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Safety Concerns for Swimmers at the Ocean; Temporary Reprieve for Chicago Area College from Having to Provide Birth Control under Obamacare; Social Experiment on Facebook not Getting Likes from Users; Hot Dog Eating Festival

Aired July 4, 2014 - 13:30   ET


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Here's what it looks like right now. Not very impressive. That's good. We like for it all to die off. I don't see a lot of rain getting back to Baltimore and D.C. I think you're clear. There could be one more band that still develops back here in the heat of the day, but for the most part, the rain is going to be Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, all the way back down to Connecticut and even Rhode Island with a couple of flood warnings going on there.

There should be at least a couple of inches of rain today. And I think we're probably really happy that we got all those things done yesterday across the Northeast, especially in Boston, because it's going to be a washout tonight. This storm is still moving away. Still 90 miles per hour. But soon to die, Brianna, because the water here is not as warm as the water was down in North Carolina. The Gulfstream kind of makes a turn off to the east, and now this is getting in much cooler water. A hurricane needs warm water to survive, and it's lost that.

KEILAR: Yes, but there's still this risk though, Indra was talking about it and I was watching her as she spoke, there's -- did you see the little kid behind her kind of like going into the waves a little bit, which, you know, just really almost unnerved me. This is still very dangerous for people.

MYERS: Something else that's happened that people don't really understand, that on Wednesday, the beach was nice and flat. Now the beach isn't flat anymore. The beach is very tilted. Right at the bottom of the ocean, where the shore meets the water, you can go down two or three feet just in a couple of feet, where last week it was nice and flat, you could walk out 100 yards and still be flat. All that sand is now all gone. It got all scoured out last night. So you think you're going to walk a couple of feet in the ocean and you could be all the way up to your chest, and then if you get hit by a wave, it could take you out. It's not over yet certainly and not over at all from Virginia northward. It's just starting.

KEILAR: It's powerful stuff. All right, Chad, thank you so much for the warning. Still ahead, there are millions of people that are on the roads this July 4th. They're putting extra stress on the nation's crumbling highways and bridges, and federal money for these much needed repairs, it's quickly running out.

And up next, an Illinois college gets a reprieve from providing birth control under Obamacare, at least for now. We have details of a new Supreme Court decision ahead.


KEILAR: Welcome back. I'm Brianna Keilar, in today for Wolf Blitzer. The Supreme Court has given a Chicago area college a temporary reprieve from having to cover birth control under Obamacare. It's a very complicated case. But this follows the high court ruling Monday on the issue. In a 5-4 decision, the court said the government cannot force certain for-profit companies to provide some forms of birth control. This latest decision from the court is causing quite a divide between the men and the women on the bench. Pamela Brown, our justice correspondent, is here. This is really -- it's the men on one side and the women on the other.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, absolutely, Brianna, and the women are really banning together with this latest move by the majority, the conservative justices on the court. And in this 15-page dissent by Justice Sotomayor, she writes about her displeasure with this decision. You look at it, it wasn't just a disappointing week for the Obama administration, but also these three female justices on the bench over this hot-button issue of the contraception mandate.

This is of course on the heels of Monday's ruling that gave certain for-profit companies the ability to opt out of the mandate on religious freedom grounds. Late yesterday, the high court issued an order saying that an evangelical school in Illinois was temporarily exempt from having to comply with some of the regulations designed to give women access to contraception coverage. Wheaton College had sued the Obama administration, and that case is working its way through the lower courts right now.

So Thursday's injunction was just a temporary measure, putting the government enforcement on hold for the time being for this college, but Justice Sonya Sotomayor, joined by her colleagues, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, giving this blistering dissent, saying that this injunction by the court's all-male majority was sawing confusion by creating these administrative exceptions to the mandate and therefore adding unnecessary costs and layers of bureaucracy. And in her dissent, this is what she says, she says, "it is not the business of this court to ensnare itself in the government's ministerial handling of its affairs in the manner it does here."

So, Brianna, all this is sort of a sign that the fight over this employer mandate is far from over on this politically charged issue.

