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National Flu Outbreak; Setting an Anti-Gun Violence Strategy; James Holmes to Stand Trial

Aired January 11, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Sick day Friday. Doctors struggle to control a fierce flu outbreak spreading through offices and job sites really all over the country.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hero in the classroom. This teacher is one of two staffers who stared down the barrel of a shotgun and talked a school shooter into giving up.

BERMAN: And this size says it all. Take a look -- severe storms leave parts of one Southern state completely underwater.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: It is Friday. Happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Friday, January 11th, 5:00 a.m. here in the East.

So, let's get started here. Up first: the fast-spreading flu now officially an epidemic. This year's flu season has come early, hit really hard. Nearly two dozen children have died. Widespread activity reported in more than 40 states as well. Boston's mayor just declared a citywide emergency because of the flu.

And now, a leading health official acknowledging the outbreak has reached a new level.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES FOR HEALTH: If you look at the charts that the CDC put out on their Web site, it clearly has gone above that threshold. So, we are into what would classically be described as a flu epidemic.


SAMBOLIN: Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is live in Ft. Worth, Texas, with what may be some good news. She has an early read on the new flu numbers that we're getting.

Elizabeth, what have you learned?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. The CDC, every Friday, they release their new flu numbers. I got an early look at them. And actually, as you said, a little bit of good news. The flu activity in this country has gone down a bit.

Two weeks ago, we were talking about 29 states having high levels of flu activity. Now, we're talking about 24 states having high level of flu activity. That is good news.

Now, I want to talk about the numbers in a slightly different way. And this gets confusing, so bear with me. We're seeing less flu in the United States, but it is spread out more. Geographically, it has spread out to more locations.

So, to put that in terms of numbers, two weeks ago, 41 states were seeing widespread activity, meaning it was throughout various regions of their state. Now, 47 states say they're seeing flu in various regions of their state. So, spread out more, but the actual number of people who are having flu symptoms has actually gone down -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So that's good news.

COHEN: It is good news. And so, this is the way flu goes. The numbers go up, then you often see that they start to sort of hit a peak, and then they start to come down. We don't know if we hit the peak yet, and it's different in different parts of the country.

So, for example, in the Southeast, where this -- where everything sort of started, where the numbers started getting bigger earlier, we are seeing some of those numbers come down now. So, that's really good for people in the Southeast. They experienced it earliest and now the numbers are going down earlier than other regions of the country.

SAMBOLIN: I think over here, we're experiencing it late. I mean, they're dropping like flies around here.

So, you're in Ft. Worth, Texas, where you spent the day yesterday with a little boy with the flu in the hospital. How is he doing this morning?

COHEN: He's doing much better. You know, I wanted to talk to his mom. This was a little boy who was sick. You know, like, Zoraida, you have kids. You know, kids get sick. But then he started getting sicker. This mom took action quickly. So he's just adorable. His name is Darius Carr (ph).

Let's listen to what his mother had to tell me yesterday.


COHEN: Did you know that flu could make a kid so sick so fast?

ROBBIE CAREY, SON HOSPITALIZED WITH FLU: No, I didn't. Not at all. I do now. I did not then. And that was real scary. I mean, like I told you, 30 minutes to an hour, he took a turn for the worst, right in front of me.


COHEN: So, in the course of 30 minutes to an hour, he went from being sort of a sick kid like we've all had, to being a kid who was having trouble breathing, he didn't even recognize his own mother. He became so delirious.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

COHEN: So, this is a message -- I know, can you imagine, Zoraida? So, that is the message your kid can get very sick, very fast with the flu.

Now, this child has asthma, so even worse for him. But it can happen to any child.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, he looked lethargic, so we wish him well.

Thank you. We appreciate it.

COHEN: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: So, next hour at 6:30 Eastern, we'll talk about the flu epidemic with a doctor. He's the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

BERMAN: You know, this isn't a scientific study. But pretty much everyone I know is sick right now. This thing is everywhere.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I'm going to ask the doctor about, how do you know if it's actually the flu? Because we've got a lot of people sick around here. Everybody is trying to figure out, do you have the flu? Or do you not have the flu? Do you have to have it diagnosed? When do you stay home so that you don't infect somebody else?

BERMAN: Wash your hands and take care of yourselves. That's for sure.

