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CNN NEWSROOM

Black Friday Sales Up; Egypt Protest Escalates; Cooperation Needed to Avoid Fiscal Cliff

Aired November 25, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. From holiday travel to holiday shopping and a report just released showing business is booming. The National Retail Federation says a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites this Black Friday weekend. That's a nine percent increase over last year's numbers. And their spending also set a record, $59 billion. That's 13 percent more than last year.

And if you didn't find the best deals this weekend, coming up in less than 10 minutes, we'll take a look at the best shopping apps to help you get the best bang for your buck this holiday season.

And now to the countdown that could have huge economic consequences. Congress and the White House have just 37 days left to reach a budget deal or risk falling off the fiscal cliff and triggering massive spending cuts and tax hikes. CNN's Athena Jones reports on a possible turning point in the negotiations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Members of Congress expressed optimism Sunday about the prospects for reaching a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. A series of tax increases and spending cuts next year that could do serious damage to the economy. They also sounded warnings.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We can and must get an agreement, otherwise, I think first of all the markets are going to start reacting.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: It's not a done deal and it's not a certainty. If Congress does nothing, which Congress has gotten pretty good at doing these days, we'll go over the fiscal cliff.

JONES: Staffers have been working behind the scenes to find common ground to prevent across the board cuts lawmakers say should concern everyone.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: You should be worried if you have a (INAUDIBLE) but we all ought to be worried whether we are dependent upon other aspects of the federal budget, whether we're worried about the regulation of food safety, about our borders being secured, whether we're worried about the FBI being supported.

JONES: A key sticking point (INAUDIBLE). Democrats and the president want to raise tax rates for the wealthy. Republicans don't. Though more are now breaking with anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who got a majority of Republican lawmakers to pledge not to support any effort to raise taxes.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm willing to generate revenue, it's fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table. We're below historic averages. I will not raise tax rates to do it, I will cap deductions, I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.

JONES: It's not yet clear when lawmakers and the president will meet next. And a final deal could still be a long way off.

JENNIFER LIBERTO, CNNMONEY.COM SENIOR WRITER: We rarely see the hill and the White House make decisions early. I would be pleasantly surprised to see it, a deal, emerge earlier than the end of the year. But we'll see.

JONES: This week just might bring the parties one step closer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Athena Jones now joining us live from the White House. So what is next?

JONES: Hi, Fred. Well, you know, the work continues. We know that we expect the president to have another meeting with lawmakers, with the congressional leadership, from both parties and both chambers. The question is when will that meeting take place? There's not another one on the president's public schedule just yet. But that could certainly change. We know that Senate majority leader Harry Reid said before the thanksgiving break that they'd be working on this over the break and that they hoped to meet with the president this week. We'll just have to see if that happens. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Athena Jones at the White House, thanks so much.

Meantime, talks are set to resume tomorrow in Cairo between Israelis and Egyptians. They're hoping to hammer out details of the ceasefire with Hamas. Troops have retreated from the Gaza border, Israeli troops that is, and Hamas leaders say a delegation from Gaza has arrived in Cairo. On the table, opening border crossings and easing Israel's economic blockade in Gaza.

U.S. Senator John McCain is softening language on the potential nomination of Susan Rice to become the next U.S. secretary of state following harsh criticism of the administration's response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. And I'll be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The Arizona Republican had blasted the U.N. ambassador for what she said about the attack in Benghazi just days after it happened. Rice going off talking points provided by the FBI and CIA suggested the attack could have been linked to protests against an anti-Muslim film. McCain had accused her of being unfit to become secretary of state and had vowed to block her nomination.

The Muslim Brotherhood is claiming on its website that one of its members, a 15-year-old boy, was killed today. And another 60 people injured in an attack on the group's headquarters in the Egyptian town of Daminaur. Leaders say the boy was killed by thugs in "the total absence of police forces."

