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Supreme Court Rulings Preview; Homeless Student Becomes High School Valedictorian

Aired May 29, 2013 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ACNHOR: A rising rate, a tagging tourist and a rollicking roll - all coming up in today`s show.

We`ll start with the branches of the U.S. government. The legislative branch, Congress, makes the laws, but it`s the judicial branch`s job to interpret those laws and decide if they violate the Constitution. U.S. Supreme Court sessions start in October. Over several months, the nine justices hear arguments in dozens of cases. They do legal research, vote on the cases and write up their opinions. When all of that`s finished, the Supreme Court makes its rulings public. Usually around this time every year. Athena Jones gives us a preview of the possible rulings for some of these sessions cases.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From now until the end of June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on big issues: affirmative action and same sex marriage.

TOM GOLDSTEIN, CO-FOUNDER, SCOTUS BLOG: It`s almost unimaginable, the number of things the Supreme Court is going to decide that affects all Americans in the next months.

JONES: First up could be whether public schools can consider race when admitting students. Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas arguing she was rejected because she is white.

ABIGAIL FISHER, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PLAINTIFF: I hope the court rules that a student`s race and ethnicity should not be considered when applying to the University of Texas.

JONES: The school says race is one of many factors it uses to achieve diversity on campus. Court watchers say Anthony Kennedy could side with conservative justices to overturn or limit a major Supreme Court decision from ten years ago that allowed affirmative action.

The justices are also dealing with another hot-button issue: same sex marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the (inaudible), the marriage is between one man and one woman. And you guys don`t want to accept it.

JONES: Considering whether California`s Proposition 8 ban is constitutional and in a second case, if the Defense of Marriage Act can deny same sex couple the same federal benefits as heterosexual ones.

EDITH WINDSOR, DOMA PLAINTIFF: I think it`s going to be good.

JONES: That case was brought by Edith Windsor, a New York who had to pay higher estate taxes after her wife died than someone in a heterosexual marriage would have.

GOLDSTEIN: I think it`s likely in the Defense of Marriage Act case that the Supreme Court would invalidate the federal law that says we won`t recognize state same sex marriages. But in the California Proposition 8 case, the justices seem unlikely to require under the Constitution every state to recognize same sex marriage.

The ruling may not be a huge gay rights victory at all, but I doubt it`s going to be a significant loss either.

JONES: Another case involves the kind of genetic testing that led actress Angelina Jolie to undergo a double mastectomy. The court is considering whether human genes, so called products of nature, can be patented. Athena Jones, CNN, Washington.


AZUZ: Our next story today, there are different ways to pay for college. One is to take out a student loan. Those come with interests, the fee that you have to pay back with the loan, interest rates telling you how much that fee is.

7 million or one third of U.S. college students who have loans have subsidized loans. That means that government pays some of their interest. Six years ago, the interest rate on federal loans was 6.8 percent, then Congress cut that in half. So these borrowers wouldn`t have to pay as much interest. But on July First, the interest rate on those subsidized loans is set to go back to where it was before. Congress and the president don`t want that to happen, but they can`t agree on a new plan. If nothing happens, the rate for these loans will automatically go up and students who have them will owe more money when they get out of school.

When Chelesa Fearce starts college in the fall, she`ll technically be a junior. Her time in high school was all about achieving despite adversity.


CHELESA FEARCE, HIGH SCHOOL VALEDICTORIAN: I would just open my book in the back and just (inaudible) just told myself, don`t worry about that. Think about now. If you (inaudible).

AZUZ: Most of her high school years, Chelesa and her family were homeless. They lived in shelters, sometimes they lived in their car. Chelesa stayed focused on her education. Her SAT score made her a star student at her school, her GPA made her valedictorian. And a high school graduate has some advice for anyone else who might be facing challenges.

FEARCE: Don`t give up, do what you have to do right now so that you can have the future that you want.


AZUZ: Chelesa`s story is great example of the power of perseverance, we want to hear yours. Go to our blog at, tell us about a time when you`ve overcome a challenge. We`re looking forward to your posts, but remember, we`re only looking for your first names.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s "Shoutout" goes out to Mrs. Hadel`s current world issues class at Rapid River public schools in Rapid River, Michigan.

