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DJs Off Air After Royal Prank; Obama Stumps For Fiscal Cliff Plan; Unions Brace For Crippling Blow; North Korea Extends Rocket Launch Window; EU Given Nobel Peace Prize; Jenni Rivera Killed In Plane Crash; Goodbye Diesel, Hello Natural Gas

Aired December 10, 2012 - 10:00   ET


TED ROWLANDS, CNN ANCHOR: And next hour begins right now. Stories we're watching right now off the air and under siege. Two radio deejays speak out for the first time on the royal prank phone call that's now being blamed for a nurse's suicide, amid the outrage, new legal questions.

President Obama hits the road as the nation inches closer to the fiscal cliff. With talks bogged down in Washington, he heads to Detroit to rally middle class support for his plan.

Plus, this, a plane crash cuts short the life of popular Mexican- American singer, Jenni Rivera. We'll look back on her rise to fame from her humble beginnings.

And he might be the oldest college football player on the field, but this Texas Long Horn is now the most inspirational.

NEWSROOM starts right now.

Good morning. I'm Ted Rowlands sitting in this morning for Carol Costello. We begin this hour with the new fallout from that radio prank played on the hospital caring for Prince William's pregnant wife. Just days after the apparent suicide of the nurse who was duped by the call, the bosses of those deejays have canceled their show and for the first time, those deejays are speaking out.


MICHAEL CHRISTIAN, DJ, AUSTRALIAN RADIO STAION 2DAYFM: Shattered, heartbroken and obviously, you know, our deepest sympathies are with the family and the friends of all those affected. And you know, obviously, we are incredibly sorry for the situation and what's happened. And you know, we have to think are they doing OK, getting the love and support they need right now? Personally, I'm --


ROWLANDS: The tragic hoax is raising some serious legal questions in Australia where the call was made and London, where it was received. And police in the two countries are investigating.

Avery Friedman is a civil rights attorney and law professor. He joins us now from Cleveland. Avery, we're talking about two countries. Two separate sets of laws. Who takes the lead in something like this?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, the alleged crime, of course, occurred in Australia, but the fact is that the law that officials are looking at right now, Ted, is the a law that deals with basically those people engaged in stalking, intentional harassment and coercion.

It's not a law. In fact, this is a case, Ted, that will never resolve in criminal charges. I think the tougher question is will there be civil liability arising out of the case.

ROWLANDS: And what are the chances of that? I mean, did you say there's no criminal case here. I would think from layman's term because these radio stations across the world do this on a daily base and nobody could have foreseen the tragedy that happened here.

There is no malice, but civilly, what would it take for a successful civil suit? Because really, the facts of this are the same whether you're talking criminal or civil, there was no intent of this end happening, obviously, by these two individuals or the radio station.

FRIEDMAN: Right. Well, actually, you said the word, the civil liability. And that is whether or not the prank call was foreseeable, that is the consequence of the call was foreseeable in a suicide and based on general law, I mean, I'm no expert in Australian law by any means.

But as a general law when it comes to civil liability, Ted, what will apply is foreseeability. In other words, would a reasonable person expect to see a suicide from a prank call? So the bottom line on this is not only is there not criminal liability, but it is unlikely that we're going to see any civil liability arising out of this. Tragic, no doubt, I think civil or control will prevail in a case like this.

ROWLANDS: Anything in the U.S. or anywhere in the world that has been litigated already on a civil side? Because one thing that has predictable I guess is that the butt end of the jokes that are being played, that person could suffer something.

Either harassment, x, y or z, or loss of privacy, has there been any successful lawsuits going against any of these radio stations that you're aware of, that could set precedent maybe not in Australia or England, but in the books somewhere in the world?

FRIEDMAN: Not, well, there are very well may be. You know, as Americans, we're very used to a very broad sense of expression, a free speech. In fact, the first amendment bars the government, it's a limitation on government on expression.

Many countries, most countries, don't have the kind of depth when it comes to free speech that we do, so while there may be precedent in other countries, it's unlikely that you're going to see precedent coming out of a place like Australia.