Four minutes after the hour right now. James Holmes will be tried for murder in the Colorado movie theater rampage. That decision from the judge who presided over his three-day evidence hearing this week. Holmes will be arraigned today on 166 counts of first degree murder and other charges. He's accused, of course, of opening fire inside an Aurora, Colorado, theater killing 12 people and wounding dozens of others. The murder charges could carry the death penalty.

SAMBOLIN: A 16-year-old who opened fire critically wounding a classmate at his Bakersfield, California, high school claims that he was bullied. Investigators say he shot two boys and shot a second round as students ran for cover yesterday, but missed.

The Kern County sheriffs said they are saying he actually also had a hit list as well. The sheriffs also said that after Aurora and after Newtown, teacher Ryan Heber and campus supervisor Kim Lee Fields, deserve high praise for talking the gunman down.


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


SAMBOLIN: And they risked their lives. The suspect will be charged as a juvenile with attempted murder. It will be up to prosecutors to decide if he will be charged as an adult.

BERMAN: This is all happening, of course, as Joe Biden's federal task force on curbing gun violence begins to take action. The vice president announcing he will make recommendations to President Obama by Tuesday.

We will take you live to Washington in just a few minutes. A live report from White House correspondent Dan Lothian on the latest developments on this issue, coming up.

SAMBOLIN: Six minutes past the hour. Severe storms, including three tornado touchdowns, leave parts of Louisiana under water. Take a look at your screen. One town, Eunice, this is southwestern Louisiana, has been drenched with over a foot of rain over three days.

Seven parishes have widespread flooding prompting Governor Bobby Jindal to declare a state of emergency there and more rain is expected this weekend as well.

BERMAN: So, it has been an awful week for Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, one of the most advanced planes ever. Two more mishaps on separate flights in Japan today, a cracked cockpit window and an oil leak. This follows three other incidents involving a fire, fuel spill and brake problems.

Reports say the FAA is set to announce a comprehensive review of the Dreamliner to address these safety concerns.

SAMBOLIN: And starting this year, Major League Baseball will conduct in-season blood tests on players for human growth hormone. It's the first major American sport to do so. The announcement comes just a day after a star studded but checkered class of candidates was shut out entirely by the Hall of Fame, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa. The most prominent players rejected because of links to steroid abuse.

BERMAN: The MCH (ph) and HGH blood test is a huge deal. Players have always complained they didn't want people sticking needles in their arms and taking blood before games. They thought it might affect the way they play. It is a huge concession from the players, a really serious advance in drug testing in baseball. It will be interesting to see if the other sports follow suit.

SAMBOLIN: I think it's really great, too.

BERMAN: I agree. Eight minutes after the hour right now. And Jack Lew, what an interesting signature this man has. If Jack Lew, President Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary, gets the gig this scribble may be on all of your money. Yes, Lew may have the most illegible signature of all time.

SAMBOLIN: Now way.

BERMAN: Look at it. It's nothing but a doodle. Like nine loops in a row.

SAMBOLIN: That is something my 2-year-old would do, right?

BERMAN: Or Treasury Secretary.

But yesterday, President Obama assured the world that the American dollar is, in fact, safe.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had never noticed Jack's signature. And when this was highlighted yesterday in the press, I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him. Jack assures me that he is going to work to make at least one letter legible in order not to debase our currency should he be confirmed as Secretary of Treasury. So --


BERMAN: So, this is what his signature would actually look like on the dollar bill. Let's take a look at that. Wow, that's just awful.

SAMBOLIN: Is it third grade when they focus on your handwriting skills and penmanship? So, maybe he can sit in on a class.

BERMAN: That's right. The Treasury Secretary wants to audit your class.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, there you go.

All right. Nine minutes past the hour. Yesterday, we brought you the life or death drama of these whales trapped by ice. Today, oh my gosh, I was over the moon when I heard the update on this. We have such good news to share. Obviously, you know what it is. But we're going to share more details with you, coming up.

BERMAN: Plus, the young boy who vanished nearly 20 years ago, found alive and well.


BERMAN: Vice President Joe Biden's gun control task force will deliver its recommendation to President Obama by Tuesday, that's fast.

Yesterday, the vice president met with representatives on various sides of the issue. The former head of a movie industry group argued that movies don't cause violence.

White House correspondent Dan Lothian is following all these developments.

And, Dan, the vice president said he saw emerging consensus in some areas here. The NRA said they were disappointed. So, what's really going on here?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, you know, that's essentially what we expected, the NRA saying that they wanted to come and listen to what the administration is talking about, but certainly the administration is looking for some tough guidelines here, to prevent violence in the future.

