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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Parents Say Shooter Was Suspended Last Year; Biden Talks Ammo Clips And Background Checks; NIH: Seau Suffered From Brain Disease

Aired January 10, 2013 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, another school shooting. Officials say a 16-year-old student entered a classroom with a shotgun and opened fire.

Plus, is estrogen the answer for Obama or are more women more problems.

And breaking news tonight, there is a flu epidemic in America, so why are hospitals overwhelmed, turning people away and not prepared. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, a school shooting. Officials say a 16-year-old student armed with a shotgun entered a high school classroom in rural California today and opened fire.

They say one student he shot is in critical condition tonight. He shot at a second student, but missed. The 16-year-old shooter is in police custody at this hour.

Our Kyung Lah is outside Taft High School in Taft, California. It's about 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles, as you see there. And Kyung, what more can you tell us about the shooter and the possible motive?

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know is that first, police say he absolutely targeted those two boys, the first one who he struck, the second one, who he missed. And what we are also learning, from multiple parents and students we've talked to here on the grounds of the high school, is that this was a very troubled boy.

A boy who had a list of names, according to these parents and students, that he dubbed a hit list. People who he wanted to target to kill. That's why the school kicked him out of school last year, but he was let back to school this year. Here's what some parents and students told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOPE GARCIA, STUDENT: He had a hit list of who he wanted to kill and I guess, like, last year, he didn't -- he wasn't in school. He got kicked out, because of it, I think. And people kept on trying to find out, and then he got back this year, and then I guess this happened.

ROBIN ATKINS, HIGH SCHOOL PARENT: I don't know what the circumstances are to let him back in. You know, the criteria to let him back in, but my own opinion, I think, is a very serious case that, you know, I don't know what you do with a kid like that. I don't know where you put them, what you do with him, but the look on all these parent's faces, are shocked, 75 percent of them didn't know he was back in this school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: We asked the school superintendent about this hit list. At this point, they said it's too early in the investigation, Erin, to tell us anything more about it.

BURNETT: So, Kyung, what can you tell us about the gun that was used, the weapon, and whether it was legally purchased?

LAH: We asked that specific question to police. They also say the same thing. This is too early in the investigation. They don't know anything about the gun at this point.

BURNETT: Did the school have any armed guards?

LAH: They normally do, and that's what's really interesting here, Erin, is that normally, there is a Taft police officer who is on the grounds of the school every single day. But today, I mean, you can see, it's quite dark here, it's been raining, snowing, that officer was snowed in.

He didn't make it here and so there wasn't that armed guard presence here at the school. But it didn't really make a difference today, because what police are crediting for saving those other students in that classroom is the teacher. The teacher and the campus counselor, who was able to tell the student to put the gun down, and he listened to them.

BURNETT: That's amazing to hear about yet another hero in these horrible situations. Thanks to Kyung Lah for reporting on the ground.

And this shooting comes nearly a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, immediately became political today. California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, who plans to introduce a bill banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines released a statement after the shooting today asking.

I'll quote her, "how many more shootings must there be in America before we come to the realization that guns and grievances do not belong together?" That came as Vice President Joe Biden met with his gun violence task force today and members of the NRA. And he talked about a key idea he thinks should pass.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: John Avlon is OUTFRONT. So John, let's just start off with these background checks. Obviously, look, for whether a potential purchaser has a criminal record or history of mental illness. Obviously, there's issues with both of those things and how they're defined. But on the background check concept overall, how could we not have that already?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Erin, we do have background checks. We've had them for 19 years. But what Vice President Biden said is key with regard to private sales. There's what's known as a private sales loophole in the current background check law. That accounts for around 40 percent of gun sales each year.

So that means licensed dealers account for 60 percent of gun sales. People who purchase a weapon have to go through the background check. If they have a criminal record, history of severe mental illness, outstanding warrants, they'll catch them.

But if 40 percent of those sales go through private dealers, and those private sales are not subject to background checks, and that is what would be closed by what Joe Biden's describing as a possibility of proposing a universal background check.

BURNETT: I know that they tried to close some of those loopholes, or it was after the Gabby Giffords shooting, which at the time was, no one could imagine there could be anything worse. Now there's Newtown. People say, no one can imagine there will be anything worse. But if Gabby Giffords wasn't enough to change this, why would Newtown be?

AVLON: Well, that's the key question and it's one to follow through. After Gabby Giffords' shooting two years ago, there was a bill to fix gun checks put forward. It had 95 Democratic co-sponsors and only one Republican, and it effectively died on the vine.

Now the question is, where's the follow-through? Will there be urgency? Will there be bipartisan movement behind it. And there are some heartening signs. I mean, a poll put out by Frank Luntz, a conservative pollster, four mayors against illegal guns found that 74 percent of NRA members support a universal background check.

