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Severe Flu Spreading; Bypassing Congress on Gun Control; Road to Oscar Gold

Aired January 10, 2013 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A flu epidemic sweeping through dozens of states. Hospitals are crowded from New England to the Dakotas.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Biden and the NRA, their much-hyped gun control sit-down now just hours away.

SAMBOLIN: And Hollywood's best waiting with anticipation. We are counting down to the Academy Award nominations.

BERMAN: I can't wait.

SAMBOLIN: Are you excited?

BERMAN: I love the movies. Sure.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, so do I. I think "Argo" is the only one I want to see that got a lot of nominations.

BERMAN: Go see this morning, by this yourself.

SAMBOLIN: Great idea. Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Thursday, January 10th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And we're going to start, though, with the flu because it is spreading with a vengeance across the U.S. Not only did the flu season get off to a really early start, but really early start. Cases are proving to be more severe than last year. The CDC's latest flu advisory says 41 states are dealing with widespread activity, more than 2,200 people are hospitalized.

The hardest-hit states, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, each reporting 22 flu-related deaths. Illinois now says they had six deaths. Cases in South Dakota spiked, almost doubling in the span of a week.

It's so bad in Boston, they declared a public health emergency. Since October there have been 700 confirmed cases in Boston, a rate 10 times higher than last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KEVIN CRANSTON, MASSACHUSETTS DEPT. OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We've seen 18 deaths reported to us so far this season, associated with influenza- like illness, predominantly, overwhelmingly among oldest individuals, which is not atypical. What we are hearing from clinicians all over the state is that strains of flu that people are preventing with is quite severe and we're seeing rates of hospitalization higher -- certainly higher than the last two years.


BERMAN: The CDC says the flu strain going around is tougher to shake than usual, but the good news is the strain does match up well to the vaccine that's being given out nationwide. We're going to talk more about this flu and the spread coming up with Elizabeth Cohen in the next hour.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, looking forward to it. Is it too late to get a flu vaccine?

BERMAN: Never too late.

SAMBOLIN: Is another question I have.

All right. Our top story this morning: Vice President Biden revealing the White House is prepared to bypass Congress to push through tough new gun control laws. That announcement coming hours before today's talks between Biden's gun violence commission and gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association.

It's shaping up to be a long day for the vice president. Later this morning, he meets with sportsmen and wildlife groups. And this afternoon, it's representatives from gun owners groups, including the NRA. And tonight, the entertainment industry weighs in on how violence in the media may be influencing the problem.

But when it is all said and done, Biden acknowledges his boss is prepared to use the powers of the presidency to enact his own comprehensive gun control plan.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president is going to act. There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We have not decided what that is yet. But we are compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and the rest of the cabinet members, as well as legislative action we believe is required.


SAMBOLIN: White House correspondent Dan Lothian is live in Washington. Good morning to you, Dan.


SAMBOLIN: There is a lot going on behind the scenes, Dan. Let's first talk about this executive action. What is the president planning to do?

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, as you heard the vice president say, they aren't laying out any details as to what it is the president would do in order to move forward on some gun measures. What's clear here is the political environment in Washington. We've seen over the last several months, how it's been very difficult to get movement on anything that goes down to the wire for lawmakers to come up with some sort of bipartisan agreement.

So, what the vice president is spelling out here, is floating, essentially, that he's talking about the reality of the current political climate here in Washington. That yes, there are things that can be done legislatively, but if those things can't be done, then the president is willing to act alone.

Why? Because he says it's time to act now.


BIDEN: I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion, unless we can do everything, we're going to do nothing. It's critically important that we act.


LOTHIAN: Now, in addition to these meetings that you spelled out earlier that the vice president is holding today, yesterday, he also met with some faith leaders. They talked about the, quote, "moral imperative to act quickly." He also had a conference call with governors, other stated and local officials across the country.

They're really trying to push this through quickly because there's that deadline. The president wants the vice president to come back with policy proposals by the end of this month, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And so many different views, they are weighing in there.

The White House is asking for Congress to pass regulations on gun control, in addition to the executive action. So, how are gun companies and gun rights groups reacting to this?

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, some of the gun companies out there are not happy about this at all. They think a ban on assault weapons would be bad for business. The NRA has pushed back on that ban saying it's, quote, "a phony piece of legislation."

And indeed, right now what we know is shaping up is what the White House says Congress can do, which is this ban on assault weapons. They can close some of the loopholes when it comes to background checks. They can ban these high capacity magazines. We've been talking quite a bit about that.

