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"A Simmering Nuclear War"; Holmes Offers Guilty Plea; Supreme Court Skeptical of Law Defining Marriage

Aired March 27, 2013 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, North Korea cuts all military communication with the south and says a simmering nuclear war could break out at any moment.

Plus, a new development in the movie theatre massacre, should James Holmes be spared the death penalty?

And is the defense of marriage act about to be a goner? What we could tell from the questions the Supreme Court justices asked today. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, killing the hotline. North Korea has cut all military communication with South Korea. Tensions between the two countries tonight at the brink, the north says a war could break out at any moment saying the conditions are in place for a quote, "simmering nuclear war." Today, the United States denounced the move.


PATRICK VENTRELL, STATE DEPARTMENT ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: We think their latest threat to cut off communication links coupled with its provocative rhetoric is not constructive to insuring peace and stability on the peninsula.


BURNETT: North Korea packed serious punch. Its military has unknown number of nuclear weapons as many as 800 short and long range ballistic missiles and $1.2 million fighting troops. All dangerously close to the 30,000 American soldiers stationed in South Korea.

U.S. officials today talked about North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un saying, quote, "North Korea is not a paper tiger. It wouldn't be smart to dismiss its provocative behavior as pure bluster."

This is serious. And OUTFRONT tonight, Matthew Chance. He is on the island of Yeonpyeong, which is just miles away from a potential North Korean military strike. And Matthew, how big of a step is the move today to sever the military hotline?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've done that before, but it's still a pretty big step. Remember there are more than a million troops facing up against each other across one of the most volatile borders in the world.

And so there are very few channels of communications between those two militaries. So when one of them is severed like this, obviously increases the possibility of a miscalculation of a misstep that could potentially escalate into something more serious.

And that's one of the big concerns now. There is so little trust between the two sides so little opportunity for them to communicate and coordinate. That could lead to something very dangerous indeed -- Erin.

BURNETT: Matthew, some people might say what were the hotlines really used for if they were only for emergencies? Maybe they weren't really used. Maybe this isn't that important. Were they regularly using this line?

CHANCE: Yes, this line in particular is used on a daily basis. It is a hotline between the two militaries in an area called the Kaesong industrial complex. It is a sort of free trade zone, which is set up as a sort of rare economic bridge between North and South Korea.

And so it's going to have an impact on that. It may even disable that economic zone altogether and prevent South Korean workers from going across the border into the zone into North Korea. It could have a really big impact, economically and on the security situation on the ground -- Erin.

BURNETT: Matthew Chance, thank you very much reporting live from the island of Yeonpyong tonight.

The United States has more than 50,000 troops in the region of North Korea. Congressman Ed Royce is the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee and he is OUTFRONT tonight.

Good to see you, sir. Appreciate you are taking the time. Why do you think we are seeing what seems to be such incredibly quick escalation happening right now?

REPRESENTATIVE ED ROYCE (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, I think the young man, Kim Jong-Un, who has taken control of North Korea is himself very aggressive. And you have the election of a new female president, Madam Park, who I met with a little over month ago in South Korea.

Remember, these provocations have been pretty constant. And Madam Parks own mother when she was young was assassinated by the North Koreans by North Korean sniper in South Korea. So they are used to dealing with provocative behavior. They had one of the warships blown up not long -- not too many years ago.


ROYCE: Lost 40 sailors and so they're used to the shelling of their islands and so forth. And this kind of provocation at times when the North Korean leadership attempts to flex its muscle and use its power.

What's unusual though is now we have North Korea developing not only three stage ICBMs, but having nuclear capability, nuclear weapons. And they're looking to miniaturize those and be able to put them on an ICBM, which would be a game changer. And this, of course, is of concern to the United States.

BURNETT: That's right. In addition, North Korea cut the phone line as we just reported. They've done, as you know, three nuclear tests recently. They test fired a long range missile.

Then, of course, there is the video of the past few weeks that we've been showing the viewers, White House, capitol and New York, you know, as going up in flames after North Korean attack.

The Pentagon spokesman, George Little, says we take their rhetoric seriously and if you look at what they said recently, it's been extremely provocative, threatening and bellicose. What would you do beyond saying what George is saying?

ROYCE: Well, two things that the United States is doing right now. One is we're bringing more interceptors online in terms of California and in Alaska in order to have the capability if there were ever a rogue launch from North Korea.

