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Supreme Court Halts Gay Marriage in Utah; Obama Wants to Extend Emergency Unemployment Again; Liz Cheney Quits Senate Race; U.S. Pledges to Help Iraq Fight Al-Qaeda; U.S. Ponders How to Help Iraq; Fighting Elephant Poachers in Congo; Giant Waves Pound England's Coast

Aired January 6, 2014 - 12:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: The Supreme Court has just ruled in favor of the state's request to temporarily block same-sex marriages.

Jeffrey Toobin joins us from New York to talk about this.

And, Jeff, you've got hundreds of gay couples who have gotten married since December 20th when the district court judge said that the state's law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. What happens? What happens to their marriages?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Good question, Suzanne. I don't think anyone knows for sure.

The answer is probably that they remain married. This decision by the Supreme Court didn't suddenly divorce them, but the status of their marriages, I think it's safe to say, is somewhat questionable.

And whether they file for -- when they file for some sort of benefit, some sort of legal entitlements that married people have, there could be a challenge to that. And that would set in motion another legal issue -- another legal case, and I don't think anyone knows the outcome of that for the moment.

MALVEAUX: It's absolutely crazy when you think about it in this country that you can get married and then your marriage essentially is worthless, just weeks later, because of the legal issue around all of this.

What does this mean for gay couples who want to get married in that state?

TOOBIN: Well that, at least, has a clear answer. They cannot get married now. Gay couples cannot get married in Utah until the court of appeals, the Tenth Circuit court of appeals, resolves this case. And if -- and then, of course, only if they decide that gay people have the ride to be married in Utah.

What the Supreme Court said is, this case is on hold while the circuit court of appeals, which is the intermediate level court, decides the case.

So I think for at least several months, it's clear that same-sex cup he is will not be able to get married in Utah.

MALVEAUX: All right, Jeff, thanks for explaining for us, and obviously we're going to be keeping in touch with the developments throughout the Supreme Court and where this goes next.

Thank you, Jeff. Appreciate it.

In just a couple hours, it's actually going to be the Senate that's actually going to take up the issue of whether or not to extend unemployment benefits for more than a million Americans who need this.

Our Christine Romans tells us that there is likely going to be a really tough showdown.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, President Obama back from vacation, and the big push this week, extending emergency unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans.

Those benefits expired last week. They are on average about $300 a check for these folks.

The Federal Jobless Aid Program, this program in particular, was a recession-era emergency program on top of the six months of state jobless benefits that people get when they lose a job. It has been renewed annually since 2008.

But now some lawmakers, Republican lawmakers, arguing that extending it just adds to the federal deficit unless it is offset by spending cuts.

Some also say this program always meant to be temporary, an emergency program, and it incentivizes people to stay out of the workforce.

They also say that, look, the jobless rate has fallen now to seven percent. You can't be giving emergency benefits forever.

I asked the CEO of Pimco, one of the world's largest bond investors, what he thought. He said it is the right thing to do to extend those benefits.


MOHAMED EL-ERIAN, CEO, PIMCO: To cut demand at this point is bad economics.

It's also horrible social policy. We know we have a long-term unemployment problem. We know that 38 percent of the unemployed are long-term unemployed.

And it's through no fault of their own. It's that the system itself is having problems generating jobs for them.


ROMANS: It's the point of view, as well, of the president. President Obama meets tomorrow with some long-term unemployed Americans. He is expected to talk publicly about his need, his desire, to extend those benefits.

Congress also taking up the issue this week. The House ways and means committee will release a report saying that the expiration has already taken a $400 million bite out of the economy.

The labor secretary said Friday that many of those unemployed have gone from a position of hardship to one of catastrophe.

One thing is clear, though, Suzanne. Even if there is an extension of three months say for those benefits at a cost of $26 billion, you're not likely to see those emergency benefits last for the rest of the year.


MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Christine.

Senators also have another important vote today. They're going to decide whether to confirm Janet Yellen as head of the Federal Reserve. Yellen is President Obama's choice to replace Ben Bernanke.

Now if the Senate confirms her she is going to start on February 1st. She'd be the first woman in the job. The vote is set for 5:30 this afternoon.

And first on CNN, Liz Cheney giving up her bid for a Senate seat in Wyoming. The oldest daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, says that she made the decision because of, quote, "serious health issues in her family."

I want to bring in our own Wolf Blitzer from Washington to talk a little bit more about this, and some other news.

So, Wolf, first of all, Liz Cheney, I'm going to read part of what she said. She said, "Serious health issues have recently arisen in our family, and under the circumstances, I've decided to discontinue my campaign.

"My children and their futures were the motivation for our campaign, and their health and well-being will always be my overriding priority."