So there may be some opportunities for common ground here. A lot of licensed gun dealers would like that loophole to be closed. But every compromise on this contentious issue is tough -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, just a quick follow, here, John, before we go. The vice president said that, yesterday that President Obama could use executive order to get some of these things done. Does he need that to have universal background checks or to do something else, which Vice President Biden said today they wanted to do, which was to ban those high-capacity magazines? AVLON: That's what's fascinating. Very much an about-face, Erin, because these two proposals that the vice president mentioned today could not be done through executive order, they have to be done through Congress. They are legislative proposals so somewhat of a different message coming out of the vice president today. These specific proposals would need to go through Congress.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to John Avlon.

Former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton and co- founder of "Priorities USA," a pro-Obama super PAC joins me along with Tim Carney, senior political columnist for the "Washington Examiner."

So Bill, let me start with you. The vice president came out yesterday and said we're going to use executive order if we need to. That really riled a lot of people up. Executive order, you guys aren't going to get it done, we're going to do it.

We just heard John Avlon say, look, those ideas are popular. A lot of Republicans agree with them, you can't do it by executive order. So why is the vice president rile everybody up with threat?

BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think that he was just talking about the possibility that there are some things that maybe you can do through executive order and it's part of the, you know, big menu of options that are out there.

But the truth is, if there's going to be real reform, if there's going to be real restrictions, you have to do it through Congress. Otherwise, you know, what you do could end up getting gummed up in the courts, and it could have no effect at all.

BURNETT: That's got to be frustrating, though, that every time they try, there's always loopholes put in. I guess, loopholes aren't everything from the tax code on, but you pass these gun laws after horrific attacks, and yet, 40 percent of guns are still -- it's amazing.

BURTON: There's no doubt, kids are getting massacred out there and there needs to be some new restrictions. And I think what we're going to see is, you know, I think everybody does agree on the background checks. Even when you poll NRA members, they are for these universal background checks. But hopefully there'll be more besides that, banning assault weapons, banning these high-magazine rounds.

TIM CARNEY, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": But the assault weapon talks show how a lot of times these loopholes are not loopholes that are stuck in there, but it has to do with the problem in the project that a lot of Democrats are trying to do.

They think there are two different kinds of guns. They think there are guns that good law-abiding citizens use, and guns that are used in shootings. But a vast majority of guns that kill people in the United States are handguns.

They are the same kind of guns that the regular American uses to protect his house. So you try to make a law that doesn't disarm law- abiding citizens, but does disarm criminals, that's an impossible task. There are not two different groups of guns. They are the same kinds of guns.

BURNETT: That's an interesting point. As we reported yesterday, the Department of Justice said that 80 percent of the inmates who use guns in the crimes that put them in jail got them illegally -- legally. So we're not enforcing a lot of the laws.

But, Tim, let me ask you about what the NRA said today. They released a statement after the meeting with Joe Biden saying, "We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the second amendment." That doesn't sound like a very conciliatory, trying-to-work-together comment.

CARNEY: And I don't think there is going to be a lot of common ground there. I happen to disagree with a lot of what the NRA said when it came to putting armed guards or when it came to, you know, blaming Hollywood, and that sort of thing.

But on the idea of trying to stop bad gun laws, I think that what Biden is talking about is more reasonable than what, say, Dianne Feinstein, is talking about, or Bill mentioning an assault weapons ban. Those laws didn't work. They were cracking down on things.

I think there is middle ground, but if Obama is staking out an extreme position of, I might do executive orders, the NRA is staking out its extreme position of, we have no common ground yet, and perhaps there can be something in the middle that they're going to reach in terms of compromise.

BURNETT: Bill, let me ask you about something that I find confusing. The background checks here, and the background checks, I mean, 97 percent of Republicans support background checks, right? Let's just assume, most people out there support it.

The truth is, though, they wouldn't have stopped the shooting in Newtown. And the background checks, even though they check for mental health, you have to be institutionalized, the standards are very high and maybe they should be.

But the problem is, every time these shootings happen, it often seems, all the things we have in place and all the proposed things we have in place would not have stop them.

BURTON: Well, I think what you have to look at is, you're right, that the background checks wouldn't have stopped what we saw happening in the last couple of shootings. But we have to do everything that we can.

And while the background checks aren't the one and only answer, there are other things that you can do. That's why the president has taken a comprehensive view here, saying, what can we do about mental illness? What can we do about guns? What can we do about the background checks and what is the broader, comprehensive way that we can approach this, so we can do every single thing we can to stop these massacres.

BURNETT: Would you ever, and I know this is a controversial question, but Bob Wright, who is a very big proponent of trying to fight for autism and autism awareness in this country, thinks that he doesn't think that autistic children shouldn't have guns, a lot of children shouldn't are guns. Would you go so far as saying if anyone has a diagnosis of any sort of a range of things, shouldn't have a gun?