And so, some of the things that the vice president says has been emerging from the discussion. He pointed out that these are not his recommendations, but what he's hearing from all of these meetings is, at the top of the list, universal background checks. So, not closing loopholes at private sales, but universal background checks, and the second thing a ban on high capacity ammunition clips.

These are two things, again that the vice president says has been emerging at the top of the list from the discussions he has been holding. But the NRA, obviously, pushing back on this. Clearly disappointed -- disappointed, they said, by how these meetings have less to do with protecting the children and more to do with, quote, "the agenda, the attack on the Second Amendment, while claiming no policy proposals would be prejudged, this task force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners -- honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans.

So, with the tough statement like that, the question is, can there be common ground? Can they find some areas of agreement? And the NRA suggesting that will be difficult.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is there common ground?

DAVID KEENE, NRA PRESIDENT: There isn't on guns.

BLITZER: There isn't.

KEENE: There is not on guns, not that I can see, except in one area.

BLITZER: Like what?

KEENE: Except in one area. We have for years urged that those who have been adjudicated as potentially violently mentally ill ought to be included on the national database for those who are not allowed to buy firearms.


LOTHIAN: John, one of the things that we did not hear the vice president talked about is the reinstatement on the ban on assault weapons. That is something that has been on the that we have been talking now for several days and the president and the vice president have been talking about it as well. So, it's kind of interesting that did not come up yesterday.

BERMAN: Absolutely. The hints the vice president seems to be dropping day by day are fascinating. We'll learn more about it next Tuesday when he issues his recommendations. So, yesterday, he met with movie industry types of people. Today, it's representatives from the videogame industry.

Any sense of what kind of solutions or ideas he wants to hear from them?

LOTHIAN: Well, I think, you know, what the vice president says he's trying to do is sort of get at the root of the problem. Are these video games or movies out there leading kids, young people, adults, to commit violent acts? And so, that is the question that he's trying to get at. But there's pushback from Hollywood saying, you know, that essentially they are taking steps to make sure that young people are not getting in to see these kinds of movies, violent movies, are not getting in or playing with some of these violent games.

Take a listen or look at what one person from the Motion Picture Association, the former chairman of the Motion Picture Association said in a statement, quote, "I don't think the abundance of movies that are put out by the entertainment industry are that violent or cause violence. Hollywood does a pretty good job of letting parents know through its rating system, what kind of movie is coming out, whether there's violence or sexual conduct or other types of things."

So, you know, Hollywood sort of pushing back, saying that they're doing a good job of safeguarding keeping kids out of these movies. So, these are some things they'll have to figure out as they have these discussions.

BERMAN: All right. Dan Lothian live for us in Washington. Again, the vice president's recommendations coming next Tuesday, which is really lightning fast by Washington standards. Thank you, Dan.


SAMBOLIN: Seventeen minutes past the hour, it's time to get you up- to-date. Christine Romans with our top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Nasty flu bug spreading across the country, reaching now epidemic levels, according to one of the nation's leading disease fighters. But CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is learning the flu is falling off in some places where it started. The latest CDC numbers due out this morning show 24 states of levels of flu activity. That's compared with 29 states with high levels the week before.

Good news for some American couples in the process of adopting Russian children. A controversial Russian law banning adoptions by Americans signed by President Putin last month, it will not be put into place now for one year. It was supposed to take effect this month. That means some adoptions can proceed now, giving families who are so close new hope.

A happy update to a story we've been following, those dozen killer whales stuck under sea ice sharing one shrinking breathing hole. They have escaped into Canada's Hudson Bay. Winds reportedly shifted overnight moving the ice away from the coast and opening up the water.

Had that breathing hole frozen over, these whales would have died likely. That's such good news. Some people, you guys, watching this, they were taking turns coming up for air on this shrinking hole.

SAMBOLIN: It was awful to watch, right? Mother Nature apparently took over there. They were trying -- they were trying for a manmade solution.

But you're not so optimistic, are you, Berman?

BERMAN: Well, right now, it allows the whales to swim away. But they lost track of them. If it does freeze over again, there's no telling where they might be. So --

SAMBOLIN: I hope they swam far, far away and they're fine now.

BERMAN: Me, too.

SAMBOLIN: I'd rather believe that, right? Thanks, Christine.

BERMAN: All right. Eighteen minutes after the hour right now. Time for your "Early Reads," that's your local news making national headlines.

