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Interview with Olympia Snowe; A Look at Economic News; Bob Costats Talks Guns and the NFL; Jenni Rivera Remembered; Unmanned Space Vehicle to be Launched

Aired December 10, 2012 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Bottom of the hour, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Back to the talks on the fiscal cliff.

Did you know this? That meeting the president had with the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, just yesterday at the White House, that was their first face-to-face, one-on-one meeting in more than a year.

They did meet, yes, a couple of weeks ago, with several other members of Congress, but it has been quite a while since the two men have negotiated one-on-one.

Keep in mind they're the ones trying to do the deal here to avert this fiscal cliff, the tax hikes, the blunt force spending cutting scheduled for the first of the week, now three weeks away.

Joining me from Washington is Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine. Senator Snowe, welcome back.


BALDWIN: Are you hearing -- what might you be hearing on your end about this meeting between the president and Speaker?

SNOWE: Well, I think it's optimistic in the sense that they at least they have met once again because I think that that is going to be crucial and central to any resolution to the fiscal cliff crisis.

And the more they meet and more that they have these lines of communications opened on a daily basis and their staffs are meeting, the more likely we'll see, you know, a conclusion to this issue.

But it is regrettable that it is this late in the day, given the uncertainty and the apprehension that it continues to create among the American people, and, of course, both within the markets here and abroad. But I think it is hopeful that they have begun to meet and have some discussions because I think we can breathe a sigh of relief that the lines of communication are open.

BALDWIN: Are you breathing that sigh of relief?

SNOWE: Well, I am from the standpoint that they're talking. You know, it remains to be seen, but I can't imagine, Brooke, in the final analysis that they're not going to come up with a solution to this issue because the consequences are dire.

I think what it portends ...

BALDWIN: Let me jump in and just ask you. I know your party has been insisting on cutting government spending. The president conceded that, yes, we need to do some of that.

But he says he will not negotiate spending cuts until your side agrees to boost, you know, tax rates on the wealthy, that top 2 percent.

And I want you to listen now. This is your colleague, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and you'll hear him use the word "folks." We believe he's talking about his fellow Republicans, such as yourself. Take a listen.


SENATOR BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Yes, there is a growing group of folks that are looking at this and realizing that we don't have a lot of cards as it relates to the tax issue before year-end.

A lot of people are putting forth a theory and I actually think it has merit where you go ahead and give the president the 2 percent increase that he's talking about, the rate increase on the top 2 percent and all of the sudden the shift goes back to entitlements.


BALDWIN: Senator Snowe, I've read that you've expressed similar sentiments. Do you sense more Republicans moving in that direction?

SNOWE: Well, at least from the standpoint that, you know, it is possible that what could happen is that we pass the tax cuts for the middle class. That's what, you know, I've been espousing. Get that off the table. We all agree on that. It is not an issue in disagreement.

Then you can focus on the top 2 percent of the American people who pay the top tax rates and, of course, entitlement spending and get that resolved.

I think at the end of the day you'll see some tax rate increase, I'm sure, but also it has to be in conjunction with spending cuts and entitlement reform designed to be addressed in the next Congress.

BALDWIN: I would like to put away the political gaming if I may right now because, before you go, I want to ask you about a yuletide tradition in Washington that you were instrumental in starting.

We see the pictures of some of these wreaths here at Arlington National Cemetery and it's kind of hard to believe this started back in '92.

So, 20 years later, tell me just about the story and your role in this. SNOWE: Well, it is an amazing story about this wonderful couple, Morrill and Karen Worcester from Maine, who have a wreath company and they decided to -- 20 years ago, to give those wreaths, you know, to Arlington Cemetery.

They're leftover wreaths and put them on the monuments there and contacted my office and there was some bureaucracy involved and we got it resolved. And, you know, it is an amazing journey and contribution of love and eternal gratitude for those men and women who sacrificed their lives for this country and for the families who have sacrificed as well.

And it is -- I would encourage people to volunteer for this effort that will be under way next weekend here at Arlington Cemetery. But the Worcester family should be commended because it really is an amazing act.

BALDWIN: We thank the Worcesters. We thank you for your involvement and, of course, our gratitude to the men and women of the military. Senator Olympia Snowe, thank you.

SNOWE: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Still ahead, moments ago, Piers Morgan sitting down with Bob Costas about the sportscaster's controversial remarks about guns and the NFL. I've got a clip next.


ALI VELSHI: From the CNN Money Newsroom in New York, I'm Ali Velshi. This is "Your Money."

First up, we go from money menu to the dollar menu. A lot of you seem to be doing that, by the way, as McDonald's restaurant, nationwide, saw a surprising sales surge of 2.5 percent last month compared to the same time last year.

Sales had been flat earlier this year. McDonald's stock is up more than 1 percent today.

Hey, time for a fiscal cliff update for you. Actually nothing much going on in public at least as President Obama hits the road to campaign for higher tax rates on the rich.

