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Drug-Fighting Hero Murdered; Study Shows Job Loss Affects Heart; Conversion Therapy Provider Being Sued; Getting Ahead on Monthly Bills; Actor Calls His Own Show Filth.

Aired November 27, 2012 - 11:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: To Mexico now, where a courageous stand against a murderous a drug trafficking sect has come to a torturous end. 36-year-old Maria Santos Gorrostieta -- I think I pronounced that wrong. Gorrostieta was said to be a true heroine after becoming mayor of a small town after standing up to death threats. Twice she was injured and disfigured and her husband was killed. On the third attempt, the assassins won. This time, they left nothing to chance either. She was pulled from her minivan while driving her daughter to school. She was tortured, stabbed, beaten to death. Her body was left in a ditch. She reportedly had begged her killers to spare her child's life.

CNN's senior Latin affairs reporter, Rafael Romo, joins us.

Rafael, Maria stepped down as mayor of this town last year. Why on earth did they still come after her?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There are two possibilities. One is that she switched political parties. Although Mexican officials are saying that her political affiliation didn't have anything to do. The other possibility, and this is a report that appeared in the Mexican newspaper is that her husband, who was shot and killed in the first attack against her back in October of 2009, might have been at one point in his life involved in drug trafficking. So that's the two lines of investigation that authorities in Mexico are looking at, at this point.

BANFIELD: And what about the daughter who was still in the vehicle as her mother was driving her to school? Is she OK?

ROMO: She is -- she is doing OK. That was just an incredible thing that happened. She was taking her daughter to school one morning, it was about 8:30 in the morning, rush hour. And right there, in the middle of a busy street, this group of armed men stopped the car and attacked her. And she -- she was dragged away by this group and her daughter witnessed the whole thing. Witnesses say she was crying hysterically. She was not touched, luckily -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: And what about this report now, the BBC saying that two dozen mayors now have been killed in Mexico because they are targeted for taking that authoritative position? Is this something that they're getting a handle on? Is this running amok? Is there any chance for someone who wants to actually try to tackle this problem in Mexico?

ROMO: It is a mixed picture. If you look at the northern states, those states that are right at the border with the United States where most of the violence has happened in the last few years, the government saturated those areas with the Mexican military and the federal police. So violence at those states is coming down. However, in states like where this happened to the mayor, it has been the center of a violent turf war between two drug cartels, and that may be a reason why this happened to the mayor -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Just a very sad and violent story.

Rafael Romo, thank you.

ROMO: Thank you.

BANFIELD: If you want to read more about this, and certainly there is a lot more to it, check out our stories on this page.


BANFIELD: Losing a job may not only be bad for your finances. It could actually be pretty bad for your health it turns out. There's a new study that says losing a job increases your risk of a heart attack.

Senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is here.

This is such an astounding study. I think a lot of people have looked into how, you know, being unemployed affects your mental health and physical health. But few people have looked at prolonged unemployment or the continuous efforts at getting a job and being rejected and how that affects your health, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Few people have looked at repeated layoffs, getting laid off again and again and again, and what that does to you. And these researchers did a good job of trying to single that out to see what it does. And what they found is that getting laid off, especially over and over again, is as big a risk factor for heart disease as smoking. As bad for you as smoking.

Look at these numbers. These are compared to people who never got laid off. If you get laid off once, you've got a 22 percent higher chance of having a heart attack compared to someone who's never been laid off. Three times, 52 percent higher. Four or more times, 63 percent higher. And it wasn't just the stress of not having a job. It was also just the stress of really kind of the trauma of being told over and over again that you've lost your job.

BANFIELD: So is it a -- is there a connection to depression? Is there something about -- could anti-anxiety medications defuse these risks?

COHEN: There is a link to depression in several ways, Ashleigh, especially this one. When people lose their job they're likely to become depressed. When people become depressed they're likely to stop taking medications they're supposed to take for health problems. That's an issue. Another issue is that there's just stress at not knowing where your next paycheck is going to come from, not having a paycheck at all. You know, have you ever been almost in a car accident, like you're sort of narrow -- you narrowly avoid a car accident? You can feel the adrenaline. You can feel the adrenaline in your system. Imagine having adrenaline in your system all the time. It's terrible, and it can narrow your arteries, raise your cholesterol, terrible for your heart.

BANFIELD: Sometimes you worry that going to work is awfully stressful as well. They suggest not going is even more stressful than going to a stressful job?