They're not to the point yet where they can miniaturize their ICBMs. I would suggest before they get that capability of putting a weapon on an ICBM that we go back to what we did in 2005 when we were confronted by provocative behavior. They were then counterfeiting our $100 bills.

The U.S. Treasury Department froze the bank accounts, froze the accounts in the bank of Delta Asia and other bank that's were being used for hard currency by North Korea, which suddenly meant that not only could the dictator not pay his generals, but he also couldn't continue the production lines on his missile program.

I think it's frankly time -- new sanctions are being put in place. But we ought to put those types of sanctions that briefly were put in place in 2005 because that would shut down a lot of activity in North Korea and we want to do that before they get the nuclear weapons.

BURNETT: It's an interesting point.

ROYCE: The capability.

BURNETT: This just this month the national security adviser talked about the North Korea situation. Here's what he had to say exactly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States will not accept North Korea's nuclear state nor will we stand by while it seeks to develop a nuclear arm missile that can target the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I mean, what amazed me about that is, of course, North Korea already is a nuclear state. They already are seeking to arm weapons that could come and strike the United States. They've done all this, Chairman, despite sanctions from the United States that have been in place since 1950.

And I just wonder when you by this that, if you're another country, you say look, isn't the lesson here that you should do whatever you need to do to get a nuke. Once you have one, the United States is pretty much powerless against you.

ROYCE: Well, here's the problem. The problem is what we have done since the '94 framework agreement is not put the types of sanctions, financial act sanctions on North Korea except in 2005 when we took the Treasury's advice. And as a result --

BURNETT: So you think if we had the sanctions, it would have really worked? Of course, they first got a nuclear weapon, at least the reports I've seen was 2006, after the sanctions, of course, and under President George W. Bush.

ROYCE: That's right. We talked to defectors who worked on their missile program. I talked to the top propaganda minister who defected through China. They all indicated that the regime if it's faced with those types of sanctions cannot get the hard currency and cannot sustain the support.

And so I would go back to what was tried briefly in 2005 because it just cuts off the flow of the hard currency they need to pay the army to do their weapons build up. None of that money comes back into the country to help the people in the countryside.

I've been in North Korea. They're all fending for themselves. The money goes into their weapons programs and that's why it should be curtailed. That's why the bank accounts should be shut down.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Chairman. We appreciate your time. Of course, we'll be following that to see if sanctions will be enough or if the United States will have to do more and if the U.S. is willing to do more.

Still to come, is the alleged Colorado movie theatre shooter about to avoid the death penalty?

Plus, paying big, big bucks for a Picasso. Elbows are being thrown, literally, over this one.

And same-sex marriage hangs in the balance. Why some people think the Supreme Court is going to overturn the defense of marriage act.

And one of the most incredible -- I mean, probably the most incredible bus crashes you will ever see.


BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, plea deal. Aurora, Colorado movie theatre shooting suspect James Holmes is now offering a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison instead of the death penalty. Prosecutors though haven't accepted the deal and they may still go for the death penalty in the shooting rampage last July in which 12 were murdered and 58 more wounded.

OUTFRONT tonight, Paul Callan, our legal contributor and a former prosecutor and Ann Bremner, a criminal defense attorney. Good to have both of you with us. Paul, the bottom line, does Holmes deserve to die?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, let's look at the crime, meticulously planned. He puts his body armor on. He's diagrammed the theatre. He then enters the theatre with a shotgun, fires a shot into the ceiling so people will look up and then he walks around with his Glock and his Smith and Wesson automatic with high capacity magazines meticulously killing one person after another after another.

In the end, 12 dead, 58 injured. We're not done yet though. He bobby traps his apartment so when the police find out where he is. The first person through the door would have been cut in half by the explosives. Does he deserve the death penalty? Yes, he does. He probably deserves to die slowly the crime was so horrific.

BURNETT: Ann, do you agree?

ANN BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, no. I mean, this is a case -- in Colorado, the government has to prove that he's sane beyond a reasonable doubt. That is unlike many, many states. That is going to be impossible.

The question of what he deserves isn't really the question here. The question is legally what's going to happen and he's got a psychiatric history. All these different things when he is acting insane and they have a diagnosis, he's been evaluated.

So can they show he's sane beyond a reasonable doubt, the answer is no. So then the next question is it what do they do about that?