Let's go now to Cairo where CNN's Reza Sayah is following the story. So Reza, help put this into context. What has happened here, and how that might impact so much activity that's taken place over the past 48 hours?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First off, Fredricka, we should tell you that a spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood is also confirming this fatality. Of course, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi announced these controversial decrees on Thursday. We've seen three days of intense protests. We've reported lots of injuries. This is the first fatality. According to the spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood, the victim is 15-year-old Islam Massoud, and he was killed when protesters attacked the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, in the northern city of (INAUDIBLE). This Brotherhood official telling us protesters were carrying sticks and clubs and stones.

Apparently an object was thrown at Islam Massoud and hit him in the head. He was transported to a hospital but sadly, before he arrived at the hospital, he was pronounced dead. In the meantime, the protests continue here in Tahrir Square. You can probably hear the stun grenades going off. When you have a fatality like this in an intense conflict, you can go either of two ways. You can either have things escalate, more fighting, possibly more injuries and fatalities, or you can have all these factions get together, put their heads together, try to find a solution. I think a lot of people are going to be anxious to see what the fallout is from this first fatality of this conflict after these decrees were announced. Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. And a couple of things then, there is a link that's being drawn between the death of that 15-year-old and the decrees that were declared by Morsi? And secondly, what is Morsi or anyone from his office saying about this?

SAYAH: Well, certainly this fatality happened during protests against Mr. Morsi's decrees. These were anti-Morsi protesters who attacked the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood. You had Muslim Brotherhood supporters fight them and this is when this fatality happened. Of course, Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are condemning this fatality. But you're going to have to wait and see what the fallout is. Both sides have called for demonstrations in the coming days on Tuesday, both sides calling for one million men protests. A judges group in Egypt has called for a nationwide judges strike. So it looks like these two sides are digging in and going at one another. And at least for now, there doesn't seem to be a solution in sight.

WHITFIELD: All right, Reza Sayah, thanks so much for keeping us posted there from Cairo.

Here in the states, get ready for cyber Monday. We'll show you apps to help you save money and ways to protect yourself while shopping online.

Nearly a month after superstorm Sandy hit, we'll meet a woman fighting to keep her family business alive.

An important drug recall today, batches of a popular anti-cholesterol medication could be contaminated. We've got details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A popular anti-cholesterol drug is being recalled by its manufacturer because it may be contaminated. India-based drug maker Ranbaxy says a total of 41 lots of its generic version of the drug Lipitor may contain tiny glass particles. The company said the recall was voluntary and with the knowledge of the FDA. This is the same company that came under fire from the FDA back in 2006 and 2008 because of poor conditions at two of its manufacturing plants in India.

And are your feet tired from looking for those door-buster deals this weekend? Or are you wondering if you could find better deals online? Well, there's an app for that. Our CNN Money tech reporter Laurie Segall puts some holiday shopping apps to the test.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURIE SEGALL, CNNMONEY TECH REPORTER (on camera): It's officially holiday season and there are a lot of ways you can use your smartphone to do more than just phone home. You can find a lot of great deals using your smartphone. So we decided to test it out. We're here at Toys "R" Us to start out our morning.

(voice-over): We used an app called Red Laser to figure out where you could get a good price on one of the season's hottest toys, Furby. Type in the item you're looking for and it will find stores nearby that carry it.

(on camera): $54, it matches what they said on my app. The teal Furby, I can get it right here.

(voice-over): But here's the catch. Just because your item's on the app doesn't mean it's in stock.

(on camera): So I just used Red Laser to help me find something specific. But now I just want to look for a good deal in my area. So I'm going to open up an app, it's called Black Friday. And it shows me K-Mart right nearby has 745 coupons. So let's go test it out.

(voice-over): So the Black Friday app showed a lot of discounted TVs here at KMart. So the first one they're showing is a TV for $88. Here it is. Lots of great deals on the Black Friday app but mostly limited to major retailers. You won't find local discounts from mom and pop stores.

