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Exclusive Interview with President Obama; Make, Create, Innovate: Space Suit for Mars

Aired January 30, 2014 - 16:19   ET



PAULA NEWTON, HOST: Now, CNN has the first interview with President Obama following his State of the Union address Tuesday. In an exclusive sit-down, Jake Tapper touched on a whole range of topics: the economy, jobs, immigration, national security, and foreign policy. He began by asking him just how far he thinks his go-it-alone attitude toward Congress will actually get him.




TAPPER: So, your big push in the State of the Union and here is whatever you cannot accomplish with Congress, you will take executive action or issue executive orders. How much can you really accomplish doing that?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, my big push is making sure we're focused on opportunity, making sure that every single day, all of us in Washington are trying to think about ways that we can help folks get good jobs, make sure that they're trained for the good jobs that are out there, make sure that those jobs pay, make sure our kids are getting a great education.

Those are the issues that the American people still very much are concerned about. And obviously, there's going to be more that we can do if Congress is able to break through some of the gridlock. And if we're able to, for example, pass immigration reform, that is going to add growth to our economy, reduce our deficits.

TAPPER: You don't seem confident that that's going to happen.

OBAMA: No, actually -- I actually think that we have a good chance of getting immigration --


TAPPER: I don't mean immigration reform, I mean the jobs issue.

OBAMA: I think there are going to be some issues where it's going to be tough for them to move forward, and I'm going to continue to reach out to them and say here are my best ideas, I want to hear yours. But, as I said at the State of the Union, I can't wait. And the American people, more importantly, cannot wait.

So, when, for example, yesterday I signed an executive order helping to set up starter retirement accounts for folks who may not have retirement accounts on the job, it is not as big as if we changed overall our tax codes that we're providing more incentives for working families to save, the same kinds of incentives that folks at the very top have, but it's still significant. It still makes a difference.

And what we're doing here today, talking about job training. We actually already have a lot of resources for job training. The problem is, it's not well-coordinated and oftentimes, it's not funneled to those programs that are allowing companies to help community colleges, let's say, design the training so that somebody who goes through it knows they're going to get a job at the other end of it.

Tomorrow is a great example of something that we're doing that doesn't involve any legislation or funding. We know that one of the biggest problems right now in the jobs market is the longterm unemployed.

TAPPER: How they're having trouble -- people won't hire them because they've been unemployed so long.

OBAMA: Because they've been employed -- unemployed so long, folks are looking at that gap in the resume, and they're weeding them out before these folks even get a chance for an interview.

So, what we've done is to gather together 300 companies just to start with, including some of the top 50 companies in the country, companies like Walmart and Apple and Ford and others, to say let's establish best practices.

Do not screen people out of the hiring process just because they've been out of work for a long time. We just went through the worst recession since the Great Depression. And so, I'll be convening a meeting where a number of these top companies will be coming in, agreeing to these best practices, and we'll have an opportunity to encourage more people to come in.

All those things cumulatively are going to have an impact. Will we be able to have more of an impact if we can get Congress, for example, to pass a minimum wage law that applies to everybody as opposed to me just through executive order making sure that folks who are contractors to the federal government have to pay a minimum wage? Absolutely. And that's why I'm going to keep on reaching out to them. But I'm not going to wait for them.

TAPPER: Your critics say this is diminished expectations, and I've been covering you for a long, long time, as you remember, 2005, 2006, in the Senate.

OBAMA: Sure.

TAPPER: I remember during the campaign when you talked about your presidency being a moment when the rise of the oceans would slow and the nation -- the world would heal. And now you're talking about hand in phone and executive orders and executive actions. Do you think you were naive back then, or -- have you recalibrated your expectations and your ambitions?

OBAMA: Well, part of it is we got a lot of that stuff done. We've got in this country a health care reform that has already signed up millions of people, and make sure that everybody who's watching, anybody who already has insurance will not be dropped because of a pre-existing condition. If they don't have health insurance, they can get it on

We have made enormous strides on the education front, changing our student loan program so that millions more young people get student loans. And so part of what's happened is that check list that I had when I came into office, we have passed a lot of that, and we're implementing a lot of it.

