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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Gay Therapy Fraud?; New Libya Questions; Interview With New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte
Aired November 27, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.
We begin the way Anderson does every night, "Keeping Them Honest," not offering opinions or playing favorites. You can get that on the other cable news networks. We're just searching for the facts.
Tonight, the facts on a controversial practice called reparative therapy. Proponents say you can turn gay people straight. "Keeping Them Honest," a mountain of medical research says otherwise. And even though some people claim it helps them, even though practitioners may use it with the best of intentions, plenty of people say there's nothing reparative or therapeutic in what they have endured.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAIM LEVIN, PLAINTIFF: I was manipulated into believing that I could change my sexual orientation. But instead I was subjected to terrible abuse that mirrored the traumatic assault I experienced as a young person. What I can tell you is that conversion therapy does not work. My family and I have wasted thousands of dollars and many hours on this scam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's Chaim Levin, one of four gay men filing suit against a New Jersey counseling center called JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing.
These four men and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is representing them, are claiming that JONAH falsely promised cures and used tactics that sound less like therapy and more like mental torture. Things like being made to undergo individual and group sessions in the nude. Being made to cuddle other same-sex clients and counselors. Being made to beat an effigy of one's mother. Going to gyms and bath houses in order to be nude, the lawsuit claims, with father figures.
Being subject, the suit also claims, to ridicule, and I'm quoting the complaint here, "as homos" and other anti-gay slurs that start with the letter F., but it is too offensive to repeat here. Sounds a lot like bullying, doesn't it?
Experts say it amounts to quack science. This from the American Psychiatric Association, and I'm quoting now: "In the last four decades, reparative therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure. Until there is such research available, the APA recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first do no harm."
The stories of harm caused by reparative therapy are what prompted California to recently pass a law barring it for minors. As the APA warns, the harm can include anxiety, depression, even suicide.
Randi Kaye profiled another young man, a man who went through so- called reparative therapy with traumatic results.
Here's his story.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: When Ryan Kendall was 13 his mother read his diary and discovered he was guy. That was the beginning of the most painful years of his life.
RYAN KENDALL, RECEIVED TREATMENT FOR REPARATIVE THERAPY: For years I thought that guy hated me because I was gay.
KAYE: Ryan says his parents were determined to change him. They signed him up for what's called reparative therapy with the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, otherwise known as NARTH. Reparative therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation has been used for decades as a way to turn potentially gay children straight.
KENDALL: Every day I would hear this is a choice, this can be fixed.
KAYE: And did you believe that?
KENDALL: I never believed that. I know I'm gay like I'm short and half Hispanic. It's part of my core fundamental identity. The parallel would be sending me to tall camp and saying if you try really hard one day you can be six foot one.
KAYE: Ryan says he was treated by Joseph Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist who today is still associated with NARTH.
KENDALL: He'd say this is something your family doesn't want for you.
KAYE: At his office outside Los Angeles we asked Nicolosi if he remembered treating Ryan Kendall.
JOSEPH NICOLOSI, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I'm not familiar with the name at all.
KAYE: His parents have provided bills. There have been checks written to your office, but no record.
NICOLOSI: No. KAYE: He said your therapy was quite harmless. He said you told him to "butch up," quote/unquote.
NICOLOSI: Never. It's not our language.
KAYE: When somebody says people like yourself, others are trying to get the gay out of people.
NICOLOSI: That's a terrible way of phrasing it. I would say we are trying to bring out the heterosexuality in you.
KAYE: Nicolosi says he's kept hundreds of children from growing up gay. He credits this man, George Rekers, a researcher and big believer that homosexuality can be prevented. Rekers worked as a doctoral student at UCLA in the 1970s in a government-funded program later called "Sissy Boy Syndrome." Rekers treated a boy named Kirk Murphy. To turn around Kirk's so-call sissy behavior, Kirk was repeatedly asked to choose between traditionally masculine toys like plastic knives and guns or feminine ones like dolls in a play crib. If he chose the feminine items, Kirk's mother would be told to ignore him. Kirk's siblings told Anderson his outgoing personality changed as a result of his personality.
GEORGE REKERS, PSYCHOLOGIST: He had no idea how to relate to people.