BURTON: Well, I'm not a doctor and I can't speak to that, but there are certainly people who shouldn't have guns. And if there's a way we can figure out, how can we identify a group of folks who shouldn't have guns based on a mental illness or some severe reason, yes, that's something that should definitely be looked at. But this is a question that should be decided by medical professionals and someone who knows something about how the human mind works.

BURNETT: Tim?

CARNEY: Yes, it makes me very uneasy. I agree that there could be situations where we should say, this person should not be allowed to have a gun, but it makes me uneasy of putting politicians or bureaucrats in the position of not having guns. In France right now, they're saying if you're too religious, that makes you mentally ill. So you don't want the government being able to choose who can have a gun.

BURNETT: You try to protect civil rights, and of course, with that, it appears at least in this country, that comes with some level of horrific events.

Still to come, a bombshell revelation today that could change the game of football forever. A new report offers a possible answer to what killed Junior Seau.

And Oscar nominations announced today. Did Hollywood politics leave the director of "Zero Dark Thirty" out in the cold?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, football to blame. The National Institutes of Health says former NFL linebacker Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease linked to multiple head traumas when he committed suicide last spring.

Seau is the latest professional football player to be linked to a disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. The findings could mean more trouble for the NFL, which is facing lawsuits involving some 2,000 players, claiming the NFL deliberately hid the dangers of head trauma.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, CNN has now confirmed the death of NFL superstar Junior Seau.

BURNETT (voice-over): On the second day of May last year, Junior Seau texted his ex-wife and children, "I love you," pointed a gun at his chest, and pulled the trigger. Friends and family were left devastated, searching for answers.

LUISA SEAU, MOTHER OF JUNIOR SEAU: I don't understand who would do this to my son, but I pray to God, please, take me! Take me. Leave my son! But it's too late!

BURNETT: When they learned the 20-year NFL football veteran took his own life, the primary question became, why? Close friend Marcellus Wiley spoke to ESPN shortly after his death.

MARCELLUS WILEY, FORMER NFL PLAYER: We were there for you, man. Like, we knew you was a superstar. We knew you were a super person, but come out and tell us that you needed us.

BURNETT: Seau's family say they never expected he was suffering from head trauma before his death, but as speculations surfaced about his history of concussions, the Seaus decided to have researchers study his brain. They recently spoke out about it on ABC.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For us, we just wanted the truth.

BURNETT: Over his career, he made 12 pro Bowls and was named to the NFL 1990s all-decade team. But as an NFL linebacker, every devastating and celebrated hit he delivered was apparently taking a toll.

The National Institutes of Health now says Seau's brain shows he had a degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has been widely connected to athletes who have taken multiple blows to the head. For the Seaus, it raises the question, is the game of football worth it?

GINA SEAU, EX-WIFE OF JUNIOR SEAU: I think it's a gamble. Just be extremely aware of what could potentially happen to your life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there's a big risk.

GINA SEAU: There's a huge risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not worth it, for me to not have a dad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: In a statement we just received, the Seau family says, "while the NIH's findings have provided a measure of comfort, we remain heartbroken that Junior is no longer with us and are deeply saddened to receive confirmation that he suffered from such a debilitating condition. Junior was a loving father, teammate, and committed member of his community. That is how we will always remember him."

OUTFRONT tonight, Coy Wire, a former NFL player. Coy, thanks for coming on tonight. Let me just ask you. You know, you played professional football for nine years. You have suffered multiple concussions, at least two of them and you say other times when you were seeing stars or seeing double and went back out on the field.

What was your reaction today when you heard this, this confirmation that Junior Seau suffered from CTE, which he got from football?

COY WIRE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I think a lot of former players were expecting that, Erin. It's sad. And I think the main thing is that we can't allow Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, even high school athletes like Jaquan Waller, who have lost their lives because of brain injury.

We can't allow them to die in vain. We have to take what we have learned from them, from their experiences and continue to evolve with safety issues and equipment evolution as well.

BURNETT: Coy, we see from the NFL ads talking about, you know, how they're increasing safety. How they have better and stronger helmets to protect players than they've ever had before. How they're putting money in to study these kinds of things. Is that enough or do you think that the game has to change. It's a game where how hard you hit seems to be rewarded the most.

WIRE: Well, it's a great point, Erin. I think there are three things. One, the main thing is education especially to our youth. We have to educate them about what a concussion is. We don't have to be unconscious. Less than 10 percent of concussions result in unconsciousness.

So what the symptoms are. And then, two, when they have a concussion, know that it's okay not to play. If you don't feel complete, don't compete. If you don't feel right in the head, rest instead.

I think that's the message that our youth needs to hear. That it's OK. That toughness is like a badge of honor, so it's understandable that they want to continue to play. But when it comes to the brain trauma, it's a completely different issue.

