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Will Congress Carry On Cancer Victim's Fight?; Boehner Thunders At Conservative Groups; Has Obama Hit Bottom In Polls?; First Grader Suspended For Kissing Girl; "Time" Picks Pope Francis For "Person of The Year"; New Radar Detects Survivors' Heartbeats; Ex-Teacher Gets 38 Years For Molesting Boy; Rescued Family Warmed Rocks To Survive

Aired December 11, 2013 - 14:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, Dana Bash, Dana Bash, you took the words right out of my mouth when you said she just seemed like an old soul. So, her story and the politics of all of this. Explain to me now why exactly are these House Democrats working so hard to kill this bill named in this little girl's honor?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is counter intuitive, but they are very much working against it. In fact, this is what's called a whip alert that just went out ahead of this vote, which, by the way, I should say, is going to happen momentarily on the House floor. House Democrats are urging rank and file Democrats not to vote for this because they say, as you heard from Nita Lowey in my piece, that this is a publicity stunt by Republicans and to be more specific, what they argue is that this is in budgetary terms, simply to authorize the money, which would be about $13 million, with an "m", million dollars a year, and it wouldn't actually appropriate and designate the money for any kind of research, cancer or other, for pediatric care at the NIH.

Again, they're arguing it's not what Republicans say it is. On the flipside, as you heard from the Democrat in my piece, never mind Eric Cantor, the House majority whip Democrat, this is a baby step and you have to start somewhere, and why not at least make the gesture to authorize this money that was for political conventions and go this way?

You know, I have to say that I did speak with Gabriella's parents about this, let them know that a lot of Democrats thought that this was nothing more than a publicity stunt, that they were basically being taken advantage of, and they strongly disagreed.

They said they're very sophisticated people, and I can tell you by talking to them, they are. This is not easy, and I can also tell you they're going to be here to watch this vote, which again will happen in a short while.

BALDWIN: Let us know. Obviously you'll be watching for the vote. Let us know the fate of the vote. We'll talk to Dana Bash for us on Capitol Hill. Dana, thank you for that story.

House Speaker John Boehner went off. He went off late this morning on right-wing groups that want to defeat the two-year budget agreement announced right around this time yesterday. Want you to take a listen here to Speaker Boehner. He won't even hear the whole question because he's ready for this one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those major conservative groups that put out statements blasting this deal, are you --

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: You mean the groups that came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, those groups. Are you worried --

BOEHNER: They're using our members and they are using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous. Listen, if you're for more deficit reduction, you're for this agreement.


BALDWIN: Did I see a teensy little grin then, maybe? Either way, that's John Boehner defending the budget deal. Here are the very basics. No new taxes. That's number one. Number two, relief from automatic cuts to the military, plus an equal boost to nondefense spending. Then you have the deficit reduction, an estimated $23 billion. Gloria Borger, chief political analyst joining me now from Washington. Nice to see you.


BALDWIN: Let's talk about Speaker Boehner. What was that all about?

BORGER: I think -- I think what we saw was kind of the left over frustration from the government shutdown. I mean, you could almost hear him saying, are you guys nuts? OK, because what he understands, what he understands is that the country has absolutely no appetite to go to the brink again over shutting down the government. He also understands that actually if you look at polling, Republicans have made some gains lately. Maybe it's because of the Affordable Care Act, but they have made some gains.

If they just cool it and avert a government shutdown, the Republicans I talked to are saying, you know what? We can -- we can get some advantage here, heading into the midterm elections. He doesn't want to go through that all over again. So I think it was kind of a left over from October.

BALDWIN: Interesting so a little momentum rolling into the midterms. Speaking of polling, let me ask you about this because I'm hearing a lot of talk maybe the president, the president has turned things around in terms of popularity since the health care rollout debacle. We have a slew of new polls, this is our average, the poll of polls, so Obama approval rating, you see there are 42 percent. I know what you're thinking. Not exactly great, but it is up by as much as two points, Gloria Borger, what do you make of that?

