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CNN NEWSROOM

Dow Soars on Possible Deal; Debt Deal Offer; Shocking Details in Gym Mat Death; Women on Verge of Running the World

Aired October 10, 2013 - 14:00   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, behind closed doors, President Obama is meeting with House Democrats, and later, House Republicans. Are we close to a deal?

I'm Brooke Baldwin. The news is now.

Let the stock market crash. That idea from a columnist who says it's the only way to get Congress to do something.

Plus, a CNN exclusive, accident or murder? CNN investigates a shocking discovery inside a teenager's body.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we got the body for the second autopsy, that organs, the heart, lungs, liver, et cetera, were not with the body.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: In their place, newspaper. We're on the case.

And --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody please help me. Please.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: His nine-year-old son hopped a plane without a ticket. Should someone have helped this dad?

Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

You know this partial government shutdown now in the double digits, folks, day 10. But today, a possible break in this impasse, at least when it comes here to the country's ability to pay its bills. I'm talking specifically about the debt ceiling and this whole game of chicken. Well, we could be on the verge of a deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: And so what we want to do is to offer the president today the ability to move, a temporary increase in the debt ceiling in agreement to go to conference on the budget for his willingness to sit down and discuss with us a way forward to reopen the government and to start to deal with America's pressing problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Translation, extending the debt ceiling. The White House says the president is apparently happy about the offer. We can tell you that right now he is behind closed doors. He is meeting with House Democrats to discuss that. The deal, of course, still has to get through the House and the Senate.

So to be clear about what's on the table here. This deal would push back the debt ceiling for six weeks, letting the country pay its bills. So I know the question you want answered, what happens during the six weeks? A lot of talks, we hope, about what, you ask? Well, to quote what you just heard from House Speaker John Boehner, quote, "some of America's pressing issues."

The specifics of those pressing issues, that is still unclear. Could be the spending bill. Could be entitlements. Could be Obamacare. But at least for now, the government stays at least partially shut down.

So, to Wall Street we go because you can see the numbers. It's a pretty awesome day so far. The markets are up just about 240 points as we watch with two hours left to go. Let's check in with Alison Kosik. She is standing by for us at the New York Stock Exchange.

So maybe with the possibility, Alison, of this short-term deal, markets looking pretty good.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Looking pretty good. The bulls are out, the gains are sticking, at least for now, what's been (ph) most of the session over. Look, a breakthrough in Washington means a breakthrough right here on Wall Street. Wall Street happy to hear about this temporary debt deal that's in the works and, at the very least, that political leaders are playing nice in the sandbox again. And in the middle of all this, though, those warnings. The warnings about what could happen. They keep rolling in.

The latest coming from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee earlier this morning, basically saying the stock market could tumble, borrowing money could become very expensive for Americans to do a lot of things because what you would wind up seeing are interest rates spiking, borrowing costs obviously going up. It would cause people and businesses to spend less, making the economy even weaker.

And if the six-week extension goes through, the problem here though, it only kicks the can down the road. So, you know, Wall Street really knows what's on the line here. If this seems familiar, it is, because we were here back in 2011. Lawmakers wound up raising the debt ceiling. But the problem is, they took it down to the wire and our credit rating was downgraded. The Dow tanked 600 points the very next day that happened. Of course the hope it that's not going to happen this time around. And as you can see on the board, investors are pretty optimistic at this point. Brooke.

BALDWIN: Alison Kosik, thank you. We're watching the markets very closely. We'll check back in.

Meantime, listen, this is a fast-moving Thursday. A potential deal, as we've been reporting, on the table to break the threat of a possible U.S. default, albeit temporarily. House Democrats, they're huddling with the president right now. House Republicans are due at the White House a little later on, in just about an hour and a half from now.

The House Republican leadership is offering up a deal to let the U.S. government borrow money for six more weeks. In return, the Republicans want talks on these pressing problems. Again, these are the words that we're hearing from them, "pressing problems" facing you, the Americans.