COHEN: Yes, it seems that way. Better off -- at least you get a paycheck, right?

BANFIELD: Right. There is that.

Elizabeth, fascinating stuff. Thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

BANFIELD: As always, we like to say for more information, Elizabeth's got great reporting, a whole book about being an empowered patient. Check out her work at


BANFIELD: A major announcement from the Southern Poverty Law Center. That is a group that's taking part in a landmark lawsuit that's aimed at something called conversion therapy and a provider of conversion therapy. Some people believe that you can convert or actually change someone who is homosexual through conversion therapy. It's intense therapy. Very controversial. In fact, it's even been banned in California. And now there are claims that it is entirely a scam.


MICHAEL FERGUSON, PLAINTIFF: In another exercise, a man had to break through a human barricade that I was a part of in order to seize two oranges that were meant to symbolize his testicles. He was then frenetically instructed to squeeze the juice and drink from them and put the oranges in his pants in order to represent gaining his testicles. The symbolic absence of them, supposedly being a cause of his homosexuality. In retrospect, these practices fall on a range between absurd to disturbing.


BANFIELD: That was one of the plaintiffs in this case.

And joining me now is CNN's Alan Duke, who's written extensively on this. Alan, who's involved in this lawsuit? And what are the claims that are being made?

ALAN DUKE, CNN.COM CORRESPONDENT: Michael Ferguson, who you saw, was 19 when he underwent this reparative therapy or conversion therapy at JONA, a New Jersey-based organization, that offers this. And there were three others. Two were 17 when they started. Their parents joined or at least their moms joined this lawsuit, wanting their money back and wanting damages for the damage that they say psychologically, mental damage they say that happened here. They say that this therapy caused them depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior that has taken years -- it's been four years since any -- since these plaintiffs have been involved in this. And now they say generally they're doing fine, but it's cost them a lot of money. One guy lost a year of work and wants that money back.

BANFIELD: So as I understand it, this lawsuit is suggesting that this is fraud?

DUKE: Yes.

BANFIELD: This entire therapy is fraudulent and intentional, I assume, if they're calling it fraud. What -- what's the defense here? Are there witnesses they can bring forward to say we went through this therapy and it worked for us?

DUKE: Well, the center that is being sued and the counselors, on their web site, they have testimonials from some people who say that it did help me. So there will be a debate about this. This is something that the American Psychiatric Association has discredited, and it's -- as you say, it's been outlawed in California at least for those under 18 as of January 1st. So of course, the people who deliver the services say it's a First Amendment thing, a freedom of speech thing. We've should be able to offer this therapy.

But interestingly, in New Jersey, they have a very -- a very strong Consumer Fraud Act. And that's what they're suing under. The strategy is unusual here in that they're saying this was fraud. You said you could cure me, you didn't. In fact, you hurt me. That's the legal strategy. They hope to duplicate it in other states. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified at least 70 such providers around the country. And I think they're going after some of the others next.

BANFIELD: We'll have to watch this. It's fascinating to see what the cases -- what the arguments are in court.

Alan Duke, thank you very much. Nice to see you.

By the way, should mention here that the American Medical Association is opposed to what it calls so-called cures like conversion therapy. The association says that they're a serious threat actually to a person's health and a person's well-being.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: 'Tis the season. Holiday shopping time. We had a record Black Friday. Cyber Monday turned out to be strong. Just remember, though, in a few weeks bills come for that Friday and that Monday. Seems like every time you open the mail, there's a new one.

Alison Kosik is joining us to somehow inform us of how we can get bills to stop ruining the holiday, short, Alison, of perhaps getting a pot of water, putting your credit cards in that pot of water and putting it in the freezer.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You don't have to do that. The good news, bills arrive after the holidays come. Already, the glass half full for you. You could go into shock looking at bills, especially because a shaky economy and the tough job market are making Americans to feel less financially secure.

32 percent say paying current or past due bills is the top financial priority, according to a new survey from We spoke with senior financial analyst, Greg McBride, about this, and he said that the stagnant household incomes that we have along with the rising cost of food, health care energy are to blame.

If the situation sounds familiar, a few tips that can help you. Keep track how you spend. Knowing where every dollar goes can help you create a realistic budget. Identify areas to reduce spending. Comparison shop. That could mean buying store-brand groceries or choosing a cheaper wireless service.