BORGER: Well, I think maybe he's recovered from the worst of it, but I also think what we're looking at is a president that is somewhere between the low of 32 percent and a high of maybe 42 percent to maybe a little higher than that. And I think what you're seeing, particularly heading into the sixth year of a presidency is an American public who figures out, they know who the president is, they like him better than they like either of the Democrats or the Republicans. He's not as transformational as they would have hoped, but he is what he is.

And you know, I believe that, you know, so while he's recovered from the debacle that was Obamacare, in the rollout, I think he may have kind of reached his level. Now, the variable, of course, is the economy. If the economy, if we get 3 percent GDP and if health care starts going gang busters and he gets an Iranian nuclear deal, of course, he can get a bump up. But he's never going to be in the stratosphere again.

BALDWIN: A good deal for him.


BALDWIN: OK, Gloria Borger, thank you very much. Nice to see you today.

Coming up next, the backlash over the CNN film "Blackfish," it is growing. Another group, another band, cancelling their concert scheduled at SeaWorld. We will tell you which one.

Also ahead, a 6-year-old boy accused of sexual harassment after kissing a first grader classmate on the hand. I know. What is going on here? We'll talk about that story after this quick break. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: That's what I was waiting for. We needed a little cheap trick to explain the story for you. Fans hoping to hear that classic song "Surrender" by this band at SeaWorld Orlando next year, you're out of luck because the band has reportedly cancelled their February show after thousands of fans signed a petition demanding the band drop their performance at the park amid the controversy surrounding CNN's film "Blackfish."

And this adds to the growing list here of other bands who have dropped out of SeaWorld such "Barenaked Ladies." We talked to Willie Nelson about this last week. He said nothing would change his mind, end of story, and also finally, "Heart."

Now to this Colorado boy who admits he's a handful.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you been trying to be good at school?

HUNTER YELTON, SUSPENDED STUDENT: Yes, but I have a lot of energy. A 6-year-olds, they have a lot of energy.


BALDWIN: A lot going on, mom, come on. Does this first grader look like a sexual harasser to you? Well, that's precisely the offense now listed in his school record after Hunter Yelton kissed a girl in class. A repeat violation that got this little guy suspended.


YELTON: We were doing reading group and I leaned over and kissed her on the hand and that's what happened.

JENNIFER SAUNDERS, MOTHER: This is taking it to an extreme that doesn't need to be met with a 6-year-old. Now, my son's asking questions. What is sex, mommy? It should not ever be said, sex in a sentence with a 6-year-old.


BALDWIN: Doing our due diligence, this is what the school superintendent says. The boy's actions meet the definition of sexual harassment and it going to not be removed from his record. However, it's a record kept only in the district. Just this afternoon, Hunter's mom told us today the principal is going to approach the superintendent, ask them to reconsider removing this term sexual harassment from the boy's file.

So let's talk about this, psychologist, Wendy Walsh. Let's do this sort of, you know, what? That's my first reaction when I heard about this. I'm sure you were thinking the same thing. When I hear this mom saying that this little 6-year-old is now saying, mom, what is sex? What does this do to him?

WENDY WALSH, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I also think it's perfectly OK at the age of 6 to discuss what sex is. But I think we're trying to put adult ideas on these poor children. I don't even know if this girl was so harmed by the kiss on the hand in the class.

BALDWIN: A great point. We don't even know.

WALSH: Maybe her parents have this feeling about it. We don't know the harm to the victim. And I think that we're just having a lot of adults put adult beliefs on these kids, and you should understand, Brooke, that sexual development in children happens in a very gentle, sweet, exploratory, hand touching, whatever, and eventually ends up at the age of 18 being a fully blossoming sexual relationship. If you could say it's zero tolerance, you must not touch a human until you're 18 and they're 18, too, how are they going to learn to love each other?

BALDWIN: When it comes to the little girl, apparently, you know, according to the superintendent, she did not want to be kissed. That's as much as we know from this little girl, but how should schools handle this unwanted touching?

WALSH: This is what you call a beautiful teaching moment. This is a time to bring both kids together, discuss their feelings about what happened. Get the parents involved and help them have some empathy for each other's experience. The girl, once she hears maybe his feelings for her, actually might be flattered by the touch. And by the way, what is more gentlemanly than a kiss on the hand? We're now, you know, sort of arresting a child, if you will -- he wasn't arrested, but suspending a child, certainly, for being a gentleman.