ARYA GARCIA-AUSTIN, KMART CUSTOMER: I am using specific apps, special K-Mart, to see where I can get the best deal. Because you know, it's the holidays.

SEGALL: So let's say we want to do a little comparison shopping. Now check out this DVD, it's $20. Using an app called Snap-Tell I can take make a picture of it and it's going to tell me all the prices at stores nearby. It's actually cheaper here than at stores in the area.

(voice-over): Snap-tell works easily to help find the best price but it's limited to books, DVDs, CDs and video games.

(ON CAMERA): One DVD. So here's my receipt. And I'm probably going to get a lot of these during the holiday season. One way to actually keep tabs on all these receipts, you can use an app called Lemon and just take a picture and in this way you don't have to carry around all that paper.

(voice-over): So as we enter the busiest shopping season of the year, your phone could be your competitive edge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, yes!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: It looks like it is. You have to be armed with your phone these days. Hello, Laurie.

So all these different kinds of apps and sites on the web, you know, how can consumers stay safe for cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday season? Because sometimes you feel like you're making yourself a lot more vulnerable by using your phone for everything.

SEGALL: Sure, you're using your phone, you're putting in a lot of these apps that ask you to put in your credit card information. So you know, I put together some cyber Monday safety tips. And this kind of stuff applies throughout the holiday season or just in general.

I would say first of all, shop familiar sites. Especially coming up tomorrow. If you're going to go online, I would definitely shop familiar sites. Tomorrow's probably not the time, the holiday season, when you're entering your card information, not the time to try out a site you've never heard of. And protect your computer. You know, install anti-spam and anti-virus software, that's really important. And if you're going online, look for the "s" in the url. What does that mean? You see http all the time, Fredricka. But if you're going to enter your credit card information, I would look for https. So that means it's secure. A secure web browser.

So very, very important. And also, you know, this definitely applies all year round. But check your credit card statements. If you're spending a lot of money online, you want to go back and make sure what you've spent is actually on there. So also, last but not the least, if a deal's too good to be true, it might be. So you know, just be cautious. I will say.

WHITFIELD: OK. Go ahead, sorry.

SEGALL: Yes, I think that during this time you've got a lot of people sending phishing e-mails and scam e-mails so make sure to kind of check and to keep double-checking throughout the holiday season.

WHITFIELD: OK. We saw some preliminary numbers that online sales have hit a record this go-round already. And is that in large part because of those smartphones and the tablets and how people are using them to shop?

SEGALL: Sure, I mean exactly what you said, Fredricka. We're seeing more and more people turn to their mobile devices to shop because it's not just cyber Monday anymore. It's the first time you get into the office, the first time you have high-speed internet. Now you've got smartphones, you've got tablets, and you always have access to the internet. So we actually took a look at the numbers, we looked to see how many people were using their mobile devices to actually shop during Black Friday. And that's up nearly two-thirds from 2011.

Now if you look at the breakdown, 10 percent of people are using their iPads to shop during Black Friday. Nine percent using their iPhones. And 5.5 percent for Android devices. So you see these numbers increasing. And I can tell you, Fredricka, I think that's not going to change. I think we're going to continue seeing this trend throughout the holiday season and ongoing towards next year when it comes to shopping in general.

WHITFIELD: Boy, shopping so different. What an evolution of shopping we've been witnessing. Thanks so much, Laurie Segall, appreciate it, in New York.

All right. President Barack Obama also getting some of his Christmas shopping done early. But he isn't going to just any store this week. He celebrated small business Saturday by going to an independent bookstore in Arlington, Virginia, with his daughters, Malia and Sasha. The president bought 15 children's books for presents.

And speaking of shopping and money, lottery officials say there was no winner in last night's Powerball drawing, pushing this Wednesday's jackpot to now $425 million. That's the largest jackpot ever for the game.