Michael Hirsch is with us, and so is David Sirota. Michael Hirsch is the chief correspondent for the "National Journal," and David Sirota, a syndicated columnist and radio host.

So, gentlemen, welcome to both of you.

And, Michael Hirsch, let me begin with you because your latest column, we were going to ask about the blinking, who exactly just blinked in the debt ceiling showdown? I know Americans say I don't care who's blinking, I just want a deal. But you say it's a photo finish. Why?

MICHAEL HIRSCH, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, because both President Obama and Speaker Boehner are blinking at about the same time. And we're going to see how it plays out over the next few hours who actually is blinking more.

But, basically, Boehner is offering Obama a half loaf, you know, as it were. You know, I'll give you the debt ceiling for another six weeks and that's all, but I'm not going to give you the shutdown being over just yet until you agree to negotiate. And Obama is bringing him into the White House, talking, but it's kind of a non-negotiation negotiation from Obama's point of view because he doesn't want to admit that he's doing any actual negotiating.

So there's a lot of kabuki dancing going on here. And it's difficult to say who's giving up more at this particular moment in time. But they clearly are each moving somewhat.

BALDWIN: Yes, this is what it's coming down to, David Sirota, the blinking. Who do you think is doing the blinking, more blinking, more kabuki dancing?

DAVID SIROTA, COLUMNIST, RADIO HOST: Well, look, I think that this is actually -- and I say this, I'm lamenting this, but I think this is a huge conservative win. I think the -- when you look at what's really being negotiated here, we remember only, what was it, three, four or five months ago, when sequestration spending levels were considered really controversial, really, really conservative, could the country survive them? Now sequestration spending levels and government size levels, those are the norm. Those are what President Obama is essentially begging for and he said he's willing to accept as the normal now.

So, Speaker Boehner and the right have actually orchestrated this situation where they have used the threat of a government shutdown and a debt default to normalize spending levels that were previously very recently considered way too radical for the country.

BALDWIN: So maybe the bar is shifting, as you limit -- David, let me stay with you, because let's say, and, again, we don't know, but let's say they get this agreement, that they kick this default down the road, you know, six or so weeks. That lands us in December. Fine. But the president still says, you know, he is not going to negotiate ever when it comes to the government paying its bills. Here is Jay Carney talking just about an hour ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We haven't seen anything from the House Republicans yet. The president believes they ought to pay our bills. The president believes they ought to turn on the lights. And the president has always been willing to negotiate and work out and find common ground with Republicans over our long-term budget priorities. But he's not - you know, again, going back to it, like the assertion that they're going to use, punishing the American people as leverage, doing harm to the American economy as leverage, that's unacceptable to the president, and I think he's made that clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, David, if this deal comes together, really, does anything change other than the date of a potential default, because I know Americans watching are thinking, how is the conversation we're having today going to be any different than the one we're going to have in six weeks?

SIROTA: I think that's a great question, Brooke. I think you're absolutely right to ask it. I think we will end up probably being here in six weeks because I think what Jay Carney has articulated is the fact that the Republican Party is really willing to bring us to the brink of a debt default, which means really bringing potentially the economy to its knees in order to get its way.

I think the real question, the unanswered question is not whether we're going to be here in six weeks again or not. I think the unanswered question is, what do the Republicans actually want? Do they want an end to Obamacare? Is that it? Or do they want even lower spending levels than sequestration? It's not really clear what they're actually even demanding as a concrete end to all of this.

BALDWIN: Right. Now, if you read the op-ed from Paul Ryan yesterday in "The Wall Street Journal," no mention of Obamacare. So is it entitlements? Is it - is it Obamacare? So we'll wait to hear the talking.

Michael Hirsch, let me just end with you. You know, I heard David Gergen on our air not too long ago saying that he doesn't even think the short-term extension will fly based on the fact that the White House continues to say absolutely no negotiating. What do you think?