Clearly, there have been liability standards much more strict than ours in terms of establishing liability in England, but from the standpoint of an American principles, it's unlikely we're going to see civil or a criminal liability.

ROWLANDS: All right, Avery Friedman for us this morning in Cleveland. Avery, thank you.

In Washington, all eyes are on -- just 22 days away with the White House and Republican leaders at a stalemate. President Obama is hitting the road to rally support for his plan, which would raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

He met with House Speaker John Boehner yesterday, their first face to face meeting in more than three weeks. Today, the President will visit a Detroit engine factory to rally support from auto workers.

The President's meeting with John Boehner did not yield a breakthrough, but the men did agree on one thing. They'll keep their negotiations behind closed doors. They released an identical statement saying this.

"This afternoon, the President and Speaker Boehner met at the White House to discuss efforts to resolve the fiscal cliff. We are not reading out the details of the conversation, but the lines of communication remain open."

CNN's Dan Lothian is at the White House. Dan, how telling is it that the statements were identical from both the President and Speaker Boehner?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it shows that both sides agree on something and that is that they're not going to continue to have this debate play out in front of the cameras, harsh rhetoric going back and forth.

But instead, will do it in private and I think that's very telling. Certainly, we don't know what happened in that meeting because neither side getting any details. Perhaps they did have a breakthrough and they're just sort of filling in some of the little dots and so forth, to you know, formally present it.

We don't know that. We don't know about the tone of the meeting and they're not telling us. In fact, one official telling me don't expect to hear that information come out. And so, that's the strategy and that is seen as positive because as we know about a week ago, they were not communicating face to face.

And in fact, staff members behind the scenes weren't even communicating either by phone or e-mail, so some view this as a very significant step. We're waiting to find out if there will be additional meetings and additional phone calls.

ROWLANDS: The way these things typically play out historically is that lawmakers push it to the very end and then come up with a miraculous deal at the 11th hour and then they have the gall to hold a press conference and pat themselves on the back, look at the great job we did.

Anything here that makes you think that that won't happen? Will they allow us to go over the fiscal cliff or do you think that judging from your seeing what this meeting behind closed doors now and as time comes down to the end that they will come up with a deal at the 11th hour?

LOTHIAN: Well, look, there's always that possibility that you know, they could go over the fiscal cliff, but you're right in pointing out that this is how it usually plays out is that everyone voicing optimism at the start. Then there's a lot of rhetoric that's thrown around.

Both sides getting sort of dug in positions and then you start to get sort of this air of compromise. What we're sensing now is that there does appear to be this willingness on both sides to compromise. You hear Democrats talking about entitlements, willing to back down on entitlements.

And then some Republicans talking about you know, some kind of increase in taxes for wealthy Americans and so, that really is a starting point where both sides have been digging in now for weeks and the hope is that this, there could be some real movement this week. Get this wrapped up before the fiscal cliff scenario plays out.

ROWLANDS: All right, Dan Lothian for us this morning at the White House. Dan, thank you.

In as little as 24 hours from now, Michigan lawmakers are expected to pass sweeping legislation that could cripple the state's labor movement. It's all happens very fast in a lame duck legislature that has labor union leaders and union members in an uproar that will likely manifest in huge demonstrations.

And when it does, our Alison Kosik will be right in the middle of it. She is in Lansing this morning with more -- Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Ted, all is quiet right now at the Michigan State Capitol, but police are putting up barricades, getting ready for an influx of demonstrators expected to come tomorrow.

Because tomorrow is when the House and the Senate are going to hammer out the final version of this bill that looks essentially to not force workers anymore to join unions, to pay union dues, so tomorrow after the House and Senate are expected to get that final bill together.

They are expected to hand it over to Governor Rick Snyder. He is expected to put his is signature on it, pretty much rubber stamp it. I talked to one opponent to the bill and he said, you know what, there is still time to stop this bill from being passed. That is why they are coming out and protesting. Here is some of what he said.


FRED KEITH, BOILERMAKERS LOCAL #85: If enough people stand up and voice their opinion in this matter, then they'll pay attention. You know, the one that, the one they need to pay attention to is the one that shows up in large numbers. And you know, a lot of these people probably are not going to realize this until they realize that maybe they're not going to get re-elected.