BURNETT: Hold on. Let me ask you a question to follow up on that because you're saying it's not about what he deserves. I understand there is a legal issue. But for many, this is more than that. This is human life.

Tom Teves, a father of a man named Alex, a young man in that theatre who was killed. I've talked to Tom recently. I asked him what he thought about the death penalty for James Holmes. Here's what he said.


TOM TEVES, FATHER OF AURORA VICTIM ALEX TEVES: It is a struggle to be honest with you. But I don't want that man on the street going out and killing your child because he will do it again when he's -- when they talked about the people, he could have cared less. They were objects to him.


BURNETT: Ann, can you tell a father like that he shouldn't get the death penalty?

BREMNER: You know, my heart goes out to this father and everybody affected. This is a horrible case and your visceral reaction is that you want James Holmes to die. But here's the problem. If they go to trial, the state, and he's acquitted by reason of insanity, then he's going to go to a mental institution and get out potentially if he becomes sane (ph).

CALLAN: Well, he's going to be -- Anne, he's not going to be acquitted. And to establish that you are legally insane, you have to not understand the nature and consequences of your acts. And there are so many planning issues here. This was a meticulously planned group of homicides over a lengthy period of time. And by the way, most killers who commit crimes like this have an element of mental illness. I mean, as a matter of fact, they'd all be going to mental hospitals if they got off because they color their hair red and act strangely.


CALLAN: This is a case, however, you can't make out insanity because of the meticulous planning that went into the homicide. So I think prosecutors are going to win this case.

BREMNER: Well, you know, but the thing is also, it's not what I was going to say also, it's not just insanity of the trial, you're not going to kill a mentally ill person. And so in the death penalty phase, and on mitigation and everything else, you've got two things to get over as a prosecutor, but also, this is Colorado. I mean they've got the burden of proof. And, I mean, can you prove he is sane? When he's got diagnosis out there, and he acted in a fashion that would be commensurate with the finding of insanity, you know, and so what, he does some planning. That's not the whole equation in filing (INAUDIBLE).

CALLAN: Well, Anne -- well, Anne -- Anne, you know very well --

BREMNER: It's one of the easiest.

CALLAN: You know very well that there's a major difference between legal insanity and clinical insanity.

BREMNER: Absolutely.

CALLAN: There are lots of mentally ill people who are walking around with the diagnosis of mental illness. That doesn't mean they're legally insane. And he is going to be --


CALLAN: It would be very easy to prove that he was sane at the time of the homicide.

BURNETT: I mean, because, Anne, isn't it true that -- I mean we could all assume, as citizens of this country, that anybody who did something like this, anybody who does these kinds of mass shootings, is mentally ill the way we would define it. But as the court would define it, in a way that would get you out of the death penalty, isn't the burden for that a lot higher?

BREMNER: Well, but the bottom line is in Colorado it's one of the easiest defenses to prove, which is, you don't have the two part McNaughton (ph) test, which is kind of hard to show insanity. He's already been shown to be insane. The fact is, the prosecutors can't prove that he's sane. He's just like Jared Loughner or look at also in the Newtown shootings with Adam Lanza, I mean, you have all these individuals that are schizophrenic, that they acted in a fashion that's almost exactly like the person did that gave a basis first to have this (INAUDIBLE) under McNaughton (ph) in this country.

CALLAN: Every -- but, Anne, everyone is different. Everyone is different.

BREMNER: Sure they are.

CALLAN: And you have to examine their individual acts and their state of mind at the time.

BREMNER: Yes, that's right.

CALLAN: And this guy has the planning that went into this, is going to -- is going to lead to a conviction ultimately I think.

BURNETT: All right.

BREMNER: I think that --


BREMNER: Even the psychiatrist from the state are going to agree with the defense. I think it's a problem. It's a horrific case. But I think, in the end of the day, it will be a plea.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we'll see what will happen on Monday. There's going to be a ruling there. Thanks to both.

And still to come, for months actress Ashley Judd has hinted at a Senate run. She's flirted with one and she decided to let us know her decision today via Twitter.

Plus, a billionaire casino magnet put his elbow through a painting by Picasso. I mean, honestly. And that's just where the fun started.