A month after superstorm Sandy, some small businesses that were hit are struggling to survive now. We'll meet one business owner working out of her garage just to keep going.

A dangerous new record reached. Our report says that there are more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now than ever before. I talked to Bill Nigh, the science guy, about what it means for the health of our planet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Hard to believe it's been nearly a month since superstorm Sandy devastated parts of the northeast. For many the cleanup is still under way. For some businesses, it's not clear if they'll ever recover.

CNN's Poppy Harlow met one small business owner in New York struggling to keep her business alive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN MONEY (voice-over): Right before superstorm Sandy, the streets were quiet outside Liberty Industrial Gas and Welding.

ASHLEY MURRAY, LIBERTY INDUSTRIAL GASES AND WELDING: You know, that's in less than 10 minutes.

HARLOW: This is nightfall as the waters begin to rise.

MURRAY: So at this point, I think it's gone.

HARLOW: An industrial park in Red Hook, Brooklyn, sandwiched between two bodies of water.

MURRAY: So this is the Guanas Canal coming into the harbor which is going to meet up with the river. And Liberty is right here. We really had quite a surge because of the Guanas and the river essentially meeting in this area and flooding these streets.

HARLOW: Ashley Murray's family business devastated.

(on camera): This is hard for you personally. And I can see it in your eyes.

MURRAY: Yes. It's just that we're devastated. It's been a devastating process. There needs to be a little bit more help.

HARLOW: Do you feel forgotten?

MURRAY: A little bit, yes. Yes.

So this was once a really nice showroom.

HARLOW: Eighty percent of her inventory, gone.

MURRAY: Essentially, we have moved everything into our stock room so that we can work from the sidewalk. So now this is where we are functioning our store from. We have one functioning computer, one printer, and we have people coming in from the roll-down door.

HARLOW: Before Sandy you didn't have any debt. Now?

MURRAY: Now we're probably looking at $700,000 to $800,000 of debt.

HARLOW: Of debt. What kind of help have you gotten from the government?

MURRAY: Nothing from the government.

HARLOW: Ashley found government loans with six percent interest. Her bank did better with a line of credit at just over three percent.

MURRAY: We had chop saws and boxed items - there go the lights again.

HARLOW (voice-over): The challenge of doing business these days, even the generators fail.

(on camera): Things are so bad in Red Hook, that this business right next door to Ashley's is literally drying invoices like this with a hair dryer.

What does this business mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything, it's my life.

HARLOW (voice-over): Ashley's employees watched her grow up, working alongside her father.

(on camera): If this business went under?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I would go under too.

HARLOW (voice-over): Now it's up to her to save their jobs.

MURRAY: There's so much history here. The community, our customers. We really do have - we have a great business here. I think we can make it great again.

HARLOW: Poppy Harlow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And the damage caused by superstorm Sandy has people asking a lot of questions about our weather and what's in the atmosphere. Will scenes like these become more frequent? Are storms like these the new norm?

A recent report from the World Meteorological Organization has some frightening statistics about greenhouse gases. I asked Bill Nye, the science guy, if humans are to blame or if changes in the atmosphere are just part of the earth's natural evolution.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL NYE, "THE SCIENCE GUY": In 1965, there were three billion people in the world. Well, now there's over seven billion. 2 1/3 times the number of people just in lifetime, let alone my father's lifetime and my grandfather's lifetime. And so before we started burning fossil fuels and steam engines in lets say 1700s, we had 280 parts per million carbon monoxide. Now we have almost 400. As we say, it's not just the amount of carbon monoxide. It's not just the amount of greenhouse gases like methane and water vapor. It's the rate. It's the speed at which we are adding this gas, these gases, that is so concerning. But I will say, we could be at a turning point that we're even having this discussion is big progress for people like me that we're even considering it. Now, all the computer models as people try to get a mathematical model of the earth's atmosphere, these things are fantastically complicated. Weather is complicated. But storms like Sandy are consistent with every computer model. And so this is of great concern. And this is maybe an opportunity to turn it around. And have everybody in the world, especially the United States, get going on this stuff and have more efficient means of transportation, more efficient means of moving electricity around and storing electricity. We could, dare I say it, change the world.