KAYE: George Rekers considered Kirk a success story, writing, "His feminine behavior was gone," proof, Rekers said, that homosexuality can be prevented. Kirk's family says he was gay and never recovered from attempts to turn him straight. In 2003 Kirk took his own life. He hanged himself from a fan in his apartment. He was 38.
Our producers tracked George Rekers down in Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to the family if they say that the therapy that you did with him as a child led to his suicide as an adult?
REKERS: I think scientifically that would be inaccurate to assume it was the therapy, but I do grieve for the patients now that you've told me that news. I think that's very sad.
KAYE: According to the American Psychiatric Association, the potential risk of reparative therapy is great, including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior. They association says therapists alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce the self-hatred already felt by patients.
DR. Nicolosi says his therapy isn't harmful and he only treats people who want to change. Not true, says Ryan Kendall.
KENDALL: It led me to periods of homelessness, to drug abuse, to spending a decade of my life wanting to kill myself. It led to so much pain and struggle, and I want them to know that what they do hurts people, hurts children, has no basis in fact, and they need to stop.
KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Los Angeles.
BLITZER: Let's get back now to the lawsuit against that New Jersey counseling group called JONAH. We should note we invited them on the program tonight, but they declined.
Joining us now, one of the plaintiffs, Michael Ferguson, and Christine Sun. She's deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Michael, let me start with you.
Earlier, I mentioned some of the specific allegations in the lawsuit. They are incredibly troubling. Tell us what you saw, what you went through.
MICHAEL FERGUSON, PLAINTIFF: Sure.
There were a lot of very strange interventions that were purported to help change your orientation from homosexuality to heterosexuality. Among the more of the bizarre exercises that I participated in was I formed -- I was part of a group that formed a human barricade and on the other side of that barricade were a pair of oranges meant to represent another man's testicles, and there was a participant in the exercise who was supposed to break through that barricade and grab the oranges and was instructed to squeeze them and drink the juice from them and to shove them down his pants.
And all this was to symbolize that, you know, his homosexuality was related to his lack of masculinity or his lack of, you know, these metaphorical testicles and that reclaiming them would help promote him toward heterosexuality.
BLITZER: I know, Michael, you want to get across that, as disturbing, as sensational some of the specifics certainly are, it's equally important to pay attention to the undercurrent of this so- called therapy, which is that there is something wrong with being gay.
And you point out there's a tremendous amount of harm that comes along with this. What did it do to you to hear so-called therapists tell you needed to be cured or fixed?
FERGUSON: Sure. Well, there's definitely this insidious trauma that is inflicted on a person when the repeated message is that there's something inside of you that's broken and that if you try hard enough, you can fix it.
So, consequently, if you're trying and you're engaging in these practices and you're not experiencing change, then there's a tremendous amount of self-blame that befalls you. Personally, it did lead me to a lot of dark places as far as anxiety and depression and, as the previous segment was indicating, thoughts of hurting myself. Fortunately I was able to connect to licensed therapists, legitimate therapists, who were able to help me with a lot of these issues and come to a place of better emotionality and of psychological health and well-being.
BLITZER: Christine, this potentially is a landmark case. How likely is it that you will succeed, and be able to put this group, perhaps other groups like it out of business?
CHRISTINE SUN, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, we feel very strongly that we will win because JONAH's services are based on complete lies.
This idea that people can change their sexual orientation by doing these absurd treatments like the one that Michael just explained is completely fraudulent on its face. And so we feel very confident that we will succeed in this case.
BLITZER: Michael, for viewers out there who might be considering this type of so-called therapy, for parents who might be trying to get their children into a program like this, what do you want them to know tonight?
You know, one of the real tragedies as well is the parental abuse that's secondary here in the sense that the causal model asserts that parents are largely to blame for their child being gay, that because a mother did what she was supposed to do in nurturing and loving her child and being affectionate with her child, that she somehow made him homosexual.
Again, this isn't just that there's a lack of empirical data. It's that every amount of empirical evidence we have points to the exact opposite conclusions, that placing blame for homosexuality -- in the first place, to say there is something to be blamed for, and secondarily, to place that causation on parents who are already feeling tremendous guilt for social reasons, for religious reasons, is frankly cruel.