First, reporting for duty. In the state of South Carolina, look at this, tears, hugs and goodbyes as Governor Nikki Haley's husband leaves for a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. He left with the other 46 members of his South Carolina National Guard unit. He's a captain.

In a statement, the governor wrote, "We are a proud military family who understands the sacrifices any family goes through when a loved one is serving his or her country. We will miss him while he's away."

He will be helping in Afghanistan with agriculture and farming.

SAMBOLIN: She understands, though, right, the suffering families go through.

Meantime, in "The Indianapolis Star", a missing boy found 19 years after his grandparents kidnapped him. Richard Wayne Landers, that's the picture of him there, was just 5 years old when he and his grandparents disappeared from the town of Wolcottville. That was back in 1994. This was after a custody dispute.

Indiana State Police said Landers, who is now 24 and married, was found in Minnesota, thanks in part to his Social Security number. The grandparents were found in nearby town under aliases. The police aren't saying yet they will actually face charges. The original charges were dropped back in 2008. The kid's family, his mom and dad, I think it's a stepmother, say they're going to go -- they have not seen him yet, or talked to him yet but they plan on doing so.

BERMAN: Can you imagine? So many years.


BERMAN: Twenty minutes after the hour. It is an anxious Friday if you work on Wall Street. Mass layoffs in the work for some leading financial firms. We're going to have the details for you coming up.


SAMBOLIN: We are minding your business. U.S. stock futures are flat this morning.

BERMAN: But yesterday marked a milestone in stocks, Christine.

ROMANS: It did. A five-year high for the S&P 500. I mean, we're talking about, you know, pre-recession final crisis kind of levels. We're looking at here. Look at that, the S&P and the Dow both had a very good -- the highest close since December of 2007. December 2007.

BERMAN: What could possibly go wrong?

SAMBOLIN: What could possibly go wrong? Right.

This morning, we're hearing Japan is embarking on a stimulus to keep its economy afloat and to put some juice into its economy, $117 billion fiscal stimulus there. So watching the world markets because of that.

But watching closer to home on Wall Street, some nervous bankers this morning. I'm going to tell you why. Wall Street has been shrinking over the five years. I just showed you that chart. Shrinking in the wake of the financial crisis and continues to do so.

Earlier this week, we heard from Morgan Stanley, CNN sources actually -- CNN Money sources saying that Morgan Stanley was going to have 1,600 layoffs. American Express, the most there yesterday, announcing 5,400 layoffs. Some of those focus on the travel department.

And Citigroup, as you know, in the midst of 11,000 job cuts.

The reason why Wall Street is concerned, the Morgan Stanley job cuts in particular, those are higher up the food chain -- managing directors, maybe having fewer managing directors, maybe taking longer to get to M.D., you know, that's the kind of the Holy Grail of Wall Street jobs where you really start making an awful lot of money. So, watching that overall here and we'll watch those stocks here today.

BERMAN: All right. Over the last few weeks, Christine, you have been watching gun stocks closely.

ROMANS: Yes. Another day, another down day for the gun stocks, two days in the row, losses for Sturm, Ruger, about 3 percent over two days. Smith & Wesson down 6 percent.

It's because of the traction you're seeing in Washington about gun talk, good violence talks, and what's going to happen next, what this vice presidential forum could come up with. You know, Walmart actually not very pleased that we're not making more of a deal about how Vice President Biden is not meeting directly with Walmart, it is the Attorney General Eric Holder.

After all that to and fro about how Walmart wouldn't be able to fix the scheduling delay to meet with the vice president, now it's Eric Holder meeting with the vice president. Walmart is like you're not making a big deal of that? We show up and we're not even meeting with the president. So --

SAMBOLIN: There you have it.

ROMANS: There you have it.

Gun violence survivors are planning a big rally for Tuesday at a Connecticut Walmart to push them to stop selling the AR-15 weapon, like the one that was used in the Connecticut shooting. That is something that is still sold at Walmart stores, along with ammunition. Gun survivors are saying they don't want Walmart to sell that gun. It's just -- even a symbolic thing.

People who know Walmart, people who cover this company say it's about making money. Walmart does things that make money. So, as long as the PR is not as bad as -- doesn't hurt sales, there probably won't be any changes. That's what observers of Walmart say.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It is 26 minutes past the hour. Coming up, the gun stunt that caused a police lockdown in the Northwest.

BERMAN: Plus, red dawn down under. Take a look at that. The story behind this menacing cloud coming up.