Return to Transcripts main page


Forced Budget Cuts Just Hours Away; Horse Meat Hamburgers?; Sinkhole Swallows Florida Man; Al Qaeda Leader Killed in Mali; White Model as African Queen Sparks Controversy

Aired March 1, 2013 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, just hours from the deadline. It appears the dreaded forced spending cuts are going into effect. Are we over the cliff or just a little roll in the hay?

And controversy over horse meat found at a Taco Bell, but there's a plan to sell it at restaurants in the United States.

And imagine sleeping in your bed when the earth begins to swallow you up. It happened to a Florida man and you'll hear from his brother tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.

A good Friday evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the hatchet about to fall, or is it? So for weeks as you know the president has been warning that we're going to be facing financial doom when the $85 billion in cuts take effect in less than five hours. Here's the president last week.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: So these cuts are not smart, they are not fair, they will hurt our economy, they will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. This is not an abstraction. People will lose their jobs.


BURNETT: All right, that sounds terrible like we're going over another cliff, just like Thelma and Louise. There we are, but as the clock ticked closer to dooms day, the president started to change his tune. Here's Obama this week.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is not a cliff, but it is a tumble downward.


BURNETT: OK, it's not a cliff, more like a tumble. We're just rolling down a hill like Wesley and Buttercup in "Princess Bride."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sweet Wesley, what have I done? (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I want to watch that movie again. But after it was abundantly clear that nothing would stop these cuts from kicking in, the president softened his tone even more.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Now, what's important to understand is that not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away.


BURNETT: If we're not going to feel the pain, what is all this bickering about? OUTFRONT tonight, Stephen Moore, senior economics writer with the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page and Daniel Altman, economics professor at NYU.

I'll ask you both the question. Daniel, Thelma and Louise, Wesley and Buttercup or just what the heck was all this about.

DANIEL ALTMAN, ADJUNCT ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NYU'S STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: You know, Wall Street is not that concerned about it. The Dow is hitting its all-time highs, but the thing is that average people are going to suffer here.

Because even if it's just 3 percent of the federal budget this year or 4 percent next year, that hurts a lot of people because the federal government affects so many people. I always say that when you think about unemployment, the unemployment rate is 8 percent. That means 92 percent of people have jobs.

Take out 4 percent of the federal budget. Yes, maybe there's 96 percent left, but a lot of people will feel it.

BURNETT: Interesting way to think about it. Steven, is that a fair point?

STEPHEN MOORE, SENIOR ECONOMICS WRITER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL" EDITORIAL PAGE: No. Look, I think we've lived through this before. I worked for President Reagan in 1987. We did a sequester. It wasn't as big as this one, but it was about a 4 percent sequester and you know what, life went on.

We actually did reduce the budget deficit and most Americans realized, you know, these agencies can cut their budget. I just think Americans are getting a little sick and tired of this idea that these agencies can't find way waste inefficiencies in their budget.

Whether it's travel, whether it's conferences, whether it was paper clips, whatever, we know that agencies are wasting a lot of money. I live in Washington. I know I see it every day.

BURNETT: I mean, Daniel, I guess that is the frustration a lot of people have. We don't like these cuts because they do hurt some of the most vulnerable and we've talked about that before, you don't want that to happen. But there are all kinds of junk going on that they could cut.

ALTMAN: Sure. But we should cut waste any time we can. The point is that "The Sequester" was supposed to help us to cut our debt so that we'd be somehow in better shape with the credit markets.

But we could double the interest rate on every single outstanding treasury security and our interest payments would still be less than they were in the Reagan or Bush years. We don't have that problem right now.

So we have these stupid cuts going into effect, which might cut some fat as Stephen said, but they might also cut muscle and bone. That's what we really need to avoid when unemployment is still 7.9 percent.

BURNETT: Democrats and Republicans love to do one thing, waste money and spend more of it. Stephen, they all do.

MOORE: My question would be why can't they cut the waste? This is what a business would do, Erin. You come from a business background. A business isn't going to cut its most vital services.

It's not going to cut the air traffic control system or close down schools. It's going to find ways. By the way, I live in Virginia. People on my street probably will be furloughed one day a week, but the private sector went there as you know, Erin, three years ago.

ALTMAN: Well, we've been seeing so many job cuts in the public sector and now we're probably going to have more. We know that we're going to have kids getting kicked out of head start. We know that we're going to have draw downs in some public services because we didn't know whether "The Sequester" was going to happen.

We thought it probably would happen, we hoped that politicians would avert it. How much planning do you think those agencies really have done for these cuts? These cuts are going into affect tomorrow. They are supposed to be permanent for the next several years.