Now, the list of pledge-signers willing to consider raising taxes on the rich already includes Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. It's not that he or the others you see here really want taxes to go up for anyone, but Corker says agreeing to increases for the top 2 percent shifts the discussion.


CORKER: A lot of people are putting forth a theory and I actually think it has merit where you go ahead and give the president the 2 percent increase that he's talking about, the rate increase on the top 2 percent and all of the sudden the shift goes back to entitlements. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: The shift he's talking about is the political pressure to get larger spending cuts which a good many Democrats oppose. We'll see how it works out for him because spending cuts are not working out for Italy's government.

Prime Minister Mario Monti announced that he would resign after losing support over his austerity moves. A return of political instability there reminds us that Europe still faces a lot of hurdles before it comes out of its economic crisis.

Countries like Greece, Spain and Italy have all been tackling their problems with sharp cuts in spending and higher taxes and that's been fueling recession and unrest.

Meanwhile, we now know that Japan officially slipped into its own recession over the summer with the Japanese economy contracting 3.5 percent between July and September.

Now, the previous quarter, the previous three months number, was also revised lower and that makes for two consecutive quarters of negative growth and that is the classic definition of a recession.

And from Asia back to America, literally, a group of Chinese investors agreed today to buy an 80 percent stake in AIG's aircraft leasing business. Back in 2008, the insurance giant was bailed out by the U.S. government to the tune of about $180 billion.

Four years on, it's still paying back the money by selling off assets, including the aircraft leasing unit that complemented AIG's airplane insurance business. If U.S. regulators approve the $4.2 billion deal, it will be one of the largest ever by Chinese investors.

Speaking of Chinese investment, China's state-owned oil giant, CNOOC, has swooped in to acquire Nexen, one of Canada's largest independent oil companies, for a cool $15 billion.

Note to the Obama administration, China's takeover of large tracts of Canadian oil sands is not happening in a bubble. Last year, you'll recall the Obama administration put off a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed extension of an existing pipeline infrastructure that would connect the oil in Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico and international markets.

Now, the Democrats killed it because of concerns from environmentalists. The proposed route crossed the sensitive Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska and White House and State Department officials could have just insisted on rerouting the pipe, but they didn't.

That was a bad move, but one that was highly thought to play to the president's base. Now that the elections are over, a review of a new route will begin sometime next year.

Now, the leakages of that pipe were a minor concern, although it got all the headlines. A more legitimate environmental concern is carbon emissions.

Processing crude that is mined from the oil sands emits double the emissions of regular drilled oil, but oil sands still -- that still scarce, oil is still scarce, the Chinese need lots of it and the Canadians have lots of it.

President Obama campaigned on securing America's energy future. More oil than Saudi Arabia has sits on the sand across the border in Canada. I get the politics of this, but one way or another, oil is going to get exploited in Canada and Americans better wake up to the fact that neither China nor Canada are going to wait around until the U.S. government figures this out.

Finally, let's talk taxes. Not tax rates, let's talk deductions. One-third of Americans itemize their deductions when they file their income taxes. In fact, the higher your income, the more likely it is you itemize.

According to CNN Money, an analysis of IRS data, a little more than half of middle-income tax filers itemize deductions, but 97 percent of tax-filers who make more than a quarter of a million dollars a year itemize. They itemize on average $91,000 in tax deductions.

Lawmakers are considering some sort of limit to those deductions as part of a deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

Now, if Congress were to enact limits to deductions of, say, $50,000, the rich will pay more regardless of their tax rates. How much more? Well, our analysis shows on average $14,000 more.

That's it for me from the CNN Money Newsroom in New York. I'm Ali Velshi. This is "Your Money." Same time tomorrow.


BALDWIN: Just in to us here, we are getting a preview of Piers Morgan's interview with Bob Costas. The NBC sportscaster received big time backlash after using halftime of a Sunday night game to comment on gun control, specifically referencing the murder/suicide involving an NFL player.

Fast-forward to moments ago when Costas spoke with Piers Morgan.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Seventy percent or more of footballers apparently carry guns. Clearly, most of them have a lot of money. They drive fast cars. They go to nightclubs. They party and all the rest of it.

Again, I guess it comes back to an overriding sense that the culture of the game is slightly out of control. These statistics of arrests, for example, suggest that.

What can you really do about it? BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: I'm not sure what can be done about it exactly. The NFL prohibits the carrying of firearms at any facility, practice facility, any event that is connected to the team, if you make a public relations appearance, in the stadium. I don't know how closely they enforce that. They do prohibit it.

And they do tell their players in their stated policy that, while it is legal to possess a gun, we actually urge you not to, but we urge you, if you do possess a gun, that you use it strictly for protection of home and family or possibly if you're a hunter.

That it's infinitely more likely that something bad will happen if you're armed than that something good will happen.


BALDWIN: The full interview tonight, "Piers Morgan," 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN tonight.