HIRSCH: I think the big negotiation today in these meetings is going to be whether Boehner will also agree to an extension on the shutdown issue. That is to open up the government again for another six weeks. And if Boehner does give that up, I think Obama will accept it. But that's going to be a tough negotiation because right now it looks like the leverage is with Boehner. If Obama just signs this deal on the debt ceiling and the government continues to shut down, then he's still, you know, negotiating under the gun, as it were.

BALDWIN: OK, David Sirota, Michael Hirsch, I mean this in the nicest way possible, I don't want you two back here in six weeks, OK? Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

SIROTA: OK, we'll try.

BALDWIN: Coming up, even more confusion over the sign-up for Obamacare. Hear what some customer service operators told Americans trying to sign up.

Plus, this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNETH JOHNSON, FATHER: I walk into his room and I kissed his picture and said, "happy birthday, Kendrick." You know, his dreams, memories, will always be with us. They will never leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The parents of a teenager found dead in a high school gym mat demanding justice after a CNN investigation. The new discovery, that this young man's organs were missing. And his body was stuffed with newspaper. Do not miss this report. We're on the case.

And the stunning moment a train meets a truck.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Kendrick Johnson would have turned 18 years old today. I say would have because Kendrick Johnson was the young man whose body was found inside that rolled up gym mat at his high school in Georgia. His accident -- death first ruled an accident. Now the evidence points more and more to a murder mystery. Today, Kendrick's parent stood on the courthouse steps. Here they were. And that's his father. He spoke about how this first birthday is incredibly difficult without his son.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNETH JOHNSON, FATHER: It's a feeling that we wish no other parents here have to go through. Because Kendrick was the light of the family. And then we had to wake up and see that he's no longer with us. And understand, you know, why they didn't give my son any justice. I walked into his room and I kissed his picture and said, "happy birthday, Kendrick." You know, his dreams, memories, will always be with us. They will never leave us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Victor Blackwell has been investigating this from the start. He joins us from Valdosta, Georgia.

And, Victor, my mind is never far from these parents because I cannot imagine losing a child and then learning, as you have discovered in your investigation, losing your child, burying this child, but learning that you only buried half of him.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, it's a heartbreaking discovery. You know, for the last seven and a half months or so, Kendrick Johnson's parents and their supporters have sat on this corner in downtown Valdosta, across from the Lawndes County Judicial Center, to demand answers about how Kendrick Johnson died. Well, now, after our discovery, they have questions about what happened after he died.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL (voice-over): It's the second time Jacquelyn Johnson cried next to her son Kendrick's grave. The first time, he was being lowered into the ground. This time, he's being pulled out of it.

BLACKWELL (on camera): Did you ever expect that you'd have to exhume his body?

JACQUELYN JOHNSON, MOTHER: No. I didn't expect to have to bury his body.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): In June, Kendrick's body was sent to Florida. The Johnsons hired Dr. Bill Anderson to conduct an independent second autopsy. In that autopsy, Anderson told the Johnsons he'd found evidence that Kendrick died as the result of a blow to the neck and not accidental asphyxia after slipping into a rolled gym mat at school as investigators in Georgia had said. But what Dr. Anderson did not find shocked them.

BILL ANDERSON, PATHOLOGIST: When we got the body for the second autopsy, the organs, the heart, lungs, liver, et cetera, were not with the body.

BLACKWELL (on camera): The brain?

ANDERSON: The brain. They were all absent.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Every organ from the top of Kendrick's head to his pelvis, gone. And his family had no idea.

KENNETH JOHNSON, FATHER: We have been let down again. And when we buried Kendrick, we thought we was burying Kendrick. Not half of Kendrick.

ANDERSON: I'm not sure at this point who did not return the organs to the body. But I know when we got the body, the organs were not there. BLACKWELL: So, CNN contacted the two entities that had custody of Kendrick's body and access to his organs, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which conducted the first autopsy in January, and Harrington Funeral Home, which the Johnsons chose to embalm and prepare Kendrick's body for burial days later. A spokeswoman for the state tells CNN, after its autopsy, "the organs were placed in Johnson's body, the body was closed, then the body was released to the funeral home." State investigators say it's their normal practice, but what happened after his body arrived at the funeral home was anything but normal.