BLITZER: Christine, as I mentioned, we asked for a comment from this group, JONAH, on the show. They said that -- we didn't get any comment from them.
But how do you think they are going to defend their behavior in an open courtroom, likely in front of news cameras? It's a lot different, different setting than what they're obviously used to.
SUN: Sure. That's one of the points of our lawsuit. For way too long, conversion therapy has been operating in the shadows, and one of the things that we're trying to accomplish with this lawsuit is to show -- to shed light on what the actual treatments are.
And so we look forward to having, through the legal process, a debate over whether there is any science behind conversion therapy. And, again, we feel very confident that we will show that conversion therapy is just a fraudulent and dangerous practice.
BLITZER: Christine Sun, Michael Ferguson, thanks to both of you for joining us.
SUN: Thank you.
FERGUSON: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, we have some breaking news we're working on on the Libya consulate killings and new questions about the Obama administration's story. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight on the Libya mess, a new allegation that the Obama administration still cannot get its story straight after so much time, even as recently as this morning.
Ironically, this latest charge flows directly out of an attempt at damage control, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's trip to Capitol Hill, she and the acting CIA director, Michael Morell, meeting with Republican Senators John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham, who were not pleased with what they heard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is clear that the information she gave the American people was incorrect when she said that it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video. It was not, and there was compelling evidence at the time that that was certainly not the case, including statements by Libyans, as well as other Americans who are fully aware that people don't bring mortars and rocket-propelled grenades to spontaneous demonstrations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: In a statement after the meeting, Ambassador Rice said that neither she nor anyone in the administration intended to mislead the American people.
But the breaking news concerns the part in her Sunday talk show statements that substituted the word extremists for al Qaeda. Remember, the administration said she was working from edited talking points. The question is, who did the editing?
Today, the senators say that acting Director Morell told them the FBI did. They say they later heard from the CIA that Morell had -- quote -- "misspoken" and the CIA was, in fact, responsible.
So what's going on here?
CNN intelligence correspondent Suzanne Kelly has been working her sources. She's joining us now.
Suzanne, you just got a statement from the CIA. What are they saying?
SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, I have gotten this statement from an intelligence official who told me it was in fact the CIA that made the changes, which is more or less what the intelligence community has been saying from the beginning, that this was a collaborative effort within the intelligence community to get their language straight and that the reasons they were doing it had to do with, as you know, Wolf, classified sources.
I can read you what the U.S. intelligence official has just told me. There were -- literally just coming in on my phone. "There were several valid intelligence and investigatory reasons why that was changed. The information about individuals linked to al Qaeda was derived from classified sources and could not be corroborated at the unclassified level. Those links were tenuous. Therefore, it made sense to be cautious before naming the perpetrators."
So, that's kind of the reasoning behind it, Wolf. It doesn't necessarily go far enough to explain why acting Director Morell perhaps misspoke is what it looks like this afternoon, but that the CIA had made efforts as you reported to clarify the record with the senators on the Hill.
BLITZER: A spokesman for the director of national intelligence told CNN a week ago, Suzanne, that it was the DNI, in fact, who removed those references to al Qaeda. Now today the story has changed not once, but twice. This is getting awkward.
KELLY: It is getting awkward and difficult to manage, I think, but I have definitely heard from intelligence sources who tell me that the DNI did not change those talking points, that this was a collaborative process.
And I think we're starting to see now some of the mess that's created when all of these different agencies were affected by this, the FBI, the State Department, the director of national intelligence, the CIA, that sometimes it's even difficult for them to get these points straight. I think that's why you're seeing the senators get so frustrated, Wolf.
But, again, from the sources I have spoken to inside the intelligence community, the DNI never changed those talking points, that the CIA in fact made those changes and took out the references to al Qaeda, because they said it would have compromised an ongoing investigation at that point.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise because a week ago the spokesman for the DNI said that the talking points had been edited to protect sources in the investigation. Now, at least according to these senators, the CIA can't say why those talking points were altered.
KELLY: Well, again, from this source that I have been speaking with and what I'm reading to you off my phone right now is that there were reasons that the individuals linked to al Qaeda, that was in fact derived from classified sources, so that's consistent, and that it could not be corroborated at the unclassified level.