We now have a special someone who has called into us, all the way from Mexico City on the death of Jenni Rivera, the 43-year-old mother of five, grandmother, singing sensation, sold 15 million albums.

Paulina Rubio is on the phone with me. Paulina, how close were you?

PAULINA RUBIO, MEXICAN ACTRESS AND SINGER (via telephone): She was really, really close. We're devastated. When you leave so close a tragedy, there is no words to explain how we feel with this loss.

BALDWIN: Paulina, I read your tweet and in Spanish you say, "Porque? Porque?" -- "Why? Why? -- "No hay consuelo" -- "There is no consolation" -- "Dios me ayudame" -- "God help me."

Were you speaking to your fallen friend?

RUBIO (via telephone): Absolutely. I mean, yesterday, I was -- we were part of the (INAUDIBLE). We are very, very close.

I had the opportunity to do different works with her and yesterday we were waiting for her at 9:00 a.m. at the network to shoot and film these duets and the uncertainty and waiting for so many hours without knowing what exactly happened. It was the longest four hours of my life.

BALDWIN: How did you hear?

RUBIO (via telephone): I was calling her on the cell phone. We spoke. She was taking this private jet, so she can make it to the film set. And I -- from the news, nobody wanted to tell us it was officially in the news.

BALDWIN: Paulina, help our audience, people who have never heard of Jenni, people who are now learning all about her, her vivacity and passion and how real she was.

What was it about her that so resonated with so many people, so many women?

RUBIO (via telephone): Well, I think she is a mentor. She loves her fans. She became really powerful. She's a mom. She was a grandmother. A really good friend of her fans. And a really strong woman.

I think that's why she was really so famous, her lyrics and her passion to live life through all the problems she had in the past. I believe women look at as someone that it's becoming from all problems.

BALDWIN: Paulina, I am so sorry about your friend, a true loss at age 43. Thank you very much. Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: A job where a fraction of a second is all you have to get it right. A look ahead at this week's "Next List."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Art is what can't be proven mathematically, right? It's where science ends. It's the part that makes you feel good, but you don't know why.

You know, the way the object feels in your hands or looks and you can almost, if it's perfectly created, explain it to someone else afterwards, but in the creation part you can't.

You can see how the glass is constantly moving. My job is to basically shape it and balance it at the same time. If you can do that, you get these wonderful shapes. Glass really rewards risk.

A lot of times with glass, you're just waiting for the piece to cool down or for some temperature to adjust it and then there are these split seconds where you've got, you know, literally, a fraction of a second to make a particular move in a particular way and you don't get to repeat it if you do it wrong, so there's a performance to it. It's sort of like dancing.

You can't really think about it and do it well. You just have to do it enough that it becomes sort of mechanical and then you can sort of free your mind to design.



BALDWIN: A highly classified, unmanned mini-space shuttle set to take off tomorrow. Wait until you see this thing. Chad Myers, all over it, next.


BALDWIN: It is the launch that the U.S. military is keeping under a cloud of secrecy, a robotic space plane. Here it is. It's called Orbital Test Vehicle Three. The unmanned mini-shuttle is launching from Cape Canaveral tomorrow. Chad Myers, help us unveil this mystery here. So, you know, been highly classified. Why is this such a secret?

CHAD MYERS: Well, because we don't know what's up there and they don't want us to know. It's going to be up there for days, hundreds of days. The shuttle doesn't stay up there very long, right? They used fuel cells. They weren't up there very long.

This is solar powered. It will be up there for hundreds of days. This is the third time it's been up there. That's why it's number three. And we don't know what it's going to do.

We probably think there's some kind of reconnaissance up there, but it's going to be floating around in space.

BALDWIN: Up there being where, specifically?

MYERS: In orbit, floating through. They don't -- they won't even tell us what the orbit is.


MYERS: Yeah, we don't know whether it's some kind of laser thing. We don't know whether it's weather modification. We doubt that.

But we also don't know whether it's some kind of special camera up there looking down, working on, training, see if they work, bringing these things back.

The best part about -- it lands. It comes back down and brings all that stuff back down to us and then we see if it worked or not.

BALDWIN: So, how's the weather tomorrow in Florida?

MYERS: It looks pretty good. It's not going to be perfect, but there should be a window, 1:03 p.m. It goes up on top of an Atlas V rocket and we will obviously be watching it.

BALDWIN: Oh, awesome. So, at least we'll be able to see it.

MYERS: Yes, during the day.

BALDWIN: We don't know where it's going or what it's looking for or ...

MYERS: Inside the rocket, 29 feet long. So not anywhere near as big as the shuttle. The shuttle's four times bigger than that, but it's a cool little vehicle. Comes back.

BALDWIN: We'll be watching. Space geeks.

Chad Myers, thank you so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: That will do it for me. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your Monday here.

I'm Brooke Baldwin at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

Let's go to Washington with Wolf Blitzer. Your "Situation Room" begins right now.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Brooke, thanks very much.