BALDWIN: I know. Maybe at 6, this little girl says, I mean, good for this little boy. I wasn't so interested in boys at 6, but who knows. Hopefully this gets erased from his file, but this is something that caught our attention and we wanted to talk about it with you. Wendy Walsh, thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it.

WALSH: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, drum roll, please. "Time" magazine revealing Pope Francis as its "Person of the Year," but listen, as in any year, there are arguments that it should have been someone else. We'll talk about that.

Plus, no woman has been named actually for "Person of the Year" since 1986. Why is that? We'll talk to someone from "Time" magazine here with me here in New York next.


BALDWIN: A mere nine months ago, most of the world did not know a man by the Jorge Mario Bergulio, and now you know him by Pope Francis. Today, he's "Time" magazine's "Person of the Year." Here's the cover for you. The magazine marvelled at the, and I'm quoting, "the speed with which he's captured the imagination of millions who had given up on hoping for the Catholic Church."

It all began in March when the world was introduced to Pope Francis for the very first time. As we have been watching and reporting on this in the months since, he has embraced the poor. Most notably, amazing, this visit in Rio De Janeiro, and then photos like this, holding and kissing that disfigured man.

"Time" has placed the pope at the center of our conversations this year. So here with me, Rana Foroohar, assistant managing editor at "Time" magazine. Nice to see you. What separated Pope Francis from all the others you looked at?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, for starters, he's the new leader of one of the world's largest institutions. He's the head of a faith with 1.2 billion followers and many people listening in this age of social media. By the way, this year, the pope was the most talked about person on Facebook and Twitter. So this is a man who has reached an area of social media.

BALDWIN: More than Facebook and Twitter because I'm thinking of Edward Snowden?

FOROOHAR: Exactly who was also on our short list. I know a lot of people think, well, why didn't he win?

BALDWIN: Right, runner-up, right?

FOROOHAR: Runner-up, and it was a tough choice. We do, by the way, have an interview by him, which we got by e-mail in the magazine. He's got a lot of interesting things to say. The connective tissue is here really they're both disrupters. These are people you didn't hear of a year ago, which is really quite unusual for "Person of the Year."

BALDWIN: This is what Wikileaks, they were none too pleased. Obviously they wanted their guy at the top of the list, tweeted this, "No question Snowden influenced the news the most this year. The criteria you had, whistle blowers as "Person of the Year" in the past. Why not Snowden?

FOROOHAR: Look, it could have been him. In another year, it could have been him. I think just because we're talking about the pope, and we're talking about the pope, a man who is putting himself at the center of the biggest debates of our time, inequality. This is a guy who is talking about trickledown economics. You never thought a pope would talk about that.

He's putting himself at the heart of technological debates too. You know, the kind of sense of disconnection that people feel from each other in this era of high speed, inequality, and globalization. So we really felt that he came out just ahead, but it was a tough call.

BALDWIN: What about the women, Rana? What about the women because you haven't had a "Person of the Year" on the cover of your magazine since 1986. There were three. These are the three who are in your top ten this year, but why not a woman?

FOROOHAR: Well, you know, you can look at that short list.

BALDWIN: And look at these different women, by the way. Could they be more different?

FOROOHAR: That's true. And again, a lot of disrupters, right, people who are shaking up the status quo whether you like it or not. I actually think that we may be at a tipping point. Because if you look at who typically wins "Person of the Year," it's someone who really dominates the news, often is at the top of an institution, a country, or is a major disrupter. Women are taking on more and more leadership roles, no question about it.

BALDWIN: How about the new CEO of GM?

FOROOHAR: Absolutely. She has plenty of time to win.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much, Rana Foroohar. Nice to see you from "Time" magazine.

Coming up here, a Texas honor student gunned down by campus police, shot five times during this late-night traffic stop so obviously, the main question, what happened? We have an exclusive interview with that young man's family, and they respond to police who say that their son was drunk and violent. It's an exclusive here with CNN. Don't miss it. But first, in disasters like the recent tornadoes in the Midwest, first responders are the lifelines for the victims trapped beneath the rubble. Now, a new radar device could give search teams another tool to get people out alive.


