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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Severe Flu Spreading; No Charges Against Parade Float Driver; Too "Tony Soprano?"; Lion Or Labradoodle?; Road To Gold; McChrystal Backs Stronger Gun Laws; Cesar Millan's Advice For Humans

Aired January 10, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. We begin with John Berman who has an update on the day's top stories. Hello.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Thanks, Soledad. So the flu is spreading with a vengeance across the U.S. not only did the season get off to a very early start, cases are proving to be far 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 reporting six deaths and cases in South Dakota spiked, almost doubling in the span of a week. It's so bad in Boston they have declared a public health emergency. Since October there have been 700 confirmed cases in Boston, rates ten times higher than what they saw last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN CRANSTON, MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We've seen 18 deaths reported to us so far this season associated with influenza- like illness, predominantly, overwhelmingly amongst older individuals, which is not atypical.

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 certainly higher than the last two years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So the CDC says the flu strain going around is tougher to shake this year, but the good news is the strain matches up well to the vaccine being given out nationwide. We're going to be talking much more about the flu and its spread coming up with Elizabeth Cohen in our next hour.

No charges will be filed against the driver of a parade float that collided with a freight train in Midland, Texas in November. A grand jury declined to return an indictment. Four people were killed and at least a dozen injured. The parade honored military veterans. Investigators say the float entered the train crossing and the gate then came down.

So some Italian-Americans are reportedly upset at "Time" magazine's latest cover that shows Governor Chris Christie in a mug shot-like pose and there's this headline that says "The Boss." "Time" magazine, by the way, we should mention is owned by our parent company.

Even Chris Christie took issue with this cover. He suggested it made him look like a Mafia boss. According to "Newark Star Ledger," he also joked with a crowd that it made him look like Tony Soprano and may have damaged his relationship with Bruce Springsteen because he stole his nickname.

O'BRIEN: That's what I thought it referred to when I saw "The Boss." I assumed it was like he's supplanting Bruce Springsteen in the state of New Jersey.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: He's a huge Bruce Springsteen fan.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I thought that, I thought he runs the Republican Party perhaps. He might run the state of Jersey, I did not think Mafia.

TOOBIN: Most people -- I don't even know Christie is Italian. He is half Italian, but I mean the idea that it's some sort of Mafia thing I don't think makes sense.

JEN PSAKI, FMR. TRAVELING PRESS SECY. FOR OBAMA CAMPAIGN: It's hard to tell how upset he really is, so we'll see over time. I mean, the question here is who does Christie want to be? Is he tough, is he independent, is he compassionate?

BERMAN: When Chris Christie is really upset, you can generally tell, so I think there are different levels here.

O'BRIEN: That is true.

BERMAN: We have some baseball news here. Roger Clemens knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a shutout. Clemens along with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, they were shut out of baseball's hall of fame yesterday. Clemens and Bonds tainted by steroids, they got less than 40 percent.

Sammy Sosa barely registered 12 percent. That's a guy with 600 home runs. No one made it in yesterday. Craig Biggio, the Houston's Astros great second baseman, he came the closest. He had 68 percent of the vote. He fell just 39 ballots short.

All right, you have to look at this, reports of a lion on the loose in Norfolk, Virginia, turned out to be somewhat exaggerated. Listen to the 911 calls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Norfolk 911 where is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Hello, I'd like to report a lion sighting.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I just saw an animal that looked like a small lion. It had the mane and everything.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I just saw a baby lion on Colley Avenue and 50th Street.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: There was a lion that ran across the street, a baby lion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, where --

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: It was about the size of a Labrador retriever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It's easy to make fun of these people but here's the thing. That caller was on to something saying it was the size of a lab. The lion was the size of a Labrador retriever because the lion was actually Labradoodle, the cross between a Lab and a poodle.

His name is Charles the Monarch, but here's the thing. The owner gets him groomed to look like the mascot for nearby old Dominion University. The thing looks like a lion. I can't blame these people.

CAIN: That's a baby lion I've ever seen one.

O'BRIEN: That's a baby lion, true.

TOOBIN: This story has been extensively covered by CNN. One of the things I've learned is that the owner tells people that the dog is a Labralion. And some people actually believe that he is a Labrador lion mix.

BERMAN: It's only a matter of time before we get that anyway.

O'BRIEN: All right, everybody, pencils down. Nominations for the 85th Academy Awards will be announced in just about an hour from now. If the movie going public had its say, Steven Spielberg's story "Lincoln" or maybe "Les Mis" would win best picture. That's according to Reuter's poll.