And a huge landslide near Seattle today. Look at that next to those huge homes. We have a special report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, a pricey, pricey Picasso. How much would you be willing to pay for this masterpiece? I like the pan down there. Gives you a chance to consider what the picture is actually of. Well, anyway, do you think that it is worth a record $155 million? Because that's what that picture just sold for. Maybe, you know, I mean it does get a conversation going. The most intriguing part about it though is that the painting was actually damaged. Alina Cho is OUTFRONT with the story.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the tale of an art sale between two giants. Although there's still some mystery surrounding it, it's widely believed casino king Steve Wynn has sold one of Picasso's most famous paintings to hedge fund king Steve Cohen for a record $155 million. That's the most any U.S. collector has ever paid for a piece of art. It's a painting of Picasso's long time mistress, Marie-Therese Walter. The title is "Le Reve," French for "the dream."

AMY CAPPELLAZZO, CHAIRMAN POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART, CHRISTIE'S: It is of an extremely famous Picasso from one of his most celebrated periods, 1932. It's a picture of possession, of passion, of love.

CHO: But the dream is not without its flaws. Wynn originally agreed to sell Cohen the picture back in 2006. But just a day after the deal was done, Wynn famously put his elbow through it creating a six inch tear.

STEVE WYNN: I turned to the right and caught her right on the arm and poked a hole in the picture the size of the end of my thumb. We stood there in shock. I can't believe I've done it. Oh, no! Oh, no!

CHO: The restoration took months. But Cohen wanted it anyway. And ultimately paid $16 million more for it post tear.

BEVERLY SCHREIBER JACOBY, PRESIDENT, BSJ FINE ART: And we stood there looking for it. And it is so infinitesimal. It was so well restored.

CHO (on camera): I think people are sort of still sort of fixated on the fact that there's damage.

CAPPELLAZZO: Well, the thing -- it's interesting. I think that if you -- I mean it's very cinematic to think of someone putting an elbow through a painting. If I were the age of (INAUDIBLE), I would probably have some things wrong with me, too. So, you know --

CHO (voice-over): It's not just the price and the tear, the timing of the sale is what's getting so much attention. Coming just as Cohen's hedge fund, SAC Capital, settles two insider trading lawsuits, paying the federal government a record $616 million. The headline, "Cohen settles wrongdoing, buys himself extravagant gift, a masterpiece." CHO (on camera): Why would anyone pay upwards of $155 million for a single piece of art, even one that was so famously damaged? Art experts say that's because the very best of the best will appreciate the most. One likened it to buying a penthouse versus a second floor apartment. The house on top will always go for more.

CHO (voice-over): A masterpiece is a masterpiece. "Le Reve" will always hold its place in history and will have its own place in Cohen's $1 billion art collection, until he decides to sell it for what could be another record price.

For OUTFRONT, Alina Cho, New York.


BURNETT: And still to come, the Supreme Court prepares to rule on same-sex marriage. But if you go through what the judges asked today and some of the repartees (ph), you actually might be able to tell the verdict.

Plus, Ashley Judd has dropped hints about a Senate run for months and she's finally made a decision.

And some of the most dramatic footage that we have ever seen. How the driver of this bus survived that crash.


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start with some stories we care about, where we focus on reporting from the front lines.

Senator Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove are having a good night. They might have extra campaign cash. Ashley Judd won't be running for McConnell's Kentucky seat, saving Rove some money. The actress and Democrat made at announcement today via Twitter, writing, "After serious and thorough contemplation, I realize that my responsibilities and energy at this time need to be focused on my family."

Now, for months, as you may be aware there was speculation Judd would run. The momentum grew enough to keep McConnell and Rove on their toes with videos and a $10,000 web ad attacking Judd. She wasn't even running then. Maybe she should consider it one day.

This is the most amazing video I have seen in a long time. There was a bus driver in China and when you look at this video, you'll see he appears to be engaging in small talk with his passengers.

OK. Do you see what happened? A light pole came crashing through the windshield. Now, he's actually OK for the most part. He did rupture his spleen. But we're told he's going to make a full recovery. He was almost decapitated or worse. But yet, he managed to unbuckle his seat belt and help all 26 passengers off his bus.

It's just unbelievable. Watch it come through. I mean that's a light pole. One passenger narrowly escaped being hit by the pole. I mean, the fact that these people didn't die. It turns out a car on the open side of the highway crashed into the light pole and it fell just as the bus -- whoa -- was coming on.

Well, maybe some of $158 billion in stimulus that China unveiled last year should go towards make something better barricades on those highways.

