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Unruly Airline Passenger Duct-taped to Seat; A Look at Latest Jobs Numbers; Former Troubleshooter Heads Back to North Korea; White House: Expect Hagel Nomination; Malala Leaves the Hospital

Aired January 4, 2013 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A stunning Facebook picture is now going viral. It shows an airline passenger duct taped to his seat. It may sound like an unusual way to restrain an unruly passenger, but for one airline being prepared for something like this is a standard procedure.

CNN's Sandra Endo is joining us now with details. What happened, Sandra?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is how they dealt with a disruptive passenger on one Iceland Air flight yesterday. All they needed was some heavy duty tape and plastic ties.

Iceland Air said on a flight to New York, a disruptive male passenger was hitting and streaming and spitting at other passengers while yelling profanities. But the airline said the unruly and threatening passenger was restrained by others on board.

Here's a picture posted on Facebook of the disruptive passenger. He was wrapped up in tape and bound with plastic ties in his seat. Iceland Air said he was monitored for his own safety for the duration of the flight and was met by authorities at JFK Airport.

The Port Authority police in New York said the man was apparently drunk and was not charged with any crime, but was taken to an area hospital. The person who posted the picture on Facebook was a friend of one of the passengers on board and said the unruly passenger bought a duty-free bottle of liquor and drank it on the flight.

Iceland Air confirmed to CNN that duct tape and plastic zip ties are standard protocol when restraining a passenger, saying, "Yes, this equipment is on board all flights in case an incident like this arises." Now, according to an official familiar with U.S. airline security, flight attendants are trained to try to diffuse unruly passengers. But if that's not successful, they're supposed to identify three able-bodied volunteers to restrain the person and provide them with tough cuffs or flexi cuffs that are on U.S. aircraft. And an insider said that he had never heard of a U.S. airline keeping duct tape for this purpose, but noted that duct tape is not a prohibited item -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sandy Endo, thank you.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, he's rescued Americans in trouble all over the world, but the State Department isn't pleased with Bill Richardson's upcoming trip to North Korea. I'll ask him why.

A huge step forward for the Pakistani girl who spoke out for education and was shot in the head by the Taliban.

And paranoia, hallucinations and violence -- part of a U.S. Navy video warning sailors about the dangers of the drugs known as bath salts.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

He's won the release of captive Americans in some of the world's most dangerous hot spots. Bill Richardson has been a diplomatic trouble shooter as a congressman, a United Nations ambassador and governor of New Mexico.

Now, the former governor is making another high profile trip to North Korea, where another American is in serious trouble. And in a surprising twist, Richardson will be joined by the Google chairman, Eric Schmidt.

The State Department isn't pleased, saying the timing is not great given North Korea's recent rocket launch.

BLITZER: And joining us now is Governor Bill Richardson.

So, Governor, how come you're going against the wishes of the State Department and heading off to North Korea?

BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Well, I understand why they're cautious. This is a very sensitive time in diplomacy with North Korea. We're not happy with what the North Koreans have been doing.

But I'm a private citizen. This is a private humanitarian mission. We postponed at their request once, right before the South Korean elections, and there never seems to be a -- a good time to go.

In the past, I've postponed visits to North Korea at their request, but I felt that this time, because of the humanitarian nature of the trip, the fact that there is an American detainee there. I heard from the son of the detainee, Kenneth Bae.

I think it's important that we go. It's a brief visit. Eric Schmidt is going as a private citizen. This is not a Google visit.

And -- and so I hope the State Department, uh, appropriately, uh, cautious, but, obviously, they're -- they've got a little bit of concern.

But we're going to be fine.

BLITZER: So one of your goals is to bring home this American citizen who's been detained in North Korea, is that right?

RICHARDSON: Well, our goals are, uh, several. The primary mission is humanitarian. We're going to look at the human situation in North Korea. They're the poorest nation in the world. The detainee issue is another one. We're going to try to see the detainee. I think it's going to be difficult to bring him back because the judicial process there hasn't -- hasn't even commenced.

Third, we're going to, obviously, talk about some of the nuclear issues. I'm very concerned about a possible nuclear test, concerned about recent actions by the North Koreans.

But these are unofficial. This is not, in any representation, from the Department of State or the administration. It's a two to three day visit. And we hope to come back, as I have over the years, the last 15 years, I've had success in negotiating with the North Koreans.

BLITZER: Any chance that you'll meet with the new leader there, Kim Jong Un?

RICHARDSON: Very doubtful. I think they have the leadership of their country meet only with appropriate government leadership from other countries. So because this is a private visit, I don't believe we'll meet with them.

