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Ray Rice's NFL Suspension Overruled by Judge; March to Governor's Mansion Planned in Ferguson, Missouri; Cleveland Police Shoot an Unarmed 12-Year-Old Boy; No Forthcoming Nominee to Replace Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary; Drones Possibly Interfering with Commercial Flight Paths; CNN to Select Hero of the Year

Aired November 29, 2014 - 10:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Ray Rice is back in the game, winning his appeal against that indefinite suspension. But will the NFL star ever play again?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A Thanksgiving calm in Ferguson did not last long as new clashes break out overnight between police and protesters.

PAUL: And there is a big job opening at the top of the military. We're digging into who might fill Chuck Hagel's shoes and the story behind his departure.

I hope Saturday has been good to you so far. Thank you for sharing some time with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's 10:00 here on the east coast, 7:00 out west. You are in the CNN Newsroom.

PAUL: And we begin with the morning with the news that Ray Rice is free to return to the NFL.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And it's coming months after his fight with his now wife and shot the league's domestic abuse issues into the national spotlight. The former Ravens' running back appealed his indefinite suspension and won. And that means effective immediately he's free to play football again if the team wants to sign him.

PAUL: What it came down to is this. The judge and arbitrator Barbara Jones ruled that NFL Commissioner Goodell never should have increased Rice's original two-game suspension because the running back did not lie to the league about hitting Janay in an elevator.

BLACKWELL: And the timing is interesting because it's coming out as Janay is now opening up about what happened that night in February in Atlantic City. Here's what she told NBC's "Today" show.


JANAY RICE, WIFE OF FORMER RAVENS PLAYER RAY RICE: I was furious. We came home and we didn't talk the entire ride. Well, I didn't speak to him the entire ride home. He tried to talk to me. I didn't want to hear anything. I just knew he hit me and I was completely over it. I was done. I didn't want to hear anything. I just didn't want to entertain him anything he had to say, any explanation. Of course in the back of my mind and in my heart I knew our relationship wouldn't be over because I know that this isn't us and it's not him.


PAUL: Joining us CNN sports contributor and "USA Today" sports columnist Christine Brennan on the phone and Rick Horrow, a sports business analyst and the CEO of Horrow's Sports Ventures. Thank you both so much for being with us. Christine, I wanted to get to you. What teams, I mean, is there any gauge what teams might actually want to sign Rice?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, "USA TODAY" SPORTS COLUMNIST: Christi, that is a really interesting question. And the question would also be not only a football question but also a public relations question. Does a team want to take on potential protests and all the things that we saw in September as it bubbled to the surface as people got furious about this knowledge and seeing the video and really coming to terms with what domestic violence looked like in our country, not just in sports but in our country?

So the question, a couple teams come to mind who need running backs and who could be a good fit. The Indianapolis Colts, the Cleveland Browns, the St. Louis Rams. Potentially the Oakland Raiders would have been a great fit if their former owner Al Davis were still alive because he would -- he did anything possible that he could to take it to the NFL. But of course Al Davis is gone. So the key question is, is it worth the risk for the public relations nightmare that you are going to bring on to your team?

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this, Rick, broadening this out a little bit. What does this mean for the future of consequences and suspensions possibly for NFL players? Do you think we'll see more harsh and more strict consequences early on, or will there be some delay until they learn more?

RICK HORROW, CEO HORROW SPORTS VENTURES: Let me first say quickly that Christine and I know each other well. We graduated from the same school the same year. And I think it's fair to say that we have as much chance collectively being signed by an NFL franchise as a running back this year as Ray Rice does, maybe a little more frankly. We may be wrong. I may be wrong, but the guy, 3.6 yards a carry last year. He's 27 years old. You know, maybe next year.

But the important thing here is that the NFL's process was viewed by Judge Barbara Jones in an arbitration hearing as arbitrary because he would have been punished according to articles 46 of the CBA twice for the same incident. And so it really calls out for that clear, consistent, certifiable, transparent, above reproach policy both off and on the field before the Super Bowl that Roger Goodell talked about. So you talk about waiting, Victor. I think every leaguing, not just the NFL, is waiting for that transparent policy because until that happens, all commissioners have to say if they are the judge, jury, and, as she says, maybe even executioner, it's calling that process into question until that standard is created. That's the most important takeaway.

PAUL: All right, so Christine, let me ask you this. We're hearing from Janay the first time. I believe Ray Rice is speaking as well today. How might that influence the possibility of him signing with anybody?

