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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  December 23, 2013 2:00pm-3:31pm PST

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but apparently got a lot of backlash from customers. cracker barrel said in a statement you told us we made a mistake and you weren't shy about it. that's it for "the lead." i'm dana bash. i turn you over to my friend, brianna keilar, who is filling in for wolf blitzer in "the situation room." happening now, new obamacare confusion. president obama signs up for coverage, but not really. today's the deadline for enrolling if you want coverage on january 1st, but not really. we will explain. terror groups usually don't say sorry for attacking innocent people, so what's behind al qaeda's apology for a deadly attack on a hospital? extraordinary progress by medical researchers. a bionic leg that reads brain signals. how it may one day help amputee war veterans. wolf blitzer is off.
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i'm brianna keilar. you're in "the situation room." president obama has signed up for obamacare. sort of, anyway. white house officials acknowledge his weekend enrollment in a d.c. health care exchange is symbolic and he will be keeping his current insurance provided by the u.s. military. but the move serves as a reminder to other americans that if they want coverage at the beginning of the new year, they need to sign up today. sort of. actually, the clock will keep ticking a little bit longer. the president is vacationing in hawaii, where athena jones is. kind of confusing here. explain to us what happened. >> reporter: it is a bit confusing. but the deadline has been pushed back a day to make sure people have time to sign up. and of course, some states have already pushed back the deadline to make sure people have time to pick a plan. but as expected, as this deadline approached, this news didn't come out until today, as this deadline approached, we did see a surge in the number of people trying to sign up for
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health coverage all across the country. a last minute scramble for washington's chris beday to get coverage for the start of the year, to cut down the $5,000 or so she spends each year treating her diabetes. >> i know i'm kind of late but this is the only time that i have given myself. >> reporter: across the country from georgia to california, millions of americans got an extra 24 hours to sign up for insurance coverage that starts january 1st. the cut-off was today, but officials delayed the deadline until midnight on christmas eve to pick a plan. it's a welcome delay for carla johnson, who is helping people sign up for new plans in atlanta. >> that's great for the consumers. consumers have somewhat of an early christmas gift for them. i'm excited that, you know, the powers that be made this possible for more enrollment. >> reporter: the federal exchange,, saw a million visitors over the weekend, an early sign of a surge in interest. the visits kept coming on
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monday. joining the crowd, president obama, whose staff signed him up over the weekend. in a move that was entirely symbolic, since he uses military doctors. the president sounded a positive note friday about the overall pace of enrollment so far. >> since october 1st, more than one million americans have selected new health insurance plans through the federal and state marketplaces. >> reporter: while the president said more than half a million people signed up through in the first three weeks of december alone, enrollment is still far short of the 3.3 million the government expected by this time. meanwhile, members of the president's own party continue their push to delay until 2015 fines for people who don't buy insurance by the end of march. >> the end of the day, if it's so much more expensive than what we anticipated and that the coverage is not as good as what we've had, you've got a complete meltdown at that time. so this transitional year gives you a chance to adjust the products to the market. >> reporter: the administration offered a reprieve last week to
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people whose policies are being canceled and who haven't been able to find affordable plans on the exchanges. they will be allowed to buy catastrophic coverage or be exempted from the fines. some states and insurance companies have extended the deadline to sign up for coverage starting in january to december 27th, or even december 31st to give people more time to pick a plan. now, health officials are pointing to a record day for today, with 850,000 visits to the site as of 2:00 p.m., and one more update we just got on those numbers over the weekend. more than 1.2 million visitors to the site over the weekend. brianna? >> covering the story all day long, thanks so much. public support for obamacare has plummeted to its lowest level yet, according to our latest cnn/orc poll, and more importantly, a key base of supporters for the white house. we're talking about women. they are increasingly disappointed with the law. cnn's tom foreman joining us now to break all of this down.
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>> yeah. the president's sign-up may have been symbolic but frustration over this law is absolutely not. look at the number here right now. this is where it is now. 35% of the public favor the health care law, 62% are against it. look at the change that's happened to this over time. if you were to go back to november of 2012, just over half the people were against it. but it started ticking up well before the obamacare website came online, you may note, and has been steadily ticking up to this level we're at right now. we talked about women a moment ago. this is an important change to notice here. you will see that between november and now, men increased a tiny bit but the biggest change in that overall number is happening here. women, this has been a demographic the white house has absolutely counted on. they helped elect barack obama. they helped re-elect barack obama. they are the ones who are getting realliy eirritated abou this. who is against this law?
