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Biden Speaks Out on Gun Task Force; Potential Power Vacuum in Venezuela; Kurdish Activists Killed in Paris; Tech Junkies Converge on Vegas; Academy Award Nominees

Aired January 10, 2013 - 12:30   ET


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've met with at- risk youth and children advocacy groups from the After-School Alliance to Promise America to Boys and Girls clubs, et cetera, because part of this is cultural as well as it is the actual weapons themselves.

We've met with the domestic violence prevention community. We met with the justice organizations like the ABA, the American Bar Association, and the National Legal Aid and Defendant Association prosecutors.

We met with civil rights organizations. We've met with national service organizations, the Democracy Group, Kiwanis, Rotary International.

We've met with youth groups. We've met with gun safety advocates yesterday. That meeting took place here.

And the most -- probably the best known is the Brady Campaign, but also a dozen other organizations that are concerned about gun safety.

And then we met with educators and parents from school boards to the state school officers association. Again, a dozen or so of those folks.

And maybe one of the most important things that we've been focusing on is the mental health community, the American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Mental Health of America, National Empowerment Center, National Council of Community and Behavioral Health Centers, because there's an argument among health providers that there is a -- that this is a major component to deal with and, particularly, a lot of suicides, as well, that we're seeing today.

And, yesterday, we finished up in this room with, I think it was, 17 members of the faith community which is, all the years I've been doing this, the first time there has been an overwhelming consensus from the evangelical groups, nationwide, but particularly those from rural areas to the National Catholic Conference of Bishops, the National Council of Churches, from the Muslim community because this does have a significant moral dimension to it, how we make American communities safer and how we go about it.

And, today, we meet with you. Later, I meet with some industry representatives as well as the NRA and the executive director of the Defense Small Arms Advisory Council, importers, et cetera.

So, the point I'm trying to make to you is that we realize this is -- requires all the stakeholders to give us their best ideas as to how we deal with what, as I said at the outset, is a complicated problem -- a complicated problem. There's no single answer.

If you go back and, like a lot of you, having been dealing with this issue since my days as chairman of the judiciary committee and going all the way back to the '70s -- if you look at every one of the tragic events that have attracted so much attention, it's hard to be able to pinpoint what you could have done to assured it wouldn't have happened.

But there's also things we know. We know that there's certain actions we take that have diminished -- have diminished the extent of the gun violence that otherwise would be occurring in the United States.

And so the kinds of things that there's an emerging set of recommendations, not coming from me, but coming from the groups we've met with and I'm going to focus on the ones that relates primarily to gun ownership and the type of weapons that can be owned.

And one is, there is a surprising -- so far -- a surprising recurrence of suggestions that we have universal background checks. Not just close the gun show loophole, but total, universal background checks including private sales.

There has been a lot of discussion from the groups we've met with so far and I think the attorney general, who's been in almost all the meetings with me, will tell you is how we strengthen those background checks, what additional information should be available, if any, and how do we get the information, for example, convicted felons in the state, how do they get on the NICS, how do they get in the N-I-C-S?

That is the thing that the gun dealer goes to to check whether your background, whether you're a felon. It doesn't do a lot of good if in some states they have a backlog of 40,000, 50,000, 6,,000 felons that they never register here.

So, we've got to talk about -- there's a lot of talk about how we entice or what is the impediment keeping states from relaying this information.

There's also a good deal of talk about gun safety and what responsibility goes along with gun ownership which is something I'm really anxious to talk to all of you about.

There's also been a surprising -- my colleagues, my former colleagues in the Senate who have been pretty universally opposed to any restrictions on gun ownership or what type of weapons can be purchased, et cetera, there is -- I've never heard quite heard as much about the need to do something about high-capacity magazines as I've heard spontaneously from every group that we've met with so far.

And the last area, which is an area, that is -- that's come up is the whole question of the ability of any federal agency to do any research on the issue of gun violence. For example, we're meeting before the week is out with the gaming industry. I don't mean gambling, the video-gaming industry.

To use Pat Moynihan's expression when we first started talking about the so-called Biden Crime Bill back in the '80s, he used the example, he said, we started -- we've been defining deviancy down.

He used the example of the assassination of a mob boss in 1936 in a barber chair in Chicago, making the front page of every paper in America.

And then he stood on the Senate floor and he held up the -- I think it was "The New York Times," on page 54. I'm making it up, but it was at the back of the paper where an entire family, including grandmother and mother, father, children, were basically assassinated in their apartment, thinking it may have been about a drug deal, and it made page 54.

