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CNN NEWSROOM

When Is It Legal for the U.S. Government to Kill U.S. Citizens Overseas; Three Schools in Yuma, Arizona, on Lockdown; Menendez Denies Prostitution "Smears"; Eric Cantor Talks Immigration; Fewer African- American Men Getting Cancer.

Aired February 5, 2013 - 13:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: When is it legal for the U.S. government to kill its own citizens overseas? A Justice Department memo spells out the position of the Obama administration. Now the memo, justifies the targeted killing of an American who is considered a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated group and poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.

I want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Joins us live here.

The policy now made public. Is there any reaction to the fact that now people, very clearly stated in the memo, know what it's all about?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think this has emerged over the last couple of years, but you're right, Suzanne, it is this memo that puts it out in black and white. If you're an American citizen, you can, in fact, be killed by your government overseas with no trial, no due process, if there is a -- some decision by the U.S. administration that you're engaged in terrorist activities.

In fact, the attorney general, Eric Holder, talked about this earlier today. I want you to listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We say that we only take these kinds of actions when there's an imminent threat, when capture is not feasible, and when we are confident that we are doing so in a way that's consistent with federal and international law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Consistent with federal and international law. This memo, Suzanne, lays out a case that many might say does not comport with U.S. law. In fact, it lays out the strategy that the threat, the imminent threat, may not have to be so imminent. It doesn't necessarily require the typical time, date, and place, where will an attack happen, and go after the person because they are specifically planning that attack. It's a very broad definition, many will say of what a threat is actually constituted of -- Suzanne? MALVEAUX: Barbara, explain to us, why, first of all, why would the attorney general come out and talk about this policy? Is this -- is this a way to intimidate those who might be participating in some terrorist plot? Secondly, are they doing it because they got, you know, beat, basically, because of the leak?

STARR: Well, perhaps a little bit more of the second is why reporters asked Holder, at a briefing he was having today on a completely different subject, reporters went after him to ask about this because, don't for get, John Brennan, the architect of much of the policy, top White House aide to President Obama on counter terrorism, is up before the Senate on Thursday for his nomination as director of the CIA. You can expect a lot of hot questioning from the Senate Intelligence Committee because they have been pressing the White House and the Justice Department to give them at least the much more highly classified opinion about what justifies all of this. Brennan will be on the hot seat Thursday in front of that committee -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Very good point, Barbara. Thank you.

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is now firing back against allegations that he partied with prostitutes in the Caribbean. Hear what he's saying, up next.

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MALVEAUX: Breaking news. Three schools in Yuma, Arizona, now on lockdown right now. The lockdown, of course, the students all being held in a certain classroom location, until folks down on the ground can figure out whether or not it's safe for students to move around. We are told that this is a precautionary measure because police are investigating a report of a possible, possible sighting of a student with a gun at Rancho Viejo Elementary School. So you have three schools on lockdown. This is according to the Yuma Police Department. Other schools involved on lockdown, Rancho Viejo, Elementary School, you have a nearby school, Salida del Sol Elementary (ph), and another school, Wacog Preschool (ph), so three schools where those students not allowed to leave their classrooms or locations while police are investigating the reports of seeing a student, potentially a student with some sort of weapon, some sort of gun. We are going to be following this story to just try to get a sense of what's happening on the ground with three schools in Yuma, Arizona. As soon as we get more details, we'll bring that to you.

Also today would have been Trayvon Martin's 18th birthday. Man charged with killing him is back in court. Lawyers for George Zimmerman are trying to get the trial delayed. They have also requested additional records. This, as you might recall, is a second- degree murder case. Martin shot and killed almost a year ago in Florida. Zimmerman claimed, has always claimed he fired at this unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, in self-defense.

There's going to be a new investigation as well into the blackout at the super bowl in New Orleans. Entergy, which supplies power to the stadium, will work with the Superdome's management to hire an independent investigator to find out what caused that power outage. You may recall the power went out in part of the dome early in the third quarter of the game. There could be more details that come Friday when you have officials expected to speak at a meeting in the city.

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MALVEAUX: New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is speaking out about the allegations that he partied with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. Dana Bash talked with the Senator exclusively. Facing allegations of improper travel connected to flights that he took on a private jet, owned by one of his biggest campaign donors. Menendez says it's all a bunch of rumors stirred up by his political enemies.

Dana Bash joining us live.

