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CNN NEWSROOM

Military Child Abuse Scandal Details; Historical Sites Under Water; A Look at the US Economy

Aired December 20, 2012 - 15:30   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And now this.

Bottom of the hour, I'm Brooke Baldwin. President Obama makes a phone call to Army Secretary John McHugh, not over deployments, not over budgets or troops, but over the military apparently not protecting its own like it should be.

Three workers at this daycare -- this is at Fort Myer. It's an Army post in Virginia. These workers are accused of abusing children as young as 18 months.

The affidavit for one reads that she, quote, "hit the face/chin area of a two-year-old male child with her fist. As a result of the hit, the child's head jerked back several inches. The child then held his mouth and began crying."

Now the Army has removed another third Army daycare employees after the system-wide review. Officials says the workers had questionable backgrounds.

Let's go to the Pentagon to talk about this with our correspondent there, Barbara Starr.

Just reading about it this morning, just on the surface, it just sounds absolutely egregious and the fact that the president picked up the phone to call the Army secretary, I think, speaks volumes, right?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Volumes and then some, Brooke.

I mean, I could not remember the president of the United States getting involved in a childcare issue in the U.S. military or even having to.

And, of course, this has been a week when this nation has been riveted about the concept of child safety, isn't it? That may have played into it, you know, his thinking about Connecticut and all of that.

This childcare facility actually is just maybe less than a mile from the Pentagon. It's just up the hill here. An awful lot of people who work in the Pentagon drop their kids off there every day before they come down the hill here to work.

And this all began last -- in September, when workers were arrested for the charges that you describe and they notified the parents they had a problem, but they didn't tell much of anybody else.

And, so, they kind of worked at it and they discovered that there were a number of employees with background-check problems, people with things like drug convictions, abuse, sex abuse of a minor, assault charges.

And, so, they came up with all of this and they wound up having to dismiss, last Friday night, 30 workers and then -- it was only then -- that the secretary of the Army, last Friday night, was informed about the scope of all of this, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So, the Pentagon, Barbara, they're not just upset about the lack of oversight of the daycare here, but the lack of communication because military leaders weren't aware of the investigation until right just recently.

STARR: You don't pick up a phone and tell somebody? I mean, this is so significant. You don't even know where to begin around here.

The abuse, the background checks of these people, massive and it is very concerning to the parents who have dropped their kids off at this daycare for months and years now. Who were these people looking after their children and looking after this center?

But they didn't tell the secretary of the Army until Friday, we are told. That Leon Panetta, the secretary of defense, was not told until Tuesday. I think we can presume he might have been the one who mentioned it to the president, leading the president finally to pick up the phone and call the Army.

BALDWIN: We will follow this. I would love to talk to one of these parents here.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us, thank you. We appreciate it.

STARR: Sure.

BALDWIN: All right, Congress is a mess, the fiscal cliff is right around the corner, but Ali Velshi says forget all that. America's economy is about to soar.

He reveals how you can cash in. Plus, he has a story about a robbery involving maple syrup. My fellow Canadian, maple syrup? Don't miss this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Never mind that circus that Washington remains, America's economy is set to soar. Stay with me for a minute and I'll tell you how you cash in on it.

From the CNN Money newsroom, I'm Ali Velshi. This is "Your Money."

A big takeover on the New York Stock Exchange, why real maple syrup costs so much, a domestic oil boom and the business of guns. But first, America's economy was popping like it's hot in the third quarter, coming in much stronger than expected. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure for the economy, grew by an annual rate of 3.1 percent over the summer. That's more than double the rate in the previous quarter.

Spending by Americans was the single biggest factor in that growth. What are you all buying? Well, homes for one thing and why not with low prices and even lower interest rates?

But we've got that supply and demand thing going on. Investors and people like you are pushing home prices higher. The median price of an existing home shot up 10.1 percent in November compared to last year. We've seen home values rise six months in a row now as more Americans get back to work.

If you have a job, good credit and a down payment, expect to pay about 3.47 percent for a 30-year fixed loan.

But keep an eye on the economy because, once unemployment gets down to 6.5 percent, the Federal Reserve says it's going to let interest rates rise.

Well, the main thing that could mess up this economy's momentum is -- you guessed it -- Washington and that fiscal cliff. The negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner center around raising rates on the rich in exchange for targeted spending cuts.

Now, the speaker says he's met the president halfway with his proposal to raise rates on those earning more than a million dollars a year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: For weeks the White House said that if I moved on rates, that they would make substantial concessions on spending cuts and entitlement reforms. I did my part. They've have done nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Now, the president for his part says he's tried to meet the speaker halfway with his own proposal to raise rates on those making more than $400,000 a year.

Guess what, folks. None of this is going to matter much to the folks earning more than $400,000 a year. Get the deal done. Boehner's so- called "Plan B" that they're voting on today makes no sense. It's way too late in the game for symbolic measures when the economic future of America and Americans hangs in the balance.

On your money menu today, the New York Stock Exchange is up for sale and Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange, ICE for short, announced plans to buy it for $8.2 billion.