BURNETT: Right, you can replace a kneecap and move on, but you cannot do that with a brain. I want to add into the conversation now David Epstein, a senior writer at "Sports Illustrated" and Paul Callan, our legal analyst.

David, how significant are these findings when it comes to the NFL? I mean, and there are 2,000 players who now have lawsuits against the NFL? I mean, is this something that could be do or die for the league?

DAVID EPSTEIN, SENIOR WRITER, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": Well, I think everybody sort of expected to see CTE in Junior Seau. I think we sort of know that story, when somebody's played in the NFL for a long time. They're going to have CTE. The thing is, they're not all committing suicide. In fact, ex-NFL players commit suicide at a lower rate than their age-matched piers. So it's not just taking hits to the head, and it can't be just concussions either because most of the people showing up with CTE are linemen. And linemen don't get concussions so there's a lot that's still unknown here.

BURNETT: That's a very interesting point. That the suicide rate is less than general population, I wasn't aware of that. It's a key point, Paul Callan, when it comes to the question, which is, is this going to be a c-change moment, a tipping point moment for the NFL, where the rules change.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it may be a tipping point moment. Here you have a beloved player, 20 years in the NFL, committing suicide. And you see now claims that large numbers of NFL players have brain injuries, serious brain injuries.

You know, people thought you could never prevail against the tobacco companies. I mean, people voluntarily smoke and those cases, by the way, repeatedly were brought and lost in court, but a tipping point came.

A case was won. And ultimately, the tobacco companies ended up paying over $200 billion in settlements over the life of the settlement. So I think you may have a tipping point here, where this case has to be taken seriously.

BURNETT: So let me just throw up the numbers here. Because big tobacco, as so many of our viewers are aware, is still paying money out, and preventing a lot of states from further financial duress. So this is significant, NFL revenues last year, $9.5 billion. The average team value is about $1 billion, $30 billion in TV deals, Paul. So how much could this cost them? I mean, it seems like they have plenty, but do they?

CALLAN: Well, I'll compare it to what happens in court now. Brain damaged baby cases are the most expensive cases, $20 million per baby, they can go in places like New York and the bigger states. A case like this, where you're dealing with an adult football player, you might be talking in the range of $5 million to $10 million, if you had a provable brain injury that you could link to playing football, playing professional football.

So you run the numbers out on that, it's $10 billion to $20 billion in settlements, if all 2,000 players, who have currently gotten involved in the litigation, won. So we're talking big numbers.

BURNETT: And there could be more that would come out, and I'm certain in that kind of a situation, there probably would be. Coy, let me ask you this, looking back, given that you don't know what could happen to you.

And I know that the fear is, the brain damage that some of these people have suffered from have taken away their memory and their personality and taken away their soul. Would you still play and would you allow a boy, if you ever have one, to play? WIRE: If I'm blessed to have children some day, Erin, the thing that I'm going to do is support them in whatever their passion maybe, but they will understand that playing contact sports, whether it's football or soccer, where head injuries are dominant and -- they'll know what a concussion is.

And that it's OK to sit out. That's the main thing. And with this lawsuit, and all the money that may go out, I think we need to focus on having that money go towards our youth and re-education and continued safety regulations, rule regulations, and making sure that every high school has an athletic trainer.

Less than half of the high schools in America don't have a certified athletic trainer who can sit there and pinpoint and diagnose these kids when they have brain trauma. And that's why a lot of them continue to play. So I think that's a main issue too, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much, to all of you. We appreciate. I just want to read a statement before we go here, that I got from the NFL. We have it here?

The finding underscores the recognized need for additional research to accelerate a fuller understanding of CTE. The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, the CDC, and other leading organizations is committed to supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels.

Major League baseball announced today that starting this year, it's going to test players' blood for human growth hormone, called HGH, during the season. That's going to become the first American sport to do so. It's a significant tipping point. It comes a day after the announcement that for the first time since 1996, no one is getting inducted into the baseball hall of flame.

Now the magnitude of that decision was illustrated, you know, pretty powerfully by "New York Times" and the inductees are -- and it was empty. The shutout is being linked to allegations that players used performance enhancing drugs.

Now the three most well-known players up for induction this year, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, have all been accused of using HGH or steroids. The big question is was this just a one year protest, just a statement vote?

Will these players eventually get into the hall of fame or not? Here's the thing. There's a significant chance this year's snubs will never get enough votes, which could be a painful thing, given that it appears that they had total hall of fame careers, before any steroid use, even if it happened, was ever even begun.

OUTFRONT next, late today, it was official, there is a flu epidemic across America. And the coolest thing we saw today, and what might actually replace, although I'm still going to get one more of these, my beloved.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start with stories we care about, where we focus on reporting from the front line, and we begin with an OUTFRONT update to a story we've been following.