But we will meet with a variety of officials from the foreign ministry, from the economic ministry, from the military. It'll be a -- a wide-ranging visit, where we get a chance not only to talk to a number of North Korean officials, but also to get a chance to -- to look at the humanitarian situation there.

BLITZER: I know you have had a chance to review Kim Jong Un's speech that he gave on New Year's Eve. And I'm getting sort of conflicting interpretations.

Is he trying to reach out to South Korea?

Is he trying to reach out to the West?

Is there a moderation in North Korea's position?

Is it the same old, same old?

What do you think?

RICHARDSON: Well, I -- I'm getting mixed messages. This is why we wanted to go and get an on-hand assessment.

On the one hand, his New Year's Eve speech talks about a dialogue with South Korea. That's good, because I think the new South Korean president is ready to engage.

Secondly, these launches that they've undertaken are not conducive to six party talks, to negotiations, to the international community feeling comfort with discussing issues with North Korea.

It seems that the new leader is trying to strengthen himself domestically with his own people. The fact that the launch a year ago failed, now it succeeded, and so that buttresses him internally.

Plus, internationally, you know how the North Koreans are. They always like to send a message, hey, we're around. We're players. We have nuclear weapons. The international community should pay attention to us.

BLITZER: When I was there with you two years ago, almost exactly two years ago, it was a very tense time on the Korean Peninsula. There had been military exchanges between North and South Korea, as you well remember, and as I certainly remember.

How would you describe the situation on the Korean Peninsula now, as compared to then?

RICHARDSON: Well, it's still very tense. Obviously, these launches have provoked a lot of concern. The possibility of a nuclear test have provoked even more concern. The Security Council is considering additional sanctions.

So the situation is very tense.

The U -- the relationship between North Korea and South Korea, if what the new leader has talked about, which is a dialogue, maybe things are calming down a bit. Maybe there is an opportunity for a new dialogue. There's a new leader in North Korea and a new leader in South Korea.

So, hopefully, this is going to be the key, how the two Koreas work with each other.

But I just do think that the six party countries -- Russia, China, the U.S., Japan, South Korea -- I think perhaps a new approach is needed in dealing with North Korea. I'm -- I'm very concerned about North Korea's recent actions. But -- but a new kind of dialogue, perhaps, is needed.

But again, I'm on a private humanitarian mission. I'm not representing the U.S. government. Eric Schmidt is going, also, as a private citizen, not as a Google representative. We'll make an assessment and see what comes of our visit...

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE).

RICHARDSON: -- but I think it will be a positive visit.

BLITZER: And your -- your -- your North Korean adviser, Tony Namkung, he's going along on this trip, as well. He's been there many, many times.

RICHARDSON: That's right. Tony Namkung is joining us. Uh, he is an expert on North Korea. He knows Asia very well. And -- and so it will be an interesting team.

BLITZER: Hey, Governor, be safe over there and we'll stay in close touch.

Good luck.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

Thank you very much.

All right, we're getting more information now on who might -- might be the next secretary of Defense in the United States.

Gloria Borger has been working her sources. A lot of speculation about Chuck Hagel, the former senator.

What's going on?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I've been told that the White House has actually told some senior members of Congress, Wolf, to expect the nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense. That could come, potentially, early next week.

Now, the White House as you've reported and I -- as I've reported it, has said that the president hasn't checked the box yet. He is on vacation in Hawaii, as we know.

But I have been told that these senior members up in Congress -- of Congress -- have been told that they should expect the nomination of Chuck Hagel.

BLITZER: He was a Republican senator from Nebraska for many, many years. Very close to Joe Biden when he was a senator from Delaware. I remember way back in...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- what was it, December 2002, just before the war in Iraq. I was reporting from Qatar, where the U.S. military had maneuvers. And all of a sudden Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden had been in Kurdistan, in Northern Iraq, showed up in Qatar. They were on the air with me. But I could see they had a very, very strong relationship.

BORGER: They -- they have a very strong relationship. I've also been told that Joe Biden is somebody who's kind of tried to pave the way for Chuck Hagel, very much been in favor of this nomination. I've also been told that Hagel has been privately working the Hill, trying to clear his own path toward the nomination.

As you know, there has been some controversy about Chuck Hagel, not the least of which is, in the past, he's been against sanctions for Iran, has been for talking to Hamas. And there are some people who believe that, in fact, he's a little too dovish to lead the Pentagon.

There is a question out there, of course, of what -- whether any Republican would actually put a hold on the nomination. That...