And he said, "We've defined deviancy down." Well, one of the things that we've prohibited from doing beginning in the early part of the century, around 2004, is just even the Centers for Disease Control gathering up information about the kinds of injuries and what are the injuries and what are the sources of the injuries

I mean, it kind of reminded me in the meeting yesterday, I was around in the '70s, and the only guy that may remember this, I hope I don't insult him, is Ray LaHood, but because he knows all about the automobile industry as well as the -- our whole question of traffic safety and highway safety.

There was a big fight when I first got to the Senate that had begun in the late '60s through early '70s where the automobile industry was very reluctant to allow the Department of Transportation to acquire statistics on the type of accidents that occurred.

They were not able to literally acquire the information because the concern was it would lead to calls for some rational regulations related to everything from guardrails to automobiles.

And I remember -- Ray, you may remember -- that when ...


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Joe Biden there, speaking to the media after some of these talks he's been having. He has other talks today, as well.

And he did say that he's going to get the results of his probe into gun violence and curbing it and perhaps restrictions on some firearms, what recommendations he might make -- he's going to get those to President Obama's desk by Tuesday.

We'll keep you informed of any developments as those meetings continue.

Meanwhile, he ruled the country with all but absolute power. Now, he's too sick to attend even his own presidential inauguration. We're going to be talking about what could be a power vacuum in Venezuela if Hugo Chavez remains too sick to leave.

We'll be right back.


HOLMES: After just talking to you about Vice President Joe Biden talking to the media on guns, we're learning this. There has been a school shooting at Taft High School in -- that's in Taft, California, and this is according to our affiliate, KERO.

The shooting happened this morning around 9:00 a.m., local time, we're told. According to reports, at least two people were shot. The shooter is in custody, and parents are picking up their kids at the school's football field.

Just repeating, Taft High School in Taft, California, a shooting around 9:00 a.m., local time. Two people shot, the shooter in custody, that from KERO, our affiliate. We'll bring you any more developments as they come to us.

Today was supposed to be the inauguration day for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, but he's still in Cuba undergoing cancer treatment. Despite his absence, though, Venezuela's supreme court ruled that the 58-year-old president can begin his new term today. He can be sworn in later. That it is, in fact, legal to postpone that. His supporters are rallying outside the presidential palace showing solidarity, but CNN's Paula Newton reports opposition leaders feel that a delayed swearing-in leaves no one in charge in Venezuela.

So, let's have a conversation about that you will with our senior Latin American affairs editor Rafael Romo in studio. All the supporters of Chavez outside the presidential palace. Other Latin American leaders have arrived to honor him. He ain't there.

I mean, what does this mean in terms of what we're seeing, in terms of support, and yet his absence in the political sense?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: It's all about presenting the world an image, an image that the government is presenting a unified front, telling the world we are here, we are together, we're totally behind the figure of this man, President Hugo Chavez. There's a party going on, but the problem is that the party is being thrown in honor of Hugo Chavez and he's still in Venezuela ...


ROMO: In Cuba, excuse me. He was supposed to be sworn in today and, also, Michael, today, it's a month to the day that he left Venezuela to go get cancer surgery in Cuba and nobody really knows exactly how serious his condition is.

HOLMES: See, this is an extraordinary thing and we've discussed this here and on CNN International, as well, many times. What is up with this? You've got the president of a country in another country being treated, nobody knows what it is he has other than cancer and a lung infection, but nobody even knows what kind of cancer. Who's running the country?

ROMO: Well, according to the Venezuelan supreme court, Chavez is still running the country, but then again, you also have to consider the fact that, over the years, and Chavez has been in power for14 years in Venezuela, he has been very careful in selecting people in government in key positions around him.

And the Venezuelan supreme court is stacked with Chavez loyalists. And the announcement yesterday that it is not necessary for him to be sworn in today because he was re-elected and this is a continuation of his mandate, comes as no surprise because, again, they are Chavez loyalists and they were expected to rule that way.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes. And there is support for him on the streets, too. But, yes, what an extraordinary situation. President sick, nobody knows exactly what or when he's going to be back.

Rafael, always good to have you.

ROMO: Thank you.

HOLMES: Rafael Romo there.

All right, three women gunned down execution style in Paris. And while police are still digging through clues, this could have been politically motivated. We're going to look into this. These were three senior people involved in the Kurdish movement. Stay with us.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.

The French interior minister is calling the killings intolerable. Three Kurdish women activists found shot to death in Paris. Among the dead, Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the militant separatist group the PKK.

Now, these bodies were found early today inside the information center for Kurdistan. This is in central Paris. Right downtown. Their deaths sparked immediate protests outside the center. Ivan Watson is in Istanbul, Turkey, has been following this.

