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Divisions Deepen in Gun Control Debate; California School to Reopen Monday after Shooting; Debating U.S. Troops in Afghanistan; Fly Overwhelms Chicago Hospitals; Pastor Pulls Out of Inauguration; "Embrace the Internet"

Aired January 11, 2013 - 09:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The quality of said confession if there is one is going to be important.

Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.


O'BRIEN: Have a great weekend, everybody. See you back here next week.

Carol, back to you.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Soledad. Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM new cracks in the divisive gun control debate. Has the White House pushed the big players even farther from the negotiating table?

Then his remarks from 20 years ago coming back to haunt this evangelical pastor. Now he's pulling out of President Obama's inauguration.

Former NFL quarterback Bernie Kosar has new hope after struggling for years with the effects of concussions. We'll talk about the treatments he calls groundbreaking.

And it looks like a wall of fire but the sky is not burning, it is a spectacular storm.

NEWSROOM starts now.

And good morning. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Carol Costello. We begin with new questions on the White House's search for ideas to curb gun violence in America.

Within hours of that horrifying massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, President Obama vowed to bring together the vastly divided interests in the gun control debate. Today those sides seem more polarized than ever.

The nation's largest gun lobby, the NRA, is angry and apparently backing away from the conversation, says the White House isn't really interested in a dialogue.


DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATE: We knew going into this meeting what the president's position on the so-called assault weapons ban is. It's the same position he's taken for years. These are not new positions. The vice president has said we'd do this with an open mind, but at the meeting he said no, we've already made up our mind on that. No, there's not going to be an agreement on that.


COSTELLO: And today we're learning the nation's largest gun retailer is feeling slighted. Wal-Mart officials reluctantly agreed to take part in the talks largely because of public pressure but in the end Wal-Mart didn't even get to meet with Joe Biden.

Christine Romans has been talking to Wal-Mart.

What are executives telling you?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's noted inside the company that in the end it wasn't a meeting with the vice president, this meeting and the rescheduling and all that that's been so contentious over the past few days. Instead it was with the attorney general, the Attorney General Eric Holder met with all of those retailers. I can show you how many there were. I've got a graphic to show you but a lot of different retailers, Wal-Mart, one of them, Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer.

Wal-Mart got a lot of grief for initially saying it had a scheduling error and would not be -- or scheduling problem, would not be able to join all these other retailers to meet with the vice president. And then it was scheduling of all the meetings that put all of the retailers in a meeting with Eric Holder, the attorney general, not Joe Biden so you still have drama about the scheduling of this meeting -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Does Wal-Mart feel like it's being picked on, in a way?

ROMANS: No, I think here's the bottom line. You know, this was something that Wal-Mart said that they didn't need to -- they couldn't attend, they had weekly -- monthly sales meetings in Bentonville, Arkansas. They didn't need to go then they said they would go because of the public pressure and in the end it wasn't a meeting with the vice president, it was a meeting with the -- with the attorney general.

And officially, you know, I asked the company spokesman today, I said, you know, are you going to be releasing a statement, will you tell me how those meetings went, and he told me look, out of respect for the process we will not be commenting about this anymore, so trying to put an end to the drama, the scheduling drama, Carol, but still in the end it wasn't a meeting with the vice president and Wal-Mart, it was a meeting with the attorney general and Wal-Mart after all of those scheduling snafus.

COSTELLO: All right. Christine Romans reporting live from New York today.


COSTELLO: Joe Biden will wrap up his meetings and when he sits down with members of the video game industry today, those violent fantasy games always enter the discussion when young men attack as we saw in Connecticut and the Colorado movie theater.

Also yesterday Biden met with entertainment executives representing Hollywood broadcasting and theater. That statement release last night, quote, "This industry has a longstanding commitment to provide parents the tools necessary to make the right viewing decisions for their families.

We welcome the opportunity to share that history and look forward to doing our part to seek meaningful solutions," end quote.

The California high school will reopen Monday, one day after a 16- year-old student shot at two of his classmates. It happened at Taft Union High School near Bakersfield. The sheriff says the gunman planned the attack the night before and entered the storm armed with a .12 gauge shotgun that belonged to his brother.

He was apparently targeting two classmates because he felt he'd been bullied. One student was shot. He's in critical but stable condition. The other student was not hit.

Brian Heber, a teacher, he's one of two staffers being credited with convincing the shooter to hand over his gun. Heber suffered a pellet wound to his head during the shooting. Now Heber and the school campus supervisor are being called heroes.