BLITZER: And some Republicans have already said they'll vote against him. BORGER: That -- yes. But putting a hold on it, it is a -- you know, would be a very rare thing. And I think that the White House would not be about to nominate him if they didn't think that he could actually make it through the Senate.

So, again, what we're learning tonight is that the White House has actually told some senior members of Congress to expect the nomination of Hagel.

BLITZER: Yes. I think he'll have a tough confirmation process. He'll be asked some serious questions. I suspect he'll be confirmed when all is -- assuming the president really wants him. And I...

BORGER: Right. (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: -- I think the president does. He -- Chuck Hagel did endorse the president in 2008 and...

BORGER: Which...

BLITZER: -- obviously, in 2012.

BORGER: -- which created a bit of consternation for John McCain, who had been very, very close to Chuck Hagel in the Senate, as fellow Republicans. So I think that -- that I think -- that they have a distance to go, not only with Republicans, by the way, but with some Democrats, who really are feeling the heat from the pro-Israel lobby, who will not support Chuck Hagel.

But again, this is also somebody -- not only is Joe Biden comfortable with Chuck Hagel, but the president himself knows Chuck Hagel well because he serves on his intelligence advisory board. So it's clear that they've established a relationship, as well.

BLITZER: All right. So the word that -- basically the headline out of what we were just talking about is that members of Congress are being informally notified, get ready...

BORGER: Some senior members have been...

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: -- have been told. Yes.

BLITZER: They've been told get ready for a Hagel nomination.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Although, I've got to, as I said -- I pointed out in the last hour...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- we got an e-mail from a White House source, "POTUS hasn't offered the job to anyone."

I guess maybe that's just a technical...

BORGER: Well, that may be true.

BLITZER: -- formally he hasn't been nominated, but he's been thoroughly vetted, I'm sure.

BORGER: That may be true. But if they're being told informally this is going to happen, it's because members of Congress have to prepare.

BLITZER: Good. All right, good work, Gloria.

BORGER: Thanks.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Other news we're following, a big breakthrough for a Pakistani girl who spoke out for female education in her native Pakistan, gaining the hatred of the Taliban. Several months ago, gunmen shot her in the head.

Since then, she's been a symbol of courage. And now she's left a British hospital.

Here's our CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the first steps toward recovery for this 15-year-old Pakistani campaigner for girls education, Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head, of course, by Taliban gunmen back in October, after sharply criticizing their ban on female education.

Really heartwarming, though, to see her make such great progress.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (voice-over): Holding the hand of a nurse, made her own way out of the hospital where she's been treated for her traumatic injuries. She even managed to wave at the staff as she was discharged.

A hospital statement said, "Malala is a strong young woman and has worked hard with the people caring for her to make excellent progress in her recovery."

Doctors say she may benefit from being with her family, but will need to be readmitted for reconstructive surgery on her skull in several weeks. This recovery is far from complete.

From the early age of 11, has been an outspoken campaigner for female education in her native Swat Valley region of Pakistan, criticizing the Taliban, who banned schooling for girls.

She was shot in the head and neck in October after her school bus was stopped by Taliban gunmen, who demanded the other children identify her.

The attack outraged Pakistan, provoking calls for a crackdown on militants. It also made Malala, who was evacuated to Britain for medical treatment, an international symbol of courage.

Hundreds of thousands have signed a petition for her to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAISTA GOHIR, MUSLIM WOMEN'S NETWORK: Although there's activists around the world who are being subjected to violence all the time and are speaking out about their rights, she was a child speaking out about her rights in a very, very difficult context. She spoke out, knowing that she actually could be subjected to violence, and what makes it even more interesting is that she had the support of her family, particularly, her father to actually speak out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The now vote, the focus is on her first steps. Malala's father has been given a job at Pakistan's consulate in Birmingham allowing the family to stay in Britain for the years of therapy and medical treatment that now lie ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (on-camera): Wolf, that job is for a period of at least three years with the possibility of an extension after that according to Pakistani officials, which means that Malala and her family may well decide to stay in the relative security of Britain for the foreseeable future. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you, Matthew.

The jobs market here in the United States holding steady, but for millions of Americans, that's not nearly good enough. We have more on what's going on, also some tips that may help you if you're looking for work.