The army investigating another case of abuse at an Army day care center in Fort Meyer, Virginia. The Army, according to a spokesman, was notified yesterday that a child care worker allegedly slapped a child. The incident was reported by another caregiver in the room. The alleged perpetrator has been removed from the center.

Last month, we reported that two former caregivers at the same day care center has been charged with assaulting children and 30 other child care workers had been taken off the job after background checks found criminal records, including sexual assault and drug use.

Islamist rebels have taken control of the town of Kona in Mali, forcing the Malian army to flee. This town is key because it's actually the closest base that the Malian military had to the occupied region.

Rudy Aatalla of White Mountain Research tells us that the Islamist involved in the advance are members of (inaudible) whose leader has public statements saying that his goal is to spread strict Sharia law throughout the entire country of Mali.

Google Chairman Erik Schmidt is back from a controversial trip to North Korea. Schmidt toured the country with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson who called the trip a private humanitarian mission. The State Department objected to it, but in a statement to OUTFRONT, Schmidt said North Korea's decision to be virtually isolated would make it difficult to catch up economically. He says if North Korea doesn't open up the Internet to people, they will remain behind. He told me a year ago, his passion in life was to see North Korea and that now has been obviously fulfilled.

Well, you know, Apple hasn't gone to the Consumer Electronic Show since 1992, but it still dominates the gadget geek fest. Of 3,000 or so exhibitors, 500 are actually showing off products related to Apple.

But here's a gadget CES that could make Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, blush. I mean, this is just amazing. Just watch this. OK?

Look at that! That's a display from Samsung that can flex and bend without breaking. I don't know, I just thought that was amazing. They call it the Youm, and they say it could be used in phones and tablets one day.

Josh Lowensohn of CNET tells us the technology is unlikely to appear in a device as soon as this year, though. He just says Samsung wanted to show off what it could do and certainly impressed me.

It has been 525 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Well, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says he has ordered departments to begin cutting costs, just in case Congress doesn't reach a deal on spending, probably a smart move from the defense secretary.

And now, out third story OUTFRONT. Breaking news, the Centers for Disease Control has just told CNN that the flu is now at epidemic levels in the United States. Right now, widespread in 41 states. We'll hold that map up there so you can see it. It's the latest map we have from the CDC. And all the red is where there is high flu activity.

Now, I'm going to flip it to look at the same time last year. Green, minimal activity. I mean, a totally different picture. This year's flu season came sooner than expected and already, obviously, significantly more severe. So far, the CDC says there have been 2,257 hospitalizations and 18 children have died. There has been no nationwide tally yet on adult deaths, but Minnesota officials say there's 27 in their state alone, 22 in South Carolina, 13 in Indiana, seven in Arkansas, and six in Illinois.

Ted Rowlands has this report from Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No nausea at this point.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Debra Cross started feeling sick on Monday. Three days later, she ended up in the emergency room at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, where it was so busy, she had to wait four hours to be seen.

DEBRA CROSS, FLU PATIENT: I've decided, to be safe, come here, make sure everything was OK.

ROWLANDS: Several hospitals in Chicago this week were forced to reject patients for several hours because of so many flu cases. On Monday, 11 different hospitals in the Chicago area couldn't handle anymore patients. Nonlife-threatening cases had to go to other hospitals, like Cook County, which never turns patients away.

DR. JORDAN MOSKOFF, ATTENDING PHYSICIAN, COOK COUNTY MEDICAL: So the analysts are going to go to whatever the closest hospitals are, but then they start getting overloaded, and then they go on diversion then too. And it's just a domino effect.

ROWLANDS: Across the country, thousands of people are suffering and resources in some areas are being stretched to their limits. Tents are being used in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to handle the extra patients. In Boston, a state of emergency has been declared.

KEVIN CRANSTON, MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: And what we are hearing from clinicians all over the state is that the strains of flu that people are presenting with is quite severe, and we're seeing rates of hospitalization higher, certainly higher than the last two years. And enough to give us all concern.

ROWLANDS: Dozens of deaths are also being blamed on the virus. Fourteen-year-old Carly Christenson died in Minnesota and 17-year-old Max Schwolert, a healthy high school senior died after coming down with the flu while on Christmas vacation with his family in Wisconsin.

MELANIE SCHWOLERT, SON DIED AFTER CONTRACTING FLU: He looked at me, and there were some tears rolling down his face --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was scared.

SCHWOLERT: He was scared. He said, mom, I'm scared. I said, I know, buddy, I am too.

ROWLANDS: Medical experts say the vast majority of people recover after a few days of misery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just Tylenol. You can do that every four hours.

CROSS: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Motrin after six hours.

CROSS: OK.

ROWLANDS: After a few hours on an I.V., Debra was sent home to recover, opening up a bed for the next patient.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Dr. Ian Lipkin is an epidemiologist and the medical mind behind the movie "Contagion."