Rest assured both films pretty much look like they're a lock to be nominated. I want to get this morning from L.A., "Vanity Fair" senior west coast editor, Krista Smith is joining us. Nice to have you with us, appreciate your time.

KRISTA SMITH, SENIOR WEST COAST EDITOR, "VANITY FAIR": Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Why is it that movies that are based on historical fact, whether it's recent history or long history seem to do better when it comes to the Oscars? SMITH: Well, I think we love our history. I mean, this year in particular, you have "Argo," you have "Zero Dark Thirty" and you have "Lincoln." I mean, for "Lincoln" it was Spielberg's passion project so he had been on that for a very long time, which obviously is huge in American history.

I think "Zero Dark Thirty," it's very interesting, this movie has got a lot of controversy, but that's kind of living history that we're constantly debating and talking about right now. And on CNN earlier and later, I'm sure.

And with "Argo," it's one of these movies that it is a part of history we never even knew existed. So I think all of them kind of hit the sweet spot with audiences.

O'BRIEN: Does being historically faithful matter, right? Because we're seeing some controversy in some of these films that they don't necessarily stick to what actually happened in history. Do you think that matters when it comes to winning or being nominated for an Oscar?

SMITH: I think a good movie is a good movie. The thing to remember here is that it is movies. They are -- it's a fictionalized version. I think that "Lincoln" is certainly inspired by all of the events. None of us were there so we don't exactly know what happened.

I think that Kathryn Bigelow in "Zero Dark Thirty" has probably taken the most heat for that because, like I said, it is living history. The torture stuff people have come up against very harshly. So do I think it matters in terms of winning? Not necessarily. I think really it's how the movie is put together, and a good movie is a good movie.

CAIN: This is Will Cain. Do you think there's anything -- look, I think you've characterized interesting, living history versus far past history. In this case we have three, right, we far past with "Lincoln" middle with "Argo" --

O'BRIEN: How about "Django" too.

CAIN: The further back in history it is, the more it's removed from the debate of the contemporary issues we're dealing with. Is it beneficial to be further back in history to win the Oscar?

SMITH: I would say yes. I would say it's hard -- I don't think anybody really knows. This year is the kind of year that this has come up for discussion because we have three movies that are all dealing with a different part of history and a different part of America. So I think for the first time we're actually -- this debate is being brought forward.

TOOBIN: Doesn't Hollywood try to have it both ways when it comes to these historical movies? Because on the one hand they say this is really history and on the other hand when people criticize them for being inaccurate, they say, come on, it's just a movie.

O'BRIEN: Krista is like are you new? Yes. PSAKI: What do you think some of the surprises are going to be? People who aren't going to be nominated, people who will be nominated who people don't expect?

SMITH: Well, I think there's a couple of things going. I will say this, I will preface this conversation by it has been the most exciting year in a long time. Because usually by this time everyone is kind of like, this one is going to win, it's kind of already wrote.

And I think that it's kind of all over the place. I would certainly like to see Joaquin Phoenix get in there. "The Master" came out earlier in the year. It's lost a little momentum, but his performance is so incredible in that film.

I think we might -- some surprises, it will be interesting to see what happens with "Skyfall," the Bond movie, which grossed over $1 billion, incredibly popular. Also the film "Amoure" which is a film basically about dying, about an elderly couple, Emmanuelle Riva, she might get in for best actress.

She will be 85 years old, which I think is the oldest best actress nomination if that happens. So I think there are a handful of surprises that could come.

O'BRIEN: I've gotten some tweets where someone has said "Wreck It Ralph" should be in.

BERMAN: That's my son.

O'BRIEN: Krista, nice to have you with us this morning. Of course, we're going to have at 8:15 special coverage of the Oscar nominations. A.J. Hammer of "Showbiz Tonight" is going to join us and we'll bring those nominations announcement live when it happens.

Also if you want to join us and tweet us and tell us who you think will be nominated, listen, if you think it's "Wreck It Ralph," go ahead, others disagree with you. You go to our blog at cnn.com/startingpoint and vote in our special poll for best picture, actor, actress. You can also tweet us @startingptcnn use the hashtag #cnnnoms.

Coming up next, the man who commanded the war in Afghanistan says our nation needs stronger gun control laws. We'll tell you why former General Stanley McChrystal says many guns have no place in our society.