KEILAR: Because there are certain organizations or companies, and if they want to not provide access to this contraception, they have to sign a waiver. But they feel like they then are giving someone else permission or they are kind of complicit in providing--

BROWN: Exactly. And in fact, there's about 100 lawsuits in the pipeline right now contesting the contraception mandate, and that's a key point, in a lot of these lawsuits, these companies don't even want to have to sign the waiver form, they want to completely have their hands off of it. But it's really interesting, when you look at these sharply worded dissents from Ginsburg earlier in the week, Sotomayor on this.

KEILAR: 18 pages, right?

BROWN: It's really unusual, just to kind of put this in perspective, it's unusual for a justice to write a sharply worded dissent like this in an injunction, a temporary, you know, it's a one-page injunction giving this college the ability to not have to do anything while their lawsuit is pending. But Sotomayor and the other two justices joining her, banding together, really fired up over this.

KEILAR: They sure are. Pamela Brown, thank you so much for explaining that to us.

Now it's the summer travel season. It is here. But the sorry state of many highways and bridges may be enough to keep you home. We will explain why it's probably not going to get better anytime soon.


KEILAR: Well, it is a 4th of July tradition at Coney Island in New York. Nathan's international hot dog eating contest is what I'm talking about. But check this out. Returning champion Joey Chestnut, he had something special in mind for this year's event. Yes. Hot dog and romance go hand-in-hand.




KEILAR: Picnic food and engagements. That's right. Well, he proposed to his longtime girlfriend, (inaudible) his fellow competitor. By the way, Chestnut just really took over the competition. He consumed 61 hot dogs in just ten minutes. It was his eighth straight title. Now pass the antacids and the congrats.

And speaking of gas, and yes, I did just say that, if you are driving this weekend, you will be paying more. AAA says the average price is $3.67 a gallon, and that is more than on any July 4th since 2008 when prices topped $4. It's largely due to fears of a civil war in Iraq and its effect on oil production. But despite the high gas prices, AAA says 41 million of you are expected to drive more than 50 miles from home this weekend. That's actually a 2 percent increase over last year.

What many Americans don't know is that many roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair, and it probably won't get better anytime soon. Rene Marsh explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This summer, millions of Americans hitting the road will cross bridges and roadways in dire need of improvement and repairs. Getting to your destination likely won't be easy. Expect traffic jams because decades-old bridges and roads weren't built to handle today's traffic.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If this Congress does not act by the end of the summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out.

MARSH: Dubbed the transportation fiscal cliff, a federal fund used to repair America's crumbling infrastructures is just weeks away from going bankrupt. A potential crisis for commuters, considering the American Society of Civil Engineers gives U.S. infrastructure a D plus. And one in nine of the nation's bridges are structurally deficient.

Look no further than Delaware for what the impact could look like. An emergency shutdown of the critical I-495 bridge. The problem? Cracks and leaning support columns. Old underground pipes breaking in cities across the country, causing major flooding.

The president and transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx, say failure to fund repairs and improvements will cost Americans in more ways than one.

(on camera): How many jobs potentially at stake here?

ANTHONY FOXX, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: So we're estimated 700,000 jobs at risk.

MARSH (voice-over): In 2011, commuters wasted 2.9 billion gallons of gas just sitting in traffic, costing the average consumer more than $800 per year, according to one study.

The Highway Trust Fund gets revenue from an 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax. But the tax has not increased to keep up with inflation since 1993. Now the clock is ticking as Congress debates how to prevent the fund from going broke next month.

FOXX: We need to be able to get those investments moved into filling gaps, reducing congestion, and lowering travel times.

Improving the ability of the American public to move around and for goods to move around, but that can only happen if Congress acts.

MARSH (on camera): Well, on Tuesday, states all across the country received letters saying, prepare for the worst, payments are about to slow down. What lawmakers cannot agree on is how to pay for our infrastructure. The ideas range from raising the gas tax to scaling back Saturday mail delivery to offset the cost.

Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.


