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CNN NEWSROOM

Postal Service Ending Saturday Home Delivery; Boy Scouts May Vote On Gay Ban Today; Possible Cut In Raises For Active Duty Troops; From Hitchcock To Honey Boo Boo

Aired February 6, 2013 - 10:00   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Stories we're watching right now: snail mail emergency. No Saturday delivery, no more friendly neighborhood mailman, it could all happen today.

Late night laughs aside, fears Chris Christie could die in office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: So far up to 50 years old I have been remarkably healthy. You know, My doctor warns me my luck will run out relatively soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Is it time for intervention?

The site of Osama Bin Laden's death house re-imagined, a zoo, ferrous wheels, just don't call it Osama Park.

And Chris Rock is on Capitol Hill about guns and how to stop the violence now. NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you for joining us. I'm Carol Costello. We have been talking about the Postal Service and its cuts to Saturday mail. There's a press conference going on right now. Let's listen.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Postmaster General Pat Donahoe.

PATRICK DONAHOE, POSTMASTER GENERAL AND CEO: Good morning, everybody. Good morning. Thank you for joining us. Today, we are going to be making an announcement about an important change to our national delivery schedule.

I think anyone that has followed the Postal Service over the past couple of years knows that we have been consistently advancing this idea of making change to our delivery schedule. It's an important part of our strategy for returning back to financial stability.

And we are now at a point it is absolutely necessary to make that move. Before I get into the details of the announcement, I'd like to spend a couple minutes discussing the financial reasons for this delivery schedule change.

Since 2008, we have seen a steady decline in the use of first class mail. It's our most profitable product and generates the most revenue, but people pay their bills online. It's simple. It's easy. It's free. You cannot beat free.

On the other hand, people do still like to receive hard copy statements and bills, correspondence, and the fact that businesses continue to send mail to the homes and that has been pretty stable over the past few years, really shows that people do value the mail that they receive.

However, they do like to make their payments online and it's put a tremendous financial pressure on the Postal Service. The biggest issue we face is whether we can adapt to these changes in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, our business model and the laws that govern us do not provide a lot of flexibility to adapt. This results in a major imbalance between costs and revenue. This past year, the Postal Service posted a financial loss of $15.9 billion by any measure that is unsustainable and it's unacceptable.

And of the $15.9 billion loss, $11.1 billion was due to the amount that we are obligated to pay the treasury to prefund retiree health benefits. We had to default on those payments because we did not have the funds.

You know the Postal Service is expected to operate like a business. We generate all of our revenue from the sale of postage. We take no tax dollars. We do not want tax dollars. However, we also don't have the ability to reduce costs in a way that a private business would.

And we are at the end of our borrowing authority. To give some perspective of our liquidity situation, a typical large organization would have either cash on hand or quick borrowing ability two months worth of cash to cover their operating costs.

In October, one point this year, the Postal Service had less than four days of cash on hand. That's a very scary situation, and it is no situation that a business should be in, and this is why we have taken aggressive steps to reduce our costs.

And while we have been so vocal about seeking postal reform legislation, we face some major hurdles to return to profitability and long term financial stability. We need to generate nearly $20 billion in cost reductions and revenue increases to close the budget gap and be able to repay our debt.

That's both, close the gap and repay the debt and this is why the board of governors, the Postal Service, has directed us to take every necessary step to reduce costs and conserve cash necessary to continue our operations.

It's what we have been doing consistently over the past couple of years and we will be accelerating efforts moving forward. Since 2006, we made tremendous strides in cost reduction. We reduced the size -

(END LIVE FEED)

COSTELLO: All right, we are going to jump out of this press conference because we kind of know what is going to happen. We have -- we are CNN. We find things out quickly.

Athena Jones is in Washington to tell us what exactly the Postal Service is going to do, because you know as he said, as the postmaster general said, you can't beat free.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Good morning, Carol. You know, as they said, they are going to be stopping Saturday delivery of first class mail on Saturday. Packages will still continue to be delivered. This is starting in August, August 5th, we are told.