So that's the other issue with trying to tell the details very early on in this story is that a lot of that information you get in those very early hours and days is classified, so there's a process that they have to go through in order to declassify that information. And of course, also, it is an ongoing investigation. They are still trying to round people up at that point.
And the Libyans, as you know, the Libyan government rounded up quite a few suspects at that point. They now have people that they're talking to. But the timing of this is what's so interesting, Wolf, and how everything happened so quickly and people were demanding such specific answers early on that I don't think people really had to give them. That's my opinion.
BLITZER: I'm surprised though at today's meeting they apparently screwed up once again. They're trying to fix it right now. Suzanne, thanks very much.
As we said, all this just broke a few moments ago. A short time before that, I spoke with one of the three senators in that meeting today, Senator Kelly Ayotte.
BLITZER: Senator, you say you are more troubled now after your hour-long meeting with Ambassador Rice and acting CIA Director Mike Morell. Why is that?
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: The big concern that I have is there was an impression left and I certainly went into the meeting with this impression that the unclassified talking points, that is what she relied upon, and certainly that's in part what she said on each of the major networks.
But as part of her duties as ambassador to the U.N., she also reviews the daily intelligence briefings, including the classified versions. It's already been reported, Wolf, that the classified version, of course, said that individuals with ties to al Qaeda were involved in the attacks. That was then removed from the unclassified version.
So if you had reviewed those and then reviewed the classified, why would you want to go on and represent -- and leave out the al Qaeda portion? And what's particularly of concern is that in the interview with "Face the Nation" and "Meet the Press" not only did that fact get omitted, but also she said that al Qaeda had been decimated. So it really unfortunately left a misleading impression to the American people about what happened at the consulate in Benghazi.
BLITZER: The intelligence community analysts or whatever, they were suggesting they deleted the reference to al Qaeda because they were afraid that could give a tip-off to al Qaeda about some sources and methods and compromising the sources and methods. That's why they took that line out about al Qaeda from the declassified talking points.
You don't buy that?
AYOTTE: I think it's really troubling because it left a misimpression to the American people. It's very different when you tell someone that individuals with ties to al Qaeda are involved in an attack and you omit that, and I just don't understand -- how who they were trying to protect with the reference to al Qaeda.
We're tipping al Qaeda off? I think that al Qaeda knows that we certainly have pursued them around the world and so I just -- this doesn't make any sense to me.
BLITZER: Is it your opinion, assessment, Senator, that Ambassador Rice deliberately on that Sunday morning misled the American public?
AYOTTE: Well, certainly she misled the American public.
I think that she would say that. She would have to say that because she began our meeting today admitting that the representations about the video and the protests were wrong and the impression left the American people was misleading.
I don't know that I am in a position to question her motives, but it's deeply troubling to me that someone of that important position would go on every major news network knowing that she had obviously previously reviewed other classified reports that left a different impression with the omission of the important reference to al Qaeda and also saying on those shows that al Qaeda had been decimated.
BLITZER: Bottom line, Senator, if the president nominates Ambassador Rice to be the next secretary of state or some other Cabinet-level position, do you intend to do whatever you can to block her nomination?
AYOTTE: Bottom line, Blitz (sic), is where I'm left is, I'm still digesting what she has told me today. I have deep concerns.
But when you and I have talked about this before, I will certainly hold the nomination until we get a full and complete picture of what happened here, and some of those questions have been answered today. But she has not been nominated yet. I will certainly listen to additional information, but I'm very concerned. So that's where I'm at, but I haven't prejudged it.
BLITZER: Senator Ayotte, thanks very much for joining us.
AYOTTE: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Coming up, "Raw Politics." The fiscal cliff debate shifts to campaign-style tactics. The president planning to hit the road to tout his tax plan. I will speak with lobbyist Grover Norquist and Senator Dick Durbin about what hangs in the balance. That's next.
BLITZER: "Raw Politics" now. And if you didn't get enough of campaign 2012, stay tuned. We learned today that the president will be hitting the road campaign- style to push his plan to raise taxes on income above a quarter million dollars a year. And he will be speaking Friday at a factory in Pennsylvania. House Speaker John Boehner's office today announcing something similar. Congressional Republicans holding events in Washington as well as back in their home districts to frame the president's tax plan as a threat to new hiring.