Which of the countries on this map is Egypt? Here we go. Is it A, B, C, or D? You`ve got three seconds, go!

Egypt borders Libya, Sudan and the Mediterranean Sea. It`s been home to civilizations for thousands of years. That`s your answer and that`s your "Shoutout."


AZUZ: Earlier this month, a Chinese government official told his nation`s travelers to behave. Chinese tourists spend more money abroad than anyone else in the world, and their government wants them to give a good impression. At least one 15-year old didn`t get the message. He was on vacation touring an ancient Egyptian temple. By ancient I mean 3500 years old. And in a stone sculpture he carved his name and the words "was here." Of course, this isn`t the only historic monument to be defaced by graffiti, though it might be one of the oldest and the message might be one of the dumbest. Some of the people angriest about this are the teenager`s country men and women who`ve graffited his name all over Chinese social media in criticism. They young man`s parents have publicly apologized, both to the Egyptian and Chinese people saying they take responsibility and that their son has learned his lesson. As for the sculpture itself, it`s gotten a professional cleaning, though that didn`t entirely removed the graffiti.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Smartphones can do a lot of things: they can make calls, we can text, surf the Web, it can also make us a target. Cell-phone theft is increasing in cities around the country. We are not talking about somebody stealing the phone out of your bag when you`re not looking. We mean stealing it right out of your hand. Situation has some people calling for actions.

This surveillance video shows a woman getting robbed of her cell phone while in the middle of a conversation. A crime so common, that type in "cell phone theft" on Youtube, and you`ll find tons of surveillance video of people having their phones ripped off.

San Francisco`s police chief says in many cases users are asking for trouble.

CHIEF GREG SUHR, SAN FRANCISCO POLICE: Think if you took $300 out of the ATM machine. You wouldn`t walk down the block for several blocks counting the 20s.

SIMON: The problem is becoming so rampant that it`s estimated that stolen devices cost consumers $40 billion a year. So pressure is mounting for cell-phone carriers and the device makers to figure out a way to deter theft.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon wants to see a so-called kill switch on phones.

GEORGE GASCON, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: So that when they get report it`s stolen, they could be render inoperable.

SIMON: He accuses the industry of dragging its feet to what he calls a technological solution.

GASCON: Every time that a phone gets stolen, we go back and we replace it for him. So the carrier gets to make another sale, the manufacturer gets to make another sale, and the profit just continue to be.

SIMON: The nation`s largest carriers, though, are getting more aggressive. Now, participating in a new nationwide database for stolen phones to prevent them from being activated. But critics say it`s yet to have a meaningful impact, because stolen phones often wind up overseas and fetch more dollars.

GASCON: The late model iPhone ranks here, just down the street from here can bring about $300. If it gets exported to Latin America or Asia or Africa, it can bring in as much as seven to $1000.

SIMON: But is a kill switch even possible? We went to arguable the leading mobile security company in the world, Lookout, which makes a popular app for Smartphones.

(on camera): The notion of just being able to render a phone useless. Can that happen?

MARC ROGERS, LOOKOUT, INC.: It`s technically plausible. A phone is just a computer. If you destroy the - an operating system the phone relies on, the phone company

SIMON: So, if it`s technically possible, why isn`t that happening?

ROGERS: Because it`s not a very easy thing to do.

SIMON: Now, Apple`s iPhone does have a feature that will track stolen phones and erase the data, sometimes more valuable than the phone itself. Lookout has a similar feature for phones using Google`s android. But the point, according to critics, is the entire industry needs bolder thinking.


AZUZ: And finally, this show is going downhill in a hurry. But the faster, the better for these competitors. It`s the annual unofficial cheese roll near Gloucester, England. It`s not the official event because of concerns about injuries. Can`t think why.

The winner is anyone who makes it down in one piece. They don`t chase a real wheel of cheese anymore. Now they use a fake, made out of foam. Consider it a fauxmage (ph). We`re planning to go on a roll with a bunch of cheesy puns, but we didn`t want to grind you down. Besides, cheesy pun haters are just lactose intolerant. Oh, well. We did the dairy best we curd, and we`ll be back to do it again tomorrow. I`ll see you all then.