Wolf, do we know what she is talking about when she says the health issues that she is referencing?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": No, we don't. They're keeping that very, very private, very confidential.

Obviously, according to that statement, at least, the impression is, something involving the kids. She has five children, but we don't know the details.

We don't know what she is referring to. Clearly, it's obviously something very serious, and her decision to go ahead and drop out of this race.

She wasn't -- didn't look like she was gaining much ground against Mike Enzi, the long-time Republican incumbent senator from Wyoming. The polls in Wyoming showed she had a really uphill struggle ahead of her.

But she was in this race at least for a while, and now she is no longer in it.

MALVEAUX: Has there been any response or any reaction from her sister, I know there were public feuds that they had during this race, or her father?

Anyone who's weighing in on what is happening with her?

BLITZER: I haven't heard any response from her sister. We know that there was obviously a painful experience for the entire Cheney family when Liz Cheney came out and opposed same-sex marriage.

Her sister is married to a woman, and this is -- this resulted in a public reaction, a very angry reaction from Mary Cheney, her sister, and Mary Cheney's wife. And the whole family was clearly upset about the way this was handled.

Clearly, Liz Cheney thought that to get the Republican nomination in Wyoming, you had to be against same-sex marriage, and she came out against same-sex marriage.

The former vice president, her dad, later said that she didn't believe -- she believed in traditional marriage between a man and woman.

But this was a really painful experience for the Cheney family and so many of their friends to see this anger that developed between these two sisters.

MALVEAUX: And widening this out a bit beyond the family here, wolf, were there people in Republican circles who really felt like perhaps they quietly wanted her to go away, that this was something that was not looking good for the party?

BLITZER: Yes. Mike Enzi is not well-known outside of Wyoming, but he's a pretty popular senator among Republicans.

He's very conservative. He is 69-years-old. She is in her late-40s. One of the arguments she had been making is maybe he is too old.

That wasn't a popular argument, especially among his Republican senatorial colleagues. A lot of them are not only in their 60s, but 70s and even 80s, so it's -- it wasn't a very popular argument.

And she -- you know, she angered a lot of long-time Republicans in the state of Wyoming by coming out and saying she was going to challenge Mike Enzi for that Republican senatorial nomination.

Now she's out of the race. Clearly, barring some unforeseen circumstance, Mike Enzi will clearly get the Republican nomination. Wyoming being a very Republican state, he has a pretty good path of getting re-elected, I think, for a fourth time.

MALVEAUX: All right. Wolf Blitzer, thank you, appreciate it.

Iraq's troops are in a big fight now. Should the United States get involved or sit this one out?


MALVEAUX: Iraqi troops have their hands full trying to fight off al- Qaeda-linked militants.

It was over the weekend they made advances in several critical areas, including Anbar Province and Fallujah.

Fallujah is 37 miles west of Baghdad. It was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents during the Iraq war.

Joining me is Nick Burns, former undersecretary of state, who was also U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Nick, always good to see you, want to get your perspective here. We saw recently Secretary of State John Kerry saying the U.S. is not putting boots on the ground.

But what can the United States do to stop the fighting?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, Suzanne, Secretary Kerry is right. There is not a chance the United States will put American troops back into Iraq.

But the United States has been doing two things. First, the U.S. has been supporting Prime Minister Maliki since he took power many years ago in both the Obama and Bush administrations, and you see the U.S. providing political advice to Prime Minister Maliki, hoping he can keep it together, because being pushed apart by these factions.

Secondly, Prime Minister Maliki has pursued very ineffective policies towards the Sunni population. He has in effect driven them away. And he's not inspired any confidence that his government will protect Sunni interests as well as Shia interests.

And so the United States is pushing Prime Minister Maliki to be more effective in dealing with the Sunni population, particularly the tribal leaders in places like Anbar Province.

MALVEAUX: Is this something the United States can deal with? They've been dealing with him for many years.

Has the United States, has the Obama administration, lost confidence in Nouri al-Maliki?

BURNS: I don't think so. I think they're worried that this is as bloody a situation as we have seen in Iraq since the terrible years of 2006 and 2007, just before the surge in Anbar province. That brought diminished violence in Iraq.

So Washington is very worried about the performance of the Iraqi government. They don't think that Prime Minister Maliki has been representing all the people of Iraq.

But there is really no alternative for the United States. We -- Washington believes we've got to support the central government. You don't want to see Iraq fracture along sectarian lines.

MALVEAUX: You know, the American forces were successful in the past when they went up against al-Qaeda, 2006-2007, because they are aligned with the Sunnis.

Now you've got a situation with the Sunnis aligned with al-Qaeda. How do you bring the Sunnis back?

BURNS: I think the way you bring them back is the way that President Bush and General Petraeus did in 2007 with the Surge.