Why do you care? Well, you don't actually, but in case you're in a bar and somebody brings it up, I don't want you blaming me for not telling you.

Bottom line, though, is that the business of running a stock exchange has changed and to stay competitive you've got to be bigger and faster.

So, the net effect, if regulators approve it, is that big trades will get cheaper, not for you, though. Just for the big guys.

So, forget I mentioned it and think about this for a second. Police in Canada arrested three men on Wednesday and are looking for two others for stealing maple syrup. A lot of maple syrup, by the way.

Talk about sticky fingers. The suspects allegedly stole 6 million pounds of the stuff and turned around and sold it to distributors in Canada and the U.S. at full price.

Now, Canadian authorities are trying to recover the lost maple syrup. Quebec produces three-quarters of the world's maple-syrup supply. Producers there operate like a cartel, enforcing strict quotas on production.

Any syrup beyond the quota gets stocked away to sell in bad years and keep prices high. An estimated 46 million pounds of maple syrup is stockpiled in strategic reserves, sort of like oil.

Speaking of oil, North Dakota set a new record for oil production in October, pumping 747,239 barrels of oil per day. That's a two-and-a- half percent jump from the previous record that was set in September. America is experiencing an energy boom as new technologies like fracking and hydraulic drilling bring more oil and gas from shale and North Dakota is ground-zero in America for shale.

And the business of handguns is booming, too, but the fallout from last week's mass shooting at the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school has many wondering, for how long?

As pressure grows in Washington to tighten gun laws, gun-maker and retail stocks took a hit in the immediate aftermath of the attack. After a rough start to the week, gun-makers like Smith and Wesson and Sturm Ruger started on the road to recovery on Wednesday.

Today, Smith and Wesson is trading slightly lower, but the stock has done phenomenally well by its investors with year-to-date gains of 89 percent versus about 15 percent for the S&P 500.

Shares of Sturm Ruger are in positive territory today, as well. It's seeing gains of 31 percent so far this year.

Maybe investors see a rush of Americans buying more firearms in anticipation of stricter gun laws or betting that they will stay the same, despite the public outrage. Either way the U.S. is by far the largest retail gun market in the world with estimates for overall sales in 2012 approaching 20 million firearms.

Let me give you a little more perspective on how well the gun business does in this country. There are more gun retailers in America today than there are McDonald's restaurants and supermarkets combined. Something to think about as the gun debate continues.

For more in-depth coverage, tune in to "Your Money," Saturday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

From the CNN Money newsroom in New York, I'm Ali Velshi. Same time tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: No matter your religious beliefs, much of what we know about the world today has been passed down through transcribed accounts and the Bible is no different.

Scientists, archaeologists, they're out there. They're using biblical stories and clues in their hunt for historical evidence.

And ABC News global affairs anchor, Christiane Amanpour, spoke with one archaeologist who has discovered something pretty incredible at the bottom of the ocean.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANCHOR: What did Noah or the people who lived there during what you believe to be this huge flood -- what did they see?

ROBERT BALLARD, UNDERWATER ARCHAEOLOGIST: It was probably -- was a bad day and a lot of real estate, 150,000 square kilometers of land went under.

AMANPOUR: And 400 feet below the surface, Ballard believes he's found proof of that catastrophic event.

BALLARD: And I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it.

AMANPOUR: They unearthed an ancient shoreline.

BALLARD: Well, we've actually dated it. About 5,000 B.C.

AMANPOUR: And that is about the time that the Bible says ...

BALLARD: Exactly.

AMANPOUR: ... Noah and the great flood happened. I mean, wow.

BALLARD: Wow! So, it nailed it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, Christiane Amanpour, I think you had a couple of "wow" moments from what I can tell here shooting this special.

And let me just begin with why did you want to do this? What were you looking for? AMANPOUR: Well, first, as you know, that was Dr, Robert Ballard who is the world's leading underwater explorer. He found the shipwreck of the Titanic back in 1985 and he really is somebody who can speak with authority on these issues.

And what he wants to do is trace some of these old stories and see what's real and what isn't. And why I wanted to do -- and this special is going to air on ABC on Friday night at 9:00 p.m. and then again next Friday -- is because, as you know, Brooke, I've spent most of my career covering the religious fighting, the wars between Christians, Jews and Muslims and really the entire arch of this documentary and this special is going back to the beginning, literally, to the biblical patriarch, particularly to Abraham who is the father of all three of those monotheistic faiths.

And, so, we found not just in looking at the Noah story and what's real and what's not and what was possible, but we found the origins of those faiths which have so much commonality.

And I think at this time, particularly, you know, when the world is hurting, when America's hurting, when there's so much that's divisive and there's so much is structured in a way to harm us, these stories of unity and commonality have a healing quality about them, as well.

And they're not often tackled like that because it is quite controversial. Every religion thinks that they own their religion and their religion is the best and their religion is the biggest and theirs is the only one.

The thing is, we all share the same father and, as you know, Moses' ten commandments are the foundation of our entire moral code and much of our civil law, as well.