And there's a lot of concern from the NRA and other gun groups. They say that there needs to be a broader approach. That gun control is not the way to solve this problem, but that you need to look at things such as mental health and violent video games. SAMBOLIN: Yes, comprehensive action. Thank you so much, Dan Lothian, live in Washington for us.

BERMAN: Five minutes after the hour. You know, we are hearing from a really interesting voice on the issue of gun control right now.

Retired General Stanley McChrystal, the man who once led the war in Afghanistan, is coming out in favor of stronger gun control laws. McChrystal says he spent a career carrying assault weapons, and while he approves them for soldiers, because of how devastating they can be, he believes there's no place for them in civil society.


GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, FMR. COMMANDER, ISAF, AFGHANISTAN: But I don't want those weapons around our schools or around our streets. I think that if we can't -- it's not a complete fix to just address assault weapons. But I think if we don't get very serious now when we see children being buried, then I can't think of a time when we should.


BERMAN: McChrystal says he believes that most people who own these types of weapons are not properly prepared to carry them.

SAMBOLIN: To break out the score cards, you're going to need them to keep track of the comings and goings in the president's cabinet. The White House chief of star, Jack Lew, will be nominated today to become the next treasury secretary. And a search is on for a new labor secretary now that Hilda Solis has announced that she is stepping down.

Staying on for now, Attorney General Eric Holder. He will be working with the vice president on new gun control measures. But insiders say he may leave office by the end of the year.

The White House also announcing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will continue to serve in the president's second term.

BERMAN: In Colorado, the evidence hearing against James Holmes is over a couple days earlier than expected. The judge will decide tomorrow if the case is going to go to trial. Holmes is accused of opening fire inside that Aurora, Colorado, movie theater last July, killing 12 and wounding dozens and dozens.

Yesterday, prosecutors claimed that Holmes cased the theater up to three weeks before the massacre and showed pictures of theater hallways and doors that were recovered from his cell phone.

SAMBOLIN: And a race against time to free a pack of killer whales. They're trapped by ice, 11 of them trapped in a 50-foot by 50-foot space near a small Canadian village in northern Quebec. Experts are being sent to the scene today to see what can be done to save them. But if the hole, they're using to surface and breathe freezes over, the orcas will eventually die.

Open water is said to be at least six miles away.

BERMAN: These pictures are both so sad and so stunning.

And in our next hour, we're going to talk with Georgia Aquarium's William Hurley about this desperate effort to save the killer whales.

SAMBOLIN: So, he threw 46 shot outs in his big league career. Now, Roger Clemens knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end. Clemens and along with slugger Barry Bonds and Sammy Souza shut out in the voting for baseball's Hall of Fame.

Yesterday, all of them tainted by the game's steroid scandals. Seventy-five percent of the votes are needed to get in, Clemens and Bonds falling far short with less than 40 percent each. And Sosa barely registering 12 percent.

No one got in, but Craig Biggio did come closest. The former Houston Astros second baseman appearing on 68.2 percent of the ballots, just 39 votes short.

You kind of predicted this yesterday.

BERMAN: You know, it does happen that no one gets in. The last time it happened was 1996. Say what you want about the steroid guys, but I think the person who get robbed was Craig Biggio. This guy has 3,060 hits, a second baseman for a long time, a great player for the Astros.

There's no reason that he should not have been admitted. What happens is baseball writers get up in there, you know, get all high and mighty and say maybe he shouldn't get in on the first ballot. Biggio will get in next year or the year after for sure, so why not now? What's wrong with these baseball writers?

SAMBOLIN: They should have you join.

BERMAN: That would be awesome.

All right. So, take a look at this. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on the cover of "TIME" magazine this week. Critics don't like it not because it's Christie, they're upset about the photo itself. We're going to explain why coming up.

Plus, Mr. Lincoln I presume, Steven Spielberg's historic epic ready for its Oscar close-up. We're going to go live to Los Angeles where the nominations will be unveiled this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many hundreds of thousands are dead during your administration?


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Can you feel the excitement?

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is a really big day in Hollywood.

Nominations for the 85th Academy Awards will be announced in just over three hours. We could see as many as 10 films vying for the best picture prize. Who will get in? Who will be left out? Will there be a scandal?

CNN's Nischelle Turner is up early in our L.A. bureau with a preview.

Let's start with best picture.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: OK. John, you know there's always a scandal in Hollywood. So, stay tuned for that maybe later on this morning.