SHERIFF DON YOUNGBLOOD, KERN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: This teacher and this counselor stood there face to face not knowing whether he was going to turn the shotgun on them, and -- because they've seen the news media throughout our country in the last several months and they probably expected the worst and hoped for the best but they gave their students a chance to escape and converse and it worked.


COSTELLO: Parents of students at the school describe the gunman as a troubled youth who was expelled last year but allowed back in.

The school has an armed police officer but heavy snowfall in the area prevented that officer from getting to the school that day.

In just about an hour Afghanistan's president will arrive at the White House for bilateral meetings with President Obama. These meetings come at a time when Americans are frankly tired of war, too much bloodshed, too much money has been spent on a war that to many seems unwinnable.

The talking points will likely include the number of American troops in Afghanistan and when they'll leave for good.

Dan Lothian is at the White House, these two men aren't exactly on the greatest of terms, so what might be accomplished?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're right. I mean, some have talked about the relationship as being somewhat frosty because there have been concerns here about corruption and Afghanistan, a lot of questions about whether Hamid Karzai is a reliable partner and then on from Afghanistan they've been concerned about these civilian casualties after U.S. operations so that sort of sets the scene for this relationship, but at the top of the list, what everyone is focused on is the timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

As you know, that drawdown is supposed to take place in 2014, and there's been some talk here in Washington floated about that that number could go down to zero, which concerns some, even over at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Panetta, saying that that would be a bad idea, but what most likely will be is a few thousand troops on the ground there, and certainly this is driven by pressure on the president to -- whether it's political or financial pressure to aggressively draw down troop levels on the ground in Afghanistan.

So no doubt, that will be part of the discussion here today, but also as our Pentagon folks have been reporting President Karzai will be coming to these meetings with a wish list. He needs helicopters. He wants border security surveillance equipment. He wants drones as well for surveillance purposes and these are things that he will be requesting of the administration. So that will be part of the discussion as well. But White House aides telling us not to -- not to expect any major breakthrough during the meetings here.

I should point out, they'll have a bilateral meeting. They'll also have a working lunch and then there will be a joint press conference.

COSTELLO: All right. Dan Lothian reporting live from the White House.

Of course we'll bring you President Obama and Hamid Karzai's live news conference. Wolf Blitzer will anchor our special coverage that starts at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

There is some better news this morning about the flu.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen got a look at new numbers out from the CDC. Those numbers set to officially be released later today. The number of cases are actually down with 24 states reporting high levels of flu last week, compared to 29 the week before. However, there were two more pediatric deaths, bringing the total to 20, and by pediatric deaths we mean children of course.

In Chicago, flu patients are overwhelming the city's already strained hospitals though with still quite the outbreak there. Here's CNN's Ted Rowlands.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Deborah 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: Decided to be safe and come here make sure that 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 any more patients. Non life-threatening cases had to go to other hospitals like Cook County, which never turns patients away.

DR. JORDAN MOSKOFF, ATTENDING PHYSICIAN, COOK COUNTY HOSPITAL: So the (INAUDIBLE) are going to go to whatever the closest hospitals are but they may start getting overloaded and then they go on to version then two. I think this is a domino effect.

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

MOSKOFF: Just Tylenol. You can do that every four hours. Motrin every six hours.

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


COSTELLO: Ted Rowlands joins us now live from Chicago.

So, Ted, Chicago hospitals are already turning patients away. What happens if things get worse? I mean, is the city prepared?

ROWLANDS: Well, we asked that question and the answer we got was a resounding absolutely, we're prepared, and the reason is with the h1n1 scare, every hospital -- most hospitals in the country have a plan. Here at Cook County Hospital in fact they have a plan where they could change the dynamics of the hospital and turn it into a huge emergency room. The say the entire city could show up on the doorstep and they'll be fine.

They think that what happened on Monday and Tuesday of this week really was that they were over estimating the flu patients that go to hospitals today. (INAUDIBLE) all of them are accepting patients -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, OK, Ted Rowlands reporting from the Windy City this morning. Thank you so much.

Food and Drug Administration announcing dosing changes as a popular sleeping medication when prescribed to women. The FDA is recommending insomnia products like Ambien which contain zolpiden, lower their recommended dose to just five milligrams from 10. That's because for some reason women don't process that ingredient as quickly as men. Lower dose which would cut back the amount of the drugs still in a woman's body the next morning. The FDA also says new labeling will advise doctors to consider a lower dosage for men.

A troubling week for Boeing after problems surface in several of its 787 Dreamliner planes. A little bit later on in this hour, the -- the FAA will announce an investigation.