You work with the tribal leaders in places like Ramadi and Fallujah. You urge the Iraqi government and Baghdad to transfer political power to them, to give them real power and real voice in the system.

Those political leaders, the tribal leaders, don't want to see al- Qaeda succeed. This might be a temporary alliance between al-Qaeda and some of the tribal leaders now, and we have seen that play out and the horrific violence just over the last few days in Ramadi and in Fallujah.

But I do think that can be effective. But it requires Prime Minister Maliki to step towards the tribal leaders.

MALVEAUX: Let's talk about the state of al-Qaeda. President Obama campaigned in 2012 really a regular theme. And here's the point that he was making.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat.

Path to defeat.

Al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat.

Path to defeat.


MALVEAUX: So it doesn't look like al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat at this moment.

What does this say about the state of al-Qaeda now?

BURNS: Well, al-Qaeda central, the -- Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, has been largely defeated up on the Afghan/Pakistan border. But you've seen, Suzanne, in Iraq, you now see in Syria, you see in Lebanon, the emergence of a regional war in the Middle East, fueled by al-Qaeda front groups, and this ISIS group which is fighting -- which your correspondent, Nic Robertson, was talking about just a few minutes ago, which is fighting in both Syria and Iraq.

And you see al-Qaeda-inspired groups in Somalia and in Yemen.

And so this is a real problem for the Arab world. It's a real problem for the United States in trying to diminish the level of violence in all those places.

But what's most worrisome, Suzanne, is that for a long time now people have been predicting that the Syrian civil war might produce a wider war. We're beginning to see that happen, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon, where these Sunni and Shia passions and the divisions between them are now playing out in all three countries, and that's a big problem for the Arabs, as well as the United States.

MALVEAUX: And, Nick, in light of that fact, because it's such an important point that you made, where should the U.S. be focused? Should it be focused in Iraq? Should it be focused in Syria? Where do you think it's most important?

BURNS: Well, the United States is by far the most powerful outside player. But it's got to work closely with the Arab governments in the Middle East, with the Saudis in particular, to try to bring relative peace to places like Syria and Lebanon. But that also means that the United States has to talk to odious figures.

And we'll see in just a couple of weeks when the Syria peace talks start in Geneva, that the United States will have to talk to the Assad government. Secretary Kerry said over the weekend that Iran might have to be brought into those talks. That's the difficult choice we have to make if we want to see the Syrian civil war, which is the central drama, brought to an end.

MALVEAUX: All right. Nick Burns, thank you so much. Appreciate it, as always.

BURNS: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Our Arwa Damon, she is going along for the dangerous job of hunting down poachers who just killed an elephant for its ivory tusks. Well then shots were fired. We're going to show you what they actually found.



Right now, Secretary of State John Kerry flying back to the United States after a whirlwind trip, meetings in the Mideast peace. On Sunday he met with kings of both Jordan and Saudi Arabia to brief them on the progress. Well, Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week. Kerry says that Israel and the Palestinians are making some progress towards a framework agreement to guide the talks on formal peace deal, but still has got a way to go.

Sudan's president has arrived in South Sudan for talks with that country's president. They're trying to find a solution to the violence that has left more than a thousand people dead. Two hundred thousand have been forced from their homes in just three weeks. The violence erupted when rebels loyal to the ousted vice president of South Sudan tried to stage a coup.

And all this week CNN is reporting on a terrible, horrible problem. This is the killing of thousands of elephants every year. The problem's so bad, Central Africa has now lost almost two-thirds of its elephants. Arwa Damon, she went along on a hunt for the poachers, where shots were fired. The end, a sad find. This is a CNN exclusive. And got to warn you here, some of these images are graphic.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been eight, grueling, hot hours on this river chasing poachers in the Republic of Congo's largest national park. For these eco guards, disappointment follows disappointment.

DAMON (on camera): When you put your hand inside, it's actually still quite warm, which means that they probably left early in the morning.

DAMON (voice-over): Finally, around a bend, signs of activity. Smoke rising along the bank. They rush ashore and fan out into the jungle. Within seconds, a gunshot. And the pursuit begins. The terrain is dense and disorienting. The men force their way through the undergrowth and slosh through knee-deep water. Our CNN team can barely keep up.

DAMON (on camera): They've all gone forward trying to chase down what seems to be a poacher who, at least most definitely, is armed. They appear to have caught him completely by surprise.

DAMON (voice-over): Matu Ekel (ph), head of the park's anti-poaching division, brandishes the weapon captured by one of his men.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy in front of him tried to shoot him.

DAMON: Hooked on adrenaline, Marice Motali (ph) describes what happened. "He tried to shoot me, like this," he says. Motali then tackled the poacher, grabbing the gun, but the poacher got away.