KOSIK: But this may really be a done deal at this point with Republican controlled legislature, it looks like this bill is all but pass at this point.

ROWLANDS: Are the unions upset by what's in legislation or the way it's being pushed through or I guess both?

KOSIK: A little of both. They're certainly not happy with the way the legislation has been pushed through. The governor in the past has said that this right to work bill is divisive and then turns around and according to opponents to the bill, they say he's pushed this bill through sort of in an underhanded fashion.

And then of course, you've got the unions saying this is not a good bill. This is not a good law for Michigan, 17.5 percent of the people who work in this state are union workers. There's a big concern that if the law goes into effect, that wages could go down and jobs could go away -- Ted.

ROWLANDS: All right, Alison Kosik for us in Lansing. We have much more ahead on this issue. At the bottom of the hour, we'll speak with a member of the Michigan Corrections Organization.

A Republican who opposes the legislature and for the other perspective, we'll talk to a member of the McInaw Center for Public Policy and ask why he believe the right to work is the right more for Michigan.

Well, the voice of a popular Mexican-American singer is silenced after a plane crashes killing her and everyone on board. We'll have more on Jenni Rivera's life and the music that made her a fan favorite.


ROWLANDS: This just in, video from a possible tornado touching down on the north side of Birmingham, Alabama, early this morning. There are several reports of damage including houses with roofs being torn off and downed power lines. So far, no reports of injury, but still early.

North Korea says it may take a little longer to launch a controversial long range rocket. State media reports Pyongyang has extended its launch window until December 29th because of technical problems with an engine.

The U.S. and South Korea are condemning the North's second launch attempt this year. An earlier one failed in April. The U.S. and South Korea said the launch is a cover for ballistic missile testing.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been given to the European Union. The three presidents of the EU's main bodies accepted the prestigious award this morning at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. This year's choice was not without controversy. Three former Nobel laureates wrote a letter of protest saying the union doesn't qualify as a peacemaker.

Some called her the Diana Ross of Mexican music. This morning, fans and loved ones are mourning the loss of Mexican-American superstar Jenni Rivera. The 43-year-old singer and reality TV star died in a plane crash in Northern Mexico over the weekend along with everyone else on board. The men who gave Rivera her big break reflects on what her music meant to her fans.


JOSE PEPE GARZA, COMPOSER: In Mexico, she represents a lot of ladies that, they cannot talk loud. They cannot say their feelings, so the public feel represented by Jenni Rivera, but the letters, the lyrics of the songs.


ROWLANDS; Our senior Latin American affairs editor, Rafael Romo, is here and Rafael, tell us more about what her music meant to her fans and this was an extraordinary person.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: She had a very powerful voice, first of all, and I think her fans will remember her for empowering women. As our guest was saying just a few moments ago, but I think people will remember her for her ability to connect.

She was as popular with Mexican-Americans here in the United States, just as popular as she was in Mexico.


ROMO (voice-over): They called her diva, and for anyone who ever saw her on stage it was easy to see why. She sang heart wrenching ballads that spoke to the common woman, especially Mexican-Americans.

JENNI RIVERA, MEXICAN-AMERICAN SINGER (through translator): Every song, every lyric, I'm thinking of them and how I can relate to them with my music.

ROMO: Jenni Rivera was born in Long Beach, California, to Mexican parents, their story, that of many Mexican immigrants of humble origins. In an interview with CNN in Espanol in 2010, she spoke about how she sold music records at a Los Angeles flea market, and how the family collected cans for the meager income they could bring in selling the metal.

RIVERA (through translator): It is very flattering when they tell me a great artist, a great entertainer that I can get in the recording studio and come up with a great production, but before all of that, I was a businesswoman. I'm primarily business minded.

ROMO: She sold 15 million records and won two billboard music awards in a career that spans just over a decade, but she was also a successful businesswoman. In recent years, Jenni Rivera started several of her own companies, including Jennie Rivera Enterprises, which produced and marketed her music, a fragrance brand, a jeans factory and TV production company.