All right. Well, it's been 601 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

The Pentagon says it's going to delay federal worker furloughs by two weeks. It doesn't really do anything. The problem is all it does is delay the pain.

And now our fourth story OUTFRONT: supreme doubts -- so much skepticism today from Supreme Court justices on the Defense of Marriage Act. That act defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Here's Justice Anthony Kennedy considered the swing vote on this court.


JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Federal government is intertwined with the citizens' day-to-day life, you are at real risk of running in conflict with what is always been thought to be the essence of the state police power which is to regulate marriage, divorce, custody.


BURNETT: Chief Justice John Roberts was also skeptical about the motivation behind the 1996 law.


DONALD VERRILLI, U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: It was enacted to exclude same sex married, lawfully married couples from federal benefit regimes based on the conclusion that was driven by moral disapproval. It is quite clear in black and white and pages of the house report which we cite on page 38.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: So that was the view of the 84 senators who voted in favor of it and the president who signed it? They were motivated by animus?

VERRILLI: It may well have been what Garrett described as the simple want of careful reflection or instinctive response to a class of people, a group of people who we perceive as alien or other.


BURNETT: Alien or other. The case against the Defense of Marriage Act was brought by an elderly New York woman, Edith Windsor. She was hit with $363,000 federal estate tax bill when her same sex spouse passed what way in 2009.

Now, had the federal government recognized her marriage which was valid in New York, she would have owed nothing.

OUTFRONT tonight, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who was in the courtroom today.

All right, Jeff. So, did you get the sense watching this that the Defensive of Marriage Act is going down?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, fair warning, I don't exactly have a perfect record on predicting Supreme Court decisions based on the oral argument. But, anyway, that said, it did look like there were five votes to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, not on the ground that it was discriminatory against gay people but on the ground that Anthony Kennedy suggested in that clip you just ran that this was a federal law that interferes with state power to regulate marriage. That looked like an argument that had five votes but that would be a victory for Edith Windsor and that would overturn the law.

BURNETT: Here's what I'm interested in. You think about this. If you're a conservative justice, you're in favor of states' rights. You would then be likely to overturn this. But, of course, this is a bill that requires marriage to be between a man and woman, which is exactly what a conservative justice believes that marriage should be.

So when you are given such a Hobbesian choice, what do you pick?

TOOBIN: Well, it depends on what kind of conservative you are. Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, Justice Alito, tend to be sort of more traditional conservatives, big government conservatives.

Justice Kennedy is usually conservative but he tends be more of a libertarian style conservative. And so, he would be more sympathetic to the argument that, you know, the federal government needs to leave the states alone, that gay people need to be left alone. He has traditionally been very supportive of gay rights although today, he is much more interested in the federalism argument than the gay rights argument.

BURNETT: Do you think -- I mean, some people have said does it matter what your personal relationship to this issue is into whether you should rule on it? We take Chief Justice Roberts, his first cousin has been in the courtroom. Obviously, she is a lesbian. Does that matter at all in terms of his role or ability to rule?

TOOBIN: You know, I really don't think so. I mean, certainly, it's not evidence of bias. Justices are human beings. They have families.


TOOBIN: They have religions. They have racial backgrounds. They have had previous jobs. Some of them have been active Democrats or active Republicans.

The -- you don't have to be hermetically sealed off from the world to be a judge. You just have to be -- have the ability to listen.

I don't think there's any evidence that any of the nine justices have any sort of bias in a case like this. It's just a hard case.

BURNETT: Right. Well, as you point out, they're all human beings. So, on any given issue, you know, everyone may have a personal link to it --


BURNETT: -- and you may not have aware of.

But what I'm also curious about, you're saying it looks like this act could do -- this act could die, it could go away. But just like we were talking about with California's law, it seems like some of the justices wanted to say, look, you know what? I don't want to go there. I don't want to touch this whole guy marriage issue.

Let me just play little piece.


JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I'm wondering if we're living in this new world where the attorney general can simply decide, yes, it's unconstitutional but it's not so unconstitutional that I'm not willing to enforce it. If we're in this new world, I don't want these cases like this to come before this court all the time.


BURNETT: Kind of interesting, Jeff, because it's like, if you guys are now going to say you don't want the case, why did you take it in the first place? But seriously, what's the chance that they punt on this one? They don't -- they don't make a decision that's formal?

TOOBIN: Well, there is an argument that would give the opportunity to punt. This is an odd case in one important respect. The plaintiff here, Edith Windsor, says the law was unconstitutional. The defendant here which is the Obama administration also thinks the law is unconstitutional.