This is all happening a little too quickly for some of these agencies that haven't been able to prepare.

BURNETT: It's kind of sad too that the examples they gave, Arne Duncan, the education secretary said, they're going to lose jobs at the school in Virginia. We called the school and they said the job cuts have nothing to do with "The Sequester." It didn't help, but they couldn't come up with examples.

I mean, what you're saying maybe true, but they couldn't come up with examples. Stephen, Republicans are congratulating themselves. They said, look, you signed a deal on cuts. We're getting cuts. We want to cut the deficit. This is a win.

Republican Congressman Steve Scalise said I think Friday is an important day. I'll read his quote, "That shows we're finally willing to stand and fight for conservative principles and force Washington to start living within its means and that will be a big victory." Once people start feeling this, though, that may not be a victory. MOORE: Well, but Republicans have to show that they're willing to cut the budget. Look, this is $50 billion, Erin, out of a $1 trillion deficit. If we can't do this, if we basically say this is too hard, we can't cut $50 billion, how are we going to get the other $950 billion reduced?

I mean, I just see this as a baby step and I think actually as a conservative, I think if Republicans back down, a lot of conservative voters are going to say there's no difference between these two parties. Either of them wants to cut the budget.

BURNETT: Well, there is no difference between the two parties, neither one of them can get anything done. Before we go, I have to play this because I love it so much. This is -- this is proof that the president owns this debate because we all use his words. Here's a way to describe what's happening in just a couple hours.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: The problem with the spending freeze is you're using a hatchet where you need a scalpel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a hatchet not a scalpel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hatchet, it's a bit of a scalpel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a hatchet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hatchets and scalpels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a hatchet, it's not a scalpel, it's a q- tip.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The right way to do things is taking a machete to something as oppose to a scalpel. A scalpel to the discretionary budget rather than a machete. A scalpel and not a machete.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Butcher's knife.






BURNETT: Meat cleaver. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meat cleaver.



BURNETT: Meat cleaver. I like saying it.

ALTMAN: I call it tweezers. But you know, this economy is struggling so much, why -- why with this economy struggling so much would you hit it with anything if it's a meat cleaver, an ax?

BURNETT: Even a q-tip.

ALTMAN: Why would you do it? You can wait two or three years.

MOORE: It's good for the economy to get the government spending down.

ALTMAN: You opposed stimulus and now you're opposing -- we know the story you guys tell.

MOORE: We did have a stimulus and it didn't work. It didn't create jobs.

ALTMAN: You know what, you look at the counter factual and then tell me if that's really true.

MOORE: They said the unemployment rate would be 5.5 percent, today it's 8 percent.

ALTMAN: Look, that doesn't mean that it wasn't worth stimulating the economy. If you don't think we should have done any stimulus, then maybe you should be on a different show.

MOORE: I love Erin's show. By the way, Erin, "Princess Bride" is my favorite movie.

BURNETT: I love that movie. We can leave it on a point of agreement. I'm assuming, Daniel likes "Princess Bride" too.


BURNETT: All right, thanks to both and just a few hours away the hatchet or the q-tip or the meat ax or the meat cleaver or whatever you want to call it is going to drop.

Still OUTFRONT, a plant to open a horse meat processing plant in the United States and the controversy that's already started, a celebrity chef who says he eats horse meat and likes it.

Plus the U.S. scores a major victory in the war on terror, the president with a big win tonight.

Accusations that a show dog at Westminster was intentionally poisoned and died.


BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, where's the beef? It's a question Americans may soon be asking if the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves a horse slaughtering plant in New Mexico. This would be the first time since 2007 that horse meat, suitable for human consumption, is produced here in the United States.

Now, a concern over horse meat tainted food has been growing in the fast two months. Taco Bell, Burger King and Ikea chains in Europe have all had to pull meat from the market after discovering it contained horse DNA.

The USDA says the United States neither slaughters horses nor imports horse meat, but the question tonight is, could horse meat make it into America's food supply and then we'll also tackle whether horse meat is really that bad? It might actually be pretty healthy.

Casey Wian is OUTFRONT tonight with the first part of that story. So let me start, Casey, with the big question, if the horse slaughtering plant here gets approval, how concerned should we be about horse meat ending up in hamburger meat?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, when you talk to opponents like the ASPCA, they are very concerned about contamination, they say, by horse meat into the food supply in the United States. As it stands right now, there's only one slaughterhouse that is trying to get approval.