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35% favor it, of course, those who oppose it, who say it's too liberal, 43%. that's the biggest number. about 15% of the people disagree with obamacare because they simply say it is not liberal enough, it should provide more things. here come two last key things i want to point out here. payment on this whole thing. is your cost going to be less or more. remember, one of the key promises of this from the beginning is we will insure more people and because we do that, everyone's costs will go down. the public absolutely not buying that now. only 7% think their health care will now cost them less because of this. 63% think it's going to cost them more. in the end, big picture, what happens to your family, are you really better off or not, will the health care affect the law affect be better for you? better off, only 16% of the public now believes that. 42% think they are going to be worse off because of obamacare and 40% think they will be about the same. these are tough, tough numbers and the white house cannot be
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happy about them this christmas season. >> very tough numbers. thank you for breaking that down. let's go ahead and bring in cnn political director, mark preston. so what's going on with the obama white house today, sort of some weird developments where the president signed up for essentially obamacare, but didn't really need to, and also, p.s., he didn't actually do it himself, someone did it in person. what's going on here? >> he's going to pay for it but is not going to use it. clearly, this is damage control right now by the white house. i think what they view as stories that can be critical, certainly right before christmas, are going to be forgotten and can they actually lead to some kind of movement ahead on getting these numbers up. so let's just look at the damage control part of it. if the president did not sign up for it, would he come under criticism for not doing so even though we know it's symbolic. in some ways you have to ask yourself why even waste your time on that. they move the goal line forward, goalpost back, some would say,
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24 hours. why do that? to try to get more people enrolled so that by january 1st, more people will have health insurance. really, the bottom line is that you can still get health insurance. the deadline is march 31st. just that we're talking about today and now tomorrow, because if you want to have continuous coverage, if you want to continue your coverage from december 31st into the new year on january 1st, you need to get it done by the close of business or by midnight tomorrow night. >> he didn't have to do it this month. he could have done it, because he has insurance, he could have waited a month, two months, a few months. obviously i think what they're trying to do is kind of gin up a little awareness about the fact that this is the deadline. but it's sort of maybe i guess you could say it seems a little fumbled in the way they did it. the other thing obviously for president obama is that what do democrats think, are they on his side. we've heard from senator joe manchin. he said that obamacare could have a meltdown. how much of a concern is that for democrats and how big of a
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deal is this for them in 2014? >> well, it's a huge problem right now to have a prominent democrat such as joe manchin, the senator from west virginia, a former governor, somebody who is required to get things done as ceo in many ways, to come out and be critical of how the whole rollout has begun. in the end, joe manchin believes that obamacare should be put in place. it's just that he's been critical of the rollout. i think the democratic party as a whole, if you don't hear them say it publicly, are telling us privately that this is a problem. there are several senate seats that are up in 2014 in states such as arkansas and louisiana, up in alaska. we have a couple of open democratic seats in states such as montana. this is not good for the democratic party. it shows that perhaps they are not governing correctly so they are very upset at the rollout. they are not so upset at the fact that they're getting health care, but the fact is this was bungled. >> they are vulnerable, they are tied to it and they want it to be turned around in time. mark preston, thank you so much.
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next, suspended from his show and taking heat for controversial comments about homosexuality and race, the patriarch of tv's "duck dynasty" is speaking out. and a tasteless tweet turns a public relations executive into a former public relations executive. what was she thinking? i'm beth... and i'm michelle. and we own the paper cottage. it's a stationery and gifts store. anything we purchase for the paper cottage goes on our ink card. so you can manage your business expenses and access them online instantly with the game changing app from ink. we didn't get into business to spend time managing receipts, that's why we have ink. we like being in business because we like being creative, we like interacting with people. so you have time to focus on the things you love. ink from chase. so you can.
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new developments in the uproar over controversial remarks by the star of the reality tv series "duck dynasty." they prompted the a & e network to suspend phil robertson from the show but plenty are coming to his defense and he's not
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backing down. cnn's nick valencia is following developments for us. what's the latest here? >> reporter: the fallout from the controversy definitely isn't going away any time soon. days after he first made the comments, we're hearing from the man at the center of it all. speaking publicly for the first time since his controversial comments about race and homosexuality in "gq" magazine, reality tv star phil robertson was defiant. i will not give or back off my path, he reportedly told a bible study group in west monroe, louisiana. i'm a lover of humanity, not a hater. in an interview, the british tabloid "the daily mail" spent the day with robertson in his hometown. i'm just reading what was written over 2,000 years ago. those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom, robertson told the church group, defending his comments. all i did was quote from the scriptures but they just didn't know it. whether i said it or they read it, what's the difference. the sins are the same.
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humans haven't changed. >> to me, this is an issue about religious liberty. >> reporter: robertson has received the support in louisiana, where the program is shot, and beyond. the latest from the state's lieutenant governor who criticized a & e for suspending him and jeopardizing louisiana's tourism industry. and now this. under pressure from loyal fans, the restaurant chain cracker barrel reversed its decision to pull some "duck dynasty" merchandise. you told us we made a mistake and you weren't shy about it. you flat out told us we were wrong. others think it's ironic the reality tv star was punished for saying what he really feels. >> i believe that a person's right to believe in the bible -- >> reporter: a georgia sheriff who has supported a & e in the past says he won't work with them again. >> i said i'm not going to change my mind about a & e unless they change their mind if a person that's a christian speaks about the bible, i don't think they should be punished and i think phil robertson was.
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>> reporter: a lot of this comes down to money, with audiences as high as 14 million per week, "duck dynasty" merchandising is estimated at a value of about $400 million. the new season premieres on january 15th. although he's currently suspended, the new season is expected to include scenes with phil robertson. >> thank you very much. now, some are defending phil robertson, you heard that. no one is defending, though, the woman whose tweet was not only offensive and tasteless but shocking, considering her job. cnn's pamela brown explains. >> reporter: social media is calling it the tweet heard around the world. going to africa, hope i don't get aids, just kidding, i'm white. now three days after a p.r. executive justine sacco sent out that tweet, she's out of a job and apologiapologizing. on sunday she said words cannot express how sorry i am and how necessary it is for me to apologize to the people of south
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africa, who i have offended due to a needless and careless tweet, for being insensitive to this crisis and to the millions of people living with the virus, i am ashamed. sacco was head of p.r. for iac, the media company owned by barry diller that operates websites like the daily beast, college humor and, but on saturday, the company said sacco is no longer a good match, firing her. the now former p.r. exec found herself the target of a social media mob on friday, sending out that tweet right before logging offline while on her 12 hour flight from london to her native south africa. >> not only is this a publicist's worst nightmare, it's any public figure's worst nightmare. to send out a tweet, it's kind of like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. you can't take it back. >> reporter: her twitter page immediately filled with hateful comments, the hash tag has justine landed yet trending worldwide. one guy following the hash tag, even awaiting her arrival at the capetown airport. a trial by twitter, as many are
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calling it. according to her linkedin page, she was also formerly a publicist for the wwe. on her now disabled twitter page, she has a cache of vulgar tweets. like i can't be fired for things i say while intoxicated, right? leaving many to wonder how could a p.r. expert not know how to manage her own social media. >> i don't think people like justine realize the immediacy of twitter. one statement is all it takes to cost somebody their career. >> reporter: pamela brown, cnn, new york. >> joining me now, brian stelter, our senior media correspondent and host of cnn's "reliable sources." not only that, but you actually know this woman. i guess tell us how you know her, but also, what is she like in real life? >> she is the p.r. person, she was, for iac.