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, you say everyone in the world. It's everyone's responsibility to kind of turn it around. But is it your belief that those of us here in the U.S. are the biggest offenders?

NYE: Oh, yes. Well, the word offender, we, the United States -

WHITFIELD: Biggest contributor, is that a better word in the largest contributors?

NYE: Yes, say that again.

Yes, yes.

WHITFIELD: Are we in a sense the largest contributors?

NYE: Yes. And the problem, or the opportunity, is people in the developing world want to live the way people in the developed world live. But if we all try to do that at our current inefficiencies, with our current inefficiencies, we'll need another couple of earths and we don't have those. So we have to find ways to do more with less.

Now, I was born in the U.S., I am not objective about this. I would like the U.S. to be the world leader in these new technologies that will help us do more with less. It would be OK in a scientific sense or maybe for the sake of human kind if it's invented in other parts of the world, but I'd rather it were done here. This Hurricane Sandy, as traumatic as it is or was or still is, it would be - maybe it will give us that kick we need to everybody work together and change the world.

WHITFIELD: Some people would say, at least over the last 10 to 20 years, there's been so much progress being made, whether you're talking about hybrid vehicles, you know, cleaner engines, et cetera. But it doesn't seem like that's making a big enough impact if we want to blame transportation for being a giant contributor too.

NYE: Well, see, as I always say, I think we have to do everything all at once. And so we're making progress on fuel efficiency is good -

WHITFIELD: And now very costly too. We're talking about -

NYE: Well, except look at the price tag of repairing things after stuff - look at Katrina, now Sandy. You know, Sandy wasn't an especially big hurricane as hurricanes go. It just happened to get deflected ashore in an inopportune place. From a geologic standpoint, Katrina was 2005. Sandy's 2012. In the sense of deep time, that's like the wink of an eye, it's happening just like that. If these storms happen every five years, then every four years, it's going to be a very expensive and traumatic thing. That's just in the developed world where we have the means to feed 50,000 people on Thanksgiving day. But in the developing world it leads to horrible trauma. We have huge inefficiencies and there's going to be conflict over transportation and clean water and who gets the rights to live in the most desirable places. This could be a turning point.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And Bill Nye, the science guy, told me that the world can expect more superstorms like Sandy.

A deadly fire rips through a clothing factory. 2,000 people were inside a nine-story building in a country where most clothing is exported to the U.S..

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A look now at our top stories. A fire rips through a multi-story clothing factory in Bangladesh. At least 117 were killed and 200 injured. Garments make up 80 percent of Bangladesh's $24 billion in annual exports. The majority of those exports come to the U.S.

Check out this red truck dangling from a highway overpass in Beaverton, Oregon. Police aren't sure how the truck ended up like this yesterday. The 38-year-old driver was dangling in it for about an hour until the fire department secured the truck and then rescued the driver. He was later arrested and charged with DUI.

And a fire burned an 80-foot yacht of Miami Beach Saturday morning, sending a thick plume of black smoke into the sky there. U.S. Coast Guard says they were about to inspect the boat when the fire broke out. Three people on board jumped off and were rescued. No word yet on why it caught fire.

All right. And here's what's trending online. China successfully conducted a flight landing on its first aircraft carrier. It used a new j-15 fighter jet that is able to able to carry air to ground- missiles.

Catalonia could break away from Spain if voters have their way today. They'll decide whether to elect a president who wants to secede from Spain.

After two weekends in theaters, "Twilight" is number one in the box office again, "Breaking Dawn Part 2" brought in an estimated $43 million.