Randall Larsen is a bio terror expert.

Thanks to both of you.

Dr. Lipkin, looking at the map, obviously, you see this as an epidemic around the country. And then there was Ted Rowlands reporting on tents they're using in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Hospitals in Chicago not ready.

That is pretty frightening. Most people don't expect in the United States, even in a flu epidemic, our hospitals are just not going to be ready, and going to have to put people in tents. It's something you expect in other parts of the world. How does this happen?

DR. IAN LIPKIN, CENTER FOR INFECTION AND IMMUNITY, COLUMBIA UNIV.: It is frightening. This is the worst flu season we've had in ten years. And we don't really know how bad it's going to be.

In New York alone, for example, we are already well ahead of where we were last year. And we're projected to go much higher. As you say, the flu season started earlier and it may run longer. Now, we are ill-prepared for this. We don't have the negative pressure rooms, which are required to isolate people. We frankly don't have enough vaccine. We have 135 million doses of vaccine, and we have almost twice as many people in the United States.

So -- but the short answer is, we really don't know what's different this year. Why we have more flu.

BURNETT: And that's what's sort of frightening. You served as adviser on the film "Contagion," as I just told our viewers. In that scenario, an outbreak quickly spreads around the world and it's frightening and millions of people can die.

How prepared is America to deal a real pandemic? Because, obviously, looking at what we just saw on that piece and what we're seeing now, I mean, especially given all the threats there terror that this country has faced, it's pretty shocking. It doesn't seem like we're ready.

LIPKIN: Well, the good news is that we have newer, faster, better ways of making vaccines now --

BURNETT: OK.

LIPKIN: -- than we had a few years ago. So we can produce vaccines and we can get them out, where they can actually protect people. We also have no evidence that these flu strains that are circulating this year are going to be resistant to the drugs that we have.

So, in fact, if we can get to people, you know, within an appropriate period of time, we can actually have an impact.

BURNETT: All right. There's a couple of positive things.

But, Colonel Larsen, you worked with former Senators Bob Graham and Jim Tallon at the bipartisan WMD Research Center, and you issued a bioterrorism report card, just where the United States is, are we ready? And after 9/11, it was a big priority for this country to be ready.

And here's what it looked like. There were no A's and there were a lot of D's and a lot of F's. And your conclusion was, the United States is unprepared to respond to a global outbreak of a deadly virus, for which we have no medical countermeasures.

We have spent $60 billion on this country on bio defense since September 11th. How come we are not ready?

COL. RANDALL LARSEN, USAF (RET), CENTER FOR BIOSECUIRYT AT UPMC: I would say it was closer to $80 billion. And we're not ready for that really bad one on the right side of your chart. We're not ready for just a smaller attack with anthrax.

And my concern is, since 2008, we've been going downhill. Erin, we've laid off 40,000 public health workers at the state and local level. We've cut their funding back 39 percent. We are not prepared, and we've -- we're not prepared right now for flu, but we've had nine months warning we were going to have this flu. We don't know how bad it was going, but we were going to have lots of warning. If we have a bioterrorism attack, we were going to have no warning.

So, I'm very concerned about that. And the main problem is, it's not a high priority. We're spending $800 billion on the Department of Defense and $3 billion on bio defense. And I think the biggest threat to your family is infectious disease, not Russian missiles or terrorist bombs.

We know we're going to have to deal with infectious disease, both naturally occurring and possibly from bioterrorists. We better get prepared.

BURNETT: And, when you say naturally occurring, I know in your view that is the biggest threat that there is. When you talk about potential bio terror, what form do you think it will take? The form of some sort of contagious disease, something like a flu that they unleash on a plane, or something different?

LARSEN: I think the most likely is naturally occurring, because we have it every year. But the most troubling is from a thinking enemy, who would consider what our defenses are, and how to confound our responses.

So I'm worried about something like anthrax, probably, the most. It's the easiest to do, it's very deadly, and also, very difficult to clean up. How do you think New York would be for a year without a subway system?

BURNETT: So, Dr. Lipkin, what do we do? How do we fix this?

LIPKIN: Well, I have to agree with Colonel Larsen. I am concerned about emerging infectious diseases. I don't think I am as concerned about them being weaponized as I am about them naturally occurring, because they do come up from time to time and how do we deal with them.

The good news is, I said earlier, is that the science is excellent. The problem has been that we don't have the ability to implement. We don't have the ability, as Colonel Larsen says, to do surveillance, which is required for public health, the public health infrastructure has, in fact, decayed over the past decade, and that is a problem and that is something we need to beef up.

This was a large committee called the National Bio Surveillance Advisory Subcommittee that made a report to the commissioner of the FDA and director of the CDC, and to the White House about what was need in the way of education and improved pipeline for drugs and such. And we're optimistic that things are going to move in the right direction.

