Return to Transcripts main page


Gun Violence Victims Meet with Biden; Facebook Debuts New App; Four-Year-Old Banned From School

Aired January 9, 2013 - 06:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Gun control front and center. Officials taking action today from Washington all the way to small cities like Burlington, Vermont.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A fight over flu shots for school kids. We're going to talk to the parents of one school kid who says they have good reason to sparing the needle.

SAMBOLIN: Balloon ride from hell. A camera is rolling as a wedding party's sky-high tour takes a terrifying turn.

BERMAN: A wedding they will never forget.

SAMBOLIN: Is that a good way to start, or is that a bad way to start off? I don't know.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is January 9th. About 30 minutes after the hour right now.

So, preventing another Newtown, another Aurora, another Tucson. Later this morning, survivors of gun violence along with gun safety groups are meeting with Vice President Joe Biden. Biden, of course, is leading the White House task force on guns, which was quickly assembled in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy.

Lonnie Phillips, he will be there. In July, his stepdaughter, Jessica Ghawi, was one of 12 people killed in the mass shooting at the movie in Aurora, Colorado.

First, thank you so much for being with us this morning. And we continue to be sorry for your loss, sir.


BERMAN: What do you intend to say to the vice president when you meet with him today?

PHILLIPS: You know, I don't have any plan. I would like to at least tell him my story. And put a face on the tragedies and try to let the task force know that we will do everything. I'm working with some other groups. Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Illegal Mayors, anybody else that I can work with to help stem this horrible massacre that is going on in our country.

BERMAN: The White House is considering a number of steps. Let me read you some of the things they are considering doing here.

Possible gun control proposal includes universal background checks, tougher mental health exams, stronger penalties for carrying firearms near schools and the measures go on,.

Do you think these will help?

PHILLIPS: I think anything at all will help right now. I think the three things that we're going to have to focus on, it's going to be tough, protracted battle with gun rights. The NRA, and I think the NRA and weapons manufacturers that funnel money into the NRA, I'm going to do everything I can to help with that.

But the three main things is assault weapons. The last three massacres in our country were the Bushmaster, the M-14, or variant of the M-14 assault weapon type guns. NRA is trying to make a distinction. The distinction, it's a killing machine, a bullet every second as we just learned, in the Aurora, preliminary hearings.

Those background checks, high-capacity. Those three things are a must. We have to work on those. I don't care if it takes the rest of my life, I'm going to work on those three items.

BERMAN: Lonnie, your wife is a former member of the NRA. You brought up the NRA. The NRA has been vocal over the last few weeks after this incident, after being silent for a few days.

Have they been helpful, do you think, in this dialog?

PHILLIPS: They have been helpful, and they are using their same worn out, trite guns kill people, people don't kill people.

They need to come up with something more substantial than that. A dialogue with NRA would be helpful. I would like to see some kind of step forward for them, instead of just towing the line and not giving an inch. That's not the way to negotiate.

BERMAN: And, Lonnie, as you well know, the man accused of killing your stepdaughter is in a preliminary hearing right now in Colorado. What do you want to come from the hearings? You have chosen not to attend.

PHILLIPS: I think because of my wife's emotional condition, it's better that we don't go. We have representatives there he, even hearing from the members of the murdered families, hearing that after the hearings, my wife -- I had to hold her while she cried herself to sleep. It's just too painful.

BERMAN: All right. Lonnie Phillips, again, thank you for being with us. And we are so sorry for your loss. Father of Aurora victim Jessica Ghawi -- thanks for joining us this morning.

PHILLIPS: Thank you for having me.

SAMBOLIN: Breaks your heart to see them suffer like that.

Thirty-four minutes past the hour.

Gun rights advocates showed up in blaze orange hunting gear to fight a new gun control lobbying proposal in Vermont's city. A large crowd packed city hall in Burlington Monday night, many of them wearing hunters orange, to show their opposition to a measure banning semiautomatic guns and multiple ammunition clips.

The Burlington City Council passing the measure by a 10-3 vote. But it has a long way to go. That bill now goes on to committee and it has to be voted on by the public, before it can be sent to the state legislature to become law.

BERMAN: Thirty-four minutes after the hour right now.

Taking a look at some of the top CNN trends this morning.

This is a big one. Lance Armstrong, he's going to talk to Oprah Winfrey. She landed the interview with the disgraced cyclist. Her network says he has agreed to a 90-minute interview next Thursday, January 17th. It's expected he'll discuss doping allegations that will lead him to be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. You would imagine that would come up.

Meanwhile, the head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency told CBS News that Armstrong tried to make a quarter million dollar donation to the agency before it launched the investigation against him.

SAMBOLIN: There is all the chatter online that maybe he would come clean and tell the truth. A lot of people were hoping that that would happen.