And it's about 60 days away potentially from approval to go ahead and start slaughtering horses. Given what's happened in Europe, opponents of this say they are very worried.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those who are proposing these horse slaughter plants in many cases are talking about developing horse meat menus and horse meat options for American consumers, which is sending us in exactly the wrong direction.

Right now with what's going on in Europe and all the confusion, outrage and dismay that consumers have over being exposed to horse meat accidentally, we really don't need to be bringing that industry here to U.S. soil.


WIAN: Now, I spoke with an attorney for the slaughterhouse today and he says that this plant will only be slaughtering horses not other animals. There's no real chance for cross contamination there. Also, at least initially this horse meat will only be for the export market. It will not be sold in the United States.

But the attorney says that this slaughterhouse owner, if there's a market that develops for horse meat in the United States among consumers, and some people are trying to push that, they will not rule out the possibility of selling it here -- Erin. BURNETT: We are going to be talking to a chef in a moment who says how nutritional horse meat is may shock people. But how likely is it, Casey, that this plant gets approval and goes ahead?

WIAN: Well, the owner of the plant says he thinks it's very likely. He thinks they're one inspection away within the next 60 days from the USDA granting approval. The USDA gave us a statement today saying they really have no other choice, but to grant this approval. But they are calling on Congress and some opponents are calling on Congress to step in and reinstate in horse meat slaughter ban that expired two years ago -- Erin.

BURNETT: Casey Wian, thank you.

I want to bring in Marc Murphy now. He's a familiar face to you from the Food Network and the chef and owner of restaurants "Landmarc" and "Ditch Plains" here in New York City.

Marc, you heard Casey Wian's report. People in the U.S. are up in arms about, my gosh, horse meat is going to end up in my burger. You have a lot of experience with this. Is it really a big deal?

MARC MURPHY, CHEF AND OWNER OF LANDMARC AND DITCH PLAINS: I don't think it's a big deal. We have the USDA. They control things and make sure that the food that's being bought is actually the food that's being sold. I think that's something that's important to remember.

BURNETT: So you grew up in Italy.

MURPHY: I did. I was born in Milan.

BURNETT: All right, born in Milan. You said you recently saw horse meat was in baby food there. I mean, this is not --

MURPHY: Well, I was traveling with my daughter when she was 3 years old and my wife said they're selling horse meat in baby food. I said, yes. It's a cultural difference. I don't think we're used to seeing that.

BURNETT: You know, to your point about a cultural difference, I just had a little fun today. A viewer actually sent me a link to a story about camel meat craze ahead in the United Arab Emirates today.

There was a headline this week about Australia's kangaroo meat industry enters the Chinese market so they're exporting the "Roo craze" to Russia and China. And then there's another one where whale steak goes well with greens.

These are all things here in the U.S. people might be shocked that people eat, but they're delicacies. This is not unusual.

MURPHY: My grandmother, she was French. I'm half French. When I was a kid, I ate horse meat as a kid. It was served at the table. That's what we ate. I remember it being a very sweet meat and also it's very lean, which is obviously very healthy as well. BURNETT: As a chef, let me ask you about this. We looked up the nutrition data on this to your point. This is kind of stunning when you compare horse meat to other lean cuts of meat, double the iron concentration, shocking, more Vitamin B-12, 50 percent versus 21 percent, and it contains more Omega 3 fatty acids, 360 milligrams to 21 in a strip steak.

MURPHY: So it's good for you.

BURNETT: It sounds like it's something we want to eat.

MURPHY: It does. But I think everybody has a horse as a pet and don't want to eat their pets so in this country we don't do it.

BURNETT: So you're the owner of several restaurants, a well known and respected chef. You say you've eaten it, it's healthy. There's no problem with it. It's a cultural thing. Would you ever consider serving it?

MURPHY: I don't think I would put it on my menu here. If I opened a restaurant in France, I probably would. You have to serve the public. That's how we make our money. We have to please our customers. I think if I put it on the menu here in America, it would probably cause controversy and people wouldn't want to eat it.

Would I maybe make it for myself and some friends at home and I'm not tricking somebody into eating something they don't want, if they want to try it, absolutely. It would probably not be worth it financially to put it on the menu if nobody would eat it.

BURNETT: Right, but at least you're opening people's minds up perhaps as not being as simple as you think.

MURPHY: Well, there's a lot of food out there to eat. If you really want horse meat, I think, you know, take a vacation, go to France and eat some horse meat there.

BURNETT: All right, Marc, thanks very much. It's nice to see you. Thanks.

All right, up next, a Florida man sleeping in his own bed suddenly buried alive. We have the latest on that story.

And this picture, is it racist?

Plus, what the force is all this about?


