax benefits are scheduled to expire at the end of the year that will have a direct impact on the pocket books of many Americans. Take a couple with one child living in New York or earning $100,000. Their tax rate jumps from 25 percent to 28 percent. They could be hit by the alternative minimum tax. The child tax credit drops from $1,000 to $500 and payroll taxes could be $2,000 more next year.

For a single 25-year-old in Michigan who works full-time earning $30,000 a year going to school part-time, his tax rate would stay the same at 15 percent. But he would lose the American education tax credit and have to pay more than $600 in payroll taxes. And even though it's weeks before the changes would take effect the impact is already being felt because of uncertainty. 401(k) plans are taking a hit. Several companies have put a freeze on hiring.

And the next thing to watch for, the retail sector which makes most of its money in the final weeks of the year. Black Friday is over and retailers are just hoping it doesn't turn into bleak Friday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm shortening down the list a lot, you know, just doing the essentials taking care of the priorities and then trying to be, you know, penny wise and not dollar stupid.

SYLVESTER (on camera): The National Retail Federation did a survey that 64 percent of Americans are watching closely the negotiations in Washington over the fiscal cliff and that a lot of consumers are taking a wait and see approach, reluctant to go on a spending spree.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.


KOSIK: OK. I know you've got them, you've got questions about the fiscal cliff, so get them to me by tweeting them to me at my handle @alisonkosik and we'll answer as many as we can during our 5:00 hour.

Now to the latest on that tragic 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 some 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 "truly tragic" and also said "We are anxious to review the results of an investigation." The family of the nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, posted about her on Facebook. Her daughter wrote simply, "I miss you, I love you."

The Dallas Cowboys took the field against the Cincinnati Bengals without two players, linebacker Jerry Brown Jr. was killed 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 that 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.


OFC. JOHN ARGUMANIZ, IRVING POLICE DEPT.: 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 field 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.

And an update to last week's tragedy that shocked the Kansas City Chiefs. New video released by police show Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher hours before he apparently killed his girlfriend and then himself. The first dash cam video here 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.

Now listen to what police told him in this video released by Kansas City police.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You live right here? Then you just need to go upstairs, dude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. That's going to be your best bet.

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


KOSIK: OK. Now, I want you to look at the second dash cam video from just five hours later. And officers here are responding to a second Belcher 911 call and at this moment, Belcher had apparently already killed the mother of his child and shot himself at the Chiefs' Kansas City practice facility right in front of his coaches.

Listen now to the officers learning who is behind the violence.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: we do have a confirmed shooting and it is I believe, Belcher who plays with the Chiefs. We have confirmed that.


KOSIK: A dispatcher said Belcher was outside of the players' entrance.

It's the holiday season, but the fiscal gift from Washington may end up leaving you with the bill and it could be a biggie.

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


KOSIK: And you're looking at the annual lighting ceremony of the National Menorah. Happening right now near the White House. The ceremony marks the eight day Jewish holiday of Hanukah which began last night. Tonight is the second night. Thousands of people are lining up there, gathering there to (INAUDIBLE) for the big event. The Menorah is called the world's largest. The lighting celebration began under President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Everybody gathering there waiting for it to be lighted.

Twenty three days, yes, 23 days we're going to hit that fiscal cliff we all have been talking so much about ad nauseam. A little earlier this afternoon, the president and House Speaker John Boehner met at the White House to discuss efforts to resolve the crisis. So we at least know that the lines of communication are open. But you know what? A deal is needed by January 1st, to avoid those federal automatic spending cuts and tax increase for just about everybody.

Jason Johnson is professor at Hiram College in Ohio and chief political correspondent for You know what? This has got to be the biggest game of political chicken since the debt ceiling debacle last summer.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, HIRAM COLLEGE: Oh, yes, and no one wants it to be a debacle. So that's why it's a game of chicken. Look John Boehner knows there's no victor for the Republican party if we go off this cliff. Barack Obama knows he just won the election so he can pretty much win this argument. So right now it's a lot of posturing, a lot of chest beating, but we're all going to have a happy Christmas. They're going to work this out before they go off the fiscal cliff.

