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Job Growth Weaker; Gay Marriage in Utah; Bridge Documents Released; Chris Christie's "Bridgegate" -- Political Questions Remain; Fidel Castro Appears at Art Studio Opening; Schoolboy Sacrifices Himself to Foil Terrorist Bomber; India-U.S. Relationship Tested Over Diplomat Flap

Aired January 10, 2014 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Are set to be released any minute now in the bridge gate scandal. Could they actually reveal how much New Jersey Governor Chris Christie knew about a political vendetta that left a New Jersey town in terrible traffic for days?

And this, his basketball buddies, they're headed back to the United States, but Dennis Rodman staying behind in North Korea for now. Hear what his friends say they accomplished in the secretive North Korean state.

And a teenage boy tackles a suicide bomber to save his classmates in Pakistan. Well, he paid the ultimate price. Now he's being honored for his bravery on social media.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

Well, not the greatest news for the economy, especially when it comes to jobs. Breaking news, the skyrocket growth that we saw most of last year, no sign of it in the December jobs report that came out this morning. Want to bring in Alison Kosik in New York to talk about it.

Alison, what happened? We were feeling so good about everything.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well you know what's interesting, some analysts, believe it or not, Suzanne, are blaming the weather, which held back hiring, they say, or they blame the holidays for this lackluster showing. Just 74,000 jobs added in December. This was really a big miss because estimates were for 193,000 jobs to have been added. This actually winds up being the weakest month for job growth since January of 2011.

The Labor Department says the weather is partially to blame. Sectors like construction saw a drop in employment, and some analysts are also saying that this report is a fluke and will most likely be revised higher when the next month's numbers come out.

Then you look at the unemployment rate. It dropped from 7 percent to 6.7 percent.

MALVEAUX: Right. KOSIK: But not for the right reasons. It's mostly because, Suzanne, a lot of people dropped out of the labor force. Just to give you an idea, 347,000 people dropped out of the labor force. It's the lowest level that we've seen in 36 years. So this is a stunning piece of this puzzle that just this big chunk of people are just stopping to look for work. They're sort of disappearing.


MALVEAUX: Yes, they're just - they're just giving up. I mean, it has been so frustrating the last year or so. How are investors reacting to all of this because things were working so well. People were making a lot of money when it came to the 401(k)s. Does it - does it look like that's at all being impacted?

KOSIK: So there's no sell-off. Stocks are a bit lower right now. This actually -- this report came as a big surprise to many investors because the expectation was so high. And we did see investors trying to make sense of it when the opening bell rang. We did see stocks start higher. Once again now they're a bit lower.

But the way some traders are thinking about this report is that it is just the fluke. That it's really not a sign of the broader -- of broader weakness that's going on in the economy because they're citing numbers like GDP for the third quarter, which was 4.1 percent. That those weekly jobless claims numbers, they have been falling for many, many weeks now. So many are saying, look, this could be just sort of one of those one-hit wonders and then next month we'll see a difference.


MALVEAUX: All right, Alison, thanks. Appreciate it, as always.

Want to bring in this breaking news here.

We are now learning the Justice Department has just announced the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages that were performed just a short time in Utah. That decision is going to affect more than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples.

Want to bring in our Jim Acosta joining us from the White House from Washington.

And, Jim, first of all, Jeffrey Toobin and I were talking about this a couple days ago, how ridiculous it is in this country that you can be a married couple one month and then the next month have it be completely annulled, have your marriage be illegal. I mean it seems as if the Justice Department is listening to that argument and saying, look, we've got to make this right.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And because of that conflicting situation out in Utah, the Department of Justice has decided to weigh in here. And in just the last several minutes, the Department of Justice has released a statement from Eric Holder, the attorney general. There's actually a video message from Eric Holder, and we hope to bring you that as soon as we can here on CNN. So, sort of a remarkable thing that Eric Holder would do this.