And shark fin soup is a delicacy in parts of Asia, but there is now graphic new evidence that it may play a role in the stunning decline of the shark population.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The December jobs report is now out, and the cup is either half empty or half full depending on whether you're working or still looking for work. CNN business correspondent, Christine Romans, shows us where the jobs are and aren't.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This is a job market that is treading water. The economy creating enough jobs to, well, bring in new people into the workforce, but not enough to meaningfully lower the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate unchanged as was the underemployment rate, 14.4 percent. Those are people who are working part-time but would like to be working full time, people who basically are discouraged workers.

That's the unemployed plus these other groups and that sometimes is called the real unemployment rate and it has been a problem. Let's take a look at where the jobs are being created and lost, government jobs. Almost all of these government jobs lost were in schools, local schools, but you saw jobs created and health care once again, also, leisure and hospitality.

That's, you know, food and restaurants, drinking establishments and restaurants, also manufacturing jobs, 25,000 jobs created there. We also saw jobs created in construction. That's most likely related to rebuilding after hurricane Sandy, but also, we've had a little bit of a housing recovery that could be some of those jobs as well. When you look within the worker groups, you see for Whites and Hispanics, basically, unchanged unemployment.

But African-American unemployment, unfortunately, ticked up in the month from 13.2 percent to 14 percent. And you can see the disparity between these different worker groups. That has been a problem with the great recession just made worse. Here is the trend over the past year. You can't just look at one month. You must look at the trend.

You can see we had a rough go in the spring and summer, but since then, we have been putting up these months of triple-digit jobs gains, not enough, as I said, to meaningfully lower the unemployment rate, but showing that businesses are hiring. The question is, if you can get past the budget wars (ph) into the New Year, will companies feel more confident to put up better numbers than that?

Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The job market may have stabilized and even turned a corner, but it remains very bleak out there for a lot of Americans. There are some things you can do to stand out from the crowd. CNNs Tom Foreman takes a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roughly 12 million Americans are without work. Nearly five million for a half year or more. So, career counselors across the country are starting 2013 with a clear message. Keep hanging on.

ROSEMARY HAEFNER, V.P. CAREERBUILDER.COM: It's not something that we would all like, but you know, it's incredibly competitive right now whether you're working or not working. And I think that individuals who have that advantage of having employment right now should make sure they're taking full advantage of that.

FOREMAN: That, they say, means three things. First, ask for opportunity. Build your professional network inside and outside of your office. Workers who go unnoticed are often the first to go out the door.

TRACEY WILEN-DAUGENTI, APOLLO RESEARCH INSTITUTE: They don't raise their hand. They don't raise their hand for the difficult projects. They don't ask for lateral moves. They don't ask for more responsibilities. They don't join teams. These are things that companies look for for people for the longer haul.

FOREMAN: She works for the Apollo Research Institute which promotes further education and that's what many job advisors say is the second key, take advantage of every training opportunity.

HAEFNER: Good times or tough times are always should be looking at how you're going to be developing and growing your skills, whether for your current employer or your current position, or perhaps, it's something, you know, down the road.

FOREMAN: And lastly -- unlike the unhappy guys in the movie "Office Space," embrace all sorts of technology.

WILEN-DAUGENTI: By the year 2020, over 75 percent of jobs will have a technology component. And I think that's very important for people to understand for longevity and for employment of the future.

FOREMAN (on-camera): Staying employed this year will be easier in some fields than in others, of course. For example, jobs in health care and business services like sales are expected to be plentiful.

(voice-over) And, as 2013 goes on, the job market is predicted to pick up steam, setting the stage for better days in the next New Year.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A pilot prepared to fly a plane full of passengers to New York is pulled from the cockpit for smelling like alcohol. We're following the development. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A new report gives a boost to the controversial keystone oil pipeline. Kate Bolduan is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Keystone Pipeline, it's back, Wolf. Regulators in Nebraska conducted a review of the 1,700-mile pipeline which would run from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. According to Reuters, the report says the proposed new route avoids many of the sensitive areas that caused environmental concern.

The review has been sent to Nebraska's governor who has 30 days now to make a final recommendation to the government. An American Eagle pilot was arrested for attempting to fly a plane from Minnesota to New York while under the influence. The pilot was preparing for take-off this morning when someone smelled alcohol on his breath. No passengers were on board at the time, fortunately. Police arrested him after he failed a breathalyzer test. The alcohol limit for flying is 0.04 percent. He's off the job, obviously, while they investigate the incident.

First, it was actor, Gerard Depardieu, now, French actress, Brigitte Bardot, wants to leave France for Russia. The animal rights activist has threatened to apply for Russian citizenship if authorities do not reverse a decision to euthanize two sick elephants at a French zoo. Russia just offered citizenship to Depardieu who is angry over high taxes in France. Wolf, you might be next getting these offers from Russia.