BLACKWELL (on camera): What was in the place of the organs?

J. JOHNSON: Newspaper.

BLACKWELL: Newspaper?

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Dr. Anderson showed me the pictures of Kendrick's body he'd taken during the second autopsy.

BLACKWELL (on camera): That's a Black Friday ad, a J.C. Penney ad.

ANDERSON: Yes.

J. JOHNSON: Stuffing the newspaper in like he was a garbage can, inside his body. It's unbelievable.

BLACKWELL: I'd imagine that that's a different kind of pain.

K. JOHNSON: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Why do you think that there would be newspaper stuffed in your child?

K. JOHNSON: I'd never heard of that before. Never.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Neither had the founder of a national embalming academy contacted by CNN who said it's "not consistent with the standards of care" in the industry. Nor had the president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, who told CNN he's "never heard of this practice."

BLACKWELL (on camera): Why would the funeral home discard his organs and stuff him with newspaper?

K. JOHNSON: The question is, why didn't he tell us?

BLACKWELL (voice-over): So what exactly did the Harrington Funeral Home do with Kendrick's organs and why was he stuffed with old newspaper? We went to their office to find out, but their response to us, no comment.

However, in a letter to the Johnsons' attorney, Harrington Funeral Home owner Antonio Harrington denies he received Kendrick's organs. He writes in part, "his internal organs were destroyed through natural process and henceforth were discarded before the body was sent back to Valdosta." It's another disappointing answer for parents determined to know what happened to their son before and now after his death. And they admit they're struggling.

J. JOHNSON: Unbearable, just about. All the things (INAUDIBLE). It wakes you up in the morning. You just keep pushing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: Now when the state of Georgia heard about our investigation, the Georgia secretary of state's office, which offers licenses to funerals homes, they opened their own investigation. They want to know what happened to Kendrick Johnson's organs and they want to know more from Harrington Funeral Home about this practice of stuffing bodies with newspapers. So the state of Georgia is now investigating Harrington Funeral Home.

Brooke.

BALDWIN: What about, and, Victor, I know I've asked you this before, but if we're talking about a school and a gym where his body was found, there had to have been surveillance cameras. And I know some of the footage is being withheld. What is the family saying about that?

BLACKWELL: Well, through their attorney, their new attorney who's joined the team, Benjamin Crump, who you maybe you recognize his name. He represented the parents of Trayvon Martin. He says that the surveillance camera is the one eyewitness, objective eyewitness who saw what happened. And they believe that either it shows what the sheriff's office has said, that Kendrick went into the mat alone and this was an accident, or, as the parents and their attorneys believe, there was some type of foul play.

But I'll also tell you, there is another person who has this video that we've asked for, but have been denied access to. It's U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. And he's released a statement to CNN, and I'll read part of it. He says, "the memory of this young man calls us to continue to be deliberate and thoughtful in this case. This is about getting to the facts and to the truth." He continues his investigation. He's had these files and documents for several months. And he says he doesn't feel rushed about coming to a decision about investigating or not. He wants to get it right, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Keep asking questions, Victor Blackwell. Keep asking them. Thank you so much, live in Valdosta, Georgia.

BLACKWELL: Sure.

BALDWIN: Beyonce, she already thinks it, but as another woman gets ready to rise to one of the world's most powerful positions, it is a legitimate question. We're going to discuss this.

Plus, I will speak live with one man who says, hey, let the stock market crash. It's the only way to get Congress to get its act together.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Women are in charge of powerful parts of the planet. You know, more and more women these days are running entire countries, entire corporations, and perhaps Beyonce has it right, run the world, girls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEYONCE, MUSICIAN (singing): Girls, we run this mother. Girls who run the world. Girls who run the world. Girls who run the world. Girls who run the world. Girls who run the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: For example, take a look with me. In politics, Angela Merkel leads Germany. She is one of the most powerful leaders in all of Europe. In media, Oprah Winfrey may be the most famous media mogul of all time. And in the tech world, you have Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, FaceBook COO Sheryl Sandburg. In fashion, the mighty "Vogue" editor, Anna Wintour, has dominated for decades without apology. And now you have a milestone for women in power. Janet Yellen nominated to run the Federal Reserve. So Yellen would be the first female Fed chair, one of the most influential policy making roles in the world.

