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Postal Service Cancels Saturday Delivery; Banning Drones in U.S.

Aired February 6, 2013 - 14:59   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brooke Baldwin live in the CNN World Headquarters. I want to begin with some of the hottest stories in a flash, rapid fire. Roll it.

First up here, allegations involving New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez have prompted action from the Dominican legal system. CNN has learned the district attorney from Santo Domingo has opened this probe aimed at finding one Peter Williams.

This person, Peter Williams apparently is the source of e-mails sent to an ethics group in Washington alleging hook-ups involving Menendez and prostitutes in the Dominican Republic including at least one prostitute under the age of 18. Menendez denies those allegations.

And Mexican police say they could make arrests as early as this week and that brutal gang rape, gang rape in Acapulco. A group of Spanish tourists staying at this beachside bungalow were attacked by masked men with guns, broke into their villa in the middle of the night.

Six women were tied up with their bikinis and then raped. Police say they haven't made any arrests yet, but they are monitoring the suspects.

He is the first Iranian president to visit Egypt in three decades, but it wasn't exactly a warm welcome in Cairo for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Watch for yourself. You see here some of the shoes flying. We spotlighted it for you. Several men threw shoes at him as he was leaving this mosque. This is a major, major insult in the Muslim world. You remember George W. Bush suffered -- there it went -- and he ducked -- similar indignity while visiting Iraq. That was back in 2008.

Analysts keep talking about the housing industry coming back. Here is more proof. Great news, Home Depot just announced it is going to hire 80,000 people for its busiest spring season here. This is 10,000 more jobs than it posted last year at this time. If you want to apply, you can, just apply online. There is also a new job app tool designed for military veterans.

Germany's top educator has allegedly been caught cheating. A university has stripped Education Minister Annette Schavan of her doctorate degree after a blogger said she copied sections of her doctoral dissertation. The topic of her work here, how we form our conscience. The minister denies wrongdoing, says she will sue the university for taking away her degree. An Arizona couple vacationing in Hawaii hanging out, relaxing canoe ride, when this happens.




BALDWIN: Oh, my gosh is right. We will keep looping it. I want you to see this again, a huge, wait for it, humpback whale hitting the bow of this canoe, look at that, as it surfaces for a breath of air. Good thing they had a camera and they're OK.

Now take a look at this. This is a bread truck dangling precariously from above. This is an overpass on an interstate in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A truck crashed over the guardrail, wedged against this large concrete column. Thank goodness the column was there. Folks rushed in to rescue the driver with a ladder. But they weren't able to immediately get to the passenger, who did not survive.

Britney Spears reportedly is close to signing a long-term deal to headline at a major Las Vegas casino. Spears' manager tells "Extra" he would be shocked, his word, if a deal doesn't happen. By the way, Spears hinted at a Vegas gig on Monday. I didn't know her dog had a Twitter account. Learned something new, tweeting this. "Mommy, are dogs allowed to gamble in Vegas?" OK.

The post office announces a big change. The Boy Scouts big announcement is a dud. And the discovery of Earth-like planets. Time to play "Reporter Roulette."

We begin with the post office. You will not be getting now starting in August mail on Saturdays.

Athena Jones tracking the story for us now in Washington.



ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The Postal Service has announced they plan to stop delivering first-class mail on Saturdays. Package delivery will continue.

This is all part of cost-cutting efforts for the Postal Service. They have been hemorrhaging money in recent years as more people use the Internet both to keep in touch with family and friends and also to pay their bills. And so this is one of several cost-cutting measures. The American Postal Workers Union is not happy about this.

They believe that stopping Saturday mail delivery of letters will further weaken the system and perhaps drive more consumers away. They want to see Congress act to change a 2006 law they say has really hampered the Postal Service. That law requires them to prepay health care benefits for future retirees to the tune of several billion dollars a year. But the Postal Service is hoping to perhaps put some pressure on Congress by making this announcement today.


BALDWIN: Athena Jones, thank you.

Next on "Reporter Roulette," the Boy Scouts delay their big decision.

Dan Simon live at Salt Lake City.

Dan, why the delay?


Here in Salt Lake, they're pleased for now that the ban remains in place, but they see this only as a short-term victory. It is important to note that here where the Mormon Church is headquartered, that they view this through the eyes of the Mormon Church, that they view same-sex relationships as sinful.

I have been talking to parents and Scout leaders alike to ask them what they would do if the ban was lifted. Take a look.


STEVE BEAN, SCOUT LEADER: It is hard to predict what would happen. I know what I would do. I would stop volunteering in the Boy Scouts and I think that my son would leave scouting. And I would try to find another organization that teaches high moral principle.


SIMON: About 70,000 Boy Scouts here in the Salt Lake City area. The fear is that if this ban is lifted, you would see a mass exodus of people leaving the Boy Scouts at their parents' urging -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Dan Simon, thank you.

Next on "Reporter Roulette," scientists have made this absolutely incredible discovery here, billions of Earth-like alien planets could be residing in the Milky Way. And the nearest one could be just a stone's throw away, at least stone's throw in space miles.