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me and other reporters would frequently reach out to her with questions about all the different companies they own. they own companies like and they have investment in aero, they own the daily beast. i would check in with her from time to time on different stories but i didn't know she had a twitter account. i don't think many people did. she only had a few hundred followers. maybe that's why she thought she was tweeting in relative obscurity at the time. >> that's the thing. i think it sheds light on another issue which is she's not the first one to put a regrettable tweet out there. >> she won't be the last. >> she certainly won't be the last. how is it that people think almost in a way that they don't have reach on twitter, or that they're kind of anonymous? >> another reporter wrote a column today, he writes for forbes, wrote a column about justine, how he recently went out for drinks with her and they talked about twitter. he said she was commenting about how it's the edgier, more provocative tweets that seem to get the most attention online. i can understand why if you are a newer user, if you haven't got
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a lot of experience with it, you might try to walk right up to the line and see how far you can go. some people have even wondered if she was trying to make some sort of really smart commentary about aids. but botched it in such a bad way that no one got what she was trying to say. >> certainly, it would be very difficult for her to kind of get through the noise now that her tweet has made to make that point. >> if that is the case, and by the way, i don't know if it was or not. she wouldn't be able to explain at this point. on twitter or facebook, there is no real ability to have context. you can't really explain what you're saying. there is no way to have hand gestures or vocal cues or anything. you're out there all on your own and that's maybe why it's risky. >> that said, looking at this tweet, i think most people can say it was slightly a no-brainer that this could upset some people. >> right. you wouldn't write it. i wouldn't write it. >> so you basically live on twitter. you are on twitter all the time. can you relate at all? has there ever been a moment where maybe you're trying to be snarky and you think you know what, maybe i'm not --
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>> there have been a few. there are also times i accidentally posted a message to the whole world i meant to send as a private message, those sorts of things. the biggest maybe problem for justine is she did this as she boarded a plane. the times i posted dumb tweets, it's been -- i have been able to correct it right away, delete it five minutes later or apologize for it ten minutes later. if you're on a flight for 12 hours with no internet, as she was, there's no way to reverse what you did. >> exactly. let's turn to "duck dynasty." the controversy there that is capturing so much attention. phil robertson, the patriarch of the show, makes homophobic comments, a & e suspends him immediately. do you think a & e did the right thing here? there has been a lot of pushback. >> there has been. i'm glad there has been pushback because it's understandable people think that a & e went too far and acted too fast by doing it. i think the network was in an impossible position. if they hadn't done anything, there would have been an outcry
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on the other side from gay rights groups and from anybody who believed that what he said was wrong. a & e maybe was reacting to learning from what the food network did with paula deen by having her out there for awhile before moving her shows from the schedule. maybe in the p.r. handbook these days it says act quickly, do something to stop the outrage but in this case, by suspended phil robertson it created a whole other kind of outrage. >> let's talk about this. they now have as we speak a marathon of "duck dynasty" going with phil robertson and all the episodes. what kind of mixed message is this? >> it's probably rating really well because it's still trending on twitter. i would guess if i'm a channel executive, i'm going to keep airing the episodes, a, because they're the highest rated things on the network and because they have been promoting this marathon for awhile. but it does go to show how reliant these channels are on these stars.
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on stars who have private lives, personal lives and personal beliefs that no channel can control. you can edit what's in "duck dynasty." you don't hear about homophobia. it's a family comedy, a lot of fun to watch. but you can't edit the person's private life. you can't completely stop them from sharing what they feel with the world, as phil robertson did. this is probably the best example we have seen in a long time of how much of a problem that can be for cable channels. >> thank you. >> thank you. coming up, sentencing for an american man charged over this parody video. why he's being jailed thousands of miles from home. plus, a rare apology from al qaeda, the terror group is saying it's sorry for this attack. g. and we're here. to help secure retirements and protect financial futures. to help communities recover and rebuild. for companies going from garage to global. on the ground, in the air, even into space. we repaid every dollar america lent us. and gave america back a profit.
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we're here to keep our promises. to help you realize a better tomorrow. from the families of aig, happy holidays.
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checking some other stories coming in to "the situation room" right now, same sex couples can head back to the altar in utah. a federal judge denied the state's request to halt same sex marriages after the same judge struck down the state's ban last week. republican governor gary herbert filed the stay as he and other officials explore their options to quote, defend traditional marriage. same sex marriage is already legal in 17 other states and the district of columbia. now, check out this record-breaking pass. peyton manning connects with wide receiver julius thomas for a 25 yard touchdown, breaks the nfl's record for touchdown passes in single season. manning in his 15th season was named sportsman of the year by our sister publication, "sports illustrated" and with the win, the broncos have clinched a
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first round bye in the playoffs. his name is linked to perhaps the world's best known weapon. the ak-47. the inventor of the rugged reliable firearm died today at age 94. the ak-47 was adopted by the soviet military after world war irk i and by other aerms around the world. it became a symbol of revolutionary movements and terrorists. an estimated 100 million have been produced. the president signs up for obamacare but not really. today is the enrollment deadline for americans to get coverage on january 1st but not really. is this a case of more stumbling and fumbling by the obama white house? joining me, cnn "crossfire" host s.e. cupp and cnn political analyst ron brownstein, editorial director of the national journal. we will start with you, ron. what's the white house doing?
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>> improvising and playing for time, really. because this really is a game about playing for time for them. they are looking at very difficult numbers in public opinion, as the polls showed again today, that aren't likely to get much better any time soon. it's been pretty consistent throughout. they have had enormous difficulty convincing most americans this will benefit them and their family or even benefit the country overall. that's very tough. on the other hand, the other set of numbers that they are watching are how many people can they sign up and get into the system because ultimately, if this is going to endure beyond his presidency, i think the key is building a constituency for it both in people who are obtaining the benefits and within the medical community that believes this is something that benefits them. that race, they're doing better on but still a long way to go on that front, too. >> what do you think? when i heard that he was signing up for this, part of me thought this is like when he absentee voted to kind of show people the way, look, this is what we want you to do, we want you to sign up, the january 1st deadline is looming. you think it accomplishes that? >> no. this was a symbolic sign-up.
