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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Fire in Rochester Home; Syrian Bakery Bombing; Interview with Bob Marshall;Game Show Flub; Believing in Angels

Aired December 24, 2012 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ALINA CHO, CNN HOST: What have you told your daughter about all of this?

Casey?

Oh, boy, right at that moment.

All right, well, Shawn Graham and Casey Graham, we thank you both, if you can still hear me, for joining us and we wish you the very best. And we hope that police catch those guys who came into your home.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, the NRA doubles down and calls for armed police in all schools after the Newtown massacre. A lot of criticism from both sides of the aisle on that. We will talk to one lawmaker who is pushing a similar plan to arm school officials, teachers.

Plus would you like to buy a G? A "Wheel of Fortune" controversy that has people saying the game show is anti-South. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Welcome back to a very special edition of STARTING POINT for a Christmas Eve. I'm Alina Cho in New York.

Good morning, Dana.

DANA BASH, SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina. I'm Dana Bash in D.C. Thanks for joining us on this Christmas Eve morning.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BASH: And we've got breaking news to tell you about. A scary situation unfolding right now in upstate New York, where SWAT teams are on the scene of a house fire near Rochester.

Authorities say a gunman began shooting at responding firefighters with an assault rifle. Scattered reports say one firefighter is wounded, and the fire has spread to a neighboring home. Of course, we're going to keep a close eye on this as it develops.

And to Syria now, where a gruesome scene is unfolding this morning. More than 100 people who had gone without bread for a week killed as they lined up to get bread at a bakery. The death toll is expected to rise as well. Mohammed Jamjoom is following developments from Beirut. And before we get to Mohammed, we must warn you that some of the video you're going to see is extremely graphic.

Mohammed?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dana, it's really horrific and grisly details that emerged from the activists that we spoke with there in the town of Halfaya. This attack occurred Sunday.

They say that this bakery, that this town was specifically targeted. They say it was because this town had been liberated by rebel Free Syrian Army soldiers in the last few days, that it harbors a lot of anti-government sentiment. And they say that because of that, warplanes shelled this bakery where hundreds of people were lined up outside to be able to get bread to feed themselves and their family.

Now the opposition activists tell us it was a horrible scene there. Some of this amateur video you're seeing, some of it is so graphic we have to blur. There are mangled bodies that are being pulled out of the rubble. There are Free Syrian Army rebel soldiers as well as civilians trying to tend to the wounded, trying to dig out the dead bodies from the rubble there, really, really horrific stuff.

Now the Syrian government, for its part, is saying that they did not do this. They say that this was the work of terrorists. That's the term that they use for opposition forces, for rebel forces in Syria. They say that, in fact, this town was attacked, that that's how this bakery was shelled, and they say that then they came in; they intervened at the behest of the members of the town there.

There is some more that we need to tell you about. Lakhdar Brahimi, who is the joint U.N. Arab League special envoy to Syria, he went to Syria last night. He spoke with Bashar al-Assad today, trying to forge a path towards peace. Here's more of what he told reporters about what he spoke to President Bashar al-Assad about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, U.N. ADVISER (through translator): We have exchanged opinions about the possible steps that can be taken in the future. The Syrian president spoke about his view regarding the situation.

I also talked about the meetings I have had abroad in several cities with various officials in the region and outside the region. I also talked about what steps which I see appropriate to be taken to help the Syrian people to get out of this crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAMJOOM: Mr. Brahimi has since left Syria. He says that it's a crisis there. It's only worsening, and they hope that they can come to some sort of a solution to help the Syrian people. Dana?

BASH: Mohammed Jamjoom, just an awful, awful story, just people going out to get bread, hungry people going out to get bread. Thank you very much.

CHO: Call him crazy if you want. The head of the NRA isn't giving any ground on its controversial statement after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. CEO Wayne LaPierre telling NBC that all schools should now have armed police.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NRA: If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy. I'll tell you what, the American people -- I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: And that's not the only idea out there. Bob Marshall is a state delegate for Virginia, and he's got a proposal that would require some teachers or other staffers to carry concealed weapons in school.