BLITZER: I'm not going.

BOLDUAN: You not go?

BLITZER: I love the United States. My dad always said, you make the money, you pay the taxes.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: That's the way it is. You got to do it.

BOLDUAN: Your dad is a very smart man.

BLITZER: Yes, he was. Thank you.

President Obama just did something that he once blasted President Bush for doing, and as a constitutional scholar, he may be taking heat from constitutional scholars.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama this week did something he once slammed his predecessor for doing. Listen to then candidate Senator Barack Obama back in 2008 criticizing President Bush for signing a bill while adding a statement that he doesn't intend to execute parts of the legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he's going along. I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for 10 years. I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We're not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But the president used the signing statement. He signed the Defense Authorization Act this week while adding that so-called signing statement, noting that he disagreed with key parts of the bill.

Earlier the White House said that if the bill was presented for his approval, the president's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill. Veto the bill.

Joining us now to explain what's going on. The constitutional law professor John Harrison of the University of Virginia, he served at both the Justice and State Departments.

Professor Harrison, thanks very much for coming in. Explain quickly to us what a signing statement really is.

PROF. JOHN HARRISON, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW: A signing statement is a document the president issues when he signs a bill into law that takes positions about -- sometimes on what the bill means and here about the possibility that some parts of the bill might be unconstitutional because they invade the president's constitutional powers and saying that the president therefore will not carry out the parts he thinks are unconstitutional.

BLITZER: In this particular case, the president didn't like a clause in the legislation that he signed into law that really prevents the U.S. from bringing suspected terrorists being held in Afghanistan or Guantanamo Bay to the United States. So he signs this signing statement so what does that mean? Does that mean he doesn't have to obey that part of the now law?

HARRISON: Well, his position is that he does not have to and he's not going to because that part of the law is unconstitutional. So it's very much like what a court does when the court says that part of a federal statute is unconstitutional and the court doesn't carry it out for that reason.

BLITZER: A lot of groups including the American Bar Association say that's inappropriate. They argue that using these signing statements by presidents, that in and of itself isn't necessarily constitutional. Where do you stand on this?

HARRISON: My view is that if the president thinks that a provision of a statute is unconstitutional, then the Constitution says it is not law, and so I think he doesn't have to carry it out. So I agree with the presidents of both parties who have done this.

BLITZER: Because he did issue a memorandum after he took office on March 9th, 2009, despite what he had said railing against President Bush as a candidate. He did issue a statement. "I will issue signing statements to address constitutional concerns only when it is appropriate to do so as a means of discharging my constitutional responsibilities."

As you know he is being accused of being hypocritical.

HARRISON: Well, it is a position that presidents have long taken and in the statement of the president's that you played a few minutes ago, he said he would abide by the Constitution. And if you think that the Constitution really does nullify statutes that improperly invade executive power, then what the president is doing is consistent with the Constitution.

BLITZER: Because as a candidate, and we played that clip, he specifically said, I'm not going to use signing statements as a way to do an end run around of Congress. That's a pretty specific statement. Has he flipped from that position that he took as a candidate?

HARRISON: I would say, strictly speaking he has not, although the implication that you would take from what he said back when he was a candidate was that he wouldn't do things like this. But there's a reasonable interpretation according to which he hasn't really changed his position, though, it does require some close reading of what he said.

BLITZER: It does require some close reading indeed, because to the average person, it sounds like he's changed his mind, which is not unusual because when you're a senator or a candidate, you have different responsibilities than when you're actually president of the United States, and a lot of presidents learned that the hard way.

When he was a senator, for example, he voted against raising the debt ceiling. He's now accepted that was a mistake. He regrets that. Now he doesn't even want to talk to Congress about negotiating over raising the debt ceiling. So the bottom line is when you're a president. That's your experience as well.

HARRISON: That are is unquestionably the case. And when somebody becomes president, he suddenly thinks more about the authority of the president. And so it's not surprising that on positions like this. Presidents, again of both parties, take positions that support their constitutional authority as they see them, whatever they may have said before they took that office.

BLITZER: And even though the law that he signs specifically bars prisoners from leaving Guantanamo Bay to come to the United States, if he were to do so, that would, I assume, set up a constitutional crisis.

HARRISON: It certainly would set up a confrontation between Congress and the president. There's no question about it. My suspicion is that, that is unlikely, but the president's position raises the possibility.

BLITZER: Yes. He said he wanted to get those prisoners out of Guantanamo Bay, close it in the first year. He's now in his -- beginning his fifth year as president and still hasn't happened. We'll see where this takes us over the next term of the president. Let's see what happens.