KOSIK: Will they really? JOHNSON: I really think so. Because I think it's too dangerous for both sides. Look, we just got surprisingly good on employment numbers I don't think either party wants to be on their backs if he we go off this cliff, people go off unemployment, payroll taxes go up I think it will be bad for both sides and the Republicans would actually take the brunt of it.

KOSIK: OK. So on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Republican Congressman Tim Cole of Oklahoma said this about the situation. Listen to what he said and then I'll get your take on it.


REP. TIM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Some of our people think if we just dig in and hold strong, we can stop it. That's not is case, it happens automatically. You have to do something and doing something requires the cooperation of the Senate which Democrats run and the signature of the president. So we're not going to get 100 percent of what we want, but we can get a lot. John Boehner is trying to focus this where it belongs and that's on spending restraint and entitlement reform because this revenue won't come close to dealing with our fiscal problem.


KOSIK: So does this mean that President Obama sort of holds all the cards not just with the automatic spending cuts, but on the tax cuts as well?

JOHNSON: Well, yes, because the Republicans - we saw these a couple of weeks ago when they were backing off their pledge to Grover Norquist. All this sort of "I'm going to stand my ground, I'm going to draw these lines." They're not working anymore. The Republicans recognize that these pledges, these commitments, they're not the reality that we're facing right now economically. So I think a lot of them are going to bend, they're not going to recognize they can't get a big victory right now.

KOSIK: All right. Let's look at a recent "Washington Post" poll, what it does is shows who Americans really are going to blame if we do go over the cliff. Fifty three percent say Republicans in Congress, 27 percent say the president. 12 percent say both sides equally. That coupled with the president winning the election on the promise to raise millionaire's taxes. You know, what edge, if any, does Speaker Boehner have, do the Republicans have in this battle? They really don't have much leverage, do they?

JOHNSON: They really have little or no leverage. This is what happens when you lose Look, the Democrats faced the same thing in 2004, when George Bush got re-elected, they realized they got to scale back were going to have to scale back. They're going to have to buck their heads for a bit and say, "OK, we're going to do what he wants us to do." And the Republicans are in the exact same place. Look, they're going to ask for entitlement reforms. They're going to ask to lower certain types of taxes but it's not going to happen They're going to fold and Obama is going to get the victory. KOSIK: And this is going to happen on December 31st at what? 11:59?

JOHNSON: Probably 11:59 - I mean, look, you know, Boehner and Obama are meeting today for a reason because they know that they got to do the chest beating outside everybody else but inside they know, please, Obama's begging, Boehner's begging. They're going to finish this up.

KOSIK: All right. Jason, it continues to be nail biter. Thanks.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

KOSIK: A popular Mexican-American singer is missing. She just performed at a concert in Mexico last night. What happened after she boarded a plane.


KOSIK: A search is under way now for popular Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. Police believed the southern California native boarded a plane after performing at a concert last night in Monterrey, Mexico. That plane they say lost contact with air traffic controllers outside of Monterrey. People in Espanol named Rivera one of its top 25 most powerful women this year. We're going to have more on the search for her next hour.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela had spent a second day in a hospital. The 94-year-old was rushed to the hospital in Pretoria yesterday for tests. Our Robin Curnow has the details.

ROBIN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alison, the South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed in a very short statement on Sunday that he had visited with Nelson Mandela in the hospital and Mandela is comfortable and in good care. We understand from a previous statement from the president that Mandela is undergoing tests although the South African public is not being told of what those tests are and exactly what Mandela's condition is. However, there is concern because he was flown yesterday, Saturday from his rural home in the eastern Cape region to Pretoria. This is a two-hour flight and understandably doctors must have felt that he needed some sort of specialist's treatment at this hospital.

