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Fiscal Cliff Stalemate; Interview With Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad; Obama Back in Campaign Mode; Powerball Winners Enjoy Good Luck; Jackpot Win Means Big Tax Bill; Manning Considered Suicide; Damascus Airport Closed for Second Day; NYC Storm Emergency Hotel Rooms Go Vacant; Michael Jackson's "Thriller" Turns 30; Radical Treatment for PTSD

Aired November 30, 2012 - 16:00   ET


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: President Obama says he's keeping a list of who's naughty and who's nice in the fight to keep middle-class taxes from going up and is asking the public for help in getting through to the ones he sees as naughty.

The historic vote at the U.N. puts Palestinian hopes for statehood back in the headlines. But will it bring their dream any closer to reality? I will ask the Palestinian prime minister.

And if pictures don't lie, you may be watching a Powerball winner learning the good news. But who is he?

Wolf Blitzer's off. I'm Joe Johns. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Republicans and Democrats now have just 32 days to make a deal or your taxes are going up and more than $1 trillion automatically will be cut from vital federal programs like defense, education and housing assistance, as referred to as the fiscal cliff. And when it comes to doing something to avoid it, House Speaker John Boehner bluntly told reporters today there is a stalemate.

For his part, President Obama is trying to break that stalemate by asking voters to put more pressure on the Republicans.

CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin and chief political correspondent Gloria Borger join us right now.

And, Gloria, guess I will start with you. Does the president have any leverage?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He has a lot of leverage right now. I mean, if you look back to the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011, you recall the president was accused of negotiating with himself because it was sort of a time of weakness for him.

Right now, look, Joe, he's just won reelection; 67 percent of the American public according to our polls believes that there should be a deal that contains a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. More than half of the American public says, you know what, we'd like the taxes on the wealthy to go up. So he does have public opinion on his side, just been reelected. So he feels like, you know, he's got the wind at his back, so to speak.

JOHNS: Jessica Yellin, when you look at the situation, a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill are suggesting they're ready to go over the fiscal cliff. What's the president saying about that?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House says that that's not something they're looking to do. And they think they can get this done before December 31.

But the president did go up with his treasury secretary to the Hill yesterday and presented a deal that was sort of a Democratic wish list, something that went beyond what Democrats know they will get in the end. And it's basically sort of marker to say, look, guys, we're frustrated. You're not giving us -- you're not laying out what would get us to a deal.

And so Democrats have sort of put out the ideal Democratic version of a starting position and are asking Republicans to come up with a response. And instead of listening -- response, Republicans are going -- sort of balking at it.

I have learned Republicans gave their own starting position last week, Joe. And it was a very traditional Republican view, where they said they would not raise rates for the highest income earners. And that is where the standoff really is at this point. The stalemate is over that $250,000 and more.

JOHNS: Of course,one thing seems very clear right now. The president of the United States is standing up for tax increases on the affluent.

BORGER: Right.

JOHNS: On the other hand, this issue of entitlements may be much more difficult for the president to deal with within his own coalition. In fact, Gloria, a couple key liberals on Capitol Hill have already weighed in on this. Let's listen.

BORGER: Oh, yes.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Will I vote in the middle of this terrible recession to cut benefits for the elderly or low-income people? I personally will not.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: We're not going to stand back and let seniors, people with disabilities, most low-income vulnerable people in this country, bear the brunt of this fiscal entanglement.


JOHNS: So how does this issue of entitlements play?

BORGER: It's difficult for the president. He's got to pay attention to his base. It's what got him reelected. On the other hand, he can make the argument to his base this is an opportunity for me to reset fiscal policy, to reshape the role of government in our lives for the next decade. So you have got to be with me on this.

And in the short term, maybe he can say to them we're not going to do entitlement reform, but in the long term -- and there are some progressives like Dick Durbin -- Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who says you have got to do this -- in the long term, we have to do entitlement reform. I would argue that in the short term, we ought to look at something that might look like the Clinton coalitions, which is that the leader of each party, the president and John Boehner, might have to take not a majority of his own party, but less than that and come together to forge some kind of a deal.