But some Republicans, as you know, are already hinting they're open to eliminating deductions even if it means breaking that pledge that the lobbyist Grover Norquist has been getting lawmakers to sign for years.
Joining us now to talk about it all, Grover Norquist. He's the president of Americans for Tax Reform.
Grover, thanks very much for coming in.
GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: The trend we're seeing now from members of Congress questioning or pushing back on the pledge, we have seen it before to a certain degree, but we're seeing a lot more of it, I sense, right now. There's a sense this movement is gaining some steam.
Is this just more of the same, in your opinion? Is there something different going on right now? Does any of this surprise you?
NORQUIST: Well, so far, what we have seen is the same people who two years ago got in front of TV cameras and said let's make a deal when it was the Simpson-Bowles proposal, when it was the Budget Control Act because of the debt ceiling. It's the same collection of people with the same sort of statements.
So I don't see any movement towards Republicans wanting to raise taxes or people wanting to break their pledge. In fact, to be fair to everybody, some of these people have had impure thoughts. No one has pulled the trigger and voted for a tax increase.
BLITZER: I know you have had some tough things to say about Congressman Peter King, for example, his comments about the pledge.
BLITZER: But look specifically to the -- his point. Some things do change over the years. The economic problems, for example, that we may have had 20 years ago, 40 years ago, they're different than the economic problems right now. So don't different problems call for different solutions?
NORQUIST: Well, what was odd about Peter King's comment was look, tax increases slow economic growth. Tax increases take resources out of the real economy and allow the government to grow and grow. That's always a bad idea. That's not a good idea some years and a bad idea others.
Leeches, doctors don't put leeches on people ever. It's wrong. Don't do it. It doesn't make people stronger. Raising taxes, taking money out of the economy, damages the economy, kills jobs, reduces opportunities.
BLITZER: You know, the latest CNN polls that just came out this week say you're wrong. Two of three Americans, including a majority of Republicans, say the fiscal cliff should be addressed with a mix, a mix of spending cuts, yes, but also tax increases, and if there's no deal according to these polls, they're going to blame Republicans more than they blame the president.
All the best evidence right now suggests the public wants to see the Republicans compromise on this tax question. So from a political standpoint, is it OK for lawmakers to ignore the pledge that they gave earlier?
NORQUIST: Well, the challenge is that the pledge that they made and that every two years comes up again in campaigns -- this is not an ancient pledge, these are pledges that get discussed every election cycle -- Democrats in the last two cycles have attacked all the Republicans who took the pledge. So they've been reinforced in the fact that voters know that they made that commitment, and they got elected making that commitment to voters.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise on what you consider to be a tax increase. We know an increase in the marginal tax rates, that's a tax increase. But what about capping deductions? In -- from your standpoint of the pledge, would that be considered a violation of the pledge, to cap deductions, as some Republican lawmakers are now suggesting?
NORQUIST: This is not a trick question. The pledge says no raising rates, no broadening the base unless rates come down dollar for dollar. The pledge is only two sentences, but they're very clear.
One of the reasons why eliminating deductions and credits -- and Obama wants a trillion-plus dollars' worth of tax increase that way -- is that if you do that, you've just gutted tax reform for decades to come, because how do you reduce marginal tax rates so we can become competitive in the world on the corporate and the individual side, if you've already given away to the appropriators and spenders all the deductions and credits.
BLITZER: One final question, Grover.
BLITZER: It seems some liberals out there like -- want to make this personal. More and more about you, about your role in encouraging these Republicans by and large to support the pledge.
Here's the question. Could the pledge, could your visibility holding lawmakers accountable on this, be more of a distraction maybe in the end, wind up hurting the overall cause? NORQUIST: It's a little bit bizarre that the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Harry Reid, attacks me personally. The American people don't raise -- want their taxes raised. They've kind of signaled that in the most recent Senate election where Harry Reid's guy lost and the anti-tax candidate won in Nevada. So the tax issue is a powerful issue.
I understand it comes with the territory, that people attack me personally. It doesn't bother me. I'm very comfortable in my own skin. If they want to waste their time personally attacking me, they're free to do so.
But taxes are too high. Spending is too high. This needs to be changed, and I think the American people will make it clear as time unfolds that raising taxes is not where they want to go.