BRENNAN: I'm not so sure it is going to have much of an influence. I completely agree with my friend Rick, and I look forward to seeing you, Rick, in shoulder pads in a Colts uniform. But I think that the odds are remote. He is going to be 28. That's the other thing to consider here. Of course the shelf life for any NFL player, any professional athlete is very short. So in two months Ray Rice will be 28. And that is old in the NFL and in NFL years. And he had his worst year ever last year.

But I do think that the public relations campaign is beginning, as it should. Everyone made so many mistakes. As a culture we've made mistakes in not understanding what domestic violence is. This isn't just an NFL problem. It is a national problem. But I don't think -- in other words, you're asking me would it matter to an NFL team right now that they are speaking out? I don't know. I don't think so. I think that it's going to be hard for Ray Rice to pick up his career whenever he tries to do it, but there may be a team that says sure, let's roll the dice and let's go for it.

BLACKWELL: Let's read the statement we have from the league. "Judge Jones ruling underscores the urgency of our work to develop and implement a clear, fair, and comprehensive new personal conduct policy. We expect this policy to be completed and announced in the weeks ahead. Our focus is on consistently enforcing an improved policy going forward. Let's talk about the man at the top. What does this mean if anything for Roger Goodell, Rick?

HORROW: It certainly means that he is under the gun very quickly to create that policy that he promised in September. You are looking at his transcript and he says that everyone deserves a fair process but we will implement a new conduct policy before the Super Bowl. Anheuser-Busch, nearly $200 million of advertising around the Super Bowl. Super Bowl ads are sold, as we know, for $4.5 million this year, 90 percent sold out. And I know the Super Bowl shouldn't be the be all and end all because there ease been an important social issue. We're talking about this beyond the NFL, a 2,000 percent increase in help line calls. But every league now has a social responsibility here as long as this policy is consistent. And Roger Goodell, the clock is ticking not just because of you but Visa, Anheuser-Busch, Campbell Soup, and everybody else who spends money with the NFL.

BLACKWELL: All right, we'll see what happens and when we get the new information about that policy. Rick Horrow, Christine Brennan, thank you both.

BRENNAN: Thank you very much.

HORROW: Bye-bye. PAUL: Thank you.

We need to talk about Ferguson, Missouri, right now because we are about three hours at this point away from the start of a protest march to honor slain teenager Michael Brown. Demonstrators are planning to spend the next seven days walking 120 miles to the governor's mansion in Jefferson City. There is the route.

BLACKWELL: So this march comes just a day after protesters and officers clashed outside the police station in Ferguson.




BLACKWELL: At least 16 people were arrested overnight. And our Stephanie Elam is there live in Ferguson for us. Stephanie, talk about the goals, if you would, of this -- this march. What are they hoping to accomplish?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Victor. There are some plans here that are focusing on police brutality and also about racial profiling. That's the overarching message that they want to focus on.

But this march, starting from the Canfield Green Apartments where Mike Brown was shot and killed and marching to the Missouri governor's mansion, the focus is also going to be on Ferguson police. They say that the relationship there between the police and the community needs to be addressed, it needs some reform there. And they are also calling for the resignation of the police chief, Chief Jackson. They want him to step down as well. And this is a drum beat that we've heard before, and it's coming back.

And also when you take a look at the protests that we've seen last night as well, there were 16 people arrested but only one of those people was actually from the St. Louis area. Everyone else was from a different state. So you are seeing different people here are also fatigued with the amount of attention in Ferguson, but a lot of protesters I spoke to said that they were going to keep the drum beat going and keep protesting because they thing this issue is so important that it should not go away even though we know the fate of the Officer Darren Wilson and the fact that he was not indicted.

PAUL: All right, Stephanie Elam live for us there in Ferguson, Missouri. Thank you, Stephanie.

BLACKWELL: All right, up next we're talking about the role of race in Ferguson. One of our guests coming up says that it is not about black rage. It is white rage.

PAUL: Plus another police shooting, this time in Cleveland. A 12- year-old boy is dead and the community and police are reacting. We'll tell you what's happening right after the break. Stay close. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: People in Cleveland gathered for a meeting on gun violence and police relations after a police officer fatally shot a 12-year-old boy last weekend. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If a black person reaches for something, their kneejerk response now is to shoot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we totally a world where the lives of black people mean nothing? It's that basic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the guys are going out to try to shoot somebody. I don't think anybody on the police department is doing that.