I may be living in a dream world, but I think that's within the realm of the doable.

JOHNS: We also have this issue of negotiation by public appearance, John Boehner vs. the president of the United States. And we want to just look at the sound bites from today and talk about how much of this is posturing and how much of this is sort of revealing a bottom line. Let's listen.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: when i come out the day after the election, and make it clear that Republicans will put revenue on the table, I took a great risk. And then the White House spends three weeks trying to develop a proposal and they send one up here. They want to have this extra spending that is actually greater than the amount they're willing to cut. I mean, it is -- it was not a serious proposal. And so right now we're almost nowhere.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It wasn't like this should come as a surprise to anybody. We had debates about it. There were a lot of TV commercials about it.

And at the end of the day, a clear majority of Americans, Democrats, Republicans, independents, they agreed with a balanced approach to deficit reduction and making sure that middle-class taxes don't go up. Folks agreed to that. Now, the good news is we're starting to see a few Republicans coming around to it too.


JOHNS: Jessica Yellin at the White House, how much of this is Kabuki dance? How far apart are they really?

YELLIN: The real issue is, again, over raising tax rates. That is where both sides are feeling each other out. And the White House is adamant that they will not budge on this issue. And the bottom line is House Republicans say that that's a no-go for them, Joe.

And so the question is, will House Republicans come around on raising tax rates? You know, and, right now, they say they're not going to move on it. And so the White House is sort of holding back and waiting to see if House Republicans move on that one issue. And, right now, they are very far apart because there's no give on that. On the entitlements question, the White House does have to go further than they have gone. They have been willing to give some, but they have to go further. And the White House has indicated if the House Republicans do more in taxes, the White House will do more on entitlements. But they want to see more movement on taxes first. And they're not anywhere on that right now.

JOHNS: Gloria Borger, somebody's got to blink.

BORGER: At the same time together, because everybody knows what the contours of a deal is, you know, more entitlement cuts, revenue increases of some kind. They know that. Get them together in a room. Let them blink at the same time, come out and have a little bit of political courage. Wouldn't that be interesting?

JOHNS: Gloria Borger, Jessica Yellin, thanks so much for that fascinating discussion on a Friday afternoon.

The Palestinian prime minister is in THE SITUATION ROOM today too. I will ask him whether the historic U.N. vote on observer status helps or hurts his people's quest for full statehood.


JOHNS: Despite an overwhelming 138-9 vote at the United Nations to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's status to nonmember observer state, full statehood still may be an elusive dream.

With me to talk about his people's hopes and difficulties is Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He's in Washington to attend the 2012 Saban Forum on U.S./Israel Relations.

It's my understanding that you were against this at first. Is that true? And if so, how do you feel now?

SALAM FAYYAD, PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER: No. I never really was against it. As a matter of fact, I was very much a part of the thinking that diplomatic efforts...


JOHNS: Did you think it was time now or some time down in the future?

FAYYAD: Given the frustrations that we, Palestinians, have had with the political process that has not been productive, there's no question that we really need to pursue any and all available options to us and the international law and current (INAUDIBLE) international diplomacy.

And this was one of them. The question for me all along was how best to do it and that provide us with some leverage going forward, because what we really want at the end of day is a genuine state where our people can live as free people with dignity.

JOHNS: At the end of the -- we were just talking in the break. Does this end up helping or hurting your relationship with the United States, your pursuit of something even more tangible?

FAYYAD: Well, I think it depends a lot on what is done to deal with it in the after, basically, whether or not we want to really spend all the time in the world talking about whether or not we should have gone in the first place, as opposed to really moving on.

And I think that's really key. There's the day after. We are on the day after now. There's a conflict that is yet to be resolved. There's a quest for freedom and justice on the part of our people that's yet to be fulfilled, and without which there's not going to be sustainable peace in the region. That's very important.

JOHNS: The reaction in a lot of ways was visceral. And I just want to show you, which I'm sure you have already seen, some of the comments from Ambassador Susan Rice at the United Nations. Listen.


SUSAN RICE, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Progress towards a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall, nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.

For this reason, today's vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for U.N. membership.


JOHNS: Is this the person you want as United States secretary of state?