Where we haven't, we've taken some administrative action, so on climate change, which has to be a top priority for all of us, we are going to make sure that one of the biggest sources of the pollutants that are causing climate change are regulated by regulations on existing power plants. That's a big piece of business.

And so in no way are my expectations diminished or my ambitions diminished. But what is obviously true is we've got divided government right now. The House Republicans in particular have had difficulty rallying around any agenda, much less mine.

And in that kind of environment, what I don't want is the American people to think that the only way for us to make big change is through legislation. We've all got to work together to continue to provide opportunity for the next generation.


NEWTON: President Obama, there, speaking to our Jake Tapper. Now, the US economy was growing at a strong pace at the end of last year. In the final quarter of 2013, GDP grew -- we're going to have more on those markets right after the break.


NEWTON: It looks like something out of the blockbuster movie "Gravity," a super-high-tech space suit specifically made for a trip to Mars. And as Nick Glass discovers, the Aouda X can even help you scratch your nose in outer space.


NICK GLASS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you've heard of Innsbruck, you're probably aware it's a ski destination in the Austrian Alps. What most of us don't know is there is a small research facility here with an ambition that's out of this world

GLASS (voice-over): A scientist with infections enthusiasm, Dr. Gernot Groemer, has always been fascinated by outer space.

GERNOT GROEMER, AUSTRIAN SPACE FORUM: It all started very early on, when I was like, 15, 16 or so, when I got a telescope from my parents. I was looking at everything from neighbors' windows to the moon or the sun, whatever. And I realized that the more interesting stuff is up there.

GLASS: Trained as an astrophysicist, he's now an astrobiologist looking for signs of life in space. So why Mars?

GROEMER: It might be the place in the universe which might tell us if we're alone in the solar system, at least, maybe. There are resources there.

GLASS: Down these white, anonymous corridors, the Austrian Space Forum, working with the European Space Agency, has spent six years developing the ultimate piece of kit for Mars.

GROEMER: This is Aouda. Aouda X. It's a spacecraft to wear, which is able to mimic all the limitations a real space suit would have on planet Mars.

GLASS: It -- or rather, she -- is named after Aouda, the heroine from Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days." Getting into her is a lengthy process.

GROEMER: OK. Check. It's a spacecraft to wear. I can eat, I can drink in this suit. Lots of high-tech, lots of sensors, which are taking my biometrics. But there's also lots of low-tech. Like, for example, when starting to sweat, my mouth starts to itch as well. But with a visor on, I cannot scratch my nose, and that's why I have this -- my best friend here, the device, and I can go like -- like this.

GLASS (on camera): That's your nose scratcher.

GROEMER: Very important thing, yes.

GLASS (voice-over): On go the gloves and the helmet.

GROEMER: Good to go.

GLASS (on camera): What's different about your suit?

GROEMER: Our suit is the most intelligent one. The big difference in our suit is that we consider it as a central hub for an entire family of instruments, robotic vehicles, like scientific machines or so.

GLASS (voice-over): We know Mars is inhospitable, ice-cold, barren with swirling dust storms. The suit has been tested in the deserts of Morocco and the underground ice caves in Austria, anywhere that mimics the surface of the red planet.

Groemer is not alone. There are other suits being developed around the world. NASA and North Dakota University are working on the NVX 2, and a research group from Utah are working on their own version.

In Groemer's office, a model of the Saturn V rocket. It took the Apollo astronauts to the moon. We are still 20 to 30 years away from such a mission to Mars. But Groemer is hopeful it will happen in his lifetime.

GROEMER: Not only will we look through a telescope to Mars, even we see it with the naked eye, and you realize, oh my gosh, one day, there will be people looking back from there, from this tiny little point over there. And I'll be one of those ship builders who enabled that grand journey. I almost -- not hear the calling, but I -- it's there, it's daring us.