Impressive, sometimes people don't want to questions. A lot of questions coming his way. You managed to get questions to him. What was his demeanor and how did he respond to you?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, after avoiding reporters for a couple of weeks he made a point of coming out to talk to reporters and made a big effort, walked to a different floor of the capitol to where the camera was in order to speak to us.

On the issue of spending nearly $60,000, taking a private flight that cost that much, without paying it back, he admitted it, and he effectively apologized, saying that he -- it was an oversight. I asked about the fact that maybe he paid it back in saying it's an oversight now because he got caught, because it was reported. He said no.

But on the issue of prostitutes and allegations that made their way from the blogs and conservative blogs, especially, into the mainstream media, he was also prepared for that, and he was quite angry about that kind of reporting.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, (D), NEW JERSEY: The smears --

BASH: That you were with prostitutes, sir.

MENENDEZ: The smears that right wing blogs have been pushing since the election and that's totally unsubstantiated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Unsubstantiated. You know you can see his demeanor change. I'm guessing anytime anybody in any work is asked about prostitutes, their demeanor changed, but particularly a United States Senator standing in the hall of the capitol. But he wanted to get it out. He was eager to talk about it and he also talked to his home-state newspapers as well. MALVEAUX: Dana, real quick here, we'll turn the corner. Why did he talk now? Do you think it got to the point the threshold he felt like he was losing the pr battle, he had to jump in at this point?

BASH: Yes, I think that's exactly right, Suzanne. I asked the question, I was surprised to get an e-mail saying he was ready to talk. And the answer was because he is angry, he's angry about the fact that these allegations are out there, particularly about the prostitutes. He wanted to answer them. And he also wanted to talk finally about the issues that he generally admits to. So, yes, I mean he realized that it had just gotten out of control and I think he was sick of running away from reporters in the hallways.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: Yes, we can be rather insistent there.

You talked to somebody else willing to talk. House majority leader, Eric Cantor, who is trying to get a makeover from the Republican Party or push for a different branding, if you will. What did he held you?

BASH: He's giving a speech at American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington, as you see, talking about the fact -- essentially, trying to soften Republicans' image, trying to bring what his aides and even he talks about bread-and-butter issues to the fore. They understand inside the Republican caucus, and he especially so, what happened in the last election, that Republicans got their clocks cleaned with every demographic except for white men.

But the next question, what are you going to do about it policy-wise. One of the big issues debated now is immigration reform.

And so also guns. But on the issue of guns, I asked him the question about background checks because people here say they think that is probably the most likely to get passed, but still a lot of Republicans have trouble with it.

Listen to the exchange on that issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So sounds like you are in favor of beefing up background checks on a federal level?

REP. ERIC CANTOR, (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I am for making sure that we increase the quality of information in the database that is in existence already.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So, Suzanne, I think the best way to parse that he took a baby step towards the idea of federal background checks and strengthening them. The question is, of course, whether or not there will be universal background checks, and change the whole system. He didn't go there.

MALVEAUX: Not a complete makeover.

(LAUGHTER)

Dana, thank you. Appreciate it.

Another story we're following, fewer African-American men with cancer. Why the cancer racial gap is actually closing.

This is CNN NEWSROOM, happening now.

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MALVEAUX: News today in the fight against cancer. New data shows the racial gap for certain forms of the disease actually might be closing.

I want to bring in Elizabeth Cohen to talk about what researchers are finding.

And this sounds like this is good news.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. Hopefully, it is the beginning of the end of the racial gap we have talked so much about, that black people get cancer at higher rates than white people. What we're seeing is that the declines, the cancer declines are actually bigger among African-Americans than among white Americans.

So let's take a look at that. So this gets very numeric. I'll try to explain it well. When you look at declining cancer death rates per year from 2000 to 2009, you see a decline of 2.4 percent for African- American men, but a decline of only 1.7 percent for white men. Not a big difference, but a significant difference. And if you translate that to actual lives saved, 200,000 African-American men are alive today because of that decrease.

MALVEAUX: Why is this the case? What is happening in the community?

COHEN: I talked to the author of the study. he said it is largely because of smoking. African-American men are quitting smoking at a relatively high rate. Less smoking, fewer cancer deaths.

MALVEAUX: Isn't that great?

(LAUGHTER)

COHEN: It is great. It is lovely, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Just to be clear, though, when you look at the two groups, is there one group doing better overall or is it basically the same?