Professor, thanks very much for joining us.

HARRISON: My pleasure.

BLITZER: The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a heartbreaking custody battle over a 3-year-old Cherokee girl, which concerns both the rights of adoptive parents and the preservation of Native American families.

CNN's crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns is here with details on this case.

And it's a pretty amazing case when you think about it. A lot of heart-wrenching going on.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, Wolf. It absolutely pulls at your emotional heartstrings. No matter whose side you're on, the child known as baby Veronica is a 3-year-old caught in the middle of a legal tug-of-war between her biological father Dustin Brown and her adopted parents, the Capobianco. Veronica was adopted under unusual circumstances and many of the facts are in dispute.

The story starts with the pregnancy of an unmarried couple. The mother wanted to put the child up for adoption. Once she was born she did. The father also signed a waiver giving up his parental rights. But Brown says he didn't know what he was signing and the other side says he did not acknowledge that the child was his until after the child was adopted.

Brown says he wasn't made aware of the adoption until days before he was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. army. So he had a lot going on at the time. But what's driven this case all the way to the Supreme Court is the fact that the father is Native American, Cherokee to be exact. And because the child is part Cherokee, as a federal law from 1978 called the Indian Child Welfare Act that applies to the case that says in custody disputes over Native American children, preference should be given to family members, members of the tribe.

So in this case the family went to court to demand the child back. The father, specifically, which he did successfully. The Cherokee nation is backing the father 100 percent. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TODD HEMBREE, CHEROKEE, NATION ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's not anyone's ever intent to rip a child away from a loving home, but we want to make sure those loving homes have the opportunity to be Indian homes first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Adoptive parents have taken the case all the way to the nation's highest court. They are saying it ought to count for something that the child was not even with the father when she was adopted and that the precept ought to apply here. That is the best interest of the child, not a law that treats Native American children differently than other races.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT CAPOBIANCO, LOST CUSTODY OF CHILD: I understand the reason for the law. It's just being misused. Incredibly misused. In our case it just doesn't apply. She wasn't taken from an Indian home. Any other situation there wouldn't have been any contest.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHNS: So there you have it. The case is likely to be heard in April or thereabouts, and probably decided in June -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Were you surprised the Supreme Court decided to hear this case? They don't hear every case.

JOHNS: Absolutely. I was surprised because, you know, you don't see a lot of custody cases, before the court but this is very unique and very narrow. And it also implicates this law involving Indian children that treats them differently than other children of other races who might be adopted.

BLITZER: It's going to be an interesting case. Let us see what the Supreme Court justices decide.

Joe, thank you.

In the wake of deadly salmonella outbreaks, the Food and Drug administration is dishing out some new rules to make sure our food here in the United States is safe.

CNN's Athena Jones has the details of the proposed regulations.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. These regulations are designed to save lives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (voice-over): Listeria in cantaloupes. Salmonella in peanut butter. E. coli in lettuce. Foodborne illnesses strike 1 in 6 American every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nearly 130,000 of them end up in the hospital and some 3,000 die.

New rules proposed today are aimed at changing that. They're being applauded by food safety advocates.

CHRIS WALDROP, CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA: This is a really important step toward developing food safety standards that would prevent contamination in food whether it's being produced in a food factory or being produced on the farm.

JONES: The rules would require many domestic and foreign producers of food to be sold in the U.S. to develop plans to prevent their foods from causing foodborne illnesses and to correct any problems that do arise. The rules also set standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables making sure workers wash their hands, for example.

It would focus on high-risk areas like agricultural water, equipment and keeping domesticated and wild animals out of fields.

WALDROP: What these rules are going to look at are microbial hazards so they're looking at the pathogens that caused people to get sick when their food is contaminated so things like E. coli, listeria, salmonella, those types of foodborne illnesses. JONES: The goal is to make it easier for producers to track down the cause of problems should they occur and help the FDA ask more quickly to shut them down. The agency says these rules build on existing voluntary industry guidelines. They won't be final until sometime after the four-month period allowed for public comment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Now the big issue here, food advocate say, is making sure the FDA has enough resources to be able to enforce these rules once they become final. That means money for things like inspectors -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena Jones, thank you.

The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, is going to dramatic lengths right now to warn sailors against using bath salts. Coming up, the disturbing video the Navy hopes will scare them straight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A dramatic public service announcement by the U.S. Navy about the dangers of bath salts. It's hoping the PSA will scare sailors away from the synthetic drug.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is joining us now with a disturbing video.