PAUL: Police earlier released a surveillance video of the shooting, and it shows an officer shot Tamir Rice two seconds after the patrol car pulled up near him. Police have also released recordings of the 911 call and the dispatchers tape as well.

BLACKWELL: Now, the police shooting of course that's garnering the most attention is in Ferguson. So much has been said about what's happening there, but we have with us this morning is a professor who says what we're witnessing is not black rage against police but white rage against progress.

PAUL: Carol Anderson is joining us now. She's an Associate Professor of African-American Studies and History at Emory University here in Atlanta. We're also joined by Bishop Raphael Green. He pastors a church in the St. Louis area. Thank you both for taking some time to be with us.

Professor Anderson, I would love to start with you real quickly. I know that you wrote an op-ed for "The Washington Post" in August. And I want to read part of that for our viewers here. You said, quote, "When we look back on what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, during the summer of 2014 it will be easy to think of it as yet one more episode of black rage ignited by yet another police killing of an unarmed African-American male, but that has it precisely backwards. What we've actually seen is the latest outbreak of the white rage. Sure, it's cloaked in niceties of the law and order, but it is rage nonetheless." Explain what you mean by "white rage."

CAROL ANDERSON, EMORY UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR: White rage is the one that's invisible in terms of it really is cloaked in niceties of law and order. It is cloaked in the courts. It's cloaked in legislatures that devise systems that weaken black voting strength. It's cloaked in legislatures that figure how to define or to redraw districts and boundaries and defund programs or to shrink hiring or the number of public employee, given that most of the discrimination that we see is, for hiring for instance, is in private industry. So you have overwhelmingly African-Americans and the black middle class made up of those in public employment. So when you talk about fiscal responsibility it sounds genteel. It sounds responsible. It sounds doggone what a good government should do. But underneath it, the destruction to the black community is profound.

BLACKWELL: So explain how, if there is this white rage in the way you describe it, how do you change that, if it is so engrained in the institutions and as you say it is subtle from some angles?

ANDERSON: And I think in part the way we begin to do that, and we're seeing it, is that more and more whites are beginning to understand that there is something fundamentally, inherently wrong with the ways that when you are seeing, for instance, the Ferguson police who were fully riot geared up with armored vehicles and the like, wait a minute, this is not my America. When you strip away the veneer and you are asking, so, for jaywalking and shoplifting you get six bullets? I mean, when you begin to strip away the narratives of black as thug, black as criminal, and just begin to see that the violence level is so intense. Ferguson popped because that violence was so apparent. But the underlying violence is also what has led to the kindling that allowed this to explode.

So the way you get at it is that African-American has have been talking about this for years. More and more whites are beginning to see it as well, and it is that coming together that is going to make the difference.

PAUL: We had a guest on earlier who had been a St. Louis County police officer, and he said -- we asked him about the disparity in the department. You know, if you have got the majority of the community who are African-Americans and only three out of 53 officers are African-Americans, how do you change that? And he said a lot of African-Americans don't want to be part of the police department. How do you get people involved if they don't want to be and they already see those barriers? How do we break through them?

ANDERSON: And I would push back on that "they don't want to be police officers, because you see, I mean, it's like saying there is an entire element or an entire profession where African-Americans just don't want to be. But what they see -- I mean, and we saw it too in August and in September when you have the police force -- members of the police force talking about we're here to shoot down these rabid dogs. And so if you have a norm within that force, that police force that sees the black community as rabid dogs, is that a place where you really want to work?

And so it's not that African-Americans don't want to be police officers. They don't want to be police officers where there is that under underlying rage that takes the kind of violence that a police force can heap on a community and target it.

BLACKWELL: And, you know, one thing we learned is that the African- Americans especially in St. Louis County who want to be police officers are so high in demand, they can go to a larger department. They can get more money. So to stay in a small community, it's less attractive if you can go into St. Louis County or to a larger city. Professor Carol Anderson, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Our apologies to the bishop. We had some technical difficulties there. But we thank him for joining us this morning just the same.

PAUL: Absolutely.

We have to get to a little bit of -- a couple other pieces of news here. Pilots, they have a lot going on when they are in the cockpit, right. Well, now they have to worry, may have to worry about remote controlled drones. We're talking about that a little bit We're talking act that a little bit later this year.