All right. Medical treatment in Cuba will keep Venezuelan Hugo Chavez from being sworn in for a new term this week. Now, the question is: does the constitutional allow it to be delayed? And who will be in charge in the meantime?

Venezuela's vice president says the inauguration should happen a later date. But an opposition leader is asking the country's high court to decide if that's even possible.

BERMAN: So, maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all. A couple in San Diego took their vowed in a hot air balloon. But when the pilot tried to land, winds apparently blew it off-course and things got a little scary.

A member of the wedding party turned on her cell phone.





BERMAN: The good news, amazingly, only one person suffered a minor injury. Ahead on "STARTING POINT," Soledad is going to talk to the newlyweds.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, great.

BERMAN: I'm going with it's good luck.

If your wedding balloon crashes on your wedding day, it's good luck.

SAMBOLIN: Is it a good thing or is it a bad thing to start your life together at that day? It could be good. It's a great story to tell, right?

BERMAN: Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: How about the bad luck of that happening? I don't know. We'll find out from them.

All right. Bad news for the Redskins rookie phenom Robert Griffin III.

"The Washington Post" reports that Griffin will have surgery on a torn knee ligament in the next few days and may miss the start of next season. RG3 was hurt and the left the game in Saturday's playoff loss to Seattle. One sports doctor says the LCL tear could possibly keep Griffin out from eight to 12 months and he may have an ACL tear as well.

BERMAN: You know, ESPN says he's going under the night this morning. They're getting the surgery done right away in hopes that he can come back as soon as possible.

Thirty-seven minutes after the hour right now.

And they are talking -- they're taking the trash out in Hollywood. In other words, nominations for the annual Razzie Awards, saluting the very worst in film. The final "Twilight" film "Breaking Dawn Part 2" swept the Razzie's 11 nominations. They have won in every single category. It doesn't get any worse than that.

And it wouldn't be the Razzies without an Adam Sandler film. Seven nominations for "That's My Boy." You might think they're pretty well- deserved.

And Tyler Perry, you could say he was dishonored for his work in no less than three films, "Alex Cross", "Medea's Witness Protection", and "Good Deeds".

The Razzies are going to be handed out February 23rd, the night before the Oscars.

SAMBOLIN: I love Medea. I'm a big Tyler Perry fan.

BERMAN: We're just 24 hours away now from Hollywood's biggest morning. That's when the Oscar nominations will be announced. A little different than the Razzies. And Seth MacFarlane, who's hosting this year's ceremony, will do the honors.

Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln", along with the musical and "Les Miserables", expected to lead the way with double digit Oscar nominations. Daniel Day Lewis who portrays the 16th president, he's going to be nominated as best actor and the odds on favorite to win his third Academy Award.


BERMAN: And Ben Affleck, should get a news probably. The actor/director is sure bet to receive his first directing nomination for the film "Argo."

SAMBOLIN: Did you see "Argo"?

BERMAN: I did. Love that.

SAMBOLIN: I haven't seen it yet. "Lincoln", I did love that.

BERMAN: We're going to have a live coverage of the Oscar nominations on "STARTIGN POINT," tomorrow morning, beginning 8:15 Eastern. Tweet us starting right now with your picks.

SAMBOLIN: The Facebook is going through changes. We'll fill you in. That's coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Forty-one minutes past the hour.

Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT."


Gun control, of course, front and center in Washington, D.C. this week. Vice President Joe Biden meeting with groups representing gun violence victims today. And tomorrow, a conversation with the NRA. We're talking this morning with Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. He's back. Jen Psaki, as well. She, of course, was the traveling press secretary for President Obama's re-election campaign. They'll be joining us this morning, paneling with us all morning.

Then, a shark warning to stay off a Florida beach, all thanks to GPS. We're going to talk with a scientist who tracks great white sharks and how you can follow them as well in real time.

Plus, she's beautiful and she's smart. The model Cameron Russell will join us to tell us she thinks young ladies should not follow in her career path. Really interesting story. She gave a talk all about that. Looking forward to that.

BERMAN: The speech is so interesting.

O'BRIEN: Yes, interesting, right? She's sort of like, don't want to be this. And yet at the same time, she has a great message for young women. They can be anything they want.

BERMAN: Very thoughtful.

All right. Forty-two minutes after the hour.

And 2012 was year for the record books weather-wise, not necessarily all in a good way.

Alexandra Steele is here with the numbers. Just how warm was it?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right. Go look down in the record books. Last year, 2012 is the warmest year on record, besting 1998 by 1 degree, and usually 1/10 a degree is the records, not a full degree.

Some kind of some highlights: the March 2012, the warmest March on record and July 2012, hottest month ever recorded in the Lower 48. So, going down in the record books as one of the driest. The drought really worst since the '50s, really exacerbating that very dry, and very hot conditions. But that is certainly not the case.