BURNETT: All right. Well -- yes?

LIPKIN: But we do need funds for research. And research is under siege in the United States at present.

BURNETT: We need funds for that, and at least looks like there's a blueprint, if they were going to act, there's something there. Thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate your time.

And next, a man says, women can't fix Washington.

And our feel-good story of the day, Willy is free.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our fourth story OUTFRONT: estrogen is the answer, or not. Lately, we have heard a lot of talk along the lines of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: You know, we're less on testosterone. We don't have that need to always be confrontational.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEWYORK: I said, Mr. President, if you want to see bipartisanship in Washington, invite the women senators to help you get it done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All smiling and getting along.

All right. With a record 98 women in the new Congress, we're going to have less gridlock, right? They're going to work together. They would deal with the fiscal cliff.

Not so fast, as conservative commentator for Salem Radio, Michael Medved, who is OUTFRONT to find.

Also OUTFRONT, Tara Maller with the New America Foundation.

Michael Medved, really enjoyed reading your article today which appeared on "The Daily Beast." And let me quote --

MICHAEL MEDVED, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Thank you.

BURNETT: -- to our viewers from what you wrote.

You wrote, "Some female politicians have won praise for their heroic leadership in times of danger and discord, like Britain's Margaret Thatcher or Israel's Golda Meir. Other women have led major governments became notorious for ferocious, uncompromising often disastrously willful leadership, like India's Indira Gandhi or Argentina's embattled President Cristina Kirchner hardly exemplifying the collaborative, accommodating approach so lavishly praised by estrogen-is-the-answer advocates."

I just had to (INAUDIBLE), when you said estrogen is the answer, which I thought was so funny.

So, do you think having all these women in congress is going to make a difference?

MEDVED: No. Look, having all these Democrats in Congress is probably going to make a difference, but not all women are Democrats, and not all Democrats are women.

Look, the question here is, we have an example closer to home, other than Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher and Kristina Kirchner. The example is Nancy Pelosi, the most high-ranking woman in American political history. She ran the House of Representatives and she never worked across the aisle. She couldn't win a single GOP vote, not even one, for either the health care reform, the Obamacare, or for the stimulus package.

So, how is that collaborative cooperative, let's all work together, kumbaya leadership? It isn't.

BURNETT: No.

Tara, to use other words from Michael's article, Nancy Pelosi fits perhaps, these words a little bit more, fierce and formidable, which are also compliments, just not ones that you often hear with women. You know, everyone's supposed to be so nice and touchy-feely.

TARA MALLER, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Absolutely. And I'm going to have to agree to disagree with Mike on this one. In fact, I actually -- putting women's, you know, diversity issues aside and collaboration, there are actual substantive differences between having women in positions of power.

I mean, we see this across the board in studies. We see this in terms of decision making, in terms of having diversity of thought, and creative solutions. And we also see this across having more women on corporate boards, in terms of returns on investment and we see this in terms of making women's issues a priority, both domestically and globally. So, it not only shifts the agenda, it shifts how decisions are made in Washington.

BURNETT: Michael?

MEDVED: OK, where has this ever worked in American political history? Some of the most contentious, some of the most polarizing figures in the history of the U.S. congress have been females. When I worked in Congress briefly, worked at a congressional staff, I was very close to the office of a woman named Bella Abzug, who was known for throwing tantrums, for smashes things, for insulting and verbally abusing her own staff and here colleagues. She was known as Battling Bella.

I mean, there are some women who were cooperative and collaborative. Mary Landrieu has a good reputation in that regard, Kelly Ayotte, the Republican senator from New Hampshire, works well and plays well with others. And there are other women who are impossible harridans. Just like there are some men who are nice guys and reasonable and other men who are out to lunch.

Saying that women can do it better because they're female and they have female plumbing is every bit as stupid as saying men can do it better because they have male plumbing.

MALLER: Well, Michael, it's not a matter of better or worse. I mean, no one's here to say that all women are one way or all women -- or all men are another way. It's about lacking at the studies. And the studies show when you look at development overseas and you look at research on these topics, actually, societies where there's more investment in girl's education.

And where there's more investment, economic investment in women, and there's more women in power, you see that this not only has a difference in terms of economic opportunities in those countries, you see that there's a difference in how conflict prone these nations are. You see there's a difference in terms of the agendas where you have more women in leadership.

So it's not just a personal difference or a diversity of photo op, you know, like we saw in Obama's, you know, Oval Office shot the other day.

BURNETT: Or lack thereof.

MALLER: Or lack thereof. This is about real differences.

BURNETT: Yes? Final word, Michael.

MEDVED: Here's where we can agree. Look, you're talking right now about fairness and about equal treatment, and about investing the same kind of resources in our girls that we do in our boys. And as a father of two daughters, I believe in that, very, very much.