COSTELLO: Thirteen minutes past the hour. Checking our top stories now.

The man accused of killing 12 people inside a Colorado theater last summer could enter a plea this morning at his scheduled arraignment. A Colorado judge ruled there is enough evidence for James Holmes to stand trial on all 166 counts including first-degree murder.

Planned Parenthood in Texas heads to court today, the group wants a federal judge to allow it to be part of the state's revamped women's health program. Under a new state law Texas no longer funds women's health clinics that are affiliated with abortion. That state law disqualifies Texas from getting federal money for women's health and since federal money makes up a huge chunk of Planned Parenthood's budget the law effectively shuts down all the group's work in the state.

Ford says it's adding 2200 white collar jobs in the United States this year. That's the automaker's biggest hiring of salaried positions in more than a decade. A Ford spokesman says a significant amount of jobs will be based in southeast Michigan.

And watch this closely. A CNN producer wanted to get video from the edge of space as part of a project. Cameras and a microphone were launched from a weather balloon, also on the payload an android phone and a transmitter. The producer believes the balloon and parachute ran into strong upper level winds and the payload broke apart. The camera separated from the other parts of the package.

Now watch video of the microphone hitting the ground. It actually took six months for the producer to recover the video. A man found the android phone, turned it on, which sounded a message of its location, using the transmitter trackers found the camera not far away. Just some cool pictures to show you this morning.

He's known as a rising voice in the evangelical community, but now, Pastor Louie Giglio is giving up a key speaking role at President Obama's inauguration. Giglio's decision comes after his 1990 sermon on homosexuality was posted online by the liberal website Think Progress.


REV. LOUIE GIGLIO, PASSION CITY CHURCH: If you look at the counsel of the word of God, Old Testament, New Testament, you come quickly to the conclusion that homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle, homosexuality is not just a sexual preference, homosexuality is not gay, but homosexuality is sin.


COSTELLO: After' backlash from gay rights supporters, Giglio bowed out. He won't be praying at the inauguration, telling his congregation, quote, "The issue of homosexuality is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate. However, individuals' rights of freedom and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve."

Joining me from Washington to talk about this, CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, and in Miami, CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro.

Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Good morning.

So, Maria, let's start with you.

President Obama needs a big tent, you know, to effectively pass his agenda, evangelicals typically support conservatives. But with Giglio bowing out, does it alienate this group and create an unnecessary headache for President Obama?

CARDONA: Well, I certainly think that the presidential inaugural committee could have done a better job of vetting and therefore, probably wouldn't be in the position. But I do commend Reverend Giglio for bowing out, because it was his decision. And I do think it was the right thing to do for the president's inauguration.

The president's inauguration should absolutely reflect the tenor and the focus on diversity and inclusion which has been a huge priority for this president, especially this year when he came out historically in favor of the same rights for gays and lesbians to marry as everybody else. And so, I think the reverend made the right decision.

I don't think it means that the White House or this president is going to shut him out of other things. In fact, he was at the White House last year at a prayer breakfast. There are other situations and forums where the terrific work that the reverend has done for example in trying to prevent human trafficking around the world, which is an amazing piece of work that he should be commended for, I think there are other forums where that kind of work can and should be celebrated.

COSTELLO: So, in other words, Ana, is Maria saying yes, the president can use the pastor for other things, but as far as speaking at the inauguration, forget it, because that's not right?

NAVARRO: Well you know, Carol, that's fine. Look, it's his party and he'll cry if he wants to.

When you throw a dinner party, when I throw a dinner party, we decide who to invite, what to serve, what tablecloth to put on the table and who is going to play the music.

So I think it's perfectly fine for it to reflect what President Obama wants it to reflect. I do agree with Maria that certainly the inaugural committee could have done better due diligence. It seems that it's not hard to find as it came out very quickly after he was named, and ironically, four years ago, we had a very similar imbroglio and brouhaha with then Pastor Rick Warren. So, I think, you know, they definitely could have avoided this headache and this entire controversy that has developed.

But it's saying that, I go back to tell you I think President Obama has the right to pick whomever he wants and put whomever he wants. It's his big party once every four years.

COSTELLO: Well, I'd like to you consider what Michael Cromartie said. He's from the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative advocacy group he said, quote, "What I want to remind his critics is he's not being named to a cabinet position, he was being asked to deliver a prayer. All sorts of people deliver prayers who we don't agree with on a number of issues.

With that in mind how does the committee find a new pastor? Giglio said that when you look at the Old and New Testament, you conclude that homosexuality is a sin, not an alternate lifestyle. That belief is not different from other Christian leaders."