So let's bring in fellow woman, CNN's "Your Money" host Christine Romans.

So, Christine, first let's talk Janet Yellen specifically and her realm of influence. I mean why are some people saying she could be the most powerful woman in the world?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST, CNN'S "YOUR MONEY": Well, they're saying that she's the most qualified Fed chief nominee ever.

BALDWIN: Wow.

ROMANS: I mean this is a woman who has -- had all kinds of really great jobs and is very well respected. Interesting that when she started working at the Fed, she went and ate with everybody else in the Fed cafeteria where she met her husband, by the way, instead of in the executive dining room, like people who had her position did before. So she's someone who is really relatable, very smart, very smart, I mean, really smart, and she's someone that everyone likes. And so this is someone who I think is going to continue the policies of Ben Bernanke and is probably - probably going to be the most powerful woman in the world because she's going to have to unwind all the stimulus into the economy. That's going to be tricky. And she's going to be the one doing it.

BALDWIN: But it's interesting you talk about she went into the cafeteria and she listened. I know that's something that a lot of people say about women, they're listeners, right? So you have the Janet Yellens, you have the Marissa Mayers, the Oprahs. I mean what do you think? And I don't want to over -- you know, make a blanket statement about women here, but in terms of, you know, styles, decision making processes, listening, what makes them different, you think, in the boardroom?

ROMANS: Well, interesting that you say that because I've interviewed a lot of women specifically in Wall Street and corporate America over the years over my career, and the women who were really at the pinnacles of their careers, maybe 10 or 15 years ago, they said they got there by acting like men.

BALDWIN: Wow.

ROMANS: By playing the game like men. But now, now for the first time, you're seeing women who are at the very top, and they did it on their own terms. They had their children. They ran the business the way they wanted to. And I think it's changing. I think you can run a company, you can run a government, and you can run maybe the money supply of the United States and it's not because you necessarily have to think the way people did before you, but you just have to be the smartest, the best, the fastest, the most nimble, and you could be a woman or man, it doesn't matter now.

BALDWIN: But, you know, there's something to this. I mean look at you and your success, Christine Romans, as a mom, as a mentor, someone in this business. And I look - I look to you. I look to other women. And I really am a true believer in women helping women in business to be successful. And I just have to wonder, in these cut-throat Wall Street media financial worlds, are these women blazing the trails for themselves or are they helping other women come up behind them?

ROMANS: I'm so glad you asked that and I'm so glad you said that you think that I help and I like that. That's nice to hear. But I'll tell you that there's always this term mentorship. You had to mentor. Women had to find a good mentor, right? Somebody who could show - show her how to take those leadership roles or how to do her job better or how to fit into a hierarchy that for many, many years and decades was obviously dominated by men, who were the leaders and the most successful.

But now you hear them talk about sponsorship. Women need sponsors, not mentors. Not somebody who's going to tell them how to do it, but somebody who's going to reach down and say, I want you to be my colleague. I want you on this project. Because that's how men for many years have kept their close allies, people who think like them, people who they can work with closely, be more productive. They would sponsor them, not mentor them, sponsor them. So you're hearing about women sponsoring other women, not just mentoring them.

BALDWIN: We have to help one another. Christine Romans, meant what I said, thank you very much.

The Dow is rebounding today after a month of losses. Take a look. We are very in the green, up 229 points here. Great news for investors. But is the good news for solving the crisis in Washington and how does this play out? Our next guest says, no. In fact, he wrote a column entitled "Why America Needs a Stock Market Crash." Why? We will ask.

Plus, more confusion over Obamacare sign-ups. This time, customer reps were telling people their passwords were deleted. We'll explain what happened.

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