We also know we can connect with dogs, but how can you take some of the lessons that he's learned over 22 years in the business? Cesar Milan will join us with some tips for understanding your pet. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Retired General Stanley McChrystal says assault rifles are for battlefields. The man who commanded the war in Afghanistan tells CNN's Anderson Cooper. He spent his entire career carrying assault weapons. While he approves of them for soldiers because of how deadly they can be, he believes there's no place for them in society. Here's what he told Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, FORMER COMMANDER, ISAF, AFGHANISTAN: I don't want those weapons around our schools. I don't want them on 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: McChrystal also said he believed that most people who owned these types of weapons are actually not properly prepared to carry them. That was interesting to hear from him. I mean, he's really been very silent since the scandal that ended his career.

PSAKI: This is probably the biggest name who's come out who's been kind of the unlikely, I think, supporter of gun control legislation, I think. And, you know, I think the biggest thing that Biden said yesterday is it's not all or nothing.

And so McChrystal is out there saying this. You had Senator Cruz expressing some element of openness to background checks. We'll see what happens. It's still going to be tough, but I thought it was one of the most interesting announcements.

CAIN: There's so many issues, background checks, high capacity magazines for which to debate. General McChrystal was talking about assault weapon bans. I still question define for me assault weapons and define them in a way that shows they're more lethal than any other gun. I need that to be explained over and over again.

TOOBIN: If you would watch CNN, you would think that we're on the verge of an assault weapons ban in this country, and there is, I think, almost no chance that the United States Congress passes an assault weapons ban. Look at who's in the Congress. Look at John Boehner. Look at the Republicans. I mean, this is not --

O'BRIEN: The president has said or through his vice president that an executive order could --

TOOBIN: But you can't ban assault weapons by an executive order.

BERMAN: The executive orders are things that he can do without Congress. That includes enforcing the laws that are already on the books. I agree with Jen that what was the most important is talking about it's not all or nothing. They will do what they can when they can.

O'BRIEN: Remember, the meeting today is also with the entertainment industry. We very rarely have conversations about violence in the media. That's going to be part of the conversation they're going to have to have. PSAKI: And some Republicans have expressed a concern about violent video games as well. So, you know, we'll see if --

O'BRIEN: There's got to be a middle ground. The thing that I find very frustrating, and we have talked about this for days now is this idea that it's assault rifles -- ban versus, my God, they're coming to take our guns and there's not this vast middle somewhere in which something can be done.

TOOBIN: I totally disagree.

O'BRIEN: Why?

TOOBIN: I don't think there is a middle ground. I think either you ban these weapons or you don't. And either you can go into a Wal-Mart and buy a Bushmaster or you can't.

O'BRIEN: But when you look at what happened in the past assault weapons ban, there have been many loopholes and sort of like a Swiss cheese of law. So it was banned but actually it wasn't super effective if you look at some of the research that we know from that.

CAIN: The reason that it has loopholes is because you can't define assault weapons. We use that term as though it's a legitimate thing. All it is a scary term for a weapon that's functionally the equivalent of 70 percent of other guns in this country. You cannot define assault weapons. That's why that ban had very little effect over a ten-year period.

PSAKI: You can define it by the list of guns. That's controversial.

CAIN: But they aren't functionally different.

PSAKI: The other thing that's interesting is state legislation that's going on. Obviously New York and Connecticut are liberal states. But New York, Governor Cuomo said they want to move forward by the end of February and Governor Malloy's state of the state he talked about moving forward on state legislation. We'll see if there are other states.

BERMAN: And that's a different issue, magazines, clips.

O'BRIEN: We're going to talk more about the Oscars this morning. A.J. hammer will join us. A panel of experts, Oscar experts will join us at 8:15 a.m. Eastern Time. What are you laughing about, Oscar experts. Come on, man, they have seen all the movies. Check us out on Facebook. Tweet us your predictions @startingptcnn #cnnnoms.

Coming up next, when you want to get a dog what you want that dog to do, what do you do? You go to the dog whisperer. He joins us on how you can pick the right dog and really understand your pet. Cesar Millan joins us. Great to see you again.

CESAR MILLAN, AUTHOR, "SHORT GUIDE TO A HAPPY DOG": How are you? Nice to meet you, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST, CNN'S "THE NEXT LIST": I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This is a Spiker Box. One of these along with a cockroach could make you an expert on the brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were trying to make the tools simple enough to be used. I think people are familiar with cell phones or laptops and then our equipment has one button, you just turn it on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have been enlightened by the neuroscience and how our brain functions. I've got a better understanding of muscle and brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're almost up to 100 high schools. I'm greedy. We want that across all of the country. We don't want just one kid, we want every kid.

GUPTA: Neuroscientist Greg Gauge this Sunday on "THE NEXT LIST."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: He's known, of course, as the dog whisper and along with his new show, "Leader of The Pack," he also has a new book, "A Short Guide To A Happy Dog," where he writes about overcoming some personal struggles as well.