BLACKWELL: But also a man walked through the streets of downtown Austin, Texas, firing over and over more than 100 rounds. We're learning about the shooter's targets right after this.


BLACKWELL: Welcome back. Here are some of the stories we're watching this hour. Police are trying to figure out why a gunman shot round after round at the federal courthouse, police headquarters, and a Mexican consulate. This was in Austin, Texas, early Friday. The good news here is that no one was injured by his bullets but the gunman was shot dead. Investigators say he as a criminal history and they are combing through anything that he might have posted online.

PAUL: And take a look at this. Werewolf-masked wear gunning, he sparked a massive manhunt in southern California today. Police say he shot a construction worker at a check cashing business yesterday. The bullet grazed the 58-year-old victim. He has since been released from the hospital. But witnesses say the gunmen got inside the store that was closed for renovations through an open rear door and they are still looking for him.

BLACKWELL: Pope Francis is holding mass at a cathedral in Istanbul this morning. And he's in the middle of a three day trip to Turkey. He praised Turkey for welcoming refugees from Syria's civil war just across the border, and he says the country has a responsibility to promote peace because of its history and its location bridging the east and the west.

PAUL: At least 120 people are dead and 270 wounded after suicide bombers blew up a mosque in northern Nigeria yesterday. Investigators suspect Boko Haram is behind it even though it's an Islamic military group. They target mosques apparently because they believe, quote, "The establishment is perverting Islam." The attack comes two weeks after one of Nigeria's most influential Muslim leaders called for civilians to rise up against Boko Haram.

BLACKWELL: So TVs sold big, game systems. Apparently guns were big on black Friday too. The federal background check system was expected to set a record of more than 144,000 checks yesterday because of all of the sales. FBI officials say that two percent of those checks would probably fail because of insufficient information from records, like court documents. President Obama ends this holiday week with a big hole in his cabinet. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has resigned and it sounds like it was not completely voluntary. We'll talk about that plus who could replace him. But first, this week's "Ones to Watch."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine lies Moldova. One of Europe's smallest and poorest countries, these unremarkable streets harbor a talent which Armin Van Buuren believes could become the next big thing on the dance music scene, DJ Andrew Reyal.

ANDREW RAYEL, DJ: I grew up in a small town. That's where all my friends are. That's where my family is. One day one of my friends brought me a cd with a program. That's how I founded how to record my melodies, how to make loops, beats. That's actually when I started to create something that sounded actually like a track.

I didn't go abroad till I was like 17 or 18 years old when I got my first show. I always know what track I'm going to start with. And maybe sometimes I even think what track I'm going to end with. Nowadays every DJ is a producer. Every producer is a DJ. The only way to impress the crowd is with your production. I never thought that me from Moldova can be right there with the big names with the big DJs. I was dreaming about that. And it's happening right now.


BLACKWELL: And watch the full show at


BLACKWELL: The White House has a big job ahead of it right now to find a new defense secretary. Chuck Hagel is stepping down from his post at the Pentagon after just short of two years on the job. The White House insists the decision is mutual, but sources tell CNN Hagel was pushed out because of the disagreements and frustrations with the level of the management on the White House of the military strategy in Syria and Iraq. And the president appears to be having a tough time finding Hagel's replacement. Let's talk about this now with CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and Dave Gergen. They join us. Ron, I want to start with you. Is it pretty clear here that Hagel was pushed out?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it seems more push than jump. But, you know, you look at the pattern here. We've had three defense secretaries under President Obama. First two have written memoirs explaining their view they were overly managed by the White House, and then you have this following in that wake. I think the pattern is pretty clear of a sense of frustration at the Pentagon, on the one hand that the White House is too closely involved, and then at the White House that the Pentagon perhaps is not following the direction closely enough.

BLACKWELL: David, we heard from the former secretaries there Panetta and Gates at this Reagan national defense forum where we heard from Gates that the micromanaging was a problem. We heard from Panetta that the inner circle makes many of the decisions before the defense secretary walks in. Let's listen to what John McCain has been saying about that inner circle.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: They are going to say, well, it was time for a change and all that. But I can tell you he was in my office last week and very frustrated. Already the White House people are leaking he wasn't up to the job. Believe me, he was up to the job.