FAYYAD: That's not definitely for me to say.

It's the choice of the president of the United States, subject to consent of Senate. And that's -- these are the rules and procedures.

JOHNS: What about John Kerry? You met with John Kerry. He's also been mentioned.

FAYYAD: Yes. And I also met with Susan Rice. And I know John Kerry for many years.

JOHNS: What were those meetings like?

FAYYAD: Good and probing, thorough, deep, yes. Mr. Kerry is someone who has interested in this issue for a long period of time. He visited the region quite often.

JOHNS: You think Kerry would make a good secretary of state?

FAYYAD: He's been extremely extraordinary at whatever it is he did.

And I have reason to believe that he would definitely perform exceptionally well in any position. JOHNS: Speaking of senators, there are some people on Capitol Hill who say one of their major concerns is whether now with this new status, you will go to the International Criminal Court and, for example, try to cite Israel for war crimes. Can you say categorically you won't do that?

FAYYAD: What I can say is I think it really is very important to use what happened yesterday as a building block toward doing that which Susan Rice was talking about yesterday. Yes, you know, by virtue of pushing a button, to say it's not going to happen. But it's the same forum that have given Israel that birth certificate some 65 years ago. And that's exactly what we're looking for.

Now, this is an option. As I said that's available to us, we exercised it. It comes with the possibility of joining a number of treaties, programs --

JOHNS: You might exercise it then? Or you would?

FAYYAD: It is there. And I think to the extent there is concern about this, I think there should be much greater concern with the need for Israel to begin to act in a manner that's consistent with what is required in order to achieve the kind of progress that Ambassador Rice was talking about. And that's really the issue.

JOHNS: So are you prepared then for Israel say to cite the Palestinian Authority with war crimes before the International Criminal Court?

FAYYAD: I think that's part of being a responsible member of the United States. I mean, to act in full accord and conformity with the international law. And that should apply across the board for everybody.

JOHNS: Now, the United States gives something like $500 million in aid to the Palestinians. You get about $100 million in monthly tax revenue from Israel. Both have threatened as a result of this to pull this funding. Do you think that could lead to a collapse of the Palestinian Authority?

FAYYAD: If it were to happen, definitely, it would cripple the Palestinian Authority. Particularly suspension of the transfer of revenues collected by the government of Israel on behalf Palestinian Authority. It's not Israeli money. It's different from U.S. assistance. That's aid. That's U.S. taxpayers' money.

But money that comes to us through the government of Israel is for tax money collected under existing arrangement with the government of Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Of course, if that's what's happened, that would cripple Palestinian Authority.

But one should ask the question, you know, right of birth (ph), Israel's right to actually issue those threats and a lot more exercise it or acting on those threats, what we have done is to seek an option available to us under international law, legitimacy and existing architecture. JOHNS: Now, I know you've heard the reports that Israel is planning to build thousands of new homes in the West Bank. Do you think this is retaliatory?

FAYYAD: It feels that way, although in some important sense a continuation of policy -- long standing policy's been implemented for many, many years. But with the announcement coming one day after we went to the United Nations for that historic vote actually that was taken there -- yes, one cannot be separated from threats issued by the government of Israel before.

Again, instead of really making too much of what it is that was accomplished yesterday, if we view as accomplishment as we do, or expressing concerns, spending too much time complaining about it, I think what is really important is look at the other side and focus on that which has derailed the process and undermined for a long period of time -- besides what you have said, the settlement activity.

JOHNS: What is the next step? What do you think the next step is?

FAYYAD: I think use it as an opportunity and stop worrying about. There are many in Israel who look at it this way, internationally, certain as by the fact that two-thirds of membership of United Nations agreed, 138 members. They can't all be wrong. You know what I'm saying? Having come to the judgment they did.

So instead of really continuing to look at the downside, why not really use it as an opportunity and move forward? The process has not gone as well as it should have, I mean the political process to say the least, the peace process. It's time for that to be righted.

JOHNS: After this last recent unpleasantness, if I can call it that, the Hamas leaders were suggesting that it was Iran who supplied a lot of support to them. Is Iran gaining more of a foothold now in the Palestinian Authority?