PRESIDENT OBAMA: I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, a Florida man swallowed by a sinkhole. This is a bizarre story. It happened inside this home. Jeff Bush was sleeping in bed when the ground opened up underneath him. Then he just fell into the earth.

He screams for help, it was heard throughout the house. Police tonight say there is no sign of life in that sinkhole. The victim's brother spoke to CNN.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "AC 360": Jeremy, I'm so sorry for what you're going through. What happens now? I mean, where --

JEREMY BUSH, JEFF BUSH'S BROTHER: There's a picture of my brother right there. There's a picture of my brother right there. The man I love, the guy I always -- he's my brother, man. He was everything to me. That was him.


BURNETT: John Zarrella is there. John, obviously just a shocking story. The recovery effort is under way right behind you. I know we just said there hadn't been signs of life. What's the latest that you know?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, that's exactly right, Erin. And in fact they're treating this as a recovery operation now. What they are doing, you can see behind me, that's a ground-penetrating device. What they're trying to do is get a handle on the exact dimensions of this sinkhole.

How wide out does it spread because they do not want to send anybody in, they do not want to go near the house for fear that other people who they send in could ultimately be swallowed up at any moment if this thing would collapse. You can see the men working there, they are wearing harnesses.

There are cables attached to them so that if something happens and the ground collapses, they can be yanked out. That's how concerned they are about all of this. But of course for the family, it is -- they are very distraught tonight.

And there are some 911 call that came out last night that really gives you an indication of how suddenly this hit them and how panicked they were.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need an ambulance -- stuck underneath the house. The house fell through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, what happened to the house?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bedroom floor collapsed and my brother-in- law is in there and he's underneath the house. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Hold on one second. Let me connect you to EMS, OK?



ZARRELLA: Now, the first responders -- the first responders that got here, the first responder that actually got into the house pulled Jeremy out, the brother, because he was down there with a shovel trying to dig his brother out, pulled him out. They got everybody else out of the house and it was immediately deemed unsafe. Erin, no one has been back inside since.

BURNETT: John, I know that there are -- there have been sinkholes in many places around this country, but also in the state of Florida. You've covered stories like this before, but how extraordinary is this situation?

ZARRELLA: This one is very extraordinary for a couple of reasons. Yes, there are sinkholes all over. Florida is built on literally 3,000 feet of limestone, which at any time can become very permeable and then suddenly you have a sinkhole opening up.

What's happened here is they had a collapse then they had another collapse. The walls are very steep according to the engineers who just spoke. They expect that the sinkhole will continue to widen because those walls cannot support being that steep and that is why they are taking this much time.

They are saying that this particular sinkhole is very, very unique in how it has opened up and how it is continuing to deepen, 25, 30 feet and getting deeper.

BURNETT: That's amazing. John, thank you very much.

Up next, a major development in the war on terror, a potentially huge victory for the United States.

And was this prized show dog murdered?


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start with stories we care about where we focus on our reporting from the frontlines and we begin with new developments tonight in the case of James Holmes.

In court documents made public today, lawyers for the Aurora Theatre shooting suspect indicate that Holmes may plead not guilty and he may plead by reason of insanity. They're asking a judge to declare part of the state's insanity defense laws unconstitutional.

Holmes' lawyers also say they still don't know whether the prosecution will actually seek the death penalty and that they say is directly affecting all their decisions. He has been charged with 24 counts of first degree murder.

And now, an OUTFRONT update on the mysterious hanging death of American Shane Todd in his Singapore apartment. We told you this story yesterday. We told you the Singapore police said that he committed suicide but his family told us it was anything but.

Questions have been raised about whether Shane's work for a government research firm made him a target. And today, the Todd family tells us that the FBI has been invited to take part in the investigation. It's not clear, though, how much of a role the agency will have.

Well, tonight, we have learned the estimated cost of the Christopher Dorner manhunt is $550,000 and that's just for resources provided by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, not counting the FBI or the LAPD, just San Bernardino.

It's not a good time to spend that kind of money, spokeswoman Cindy Bachman told us, but it obviously was unavoidable. Luckily, this is San Bernardino County, not the city of San Bernardino, which filed for bankruptcy last August. Bachman says they're keeping good records of the manhunt in case there's a chance of being reimbursed even partially by federal taxpayers.

As the dust is just settling on Benedict's historic resignation as pope, the race for the next most important Catholic is on. But before the official meetings begin in Rome, there's a period of what is fair to call schmoozing, even though it doesn't sound so faithful.

According to bestselling author, Raymond Arroyo, Cardinals as we speak are sizing each other up and forming alliances before they choose the date for the secret election in which they will choose the next pope called the conclave. We were talking about it today. Think of it as the Vatican's version of "Survivor." Conclave is the tribal council, the silent (INAUDIBLE).