BLACKWELL: What is your response to that?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well I think it's unfortunate, more than unfortunate, that the White House has chosen to diminish Chuck Hagel. I think the breaking, the parting of the ways was almost inevitable. There was a lot of frustration building on both sides, and I think for many of the reasons both Panetta and Gates have written about, there is the sense that the National Security Council staff, which started growing well before Obama came to office but has now grown to a gargantuan size. It's over 300 people. When Colin Powell was there were less than 80.

And what it means is when you have that many people, you know, looking for things to do, they inevitably begin putting their hands into the agencies and asking questions and beginning to order them around and making them feel like they are just working essentially for White House 35-year-olds. And that causes a great deal of frustration. We've had three secretaries in a row who have left in frustration as Ron pointed out.

I do not think that means that the next secretary -- what I also object to is the idea that the White House is already allowing the press to diminish the next secretary as if the next secretary is going to be a lackey of the White House. That does not have to be true. There are very, very, good candidates out there who would be strong candidates and could run the department as well. They might have some of the similar frustrations.

BLACKWELL: Ron, some of the potential candidates even at the start of the week have pulled their name of contention. You have former undersecretary of defense Michele Flournoy who says that she doesn't want. Senator Reed says he just won reelection. He wants to stay in the Senate. Why this difficulty to get someone to accept the invitation?

BROWNSTEIN: A couple thoughts. First of all I think that the point that David makes is not unique to the Defense Department. It's really kind of the overall trajectory of government we've seen really I'd say over the last 20 years, more power centralized in the White House on domestic agencies as well, and it makes the cabinet jobs for frustrating. You get to the end of the second term, there is a sense of administrations winding down that makes it harder as well.

And there is the reality that this is a very difficult job where n the one hand the trajectory of Obama the administration has been toward unwinding military commitments in Middle East in particular, and now with the rise of ISIS we are kind of turning the battleship and being asked to design and support a more assertive military posture. So there's a lot of reasons why people might be resistant to doing it. But as David says, there are some strong candidates and I suspect he will end up with someone who will, has to have some respect on the Republican side of the aisle as well because that is now the other new reality of a Republican Congress that must confirm.

BLACKWELL: And Ron, on that point, that leads into questions about is there regret on behalf of the administration for choosing Hagel in the first place when they were winding down wars and Hagel was a staunch war critic, they liked that about him. But now they are ramping up in several countries in the Middle East there is this obvious and inherent disagreement.

BROWNSTEIN: Well look I think that is why -- you know, the thought of having a former Republican senator presiding over the unwinding I think was attractive to them. They feel that he has not been as strong an advocate as he could be as the mission has changed. But relations with the Republican Senate is obviously a much higher item on the priority list for the next defense secretary than it had been. It is something that you need. You need somebody who is going to have credibility on the other side of the aisle with John McCain as chair of the Senate Committee and with others in the Senate as well.

GERGEN: Yes, but let's be clear about this. Let's go back to this. There can be a strong defense secretary in the next two years if they make the right choice. Jeh Johnson, for example, who is now Homeland Security who was an excellent attorney at the Defense Department, had he not gone to Homeland Security he might well have been an interesting, innovative candidate who is well respected in the Senate. I'm partial to Ash Carter who was undersecretary and then deputy secretary, extremely value, worked extraordinarily well there under both Gates and Panetta, enjoyed both of their confidences. I've known him as a professor at Harvard for some time. He's very, very bright, but he's also extraordinarily effective and strong. And he enjoys John McCain's respect. That kind of person could come in. Ash could come in and I think could do a great job.

BLACKWELL: So David, what do you think of the timing of getting someone confirmed? We've heard from some members in the Senate who said that they should hold up any of these nominations in response to the president's executive action on immigration. Do you think we'll get a new A.G. and a new secretary of defense at least in the first couple months of 2015?

GERGEN: I think there are going to be tough hearings on both cases. But the nation cannot afford at a time we're in a conflict, especially against ISIS, to leave that position of secretary of defense vacant. That would be irresponsible. McCain knows that and he's a patriot. He's not going to let that happen. Will they give him a run in the yard? Will they really beat up on him

on what their purposes are in Syria? Yes, they will, because the purposes, as Chuck Hagel himself has been arguing inside, the purposes aren't clear. We don't have a clear strategy. And John McCain and others, Democrats as well, are going to push for that. But that's a healthy thing. Do I think we'll have a defense secretary by early March? Yes, I do.