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he doesn't need health care. he already has health care. >> he doesn't need it and won't use it. >> he's going to pay for something he's not using. we all can't afford that kind of symbolism. but i think the white house and democrats frankly are real confused on what to do and you see that i think represented if you look at three democrats. joe manchin comes out and says this could be a meltdown if the prices are higher than people expect. then you have nancy pelosi who is basically saying democrats are going -- aren't going to benefit from obamacare next year, then you have someone like chuck schumer saying we're not going to run on obamacare. we're going to run on the middle class. you're seeing democrats really divided on how to handle this. and not really knowing how to best move obamacare through. >> i think this could be very tough again for democrats in 2014, when you consider that the off-year election is older and whiter than the presidential year election, the young and diverse components of the democratic coalition turn out less and those older and whiter
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voters are very dubious about obama care. if you're in west virginia or arkansas or alaska, this could be tough. >> louisiana. >> right. on the other hand, there is a point at which repeal becomes problematic in a practical sense. there is some number of people who once they're in the system, i think it becomes very politically difficult to undo. we don't know what that number is. i think the key for the obama white house is to try to just build that base as much as they can in the three years while he has the veto pen. >> politics, let's put that aside for a second and talk logistics. some in the insurance industry say this is confusing when you're saying the deadline, first it was mid-december, then december 23rd, today, now it turns out actually it's tomorrow, if you sign up tomorrow you will still get through. the connecticut exchange is going whoa, whoa, whoa, today is the deadline. is this confusing to actually get people signed up? >> well, yeah. and the white house's own communications director came out to basically say ignore the deadline.
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we don't want the deadline changed. we don't want people thinking that they -- >> this is -- >> it's incredibly confusing. then why did you change the deadline. the administration is mucking around too much for its own good. just stay out, let people sign up, let people come to it, and stop making these changes. it's bad p.r. >> it just feels incredibly improvisational. as was pointed out before, the real deadline that matters is the end of march, the end of the open enrollment period. for the insurance industry, they are perplexed not only by this but the bigger change last week on allowing people whose plans have been canceled to obtain catastrophic care. they need those, those tend to be healthier people, people with individual insurance now, they need them in the new market to make it a balanced risk pool. >> let's change gears a little bit, talk about one of our favorite subjects, "duck dynasty." s.e., you're a big fan. you have some connection to the loveable folks on the show. what do you think about obviously one of the show's biggest stars causing so much
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controversy because of his homophobic remarks? a lot of people felt he was very lovable before. they don't feel that way now. >> i spent some time with the robertsons. if you've watched the show at all, i'm not sure you would be surprised to learn any of this about him. they are a christian family. they pray at the end of every show. he quotes scripture on the show. so i'm not sure where the outrage and shock and surprise is really coming from. for folks who know them, this isn't very surprising. it also feels i think a little ungracious of a & e. they have the right to do whatever they want, but the reason the show in part is so popular is because of these wholesome christian values. i don't agree with what phil robertson said. i'm a vocal proponent of gay rights and gay marriage. but it feels like the reason people tune in and turn off the trash reality show are to see these families coming together
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over a dinner table, praying, talking about god. that's been hugely profitable for a & e. >> it's a reminder of why culture is eclipsing class as the fundamental dividing line in our politics. every republican, so many leading republicans helped propel support for it at a time when i think his comments are clearly on the wrong side of history in the sense of where american opinion is going and when the pope is saying who am i to judge, to double down in the way he did in saying i know what's right and what's right and wrong seems to me again, on the wrong side of history. >> s.e., ron, thanks so much to both of you. thank you for being on. appreciate it. next, terror groups usually don't say sorry for attacking innocent people. so what is behind al qaeda's apology for a deadly attack? and a bionic leg that reads brain signals. how this stunning medical advance may one day help amputee war veterans. people don't have to think about
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terror groups usually don't say they're sorry for attacking innocent people, but a leader of al qaeda's yemen affiliate has done just that. in a video message, he apologized for an attack on a hospital this month which left dozens of people dead. meantime, the u.s. is still shrouding its drone strikes in secrecy, including those that inadvertently kill civilians. joining us to talk about this, cnn national security analyst peter bergen as well as phil mudd of the new america foundation. i'm going to start with you, peter, real quick. it's not every day that al qaeda
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apologizes. so what do you make of this? >> i think they suddenly realized there's a cognitive dissonance between saying hey, we protect muslims and are defending them, then in fact killing many muslims. i think within al qaeda there has been quite a discussion about the necessity of trying to avoid civilian casualties. this is a rare public apology for the same. >> phil, let me ask you this. the u.s. has had obviously problems with some of what is sort of i think called in a way the collateral damage of drone strikes, civilians who are killed in drone strikes. recently there was actually a wedding party that was taken out. what do you think about if the u.s. were to apologize for killing civilians? is that something that should be done? would an apology go i guess a long way? >> i think the u.s. has apologized in the past. the u.s. has paid victims in places like afghanistan. but one of the things we as americans have to understand is when we refer to something as a
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precision weapon and that's how we refer to drones, we start to believe that war is somehow antiseptic and war doesn't have civilian casualties. it does. it's part of war. >> what do you think? should the u.s. -- do they apologize enough, because it does seem, i cover the white house and when reporters press white house officials on this, you don't get a sort of major apology coming from the administration. >> as phil says, the united states apologizes and compensates civilians in conventional military conflicts in afghanistan. that's the u.s. military. what it doesn't do, when the cia which has killed hundreds of civilians in drone strikes because it's a secret program, they won't apologize for something that is secret. they don't compensate civilians so you have two different programs. the program where there is no apology, no compensation if civilians are killed and a military program where there is. >> let's talk about, we just heard phil say the u.s.