Well, in the movie "Magnolia", you probably saw it raining frogs. And in Guam, it is going to be raining mice. This is for real, no jokes.

Guam has a brown tree snake problem. They're a non-native snake. And it's causing power outages and wiping out native birds. I don't know why the power outage, maybe it eats the cords. Not sure.

Anyway, the USDA has a $1.3 million solution. Dope up tens of thousands of dead mice with acetaminophen. The same stuff as a Tylenol. And then dump them over the islands. They'll dump out all the mice, the snakes theoretically will eat the toxic mice and die within 72 hours.

PETA calls the initiative a dangerous massacre. They tell us that the drug causes renal and liver failure so it could take actually weeks for the snakes to die. They call that a needlessly agonizing end. The first drop is expected to take place in April or May.

Well, it's been 575 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Well, if growth continues to slow in China that, could really hurt. An index that measures manufacturing in China fell, hitting a four-month low, barely expanding. That could be a huge story for us.

And our fourth story OUTFRONT: victory in the war on terror.

There was a major al Qaeda leader who is dead tonight. We have learned that Abou Zeid, a senior commander of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was killed in an air strike in Mali. Does it back up this kind of tough talk from the president?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We achieved our central goal, which is -- or have come very close to achieving our central goal, which is to de-capacitate al Qaeda, to dismantle them, to make sure that they can't attack us again.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, Peter Brookes, former deputy assistant second of defense under the Bush administration. And Retired General Wesley Clark, a former NATO commander.

General Clark, this was a significant kill, right?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO COMMANDER: It is. And I think it is significant when you decapitate organizations. You take out their top leadership, you take away the inspiration for the troops in the bottom. But you also take out the knowledge, the skills, the contacts, the relationships that people like this man have built up over 20 years.

BURNETT: Peter, do you think it's fair to say that the president has said that al Qaeda is on the run and we, along with many others, when that didn't appear to be true called him out for it. Is it true tonight?

PETER BROOKES, SENIOR FELLOW FOR NATL. SECURITY AFFAIRS, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I don't think so. This is significant, I agree with you and the general, but it doesn't mean it's fatal to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

France still has a lot of work to do. They're very concerned in France now about potential for attacks in Europe because so many of these folks in former colonies coming back and forth to France. There's also this Mokhtar Belmokhtar who was involved in the Algerian gas plant incident that may be rising to the fore as the number one leader for al Qaeda and the Islamic Maghreb now that Abou Zeid is gone.

So a prediction is tough, especially about the future. But I'm cautious at this point.

BURNETT: And, General Clark, people have been sort of watching the situation in Mali. Everyone was very worried whether the U.S. would have to be involved. France is involved and sort of mired in northern Mali right now and not necessarily leaving and saying they don't know when they're going to be able to leave. Is this problem going to become a sore, a sore that the United States has to deal with?

CLARK: No, I don't think so. I do think we have a good close relationship with French forces there. So, we are providing them intelligence support and maybe some logistics support. I think it's really appropriate and they need to stay there and finish up the problem

It's -- there's no single victory in these fights. And taking out a leader or two helps but you've got to stay with it and beat the organization down. This is a long war against these people.

BURNETT: Peter, there was a magazine -- there is a magazine. It's an English language magazine. It's called "Inspire".


BURNETT: And it is a magazine produced by al Qaeda. Now, this may surprise a lot of people. They have a magazine and put it out in English. Obviously, they want the people in the west to read it. It's got a lot of propaganda articles against the West. How to articles on how to launch terrorist attacks to create road traffic incidents, torch cars and kill people.

How concerning is this? They now have a new edition out calling for lone wolf attacks across Europe, mass killings like the one we saw in Norway.

BROOKES: Erin, it's been a concern for a long time. In fact, Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Yemeni cleric who's no longer with us due to a drone strike was behind this. It's something of great concern. You're right, it has articles in there how to build a bomb in your mom's kitchen sort of things.

And because of the pervasiveness of the Internet, the transnational nature of the Internet, people become self-radicalized without ever going to a training camp which makes it very tough for law enforcement, intelligence officials to track them. They can also learn these terrible black arts of the terrorist trade that they can use.

So, yes, this is very, very concerning. And the biggest concern of our FBI is the lone wolf terrorist, the one who's building the bomb in the basement who doesn't associate it. You know, at Heritage Foundation, for instance, we've tracked -- there have been more than 50 terror plots in the United States since 9/11, and that includes something like Ft. Hood, where that major, that army major was self radicalized and was in contact with terrorists overseas via the Internet.