Texas in a drought, they need the rain. But we picked up on average half an inch. Some places in southern Louisiana and southeast Texas have picked up 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches. And more rain on the way.

Today, your last day of the rain and the forecast radar takes it toward Chicago, and it will be not white, that's for sure. We'll be wet, because temperature there in the 40s, and then finds the Northeast as rain on Friday, guys.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much, Alexandra.

Forty-four minutes past the hour. Let's get your up-to-date on this morning's top stories.

Every single U.S. soldier could be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. That is according to a White House official. The administration has been considering leaving up to 15,000 troops behind to fight insurgents and train Afghan security forces.

But now, the president is said to be open to a scenario that involves a total pullout. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Obama are scheduled to meet on Friday in Washington.

BERMAN: The family of former FBI agent Bob Levinson, who vanished in the Middle East nearly six years ago, has released two photos of him. They received the photos of him held captive 18 months ago and released them now to turn up the pressure on finding him. Levinson disappeared on a business trip to Iran in 2007.

The State Department has asked Iran's government to find him.

SAMBOLIN: Big changes at Facebook to help users on the go. The social media giant debuting news apps for the iPhone and Google Android mobile software. It's also revamped the mobile Facebook site. Maybe most significant? The new speed, the real-time stream of updates from Facebook friends now provides the same sorting options as the desktop version.

BERMAN: A Sacramento, California woman says she was surprised to wake up and find a would-be burglar asleep on her couch.

SAMBOLIN: This is a crazy story. Look at her.


BERMAN: She grabbed her trusty machete, called 911, and held the man until police arrived. Parnell says the man broke in through a window and had all her valuables packed up and ready to go. The suspect told Parnell he decided to take a nap after eating all of her leftover Chinese food.


TERYL PARNELL, HELD ROBBER WITH MACHETE: That's when I got the machete, and then I say, no, you need to get back. You need to sit down right here and wait for the cops to get here. I'm not afraid. And I know exactly how to use it.


BERMAN: So, Parnell snapped this picture when deputies slapped the cuffs on 25-year-old suspect, Christopher Weaver. Weaver was released on bail but soon found himself under arrest again, this time, for allegedly driving a stolen car.

SAMBOLIN: OK, girl. Where did you get the machete?


BERMAN: It's not the usual item to keep in the --


SAMBOLIN: I love it. Maybe she picked up -- not on vacation because it's going to back (ph). It is very interesting. That's what I want to know. Where did that machete come from?

All right. Forty-six minutes past the hour. The school said no flu shot, no school, but one boy's parents said not so fast. We're going to talk to them about why they made this decision coming up. There they are. Good morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-nine minutes past the hour. The flu season has been particularly rough, and it's getting even worse. The CDC says 18 kids have already died from the flu. That is just the season alone. Six states have now made it mandatory for young children to get the vaccine in order to attend daycare and preschool.

Our next guest says their four-year-old son was banned from school after they refused to vaccinate him, that's because he's allergic to eggs, and the flu vaccine contains traces of an egg protein in it. So, yesterday, the state of New Jersey decided to extend an exemption that allows kids allergic to eggs to opt eggs, that is, to opt out of getting vaccine.

Alyssa and Joe Pereira are joined us now along with Jeremy as well. Thank you so much for being with us this morning. So, congratulations, because I know that he is going to be able to return back to school, but he hasn't been in school since last Thursday. Now that the exemption has been extended, do you have plans to send him back to school, Elisa?

ALYSSA PEREIRA, SON WAS BANNED SCHOOL WITHOUT FLU SHOT: We're just waiting for the school to contact us to say that he can come back.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And I know -- Mr. Jeremy, you look -- are you watching yourself on television?


SAMBOLIN: Do you miss being in school? You do? What do you miss about school?


SAMBOLIN: You miss your friends. I bet you miss your teacher too, though, right? So, we're going to -- hopefully, he's going to get back to school soon, So, the health department reversed its decision about the exemption for children with egg allergies, however, it is still subject to change for next year.

Do you think that this is adequate enough for you to feel confident that you will be able to send him to school without the vaccine from this point forward?

JOE PEREIRA, SON WAS BANNED SCHOOL WITHOUT FLU SHOT: I mean, obviously, the only changing it for this year. So, I mean, we hope to maybe have them as a permanent thing because no parent should have to really go through this. I mean, if your kid is allergic to egg that's in the vaccine, you shouldn't be forced to take it. We know parents that were forced -- that felt they were forced to take it and gave it to their child.

SAMBOLIN: And what was the outcome for those parents that you know that were forced to take it?

JOE PEREIRA: I'm sorry. I was reading them in a lot of the posts in reference to our story for yesterday. So, it seemed like a lot of people either went ahead and did it or lied about it and used to religious belief to hide behind which I think is a little ridiculous. You shouldn't have to lie.