In October, "People" named her on the list of the 25 most powerful Hispanic women. She was famous for her electrifying performances on stage, but her image was also battered by scandal. A mother of five, she married three times, but the relationships were rocky and caused her much anguish and embarrassment.

RIVERA (through translator): Staying defeated, crying and suffering was not an option. I had to get back on my feet, dust myself off and press on. That's what I want to teach my daughters.

ROMO: During her last interview Saturday night, she told Mexican media that she needed time to get emotionally well. Asked about her Christmas plans, she said -- I want to be with my family, but God only knows what's going to happen.


ROMO: And more recently, Jenni Rivera made headlines in October when she announced her marriage to pitcher Esteban Wisa was coming to an end. She is survived by her five children, four brothers and her parents.

ROWLANDS: Tragic story, just horrible. All right, Rafael, thanks.

Michigan is on the cusp of becoming the latest right to work state in the country. Just ahead, we'll hear from both sides in this watershed moment in the birthplace of the United Auto Workers. Stay with us.


ROWLANDS: About 40 minutes from now, President Obama heads to Detroit area where he'll be touting the fiscal cliff at a diesel truck engine plant. Detroit news reports the plant is owned by Don Lehr AG and they're expecting to announce $100 million in new investments as it tries to expand beyond diesel engines.

Many large trucks as you know, run on diesel fuel, but now, there is talk about replacing it with cleaner burning liquid gas. Many believe it is the next biggest thing in long haul trucking, but there are still some major bumps in the road as our Tory Dunnan reports.


TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Diesel is king here at the Flying J truck stop near Richmond, Virginia. With it, Nathaniel Keating has pushed his rig 3.5 million miles.

NATHANIEL KEATING, TRUCK DRIVER: You name it, I've hauled it.

DUNNAN: But truckers here don't have to look far to see the future. Alone in a corner, sits a new liquefied natural gas island, LNG as it's called, is cheaper, cleaner and supporters say more plentiful than diesel. But there's a problem.

(on camera): Say you want to drive a truck like this coast to coast using only liquid natural gas. Here's what you'd be up against. These are the only open and public LNG fuelling stops across the country and there are only 30 of them.

A tank of LNG would take you about 700 miles, so going westward from Washington, D.C., unless you go completely out of your way, you'd run out of gas just outside Nashville.

(voice-over): It's what the industry calls the chicken and egg dilemma. What comes first, new trucks or pumps? The American Trucking Association recently held a sold out summit about just that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to happen. I promise you it's going to happen.

DUNNAN: Texas oil man turned natural gas crusader, T. Boone Pickens says Henry Ford faced the same problem.

T. BOONE PICKENS, BOARD MEMBER, CLEAN ENERGY: If somebody said at that point, Henry, have you thought about it, you don't have any filling stations. He said, gosh, I'll forget this idea. That's not what he said. Don't worry about it. You'll get filling stations. If the car shows up, filling stations will come.

DUNNAN: By spring, the number of LNG stops will skyrocket to about 150, but when they'll open is uncertain. You'd think environmentalists would be thrilled of the prospect of replacing dirty diesel with clean natural gas, not quite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think a rush to liquefy natural gas is a mistake.

DUNNAN: While natural gas may burn cleaner, problems arise when the gas leaks.

FRED KRUPP, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND: The leakage of that gas itself is such a potent greenhouse gas, 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide. That undermines the greenhouse gas advantage.

DUNNAN: Bottom line, the industry says LNG is cheaper than diesel fuel.

KEATING: But I think it will work in the end.

DUNNAN (on camera): Just a matter of time?

KEATING: Just a matter of time.

DUNNAN: Tory Dunnan, CNN, Washington.


ROWLANDS: President Obama went "Gangnam Style" over the weekend, but not without a little controversy involving this South Korean rapper. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROWLANDS: Checking our top stories, another day, another bizarre twist in the case of American tech mogul, John McAfee. After weeks of living in hiding, he spoke to reporters from an immigration detention center in Guatemala City.

He's fighting deportation to Belize where authorities want to question about him the death of a neighbor. McAfee says he now wants to return to the U.S.