BURNETT: And, General Clark, you were saying there's threats every day. I mean --

CLARK: Every day. We're still being probed and we're still being tested. So, this is a long way from being over, but I think we've definitely turned a big corner when we took down Osama bin Laden and we've got effective means of going after these organizations. It's just that it's continuous.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it. As we said, Abou Zeid, one of the big leaders for al Qaeda in northern Africa dead tonight.

Also, OUTFRONT, a potential Westminster murder mystery. The dog show world has been rocked by the death of a white Samoyed -- I'm sorry if I said it wrong people -- named Cruz. He died just after competing at this year's competition in New York. Now, there are claims of foul play with some pointing the finger at animal activists.

Mary Snow is OUTFRONT.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was Cruz, a 3-year- old Samoyed at the premiere canine competition of them all. New York's Westminster dog show held in February. Days later, the dog died in Colorado. A vet there determining rat poisoning was one possible cause of death.

But his owner suspects something more sinister, that someone deliberately gave the dog poison that wouldn't kill him right away.

LYNETTE BLUE, OWNER/BREEDER: Some deranged person, I mean, they're out there and they do horrible things all the time. You know, it was somebody that they don't -- maybe they don't agree with people that raise and show dogs. Maybe they're just crazy.

SNOW: Lynnette Blue has no proof. She doesn't believe the dog ingested rat poison on his own since he was closely watched. Her purebred pet always flew coach. In New York, he stayed with his handler at the "New Yorker" which says it doesn't use rat poison. It even offers spa packages to show dogs.

Blue says she isn't ruling out animal rights activists who protest the shows.

PROTESTERS: There's no excuse for animal abuse.

SNOW: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals calls any hint of suspicions hurled their way outrageous.

LISA LANGE, PETA: PETA has long been protesting the dog show. We're opposed to dog shows across the board because of what it does to these poor dogs and we think that definitely all cosmetic surgeries on dogs for dog shows should be outlawed.

SNOW: In Cruz's case, he had a procedure done on his vocal cords to quiet his bark. And the dog's handler says a woman during the Westminster show called them cruel.

But the Westminster Kennel Club downplays the likelihood of deliberate poisoning, saying none of roughly 270 dogs at the show had any problems. Adding, "We have never, to our knowledge, had an incident at our show where a dog has become ill or was harmed as a result of being poisoned."

Back in 1865, "The New York Times" reported that eight dogs were poisoned the morning before the Westminster competition. The motive? Jealousy.

What happened to Cruz may never be known since the owner declined a necropsy leaving questions unanswered.

(on camera): The owner says she didn't have further testing done because, for once, she was upset at the time, and she says she was advised tests probably wouldn't have shown anything if the dog had been poisoned days before. So the answers of what really happened will probably never be known -- Erin.


BURNETT: Yes. Thanks very much to Mary. Wow.

Next, a controversy about how this model is portrayed. Take a long look at it. African queen and then take a look at her face.

And the White House gets its full geek on and makes a death star-sized faux pas.


BURNETT: We are back with tonight's "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world. And tonight, we go to South Africa where eight police officers have been arrested in connection with the dragging deaths of a man in police custody.

Video captured the man being tied to the back of a police van and then pulled him over the roadway as crowds watched. The incident has drawn worldwide condemnation.

Errol Barnett is in Johannesburg and I asked what prompted the dragging and what it says about South Africa.


ERROL BARNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the victim in this incident, a 27-year-old taxi driver from Mozambique allegedly parked illegally and resisted arrest. That preceded what we see in the graphic video.

What we know is that hours after that video was shot, he was found dead in his cell after sustaining injuries to his head and internal bleeding. That's what South Africa's police watchdog is saying. In fact it's this entity which made the arrest on Friday of the eight police officers involved. They also tell us those police officers could be seen before a judge as early as Monday.

Now, while everyone is condemning the behavior in the video, it is raising questions on how to fix what appears to be a culture of violence here in South Africa that could possibly be seeping into the police force -- Erin. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Thanks, Errol.

And now our developing story tonight. In a little over four hours, the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts are going to kick in. The president hasn't signed the legislation that puts those cuts into effect but he will be signing it. The question is, will you know anything about it?

OUTFRONT with the story, Jessica Yellin at the White House.

And, Jessica, obviously, you know, he's going to do it behind his back in a room with no windows or something, right?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're not going to call a whole lot of attention to it, you're right, Erin. They'll do it in a private -- in a private event. I expect they'll probably release a photo, obviously, not a lot of fanfare around this one.