FAYYAD: Well, you know, Iran has had ties with some Palestinian factions for some time. That continues to be the case today. It is not fundamental new or any new fundamental in the sense. They've had that kind of relationship, with some factions on the Palestinian scene.

JOHNS: Do you think you could do a better job than Mahmoud Abbas at gaining for negotiating statehood?

FAYYAD: I think the president has really been handling the chores of the president's and his responsibilities, including importantly in the (INAUDIBLE) negotiations, as well as anyone could be expected to do. But the hand that he's been dealt, given, you know, what I have described to you albeit briefly, positions taken by the government of Israel, policies implemented particularly with respect to settlement activity, which everybody agrees, including the U.S. administration, that that is detrimental to the prospects of continued viability of two-state solution.

How can anyone really perform better under those conditions? So, the president has been doing the best he can or anybody can under these conditions.

JOHNS: Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, thank you so much for coming in.

FAYYAD: Thank you.

JOHNS: We have some eerie pictures of what happened today after some derailed train started leaking toxic chemicals. This is in the U.S. We have more details in a minute.

Later, an illegal drug shows promise in helping people cope with post- traumatic stress.


JOHNS: Egypt passes a new draft constitution, but that doesn't mean the country's crisis is over.

Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what do you have?


Well, as hundreds of Egyptians gathered for prayer in Tahrir Square today, protesters vowed to return to the streets. This after an assembly led by Muslim Brotherhood members passed a new constitution to replace the one scrapped in last year's revolution. It still must be approved by Egyptian citizens, many of whom are angry at the government at what they consider to be a power grab President Mohamed Morsy.

And in New Jersey, a train car carrying highly toxic chemicals crashed into a creek near the Delaware River early this morning. It happened after a bridge collapsed. The area was evacuated. And more than 18 people were treated for respiratory issues and exposure to leaking vinyl chloride. It's a known cancer-causing chemical that can cause headaches and dizziness.

And as we head into the holiday shopping season, the top two companies that offer daily deals, well, they've apparently hit a rough economic patch. Living Social announced it is laying off 10 percent of its global workforce. The daily deal leader, Groupon, saw its shares plunge this month after terrible earnings report. One expert says, you know, this field apparently has a few growing pains, Joe.

JOHNS: I would imagine so. But so many people I know have actually gone and gotten the Groupon or whatever and actually went and bought the stuff.

SYLVESTER: I think what a lot of companies are doing is they are just promoting their own ads so they don't have to go through a Groupon or Living Social. If you're going to do 50 percent off, post that on your Facebook or tweet it or something like that.

So, in some ways they can go directly to the public with all of their specials and deals.


SYLVESTER: So, you know, we'll see how it happens. But you're right, Groupon very hugely popular. We've all used it. I've used it. I'm sure you've used it as well.

JOHNS: It's a really interesting business model because after you get the coupon, then you still have to go and get the stuff. I wonder how many people actually do it.

SYLVESTER: Exactly. And that's one of the concerns, is that there are people, you know, you spend all this money getting one of these Groupon deals, but you actually cash it in and you actually get that deal before it expires. We'll see what the future of those companies are, though.

JOHNS: Thanks, Lisa.


JOHNS: President Obama has been barely off the campaign trail for a month. But now, he's back on the road pitching prescriptions for avoiding the fiscal cliff and hoping to pressure the GOP.


JOHNS: Joining me for today's strategy session are Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Paul Begala, along with CNN contributor Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of the conservative political blog,

President Obama went today to Pennsylvania to a toy store, part of his P.R. strategy to try to sell his plans on the fiscal cliff. Now, we know this works well for him in politics. He's won two elections obviously.

But the question really I think today is whether this very same kind of thing is as effective when the president is pushing a policy issue. And I suppose, Paul, I just ought to start with you in that.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it is, Joe. First off, the president, yes, he served in the senate for like 5 minutes, but he's not a creature of Washington or the establishment or the beltway.

He's much better, frankly, and more comfortable in the outside game. In that sense I think he is like other great second-term presidents like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton.