But basically what the Department of Justice is saying is that the federal government will recognize those roughly 1,300 same-sex marriages that were performed in Utah when they had this period essentially when a federal judge last month decided that the Utah ban on same-sex marriages was not valid.

Same-sex marriages started to occur in that state and so you have roughly about 1,300 couples who were in this period of uncertainty right now where they were married but their own state is not recognizing those marriages. In part because the state said, no, we're going to appeal this and then the Supreme Court issued a stay, essentially siding with the state of Utah and putting those marriages on hold.

And so what the federal government is saying at this point is that, no, we are siding with these same-sex couples, and we're going to recognize them from a federal standpoint until all of this is resolved at the Supreme Court. So another round being fired off in this battle over same-sex marriage. The Department of Justice, Eric Holder, and the Obama administration coming down very decisively on the side of same-sex marriages.


MALVEAUX: And I want to bring in our Joe Johns here, who also is a legal analyst and understands these matters very well.

And, Joe, talk about, why is this such a problem in this country? Because you've got a patchwork, almost like a quilt if you will, in this country where, in some states, if you're a gay couple you can get married, it's legal, in other states you can't. And then you have this situation in Utah where one day it's possible, the other day it is not. I mean doesn't this ultimately create a problem in our country that you have this inconsistency?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. It's a huge problem. And it creates even more chaos, if you will, this decision by the Justice Department to go ahead and recognize those marriages because, on the one hand, you have Utah saying, let's put everything on hold, let's wait for another Supreme Court decision, and the attorney general of the United States is saying, no, we've got a decision from the United States Supreme Court. It's the Windsor decision. Says we can recognize these marriages for purposes of federal benefits, and that's what we're going to do.

So it doesn't decrease the chaos, it actually adds to it. And most importantly, I think, it puts the United States government squarely back in the fight over an issue that has almost entirely been the province of the states. That's regulation of marriage. Now the United States is right back in the game, just like they were before the Windsor decision, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And I want to bring Jim back in here to talk a little bit more about the White House perspective because it made a huge difference, Jim, when we actually saw the president of the United States come out for same-sex marriage, approving this.

ACOSTA: Right.

MALVEAUX: It really made a -- it was a cultural shift, if you will, in terms of providing some cover for people who were afraid to actually say, you know, what I agree, I approve of this. What do you make of the president and the administration's influence when it comes to this highly sensitive cultural issue?

ACOSTA: Well, I think that things have very much changed inside the Democratic Party. Barack Obama ran for president, as you know, Suzanne, back in 2008 opposing same-sex marriage, essentially, and he evolved on this issue. You'll recall Joe Biden sort of took the lead, essentially, you know, said let the cat out of the bag and said, you know, this administration is starting to move in this direction.

And the president announced that he was evolving on this position. And now I think - and Hillary Clinton has basically said the same herself. And so now you see the Democratic Party basically saying, we are essentially for same-sex marriage. And you're starting to see rumblings of that inside the Republican Party. And that will be something to watch over the next few years.

But want to take you back to this Justice Department move and what Eric Holder announced at the top of the hour because I think it's very important.


ACOSTA: So important to the Justice Department that Eric Holder recorded a video message on the subject and let's - I think we have a sample of it. Let play some of that message.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Last June, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, United States versus Windsor, holding that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law. This ruling market an historic step towards equality for all American families. And since the day it was handed town, the Department of Justice has been working tirelessly to implement it in both letter and in spirit, moving to extend federal benefits to married same-sex couples as swiftly and smoothly as possible.

Recently, an administrative step by the court has cast doubt on same- sex marriages that have been performed in the state of Utah. And the governor has announced that the state will not residence these marriages pending additional court action. In the meantime, I am confirming today that for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages.