Chad Myers as we talk proximity here, what do we mean by Earth-like planets?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I will say you have a very good arm if that's a stone's throw away.

We're talking about now the scientists from Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics looking at planets around red dwarves. We haven't looked at these. We're looking for planets on the Kepler Observatory.

And how this happens, here is the red dwarf sun. All of a sudden, a planet gets in the way and blocks out a little bit of that light. When that planet goes across the sun, as a transit, we see the dimness, the well -- well, you know, the telescope does, we don't. But the numbers go down, the brightness goes down and they know there are planets there.

The closest one now, 13 light-years away, only 13. And it is a Goldilocks planet. You know what that means? Not too hot, not too cold, just right. Just far enough away from the sun that we could actually have liquid water.




BALDWIN: A second-grader suspended for throwing an imaginary grenade. But in a nation on edge, good move or over the top? I'm Brooke Baldwin. The news is now.

(voice-over): So at this point, who hasn't testified about guns?

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: When your dad says something, you listen.

BALDWIN: Celebs in the hot seat.

Plus, chilling new details about the bunker built for war.

And Marco Rubio, U.S. senator and hip-hop historian? Wait until you hear what he has to say about Tupac and Biggie.



BALDWIN: Maybe it means something that Hollywood stars and other celebrities are jumping on the gun control bandwagon. Take a look at the scene here. This was the scene on Capitol Hill. This is just a short time ago, a clearly celebrity-backed group. They call themselves Demand a Plan. They took center stage in Washington and their message is this, act now, do something to reduce gun violence.

Here is Tony Bennett.


TONY BENNETT, MUSICIAN: I still haven't gotten over Connecticut. I would like the assault weapons to go to war, not in our own country. And I would like assault weapons eliminated.


BALDWIN: Joe Johns joins me now. Joe is our crime and justice correspondent.

And, Joe, what does this say about the current, really the current state of the gun debate here post-Newtown, that celebrities are starting to jump on board?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, you know, if we're completely honest, this has happened before, an all- star cast, but not for Hollywood movie.

A lot of people this time, though, Chris Rock, Tony Bennett, Anna Deavere Smith, Amanda Peet all at the U.S. Capitol in a news conference. This is Mayor Bloomberg's group known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns. And while the overall tone, of course, was serious, Chris Rock sort of loosened up the mood when he took the mike. Listen.


ROCK: I am just here to support the president of the United States. The president of the United States is, you know, our boss.

But he's also -- you know, the president and the first lady are kind of like the mom and the dad of the country. And when your dad says something, you listen. And when you don't, it usually bites you in the ass later on. So I'm here to support the president. Thank you.


JOHNS: Now, Chris Rock actually has made guns and bullets before part of one of his stand-up routines, made a big joke and got a lot of laughs saying that if they charged $5,000 for a bullet, there wouldn't be any bystanders, any innocent bystanders anymore. He didn't use that joke today, Brooke.

BALDWIN: No joking. Again, we mentioned they're calling themselves Demand a Plan. We have seen the ads. We have seen a lot of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. When you look at these ads, Joe, they look pretty expensive looking. Do we know -- do we know how much money is involved and where the money might be spent?

JOHNS: Michael Bloomberg is loaded, of course, and he's put a lot of his own money into this endeavor. He's also started this group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. I asked the director of that group, Mark Glaze, about the kind of money going in and he says they're actually getting big donations. Listen.


MARK GLAZE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS: We have had significant increase of funds coming in through the Web site. We don't necessarily ask for them. The average contribution size is about $70. But it has really exploded. And on the other end of the spectrum, we have had people give us $100,000 who we never met before just because they care about this issue.

We're spending it on everything we normally do, but we're doing a lot more of it because this is the moment to make a difference.


JOHNS: Of course, the spending by gun control advocates is really dwarfed by the spending of the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association. One hope they have is that they can turn that around just a bit -- Brooke. BALDWIN: Joe Johns, thank you, in Washington for me.

And when you think about drones, you usually think of these drones flying top-secret missions overseas. Well, now one town, in fact, this is the first city in the country, passing this anti-drone resolution. This is Charlottesville, Virginia. The proposal is a no- drone zone. Key players from both sides joining me next.


BALDWIN: Now to New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie is telling an ex-White House doctor to -- quote -- "shut up" when it comes to his weight. He's referring to the former White House physician Connie Mariano. She said she would like to see Christie run for office in 2016, but she's concerned he may die in office if he doesn't check his health now.

A reporter asked Christie about her comments just a short time ago.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You know, I find it fascinating that a doctor in Arizona who's never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history, could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away.

She must be a genius. She should probably be the surgeon general of the United States, I suspect, because she must be a genius. I think this is -- listen, this is just another hack who wants five minutes on TV. And it is completely irresponsible, completely irresponsible. My children saw that last night.

And she sat there on TV and said, I'm afraid he's going to die in office. I have four children between 9 and 19. My children, my 12- year-old son comes to me last night and says, dad, are you going to die? Come on. This is irresponsible stuff. And people who have a medical license, who have the privilege of having a medical license, should, in my view, conduct themselves more responsibly than that.

If she wants to get on a plane and come here to New Jersey and ask me if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I will have a conversation with her about that. Until that time, she should shut up.