BLITZER: Grover Norquist, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's get another point of view right now. Joining us, Dick Durbin, the assistant majority leader, the senator from Illinois.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in. We just heard from Grover Norquist, several Republicans on Capitol Hill this week have said they would consider defying his pledge. But for some of them, raising revenue just means getting rid of loopholes or capping some deductions, not raising tax rates or letting tax cuts expire. Is that good enough?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), ASSISTANT MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I can tell you the president has set a goal, $1.6 trillion in revenue or taxes over the next ten years. That's about 40 percent of the $4 trillion deficit goal that we have. That's the same thing that Simpson-Bowles had, 40 percent revenue.
So the only way you can reach that, incidentally, is to allow the rates to go up. Just this idea of we're going to take a look at the tax code, change some credits and deductions, you can't come up with enough money.
BLITZER: So any deal will have to include at least some hike in the tax rate.
DURBIN: I don't think there's any other way to approach it. And that's why the president has taken this position.
If we're going to make sure, for example, that we spare families making $250,000 a year or less from any income tax increase, then this idea that we're going to go into the tax code and find $1.6 trillion over ten years becomes almost impossible. We need to protect those middle income families.
BLITZER: You said today that Congress should deal with the fiscal cliff crisis now, but tackle entitlements, the entitlement questions, later. Yesterday, senator Lamar Alexander said the only thing the president has to do to get an agreement from Republicans now is in his words, propose a reasonable way, a reasonable way to control entitlement spending. So is this a catch 22? Who bends here?
DURBIN: I don't expect us to have entitlement reform before December the 31st. This is too technical, it's too important. Let's do it right.
But I do believe and I said it, any long-term deficit reduction will require entitlement reform for one simple reason. Medicare untouched, unchanged, runs out of money in 12 years. We need to take a hard look at it to find ways to preserve this important program, have savings that don't hurt the beneficiaries, and actually do reduce the deficit in the process.
BLITZER: What about those Republican critics, senator, who say it's not possible to make any real progress without -- on spending, shall we say, without seriously addressing the Medicare, the Medicaid, maybe even the Social Security entitlement program and to do it now?
DURBIN: Social Security doesn't add one penny to the deficit. It's a separate trust fund. I believe it needs reform over a long period, but it should be done separately from this showdown over the fiscal cliff.
Medicare, as I mentioned, is going to run out of money if we don't do something. It runs out in 12 years.
Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor across America, is critically important. One out of three people in this country are going to rely on Medicare and Medicaid for their health insurance.
So we need to find ways to preserve these programs, not the Paul Ryan budget approach which, at the end of the day, would have jeopardized the program, made it too expensive for many seniors. We can find this. I do think there's a reasonable way for us to reduce the spending there without compromising the integrity of the program.
BLITZER: Do you favor raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67 over the next several years?
DURBIN: Let me tell you, I'm concerned about that. What is a person going to do who retires at age 63 or 64, and they don't have the benefit of Medicaid or Medicare coming away at age 65? They're on their own. If it means that they have to go out and try to find health insurance when they have a bad health record, it becomes impossible or way too expensive. I want to make sure there are no gaps in coverage for those who have retired, waiting for Medicare to kick in.
BLITZER: How confident are you, Senator, we're going to see a deal before the December 31 deadline?
DURBIN: I know we can do it. I absolutely know it. And what we need to have is a commitment from Speaker Boehner that whatever we come up with will be considered on a bipartisan basis in the House. It will be in the Senate. That's the way we work over here. If we get a bipartisanship commitment from both Speaker Boehner and from the Senate side, I know we can come to an agreement with the president.
BLITZER: Senator Durbin, thanks very much for joining us.
DURBIN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: One of the true heroes of Mexico's drug war paid the ultimate price for her bravery. She fought to protect those around her until the very end. We have her story and will take a closer look at what it means to stand up to Mexico's brutal drug cartels. That's next.
BLITZER: Mexico's drug cartels proving yet again those brave enough to stand up against them all too often are the ones to pay the ultimate price.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta was a small-town mayor dealing with some of the worst gang violence. She survived several assassination attempts, including one that claimed the life of her husband. She posed for pictures showing off her scars and told residents she would keep fighting as long as God allows her.