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compensates victims. you are talking about the u.s. compensating victims. al qaeda is specifically saying they will compensate the families of victims. that's a pretty organized group, it sounds like. what can you take from that about how much we should be wary of al qaeda? >> i'm not holding my breath for al qaeda to follow through on that. i think that's in the realm of propaganda. clearly it's self-serving. the point is they kind of get it that they can't conduct this war in defending islam and then kill lots of muslim civilians as they did in iraq and other places. >> it seems like, i don't know, what do you think, phil, you think it's just p.r.? >> absolutely. we think of al qaeda as a terrorist group. you have to expand your understanding of what they're about. they're about recruiting people from places like saudi arabia, from places like europe, united states. they are also about fund-raising. when they kill innocents, they start to lose a base that's beyond just yemen. i think this is a p.r. campaign where they are going out saying hey, it's okay to kill
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policemen, okay to kill government officials but we're not about killing innocent muslims. >> let's talk a little about syria now, just turn to that. the former ambassador to iraq in afghanistan actually has said that assad winning is the better option rather than al qaeda taking over. what do you think of that statement? >> i don't think there is a good option here. that's why we have been so reluctant to get engaged. at the beginning, people would say look, we have a rogue dictator, like some of the rogue dictators who were ousted in north africa. let's support the people to overthrow assad. now we have a rock and a hard place, a dictator who has massacred his own civilians and militants who represent a violent form of islam we don't support. we don't have a dog in this fight. >> what do you think, peter? has the ship sailed on getting involved in syria in a way that could somehow push it towards a better resolution? >> well, eventually there will be a resolution so the ship never completely sails.
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>> but the u.s. sort of being involved in it or trying to shape events, is it just now to the point of sitting back and seeing what kind of horrible resolution comes to be? >> well, the obama administration's view for a long time is who are the two most effective groups fighting there, al qaeda and hezbollah. neither of these groups we want to sort of promote. it's a very difficult situation. that said, this is one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes in the modern era. almost half the population are refugees. every time you delay making a decision it just gets worse. it's something of course in life not to make decisions or not to do anything, but in this case, you know, there are things we could do certainly in terms of creating safe zones, perhaps going after assad's air force. those are very difficult decisions but they are conceivable. >> peter, phil, thank you so much to the both of you for joining us. we appreciate it. it is the kind of parody
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video that you see all over the internet. but what started as a joke for one american man has become a nightmare. he was sentenced today to one year in prison in the united arab emirates and cnn foreign affairs reporter elyse labat has details on this. you think of a video that landed someone in jail. what did it really entail and how did the uae respond to it? >> reporter: we are talking about a 29-year-old from minnesota, now living in dubai as a consultant, and in his spare time he makes videos spoofing life in the uae. let's take a look at his latest creation. >> when you say it, throw it. you see? >> okay, so this is grandmaster
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martial arts sheikh here. he's teaching his combatants the art of battle. what are his tools, a headdress, shoes and twitter. it's kind of stupid, right? >> yeah. >> this got him in jail. he was arrested under this new cybercrimes law which prevents use of technology, making it illegal to use technology to criticize the government. he landed in jail in april after months of detention and a trial, he was just found guilty along with his friends for a year, and now he was a year in jail and for threatening national security for this stupid video. >> so we were talking about the gentleman who is in the gray teeshirt here. when i think of the uae, sort of being so restrictive, that's not exactly what i would think of just sort of on the surface. >> that's the contradiction here. the uae is supposed to be this modern country, the center for international tourism, just had
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an international film festival and is going to host the world expo but the truth is this is just a veneer. this is a very conservative arab society. the leaders look at what happened in the arab spring. they see that the internet was a place for protest, and they want to prevent that from happening at home. so you have this debate in society going on right now between those who say we are a progressive country, we have to move in those directions, and those who say we don't want to see what happened in the rest of the arab world at home. we need to stay close. >> of course, there are a lot of people around the world looking at this and they have an interest in this. you have been talking to sources and learned that there is back channeling going on, right? >> the u.s. has been working this privately behind the scenes for a long time. the u.s. ambassador working it, secretary of state kerry speaks regularly to the foreign minister. he is supposed to do that again. i think they wanted to try and solve this privately. the message is, you are a progressive country, a close ally, and this type of thing is
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really hurting the relationship. not only these cases, but the whole idea of cracking down on freedom of expression. i think you saw for the severity of the crimes, threatening national security, he only got a year and is going to get credit for time served, have to pay a fine. he will probably get deported from the country pretty soon. i think it's a signal in the uae that the leaders saw that we might have gone a little too far but the warning here is foreigners that are going to the uae, you think you'll have a wild time in dubai, you got to be careful about how you behave because it's still very traditional. >> amazing, one year is minor. fascinating. thank you so much. just ahead, u.s. marines poised to rescue americans trapped by escalating violence. we'll have the latest on a growing crisis in the world's newest country. plus, a so-called bionic leg. how it could change life for wounded veterans.