NEWTON: Welcome back, I'm Paula Newton, headlines this hour.

An Italian court has convicted former exchange student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito on murder charges. Prosecutors first claimed the couple had killed Meredith Kercher in 2007. They were convicted two years later of murder but those charges were overturned on appeal in 2011. The U.S. government says the surviving Boston bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will face the death penalty. Authorities say he and his brother planted two homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon last April, killing three people and injuring dozens. Speaking exclusively to CNN before the announcement, Tsarnaev's mother said she loves her son and "is sickened" about his situation.

The United States says it is deeply concerned about Syria's failure to take the steps needed to get rid of its chemical weapons. Peace talks between the opposition and the Syrian government in Geneva have not yet produced any solid agreements. Doctors treating F-1 racing champion Michael Schumacher have begun to slowly bring him out of his medically- induced coma. Schumacher suffered serious head trauma in a skiing accident in the French Alps last month.

We now have a statement from Amanda Knox. As we were just saying, she has been found guilty again in the murder of Meredith Kercher. She says, "First and foremost, it must be recognized that there is no consolation for the Kercher family. Their grief over Meredith's terrible murder will follow them forever. They deserve respect and support. I am frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict, having been found innocent before I expected better from the Italian justice system. The evidence and accusatory theory do not justify a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, rather, nothing has changed. There has always been a marked lack of evidence. My family and I have suffered greatly from this wrongful persecution. This has gotten out of hand. Most troubling is that it was entirely preventable. I beseech those with the knowledge and authority to address and re -- mediate the problems that worked to pervert the course of justice and waste the valuable resource of the system overzealous and intransient prosecution, prejudice and narrow-minded investigation, the unwillingness to admit mistake, reliance on unreliable testimony and evidence character assassination, inconsistent and unfounded accusatory theory and counterproductive and coercive interrogation techniques that produce false confessions and inaccurate statements." As you see there, a portion of the statement that Amanda Knox has released. Clearly she spent quite time going through that and knew that this guilty verdict was a possibility. As I say, we continue to bring you more news on the Amanda Knox verdict as we get it.

Now tonight, Turkey's finance minister tells CNN there is no turning back following this week's sudden rate race. Mehmet Simsek says that he respects the move by Turkey's Central Bank which says it's ready to go even further to protect the Turkish lira. The Central Bank says, "Tight monetary policy stance will be sustained until there is a significant improvement in the inflation outlook. If deemed necessary, liquidity policy may be tightened further." Now that seems to go against Turkey's prime minister, Tayyip Erdodanm, who has rallied against rate rises. He said he would consider using "other measures" to support the lira, however, Mehmet Simsek these won't include capital controls.


MEHMET SIMSEK, TURKISH FINANCE MINISTER, VIA TRANSLATOR: I have to underline that we do not have any restrictions on capital movement in our agenda. As our Central Bank is independent and we do care about the credibility of our Central Bank, I have to underline it again -- I cannot make any comments over the decision taken by our Central Bank.


NEWTON: Now I asked Turkey's finance minister later if he thinks his country has won back investors' confidence with the country's dramatic rate rise.


SIMSEK: I think Central Bank credibility has improved. There were concerns about the unconventional monetary policy that Central Bank has been implementing since 2010, and with latest relatively orthodox move, I think clarity has emerged and in many ways, that should go -- I mean that should go a long way of addressing some of those concerns.

NEWTON: Your government is embroiled right now in a corruption scandal. Many investors just looking and saying 'look, in Turkey there is far too much political instability right now..' Do you see how investors would be taking on an inside look at Turkish politics right now and saying it's not the safest bet to come to Turkey with money right now?

SIMSEK: There may be, you know, corrupt elements there and there, but we're nowhere near condoning it, we have no tolerance -- zero tolerance -- and we're going to continue to facilitate full investigations in this. However, we can't allow rogue elements within the state to take you know initiative and do politically-motivated investigations. So that's really where we are. I think vast majority of investors understand that.