What's going on here, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some people say that the Navy went way too far with this PSA, but when you look at the effects of this drug, maybe not. Now normal urinalysis won't detect bath salts, but just this week the Navy started testing sailors and Marines specifically for the drug.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): It's a shocking video in which an actor plays an American sailor high on bath salts. He sees other sailors as demons and punches his girlfriend. He gets wheeled into the ER pinned down by paramedics.

LT. GEORGE LOEFFLER, NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER: Bath salts not only will jack up your family and your career. It will jack up your mind and your body, too.

LAWRENCE: The Navy is increasing efforts to warn sailors after military doctors started seeing more cases.

These bath salts don't have anything to do with therapy, but the salts you use at home.

DR ALEXANDER GARRARD, UPSTATE NEW YORK POISON CENTER: What we're talking about here are very potent synthetic drugs that are probably synthesized somewhere overseas, we think possibly China.

LAWRENCE: Dr. Alex Garrard has seen dozens of cases firsthand.

GARRARD: People act very primal. Primal instincts, animalistic behavior.

LAWRENCE: He's seen users who think they have super human strength and are almost impossible to subdue.

GARRARD: So that's where we see things, you know, like the ripping out, you know, the taser wires. They're impervious to pain. They don't really feel anything.

LAWRENCE: Why are bath salts popular with troops? They're sold under catchy names like Bolivian Bath or Vanilla Sky. A packet only costs $25 to $50.

GARRARD: It's cheap, perhaps sometimes cheaper than other drugs on the street. You can get it from the head shops, smoke shops, so it's readily available.

LAWRENCE: You can inject or snort it, smoke it or swallow. And it doesn't pop positive on a normal urinalysis. In 2011, an Army sergeant killed himself, his wife, and young son while he was high on bath salts. The Naval Academy kicked out 16 midshipmen for using another synthetic drug Spice.

The military started random testing for synthetics last year, but it's hard to keep up with the science.

GARRARD: With all the drug dealers, the chemist have to do is manipulate the molecule every so slightly. You have a new drug, a new chemical that kind of flies under the radar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: In fact, since the U.S. government banned the two main chemicals that were used in bath salts, another chemical called naphyrone has started showing up and it's 10 times as potent than cocaine. So while the Navy has started testing for bath salts, it's going to be tough to stay ahead of this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's pretty shocking stuff. Chris Lawrence, thank you.

A disturbing discovery on a Hong Kong rooftop. It looks like some sort of decoration, but it's actually thousands upon thousands of shark fins. And it has animal activists outraged. Details coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The town of Steubenville, Ohio, has been thrown into the spotlight. Media attention is increasing over an alleged rape involving a 16-year-old girl and two local high school football players.

Sixteen-year-olds Trent Mays and Mali'k Richmond are charged with raping the girl at back-to-school parties in August. Their trial is set to begin on February 13th. Of course the boys are innocent until they're proven guilty.

In the meantime, though, as CNN's Poppy Harlow reports, the town of Steubenville is dealing with what many residents say is a cloud over their community.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERRY BARILLA, BUSINESS OWNER: This is 55. This is 47.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 72 years, Jerry Barilla has called the small town of Steubenville, Ohio, home.

BARILLA: Steubenville, I'm associated with. I grew up there, I went to school there.

HARLOW (on camera): Football is big here, right?

BARILLA: Football is big here.

HARLOW: How big?

BARILLA: Well, it's our hopes and our dreams were in football.

HARLOW (voice-over): This success of Steubenville High's Big Red football team is a bright spot, he says, in a town whose economy has been hurting ever since the decline of the steel mills.

TOM VENDITTI, COMMUNITY MEMBER: Big Red football is, you know, equivalent to NFL.

HARLOW (on camera): Really?

VENDITTI: I mean, literally.

HARLOW: But with two Big Red football players charged with rape in August and increasing social media attention since then, many in this town feel under fire.

(On camera): What has this done to the town of Steubenville?

BARILLA: Well, it has put a cloud over the city. And I feel really it's unjustified. The buzz that keeps coming about is that Steubenville is a bad place, things are being covered up, more people should be arrested. And I feel that's all unjustly so.

HARLOW (on camera): Activist hacker group Anonymous and others have suggested more students may have taken part in the alleged assault or that authorities went easy on the football players, though two have been arrested and charged with rape.

(On camera): Who do you feel like is saying this whole town now has a black eye is bad? Who do you feel like is saying that?