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well, this is a heartbreaking battle, pitting the family of a 13-year-old girl on life support again the hospital that she's brain dead, but we may soon see a resolution. an expert is about to examine the girl to determine whether there's any hope of recovery. stephanie elam is following the story for us. what's the latest? >> it's the kind of story that hurts you in your chest when you hear what's going on. a family is fighting for the chance there could possibly be some chance that their daughter will come back and show signs of life, while meanwhile, the hospital says what's done is done. [ chanting ] >> reporter: the family continue
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toss pray for a miracle. >> i'm still nervous about it, but it still gives me another day to spend with her. >> reporter: on december 9th the 13-year-old had surgery to have some sinus tissue removed at children's hospital and research center in oakland, california. soon after surgery, the family said her condition quickly deteriorated and she went into cardiac arrest. after several tests, the hospital declared her brain dead. >> it's a result of her very complex surgery. it was a tonsillectomy. >> it was much more complicated. >> reporter: according to court documents, the hospital said it had, quote. no duty to continue intervention, but the family went to court to prevent from taking her off life support until an independence doctor examines her. >> i feel like my daughter is on death row. i never know when they're going to pull the plug or make that decision. >> reporter: the judge grapted the family's request, and the
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two sides agreed on a review by dr. paul fisher from stanford. >> the hospital in oakland welcomes the review. >> it's obviously a tragic situation. a young lady has died. no one takes it in a callous or uncaring manner, but she is dead. >> reporter: the judge encouraged both sides to work together. >> this is a very, very charged case, the stakes are very high with a young girl involved, and i think it would suit both parties well if you tried to speak with each other about how we want to get through these next few days. >> reporter: ultimately the fight pits the family's faith against what the hospital calls false hope. >> i cannot imagine my daughter in a freezer on christmas. that is heart-wrenching. >> reporter: at this point we
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know that the judge does not plan of making a decision on this case until after christmas. as far as if the new doctor comes in and makes a decision here and decides that, yes, it is time to take her off life support, the family has said they will appeal and go to a higher court to see if he can keep her on life support or move her to someplace else, but that's something we'll have to wait to see. just a painful story. >> your heart just goes out to that family. stephanie elam, thank you. coming up, a smart prosthesis offering new hope to wounded veterans. why it's being called the bionic leg. tomorrow night on examination eve, a look at pope francis celebrating his first christmas as pontiff. an hour-long special starting at 6:00 eastern right here on cnn. ♪ i want to spread a little love this year ♪
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finally medical researchers have come up with an extraordinary development that may one day help amputee veterans,age artificial leg that reads brain signals. it's being put through its paces. let's get a closer look from brian todd. >> breen ana, this amputee feels like he has a new lease on life. this leg can do things that almost no other prosthetic can do. the technology that converges is stunning. this is the bionic leg that can read your mind. when zach wants to take a step, he thinks it and it happens. >> there's nothing special about it in the sense of what i've had to learn. i just get up from a chair and walk. >> reporter: he lost his leg in a motorcycling accident, but his brain is still sending command to a leg that isn't there.
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this prosthetic has electrodes toa a computer to process and mechanical leg to execute them. on the monitor is a readout of the signals from his brain when he thinking about move. >> the knee out, from my toes down to back up. , and leg back in. >> reporter: over time a team of doctors and designers led by levi hargrove taught the computer which signals mean what. >> we can figure out using the pattern req any if he's trying to move his ankle need, sanking, we learn the pattern and tell the leg hose to move. >> reporter: the result? >> i'm going to extend my leg and bring my toes down. with this leg, it brings me right back to basically in terms of interacting with stairs right back to not having an amputation. >> to prove it he climbed the stairs of the willis tower in chicago. it is kind of noisy, and it's
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not flawless. >> oops. >> but the designers say they're working on improvements, maybe even the ability to run in 3 to 5 years, the doctors hope to make these legs availability to patients, through over 1,000 amputees from the wars in iraq and afghanistan. >> the wounded warriors have given so much. anything we can to to help them do a bit better or a lot better, that's what we're trying to do. >> reporter: for now the bionic leg is still in the lab. >> i would love to take it home sometime. >> reporter: the u.s. military is supporting the project with an $8 million grant. the goal -- for amputees to be able to participate in fully in life as possible, maybe even return to active service. brianna? happening now, americans trapped, u.s. marines are standing by to evacuate them if any from the grows threat of
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civil war. will the crisis escalate? some are denouncing that are views. why are they splitting so dramatically with the president? basketball diplomacy, dennis rodman leaves north korea, ending his controversial -- did he meet with its leader kim jong-un? wolf blitzer is off today, i'm brianna keilar, and you are in "the situation room." there is fear of an all-out civil war in the world's newest condition. now cnn has learned that u.s. marines are poised to enter south sudan if ordered to evacuate some 100 americans. they're also prepared to protect the u.s. embassy citing lessons learned from the attack in benghazi libya. barbara starr is monitoring developments. what's the latest you are
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hearing? >> brianna, after four uss troops were intoedly wouldn't the in an evacuation attempt, this time the pentagon is taking no chances. if the orders come, this time they will go with significant combat power. as the wounded are brought out from the fighting in south sudan, the u.n. is racing against time to provide safety for 40,000 people being sheltered in its compounds. the fee -- more attacks from rebels are coming. >> we've been reinforcing the base. we have been literally digging and reinforcing the position for the last 36 hours. >> reporter: the u.n. special representative making another plea for calm. >> as i left or base and went to the airport in bohr, there was a lot of looting, gunshots, a lot of dead bodies, very out of control youth. >> reporter: more than 150
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heavily armed marine were ordered toto. they were beefing of and you have four were injured saturday when the aircraft were hit by ground fire as they attempted to land at the war-torn city to evacuate americans. about the s.e.a.l.s bleeding, the damaged aircraft flew 500 miles to uganda, then a c-130 took them to kenya for medical treatment. no one is certain who fired on the u.s. troops. >> it's always a very tenuous situation when you're flying into a relatively unknow, very hostile environment. the rebels probably have what's, you know, says probably former soviet union type of weaponry. those ak-47s are out there. >> the fighting erupted when the president of the country of south sudan accused others of
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starting a coup. now a looming humanitarian disaster, and even fear of rising oil prices as the fighting grows closer to the oil-rich areas. >> what about the four s.e.a.l.s? do we know how serious the injuries are? >> reporter: we've been told that they at least of the four s.e.a.l.s are expected to arrive in the u.s. military hospital in landstuhl, the very hospital that's treated thousands of wounded. one of the navy s.e.a.l. remains in nairobi. they flew a u.s. military surgical team out to nairobi to provide him with more medical care. especially equipped for serious injured cases on standby in nairobi to bring him back to landstuhl when they are able to move him. >> barbara starr, thank you. some of the president obama's strongest supporters are
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blasting some of his picks. some invoking the name of martin luther king jr. joe johns has more on this. so, i mean, joe, this is pretty rare to have democrats mad at a democratic president. why are they so the angry? >> reporter: that's for sure, brianna form this is a very unusual twist with the back and forth off federal judicial nominees. caught in the middle of a spat between the allies and critics, and a couple civil rights leaders who have been strong supporters are not pressuring the administration to change direction. angry and disappointed s. the message from black leaders to the president. >> mr. president. the lives of the people of this state are hanging in the balance. it is insulting. they have stood by president obama in the past, but not now.