And Washington goes back to work this week. But are politicians ready to beat the clock? They've got just 37 days to avoid the fiscal cliff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: U.S. Congress and the White House go back to work this week with a lot on their plates. From the so-called fiscal cliff to Republicans abandoning the anti-tax pledge, all this at a time New York Times columnist Charles Blow writes about a growing gap between liberals and conservatives. So how will lawmakers on both sides come to the table this week? Charles, good to see you and Happy Thanksgiving weekend. Let's begin with the fiscal cliff. As we head into a new week, what happened to the hope that compromise was about to take center stage?

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMINIST, "NEW YORK TIMES:" Well, I mean, compromise could still take center stage and I actually believe that it will. I'm optimistic that they will avert the fiscal cliff. And you mentioned a couple of senators basically saying that they would abandon their pledge not to ever raise taxes. But I think you have to remember that that will be part of a compromise, but that does not necessarily signal moderation.

That was an extreme position to ever have taken. You can say, in spirit, that I don't -- I'm against raising taxes in spirit. However, as a legislator, I have to make choices based on what's happening at that moment in time. And if you have -- if you have a rising deficit and you have a country where the economy is stagnating you may have to, in the short term or for longer periods of time raise revenue and you may have to do that through raising taxes. So to have ever taken that position was an extreme position.

WHITFIELD: So lawmakers we're talking about Peter King, they were talking about Lindsey Graham being the latest ones today, to say they might consider abandoning that no tax hike pledge, similar to how Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss already said that he would abandon the pledge for the American people. Yes, those may have been extreme positions or how you classified them now, but for a very long time most of these lawmakers didn't feel it was extreme at all they felt like it was the necessary thing to do, they were digging in heels for a very long time. So it does seem like an incredible page that's being turned here to be able to now say, I'll consider abandoning that. It does seem like there is maybe an olive branch that's being extended?

BLOW: I think turning back to a reasonable position is not the same as saying that I'm being moderate. What we are seeing in our politics, not just taking a couple of senators and using them as data points, but looking at the larger data sets of the trends over time, we're seeing moderates in general being chased out of our politicians. We have fewer blue dogs. We keep seeing moderate Republicans be primaries when they are up for re-election. And their numbers continue to dwindle. We keep seeing in the electorate itself the number of people who classify themselves as moderates shrinking. So moderates used to be the largest voting bloc. In 2010, the percentage of the people who said they were moderate set a new record low. For the first time --

WHITFIELD: It was almost like it's been a bad word to say that you are moderate.

BLOW: Exactly. WHITFIELD: Those who consider themselves conservatives, real hard- core conservatives, are they willing? Do you see that many more are willing to say; I'm willing to take a more moderate stance on certain things, especially as they have to come to the table beginning this week with the countdown of 37 days before that fiscal cliff deadline approaches?

BLOW: Well I don't know if they take the label necessarily. But they will have to take some of the positions. So you will have to moderate your position. So the idea that we will not raise revenue through taxes, that is no longer a sustainable position. We will have to figure out a way to do that and have people not feel like they have abandoned their principles.

You will not be able to say that all entitlement, any kind of reform is off the table. You will have to come to the table and say, there are some things we can do and I can do those things without feeling like I have abandoned principle. What you have to do in a negotiation like this is have every person emerge and be able to give a victory speech. To have to be able to -- some sort of speech that says, I won something out of this.

WHITFIELD: And quickly do you feel like the president will even illustrate like a different demeanor going into his second, second and final term, feeling a lot less pressure of trying to please everyone as he brings those to the table, as they talk about passing a budget? Do you feel like he feels a little bit more confident or maybe he feels that he has the upper hand in protecting some of those entitlement reforms that people have been speaking of, or whether he can protect, do a better job of protecting his health care reform since there are still threats coming from many conservatives who say they want to see it go?

BLOW: Well part of it is about protecting the things you care most about. But a big part of a second term of any administration is about the legacy and how history will view you, not necessarily what's happening at the moment. But when people look back 20 years from now, how will the history books view what you did and what you were able to accomplish? Some of that may be compromise.