The president could sign it any time now. The moment he does sign it, that is when the cuts go into effect. What we know will not happen, the locusts will not come, flood gates will not open. The office of management and budget will still be open because they have to send their report to Congress detailing what all the cuts are. But we know they're not going to be, as the president said, dire or immediate. People across the country aren't going to be feeling them right away.

So it's really more of a sort of slow ripple effect on the economy. And that's something of political challenge for the White House, Erin.

BURNETT: It certainly is, because obviously he used such aggressive terms. He along with Republicans to describe these and now has had to tone that rhetoric down a lot.

But that brings me to the question, Jessica, from here what happens? He signs the bill and it's in effect. So, does that mean it's over? Is he going to try to undo it? What happens?

YELLIN: Well, that's an excellent question, we have to see. It will be a lot of -- right now, there is no negotiating going on between Democrats and Republicans on this. There are no meetings set, no calls planned.

And I'm told by sources here that the president is going to go on to focus on immigration reform, guns, other domestic priorities. He's not going to dedicate all his time to fighting this battle right now, because they want their agenda to stay alive. They don't want it to get swallowed up by a fight over another fiscal drama.

But obviously this will have to be worked out and so it's a question of how long until people really start to suffer, feel it, and they put enough pressure on their members of Congress to get something done. That will be the end game.

BURNETT: We will see what these cuts really mean. Thanks so much to Jessica.

And now, let's check in with Anderson with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360."

Hey, Anderson.


Yes, we've got a really emotional interview. You're going to hear only on "360". A grieving brother shares the moment-by-moment details of that sinkhole that swallowed his brother alive. Jeremy Bush said he heard what sounded like a freight train in their Florida home. Heard his brother, Jeff, scream, ran to his brother's room. The room was gone, so was his brother.

Officials are saying a sinkhole of this size is unprecedented, saying it continues to grow deeper and wider by the minute and the instability is making it impossible to have search and rescue efforts to try to get his brother back. My conversation with Jeremy Bush ahead.

Also on raw politics tonight, lawmakers, as you've been reporting leaving town, leaving behind the unfinished business of solving the budget mess but before they left, there was one last round of not negotiation, but -- well, of finger pointing basically. I'll talk with Senator John McCain who admits there's plenty of blame to go around and ask him -- we're going to ask him what changed in Washington, why compromise is now a four-letter word.

Those stories and a lot more tonight. And the latest on the Jodi Arias trial, all that and more at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Anderson. Looking forward to seeing you.

One hundred and twenty-six days Congress works this year.

Our fifth story OUTFRONT: artistic expression or hugely insensitive. This photo spread in French magazine has touched off a firestorm. You see it's African queen but look at the model. The model depicted as an African queen is white.

Today, the magazine apologized for using a white model. The photographer also reportedly apologized. But is that enough or did they even need to apologize?

OUTFRONT tonight, "BuzzFeed" political reporter, Andrew Kaczynski, CNN contributor Van Jones, and former prosecutor Wendy Murphy.

Van, let me start with you. Looking at these, what's your take?

VAN JONES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, the backstory here is that there's a sense that there's just not enough actual African models being used. So you have to understand part of this is, hold on a second, if you want a real African queen, Damaris Lewis has not been seen since she was in "Sports Illustrated" cover. There's a lot of black models not being used. Also, of course, this touches on some painful memories from the past where black face was used to make fun of black folks. So I think this does touch a deep chord I think for some people, and I think that's what you see going on here.

BURNETT: Andrew, what do you think?

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, POLITICAL REPORTER, BUZZFEED: I mean, I think it's outrageous. I don't think -- I mean, what were these people really thinking? Do they not have people working P.R. for them? I mean, there are plenty of teenagers. There are plenty of people -- I mean, the model is a teenager, I believe, and there are plenty of people who are coming up who are black models, and, you know, they're that young.

When you se someone who is getting that job over you, what do you think they're doing? I mean, it's terrible.

BURNETT: Wendy, are critics being too sensitive?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Yes, I think so. And by the way, I think they have very good P.R. people on this, this is probably part of the campaign. Look, we're talking about it. And it's controversial enough to make us talk.

I think when you get too sensitive about this stuff, you can build more distance. In a sense, be more racially divided when you say this differentness matters at that level. I mean, you know, sometimes this kind of issue matters a lot, and sometimes it doesn't.

Temporal context matters. Black face was a very long time ago, and there's lots of black people in this country, great black people, and if we're going to imitate them and imitation is a form of flattery, I think it might be offensive to dress up like a black person you love and keep your white face on.

You know, it's just not the same era as when black face was around.