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>> they were kem out of the process to fill rakances on two atlanta-based federal courts. they want all five names withdrawn immediately. >> the president of the united states and the white house. have made a tragic, terrible mistake. we've got to lay the blame where it is. and we've got to ask president obama to do the right thing here and throw these gnome daze ai'd. >> reporter: op one of five is a mine in order, and two concerns over two in particular. mark cohen. and state judge michael boggs, who is a legislator supported keeping the confederate battle emblem on georgia's state flag. in the murky world of judicial nominations, political reality has the president trying to
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please both his place, georgia's two republican senators have the power to essentially block any choice from getting a hearing. pinches the incentive is for the administration to obviously find people that the senators are willing to accept. >> reporter: stroke pushback to the white house. the administration tows that 18% of the judges he's named are african-americans, and naming two women to the supreme court, including the first latina, justice sonia sotomayor. >> most of these seats in georgia have been vacant for a while, some going back several years and they've been declared judicial emergencies, meaning the shortage has created bulging dockets and delayed trials.
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it's the kind of thing we've seen nationwide as both republicans and democrats continue to treat the federal courts as a political battleground. >> the hope of these civil rights leaders is that president obama will pull these nominations. is there any sign that that could happen? >> reporter: it would be highly unusual and highly unlikely that the white house would actually reverse directions on this. however, now that the senate rules have changed on nominations, there could be a day sometimes in the future where we see more left-leaning judicial nomination, because it's harter to block them before now. >> yeah, that's right. simple majority they need, right? and may probably use that, you would think. >> entirely possible, you would think, if they put that rule in place at some point down the road they have to use it. >> joe johns, thanks so much. tomorrow night pope francis celebrates hi first midnight christmas mass. we'll be taking a special hour-long look starting at 6:00 eastern right here on cnn.
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still ahead, high profile prisoners released in russia, is vladimir putin doing damage control. plus new details of dennis rodman's controversial trip to north korea. what's the real story? you make a great team. it's been that way since the day you met.
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after cracking down on his critics and political opponents, russia's president putin seems to be easing up. let's bring in cnn foreign affairs correspondent jill doherty on this. these are members of the russian punk band pussy riot. they were released. why? >> that's what everyone wants to
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know, but officially what he's say is there was a major amnesty given to some 25,000 russians. thinks women happened to fall into that group. but you would have to say that obviously there's been a lot in the press about them. they're really in the limelite, and the kremlin, as many believes, want to change the image before the olympics in sochi. that could be part of it. the girls are slamming this decision by president putin, even though it does free them. they're calling it a pr move, a laughable step, and here is now one talked about it with cnn. >> translator: putin understands the olympics can be boycotted. he doesn't want this pr project to fail, because a lot of money has been stolen from the budget which could have been used for better purchases.
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he needs some sort of political relief. among those in prison are those not forgotten by the world. and i'm very grateful. that's why it was possible for putin to release people like me, because we did not have a long time left to serve. >> reporter: that's another good point. the women from pussy riot didn't have a lot of time left to seven, so ultimately it won't have much effect anyway on their time. >> what impulse chordovsky. why did putin pardon him? >> he actually didn't fall into that group. it was specifically pardonening from the president. ostensibly there could be a connection to the olympics as well, but some other people do think it may be a sign that putin feels he has he millated
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him. he's been in prison and work camps for about a decade. maybe it's just that putin feels he's pretty much decimated the opposition and could be time to let him go. >> interesting. jill dougherty, thank you so much. controversial ex-nba star dennis rodman has left north korea without meeting his pal leading kim jong-un. he's been training players for a a basketball exhibition, and says he'll be back. >> probably back in -- no worry about t. i'll see him again. sorry, guys. >> did you see your -- >> it was awesome, man. >> so much interest. just fascinating anna coren is
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with us live. this is being called basketball diplomacy. it's really the only kind of diplomacy we've seen. what exactly is he doing? >> what is he doing? wouldn't we all like to know? as you heard from the man himself, his trip was awesome. though he didn't meet with the leader kim jong-un. he was there to train the national basketball team in preparation of the exhibition game to be held in honor of kim jong-un's birthday. we believe he would be turning 31. the two men did not meet. this was rod man's third trip. they had formed a rather close friendship. why they didn't meet, we don't know. rodman said he doesn't have to meet him on every trip. we also need to take into account there's a great deal of
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political upheaval follows the execution of kim's uncle less than two weeks ago. one development that has come about in the last few hours, the company sponsoring rod man's trip, the irish online gambling company has pulled out. they've withdrawn their name. they say in hindsight it was the wrong move, considering the condemnation towards north korea, and they will uphold their part of the deal, thee see out the contractual arrangement with rodman and the american team that is supposedly meant to be going into north korea, but no comment brianna, from rodman or his manager about what this now means moving forward. >> they don't want their name attached to it. pretty interesting there. anna, human rights activists have criticized rodman. two weeks ago kim's own uncle was executed. what reaction has been there been of rodman's trips?