When he gets out there and makes his case in the country, that then reverberates back in the capital. I think it's the best way for him to move these members of Congress.

JOHNS: Erick, the main people he has to talk to here quite frankly are congressional Republicans. Are they somehow going to be swayed after this last election that the president's got the right idea all of a sudden? It doesn't sound right.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don't think so. And to Paul's point interestingly enough, I was struck during the debt ceiling debate that every time the president spoke inside Washington or the White House, his poll numbers went down.

When he got out of Washington and went out into the crowd, his poll numbers would go up saying basically the same thing. So I do think it works for him with the crowd and with the public. But I'm not sure it's going to work with congressional Republicans.

JOHNS: Now Erick, I have to ask you while we have you up there and you knew this was going to come up. There's been some talk about you running for Senate in the state of Georgia to the right perhaps of Senator Saxby Chambliss. The question I think for you is, does that make sense?

There are a lot of people who suggest, look, the Republicans don't have any moderates now. And they're sort of eating their own. Is that the kind of sentiment that brought your name up as running against Saxby Chambliss?

ERICKSON: No, not really. You've got to keep in mind that despite a lot of the narrative out there that people are upset with Saxby because of the Grover Norquist tax pledge, this has been a long time coming. Republicans are ready to bolt on Saxby in 2008 and just throw their hands up in the runoff.

JOHNS: But he's a very conservative senator.

ERICKSON: He's one of the guys between the Democrats getting 60.

JOHNS: He's a very conservative senator.

ERICKSON: Saxby Chambliss is conservative on social issues but a pro- life status. He's very pro-life but for big spending in Washington the whole time he's been there.

JOHNS: So, Paul, this anti-tax business, it sounds like the times are beginning to turn on it.

BEGALA: Well, I think so. First off, Erick, if you want to run, brother I was telling you this off the air. I worked for Zell Miller in Georgia. I love your state.

ERICKSON: Christie likes you. Don't do that, Paul.

BEGALA: But seriously, I actually think it would be a great conversation to have about the future of the party in Georgia, Erick, if you decided to do it. And on this tax question, look, voters are really set. It's about seven out of ten depending on how you ask it who want to see tax rates go up for upper income Americans.

Nobody wants to soak the rich. But the 39.5 percent or so top rate that President Obama wants to return to which we paid under Clinton is very, very popular. Republicans ought not fall on that sword. They should consolidate their gains. You know, the Democrats are now ready to endorse 98 percent of the hated Bush tax cuts. I would call that a win if I were the Republicans and just toss the other 2 percent overboard.

JOHNS: There's also a lot of talk here in Washington, has been for a couple weeks about false confidence, the false confidence that happened at the end of the election there.

The Mitt Romney people pretty much told a lot of us they were confident it was going to be a long night and that they would win. I want to read you something from the "New Republic" about team Romney's internal polling.

Says the biggest flaw in their polling was the failure to predict the demographic composition of the electorate. The people who showed up to vote on November 6 were younger and less white than team Romney anticipated and far more Democratic as a result.

So I want to ask you, Erick, is this sort of a misunderstanding generally that Republicans have to address the next time they go into an election about who the voters are going to the polls?

ERICKSON: I don't think it's just a Republican problem. I think if you look at Rasmussen, Gallup and a number of other pollsters out there, they all got it wrong. I think I was one of the few people on the right saying the polls weren't wrong and eviscerated by friends for saying that. At some point you have to realize the data's not lying.

JOHNS: Let me just say, I want to sort of unravel that a bit. We know Gallup certainly didn't do too well all throughout, but CNN certainly got it right. I think you can say Nate Silver got it right. So there were some people out there who actually got it.

ERICKSON: Absolutely.

JOHNS: So it wasn't everybody, but it was -- you know, in some corners. Paul, what do you say?

BEGALA: Well, it was mostly corners of the far right. Erick was a lonely voice of the reality based conservative movement. This country has changed. You know, back when I worked for Bill Clinton in 1992, 20 years ago, it was the modern era. We had electricity and jet travel, 88 percent, 88 of the electorate that voted for Bill Clinton that voted in the Bush election was 88 percent.