BALDWIN: This is the third time this week Governor Christie has discussed his weight. He says he cares about his health and is making the best effort he can.

BALDWIN: Quick programming note for you: Dick Morris' prediction of a Mitt Romney landslide on election night didn't happen. Tonight, he goes head to head with Piers Morgan to talk about where the Republican Party goes from here, tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is recommending to Congress a smaller increase in pay for military troops, just 1 percent. The initial plan was to give service men and women a 1.7 percent raise. The reduction in future pay comes as the Pentagon is trying to deal with looming automatic spending cuts.


LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is not a game. This is reality. These steps would seriously damage a fragile American economy, and they would degrade our ability to respond to crisis, precisely at a time of rising instability across the globe.


BALDWIN: Panetta also warned that 800,000 civilian workers could be furloughed for 22 days.

Drones, they aren't just for tracking and attacking terrorists in, say, Afghanistan anymore. More cities and states are using the unmanned aircraft to snoop on criminals. And there are fears among some that the drones will become as pervasive as surveillance cameras watching and recording each and every move we make.

Well, now Charlottesville, Virginia, has become the very first city in the country to pass an anti-drone resolution. This is the headline here. But there is so much more to this story.

Let me bring in my guests. We have Kristin Szakos. She is the vice mayor of Charlottesville. And we have John Whitehead, the president of the Rutherford Institute, civil liberties and human rights nonprofit based in Charlottesville.

So, Kristin and John, welcome to both of you.

John, let me just begin with you, because this really started with your civil liberties group. You go to this Charlottesville City Council with a proposal. What was in it?

JOHN WHITEHEAD, PRESIDENT, RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE: Well, basically to provide civil liberties protection against drones.

By 2015, the president of the United States signed a law into effect, they will be flying over every city in the country. So, they're going to be around. The drones will be equipped with scanning devices, Tasers, rubber bullets, all the things, sound cannons, that they're using overseas. The question is, how should we limit them?

The proposal that we floated to the city council and all 50 states in Congress and we have some people in Congress looking at this, is that we have some civil liberties protections. We cannot prohibit drones. There will be beneficial use for drones, of course. The question is if they can see through the walls of your home, should they be used against citizens in court?

We're saying no. And should they be equipped with rubber bullets, grenade launchers, sound cannons and Tasers? We're saying no. They will end free speech protests in this country. But I will go back and say it again. Beneficially, yes, it is a $30 billion-a-year industry. They're going to be everywhere and some of the use of drones is going to be very beneficial.

BALDWIN: I hear you on the benefits.

And I think, Kristin, you agree that there are benefits of drones. But can you just tell me, bottom line this for me in terms of what actually passed, this week, on City Council? Is this necessarily a no-drone zone or is it that just basically in courts, you know, in courts you can't use the information that someone could get from a drone over Charlottesville?

KRISTIN SZAKOS, VICE MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: Yes, the resolution actually says that it can't be used in court and also that the city would not use anything for weapons, weaponized drones.

BALDWIN: What benefits do you think drones could have?

SZAKOS: Well, I don't know.

I can imagine situations in which -- and I have heard possibilities of situations in which you might be able to find survivors in a burning building without having to send in a firefighter. Things like that I think are, you know, things we all hope for from this sort of technology.

BALDWIN: And, John, do you wish this went further? How much further?

WHITEHEAD: Really, I don't think you could go much further.

What I think is good about this, this is a local community. I always encourage people to act locally, think nationally. The president of the United States signed the law into effect allowing these drones to fly over the country by 2015; 30,000 will be flying over the country by 2020, I'm being told by people in the aerospace industry.

We need some protections. He signed the law that gave us no protections, and that's all we're asking here. I think, yes, drones will be able to find lost children, probably. But you have got to understand the technology. There are drones as small as hummingbirds. People can go on YouTube and watch them. They will be everywhere.


BALDWIN: Law enforcement, Hollywood, all kinds of entities are going to be drones.


WHITEHEAD: Everybody is going to be using them. I had a student studying with me this summer that had two drones in his car. He showed me how to operate them.

BALDWIN: It was just the cover of "TIME" magazine. We had a whole discussion about it.

Kristin, I'm going to give you the final word here. Here you are, Charlottesville, Virginia, my old stomping grounds, beautiful small town, right, just two hours away from D.C. Here you are the first city with this anti-drone resolution. Do you think that you all will sort of be the beginning, the domino effect of other cities to come?

SZAKOS: I hope not. I actually voted against this resolution.

I don't think that they pose an immediate danger in Charlottesville. I think it is something we definitely need to be keeping an eye on, and Mr. Whitehead is right that there are I can imagine situations in which they could be dangerous. But I don't think we're under any threat here in Charlottesville now.

BALDWIN: John Whitehead and Kristin Szakos, both of you, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

WHITEHEAD: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: A second-grader pretends to throw a fake grenade at school, gets in real trouble. His parents, they're furious. We will hear from them and the little guy himself.

Plus, stop the presses. Tell your neighbor, the game of "Monopoly" is changing forever. And it has got a lot of folks talking.