BALDWIN: What makes, though, Christiane, this special so different is you bring along your 12-year-old son. You bring along your son, Darius, right, and I presume made this trip pretty personal for you.

AMANPOUR: It did.

BALDWIN: Tell me about that experience. What did you learn from that?

AMANPOUR: Well, it did. For him, it was a living ancient history lesson and, for me, it was about family and the Bible, the way it's written, is about a great sprawling family in its entirety, in its sagas and its warts and all and in stories that are passed down and we're talking about the Old Testament now. We're doing the Old Testament and these stories still resonate today for a reason.

And I wanted my son to know, but particularly because my son has the blood of all three faiths running through his veins. I'm borne of a Catholic mother and a Muslim father. I married an American Jew. And these three faiths collide and cooperate and flow through the veins of my son.

And I know from personal experience what can unite us. And I, you know, having covered so much war and division and disaster and heartache like what America's going through right now, I just know that there is another way.

Whether it's, you know, political division that we see or personal divisions, I know that there's another way, so I found, at this point in my career, it was good to take a look back and beyond that it is a fantastic detective story.

Beautifully shot, the landscape is fantastic. The stories, you know, as I say, still mean so much to so many people. Obviously, many believe that this is the literal word of God.

But many others who don't believe that, nonetheless, these stories resonate as well, so it's really family fare and it's coming at a perfect time just around the holidays and just around the time of this terrible wound that we all need to look at and figure out how to heal and make sure that our society is not ...

BALDWIN: How do we move forward. Yeah, I just keep thinking about your 12-year-old and what a pretty special front-row seat to history there. Christiane, how special for you and him.

Thank you so much and, again, you mentioned it.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Let me mention it again. The first of two parts of the ABC special airs tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Christiane Amanpour, thank you, thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

BALDWIN: A big announcement from a high-profile mayor. Coming up next, Cory Booker reveals his political future. Does it involve challenging Chris Christie? Wolf Blitzer joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: A couple minutes away from the top of the hour and you know what that means? That means this man, Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf, a couple things I want to ask you about, but first, huge political news. You have Newark Mayor Cory Booker saying that he will be running for U.S. Senate. Headline here the fact that he is not throwing his hat in the ring against a very popular Chris Christie.

BLITZER: To be precise, he says he's going to explore the idea of running for Frank Lautenberg's seat, assuming Frank Lautenberg decides -- the incumbent Democratic senator from New Jersey -- is not going to run. He's approaching 90-years-old, Frank Lautenberg, so he says he's going to explore the idea for 2014.

The big political news, obviously, as you point out, is he is not going to challenge Chris Christie in 2013 for the gubernatorial contest. That would have been quite a fight between a very popular Chris Christie and a very popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker. But that's not going to happen right now.

He says he's going to support the Democratic ticket. He's going to work for Democratic candidates. I don't know who is going to run against Chris Christie, but there are a few Democrats out there. But it's going to be a formidable challenge for any Democrat against Chris Christie, especially in the aftermath of his soaring popularity following the Superstorm Sandy reaction that he had.

But the 2014 Senate race in New Jersey, Cory Booker -- if he decides to run after his exploration, he'll have a good shot of winning that race in a blue state like New Jersey and he's got a huge future ahead of him, I suspect. He's a very smart guy.

BALDWIN: Also, just quickly, as I always check your Twitter page before we chat, my friend, and you have John McCain on today ...

BLITZER: Yes.

BALDWIN: ... and that's a big talker today because of this movie, "Zero Dark Thirty," you know, the fact that he and Senator Feinstein and Carl Levin, they all are none-too-pleased with Sony and sort of the portrayal. They say it's grossly inaccurate.

So, we'll watch for that interview, Senator John McCain on "The Situation Room." We'll see you at the top of the hour. Mr. Blitzer, thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Staying one step ahead of the law, you have these two convicted bank robbers. They made this daring escape from this high- rise federal jail in Chicago using bed sheets and dental floss.

Joseph Jose Banks and Kenneth Connelly were last seen walking away from Connelly's mother's house after banging on the door and -- surprise, surprise -- they were turned away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN SULLIVAN, FBI SPOKESWOMAN: It's gone cold since then. We are pursing leads. We hope that someone sees these pictures, someone has seen them and can share some information that leads us to these two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: As we mentioned, these two are pretty creative. We have pictures of how they escaped.

They stashed clothes and sheets under blanket to make it look like they were in bed. They grabbed the sheets that they tied together -- you see here this rope -- this is a rope of sheets and they reinforced them with, of all things, dental floss, squeezed through a five-inch window, rappelled down fifteen stories.

You see that camera? Yep. They were caught on surveillance camera. There is a $50,000 reward for their capture. That is a fraction of the half-million dollars in robbery cash Banks is believed to have squirreled away.

And with that, thank you for being with me here. I'm Brooke Baldwin here at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

Time to go, as we always do, to Washington. "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer begins right now.

Hey, Wolf.

BLITZER: Hi, Brooke. Thanks very much.