NEWTON: If things do not improve, would you consider putting in capital controls?

SIMSEK: Absolutely not. Capital controls were never on our agenda and that would not -- I mean it would be unthinkable. We remain committed to open economy -- macroeconomics policy framework. We are part of the world, we have a relatively small, open economy, we are highly integrated in global economy, there is no turning back. We'll continue to basically improve our investment climate, maintain sound monetary and fiscal policies and I think investors will respond to that.

We have ten years of strong credibility -- this government -- despite some let's say mistakes there or there has been reformist, we have a relatively progressive platform and we will continue to reform, we will continue to move the country forward. So in that sense, I'm actually more optimistic and I do sense a similar optimism among investment community when you talk about medium, long-term (inaudible) for Turkey. However, short-term, understandably, all emerging markets are under pressure. Turkey may be a little bit more so, partly because of domestic concerns, but more importantly, Turkey was relatively more crowded (trade). We were doing better, so we attracted more capital. .Now assets are getting re- priced -- that's really what this process is about.


NEWTON: Now, going to Denmark. The Danish government has narrowly avoided collapse over an energy investment deal with Goldman Sachs. The deal was agreed Thursday and sees the investment bank take a 19 percent share in Denmark's DONG Energy. Now earlier in the day, the leader of the Socialist People's Party resigned Helle Thorning-Schmidt, managed to garner enough votes to see the proposals made into law anyway. Now outside the Danish Parliament, there's been a huge backlash against the deal with protests on the streets of Copenhagen. Almost 200,000 people have signed an online petition and in the last hour a source close to the deal has told CNN that Fritz Schur, the chairman of the board at DONG Energy has resigned after nine years on the job. This really is an unpopular move by all accounts. Recent polls suggest that 68 percent of Danes think the sale is a bad idea.

We're joined now from the Danish capital, Copenhagen, by Martin Agerup is CEO of the Danish Center for Political Studies. Martin, thanks so much for joining us. Can you try and frame this for an international audience that may not be keeping track on why Danes so hate this deal. And you can see by any poll, they really hate and they seem to hate Goldman Sachs.

MARTIN AGERUP, CEO, DANISH CENTER FOR POLITICAL STUDIES: Yes, I think it all springs from this Socialist Party's problem with the deal, and that's just a culmination of events. When this government came in a couple of years ago, they came in from an election platform they ran on which was about increasing taxes and increasing the ties of government sector. And they ended up doing the exact opposite -- they've slashed corporate taxes, they've lowered marginal taxes for above-average income earners, they have decrease unemployment benefits, etc.

And this was just the last straw that broke the camel's back for the Socialist People's Party and there hasn't been -- so all the debate has been about the problems this party has and I think that a few a weeks ago if you'd asked people about Goldman Sachs, they wouldn't have had much opinion about it -- opinions have shifted in that direction. I think it's, you know, an import from the U.S. like we imported Halloween . When I was a kid, nobody knew about Halloween -


AGERUP: -- in Denmark, now everybody does.

NEWTON: But clearly they -

AGERUP: (Inaudible) imported this idealic Goldman Sachs as the villain.

NEWTON: Right, but clearly they take offense to this kind of thing. They feel from -- that they're losing sovereignty almost.. They must. It's as if they're selling out to Wall Street and selling out one of their most important assets.

AGERUP: Well, yes, but -- I mean -- you don't have to be a Socialist to dislike the role that Henry Paulson played in -- as the architect of the bailout. You know, taking -- totaling the taxpayers' money and giving them to Wall Street. The fact of this deal is in fact the opposite. I mean, what's happening with DONG Energy is they're removing Dong Energy away from the treasury and most Danes are in favor of private businesses running production companies, and DONG Energy is a production company. So I think there's a lot of misunderstanding here about what's really going on. But it's true that Goldman Sachs -- you know -- after what happened with the financial crisis is seen as part of the financial sector which is very unpopular these days and these years. And that's slightly worrying, but I think that's really what it's all about. And the irony of it, as I said, is that really Goldman Sachs in this case is playing the opposite role -- they're moving DONG Energy away from the government sector and towards the market, and that's the way to go if you want it to grow.