Mr. Marshall, good morning. Thank you for joining us. You know, I think that many people agree, most agree that this terrible shooting, 20 young children dead, 27 total, is a gamechanger and that public opinion really is shifting, and that the solution is not more guns, but fewer guns. So I'm just curious to know, how do you expect to get real support on this measure?

BOB MARSHALL, VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATURE: Well, the requirement is not for individual teachers or administrators to carry guns. The requirement is for public school divisions to offer such training to people who want to receive such training. I have emails from school teachers, administrators, principals around Virginia and public schools who want to do this.

In Virginia, we do have police. We call them community resource officers, right now, who are in the public schools. It's predominantly secondary schools. In Virginia, we do allow parents or relatives to go on school grounds right now with a concealed carry permit, provided you stay in the car. There have been no incidents at all that are adverse to anybody.

In 2006, the incidence of gun related crimes was 79 per 100,000. It's now dropped to 57 per 100,000. In the same time, gun purchases have increased 73 percent.

So at least in Virginia, more guns has resulted in fewer crimes.

CHO: Well, you give me some statistics. I'm going to give you some.

Poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans are now in favor of stricter gun laws.

I want you to look up on the screen there. This is coming from CBS News. More Americans, as you can see there, 57 percent are in favor of more strict gun control laws versus 39 percent in April. That is an incredible jump. And you look at even members of the NRA, and they say that 74 percent say there should be background checks on all purchasers, 74 percent concealed carry after -- only after gun safety training.

And you see the screen there.

You know, you talk about arming, or the possibility of arming teachers and school officials is one thing -- and maybe some of them want to do that. But there's another big point about whether it works.

You know, there was an armed guard in Littleton, Colorado, at Columbine. That didn't stop those shooters from going on a rampage, 15 dead.

There was a police station on the campus of Virginia Tech. That didn't stop that gunman.

And a lot of people think these attacks happened so quickly, these gunmen are so brazen, there's nothing anyone can do to stop that. What do you say to that?

MARSHALL: Well, I introduced legislation to allow professors who have concealed carry permits to carry on campus in Virginia. That did not pass.

You are correct, that the police are usually in a reactive mode. I'm thankful that they're there. But I think individuals who are already certified to carry -- and, again, going through a four-week course that you would go through if you're going to be the deputy sheriff in Virginia should be on our public school grounds if they want to do this. I'm not requiring anybody to do this.

When you have basically a sign in front of schools saying this is a gun-free area, this is -- we don't do this for our private homes. You certainly don't have a sign in front of your home saying this is a gun-free school zone.

The political elite in this city has their children in schools with armed guards. Nobody is begrudging them that. I'm thankful that they do. We just need to have the same protection that they have for themselves applying to the rest of America.

CHO: When you talk about that training, I mean, these teachers are taught to teach, not to shoot guns, and perhaps some of that training, should they choose to undergo it, would certainly help, but mistakes are made even with the best training.

And I want you to listen to a man who ran to the scene of the Tucson shooting involving Gabby Giffords, and he says he almost shot the wrong person, almost shot the man who was trying to take the gun away from the shooter, Jared Loughner. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE ZAMUDIO, HELPED SUBDUE GABBY GIFFORDS' SHOOTER: I was already at a full sprint. And, you know, it's no time to think about anything. I saw another individual holding the firearm, and I kind of assumed he was the shooter.

So I grabbed his wrist and told him to drop it and forced him to drop the gun on the ground. When he did that, everybody says, no, no, it's this guy. All I had to do was help.

If they hadn't grabbed him and he'd been still moving, I would have shot him. I almost shot the man holding the gun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSHALL: Well, the important point to know is that he didn't do it. In the United States, in states which pass legislation requiring the issuance concealed carry permits, the incidence of crime dropped significantly in those states. So I don't see that that's necessarily a bad result.