WHITFIELD: All right. Charles Blow, got to leave it right, thanks so much, always good to see you, have a great rest of the weekend. The few hours left of it that is.

All right. Before you tell your kids the story of Christmas, you'll want to listen up. The pope is out with a new book and it debunks a lot of details about Jesus' birth.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Pope Benedict XVI is challenging whether there were cattle or singing angels when Jesus was born. In his new book "Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives" the pope also challenges Jesus' actual birth date. I spoke earlier with Eric Marrapodi the co-editor of CNN's "Belief Blog" about it. ERIC MARRAPODI, CO-EDITOR, CNN BELIEF BLOG: So what the Pope is doing is he is going through the gospel narratives of how Jesus was born and where; he's doing what is called a textual criticism where he's looking at the actual words, what's there implicitly and what is there explicitly. I want to take a look at what he is talking about with the cattle. This is going to make a lot of kids upset who are set to be the oxen and sheep in their Christmas pageants in church this Christmas.

But let's take a look at this passage from Luke. In the gospel of Luke, we're talking about the narrative of the Jesus infancy story, it says, and she, that she is referring to Mary, gave birth to her first son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Now, the manger was where the animals ate in a stable. So they're essentially putting Jesus in a bowl that the animals ate out of. So there you have this implicit reference to animals but not an explicit reference to animals. The pope is saying, yes in out traditional we have all these histories of oxen and sheep but it doesn't necessarily say that in the text. So he says that we should probably set aside.

WHITFIELD: OK. What about the angels in the story? There are so many carols and hymns about the singing angels.

MARRAPODI: I know. The Pope is not calling for people to rip these carols out of the hymnal just yet. Again it's just another textual criticism. What he's saying is, when you look at how Luke the author in this case writes that, it says, the angels said to the shepherds. Not the angels sang to the shepherds. He makes that very clear distinction that the text says one thing and the tradition says something else.

Of course what the angels said to the shepherds has become part of our Christmas singing tradition. He's saying, look, they didn't actually sing it they probably just said it. But that doesn't change the message of what they said. It's a theme he comes back to again and again as he is debunking and taking apart the text.

WHITFIELD: And so you have to wonder whether this is going to alter the way in which people celebrate Christmas.

MARRAPODI: You know, the one thing that's interesting about the Pope's book as I was reading it this morning this theme again and again, and he comes back to if these traditions are taken out, if angels just say this instead of singing it, if there are no animals but they're in a stable, it doesn't change what he thinks is the main theme of the story, this notion of god coming down to earth as a little baby and being the savior of mankind. That theme doesn't change. I really don't think traditions are going to change all that much. I don't see a lot of Christmas pageant directors ripping up the script today and rewriting it in time for the Christmas pageant.

WHITFIELD: So you want to -- you do have to wonder though why does the Pope feel compelled to kind of set the record straight?

MARRAPODI: Yes, I mean, these traditions kind of override the narrative sometimes I think. It strikes me in reading his book, he's a theologian. The Pope before he was the Pope was the theologian; he continues to write in length about this. So what he's most concerned with is the narrative, the theme of the story, as opposed to the trappings and traditions that go along with it. After all he is the pope, so it's an important message for Catholics and for all Christians this holiday season.

WHITFIELD: That is right. All right. Eric Marrapodi thanks so much.

MARRAPODI: You got it.

WHITFIELD: An inspiration comes in so many different forms. I recently met a four-legged one and vocal survivor of a difficult battle with cancer. That is Seamus the Beagle; he had cancer and made it. And he also helped his owner make it through her own battle of breast cancer.

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WHITFIELD: Any survivor of cancer will tell you that having a friend who can truly understand what you're going through is lifeline. For California lawyer named Teresa Rhyne the lifeline came in the form of a very rambunctious Beagle named Seamus. Soon after Rhine adopted him from the shelter the dog was diagnosed with malignant tumor. But his cancer would not be the only one that she had to battle. While Seamus was undergoing treatment, Rhyne herself was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Rhyne has a written a memoir about the experience called "The Dog Lived and So Will I." I recently spoke with her about the determination it took to get them both through some tough times.