BLACKWELL: And we do know those confirmation hearings can set the tone for your time in office as we saw with Secretary Hagel and his performance criticized early on. Ron Brownstein and David Gergen, thank you both.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you gentlemen. All righty, imagine this -- no heat for two days and temperatures well below freezing. That is the situation for an awful lot of people in New England. Where the thermometer is heading now, that's coming up.


PAUL: He was just 21 when he died in a house fire at the University of North Dakota. He had signed up to be an organ donor when he was teen and his heart was donated to Vietnam Veteran Tom Meeks who had been waiting for a transplant. Well, eight months after he passed away his family got to hear his heartbeat again. Look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like to listen to your brother's heart?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believe me, it is my pleasure. It's awesome.


PAUL: I'm telling you, you are not going believe this whole story. I believe it is on But if that doesn't prompt you to become an organ donor, I don't know what will.

BLACKWELL: You've got to take the five minutes or so to watch that story. It's an amazing piece from our affiliate. You have got to also feel something for the people in New Hampshire and Maine too.

PAUL: Look at this.

BLACKWELL: They are way below freezing up there. Nearly 50,000 people just can't turn on their heaters. It's been two days since storms and ice knocked off power in the region. Jennifer Gray is in the CNN Weather Center. Jennifer, when, when, when will things get better for the folks in New Hampshire and Maine?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Guys, it's unbelievable not to have a heater and temperatures that cold. Luckily by the end of the weekend we should get the power restored across this area. But that is just if in time for temperatures to actually warm up. So it doesn't do a whole lot of good, but people will be so thankful to finally have their heater. They haven't had it since Thanksgiving Day. So New Hampshire, Maine, we're looking at 3,400 people in Maine, about 46,000 in New Hampshire without power, unbelievable.

Look at these temperatures. We started out in the single digits in some areas, 26 in Portland right now. And we're looking at temperatures in the 20s across New Hampshire. And also looking at very cold temperatures in points west. Look at these, the wind-chills for tonight, 20 degrees below zero in portions of Montana, so very, very cold across the north. We are looking at warmer temperatures to start to filter in high pressure in control across the south. A nice warm-up for the southeast and that's going to make its way up to the mid-Atlantic and the northeast ahead of the next cold front. So do expect a couple of showers to linger into Monday. Guys, these temperatures looking nice, close to 70 degrees in Atlanta Monday and Tuesday about 60 in New York. And travel heading back on Sunday looks good as well.

BLACKWELL: All right, we'll look forward to it. Close to 70, all right.

PAUL: Thank you, Jen.

So drones, you know, they look like a lot of fun.


PAUL: Sure. They're like a remote controlled plane or helicopter. But could they cause plane crashes? There are disturbing details on a few close calls, and we're talking about commercial flights. We're back in a moment.


PAUL: Well the FAA has alarming new discoveries about the numbers of drones in the sky and how close those drones may be coming to packed passenger planes. Between February 22nd and November 11th of this year the FAA says there have been 193 reports of drone sightings during flights. And since just September the reports of close calls have risen to more than 40 a month.

This is happening as the FAA is slowly opening air space to drones, but CNN safety analyst and former FAA member David Soucie joining us now from Denver. He's also the co-author, I should say, of "Why Planes Crash." David, so good to have you with us. Help us to understand, first of all, the real danger in the skies with drones and commercials planes?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: There is a danger in it if there's anything that impacts that aircraft, and we haven't had any reports of that so far. The concern mostly is the fact that it's increasing day after day after day. There's more and more drones that have the potential to come in contact with the aircraft and have collisions.

PAUL: Do drone operators, are they required to get any sort of training?

SOUCIE: Well if they are using it for commercial purposes, yes there are. But if they are using it for amateur purposes there is just regulations that prevent them from operating within five miles of an airport. So these reported drones, none of them that we know of have actually been registered or are being piloted by certified pilots which is the requirement for commercial drones. So these are amateurs that are using them.

PAUL: You're right. In fact pilots have reported that they have seen drones well above 400 feet, which I know is another one of the parameters that they have to stay away from. Is there any way then to gauge who is controlling a drone if they violate?

SOUCIE: That is a very good question. Therein lies the real problem is the fact that you can't stop something from happening simply by regulating it. You know, we've had experiences of that in the past with many different types of laws, and the challenges that the FAA hasn't anticipated this number of flights, therefore they have really no way of monitoring, of actually preventing it from happening other than saying here is a law that says you can't do it. They can't trace it back. There is no prevention and no mitigation at this point.

PAUL: If they do catch you, are there set consequences?