CHO: You're talking about teachers, who -- and particularly in this case, if you look at Sandy Hook, who are trained to teach kids 6, 7 years old, and you're talking about them possibly carrying concealed weapons --

(CROSSTALK)

MARSHALL: No, no, no, I don't want to force anybody to do this.

CHO: I know you're not asking that. I know you're not (inaudible) forcing them --

MARSHALL: It is very distressing at this time of year to have such a slaughter of innocents or any time of year.

I am a grandfather. I have children in -- grandchildren in Virginia's public schools. I don't want the same policy course to continue.

Our governor, who's a very cautious guy, said we need this as part of the discussion.

CHO: But isn't the --

MARSHALL: I want to start this as part of a discussion.

CHO: -- solution then, what about the solution being more gun control, tighter laws on buying a gun?

You know, public opinion is shifting toward that, as you saw earlier. Why not have that as the solution?

MARSHALL: We have background checks in Virginia, where, if you go to buy a gun, you've got to go through a background check. If you go to one of these gun shows, you've got background checks.

What has happened here is, because of Barack Obama's past record, he did -- he voted against a law where the Illinois legislature wanted to say if there's a local ordinance against the possession of handguns, that our law will override that if you defend your life or your property in your home. He voted no on that. There has been a panic since this event, unlike 2001, when there was a terror attack, when 3,000 people were killed. There wasn't a big rush to buy guns. There is now because people are fearful that the 2nd Amendment guarantee of right of gun ownership is going to be abrogated here because of this horrible event.

CHO: Bob Marshall, you're the state delegate in Virginia with an interesting proposal about the possibility of arming teachers in schools.

MARSHALL: Some teachers.

CHO: Please keep us posted --

MARSHALL: Some teachers.

CHO: -- some teachers. Please keep us posted on how this plays out. And we thank you --

MARSHALL: Thank you.

CHO: -- for joining us today. Thanks so much.

MARSHALL: Thank you.

CHO: Dana?

BASH: Thanks, Alina.

Well, ahead on STARTING POINT, more trouble for Lance Armstrong. Who's suing him over those doping accusations?

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CHO: Angels play a prominent role around Christmastime, but are they real? One author says they are and that she can even see them. She is with us live after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Some top stories. President Obama and the first lady are paying respects to the late Senator Daniel Inouye. They did so at a memorial services in Honolulu. Inouye, a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor winner died last week from a respiratory illness. Following the ceremony, the President went to visit the grave of his grandfather Anthony Dunham, also a World War II vet. He's buried at the same cemetery.

Lance Armstrong now facing a lawsuit from the "Sunday Times of London"; the suit is in response to Armstrong's 2004 libel suit against the British newspaper. The now disgraced cyclist received a settlement of close to a half million dollars back in 2006 after the paper raised questions about Armstrong's success following his recovery from testicular cancer. Now the paper wants more than $1.6 million, saying, it's quote, "clearly false that Armstrong never took performance enhancing drugs."

Reality TV star Bethenny Frankel and her husband Jason Hoppy have separated. In a statement Frankel called it an extremely difficult decision that "As a woman and a mother, I have to accept as the best choice for our family." She became famous as a member of the cast of the "Real Housewives of New York" and spinoff reality shows about her life. Frankel and Hoppy were married for nearly three years. They have a two-year-old daughter.

BASH: And call it the wheel of misfortune. Contestant Renee Dourette thought she had the winning answer to a big money puzzle on the "Wheel of Fortune" but maybe she didn't. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RENEE DOURETTE, CONTESTANT: G.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there's a G.

DOURETTE: I'd like to solve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

DOURETTE: Seven swans a-swimmin'.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, no.

DOURETTE: Swimming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't accept that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Come on. Dourette is a navy intel specialist from Merritt Island, Florida.

Instead of saying "seven swans a-swimming", as you just heard, her southern accent had her swallow it. She swallowed the letter G; she said "swimmin'" instead. The Twitter-verse is abuzz.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Accusing the producers of being anti-south.