That's dropped to 72 percent. And the Republicans are going to have to adapt. We covered all those primaries, Erick, Joe, you and I we were all over them. And 90, 94 percent, 95 percent of the Republican electorate in those key primaries was white. They cannot survive as a monochromatic party anymore.

JOHNS: Erick Erickson, we've got to go. But for the record, you're not running?

ERICKSON: Absolutely not.

JOHNS: All right, you got it. Thanks so much. Erick Erickson, Paul Begala, appreciate you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This week, two tickets made some champagne wishes and caviar dreams come true. But while we know who holds the golden ticket, the other Powerball winner is a bit of a mystery.


JOHNS: Wednesday's $587 million Powerball drawing left most of us disappointed. But those numbers were a dream come true for two ticketholders. In Missouri, the Hill family was overjoyed by that big win.


CINDY HILL, POWERBALL WINNER: I went by to see what the numbers were and I got back in my car. And I didn't have my glasses and I was thinking, is that the right numbers? Is that the right numbers? And I was shaking and I called my husband. I said I think I'm having a heart attack.


JOHNS: The second ticket is a bit of a mystery. We know it was born in Arizona -- I should say bought. But the winner we think appears on a convenience store surveillance video in Maryland jumping for joy. At least we think that's him.

CNN's Brian Todd is at the store in Upper Marlboro and joins us now -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, we're obviously a long way from where that winning Powerball ticket was bought, but we think the winner may be from this area. And we may have caught a glimpse of him on surveillance video right at this store.


TODD (voice-over): The usual midday buzz at a gas station's convenience store, on surveillance video, the buzz starts really humming. This mystery man at an Exxon Station in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Thursday checks a power ball ticket with the manager, Negassi Ghebre.

(on camera): You're saying?

NEGASSI GHEBRE, MANAGER: I said he got it. That's the right number.

TODD (voice-over): The man may be the Arizona winner of the Powerball drawing. He could be holding a ticket worth nearly $200 million. Customer Bill Kilby was right next to him.

BILL KILBY, WITNESS: I said the winning ticket was from Arizona. He said he got back from there. Said he was in the military. TODD: The winning ticket bought at a convenience store in Phoenix. When he found out back in Maryland, the apparent winner sure made an impression with cashier, Kamran Afgan.

KAMRAN AFGAN, CASHIER: He hit really bad to the counter, said, my God, really hard. I'm scared. I'm scared. I think he have a heart attack.

TODD: Afgan says the man ran out then came back realizing he'd forgotten to get his gas, but who is he? So far we don't have a name.

(on camera): This is the spot where all the excitement took place, the counter, the machine that printed out the ticket where the man checked his numbers. But it's on the surveillance tape where you can pick up a couple more clues about the guy and about his behavior here.

(voice-over): On the video, we see him before he finds out giving some cash to a young man who doesn't have enough for his purchase. We see the man's car pulling out, but can't make out his license plate.

A witness says he may have had a Virginia Department of Transportation logo on the back of his vest. We searched for that logo. Found a pattern that looks to be similar.

A spokeswoman for that agency says it does look like one of their vests, maybe worn by someone in their Safety Service Patrol. But they don't know who this man is. We do know he has a sense of humor.

(on camera): How did his behavior change once he figured out he might have won?

KILBY: I don't know. Last comment I heard is he had enough money to -- I guess he was pretty happy about it.


TODD: Now, again, we can't say with certainty if that was the Arizona winner. An Arizona lottery official just told us that no one has yet come forward to claim the winning ticket. The person has 180 days to do that and has to do it in Arizona or mail it in.

Joe, just for any Arizona lottery officials who may be watching, if you don't need absolute verification, I've got the markings here. Just send it my way if you can.

JOHNS: That's a lot of really fine reporting there on that story, Brian. So number one, Beyonce's married. The other point I think is in Arizona we are likely to find out who the winner is, right?

TODD: That's right. The Arizona lottery official told us that the person can request they don't get publicity over the whole matter, but she says they have a public records law, which says that they have to state who the winner is if that information is requested. And I'm sure once the winner comes through that information will be requested by someone.