So there was a lot of discussion among the justices about why is this a real lawsuit when both sides agree? So they could actually throw the case out on that ground that there's not really a controversy here.

So they could punt on this. They could punt on yesterday's Proposition 8 case. They were certainly very many suggestions that they might do that there.

BURNETT: Right. TOOBIN: We could -- this whole thing could end with a thud. I sort of doubt it. I think at least this case will be decided on the merits come the end of June.

BURNETT: Jeff Toobin, thank you.

And now, a massive landslide in Washington state. I mean, this is just incredible when you look at this and the drop-off from these homes. It has destroyed homes. It's threatening 17 others on Whidbey Island. Look at that person standing there and there is a garden, like a park, and then just a drop.

Whidbey Island is about 30 miles north of Seattle. We don't have any reported injuries. A lot of earth, tons of earth have fallen offer the island into Puget Sound. At least 12 people have been evacuated.

Jamie Lynn from our Seattle affiliate KOMO is on Whidbey Island.

And, Jamie, any indication when things will stabilize? I mean, it is just incredible when you look at these pictures and imagine this happening.

JAMIE LYNN, KOMO-TV: Erin, no word on when things will stabilize right now. But this thing is about 700 feet or over 700 feet wide. This thing is massive.

I want to step out of the way so you can take a look at this one house evacuated. It has caution tape across it. This is just one of several homes that were evacuated in this area.

And just behind the house, there is supposed to be a backyard. What you see right now is the Puget Sound. But really there is supposed to be an additional 75, 80 feet of backyard. All of that slid down into Puget Sound.

Neighbors say it started just before 3:00 a.m. They thought it was an earthquake. It was so loud and the ground was shaking. Officials on the scene say these slides are normal for this time of year because the ground is moist.

But they have never seen anything this big before. It's pretty overwhelming when you see it in person, Erin.

BURNETT: I can only imagine. So, you're saying they have never seen anything -- anything like. This when you look at the pictures, it is just -- I mean, you can't imagine being there, how terrifying it would be to see all that earth just go.

LYNN: Yes. It's so true. And all afternoon, my photographer Craig and I, we were watching this slide continue to crumble and crumble. And trust me, it is loud when the rocks start to fall. You're never sure just how much rock is going to come down so they're trying to keep this entire area secure.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Just a -- wow. Still OUTFRONT, what killed thousands of ducks? A mystery has officials very worried.

And is it time to tax e-mail?


BURNETT: We're back with tonight's "Outer Circle", where we reach out to our sources around the world. And tonight, we go to China, where 1,000 dead ducks have been found floating in a river in Sichuan province. This comes just a couple weeks after 16,000 dead pigs were pulled out of a river near Shanghai.

Our David McKenzie is in Beijing and I asked him what killed the ducks.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, this is one of the most popular food markets here in Beijing. It's got a pretty good reputation. But there is a whole series of scandals breaking here in China on food safety issues. The latest is this: 1,000 dead ducks found in the Sichuan province in this river.

Authorities don't know what caused it. They say the people are safe, comes off the back of tens of thousands, well, more than 10,000 pigs found in a river near Shanghai.

Now in both cases, they don't know what exactly caused these mass deaths. They are saying to the public they shouldn't worry, but there is a growing sense of fear in China about food safety issues -- Erin.


BURNETT: I would not trust the officials.

All right. Now to Pakistan, where an attack similar to the one on the teenage activist Malala Yousafzai has happened. A female teacher was gunned down on her way to school. Her son survived the attack, saw the whole thing.

Nic Robertson is in Islamabad and I asked him what the teacher's son said happened.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the more we're learning about this, the more chilling it's becoming. The sun went to school with his mother. They were walking along towards the school. The all girls school where she taught.

Two men in a motorbike approached them from behind, fired three shots at his mother, he said. She was hit in the head. He was covered in blood. She dropped down. They fired three more shots.

He says he was forced to run away when he came back he saw something no boy of his age should ever witness. He was there as his mother died.

Now, a husband has said already the school she was teaching at in one area became too dangerous. The government moved him away. He is very critical that the government is not doing enough to protect young girls and teachers from going to school to teach them -- Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Nick, thank you.