To me it didn't even sound like an accent. It sounded like she was just having fun, "a-swimmin'".

CHO: Give me a break. Come on.

BASH: Ridiculous.

CHO: Anyway, all right. Let's hope that's reversed. I don't know if that's possible now. Ahead on STARTING UP, do you believe in angels? Up next, an author who says not only does she believe, but she could see them. Why she says so many more come out this time of year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Angels play a prominent role in the story of Christmas, announcing the birth of Jesus Christ. But for best-selling Irish author, Lorna Byrne, angels are something she says she has seen and communicated with since she was a baby. Their message she says, is to give back hope and let people know they're not alone, especially at Christmas.

Her latest best-selling book, "A Message of Hope from Angels", is out there on Amazon and everywhere else. We're going to talk to her right now. Good morning. Thank you very much for joining us.

I think I want to ask the first question that comes to my mind, and I'm guessing it comes to most of our viewers' minds, what does it mean when you say that see angels? Describe what you're talking about.

LORNA BYRNE, AUTHOR, "A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM ANGELS": I see angels as physically as you would. You know when you're out on the street and you see all of the people. Well, I see all of the people, and I would see the guardian angel as physically as I see the people, regardless of their religion or their belief or even if they have no belief. Every single human being has a guardian angel, and even whether you are good or bad.

(CROSSTALK)

BYRNE: Sorry. The other day when I was out on the street myself, I saw a father walking home with his little son, and the son was riding a bike, and his guardian angel was dressed in pink and stretched out over him with the guardian angel with the beautiful golden hands on the handle bars and trying to pull the young boy back and telling him not to go too far ahead of his dad.

I just see angels physically every single day, and it's normal and natural. And I don't know why I see angels and say not you.

BASH: Well, when I think of angels, I think of the movie "It's a Wonderful Life", Clarence, the angel, which is near and dear to my heart because I watch this movie every Christmas, as I think most Americans do, it's on TV. Remember the point where the bell tolls. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, daddy, teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: So my question for you is that the kind of angel that you see? More importantly, is that the kind of angel you think exists? Clarence, of course, tried to explain to Jimmy Stewart that his life is important because, if he wasn't here, everybody's lives would be different.

BYRNE: Well, at this time of the year, I see a multitude of angels that only come for Christmastime. They are very bright, very white and gold, and they carry a ball of light, and they drop it on every home, whether it's a house or an apartment or even a cardboard box, and filling each home with love and hope. Angels are very, very beautiful only for the (inaudible) human appearance I wouldn't actually be able to describe them.

BASH: Now, I have to ask you the skeptic's question, which is --

BYRNE: Ok.

BASH: A lot of people might find it hard to believe that you actually see angels.

BYRNE: Well, what would I say to you? There's nothing I can say if you believe or you don't believe. I just say to people, if you're a skeptic, give yourself a chance, say what have you got to lose? And just believe in angels maybe for the Christmas. And it's just very important because everyone has a guardian angel. I don't know why god chose me to see angels physically and not you or anyone else, but I do know it is to give the messages to everyone to allow everyone in the world to know that they have a guardian angel. That's a gift from god that loves them unconditionally.

BASH: Well, it is a nice, wonderful, message -- as you say, a message of hope. As you say, angels are a sign of hope, and it's important to remember especially around the holidays.

BYRNE: They are indeed, yes.

BASH: Thank you so much for joining us. Merry Christmas.

BYRNE: Happy Christmas. Happy Christmas.

BASH: Thank you. STARTING POINT will be back in a minute.

BYRNE: Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Thanks for joining us this morning. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas Eve. And Alina, it was great being on with you for the past three hours.

CHO: Yes. And we'll be right back here tomorrow morning Christmas day. Thanks, Dana. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks to you both. Happening now in the "NEWSROOM". Twas the day before Christmas, and malls around the country are expected to be packed; millions of last-minute shoppers scurrying to stores to finish their shopping list. Are you one of them?

Plus this --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on the NRA. Ban assault weapons now.