This is all part of this effort to cut costs. They have already been cutting hours at post offices, closing and consolidating plants and making various changes to make up for the shortfall. I should mention back in 2005, the U.S. Postal Service didn't have any debt.

But there was a law passed in 2006 that requires them to prefund health care benefits for retirees, they say that along with the fact that people are using email to stay in touch and using the internet to pay bills, those two things combine to put them really in a tough place.

So they are having to announce these cost-cutting measures, not surprisingly postal workers are not happy about this. The American Postal Workers Union has released a statement this morning I will read part of it.

They say the USPS executives cannot save the Postal Service by tearing it apart. The Postal Service should be seeking ways to expand its offerings to the American people so it can remain relevant in the digital age.

That's of course referring to this idea email and technology changed the way people communicate. You know, I should mention that package delivery is still continuing. That's because it is one of the areas actually seen growth, perhaps part of that reason is because of the internet, because of people doing more shopping online.

But this is certainly negative reaction we have gotten from the postal workers union, which is not unexpected. They believe this will weaken the mail system and put it on a path to privatization -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Athena Jones reporting live from Washington. We will keep an eye on that press conference going on. We will break into programming if he says anything that you really want to hear. Athena Jones, thank you.

Now let's shift our focus to the Boy Scouts of America and what could be a pivotal day in its history. For more than a century its core values have been challenged but unchanged. Check back in a couple hours, today the group could lift its ban on openly gay members and leaders. Casey Wian is in Irving, Texas where the national scout leaders are meeting. Good morning, Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. What the Boy Scouts of America is proposing to do is to leave the issue of whether to allow homosexuals to be scout members or scout leaders up to individual troops. And that is actually proving very controversial from both sides of this issue.

Those who oppose the move, opening up to homosexuals say that it is compromising the Boy Scouts' core values. Those who favor inclusion say it doesn't go far enough. It creates sort of like a red state- blue state atmosphere, a divided atmosphere among the Boy Scouts, if that's what they decide to do.

Now just a little while ago, we spoke with a woman named Brandy Pryde who heads a scout troop here in Dallas. She says the church who sponsors her troop told her if this proposal goes through, they will pull their sponsorship and leave 40 boys without a scouting troop. Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDY PRYDE, BOY SCOUT TROOP LEADER: What happens when we go camping and there are units that allow gays and homosexuals and there are units that don't? How are we going to keep them separated from those units and how are we going to instil in our kids Christian values and the biblical truth, if that's allowed in our program?

ZACH WAHLS, AUTHOR, "MY TWO MONS": This is about them trying to advance an agenda of promoting a specific way of understanding the world at the expense of people all over the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: Now, the opponents of the change say that this is all about safety for the children, and not having them feeling uncomfortable, mixing with homosexuals, but we spoke just the day before yesterday with a former eagle scout, who has come out as gay.

He said that scouting was a refuge for him, sexuality wasn't an issue. It was a refuge from the teasing he got at school. So we are going to have to see how the national leadership decides on this issue. It could happen any moment -- Carol.

COSTELLO: OK, we will check back with you. Casey Wian is reporting live from Irving, Texas. So with change of some kind widely expected within a few hours, let's look ahead from two different perspectives.

Frank Page is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He joins us live from Nashville and Matthew Breen is in Los Angeles. He is the editor-in-chief of the "Advocate." Welcome to both of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Thanks for being here. I'd like to start with you, Frank. The Boy Scouts depend on corporate sponsors and those business leaders say they cannot be accused of supporting discrimination. They are going to pull their funding if the Boy Scouts don't change their tune. As more companies pull out, aren't you forcing the Boy Scouts to decide its very survival?

FRANK PAGE, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: Absolutely not. They have not given the churches an opportunity to step up to the plate and support more. This was all surprise to us. We were given one or two weeks' notice while the other side of this argument were given months. So that's just not even the issue. We would be glad to talk about increased support, but that was never even offered as an option.

COSTELLO: So in other words, if all of these businesses pull out then religious groups and churches would make up the financial difference.

PAGE: I certainly believe they would and could.