SAMBOLIN: So, Jeremy is allergic to eggs. What happens to him if he eats eggs?

ALYSSA PEREIRA: His face starts turning all red and his throat starts closing.

SAMBOLIN: And one of the things that the school has said is that exemption existed if, in fact, you talked to your doctor and that your child was allergic to the eggs. When you spoke to your physician in particular, did he say that he thought that Jeremy should get the vaccine?

ALYSSA PEREIRA: He just said that he couldn't exempt him, unless, he has had the shot before and went into an anaphylactic shock from it. He told us that we can come in and sit in the office for a half hour, 45 minutes, while he gets the shot to see if he has any reaction.

SAMBOLIN: And you chose not to do that. Why?

ALYSSA PEREIRA: Because I know how he gets with the egg.

SAMBOLIN: OK. I want to talk about the deaths that have occurred. When we went into the segment, we talked about 18 deaths this year, so far. And we have some statistics that show how many children have died throughout the years, and it shows that Jeremy is more likely to be at risk if he does not get this vaccine.

According to the CDC, 115 children died from the flu from September 2010 to August 2011. Most of those kids were not vaccinated. Between 2004 and 2012, 829 U.S. children died. Are you afraid that he could be at risk of getting the flu and you could have a really catastrophic outcome here?

JOE PEREIRA: Not really. I mean, that's telling us statistics about it, but did the parents -- I mean, not to put blame on the parents, but they just think it's a regular, you know, little cold or whatever and didn't take him to the doctor? If you're noticing that there's something wrong with your child, he's feeling -- take him to the doctors. Maybe you know --

SAMBOLIN: But history has shown us that if you do immunize your child -- and it's the reason that they're doing it, because they're trying to save lives. The history has shown that if you immunize your child against the flu vaccine, that, you know, we see the deaths go down. And so, do you have concerns that he will have exposure then?

JOE PEREIRA: There's nothing definite about the shot working. I mean, I've never gotten the shot. I've never gotten the flu. So, you know what? I have plenty of friends who have gotten the shot, you know, with their kids and everything. Everybody getting shots and they get the flu. Some of them almost get it immediately. I just think it's a little -- I think it's a little strange. I've never gotten it as a child and never gotten it as an adult. So --

ALYSSA PEREIRA: But also, where some of those kids, did they have illnesses prior to that? He's perfectly healthy except for a few allergies that he has. So, that's why we're not so worried.

SAMBOLIN: We're not being judgmental here. You know, at the end of the day, saving lives is so important.


SAMBOLIN: That I know that as a parent, you make the decisions that you feel are best for your children. Alyssa, Joe, Jeremy, thank you for being with us this morning. We appreciate it. And I'm excited if you get back to school. You'll get to see all your friends again. Thanks for getting up early this morning. He is a cutie pie. God bless him. Thank you very much. John, back to you.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Zoraida.

So, Apple reportedly unveiling a brand new strategy. Coming up, get ready for a cheaper iPhone.

And later on "STARTING POINT", how the steroid era could impact some of the nominees in today's baseball Hall of Fame vote. "Boston Globe's" sports columnist, Dan Shaughnessy, will join Soledad.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Just a few minutes before the hour. Time for "Early Reads," your local news making national headlines.

So, the "National Journal" asking the question, is Gabrielle Giffords the new Jim Brady? The former Arizona Congresswoman and her husband, Mark Kelly, are now front and center in the fight to tighten the nation's gun control laws. And Sarah Brady thinks Giffords can be a powerful messenger.

Sarah Brady's husband, James, who was while Reagan's press secretary, was shot and partially paralyzed in the assassination attempt on the president, and the couple has been advocating for tougher gun laws ever since and appears to be passing the baton. Sarah Brady says if Giffords, quote, "Who could express more than she what it is like to be a victim?"

SAMBOLIN: If you go to their website and you read through it, it talks about the dialog that they're trying to create. They really want all parties to come to the table and really talk about this in a meaningful way and then to be able to effect some change and have some legislative action. So, I really -- it was a great read. Great read.

And, this from "The Wall Street Journal" online. If you've been holding out for a cheaper iPhone, your wait may soon be over. Apple is said to be working on a less expensive version as an alternative to the existing iPhone model. The success of android phone has been eating into Apple's market share. The lower-end iPhone could launch later this year.

BERMAN: So interesting. Apple going for lower price points with the iPad minis and now with this.

SAMBOLIN: That is great news for all the folks who break their phones all the time.

For an extended look at all our top stories, head to our blog, You can also follow us on Twitter and on Facebook, just search for EARLY START CNN.

BERMAN: We are out of time. Thanks so much for joining us this morning. That is all for EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.