SOUCIE: Absolutely. You could be looking at least a $10,000 fine. If you look at reckless endangerment of others, which could be another criminal penalty, plus you have the fact that you may actually cause the diversion of a flight, which is interfering with the flight of an air navigation system. And that is serious penalties, federal offenses. This could be very, very serious for those people operating in those areas they shouldn't be.

PAUL: Now I understand it, the FAA is giving exemptions for some companies to fly commercial drones. We're seeing it in the film industry, in agriculture, even in law enforcement. Is that complicating things do you think? Or do they have a good handle on that?

SOUCIE: Actually I think they have a very good handle on that. This is something that has been going on for years and the Congress has now said by 2015 the FAA has to integrate commercial use of the drones into the airspace. They are doing an excellent job of that in my opinion. It's difficult, very difficult to get permit to do this stuff. But that's as it should be.

Now, none of these permits are being issued within the areas of the airports at all. As I mentioned before, none of these sightings have been commercially registered drones. So that part of it, I think that is well under control. It's something that we've been doing in the federal aviation administration when I was with them for years is special authorizations to operate outside of the regulations. But therefore there's all kind of very, very strict requirements as to what they can and cannot do.

PAUL: All right, David Soucie, a lot of concern obviously when you think about the repercussions of this, but we appreciate the fact you were here to answer a lot of these questions for us. Good to see you, sir, thank you.

SOUCIE: You too. Thank you.

PAUL: Sure. Victor?

BLACKWELL: Well, CNN has crowned its 2014 CNN Hero of the Year. You can find out who it is when the big show airs next weekend. But what about the man who won the title last year? I wonder, what has he done with his winnings? We'll find out next.


BLACKWELL: So we're counting day until the worldwide broadcast of "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute" coming up next Sunday, December 7th.

PAUL: Yes, so while we wait for that, we were wondering, what is last year's top honoree doing? CNN's Anderson Cooper checks on the man dedicated to cleaning America's rivers.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: In 17 years Chad Pregracke and his team have picked up 8 million pounds of trash from America's rivers. Last November for his inspiring work Chad picked up a big honor.

The 2013 CNN hero of the year is Chad Pregracke.


COOPER: One year later we caught up with him to get an inside look at what he does and how he does it. At the heart of his work is a massive 800 ton barge which stores the huge piles of trash Chad's team collects. It looks like a floating junkyard, but --


COOPER: It's also Chad's part time home.

PREGRACKE: So pretty much everything is reclaimed or recycled out of either old buildings or old barns.

COOPER: The goal is serious, but there is definitely quirk in this work.

PREGRACKE: This would be our creepy doll collection. Why do we have it? I don't have any idea other than we find a lot of creepy dolls.

COOPER: And trash isn't all he needs to look out for on the river. PREGRACKE: One of the safety concerns is actually the flying carp. They really do fly out of the war at high speeds and they get rather big.

COOPER: It is all part of Chad's work, work that also includes growing trees. Chad started this environmental effort in 2007 but he was able to expand after being named CNN Hero of the Year. In the end Chad's crusade is about much more than cleaning rivers.

PREGRACKE: It is about people taking action in their own communities. And that's really what it's all about. That's how you change the world.


PAUL: Tune in to see more of Chad in "Rescuing the River." That's a CNN Heroes special next Friday night. And then on Sunday, December 7th, at 8:00 p.m. eastern "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute" to see who is following in Chad's footsteps as CNN Hero of the Year. You will be inspired, I promise.

BLACKWELL: And I was going to say that. It's worth the time just to sit there and hear these amazing stories, people who started with just what they had to help in any way they could. And now they are being honored. It's a great program.

PAUL: We need to see that, because there's a lot of bad news out there. It's really nice.

BLACKWELL: Go with what you have.

PAUL: Yes.

OK. Go make some great memories. We're so glad that you could spend a little time with us.

BLACKWELL: That's it for us. We're turning it over to Fredricka Whitfield more of NEWSROOM for us.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much. Hope you guys are continuing to have a great Thanksgiving weekend.

PAUL: You, too, Fred. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: I heard your story about Victor, your shopping. You are a bold, brave man.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes. On Thanksgiving.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh, you were out in the stores on Thanksgiving Day.

BLACKWELL: I had to get the deals.

WHITFIELD: I like it, I like it. That's very fun. All right. You all have a great one. Thanks so much. PAUL: You, too.