COSTELLO: And Matthew, there just doesn't seem to be any compromise in this thing, because even if the Boy Scouts make this decision to lift the national ban, local troops can still have that ban in place. So what difference will it really make, if the Boy Scouts of America make any kind of decision in favor of gay rights today?

MATTHEW BREEN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE ADVOCATE": Well, we are looking at the Boy Scouts as a national institution. Nothing is less American than discrimination. I think a preferable policy would be for Boy Scouts to change policy to eliminate discrimination at all levels.

And not just sort of kick it down to the troops. It would be really irresponsible for the Boy Scouts, I think, to teach different responsibilities and different character building skills in different troops.

And for Boy Scouts in one troop to see discrimination is OK and for those in other troops to see that it is not OK. That disparity I don't think would solve any of the problems of the sort of inherent unfairness in the Boy Scouts as it exists now.

COSTELLO: What would you -- what would be your reaction to Frank's idea that these businesses are pulling the funding from the Boy Scouts, but churches would step up and put the funding into place?

BREEN: Well, I would like to see the Boy Scouts end discrimination and corporate sponsorships return. There has been a drop off in recent years in both membership and corporate sponsorship for the Boy Scouts.

And by ending discrimination, I think you would see a lot of corporations, a lot of local institutions as well, really be invigorated by the idea of American fairness and take more ownership of the Boy Scouts. COSTELLO: And frank, a final question for you. We have heard so many former scout leaders step forward and say they served well in the Boy Scouts, they loved the Boy Scouts, but they are gay.

And nothing untoward happened with these scout masters, when they were active in the Boy Scouts so why can't there be some opening of the arms, just a little tiny bit toward gay Americans?

PAGE: Let me just say, we are thankful nothing happened in some of those instances, we can also point out where it did happen. This is about discrimination. It is about intolerance toward a private group, who holds to biblical morality, which does reveal righteousness and unrighteousness.

It's about a systemic attempt to hurt, to change a private organization that holds to certain beliefs. That's what this is about. It is about discrimination and intolerance toward those who hold a biblical morality. And it's a sad day, when we, they cannot express their beliefs and hold to them without the kind of threat --

COSTELLO: What about love thy neighbor?

PAGE: Absolutely. We believe in loving all people, but we also --

COSTELLO: Do you love gay people? Do you love your gay neighbor?

PAGE: Absolutely. I have gay family members, Carol, and I believe in loving them. But part of love is to tell people the truth. If you don't tell the truth, it's the worst form of love.

COSTELLO: I will leave response to you, Matthew. What do you think?

BREEN: Sure. Sexuality and sexual orientation has never been part of the Boy Scouts of America. It's not the domain of the Boy Scouts, and this idea that the sky will be falling if inclusion is expanded is a red herring. It's just fear mongering. Sexuality is not a part of the Boy Scouts' mission.

COSTELLO: All right, I will have to wrap this up because we have breaking news. Frank Page of the Southern Baptist Convention and Matthew Breen of "The Advocate," thank you so much for being with us.

Let's get right to breaking news right now, we have just learned that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will recommend a cut in pay, a pay cut for active military. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr broke the story. Tell us more.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Carol, this is the ultimate many believe in Washington budget politics, CNN has learned indeed Secretary Panetta is recommending what you might think of as an effective pay cut.

Let me give you two numbers here. This year, 2013, the pay raise for the active duty military force has been 1.7 percent. That's tied to some complex employment calculation, to 1.7 percent this year, Panetta now will recommend only 1 percent pay raise for next year, 2014. Several officials have confirmed this to me. They say it is due to what they call budget uncertainty in Washington. This is going to put the ball squarely in Congress's court as they contemplate sequestration, the budget cuts, everything we have been talking about for weeks now. Will Congress vote to cut effectively cut military pay while so many troops are still in combat? -- Carol.

COSTELLO: It boggles the mind. It's not like our military troops are making a whole lot of money. Since Congress can't get its act together -- it's unbelievable.

STARR: Well, I have to tell you, some people have described it to me around the pentagon this morning. This is very savvy budget politics by Leon Panetta, a few days before he is scheduled to step down and Chuck Hagel scheduled to take over.