So South Africans still waiting for news and understandably, he's very loved in this country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One is never ready to let go and say goodbye. So yes, we wish him good health, continued good health.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he was the hope of our future and for him to be ill now, we understand that he is old and he has had a lot of stress in his life and it's very saddening. Be we all do love him. He was the hope of our future.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CURNOW: So as Mandela spends another night in hospital, it's unclear when he will leave and if authorities will give anymore information on his condition. Alison?

KOSIK: 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 premiers tonight at 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

The pictures of 2012. We'll tell you the stories behind some of the most powerful images of the year.


KOSIK: So when you look back on this year, on 2012, what do you remember? What people will stand out in your mind? Our Josh Levs is here with an interactive look at this year's biggest stories. Josh, what you got?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Alison. I've got to tell you, these pictures are really phenomenal. And folks I'll tell you at the end where you can save these and a lot more.

Let me just show you some of the most amazing shots of the year. This takes you all the way back to the beginning of the year. This is Big Ben at last New Year's. Lets jump ahead. I'm going to take you chronologically some of the pictures of the year. This is the Costa Concordia, when they had that horrible accident in January. This one a lot of people missed at the time.

Beautiful picture of someone riding a horse through a village in Spain in honor of the patron saint of animals. This one is wild. This picture - that's a face here. This is from an Occupy Wall Street protests out west in which people turned themselves into this human blob basically.

And this one, absolutely striking, stunning photo. Gabby Giffords hugging the House cloak room attendant when Gabby was resigning officially from Congress. A couple more of them - I want to show you something to vote on here. This is powerful picture in March. This is a Tibetan monk who was running, setting himself on fire in protest of a visit by China's president.

This one is a reminder of how gorgeous the Olympics was, really the incredible pictures here. And let's just show you one more here which I think is very powerful. Here's a rescue worker carrying a child in China after some earthquakes that had occurred back to back right there.

Now these are just some of what you can see on as we look back at 2012. Another spread we have got for you right here is this. Some of the best sports photos of the year, and I won't give you the stories behind all of them, because I'm going to consider this a tease to push you to the web. I'll show you where the link is. Look at all these beautiful pictures. Finally, it's a chance for you all to vote on something very interesting. Who was the most intriguing person of the year? And Alison, I tell you, we got some interesting choices up here. Some of the kind of obvious people, like Chris Christie, you can pick any face, you can drag it over, say which ones you think are most intriguing. President Obama's there. Mitt Romney is there. Mohamed Morsi is there. You've also got Gabby Douglas, David Petraeus and a lot more people who you can vote on and we'll be announcing the results of who you think are the most intriguing people.

Let's show everybody my screen. Everything's linked up for you at Facebook and Twitter, and at the blog I will tell you, Alison, this year just flew by, didn't it?

KOSIK: Doesn't it always though. The years always fly by.

LEVS: So bad.

KOSIK: Enjoy every moment, Josh.

LEVS: I know, I got to hold on to it.

KOSIK: Did you know the Romneys, they were spotted in Vegas last night, Josh.

LEVS: Really?

KOSIK: They had nothing to do with politics actually. That's just one of the stories that are trending right now.


KOSIK: Look, look what's trending online. Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, were in the building when Juan Manuel Marquez knocked up Manny Pacquiao last night. They were spotted ringside at the MGM Grand in Vegas. Romney was even seen shaking hands with Pacquiao wishing him well before the fight.


KOSIK: And the Rolling Stones rocked Brooklyn. The iconic rock band performed at the Barclays Center last night. I missed it. Darn. It's their first U.S. show marking the band's 50th anniversary. I'm going to be back at the top of the hour, and I have the story of why the parents of a Georgia middle school girl ended up being charged after their daughter got into a fistfight.

And next up on "IN FOCUS," a profile of how faith keeps driving one of the NFL's most successful coaches, Joe Gibbs.

"IN FOCUS" begins right now.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Against nearly 600 billion in holiday shopping. One company is threatening to revolutionize retail, dramatically changing how, when and where we shop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a very secretive company and operating below the radar helps it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a wolf in sheep's clothing is probably the better way to describe it.

FOREMAN: Hall of Fame football coach, NASCAR guru and now evangelist.