DAMON (on camera): There's elephant meat in the boat.

DAMON (voice-over): The men find the poacher's canoe, weighed down with fresh elephant meat, still dripping blood. Even more hangs off the sides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is to take off the tusk.

DAMON: It's a sickening image of a trade that has decimated the park's elephants. The nonprofit group African Parks, which runs (INAUDIBLE) estimates, that Central Africa has lost 62 percent of its forced elephants in the last decade. In this park alone, thousands have been killed in the last five years. In the week we spent here, we only saw one alive. The park, about the size of Connecticut, is patrolled by just 76 eco guards. Not nearly enough. But some 40 percent of them are former poachers themselves, which helps big-time.

MATHIEU SCKEL (ph), ANTI-POACHING AGENT: They know how poaching work. So it's easy for them to think like them.

DAMON: It's part of a program created by (INAUDIBLE) in the last year, where poachers are given amnesty if they hand over their weapons and confess. Sckel (ph) says this raid is proof his program works.

But the unit's successes come at a price. This is a country where corruption is routine, and where poaching with impunity has been a way of life. All these echo guards have been threatened.

Frank Bolangonga tells us three men attacked his wife. "They tried to rape her, but she was strong. She pulled back and her dress ripped off and she ran away," he says. The same men who Bolangonga says are part of his villages poaching ring tried to attack him. He stabbed one of them.

The unit doesn't find any elephant ivory, but does end up with four guns, ammunition and a cell phone, a potential lead to the poachers. The eco guards torch the camp to send a message. These men often find themselves pursuing people they once worked with, friends, neighbors, and even family members. In the ever-evolving fight against the ivory trade, out here, it's now personal.


MALVEAUX: Arwa Damon is joining us live from London.

Very, very powerful, Arwa, your reporting there, and the fact that you went behind the scenes with many of these brave men who were literally following the poachers there. What did you learn? I mean were they discouraged when they saw all of that -- the elephant meat and the tusks and everything? I mean is this an ending battle, a losing one?

DAMON: You know, we were talking to them about that because their successes are so limited. It's only about 1 percent of the time that they're actually able to make a significant bust. But for them, on that particular day, just the fact that they were able to get those four guns, and that's what was important to them, at least four guns out of the hands of poachers, for them that was something of a fairly significant victory.

But one doesn't really appreciate just how similar this is to guerrilla warfare until one is actually on the ground with them, seeing how dangerous the situation actually is. And, of course, you were hearing from them there, the fact that they've all been threatened, even Sckel (ph), who's heading of the division, he had to move his family out of the park headquarters, where they were living, to the capital to try to keep them safe because of the intensity of the threats they were getting.

MALVEAUX: Arwa, is there any fear when you're following the poachers, when they're following the poachers, that the poachers will turn around and start shooting back, shooting at them? I mean it seems like it would be a very dangerous situation.

DAMON: It is and it potentially can be. Although based on what they were telling us, a lot of the times the poachers will just fire a few shots and then try to run away and escape the scene. Of course, then the challenge for the eco guards is trying to track them down. And our story that's going to be coming up tomorrow is actually whether or not they were able to find enough clues at that site, that poacher's campsite, to actually track down the individuals that carried all of this out.

MALVEAUX: Excellent work, Arwa. And, of course, we are going to be following, we're going to be carrying your series in the noon hour throughout the week. Thank you very much, Arwa. We appreciate it.

The coast of England getting hammered now with huge waves and some of the worst flooding in years. We're going to show you what happened as these folks were filming the coastline.


MALVEAUX: Great Britain now seeing some of its worst flooding in 20 years. The giant waves have been hitting the coast with wind gusts as high as 70 miles per hour. Atika Shubert shows us this powerful storm.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Days of torrential rain and high winds have battered the English coastline. Just take a look at this video taken by Kevin Ice (ph) in Sussex, England. He posted it on YouTube. And you can see the cliff just collapses because huge waves have battered its base and that's what caused it to fall.

Now, people have been warned to stay away from the coastline and the environment agency has also said there could be more flooding and more rain is expected over the next 48 hours.


MALVEAUX: And check this out. Some people in Toronto, they actually thought that there were burglars who were trying to bust down their doors, that there was a gun battle outside their homes, but that's not the case.

What they were actually hearing were frost quakes. They are like sonic booms. And this is what happens. They happen when water freezes in the ground, expands, and then basically blows up. It's kind of like an earthquake but closer to the surface. Frost quakes usually happen farther north in Canada, so people in Toronto, not really used to them. One person tweeted here, "awakened by a loud boom. Thought a family member was in trouble." Absolutely amazing.

Well, thanks for watching "AROUND THE WORLD" today. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now. Have a good afternoon.