TERESA RHYNE, BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR: It was some tough decisions especially because his prognosis was not very good. As you mentioned, he was expected to live maybe a year. But he was only about 2 years old at the time and he'd already been through so much in his life. I just couldn't see giving up on him. So I decided to go ahead and fight it. And he was a little trouper. He really went through it with the exception of one white blood cell crash; he really didn't have too much difficulty with it at all. And as you can see he's alive and well and feisty.

WHITFIELD: What was it like for you? Because this was a tough time for you in your personal life.

RHYNE: It was a tough time. And I think I was a little bit more upset by the whole thing than he was. One of the great things -- he's got things to do now. One of the great things about dogs is that they don't know the diagnosis. So while I was told he only had a year to live, he did not know that. So he just went on being himself, which in the end ended up being very inspirational to me, too. I was reminded of that when it was my turn and I was going through it. Just take it a day at a time and that became my motto. The dog lived, and so will I.

WHITFIELD: In what way did you kind of I guess pull from Seamus' experience to help you get through what you were about to encounter?

RHYNE: There were a lot of really remarkable similarities between what he went through and what I went through. And once I sort of figured that out, it became like a little roadmap for me to go through. Initially, it was difficult for me to find treatment for both of us. As you might imagine, there are not a lot of the veterinary oncologist specialists out there. There weren't any in the community I lived in. So I had to travel to get his care. I ended up having to do the same for my care. So we were both were traveling about 60 miles each way to get the care that we needed. One of the chemotherapies that we had was exactly the same. Who knew they gave the same therapy to humans and dogs, but they do.

WHITFIELD: And I know the battle with cancer is a very serious one. But I understand humor really got you through this in a big way too. People in your life, did they think that you were kind of over the top about all the effort you were willing to put into saving your dog and at the same time ultimately have to put that much more energy in preserving your own life?

RHYNE: Most of the people in my life are animal lovers. So they understand and I think anybody who is an animal lover and can provide that kind of care for their animal would have done the same thing I did. It worked out well. Our joke now is that maybe the book sales will pay me back for the vet bills. And, you know, it was a huge help to me. In that regard, it was definitely worth it.

Because, you know, not only did I save the dog's life, but he really saved me a lot of heartache and trouble. Because I really believe I was a whole lot less frightened with my own diagnosis and what I had to go through by having gone through it with him.

WHITFIELD: You've been cancer-free now for three years. What kind of message would you have for people going through a very similar struggle?

RHYNE: You know, the book I hope is a message of hope with a lot of humor in it. Because as I like to say, humor won't help you survive cancer but it will help you survive the cancer treatments and that's pretty crucial. And like I said, Seamus never knew his diagnosis so he just kept on being Seamus. I tried to do the same thing through mine. That's what got me through.

WHITFIELD: How's Seamus doing right now? No longer on your lap. How's he doing?

RHYNE: Right. He's exploring the studio right now. Seamus is doing great. You might notice he lacks a little different than he does on the book cover and that's because he actually had a second battle with cancer, he had an eye melanoma that was diagnosed this year. We did have to eventually have his left eye removed, unfortunately. But in true Seamus style he bounced right back and he's doing great and he is cancer-free once again. So I like to say our household 3, cancer 0.

WHITFIELD: All right. Great. Seamus the famous still doing well. Glad to hear you're doing well as well, Teresa. Thanks so much.

RHYNE: Thank you. WHITFIELD: Much more straight ahead. Sounds like a plot from a James Bond movie, but it's real. A North Korean agent plots an assassination with some super-secret weapons. We'll show you the tools. A CNN exclusive you'll only see in THE NEWSROOM.

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