JOHNS: Brian Todd reporting, thanks so much for that. Jay-Z, watch out.

There's another big winner in the jackpots. Governments rake in a huge chunk of change, the highest tax rate of 35 percent applies. So each winner will owe $67 million to the IRS if they take a one-time payout. Don't forget state taxes. That state bill could range from $8 million to $11 million. Not that we're likely to hear the winners complaining.

CNN's getting a firsthand look at the dire situation in Aleppo where the fiercest fighting in Syria's civil war took place.

And outrage as victims of Sandy discover there are places for them to stay but nobody told them.


J.R. MARTINEZ: As a burn survivor, you think you're all alone. You think you're the only person that has scars on your face or has, you know, skin grafts on your hands. We all have a story.

I joined the United States Army in 2002 and deployed to Iraq. I was driving a Humvee and when my friend went over a land mine I was in a medically induced coma. By the time I came out third degree burns on my head, face, arms, hands, portion of my back, portion of my legs.

While I was recovering, I remember asking one of the social workers how can I help burn survivors? She said there's a great organization called the Phoenix Society. They're teaching them different ways to kind of cope.

I went to this conference. Everyone had big smiles on their face. I made a choice I was going to be positive every single day and I'm using this positivity to give back to other people.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "AC 360": Please welcome a former U.S. Army soldier and an inspiration to all of us and I hear he's a good dancer, J.R. Martinez.

MARTINEZ: I got involved with CNN Heroes because of my friend who won CNN Hero of 2010. The second time being at the show had the opportunity to present. Please join me in honoring CNN Hero Taren Davis.

This show is literally about highlighting people doing things to help better their communities. They've empowered so many people and saved so many lives. This program highlights the real heroes in this world that said there's a problem, but instead of complaining about the problem, we're going to create the solution.

I love coming to this show, being a part of it because I at the end of the day feel inspired.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHNS: It's been two and a half years since Private Bradley Manning was arrested for his alleged involvement with Wikileaks. Since then we've heard virtually nothing from the man accused of betraying his country until yesterday at a hearing in Maryland.

Today, military prosecutors are grilling him. CNN's Chris Lawrence is keeping an eye on the proceedings from the Pentagon -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Joe. Bradley Manning just wrapped up his time on the stand. And he spent the entire day being cross examined by prosecutors who have been poking holes in the idea that his mistreatment was so bad that he contemplated suicide multiple times when locked up.

They basically went back to a key incident in what happened to him while he was at Quantico where he had to stand at parade rest naked. Prosecutors went back and went back to this incident. And Bradley Manning had to admit that he had made a statement, something to the effect of, you know, hanging himself with his underwear.

That was the reason they took off his clothes. But then further more he had a blanket over him and that he thought from what the guard said he had to drop that blanket and stand there naked.

But he admitted that the guards never actually gave him an order to drop the blanket and that in subsequent days, they brought his clothes with his meal tray and gave him adequate time to get dressed before standing before attention like he was called to do.

So all of this, Joe, is really playing out under a bigger picture, which is Bradley Manning's team trying to show that his mistreatment is grounds for getting credit -- extra credit for the time that he's already been locked up.

There was a precedent about 12 years ago in which an airman got three days credit for every day he was locked up because he was mistreated. Bradley Manning's team is attempting to get about ten days credit for everyone.

That could work out to up to seven years off his sentence if he's found guilty or if he cops a plea -- Joe.

JOHNS: So that's huge. That would be a huge difference in the possible sentence he might end up serving, right?

LAWRENCE: Exact -- well, it depends, Joe, if you're talking about a life sentence, seven years off life is not a big deal. But if you're talking about the plea deal that's been put forth or been talked about so far, which is about 16 years, up to six or seven years off that is pretty significant.

JOHNS: That's for sure. Thanks so much, Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon.

Heavy fighting is reported in Syria's capital. As much of that country remains cut off from the outside world. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Joe. Well, the opposition says fierce clashes forced Damascus International Airport to close for a second straight day and that internet access to more than 90 percent of the country remains shut off.

These claims follow reports of Syrian government forces trying to seize control of rebel dominated areas of the capital city raising questions about whether the regime is losing control there.