BALDWIN (voice-over): When disaster strikes, every second counts when you're searching for survivors. New radar technology could help search and rescue teams detect the heart beats of victims trapped beneath the wreckage.

JOHN PRICE, DHS SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DIRECTORATE: In any disaster when people are injured and buried, you have a certain amount of time that a person can survive.

BALDWIN: A portable device is being developed by NASA and the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA Search and Rescue Team Virginia Task Force One is testing it.

JIM LUX, NASA'S JET PROPULSION LAB: Finder is a low power microwave radar. It sends out a signal about 1/100 the strength of your cell phone. Imagine as a flashlight lighting up the rubble pile so we look for the motion that's caused by your heart beat and your breathing.

BALDWIN: Finder can see through up to 20 feet of solid concrete from 100 feet away and the radar is sensitive enough to distinguish between a human and an animal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we got a victim straight ahead.

BALDWIN: It can even find victims who can't cry out for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you hear us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody there. Ma'am, fire and rescue.

BALDWIN: The technology could be available as early as next year.

PRICE: There's a very limited number of responders out there for any given population.

LUX: This is just another tool in the toolbox that can be used to help save lives.



BALDWIN: A former elementary school teacher once honored as "Teacher of the Year," now must serve 38 years in a Florida state prison.


JUDGE CHET THARPE, HILLSBOROUGH CIRCUIT COURT: You, Ms. Anderson, are a parent's worst nightmare.


BALDWIN: A jury convicted 31-year-old Ethyl Anderson of nine counts of molesting a 12-year-old boy. Anderson tutored him at her home. Our affiliate is reporting she said the sexting and touching were part of a sexual therapy to help the boy deal with problems at school. Through sobs, she pleaded for mercy during her sentencing Monday.


ETHEL ANDERSON, CONVICTED CHILD MOLESTER: I'm not a sexual predator. I don't present a threat to our society. I'm a mother. I'm not a monster. I truly wish that none of this would have ever happened because all I want is to go back to being Isabel's mom. This is not my life. I keep praying that God -- I appreciate my life more and show me that my life does have purpose. I shared all this with you judge in the hopes that there must be something you can see in me to show a little mercy.


BALDWIN: But the judge says Anderson groomed that little boy after prosecutors showed 230 explicit texts between Anderson and this child. His mother also spoke to the court through a letter the prosecutor read.


RITA PETERS, PROSECUTOR READING LETTER FROM VICTIM'S MOTHER: I know that the law going to take care of you the way you need to be dealt with. There were many times during the trial I wish I could have gotten up my seat to scream, yell, or slap you. I feel like I could tear you apart with my bear hands, but those who know me know I would never do that. I do not know how somebody like you is allowed to be near children. You have turned me into a very angry and cynical mother.


BALDWIN: Anderson is married. She has a 6-year-old daughter. Her attorney plans to appeal the sentence.

And we continue on. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Top of the hour, thank you so much for being with me. Let's begin with this incredible story of survival out of Nevada. This family of six, including four young children, found alive. Two of them, the mother and the daughter, the youngest, just released from the hospital after being stranded in the rugged and freezing terrain of Nevada's seven troughs mountain range for 48 freezing hours.

The family what out for a day trip to the snow, wanted to have fun, but while driving through the back country, their jeep, as you'll see here, went off the road, slid down into this crevice, upside down. To survive, you know what they did? They stayed put. Lighting a fire outside the overturned jeep, heating rocks, placing them in a spare tire to keep the children warm through the minus 20 degree nights.

Their rescue came after a couple of pings from one of their cell phones. A friend with binoculars also spotted them while scanning the mountainside. How about that? Joining me now, Shane Hobel, founder and owner of the Mountain Scout Survival School. So Shane, nice to meet you.


BALDWIN: Let's just begin with your biggest takeaway, the greatest thing they did during that two-day ordeal.

HOBEL: I have to commend them. They did a lot of things. One of the best things is they remained calm and focused on what they needed to do right then and there. They stayed together, and they also stayed with the vehicle. More often than not, they wander.

BALDWIN: Why is that key?

HOBEL: Most people feel like if they are trapped or the vehicle has broken down, they have a better chance of actually making it on their own.