NEWTON: Yes, it's interesting though, but there's definitely a lesson to be learned here worldwide I think in terms of how not to handle this kind of a deal with any Wall Street entity there again.

AGERUP: I agree.


AGERUP: I agree and part of the problem is that Danish finance minister and the Danish government has been downplaying how risky a transition to a green economy is and the reason why they're calling Goldman Sachs into this is that you need a lot of capital to do it and you need a lot of skill and knowledge to do it, and you need to spread risk to different players. And this idea of this being a risky undertaking to the (inaudible) is something that hasn't really been part of the Danish debate -


AGERUP: -- the electorate is reacting to that -


AGERUP: -- they are surprised.

NEWTON: All right, Martin, we're going to have to leave it there, but the story will continue to follow. Thank you so much. Appreciate your time there from Copenhagen. Now, as we've seen in the last few days, unexpected snow has wreaked havoc in the United States. We'll have an update right after the break.


NEWTON: Jenny Harrison is at the CNN International Weather Center and I hope you can me that the southern -- Southeastern -- United States is now above zero, please. Are they above zero?

JENNY HARRISON, WEATHER ANCHOR FOR CNN INTERNATIONAL: Yes, you'll be very pleased to hear. Let me tell you are all of here that it is now well above zero, and in fact, Paula, there's some very nice sunshine in -- on the (car) for the next few days. This is of course the radar in the last few hours. Got quite a bit of rain across areas of Florida and there is some more snow heading across the Midwest. But as far as the South and Southeast goes, things have been pretty good. But there was quite a bit of snow -- if you didn't know, there was 6 centimeters in total in Atlanta, Charleston in South Carolina, 8 millimeters of ice which is never good, and then Norfolk in Virginia -- 14 centimeters of snow there.

But as I say, the good news is it has cleared out of the picture. It's been this very, very cold pattern of course for much of the first month of the year, and in fact, this is set to change briefly anyways through the next few days. In fact, temperatures as much as 5 degrees above the average -- just to show you what that actually looks like -- look at this in Atlanta. The average is 12, by Sunday, 17 degrees Celsius. So, just the most incredible turnaround in weather conditions and certainly in temperatures. Even New York above average certainly by the time it gets to Sunday -- 10 Celsius. Chicago is cold, but not as bad as it has been -- -8 at worst there on Sunday.

Now in Europe, some very heavy amounts of snow across the southeast, but some very heavy snow on its way to the Alps. Temperatures well below the average across central and eastern areas, and this is from across the south. We're seeing a lot of very heavy rain across some areas too. And of course in that cold air, it is turning over to the snow. But there's also another big system heading in through the weekend across the northwest -- the U.K. (Inaudible) seeing the brunt of this. Very, very heavy amounts of rain, very persistent rainfall, and look at the winds -- once again we can see some gusts around 99, maybe 100 kilometers an hour. So, not good news there.

These are thee temperatures right now with the wind factored in. It feels like -25 in Bucharest and this is why of course -- we've got this cold air in place with all that moisture in the south. That is going to add up to some pretty impressive totals of snow across the line of the Alps. At the same time, further to the south, we've got some warnings in there for the heavy rain, waterspouts north of those strong winds. But look at these numbers. Not unheard of at all in the Alps, but let's end on this one, Paula -- 133 centimeters in Lienz in Australia. Just as well we saw nothing like that of course in the Southeast -- (inaudible) you'd be buried forever. There it is, some good snow for the Alps over the weekend.

NEWTON: Yes, you wouldn't just be buried forever, there'd be a lot of problems.


NEWTON: Not to worry, Jenny, thank you for that update and I'm glad to see that you can enjoy some nice weather on Sunday there in Atlanta.