She lived to see the end of her term as mayor, but the cartels caught up with her earlier this month, kidnapping her in broad daylight as she drove her daughter to school. The last people to see her alive say she pled with her abductors to leave her daughter alone before willingly going with them.
Gorrostieta's remains were found just last week. The danger never ended for her. She died nearly a year after leaving office.
For other mayors along the border, they understand the risks of the job and that means becoming a very visible target. Gary Tuchman traveled to Juarez, Mexico and filed this report in 2010.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mayor of Juarez, Mexico, hates the drug cartels that have turned his city into a dangerous and violent place. The city with the highest murder rate in the world. The cartels want him gone. Permanently.
MAYOR JOSE REYES FERRIZ, MAYOR, JUAREZ: The threats are real. They're not just intimidating. They're real, and I have to take it very seriously.
TUCHMAN: Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz was told two weeks ago that, if he didn't quit his job by today, he would be assassinated. For added emphasis, a bloody animal head came with the note.
FERRIZ: I know I have a lot of people that not only don't like me but would like to do something to me.
TUCHMAN: So that's why his driver carries an automatic rifle with him at all times.
And in public, like at this patriotic celebration, the mayor has elaborate security, and he's not backing down. Not only does he continue to appear at public events, he talks a lot about how the bad guys have ruined his city.
FERRIZ (through translator): Juarez is a lover of peace, and peace is what we are lacking.
TUCHMAN: During his three-year term, the mayor has fired hundreds of cops. He believed they were in bed with the narco- traffickers. The city's police force is now considered much less corrupt, and that angers the cartels and has led to assassinations of police and several threats against the mayor, including this very specific one involving the animal head.
(on camera) Mayor, how scared are you personally?
FERRIZ: Well, I take all the necessary precautions I can take.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): I asked the mayor if it's safe to tour the city a bit. So we go to a skateboard and bicycle park. It's not crowded, but there are some kids having fun. Nevertheless, even in this environment, he doesn't go anywhere without an armed guard. Although here, the rifle is left in its case.
FERRIZ: It's hard to have a normal life. It's extremely difficult. I love playing tennis. I haven't played in a couple years. I love going to the movies. I haven't gone to the movies in a couple years.
TUCHMAN: He's a family man, a lawyer by trade. The mayor could quit tomorrow and live a less stressful, financially lucrative life. As we travel in his armored vehicle, he says he's well aware a killer could target him at any time so I asked him about quitting.
(on camera) Do you have any thoughts about that possibility?
FERRIZ: No. I won't step down of my position. It's a very important position. What we're doing is extremely important for our city. If we don't do it today, it's going to be very hard to do it tomorrow. It's going to be double hard.
TUCHMAN: The contrasts in his life are surreal. The law-abiding citizens of Juarez want him to succeed. The cartels want him punished. They want him dead.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Juarez, Mexico.
BLITZER: Jose Reyes Ferriz finished his term as Juarez's mayor. Juarez has a one-term limit. He now lives here in Washington, D.C., where he's working as a security consultant to state and local governments in Mexico.
Our next guest also knows all too well what these drug cartels are capable of doing. Eros Hoagland is a photojournalist. He's joining us now live from Tijuana in Mexico. Eros, thanks very much.
Recently, by the way, Eros was featured in the HBO documentary miniseries, "Witness."
When people think of the drug wars, Eros, people think of major border cities like Juarez, Tijuana, but the brutal murders show that the drug war is much more far-reaching right now. What's going on?
EROS HOAGLAND, PHOTOJOURNALIST: Well, that's exactly right, Wolf. I mean, you have Maria Santos was abducted and murdered in Michoacan, and to the south you have Guerrero (ph), Alispo (ph), Veracruz, Sandalipas (ph). I mean, you see this extreme violence all over Mexico now.
BLITZER: You spent some time in the valley of Juarez, where 20 bodies were found just over the weekend. So what's life like there for residents?
HOAGLAND: Well, I was in the Juarez valley earlier this year, where there -- it's basically a string of small pueblos that are about an hour southeast of the city of Juarez.