These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds. In days ahead, we will continue to coordinate across the federal government to ensure the timely provision of every federal benefit to which Utah couples and couples throughout the country are entitled, regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages. And we will continue to provide additional information as soon as -


ACOSTA: So a very interesting statement there from Eric holder. And, Suzanne and Joe, it basically puts the federal government in a position right now where it is willing to recognize, from a federal standpoint, these same-sex marriages in Utah, while Utah may be fighting against that recognition -- will be fighting against that recognition all the way to -- when the Supreme Court hears this case, or is expected to hear this case. So a very interesting development that the Department of Justice is coming down so forcefully on the side of same-sex marriage here.

MALVEAUX: And, Joe, I want you to wrap this, if you will. I had an opportunity back when that ruling happened with the Supreme Court to actually interview Edith Windsor. It was such an emotional moment for her to be recognized, and her widow, as well, their marriage, their union, their partnership there. What is the next step? What does this mean in real practical terms for gay married couples?

JOHNS: Well, I think the one thing that's very clear is that if the federal government had done anything but this, it would have been a real difficult situation for same-sex couples all over the United States. Because when you think about it, they got the Windsor decision, which said for tax purposes, for all the other reasons that the federal government has to recognize marriage, it's OK to recognize same-sex marriage. Now, if the government had done anything but what they've done now -


JOHNS: Utah would have been sort of standing out there as the one state where the -- all of these things didn't apply. So the government almost had to move in the direction they did, I think, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Joe, stay with us. Jim, stay with us, as well. We want to talk a little bit more about Governor Chris Christie spending nearly two hours yesterday telling all of us here in no uncertain terms that his aides, the aides went rogue on him. That he didn't know that he might have created this traffic nightmare to punish a mayor who didn't support him.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue. There's no way that anybody would think that I know about everything that's going on. I don't know what else to say except to tell them that I had no knowledge of this.

All I know is, I don't know.

I am humiliated by the fact that I did not know this.

The answer as of right now is, I don't know.


MALVEAUX: A lot of don't knows there. Joe, the dam about to break, potentially, because the New Jersey State Assembly is releasing, we understand, more than 900 pages of documents related to all of this and might back up what Christie said or it might back him into a corner. So do we have these documents in hand? What do we - what do we expect from -- to learn from this?

JOHNS: I haven't seen them yet. Still waiting to see those documents. More than 900 pages that at best could shed some light on all of the information that we've seen over the past few days regarding this bridge situation there in New Jersey. We don't know what is in these documents. We've been led to believe that there will be nothing dramatic, no smoking gun as it were. But let's just wait and see. I expect to go through them and try to figure out if there's any more information to be gleaned about what happened and why.

MALVEAUX: Joe, you're the lucky guy, right, who's got to go through the 900 pages of documents.

JOHNS: Well, actually, I think we have a whole team of producers planning on doing that. But I'm going to do my part.

MALVEAUX: All right. I've got to ask another question here. There is a class action lawsuit against Christie that is brewing here from people whose lives were completely disrupted by, you know, the traffic jam and all of that. Could it actually be that state/federal laws were broken because of this?

JOHNS: Well, that's the million-dollar question, if you will. What state and federal laws, if any, had been broken? The lawsuits very interesting, Suzanne, I've got to say. They're trying to get class action certification. It has a bunch of different things in there. It claims official misconduct, it claims conspiracy. And it's also largely a negligence lawsuit. So all of these things stemming from people who say they were inconvenienced and they lost money, they lost time, what have you.

MALVEAUX: Yes. Sure.

JOHNS: But the larger question about the federal government, there is an investigation, at least starting preliminarily. That's the FBI.

MALVEAUX: All right.

JOHNS: It's the Department of Justice. And they're going to take a look to see if any federal corruption laws were broken.

MALVEAUX: Right, right.

JOHNS: A lot of people say that might be a stretch.

MALVEAUX: All right, Joe, I want to bring in Gloria Borger here, political analyst, to talk a little bit more about this. And, Gloria, so what is your perspective on this? I mean it was two hours essentially that we were listening to Governor Christie explain and explain he didn't know, but he apologized. I mean he seemed very forceful about all of this. Was it potentially a little bit overdone and protest too much here for two hours to go through all of this? What do you make of that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, you know, there's no way to deliver a perfect apology press conference, right? And what I think he wanted to do, and there's some precedent to this, you know, is to take every single reporter's question and answer it.