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


Obviously, we're going to cover the second day of hearings in the Supreme Court, taking potentially history making cases on gay marriage. We'll talk with senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin who was in the court and talk with NFL punter Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings. He has become an outspoken advocate for equal rights for gays and lesbians. He's been following the court proceedings closely.

We're also going to talk to him about the possibility that the NFL might soon have an openly gay player.

Also tonight, after that massive manhunt, we all know this is how rogue ex-cop Christopher Dorner's 10-day killing spree ended, an inferno in San Bernardino National Forest. A million dollar reward was offered for his capture you may remember. But now that money may not be paid since Dorner was killed and not captured. We're going to speak with senior correspondent for CBS this morning, a former LAPD counter-terrorism chief, John Miller.

Those stories and also tonight's "RidicuList" at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Anderson. See you in just a couple minutes.

And now our fifth story OUTFRONT: I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But it may be time to tax your e-mail. Like I said, I am only the messenger.

Your inbox apparently may be grateful. I mean, you know, don't you feel like you get hundreds of embarrass a day? I do. I would love it fir they were taxed so people stop sending them.

Well, a city councilman in Berkeley, California, floated the idea of taxing e-mails as part of a broader Internet tax that could be used as a way to fund your local post office.

Now, don't roll your eyes because this idea may not be farfetched. The law prohibiting such a tax expires next year.

So, for those of new Congress looking for a way to raise revenue, I'm giving you an idea and a lot of people will hate me for it. OUTFRONT tonight, liberal radio host Stephanie Miller, our contributor Reihan Salam and Matt Welch, editor in chief of "Reason' magazine.

All right. Stephanie, let me start with you.

And the councilman's plan in California, you know, if you're e- mailing within your company, with your co-workers, that would be free. It's personal e-mails where you sign up at home, where you have to pay, and you get, you know, like a cell phone, right? A certain number of e-mails free and then you start paying.

What do you think?

STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO HOST: Listen, I'm with you. I think it won't affect most of us. It's going to affect spam.

Can I take this opportunity, Erin, on national television to say, no, I do not need a penis enlargement, thank you. I'm really sorry what happened you to and your family overseas. I'm not going to send you money. I'm happy I won the Nigerian lottery, but no, thanks but no thanks.

I mean seriously. This is most of the mail we all get, right?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That what a totally genuine offer I emailed you and I resent that you never wrote back, Stephanie. It really hurts me.


MILLER: I appreciate it, thanks.

SALAM: That's what I'm here for. Here to help.

BURNETT: All right. But then, where does it stop? You know, because I also think that a lot of the tweets out there could be taxed, so we can shut some of the nastiness up. We could tax text messages. We could tax postings on Facebook.

Why not? People are yelling too much.

MATT WELCH, REASON MAGAZINE: Well, to answer your question, it stops in the Berkeley City Council like a lot of terrible ideas.

No, this is like taxing, you know, horse and buggies or taxing cars to keep horse and buggies business. Why are we taxing the great new thing so that we can prop up the bad old thing? It's completely backwards.

It's -- I mean, the fact that it's coming in Berkeley, which is not a punch line, it's the home of the free speech movement 50 years ago, for crying out loud. And we're going to put a punitive tax on one of the greatest free speech instruments in our lifetime. It's absurd and sad.

BURNETT: All right. But, Reihan, there is something to be said. I see your point about the horse and buggy.

But what about this? You say, look, we've always paid to send mail. Now the way in which we send mail has changed. Why should we not still be paying?

SALAM: Well, the fundamental issue is that the cost of sending unsolicited mail is super low. So even if it's like one in a million people responds, it's still worth it for the spammers to send it to you.

But the thing is that we have these amazing things called private companies that have actually mostly solved this problem. These days, most of unsolicited mail you get goes into a spam folder and those services are getting better and better over time.

We had ideas like an e-scam, some means of taxing e-mails that were proposed in the mid '90s.


SALAM: And it turns out they weren't really necessary. A couple businesses tried them out and they were hard to actually enforce. You mentioned text messages. Already people are migrating from one technology that becomes crappy and clogged with spam to another technology.

And that's why something like this would actually be unenforceable. So leave it to private sector innovations to solve the problem.

BURNETT: Stephanie -- go ahead.

MILLER: I was going to say, Erin, these guys obviously do not get as much hate mail as I do. If I could get one less e-mail a day calling me the C word I would be happy.

Let's take a look at the mail I've gotten --

BURNETT: I've got to agree with her on that, by the way.