HARRISON: Oh we will indeed.

NEWTON: Thank you. Now, as Google posts its latest profits, we meet a man who says he has an alternative to the global search engine. That's up next.


NEWTON: Revenue and profits are up at Google. Profit rose 17 percent from a year ago to $3.9 billion, revenue including results from the Motorola hardware business that they just sold -- rose to $16.86 billion. That was from $14.2 billion a year ago. Now Google's stand-alone revenue was up 22 percent year on year at $15.7 billion. Per share earnings though were lower than expected due to the poor performance of Motorola. Now, we all know how predomining Google is on the internet. We're joined now by the CEO of search engine DuckDuckGo -- yes that is the name. Gabriel Weinberg, he has now developed an alternative search tool. Thank you for joining us and I'm going to ask you -- what the heck were you thinking trying to take on Google, and tell me how you're going to do it.

GABRIEL WEINBERG, CEO, DUCKDUCKGO: Sure, so like you mentioned, DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine like Google except we don't track you. So, what that means is when you search on DuckDuckGo, you're actually completely anonymous. In addition, you know, we focus on an overall better search experience with less spam, less ads, less clutter and more instant answers

NEWTON: I went on it, it does say 'search anonymously, find instantly' I went on it to search for a Google result today. I can tell you, it was a little bit though -- it didn't quite have that feel that Google has. What are you doing to try and kind of clean up that image that the user has and also just to kind of get the results popping up a little bit more quickly.

WEINBERG: Yes, we go for this friendlier look and feel that you might have noticed. You know, Google has been inserting their own properties inside their search results -- namely Google Plus -- and so what we do is clean that all out as well as a lot of spam, because when you search on our site, you'll notice just cleaner results and we put instant answers above the results when we can to try to give you information, you know, right away.

NEWTON: Despite any skepticism here, you've had a lot more traffic to your website recently.


WEINBERG: Yes, right.. This is not a new outfit. I started DuckDuckGo about six years ago, and last year we did over a billion searches which is over double the year before and we have similar growth in 2014.

NEWTON: Extraordinary. You must be gratified by that growth chart we're showing you right now. Why do you think that is and do you think this whole notion of privacy to be anonymous during your search really is appealing to people?

WEINBERG: Yes, absolutely. It's not just the government surveillance which, you know, we've all been talking about and which is important, but there are a lot of reasons why you just don't want to be tracked in general. I'm sure you've probably noticed ads following you around the internet?

NEWTON: Absolutely.

WEINBERG: They're something, it's all over the place. What you may not have realized also is that when you go to websites now, you can be charged higher prices based on your data profile. So they think you might be affluent and now you're getting charged a higher price. People don't like that, and so the less tracking that happens -- like you search in DuckDuckGo, less of that happens.

NEWTON: Gabriel, you're a braver man than I. Tell me quickly what is your secret weapon against Google? What do you think it is?

WEINBERG: (LAUGHTER). No tracking. We can do it, Google can't because we just focus on web search.

NEWTON: You are certainly a disruptor. We'll continue to follow this, especially if those traffic numbers continue to go up the way they have. Gabriel, thank you so much for coming in, I really appreciate it.

WEINBERG: Thank you.

NEWTON: Thanks. Now, we'll be back with more right after the break.


NEWTON: Recap some of the number for today. The U.S. economy was growing at a strong pace at the end of last year. In the final quarter of 2013 GDP grew by some 3.2 percent that was driven by trade and consumer spending. It doesn't quite beat the 4.1 percent growth seen in the third quarter, but it certainly shows things are moving in the right direction. Now, the big board here as you can see -- up almost 110 points. Now quite taking back everything it lost yesterday, but definitely again a move in the right direction, and if we move on to our European markets, they also had not a bad day at all. They were certainly eased up by the Russians' support for its ruble, and as we told you earlier, Turkey's dismissal of the fact that it would use capital controls.

And that's "Quest Means Business." I'm Paula Newton. Thanks for watching.