What he tried to do is say, look, I'm not just another politician. I found out what the people who were doing some things that were clearly wrong and I fired them. But he also clearly tried to distance himself from it saying at the same time, OK, I didn't know. I can't figure it out. He called their moves callous and stupid.

So, he still left the "why" question out there. Now, I'm presuming his lawyers were walling him off from talking to these people that he fired directly.

But we still don't know why they decided that it would be a really great idea, and that it would probably make the governor happy, because that's what staffs do.

Why would it make the governor happy to tie up traffic on the Georgia Washington Bridge?

MALVEAUX: Yeah. There's still a lot of stuff we really don't understand. We don't know if potentially the investigation of the documents will show something else.

But there was so much speculation, and even polls that were showing that if you put him up against Hillary Clinton, 2016, it would have been a dead heat here.

Do we think -- is there any possible way of even know that might slip at all because of the moment that he's going through right now?

BORGER: Sure. Look, this is a problem for him. You know, the American people have started the discovery process, right, with their 2016 presidential candidates?

And they all know that Chris Christie positions himself as a different kind of politician, right? And it's OK if you have a guy who's strong and tough, when he's fighting for you, right?

But the problem is, in this particular case, that his people were strong and tough and bullying when they were tying up traffic. That -


BORGER: -- worked against the people of the state of New Jersey, and also people of the state of New York, obviously. So if you're going to be a bully, they want you on their side, not on somebody else's side. The problem for him as a presidential candidate, quite frankly, is that now is the time when you line up your big money, you line up your visible supporters and, you know, this could hurt him along those lines. I think people are kind of hanging back, and they're just waiting to see how this plays out.

MALVEAUX: All right. There's still time. There's still a lot of time left till 2016 --

BORGER: Oh, yeah.

MALVEAUX: -- for all of this to turn.

Gloria, thank you. Appreciate your perspective, as always.


MALVEAUX: Here's more of what we're working on for AROUND THE WORLD.

A rare event in Cuba, Fidel Castro out in public for the first time in months.

Plus, a teenager's heroic decision to take on a suicide bomber, the 14-year-old gives his life to save a schoolyard full of students in Pakistan.


MALVEAUX: Seeing Fidel Castro nowadays, a pretty rare event, Cuba's former leader, he's 87-years-old. He's pretty much kept a low profile since he got sick and handed his power over to his brother back in 2006.

Earlier this week, there he was, at the opening of an art studio in Havana. Castro, you can see in there, hunched over, walking with a cane. He, every once in a while, would lean on his assistants to kind of move him around.

I want to bring in our CNN's Nick Parker to talk about, first of all, why haven't we seen him in public? Why is this such a big deal now that he's emerged?

NICK PARKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, as you say, a rare glimpse indeed of Fidel Castro.

And I think the reason why this does generate so many headlines is that since handing over power in 2006, he's really been keeping a very, very low profile, making very few public appearances, largely, in fact, due, to start with, health issues.

Keep in mind the 50th anniversary of the revolution in 2009, without seeing Fidel Castro, which was obviously a fairly significant event. So every time he does present himself in public, people always leap on these kind of appearances for whatever they can.

As you say, he was visiting an art studio in Havana, dressed in a black coat and green scarf. He was accompanied by the artist, Alexis Leyva, who is said to be one of Castro's favorite artists. He appeared engaged. He was talking to people. He was examining works of art.

So little is known about his current state of health that I think this is important evidence that the former leader is at least still active, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Nick, what do you make of this? Here is a man who has seen many rivals in the U.S., U.S. presidents, come and go, all the way back to President Eisenhower, I believe it was about 10 presidents or so, that he's still standing.