BARILLA: I think one of the things of mind is the Internet --

HARLOW: Certainly gone viral? BARILLA: Yes. And I think things start to snowball.

HARLOW: Has preferential treatment been given to these boys because they're part of the football team?

SHERIFF FRED ABDALLA, JEFFERSON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: No. That's not true. They're facing charges. No.

HARLOW (voice-over): The sheriff of Jefferson County where Steubenville is located told us he's received threatening calls at home over the handling of the case, despite the fact that the case is being prosecuted by the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

ABDALLA: Christmas Day, the day after, they're calling my home, hey, you stupid SOB, why don't you arrest more football players? Or hey, you idiot bastard, why aren't you out there arresting -- doing your job arresting more Steubenville football players?

HARLOW: Sheriff Abdalla believes some of what is being posted online and on social media about the case is false.

ABDALLA: It gives us a black eye. And when you have people continue to put false information out there, you know, it's tough to make it go away.

HARLOW: The Steubenville Police Chief William McCafferty says he's also come under fire.

(On camera): What role has social media played in this, in your opinion?

CHIEF WILLIAM MCCAFFERTY, STEUBENVILLE POLICE: I believe they're trying to make themselves the judge and jury on this. And the investigating -- they want to investigate and try everybody. If you have -- if they have something that could substantiate the statements that they're making out there, if they don't want to come to my department, the attorney general released a hotline number last night, they can go to him.

HARLOW (voice-over): But in the age of social media, what previously would have played out in the courthouse now reflects on the entire town.

BARILLA: I feel the same way. I mean, Penn State, the whole college, all the students that were -- that go there are condemned because of -- actions of a certain few. It's the same thing happening here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: And Wolf, I met a mother who came to pick up her first-grade son from school in the middle of the day fearful for his safety, citing threats that she had heard about online against the school and the community. She said to me this has become, quote, "an attack on Steubenville City schools, the football program and the police department" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story. Very disturbing stuff. Poppy, thank you.

Meanwhile, alarming images out of Hong Kong. It renew outrage about a cultural delicacy. We have details on a growing backlash. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Pictures are fueling a global outcry over the practice of shark finning. Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in Asian culture but it's being blamed for the decline in the shark population.

Brian Todd has been looking at the story for us.

It's causing some outrage out there. What's happening?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly is, Wolf. These images give you really the most stark picture of just how threatened the world's shark population is. We're going to show you some video now. Look at this. Someone was on a rooftop in Hong Kong recently, panned a camera down to another rooftop.

Now look what's there. From a distance, that looks like some kind of mural or other artwork. But closer angles show you what's really there. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of shark fins being dried on that rooftop. Someone apparently decided to move this operation to this rooftop to shield what was going on from wildlife activists in Hong Kong and others in that area.

The practice of finning sharks is outlawed in most countries. That's when fishermen slice off their fins, then toss the sharks, often still alive, back into the ocean. When they have no fins, they can't swim and they drown. It's not clear if all of these fins were obtained by that practice of finning. It is legal to slice off -- the fin off a shark once it's dead or to bring it to shore and then do it.

Shark fins are very valuable in Asia. Shark fin soup is a prized delicacy there. They make noodles out of the cartilage for the soup. It's also viewed as something that increases fertility and sexual prowess. Hong Kong is at the center of that industry, but finning and hunting and catching -- the accidental catching of sharks are killing off the shark population.

This is a stat that will shock you. We followed this up last summer when there was this craze over sharks sighted off Cape Cod. Every year, maybe five people are killed around the world by shark attacks. But we kill an average of 38 million sharks a year. The figure has gotten to as high as 73 million.

I asked expert George Burgess of the group International Shark Attack File what it would do to the entire ecosystem of our oceans if this Apex predator is removed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BURGESS, DIRECTOR, FLORIDA PROGRAM FOR SHARK RESEARCH: If sharks are gone, there will be fundamental differences in the -- in the sea as we know it today because of the relationships between predators and the animals below them in the food chain. Those may be negative in some areas or positive in other areas. You might get more mackerel but you might get less crabs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Burgess says the world's population of sharks simply cannot withstand this pressure. The growing environmental concerns have prompted some hotels and airlines in Asia to distance themselves from the finning industry.

But, Wolf, this is really threatening. They can't withstand this. Blues, makos, treasure sharks are the most threatened in that region.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of it together with you, Brian. Thanks very much.

Happening now, back to the brink on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers are drawing battle lines for the next fiscal fight.

Also, U.S. troops take positions to stop Syria's bloody civil war from spreading to neighboring Turkey.