You would be hard pressed to find a pastor in the Catholic faith, the Muslim faith, orthodox Jews, Southern Baptists, all of those would say homosexuality is a sin. What do you do, not include them in the tent, Maria?

CARDONA: Well, no, I certainly think that you can find religious leaders who certainly would focus on the fact that there does need to be inclusion and there does need to be a way to include our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in a way that a lot of other pastors have not talked about. And so, I certainly believe that could you find a pastor or a religious leader that would focus on those issues of inclusion even among --


COSTELLO: Would you say the same thing about a pastor who wasn't pro- choice? Should those pastors who believe abortion is not right, should they be excluded from the inauguration?

CARDONA: Well, I think it all depends on what the pastor and person has said in the past, Carol. I don't think that you're going to take a person who has been invited to talk at, for example, the inauguration and then it equal what they believe religiously, and then say, well, they should speak or they shouldn't speak. I think it all depends on what they, themselves, individually have said publicly and what this pastor said 15 or 20 years ago, which he did not disavow, by the way, is pretty egregious when you talk about the kind of inclusion and diversity that this country is moving towards when it comes to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

COSTELLO: OK. And, Ana, I'd like to you address that. Do you object to every pastor, every religious man with a belief that's not yours?

NAVARRO: Absolutely not, but I'm also not getting sworn in and I'm not the one picking, who is going to speak at my inaugural.

But I think the letter you read, Carol, brings up a very important point. You're right. He's not getting considered for a cabinet position and ironically enough, the person who has been nominated by President Obama to serve as secretary of defense has also said some pretty anti-gay things in his past. Fourteen, 15 years ago he opposed -- Chuck Hagel opposed a nominee that was going to serve in the country of Luxembourg as an ambassador -- Luxembourg which is the size of a table -- and he opposed him for being aggressively gay and had some pretty tough anti-gay statements to make at the time.

Yes, he apologized but apologized two weeks ago when his name was already being considered for secretary of defense, and yet it's OK to go after the pastor, but it's not OK to go after the nominee for secretary of defense, who is going to be making big and small decisions on a daily basis as we implement the complete repeal of "don't ask, don't tell".

That I think is inconsistent and verging on hypocritical.

COSTELLO: Just to be clear Giglio pulled out on his own. President Obama didn't change his mind and say get out.

CARDONA: And also, very quickly. I think Ana brings up a good point, which is we have to include people's evolving views on this. And so, again, I go back to what the reverend said 15 or 20 years ago, he has not disavowed. Hagel has absolute disavowed what he said, and a lot of gay rights groups have taken him --

NAVARRO: Two weeks ago, Maria, a very convenient evolution.


CARDONA: That's fine.

COSTELLO: Thank you both. Thank you, thank you, Maria Cardona, Ana Navarro.

We actually want to know what our viewers think, that's my talk back question of the day. Should we welcome pastors in the public square despite their views on homosexuality?,, or you can tweet me @carolCNN. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Embrace the Internet -- that's what Google chairman Eric Schmidt told North Korea as he wrapped up his trip to the country.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange to tell us more. Good morning, Alison.


This was a trip that was shrouded in mystery. In fact, it's still a little mysterious. At least we know the official reason why the Google chairman was there, it was to further his agenda for Internet freedom around the world.

Now, we are getting a few details of the trip. He met with students at Kim Il-Sung University in the capital Pyongyang where computer science students, they show off their Web surfing skills. Internet access, you know, is extremely limited in North Korea.

But we know that Schmidt believes in the ability of the Internet to empower citizens living under oppressive totalitarian governments. Although I bet he didn't pitch it that way on his trip. That would be a little too direct. But here is some of what Schmidt said to reporters in China.


ERIC SCHMIDT, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, GOOGLE: As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth and so forth, and it will make it harder for them to catch up economically. We made that alternative very, very clear.


KOSIK: Now, so it looks like he was trying to make it an economic appeal, Carol, to the North Koreans. He didn't meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but the state-run news agency in North Korea pointed out Schmidt paid high tribute to the statues of his father and grandfather, former North Korean Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung.

It is worth nothing that the State Department was not behind this trip. That they were not happy about it, saying the timing was not great -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik, reporting live from the New York Stock Exchange.

The first ever gun appreciation day coming up next week. Gun activists want to you show off your gun pride, but the timing of the event is making gun control activists furious.


COSTELLO: Good morning and thank you for joining us. I'm Carol Costello. It is 30 minutes past the hour.