COHEN: Overall, African-Americans get cancer at higher rates than white Americans. To put it another way, an African-American is more likely to get cancer in his or her lifetime than a white American. So if you look at differences in cancer rates by race, for men, African- American cancer rates are 33 percent higher than for white men. For women, African-American cancer death rates are 16 percent higher than for white women. Those are big, big numbers. That's when we talk about sort of discrepancies, you know, racial discrepancy. That's --

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: That's one of the things that we're talking about. And one of the big things is access to good medical care. That's one of the reasons is that African-Americans don't have the same kind of access to good health care as white Americans in this country. Still, getting better, getting better, but still not the same.

MALVEAUX: What about diet? Diet and exercise?

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: Diet and exercise have something to do with it. Socioeconomic factors have something to do with it. It's what the experts will call multi-factorial, meaning, a lot going on here, a lot of reasons why you see the differences in the numbers.

MALVEAUX: So a lot of work to do, but good that people are -- they're starting to --

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: The smoking --

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: The smoking is a direct correlation.

COHEN: Absolutely. You get the smoking rates down, you're going to get cancer rates down.

MALVEAUX: All right, good.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Appreciate the good news.

For more on the story, visit CNNhealth.com.

And driving a new car getting a little more expensive. How the cost of gas is taking a bigger chunk out of your paycheck.

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MALVEAUX: All right, we're all spending more of our paychecks on gas. The Energy Department says we pumped out about 4 percent of our incomes into the tank last year. On average, that is almost $3,000 a year. The average price for a gallon of gas now $3.53, up 17 cents from just a week ago.

And we just saw last month's unemployment rate go up. It is now sitting at 7.9 percent. For folks who are struggling to find work, the answer could be education. That's right.

Ali Velshi, Christine Romans digging down deep, explaining why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne.

Well, Friday's jobs report showed once again the more education you have, the easier it is to find a job. Between 2010 and 2012, unemployment for people with the associate degrees increased by 3 percent. Employment for workers with bachelor's degrees rose by 5 percent.

And, Ali, people with advanced degrees, like a master's degree, their job gains even bigger, 7 percent. Workers with high school degrees or less lost 757,000 jobs. That's a 2 percent decline.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: People always tweet up and say I got this kind of degree and a job that's not commensurate, that's a good point. Having a college degree doesn't guarantee a good job.

Look at this. 37 percent of college graduates who are employed are working in jobs that don't require more than a high school diploma. College grads make up one in four retail workers, one in five telemarketers, and one in six bartenders.

ROMANS: That's so confounding for a lot of you graduating with a lot of debt. If you're picking what to study for the first time, consider the fields that are growing and are paying well, fields like health care.

VELSHI: I love accounting as you know.

ROMANS: I know. There's also computer science, engineering, anything STEM, health care, science, technology, engineering, math, and health care.

VELSHI: Here are five occupations adding jobs, registered nurses, elementary school teachers, sales reps, accountants and auditors and physicians and surgeons. All of these pay more than $50,000 a year. So education does help.

ROMANS: And computer systems, computer analytics, everything with coding and programming. These things are doing really well as well -- Suzanne?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Thanks, guys.

Police in Washington are on the lookout for a woman they say who robbed two banks within minutes of each other. Here's the suspect. Police say she walked into a PNC Bank, early yesterday morning, she handed a teller a note demanding money, walked away with the cash. And 15 minutes later, police say the same woman showed up at a Bank of America a few blocks away, picked up more cash. Investigators describe the mystery woman as armed and dangerous.

A mother in Florida says that a man tried to kidnap her kids. But she was saved by a group of teens. This man, he is in jail, right now. Deputies say he's accused of attempting to snatch the children from a park. Bay News 9 reports that the mother said she was watching her daughter and nephew when this guy came out of the woods, muttering he was sent by God to rid the world of trash. She said she tried to walking away with the kids but he caught up with him. She yelled for help and says a group of kids came to her rescue. Deputies say this man called police to report he was beaten up by the teenagers.

He calls himself America's toughest sheriff, but even he got taken. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Maricopa County, Arizona, says his credit card information was stolen. The thieves used it to buy almost $300 worth of groceries in Chicago, a place he hasn't visited in many years. Arpaio says he doesn't think he was a specific target, just a victim of a credit card fraud like many other folks.

That's it for me. Brooke Baldwin takes it from here.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Vacation nightmare. Men wearing hoods and carrying guns reportedly bursts into a resort and raped half a dozen women. We're on the case.