If you really want to see a difference, deposit a portion of your paycheck into a savings account. That way, the next time unexpected event pops up, you'll have a fund to dip into.

The faster you get under control, Ashleigh, the sooner you save for the future. It's all about organizing and budgeting -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Also if you can't decide between the red one and the blue one, don't buy both, maybe?

KOSIK: Right. I'm guilty of that. I hear you.



All right, Kosik, thanks so much.

To learn more how to get ahead of monthly bills, there's great information on


BANFIELD: It is not every day you hear the star of a megahit TV show saying, don't watch my show. Seriously. That can be tantamount to entertainment suicide. But it is certainly not stopping one of the very important stars on the show "Two and a Half Men" from spouting off and risking it all. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGUS T. JONES, ACTOR: If you watch "Two and a Half Men," please stop watching. I'm on "Two and a Half Men," and I don't want to be on it. Please stop watching. Please stop filling your head with filth.


BANFIELD: Please stop filling your head with filth. Ouch! That's Angus T. Jones, known as Jake, on the show. Maybe he's following in the twisted career path of Charlie Sheen who was dumped? Jones went on to say the show's part of, quote, "the enemy's plan," end quote, and, quote, "You can't be a God-fearing Christian and be on a show like that," end quote. He's under contract for the next year. He makes over $300,000 per episode.

So is he heading into legal trouble? Is calling the show filth a deal breaker? A fireable offense? Can he be forced to perform on a show they apparently despises? And is there anything wrong with biting the hand that feeds you?

All good questions for a man named Joey Jackson who knows the law like anyone else.

First of all --

JOEY JACKSON, ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: What did you say about CNN? What did you say about your employer?



BANFIELD: I love working here. The best!


We all watch the Charlie Sheen, watching the nuttiness play out. This is a specific and sober, it would seem, young man, specifically disparaging the program he's on and beg his viewers not to watch.


BANFIELD: Fireable offense, contract he must play out? How is this going to pay out?

JACKSON: He's a young man growing up. He's been with the same cast. It's family, since he was 8. He's 19 now. It's a long time now, he's found some religion and it interferes with what the dynamics of the show are. He's speaking out. Should he do it? Absolutely not. This is your employer. When you're making $300,000 an episode, two-year contract, $7.8 million, you may want to be a little nicer. And because of that, generally in contracts there are a couple of clauses important. One, a nondisparagement clause. It says you don't bite, as you said, the hand that feeds you.

BANFIELD: Don't disparage me.

JACKSON: About your employer. You are wonderful.

BANFIELD: Don't say anything at all, what our parents say.

JACKSON: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything. You don't want viewers to have the show and evaluate it in a wrong or negative light. So it's an issue and it could potentially be a fireable offense.

BANFIELD: So now you're the producers of the show and you have this guy out there saying that your product is worthless or filth, how he describes. Do you force him to continue? Do you cut ties? Do they have a right to force him to work?

JACKSON: I think so. Forcing anyone to work, you can't. It's involuntary servitude. If I don't want to work, I watch TV, maybe "Two and a Half Men," take it easy.

BANFIELD: Not if you're him.

JACKSON: As a result of that he's under contract, which requires him to work. So what that -- what happens you give back money $7.8 million that you took and you, therefore, exit gracefully. What they can also do, as we saw with Charlie Sheen, he was killed off, right? In the last episode, I guess, or the new episode beginning in the season. He in this case, this particular actor, went to the Army. So maybe a good segue for the show writers to lead them -- I'm writing for them.

BANFIELD: My question is, if they think he's really valuable and they have a contract, but they can't force him to work, they can thus force him to sit out and take no other work?

JACKSON: Because if you're under contract the issue is that it has to be honored. As a result of that, you fulfill those obligations. And I think this would go to arbitration. Probably an arbitration clause. What does it mean? It means neutral third party they evaluate what happens, you stay out of court, someone listens, they're not in a black robe, they're listening, and you see what happens.

BANFIELD: Let's hope Angus T. Jones is committed to his faith. You don't know if he's going to get a role like this again.

JACKSON: Highest paid child actor.


JACKSON: Past tense.


BANFIELD: Joey Jackson, appreciate it.

Thank you for watching our program. It's good to have you with us.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We're taking you around the world in 60 minutes.

Here's what's going on right now. The fallout of the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, yet taking another turn. The woman at the center of the firestorm still facing more questions.