JONES: I think -- yes, one of the things that I think we've got to remember, too, though, is that you can go all the way back to -- you know, Lena Horne, my dad loved Lena Horne. He grew up in segregation, poverty. She was not allowed to be Cleopatra in the movie, that was done by Elizabeth Taylor. You do have this long history of African- Americans not being able to play black roles, let alone white roles.

I don't think people are being overly sensitive. We haven't come so far that we can just kind of do this kind of stuff without any conversation about it at all.

BURNETT: I mean, couldn't they have been trying to make a point that color is only skin deep and the soul of a person, it doesn't matter what your race is? I mean, is it possible it was an artistic statement? That it was purposeful but not meant insulting.

KACZYNKSI: No. JONES: Not insult.

KACZYNSKI: No, I mean, I disagree with that completely. I think the argument that this was a long time ago doesn't work. I mean, we're looking at it right now, they're looking at the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court, and some of the arguments from the conservative justices is this is a long time ago and we don't need this in place. And that kind of argument can be used to rationalize, you know, all sorts of things.

I don't think saying something was so long ago that it's not a problem anymore is something you should be saying.


JONES: I don't think this guy meant any harm.

MURPHY: When you complain too much, it's almost like saying, you know, that there's something ugly about this woman. She's gorgeous. People love brown skin. Brown skin is beautiful.

And to say this is offensive is to suggest that her brownness is ugly. I think that's just cruel.

JONES: I think you're missing the point.

MURPHY: That's a racist statement right there. That's racism.

JONES: No, no. That's --

BURNETT: Before we go, when you talk about how long ago it was with white people, black face, Beyonce appeared in "Rolling Stone" last year in black face.

JONES: Yes, she did. Are you going to show the picture? Because that I think --

BURNETT: I'm showing the picture, yes. And you found it --

JONES: Very good. I was -- Beyonce rules the world. If you're watching Beyonce, love you to death. That was a bit too far.

I think that kind of stuff playing around with it the way she was doing there, it brings up a lot of stuff. She's very light skinned. You have dark skinned women who don't have a chance to have those shots.

But, listen, I don't think this artist was trying to be offensive or hates anybody. I think it was just a question of not really understanding some of the context here and the back story.

I also don't think it's about brown skin is ugly. I think to the opposite. I think brown skin is beautiful. Let's have some actual brown skin people get some of those jobs. I think that's what's going on.

BURNETT: Brown skin is beautiful. Having white skin, I know your skin is much more beautiful --

JONES: No, it's all beautiful.

BURNETT: -- with all our freckles and wrinkles and everything else.

All right. Thanks to all three of you.

Up next, the president makes enemies of fan boys everywhere.


BURNETT: The president today must have lost a few fans or should I say fan boys? Frustrated he couldn't make a deal on the forced spending cuts, he said this.


OBAMA: I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that's been floating around Washington, that somehow, even though most people agree that I'm being reasonable, that most people agree I'm presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don't take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right.


BURNETT: Jedi mind meld. This is sci-fi sacrilege. Jedi, "Star Wars", like Luke, Anakin, Obi-wan, mind melds are the Vulcan's trick -- Spock, "Star Trek".

Come on, Mr. President, we know you're a "Star Trek" fan. Here's your with the one and only Lieutenant Uhura, Nichelle Nichols. Sorry (INAUDIBLE).

Mr. President, you even got the split finger thing right. And even though Conan today quickly pointed out your unforced error, your little ewoks at the White House doubled down and tweeted this, giving Jedi mind meld its own welcome back site. How can you mix oil and water like this? The Beatles and the Stones, Tom Brady and Eli Manning, all great, but not great together.

Now, Mr. President, here's the thing, we know you're not the first to make a pop culture pit fall. There was this.


FORMER SEN. ALAN SIMPSON (R), WYOMING: I got a bum knee. The lasso again, then the horse back. Horse, horse. Ride the cowboys, ride the cowboys.


BURNETT: And there was this.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who let the dogs out? Who, who? Thanks, guys.


BURNETT: It happens. But this was an arecas (ph) sized accident, and the truth is it's probably this man's fault.

This is JJ Abrams, one of the best director/producers out there who rebooted "Star Trek" with a blockbuster new cast.

And then he did the unthinkable. He agreed to direct the new "Star Wars". That started a Romulan-led revolt, a millennium falcon mutiny.

Listen to me. I certainly did not write this. Will Surratt is obsessed with "Star Wars", "Star Trek" and all things in between. He did. I had to practice it quite a few times because, Mr. President, pop culture is not my forte either.

Have a good weekend.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" start right now.