If I remember correctly, just a few weeks ago during the Golden Globes announcement, you were so excited you could barely stand it. You were ready to hear who was going to be nominated.

BERMAN: I'm jumping out of my seat.

TURNER: I know you are. We'll get this for you just a couple hours this morning.

But I have to say, there's a couple of races this year that could be pretty tight for the Oscars. Best picture is definitely one of them.

So what we did is we put together a look at who could get a very good wakeup call this morning. Look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like our chances now.

TURNER (voice-over): The campaign for best picture is about to get real, and there's no doubt "Lincoln" will be a leading candidate.

Steven Spielberg's civil war drama should land a slew of nominations and not just for best picture.

PETE HAMMOND, DEADLINE.COM: Daniel Day-Lewis obviously for best actor. You're going to see him nominated and he's by far the front- runner to win. I'm sure you will see Sally Field nominated in supporting actress. And also Tommy Lee Jones in supporting actor.

TURNER: As many as 10 movies to be nominated for best picture.'s Steve Hammond points to a handful of top contenders.

HAMMOND: "Les Miserables" is certain to be nominated. "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are both certain to be nominated.

TURNER: "Silver Lining Playbook" should score nominations for best picture and for its stars. Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro, who has endured an Oscar dry spell.

HAMMOND: Robert de Niro who has not been nominated, believe it or not, for 21 years.

TURNER: Among the possible Oscar nominees, one movie stands out as a major question mark. What will Oscar voters make of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained"?

HAMMOND: "Django" is the wildcard here. "Django" could be one that gets a ton of nominations or virtually nothing. You know, it's either/or.

TURNER: "The Deed" may be silent, but critics haven't been. Some of them accusing Tarantino of trivializing slavery.

HAMMOND: It has a lot of naysayers. That can always hurt it. It's such a box office hit that could only help.

TURNER: The controversy should make for a suspenseful Oscar nomination announcement.


TURNER: And that announcement will come in just a few hours, like I said. We're going to have it live here on CNN, in a special that we're calling "The Nomination" this morning starting at 8:00. And Soledad and A.J. Hammer will be in New York. I'll be here in Los Angeles. We'll have the Oscar nominations live.

Now, we talked about best picture. You're right, the Oscar -- the Academy could nominate up to 10 movies for best picture. "Django Unchained" that we just saw kind on the bubble there, John. If they nominate five, it could be shut out.

But if they start to expand those nominations to six, seven, eight, we could see "Django Unchained" in there for best picture. "Lincoln" will probably get a nomination. "Argo" probably a nomination, "Zero Dark City", "Les Miserable", and we also saw "Silver Linings Playbook" in there which has become a darling for the Academy this year.

BERMAN: My favorite category is director, you're talking about Steven Spielberg, Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, Ang Lee, Tom Hopper -- I mean, you have an all-star team of directors who probably will get nominated this year.

TURNER: Absolutely. It's going to be a fun morning. It's kind of like my pro bowl announcement of entertainment this morning, John Berman. That's how we look at it.

BERMAN: We are glad to share this pro bowl moment with you, Nischelle.

Nischelle Turner in our L.A. bureau, thanks so much.

We want to hear your predictions and opinions on these Oscar nominations. Go to the "STARTING POINT" blog at We're asking for your picks for best actor, best actress, best picture. We'll tell you if you're wrong. You can tweet us @startingpointCNN, #CNNnoms.

SAMBOLIN: Nobody will be wrong. It's their best pick, right?

BERMAN: I supposed so.


All right. Seventeen minutes past the hour.

Let's get you up-to-date. Here is Christine Romans with this morning's top stories.


President Obama considering the use of executive orders to bypass Congress and fast track comprehensive new gun control laws, that's according to Vice President Joe Biden. Biden's gun violence committee meets today with the NRA, along with representatives of the entertainment industry and sportsman and wild life group.

NTSB investigators now on the scene of a New York City's ferry crash. This ferry slammed en route from New Jersey slammed into a pier in Lower Manhattan, throwing passengers around lying rag dolls. Coast Guard officials say 85 people were injured in this crash, one critically.

Overseas, large parts of the Middle East feeling the effects of a powerful winter storm that brought snow and severe flooding. It stretches from Jordan and Israel into Lebanon and Turkey. The worst of the storm may be felt in Syria where thousands displaced by the several war are in refugee camps dealing with flooding and bitter cold. Their makeshift shelters have no heat. Very closely watching that storm this morning in the Middle East, you two.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Christine, very much.