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>> i think people here in korea certainly feel it was a wasted opportunity. rodman went in saying i'm not an ambassador, i'm not getting into politics. i'm just there to train the basketball players, but certainly there is a real feeling that he needed to relay a message to kim jong-un. we mentioned the excuse of his uncle. the most serious upheaval we have seen. the national intelligence service has really shared some light on what perhaps took place. they believe that it wasn't a power struggle between the uncle and kim jong-un, but rather a conflict of interest over the business deal so a bit of insight, perhaps into this
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repressive regime. >> anna, thank you. ahead she went from being a cheerleader on nfl sidelines to the battlefields of afghanistan. details of her remarkable story and how she's being honored, next. ovide the power for all this? natural gas. ♪ more than ever before, america's electricity is generated by it. exxonmobil uses advanced visualization and drilling technologies to produce natural gas... powering our lives... while reducing emissions by up to 60%. energy lives here. ♪ has a lot going on in her life. wife, mother, marathoner. but one day it's just gonna be james and her. so as their financial advisor, i'm helping them look at their complete financial picture -- even the money they've invested elsewhere -- to create a plan that can help weather all kinds of markets. because that's how they're getting ready, for all the things they want to do.
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they've suffered the greatest loss a parent can face. now two fathers are working together to prevent others from experiencing the same kind of grief. cnn's poppy harlow has their story. >> how is that going? >> reporter: it's an unlikely friendship, born of tragedies. >> when did this friendship start? >> way before we even knew it, i think.
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got would bring other forces together. >> two fathers determined to stop gun violence. >> i want to see an american that goes back to the america of our xhildhood -- where kids could open up the door, go out and play in the street, and have a certain innocence to them. >> it's about the soul, the fabric of our country railroad marty lives in newtown, which embodies loss and hardbreak. pastor same sailor's tragedy was just 50 miles away where he son was murdered. >> they deserved a better chance than to be gunned down in broad daylight. he deserved a better chance. >> reporter: it was here in hartford, connecticut, where pastor's son shane was shot and killed last year.
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he was just 20 years old. his death received no widespread media attention, no outpouring of support from across the country. his homicide was one of thousands of gun murders that happen every year in america. >> this is where he collapsed at right here. >> reporter: right here? >> yeah and they took him from here to the hospital, where he died. >> many here were removed from what's happening in the inner cities. i should have been thinking more about it, but i didn't. i didn't listen until newtown, and, you know, that's a regret that i have. i feel very guilty about that. october 20th, the day sam's son died, i wasn't aware of that. i was oblivious to it. >> reporter: oblivious to agony like this. >> you don't know the pain that i go through. you don't know the suffering
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that i have. no one needs to feel this pain again. >> reporter: a father's despair echoed in the sound of gunfire through cities in america. >> i became the symbol of a lot of frustration from urban parents who say, look, no one is talking to me, no one is crying for me. >> reporter: no one, he says, crying for his son, as a nation we want for newtown. his pain erupted at this rally in hartford. >> i'm sick and tired of hearing about newtown. newtown this, newtown that. i don't want to hear about it. i want you to know about shane the whitey of shane. >> reporter: what did you think, monte, when you heard that? >> i was scheduled for speak next. so there were 20 people who were on the program and, you know, as fate had it, i'm the next speaker, and i'm listening to sam, who i had never met before, talking about how he hates
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newtown. >> reporter: bun then monte heard this. >> newtown! newtown! newtown is our town! >> we deserve to live. >> my reaction to that was, it's not about newtown, that we're all in this together. >> we are all newtown, we are all hartford, we are all bridgeport, we are all new haven. >> reporter: do you feel like that, monte, these deaths are not being treated equally? >> i don't think they are, and they should be. you know, that's part of our journey, to come to a place where american pays just as much attention to the loss of a child in aburban environment as they do in newtown and other suburban communities. >> reporter: they lobby congress together for tougher gun laws.
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at home they fight in their own way. monte frank rides with team 26, in honor of the lives lost that december day. >> it's your call to inherit a blessing. >> reporter: pastor say her preaches. >> my faith was hit hard, but it wasn't lost. because of my faith i'm able to make it. >> we're now the same path, part of the same journey. >> reporter: do you think this is a life-long friendship? >> might as well. it's going to take that kind of journey. >> reporter: poppy harlow, cnn, connecticut. to the extraordinary story of an nfl cheer lead ore deployed twice to afghanistan. she was honored on sudden. here is kennest motoren of our affiliate wpbi. >> reporter: a salute to one of her own who traded her cheeredleading uniform to another. >> i'm incredibly humbled and embarrassed by it. there's certainly nothing more
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special about my service. >> reporter: u.s. army first lieutenant rachel washburn just returned from a second tour of duty. in 2009 she was cheering on the eagles, but when she graduate fred drexel, she enlisted and was deplied in 2011. if she wasn't in combat, she was working a cultural mission. >> the questions were what was it like working with the nfl, but the army is full of professionals, and they're worried about your ethic and willing to pull your own weight. >> reporter: she was honored as a hometown hero. be sure to watch tomorrow night as pope francis celebrates, and we'll take a special look at 6:00 eastern. "crossfire" starts right now. tonight on "crossfire" -- looking beyond the holidays. >> are you kidding me? where are the political battle lines for 2014? >> it's time to start over.
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who should we keep our eyes on? >> what difference at this point does it make? and what will be the bigs issues? >> we afternoons pate there's still going to be challenges. on the left mark lamont hill, on the right s.e. cupp. in the crossfire nira tandit, and will cain, a conservative commutator, drawing the battle lines for 2014. tonight on "crossfire." welcome to "crossfire":mark le month hill on the left. >> i'm s.e. cupp on the right. democrats are addicted to obama. the first step is admitting they have a problem. the law is just riddled with it. just today the administration put off another deadline. 63% of americans think the
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affordable care act will increase their health care spending. here's democrat joe manchin on cnn's "state of the union". >> if it's so much more expectative and the coverage is not as good as what we've had, you have a complete meltdown at that time. >> also we learn that the president symbolically signed up, something he doesn't need and yet is still paying for. must be night. mark, not everyone can afford symboli symbolism. i think democrats need to admit this is a real problem in 2014. >> are they already admitting them? some of mice best friends are democrats, i haven't had one one that's not in denial. >> nancy pelosi says it will be a plus. we'll see. here in the crossfire, nira tandit, and will cain.


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