KEILAR: Thanks, Rene. And coming up, one city has found a way to save a lot of green by

changing the way they take out the trash. But up next, a new poll ranks the current occupant of the White House as the worst president since World War II. A lot of people in that poll do. We'll be taking a closer look when we come back.



LOU GEHRIG: Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.


KEILAR: Those words on this day in history, July 4th, 1939, Lou Gehrig delivered an emotional farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. Thousands of fans and former teammates, including Babe Ruth, came to honor his legacy, and also to encourage him in his battle with A.L.S., which is now known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

President Obama still has two and a half years left in his term, but already he's been declared by many, I should say about 33 percent of folks I think in a poll, the worst president of the past 70 years. This is a new poll by the Quinnipiac University. Of course, they said the same thing about President Bush when he was in office. So let's bring in Brian Stelter, the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," to talk about this. Makes you wonder, Brian, should you pay a lot of attention to something like this, because attitudes always change really to benefit a president years down the road?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES: They sure do. And that's why we devoted a whole segment to this on "Reliable Sources" this weekend, because there's something misleading about all the headlines we saw this week that just say very simply Obama, worst president. It would be more accurate to say many Republicans think he's the worst president since World War II.

I saw in New York Post at one point that Americans vote Obama worst president in 70 years. That's just not true if you're talking about 33 percent of the population. I put some of the responsibility on the pollsters here, because they know when they put this poll out that it was going to get over exaggerated and manipulated.

But I got to put a lot of the responsibility on the press. I think this show a couple of days ago did a pretty good job. Paul Steinhauser came on and said exactly what you did, which is Bush was voted the exact same thing six or seven or eight years ago. But it really is on the press to make sure they cover these things in a way that puts it into context. Otherwise, it can seem very misleading.

KEILAR: People feel so strongly at this moment and things tend to fade over time.

STELTER: Right, I don't think people are going to be talking at their 4th of July barbecues about this, but if they really want to talk about the heart of what's going on, it's political polarization. It's not about who is the worst president, because that's misleading number. It's about how polarized we are, that so many people feel these things are true.

KEILAR: So one of the things that I think is still kind of percolating out there is this story about Facebook. And I know you'll be devoting time to this. It's a social experiment by Facebook without users really even being aware of it. People don't know about this. Tell us about it, and tell us why as people are finding out about it, they're getting so mad.

STELTER: Yes. I think what -- the connection between these two stories is the headlines can be so simplistic. You've got to go a lot deeper, especially on this Facebook story. The

fact of the matter is, Facebook is manipulating the news feed all the time in all sorts of ways. The news I just saw on my news feed a few minutes ago is based on a complicated algorithm of Facebook decisions about what they think I'm going to be interested in. So are they manipulating people's emotions? You could say they are all the time.

This particular study that came out in the past week or so happened in 2012. And it was pretty clearly an experiment about people's emotions. But Facebook is doing it in all sorts of other ways all the time, and I think that's kind of what we opt in for when we sign up for Facebook. There is really no way to avoid the experiments that Facebook does once you've signed up for it.

KEILAR: So what is an example of this? Let's say if I log on to Facebook and I am looking at my feed, how might something have been manipulated?

STELTER: Well, you know, they're going to try to pick stories that you're interested in, so you'll spend more time on Facebook. I think they might prioritize positive stories, because those are heartwarming. Those are a positive. You might stick around and read more of those. People's baby pictures, people's vacation pictures. Stuff like that. You might say that's a very good thing for Facebook to be doing, because it might lift everybody's spirits to see lots of pictures of those barbecues I mentioned today.

But we should be aware when we're on Facebook or on other social networking sites that these feeds are algorithmically chosen, that A (ph) and B (ph) tests are going on all the time to make the services more valuable to us. Because after all, the customers of Facebook aren't really us. They're advertisers. That's who Facebook is trying to please, more than anybody else.

KEILAR: Yes, and it is interesting, too, in the advertising angle of this. When you look at positive stories, it's been shown, sometimes you kind of wonder, what about me? Maybe -- I don't know, maybe you want to buy something to fix that feeling. Who knows? Maybe that's part of the reason.