The French interior minister says the women were executed. Tell us about how this news is going down. A huge Kurdish community in Turkey.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a bombshell. The Kurds make up Turkey's largest ethnic minority. And it's been this movement that's been fighting the Turkish government here for nearly 30 years, of more than 40,000 people killed. So immediately there's a lot of concern about who could have carried out this attack. Everybody arguing that it does look to be a politically motivated attack.

The PKK spokesman I talked to saying that this was clearly an act of terrorism against the PKK, which is itself labeled by Turkey and the U.S. as a terrorist organization. The leaders of a pro-Kurdish party here in Turkey, who are parliament members, they're calling on Kurds all around the world really to rise up and protest in response to these attacks on these Kurdish women's -- women, who were clearly big figures in the Kurdish movement.


HOLMES: Nobody knows at the moment who did it. I mean, what is the Turkish government saying? And also then, we've got to really acknowledge, too, that the PKK has a history, at times, of internal killings themselves, power struggles.

WATSON: That's right. And the Turkish prime minister himself suggested that it could be an internal hit basically, perhaps on rivals within the group. While some Kurds are immediately blaming the Turkish government for carrying out this attack, which, of course, is being denied. The Turkish government has denounced this, condemned it, called it a savage attack.

But there's ample reason for Kurds to be suspicious. You know, more than 40,000 people have been killed in this conflict. Turkey has long had very discriminatory policies against Kurdish political movements in this country. There are thousands and thousands of Kurdish activists who have been jailed here.

But there's one other very important factor here. Turkey, the government, has embarked on a new round of negotiations with the jailed leader of the PKK, who's in prison on a Turkish island, within the last couple of months. There are a lot of hopes that maybe this could bring some kind of settlement to one of the longest running conflicts in the Middle East. And there are a lot of fears that extremists from either side of this conflict may have carried out these murders to derail the process, Michael.

HOLMES: Right. Ivan, thanks so much. Ivan Watson, who's been covering the PKK for many, many years and the Kurdish issue. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Tech junkies from all over the world are in Vegas this week. And they are there for an up-close look at the Consumer Electronic Association's annual convention. This is a big deal. Digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong is there, too.


MARIO ARMSTRONG, DIGITAL LIFESTYLE EXPERT: We're at CES 2013. Over 150,000 people from 110 different countries, 30-plus football fields full of exhibit space all with the latest technology right here in Vegas.

CES is all about the evolution of television. And this year, the hot new trend is something called 4K TV. All of this is digital health here at CES. So how are people really using these devices?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anybody who wants to be a little more healthy. They look at small, everyday changes that add up to bigger results.

ARMSTRONG: TVs, laptops, computers, smartphones. But what's really cool, when you bump into something wacky and unexpected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This right here is the D-Board (ph). It's a weight- sensing electric skateboard. That means you lean forward on this footpad to go.

ARMSTRONG: But that's not all. Over the next several days, we're going to cover this conference from corner to corner, and we're going to give you as much information as we can.


HOLMES: All right. The world's biggest electronics trade show runs through tomorrow. Cool stuff.

Well, it is Oscar time. Take a look at who could be taking home an award. That's when we come back.


HOLMES: Well, the nominations are in, and now the race is on for the coveted Academy Awards. "Lincoln" leads the pack with 12 nominations, including Best Picture. Steven Spielberg gets Best Director nod. Daniel Day Lewis, Best Actor. Sally Field, Best Supporting Actress. And Tommy Lee Jones, Best Supporting Ator for the film about the nation's 16th president and the battle to end slavery.

CNN entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner is in Los Angeles.

"Lincoln" cleaned up, Nischelle, as expected.


HOLMES: But some other surprises. Tell us what they were.

TURNER: Yes. Yes. Some definitely big surprises. One of the biggest ones, "Beasts of the Southern Wild." It got four nominations today, including Best Picture, Best Actress for nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis. She's delightful. Best Director, Benh Zeitlin. It's his first film. He just turned 30 years old. And also Best Adapted Screenplay.

Also, "Silver Linings Playbook." This movie's been the talk of awards season and it got eight nominations, including Best Picture, Director, and nods in all four acting categories including Best Actor, Best Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress. Robert De Niro got his first nomination in 21 years for his film.

Now, Charles (ph), can you tell me what his last nomination was for?

HOLMES: I could not. "Taxi Driver"? TURNER: "Cape Fear."

HOLMES: "Cape Fear." He's awesome. Love him.

TURNER: "Cape Fear."

HOLMES: Yes. I hope he wins.


HOLMES: Nischelle, thanks so much. You'll be keeping an eye on it all the way through the season.

TURNER: Absolutely.

HOLMES: Nischelle Turner there.

That will do it for me.