He writes this, dogs live in the moment. They aren't consumed by mistakes from the past or fear of the future. As I began to stop looking backward and stop dreading the future, I started to regain my appreciation what is happening here and now.

Cesar joins us this morning. It's nice to have you with us. We have tech questions all morning.

MILLAN: Happy New Year.

BERMAN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Those dogs -- are there good dogs and bad dogs or is it more like good owners and bad owners?

MILLAN: I think it's misinformed human. I don't think a human wants to make a harmed a dog. A lot of times people harm a dog by doing affection, affection, affect. For example, dogs in a wealthy environment. The food is brought to them. So they actually harm the stability of the dog. Dogs love to work for what he has. That's why I suggest exercised discipline. That affects your body, mind and heart.

O'BRIEN: This is all your philosophy. I mean, the short guide really is kind of building on your -- it's less about a formula, but more than philosophy -- MILLAN: The execution of the belief -- 43 years of knowledge that I -- people want to know. What do I do with a barking dog? Here it is. Page whatever it is. People want solutions. People want it quick.

TOOBIN: I hope thunder is not listening here -- the issue of stupid dogs. What about dogs who eat clothing hypothetically? Hypothetically, who like eat, say, my daughter's under wear. Perverted --

MILLAN: They don't have a proper outlet. They do behaviors that appear stupid to people.

O'BRIEN: Is it because he's a apartment dog?

MILLAN: It's because he doesn't have the proper challenge, like sheep herding dogs live in the city, they have a tendency to go after bikes and kids and things. They don't have the proper outlet.

TOOBIN: What's the proper outlet for dogs that eat stupid things?

CAIN: I need to follow this. Do you see a connection, I asked you this during the break, between the way people raise and treat their dogs and the way people raise and treat their children? Can one be an indicator of the other?

CAIN: Is this a personal question for you?

CAIN: Yes.

MILLAN: Yes, it is. In my experience, when I see the behavior of the dog, I see behavior of the family. Human tells the story, they don't tell you reality. When I come and evaluate the situation, the human tells me something, the dog tells me, no, no, no. We're not consistent here. Look at the kids.

CAIN: You tell your mom --

MILLAN: That's how I was raised.

CAIN: Boy dogs fall in line.

O'BRIEN: You write a lot in this book, even though it's a short guide to a healthy dog about your personal struggles. You were desperate. You were devastated after your pitbull died.

MILLAN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And you tried to kill yourself.

MILLAN: Yes, I tried to commit suicide. I got to a point where I felt I have no pack. I felt that I have no worth in life. And obviously, I became very consumed and very selfish. Then I forgot I teach people and help people do exercise, have a challenge in life.

Have a meaning, a mission in life. Help other, in this case, help your dog. That's the way I become rehabilitated. I applied my own formula in me when I was on my worst-case scenario. To me exercise helped me come back to life.

O'BRIEN: New show?

MILLAN: New show "Leader of The Pack." After that, I was in that zone, I said what do I have to do. Dog whisper helped me save relationships, "Leader of The Pack" help me save lives, 600 million dogs die every year around the world, 600 million.

O'BRIEN: Cesar Millan, "A Short Guide To A Happy Dog" and a lot about your personal life as well. Thanks for being with us. It was great to have you.

MILLAN: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Got to talk a break short break. Still ahead, Vice President Biden just hours away from talking to the NRA. We'll tell you how his boss, the president, could be planning to try to beat the gun lobby to push through new gun control laws. That's ahead.

Also we're just about 15 minutes away from our special coverage of the Oscar nominations. We'll have that live. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Our STARTING POINT this morning, a wide spread outbreak, dozens of people killed, hundreds hospitalized with the flu. What you need to know about the severe strain that is now circulating. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is live with some critical information this moring.

Plus sitting down with the NRA, the vice president will hear from gun advocates today as he says the president could issue an executive order to better enforce existing gun laws.

And we're about 15 minutes away from our special Oscar nomination coverage. A.J. Hammer from "Showbiz Tonight" will join me as we bring you who is in and who is not.

It's Thursday, January 10th and STARTING POINT begins right now. Welcome, everybody, our team this morning. Will Cain is a columnist from the blaze.com is joining us. Jen Psaki is back, Democratic strategist. Jeff Toobin is CNN's senior legal analyst.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, we're talking about the deadly flu. CDC reporting that influenza cases are wide spread across 41 states, more than 2,200 people have been hospitalized. Hardest hit states are Pennsylvania and South Carolina, each state is reporting 22 flu- related deaths. Massachusetts is declaring a medical emergency --