MILLER: Oh, look, oh, we can get Viagra for 75 percent off, Erin. And oh, look, we can help some woman cheat on her husband.

I mean, come on. Most of this stuff is spam.


MILLER: And the legislators and the Congress people -- the Congress people that are too chicken to do this, they have people to screen all their mail. Most of us don't, right?

WELCH: Well, there's a thing called an e-mail filter. I mean, I don't know what you use, but I haven't seen my cousin from Nigeria e- mail for more than a year simply because there is a spam filter that works, a spam filter that no government gave me, no tax created, no bureaucrat. BURNETT: Come on, maybe the government needs to be the ones to tell us you're talking too much, spending too much. Maybe the government needs to be the one to tell us to shut our --


WELCH: In order to do this, they would need to install government surveillance on every e-mail server and probably every single computer. Do you want to give the government the power --

BURNETT: I'm going to bet they already have it.

SALAM: That's a whole other --

BURNETT: OK, that's a whole other -- by the way, I think they're going to do it.

MILLER: A drone can already see what you're writing.

SALAM: That's no reason not to fight it.

BURNETT: All right. But the thing in terms of funding the post office. I mean, what about that argument? I understand about the horse and buggy. Isn't there some sense in that? We're sending -- got the numbers, 12.1 billion business e-mails a year, 5.4 billion personal email. A 1 cent tax on each of those, you're getting some money.

SALAM: What the post service does now, the bulk of what they send is what I like to call physical spam which is actually worse for the environment. It's rather unpleasant and now the postal service is saying the federal government has undermined them by saying they're saying we have to adequately fund our pension, that's crazy talk.

And so postal employees are funding ads on my television that are visual spam that are telling us this is some grave injustice they should fund these crazy pension obligations they have built up over years. The U.S. Postal Service, maybe there's a reduced place for it. Maybe if they deliver five days a week rather than six, that would make sense.

But I don't see every other industry should have to subsidize postal carries, because there are struggling that can use those resources to provide innovative new services.

BURNETT: It's a fair point. Half a million or more employees, they aren't able to switch that fast. I'm not saying -- I'm just saying that's why their so scared.

SALAM: It's something we ought to take seriously.

WELCH: The government is not a jobs program. It just isn't. It shouldn't be, rightfully so. And so, the fact that Congress won't allow a single post office to shut down is part of the problem. If you lift the mandate and open everything up to competition, it would be a much different story. BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much all three of you.

I'm sorry, Matt, to worry you. I think they're watching you. They're watching us right now.

All right. OUTFRONT next, the essay. Justin Bieber and a 15- pound newborn.


BURNETT: Justin Bieber has had a rough time lately. During his recent tour in London, he got into an altercation with a photographer. Now he's being accused of assaulting one of his own neighbors in California. It's been bad.

But it's been worse for his mom. Pattie Mallette was a single mother who helped guide her son to super stardom. She has given up everything for him and she's obviously distressed by her son's recent troubles.

She spoke to "Access Hollywood" today saying, quote, "I mean, he's growing up. He's 19. I mean, he's not my baby. I want to be able to take away free will sometimes and be able to do everything for him, but."

We feel for Bieber's mom. It can't be easy being the mother of the most famous young man on the planet when he does embarrassing and stupid things and you wish you could fix it. But as tough as it has been on her, we have found a mother who has had a tougher time lately. This would be Jade King, a young woman in Britain. (INAUDIBLE) she looks.

A month ago she gave birth to her son, a difficult birth. And during the procedure, the baby went five minutes without oxygen and was given a 10 percent chance of survival. But he got through it. And within a few weeks at the hospital, he went home.

So what's the problem? His size. Jade told the BBC, I'm quoting her, "When his head came out, that's when they realized how big he was and then his shoulders got stuck. And that's when everything kicked off. Really, that's when it got really scary."

Yes. Her baby was born much larger than doctors expected. How much larger? Fifteen pounds, seven ounces. Natural birth. Aww.

George King was almost 16 pounds at birth. He was born wearing clothes for 6-month-old babies. He is the second-largest natural birth in Britain, and beaten Chun Chun, a baby born this China last year -- look, got a beer belly. I mean, that's outrageous oh. So to Bieber's mom and all the moms out there, we appreciate you. But next time you think your kid is being a big pain, remember George King.

"A.C. 360" starts right now.