STELTER: Absolutely. And advertising has worked that way for a long time. But Facebook is so much better at it and they got so much more power, because they are monopolistic. There is no other social networking site even close to as big as Facebook. So I'm glad there has been a lot of attention around this, this week, but we should know it's going on all the time.

KEILAR: Cool. Thanks, Brian. And we'll be checking that out on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, that is the time when you can always catch "Reliable Sources" with Brian Stelter. Thank you.

STELTER: Thank you.

KEILAR: Up next, cleaning up the city of tomorrow and how a trash can is saving one city millions of dollars.


KEILAR: There is a revolutionary new way to manage America's trash that will keep our streets clean, cut down on air pollution and save taxpayers millions of dollars. The city of tomorrow is, yes, already here. For more, here is Erin Burnett.


ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST (voice-over): Trash is a problem that's plagued humans since we moved into cities. And dealing with it is messy and expensive.

America spends approximately $55 billion a year managing waste. But in Philadelphia, a trash can is revolutionizing waste management, cutting down on air pollution and potentially saving the city millions in the process.

MICHAEL FELDMAN: The concept was to marry solar technology, some wireless technology, and some trash compaction.

BURNETT: The Big Belly solar compactor automatically crushes down its trash, allowing it to hold five times the amount of garbage as a standard waste basket. When it's full, it sends an alert to a Web site indicating it needs to be emptied.

That little alert makes a big difference.

DONALD CARLTON: Before Big Belly, we had wire baskets throughout the city. They were serviced 17 times per week. The installation of the Big Belly units have allowed us to now only service the Big Bellys four times a week, which is approximately $1 million savings for the city of Philadelphia.

BURNETT: Most of the savings has come from cutting the size of collection crews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Philadelphia's case, they took a crew of 33 trash collection staff, and reoriented it into approximately nine guys now collecting trash and the rest of the guys have been working on the recycling effort.

BURNETT: The single compactor can operate for an entire year on the energy it takes to drive a trash truck one mile. The city shelled out a total of $4.7 million for the smart trash can.

CARLTON: When you are talking about spending $3,500 to $3,900 on a receptacle, it doesn't sound that great at first, but when you see the savings and reduction of crew costs, the units will pay for themselves within five years.

BURNETT: Major cities across the world, from New York to London, are also using these smart trash cans. But the Philly experiment is the largest. Trash will always be a part of our lives, but with smart technology, it doesn't have to be a total waste.


KEILAR: It's July 4th, so you'll be hearing the national anthem today, and boy, it is a tough song. We all know that. Not everyone nails it, right? But our Sunlen Serfaty met a man who makes it his business to help people hit the high note.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a song that can soar. Or sink.

Enter Michael Dean. On a mission to save singers' egos and our ears.

MICHAEL DEAN, MUSIC DEPARTMENT CHAIR, UCLA: The worst part is that those performances are bad for everyone. They're bad for the singer and they are horrendous for the listeners.

SERFATY: Call it the how not to butcher the national anthem class. Scores of pop stars, a list so exclusive it's kept secret, have come to him to prep for their national anthem performances and avoid humiliation by learning not only the technique of the song, but its meaning.

The song has its hazards. A sprawling vocal range of an octave and a half, setting up this crucial moment that, well --


SERFATY: Usually crashes and burns. And the tricky lyrics written not in normal speech patterns, but in poetry.

MARY ACEDEDO (singing): Oh say can you see by the stars lining bright --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the rockets' red glare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the ramparts we watched.

SERFATY: Dean says so many people forget the words because they don't understand them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So gallantly streaming.

DEAN: If it's just a lot of nonsense words, then the audience is going to receive it as a lot of nonsense words. So studying why this piece was originally written is very important for the singer to do.

SERFATY: Sadly, it seems these days the anticipation of a bad anthem is now the norm.

DEAN: A lot of people have told me when they listen to the national anthem, and it goes reasonably well, the only feeling they feel is relief. They don't actually feel moved or changed or inspired. They're just relieved that it wasn't awful.

SERFATY: Cringe-worthy moments Dean is working one note at a time to avoid.

Sunlen Serfaty, CNN, Washington.