And in 2009-2010, there had been basically a scorched earth campaign that forced probably most of the residents out. And a few years later, I'm there and the fear was palpable. I mean, there were no police whatsoever. Basically there were few residents left. Military soldiers and the big black pickup trucks of the cartel's foot soldiers. It was extremely tense.
While the general mood in the city of Juarez has gotten much better as the murder rate's declined, these outlying communities are still petrified with fear because there's basically no law except for the law of organized crime.
BLITZER: There are reports out there, Eros, as you know, that violence has calmed in some parts of Mexico since the height of the drug war a couple of years ago, but you make the point that even with the decrease, the death toll is still shockingly high. Explain.
HOAGLAND: Definitely. I mean, take Juarez was a great example. IN 2010, there were probably about 3,000 some murders, but now this year, there has been at least 750 documented murders. And that's no small number. We're talking probably twice the amount of murders that happened in Philadelphia last year, and that's one of the leading murder capitals of the United States.
So the numbers have definitely decreased, but not -- nothing is solved. There's no peace still. It's a very serious situation.
BLITZER: Yes, I know that over the past, what, six, seven years, more than 50,000, maybe 60,000 people have died, have been killed in this war on the drug cartels. Thanks very much for joining us.
HOAGLAND: You're very welcome.
BLITZER: Up next, the affair that led to the resignation of the CIA director, general David Petraeus. New insight on his ex-mistress, Paula Broadwell. And new photos of her, as well.
ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 Bulletin."
Two women at the center of the Petraeus scandal are working to defend their reputations tonight. CNN obtained a letter from Jill Kelley's attorney, claiming the government violated her privacy by leaking details of her personal life to the media. The letter questions whether the Justice Department will investigate the matter and her lawyer suggests he's considering legal action.
Meanwhile, new photos from the family of General Petraeus' ex- mistress, Paula Broadwell. They say that they show the person they know, not the one seen in the media.
And lawyers in the House Oversight Committee and the Justice Department are in talks to settle a lawsuit about the Fast and Furious gun trafficking operation. The suit seeks to force Attorney General Eric Holder to hand over documents related to the operation.
Wolf back after this.
BLITZER: The struggling jobs market is getting a much-needed boost from holiday hiring. The National Retail Federation now predicts about 600,000 people will pick up employment this season.
Holding onto those jobs past the holidays, however, can be trickier. So in an effort to beat the odds, many workers appear to be turning to additional training, but with a twist. And that's creating a revolution in higher education. Tom Foreman explains in tonight's "Building Up America."
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Johns Hopkins University, professor Roger Peng hoped for a few extra students in his statistics course. So he signed up for a new program to put his lectures on line.
ROGER PENG, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: I was expecting, you know, a few thousand, tops.
FOREMAN (on camera): What did you get?
PENG: So in the end, I had about 54,000 students enrolled. And about... FOREMAN: Fifty-four thousand students are in your course?
PENG: That's right.
FOREMAN: Such is the rapidly-exploding power of online learning, an old concept that is being newly embraced by dozens of the nation's top schools, which want to reach more students, expand their influence, and enhance their worldwide reputations at very little cost.
PENG: Basically, if "L" is...
FOREMAN: They are all offering classes online for free, through companies like Coursera and the nonprofit edX, the joint venture of MIT and Harvard. And the response is astonishing.
AMANT AGARWAL, PRESIDENT, EDX: We had 10,000 students sign up in the first few hours that we opened enrollment, and this was at midnight U.S. time. And then the numbers went all the way up to 155,000 in a short amount of time. It was completely insane.
FOREMAN: Students are connecting from all over the world for all sorts of reasons.
In Chicago, Dawn Smith wanted to improve her job skills with a free course in pharmacology from the University of Pennsylvania. She loved the convenience, the quality, and the cost.
DAWN SMITH, ONLINE STUDENT: I have about another 19 years of payments on my master's degree, so I didn't want to necessarily add to the cost of that. Which was a big factor.
FOREMAN (on camera): Some educators point out that the immersive experience of attending a college can hardly be replicated by logging onto a laptop, and the contact with professors is hugely limited online.
(voice-over) But even critics admit this trend could open up education to hundreds of millions of people.
PENG: I've already taught more students than I ever could have hoped to teach, you know, in my entire career.
FOREMAN: And there is still a lot to learn.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Baltimore.
BLITZER: That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.