PARKER: He's still standing, yeah. He's really one of the great survivors of modern history in a way.

He was ruling Cuba for almost five decades. U.S. Congress found that the CIA had planned something like eight assassination attempts on him. He was able to repel the Bay of Pigs invasion.

And certainly when he handed over power in 2006, many people thought the intestinal problem that he had really signaled the end of -- certainly of his political career and that he was indeed gravely ill.

But we're looking now at sort of almost eight years on, and he looks like he's certainly still active, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, Nick. And it certainly is a very powerful, symbolic picture, if you will, a symbol to see him still up and around.

We saw all those pictures of the former U.S. presidents that he has outlasted, and certainly something that people are going to be watching and seeing if he has any influence at all through his brother.

But thank you so much. We appreciate it, Nick.

This story, sad, tragic, heroic, this is a 14-year-old we're talking about. This boy was killed stopping a suicide bomber. It happened at the entrance of a school in Pakistan.

This teenager, of course, being hailed a hero because he saved a whole schoolyard full of children.

Saima Mohsin, she is in Islamabad with how this all happened.


SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aitazaz Hassan Bangash was on his way to school when he died, stopping a suicide bomber to save the lives of his school friends.

More than a thousand school children are believed to have been gathered for morning assembly at the high school in Hangu in northwest Pakistan, bordering Pakistan's tribal areas when the bomber, dressed in school uniform, approached Aitazaz and his friends, asking for directions to the school. This raised suspicions amongst them, and it was Aitazaz who moved forward and started throwing stones, according to witnesses, to stop the bomber.

When this didn't stop him in his tracks, as he approached the main gate, Aitazaz tackled him when the bomber detonated his explosives, killing himself and the ninth-grader instantly.

People across Pakistan have been paying tribute to the bravery of this young hero. On social media, on Twitter, people have been using the hash tags, "onemillionaitazazs," or simply, "aitazaz," many people comparing his bravery to that of Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl shot at point-blank range by the Taliban. She survived that attack.

Others are calling for this young hero to be honored and recognized with an award nationally and internationally for laying down his life to save the lives of so many more.

Saima Mohsin, CNN, Islamabad, Pakistan.


MALVEAUX: Brave young man for you.

The government of India now wants an apology from the United States. That is after an Indian diplomat is told to go back home, and the Indian officials are saying, no fair.

This is testing the two countries' relationship. We'll be live from New Delhi, up next.


MALVEAUX: The relationship between the United States and India, being put to a test today, this all started with this.

This is a woman, a diplomat from India, who was arrested last month outside her daughter's school in New York City. She was later strip searched.

Well, she was sent home today, back to India, despite the fact that federal prosecutors charged her with lying on some visa paperwork.

Well, now, the Indian government wants an American diplomat removed from the embassy in New Delhi, someone equal in rank.

The diplomat's father talked to CNN in India.


UTTAM KHOBRAGADE, DEVYANI KHOBRAGADE'S FATHER: They have not met any (inaudible). She was innocent. The case is false. And in that light, who cares what (inaudible)?

(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: Sumnima Udas is with us, live from New Delhi. And this seems like a tit-for-tat at this point, really, because you're talking about one country feels offended at the way their diplomat was treated and now they're trying to oust the American diplomat.

Where are we with all of this?

SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officials in both countries have maintained that this relationship between India and the U.S. is very, very important that -- we're talking about two largest democracies in the world. We're talking about bilateral trade of a hundred billion dollars.

So this minor hiccup -- that's what the Indian prime minister called it, "this minor hiccup" -- is not going to affect the larger relationship between the two countries, but still, a lot of damage has already been done.

As we saw soon after that diplomat in the U.S., India ordered a lot of the barricades around the U.S. embassy here in Delphi to be removed. Then they asked U.S. embassy officials to declare how much they were own nannies, their own housekeepers, here in India.

And then, just yesterday, India asked the U.S. embassy here to shut down a very popular American club, which is inside the U.S. embassy.