It is now 18 minutes past the hour. Time for "Early Reads". That's your local news making national headlines.

We're going to start with the New Jersey's "Newark Star Ledger," which is sort of Tony Soprano's home paper. He said some Italian-Americans are upset at the "TIME" magazine's latest cover. That cover shows New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in a mugshot-like pose. Behind the headline it says, "The Boss."

Now, even Christie took issue with the cover in "Imus on the Morning", suggesting it made him look like a mob boss. You know, it could also mean Bruce Springsteen I supposed.

"TIME" magazine, we should say, is owned by the parent company of this network.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And this from the "Seattle Times." The Emerald City lost their NBA team five years ago, the Supersonics. Now there are reports that the Seattle group is negotiating to buy the Sacramento Kings for some $500 million and move the team to Seattle.

The Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson says not so fast. He is a former NBA player, and he's vowing to fight to keep the Kings in town. The Maloof family, which owns the Kings, has not said publicly that the team is for sale.

BERMAN: I don't want to diss A.J. or Sacrament, but Seattle has a rich basketball tradition right there and there have been a lot of questions about whether the Maloofs ever had the finances to support a team in Sacramento to begin with.

SAMBOLIN: It's a very complicated story. A lot of folks upset about this. Some happy, some upset, right?

BERMAN: A lot of excited people in Seattle.


BERMAN: All right. Coming up, the new rules out for mortgages and how they're supposed to protect you, the homeowner.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you, New York City. It is 22 minutes past the hour. We are minding your business.

U.S. stock futures are trading higher after some positive economic news out of China overnight.

BERMAN: Christine Romans is here.

Give us the business news.

ROMANS: Well, the business news is you have a couple updates for stocks. We have some stuff happening in Europe. We have some China data that was better than expectations. So, we'll watch gun stuff. We are also watching gun stocks.

As I told you, there has been a rally in gun stocks since the Newtown massacre. A couple of down days, and then the gun stocks going up. Why? There's been a run on guns in this country. It fizzles a little bit. That rally fizzled a little bit yesterday as Vice President Biden, word from his office came out that, hey, maybe there was an executive order that could be on the table.

Take a look at how the stocks went there? You see that, you know, the gunmaker Sturm, Ruger stocks fell less than 1 percent. The five-day gain is about 6 percent in five days. Smith & Wesson dropped more than 2 percent, but still positive over the past five days. We're watching that fizzle a little bit.

It's not just the gunmakers, we also watched the retailers, because the big major sporting retailers sell an awful lot of these guns. So, we've been watching the gun retailer stocks like Cabela's and Dick's Sporting Goods, they both fell about 1 percent. But the share is still up about 5 percent.

Of course, this made no move on Walmart's stock, but Walmart will be attending those meetings after initially saying a scheduling conflict prevented them from being there.

Now, another big story watching about your money this morning. New mortgage rules. The government, the new Consumer Financial Protection Board, coming out with rules for lenders. Lenders have to write mortgages that people can pay back.

Ding, ding, ding, ding!

SAMBOLIN: Novel idea.

ROMANS: For the first time, I can't believe it's here. New rules that make a mortgage qualified what makes a mortgage qualified? A person has to have money or assets -- remember the ninja loans? No income, no job, no assets? They really have loans like that.

You have to have a job, documented employment. You have to have a credit score, because credit score, of course, is a reflection of how well you can pay your bills. You have to be able to afford the monthly payments. Wow, that's just remarkable -- giving someone a loan knowing they can afford.

SAMBOLIN: They can afford to pay it.

ROMANS: You have to be able to afford your other housing debts and expenses. And then lenders have to consider other debts. Obviously, this is in response, a major response to what happened in the financial crisis. This is supposed to make it so that banks, lenders, all lenders can't do risky kinds of lending. And the people aren't tricked into teaser rates and taking on big loans.

How many times have you heard a homeowner say, well, they told me I could afford this? No, I don't have a job. I didn't have any money. I didn't have any assets. And no, I couldn't.

So, I don't think its' going to make it easier to get a loan. It will make it easier to not get snookered by someone trying to sell you a loan.

SAMBOLIN: It definitely will make it easier to make a loan.

ROMANS: Yes -- oh, no. I mean --

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looking forward to life after the State Department. You're going to hear from her, coming up.

BERMAN: And doctors just operated on one of the most valuable right knees if all of sports. Find out how RG3's surgery went.

SAMBOLIN: Give him a call.