This is really the ultimate, you know, taking that sort of sacrosanct military pay for G.I. and putting it in Congress's court. You don't have a budget plan, fine, we don't have the money -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Barbara Starr with a CNN exclusive. Thank you, so much.

STARR: Sure.

COSTELLO: Talk Back question today: Should the U.S. be able to kill American terror suspects without trial? Facebook.com/CarolCNN or tweet me @CarolCNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day, the question for you this morning, should the United States be able to kill American terrorist suspects without trial?

The constitution is like our secular bible and its sixth amendment guarantees every American accused of a crime to trial by jury except maybe for Americans suspected of terrorism who are living abroad.

A Justice Department memo says the government has the right to kill an American citizen overseas, if senior operational leader of al Qaeda and poses a quote imminent threat. The White House says such killings are justified.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is giving the legal justification for killing American citizens without any trial.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would point you to the ample judicial precedent for the idea that someone who takes up arms against the United States in a war against the United States is an enemy and therefore could be targeted accordingly.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: It's not like it never happened. It has. Anwar Al-awlaki, an American, was killed by an American drone in Yemen. The government says he was a terrorist behind the underwear bomber. But the U.S. government didn't bother to bring Al Awlaki to trial. It just killed him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER ANDERS, SENIOR LEGISLATURE COUNSEL, ACLU: All they have to show is a general view that somebody is doing something bad and hasn't renounced that.

DR. NASSER AL AWLAKI, ANWAR AL AWLAKI'S FATHER: I don't really agree with some of the things, which Anwar said, against the United States. Does that mean they should kill him?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says strikes like Al Awlaki's killing are a military matter and the courts give the president a wide birth when it comes to war.

But consider this, if we can kill suspected American terrorists overseas, could we eventually do the very same thing on American soil? Just how far are we willing to go in the fight against al Qaeda?

Talk Back question for you today: Should the U.S. be able to kill American terror suspects without trial? Facebook.com/CarolCNN or tweet me @CarolCNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: I like that. Whether it's highbrow or lowbrow, culture is America's biggest exports. Do TV episodes about Honey Boo Boo really reflect who we are as Americans? Brooke Baldwin takes a look at this "I Am America."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Happy days, I Love Lucy, leave it to Beaver, classic images of American life that became synonymous with a country.

But fast forward 40 or 50 years, and what we are watching now paints a very different picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy is going to have another baby.

BALDWIN: From Swiss Family Robinson to the "Hunger Games. And the "Real Housewives" are now more of this than this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beaver, you made the football team, do you think you are going to get a letter.

BALDWIN: Don't assume you'll find a more reserved America at the bookstore. Last year's best seller, so called mommy porn, "50 Shades of Gray."

(on camera): Name it could be a book, show or movie that epitomizes America right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sex in the City.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honey Boo Boo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMAEL: Hunger Games.

UNIDENTFIIED MALE: American gangster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here comes Honey Boo Boo.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I can't wait to go to the pageant with glitz, we will win it all after "Happy Days?"

BALDWIN: Did America take a wrong turn after happy days?

PROFESSOR PAUL LEVINSON, AUTHOR, "NEW NEW MEDIA": This golden age of TV sitcoms did not reflect the way American society really was. What it reflected to some extent is the way America thought it should be.

BALDWIN: So what is the reality of America today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Homeland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zero Dark 30.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Homeland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be homeland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: American prisoner of war had returned.

LEVINSON: What show time reflects is this latent paranoia that most of us feel, having lived through September 11th.

BALDWIN: We also got the message America still equals family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Modern family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Modern family.

BALDWIN: It may just look different these days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We adopted a baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened is television has caught up to human reality.

BALDWIN: Perhaps so. But some of us believe the real America is still to be found in a house in 1950s Milwaukee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy days, it was a fun time. There was a sense of community. It was an innocence about happy days, you know, happy days, happy days.

BALDWIN: Brooke Baldwin, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Chris Rock is taking a road trip, but not in the way you might think. The comedian takes his act to Congress. Our political buzz panel will tell you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)