And what so many New Yorkers still suffering after Superstorm Sandy, the mayor is on the hot seat for buying hotel rooms intended for storm victims but sit vacant, more than 100 in fact.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the rooms were booked as a precaution but haven't been needed so far. Some displaced victims say they didn't know these rooms were available.

OK, and you know you love them. The hit songs from Michael Jackson's "Thriller," well, that album remains the bestselling of all time when the king of pop released it 30 years ago today.

Hits such as "Beat It" and "Belly Jean" change the way we look at music videos and influenced a whole generation of artists. Jackson as we all know he died back in 2009 at the age of 50. Imagine that? That album is 30 years old now.

JOHNS: It doesn't even seem possible that's still the bestselling album of all times after all these years.

SYLVESTER: Three decades later so what was your favorite song from there?

JOHNS: "Thriller" I think or "Billy Jean" was on that too.

SYLVESTER: I know. There are a lot. You're like I love "Thriller" and realize there are so many other good ones too. Good stuff.

JOHNS: Thanks, Lisa.

Doctors have found a good use for an otherwise illegal drug. Details next.


JOHNS: The nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety of PTSD are tough to treat. New research is pointing in a surprising direction to the drug known as "Ecstasy." Here's Sanjay Gupta.


RACHEL HOPE, SUFFERED POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (voice-over): Some part of you is on guard. It just wouldn't stop. I couldn't shut it down.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Rachel Hope, the mental agony began in childhood when she says she was abused and raped at age 4. As a grown-up, the smallest trigger, like a familiar smell even, would bring it all back.

HOPE: I would get very extreme stabbing sensations in my body, you know, and then, like, fixed vision -- visuals, like being, for instance, raped.

GUPTA: Mental breakdowns, four hospitalizations, and along the way Rachel tried almost every treatment in the book.

HOPE: I tried NDR, rapid eye movement therapy, hypnosis, g gestalt, yell it out, scream it out, nothing worked.

GUPTA: And then she discovered an experiment, run by Dr. Michael Mithoefer. He is a psychiatrist in Charleston, South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the place where we do the study. This is where we meet with people and this is where we do the MDMA sessions.

GUPTA: Intense psychotherapy, including eight-hour sessions after taking a capsule of MDMA, of Ecstasy. Listen closely you can hear Rachel along with Dr. Mithoefer.

HOPE: I felt as if my whole brain was powered up like a Christmas tree, all at once, boom!

DR. MICHAEL MITHOEFER, CONDUCTED MDMA/ECSTASY STUDY: Sometimes usually people did have some very positive affirming experiences, but a lot of the time it was revisiting the trauma. It was painful, difficult experience, but the MDMA seemed to make it possible for them to do it effectively.

GUPTA: Within weeks, Rachel says, about 90 percent of her symptoms were gone.

HOPE: I don't scream. I don't have flashbacks anymore.

GUPTA: And in results just published, Dr. Mithoefer says that 14 of 19 patients were dramatically better more than three years later.

MITHOEFER: The question is, OK, was this just a flash in the pan? Did people just feel good from taking a drug? So the answer to that turned out to be, no, it wasn't just a flash in the pan for most people.

GUPTA: Now, of course, 19 people, is still just a tiny study, but it is getting attention. Loree Sutton was the Army's top psychiatrist until she retired in 2010.

BRIG. GENERAL LOREE SUTTON (RETIRED): I've certainly reviewed it, and the results look promising. It's, like, with the rest of science, we'll apply the rigor, we'll follow where the data leaves. We'll leave our politics at the door.

GUPTA (on camera): Point out that none of this means that street Ecstasy is safe, apart from being illegal. You don't know what you're getting. It's often contaminated. Pure MDMA can cause a higher body temperature, it can cause dehydration.

There's also cases where people overcompensate and actually die from drinking too much water. But in a controlled setting, which is what we're talking about here, the evidence does seem to suggest that it can be safe.

(voice-over): Similar studies are under way in Europe and Canada and Mithoefer is halfway through a study offering this treatment to combat veterans, firefighters and police officers.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.