But right now, let's face the facts in America -- 60 percent of all college graduates today are female. Women are beating the heck out of men in virtually every field of endeavor.

MALLER: And you don't see them represented --

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED: -- in politics.

MALLER: Exactly, they're beating the heck when you see them in the academic programs and you see them in these professions at lower levels.

MEDVED: Right.

MALLER: -- and don't see them represented in the same proportions at the top.

BURNETT: Well, I'm going to hit pause there. I'm curious, though, Michael, I want to have you back, I want to talk about whether you think we need affirmative action for, you know, those poor, aggrieved white males.

All right, thanks to both of you. We appreciate it. Let us know what you think. Please check out Michael's column on "The Daily Beast," more women in Congress doesn't mean less gridlock in Washington, is more estrogen the answer.

Still to come, a snub at the Oscars. Did the superstar, super glam director of "Zero Dark Thirty" ever have a chance?

And we've got a killer story about whales.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our first fifth story OUTFRONT: Oscar shocker. No best director nod for "Zero Dark Thirty's" Kathryn Bigelow. Her thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden was considered a shoo-in among critics. But the movie has been a target of criticism from Washington lawmakers.

Did politics doom her nomination?

OUTFRONT tonight, Sharon Waxman, editor of the Wrap.com, which covers the entertainment industry. She's also a former "New York Times" movie critic.

Thanks so much for joining us. You know, John McCain talked about "Zero Dark Thirty." He was saying, look, this movie makes you think that waterboarding and torture is how we got the information that led the SEALs to Osama bin Laden. That's not the case, the movie is inaccurate.

Do you think the academy's perception of politics and the truth of the movie played a role in why she didn't get the nod?

SHARON WAXMAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THEWRAP.COM: Well, let's first point out that the movie did get a best picture nomination and they've got a best screenplay nomination and a number of other noms. But, you know, I would tend to agree with you that the fact that Kathryn Bigelow, who's the director of the movie and one of the producers behind it wasn't recognized this morning does suggest that the controversy around the film did hurt it. Yes, I think so.

BURNETT: And so, you point out the film itself got nominations. Was it perhaps more personal, at her? I mean, as opposed to political?

WAXMAN: No, I don't think it's personal at her, although you can't disassociate the film from the director. I think that is some kind of clear signal. You know, Jessica Chastain, who we interviewed today, who was, of course, the star of the film and was nominated for her performance as a CIA agent who was obsessively searching for bin Laden, she said it was bittersweet for her because she wouldn't have gotten the nomination without Kathryn Bigelow.

So, it does start with a director like her.

BURNETT: Right. WAXMAN: And so, there is -- certainly, I think she's going to be feeling it personally because there were accusations there that were quite serious, that they were misusing the facts, that they were -- that they had undue access at the CIA. There were a number of things.

BURNETT: And now, you talk about the portrayal of the truth. Here is Kathryn Bigelow last night before she knew what was going it to happen on David Letterman talking about that issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHRYN BIGELOW, MOVIE DIRECTOR: A moment like when she's drawing the numbers on the window, that's a very specific moment that really happed. Now, the reactions and the dialogue surrounding that, that's scripted. That's where drama comes in and the art of cinema comes in. You see the kind of fusion between fact and drama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, she doesn't pretend that everything is fact.

WAXMAN: Well, it would be absurd to think it's a documentary presented as drama.

BURNETT: Yes.

WAXMAN: You just can't do that. And I want to point out that this notion of movies that are in contention for the Oscars coming up, based on history, coming under scrutiny, this is something that happens very frequently and sometimes it's used in the battle for films vying for an Oscar win.

BURNETT: Yes.

WAXMAN: In this case, she's going headlong into one of the most sensitive topics in modern American political history, which is the issue of torture. So, how we found Osama bin Laden and what role torture played? She's taking on a sensitive topic. It's not a big surprise that Washington reacted.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to you, Sharon.

And next, a miraculous whale of a tale.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We've had a whale of a good time tonight, and we're going keep it going with this. Wow, what a terrible pun.

All right. Yesterday, you probably heard about the killer whales trapped under the ice in Canada. I'm going to show this picture, because it's just amazing. Twelve whales swam into the waters north in Quebec during warmer weather and they got stuck when the water froze. So, what you're seeing are the whales forced to breathe out of a hole that was slightly bigger than a pickup truck in order to survive. They just keep popping up, trying to get air, trying to get air. It was scary and terrifying. Everyone was on the edge of their seats that these whales could die.

And we can report, though, they are free. The wind shifted overnight, creating a passage in ice that led to open water six miles away. The whales were followed it out, saved by Mother Nature. This is an amazing story with a happy ending.

Thanks for watching.

"A.C. 360" starts now.