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Forty Seven States Hit By Flu Epidemic; Lance Armstrong Confession This Week; Biden Gun Violence Report Due Tuesday; 140-Year- Old Law Frees Convicted Rapist; Judge Says Student Must Wear Locator ID; Python-Hunting Contest Begins; More Hit Movies Feature DC Agencies

Aired January 12, 2013 - 17:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Don Lemon, you're in the CNN NEWSROOM. We want to get you up to date on the headlines right now.

France's military is carrying out operations in two hot spots in Africa. Reporters are reporting now, there are more than 100 people have been killed by French air strikes in Northern Mali. France came to the aid of Mali's fragile government in its fight against Islamic militants.

Meantime in Somalia, two French soldiers were killed in an attempt to free a French intelligence agent who may also have died in the raid.

Syrian activists say, government air forces are back in action, and pounding the outskirts of Damascus. A week of bad weather grounded most planes.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Allahu Akbak! Allahu Akbar!


LEMON: The rebels are claiming victory in the fight for an air base in the north. The fighters say, they seized weapons and ammunition after the battle. Activists say, at least 108 people were killed today in the civil war.

Internet trailblazer Aaron Schwartz has passed away. A relative says, Schwartz committed suicide. He was only 26 years old. Schwartz was involved with developing Reddit and RSS. Later he dropped out of Stanford University and focused on battling internet censorship. Schwartz was facing legal trouble related to his activism and he had blogged about his battle against depression.

Tomorrow marks one year since the luxury cruise of Costa Concordia ran aground in Italy killing 32 people. The wrecked ship still stuck on an island, but it's expected to be towed away in one piece by September. The destination has not yet been announced. Residents of the island will observe a minute of silence and release 32 lanterns tomorrow to mark the anniversary of that tragedy. It's the number one story we're following today here on CNN. Public health emergency. I'm talking about the flu. And this emergency now includes all of New York State. That means that nearly every state in the nation is reporting that doctors call -- what doctors call widespread flu activity. Only the far west is relatively unaffected this weekend, even though the CDC says, there's plenty of cases there too.

One positive thing in all of this, though, is that the number of cases seem to be dropping, and the spread seems to be slowing. We're going on the latest information given to us by the CDC and National Institutes of Health.

Is it time to call this a flu epidemic? Well, yes, it is. Government physicians tells CNN, definitely. It's been an epidemic. CNN's Athena Jones is at a flu clinic just outside Washington, D.C. this afternoon -- Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Don. We're just a few miles outside of Washington, D.C. in Falls Church, Virginia. Virginia is one of the states where the flu is widespread and so clinics like this one have seen a lot of extra activity. We spoke to one of the doctors here earlier. Let us know what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: In the last couple of weeks, I've definitely seen an increase in demand for people coming in, either thinking that they have the flu or requesting flu vaccination.


JONES: So, there you have it, Don. A lot of activity at this clinic. And doctors say that nationwide there are still millions of flu vaccinations available. Some 135 million doses were manufactured and only about 112 million people have gotten the dosage. So folks are urging people to go out and get the flu shot. There's a myth out there that getting a flu vaccination could actually give you the flu. Doctors say that is not true.

But that you shouldn't get the shot if you're already ill with the fever. If you're younger than 6 months old. If you have an allergy to chicken eggs, which is the medium used in these flu shots or if you had a past reaction to the flu shot. Otherwise, folks should get it. The very young, the elderly, and pregnant women. Anyone with a previous medical condition or who has their immune system compromised should go out and get the flu shot as soon as they can. And if anyone is wondering, President Obama has gotten his -- Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much. I'm here with Dr. Jay Varkey, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Emory School of Medicine. And I have all of my stuff on the desk here. Because you can hear, I have the flu for 12 days.


LEMON: Twelve days. And my doctor came to see me today, actually, at home because the emergency room was filled.

VARKEY: Right.

LEMON: And he said I got two different strains. I got the flu and then got another strain of the flu. What the heck is going on?

VARKEY: Well, there's a couple things. One is that -- and I know that you've gotten vaccinated. But unfortunately, the flu vaccine, although it's the best tool we have to prevent influenza, it's not 100 percent effective. So based on the information we have so far, it appears that if you get the flu vaccine, you're about 62 percent less likely to have to see a doctor for the flu. You might have been in the not so lucky --

LEMON: Not so lucky.

VARKEY: Thirty eight percent.

LEMON: OK. So then does this work? I got -- I took it a little bit late. This is tamiflu.

VARKEY: Tamiflu does work. So, it works best if taken within the first 48 hours of your symptoms.


VARKEY: But it -- you know, it's not a magic pill. It will reduce your symptoms, make you feel a little bit better faster.

LEMON: OK. I had this on the desk and everyone is like remove the cup. This is part of the thing. So, this is tea, honey, lemon. Does that work?

VARKEY: I think it will make you feel better. I don't think it's going to do much for the virus.

LEMON: All right. So, I said, if I hear one more person, honestly, tell me to wash my hands, doctor, I'm going to slug them. Because I wash my hands all the time. I use anti-bacterials. That's not it. It's just flu season.

VARKEY: It's just flu season. And you're right. You can do all the right things, you know, more than anything --

LEMON: It's ridiculous. We will tell people that every year. Wash your hands, really, come on, people.

VARKEY: Well, you might be protecting other people that you're working with. But you're right, it didn't keep you from not getting sick and it didn't keep you from somebody coughing or sneezing on you.

LEMON: What about those hand sanitizer which I used? I don't believe they work. Actually, I think it works in reverse. I think if you get a good germ on you and you build up an immunity, if you use all those anti bacterials, doesn't it hurt instead of help?

VARKEY: Well, it depends on the sanitizer. So, most of the alcohol- based hand sanitizer...

LEMON: Right.

VARKEY: ...if used properly, should work as well as soap and water.


VARKEY: But there's certain bugs, which that's not advised for. For influenza, I would say use something. If not soap and water, then use alcohol based hand sanitizer.

LEMON: OK. I didn't read this. And I'm sure -- 47 states now reporting widespread flu activity, right?

VARKEY: That's right.

LEMON: The CDC says, a vaccine is still the best tool out there. To fight it. Do you agree with that?

VARKEY: I agree wholeheartedly.

LEMON: Did they hit it this year?

VARKEY: They did. It's a very good match. But unfortunately, even on yours like this where it's a great match, it doesn't work 100 percent of the time.

LEMON: Yes. I wish someone paid me a lot of money to say wash your hands. That drives me crazy. OK. So let's talk more about Tamiflu, Cipro, antibiotics, anti-virus, what should we take, which should we stay away from?

VARKEY: So, Tamiflu can -- drugs like Tamiflu or Relenza, and other drugs that out there that can work for influenza. However, anti bacterials, like Cipro, Levaquin, Amoxicillin, Penicillin, none of those work for influenza and could make your symptoms worst.

LEMON: Really?

VARKEY: Absolutely. So, I would advise people not to take those unless specifically prescribed by a physician.

LEMON: Yes. Why is this so bad? I have not had the flu like this. You know, when I was a kid, you would get sick right, and you stay home from for a week or two and you're so weak. And I haven't had a flu like this since I was a kid. This is like a kid flu for me.


LEMON: What's up with that?

VARKEY: There's a couple things. I think one is that, especially compared to last year, last year was an incredibly late and mild flu season. This year came early, and it seems to be more severe. The other thing you mentioned earlier that you might have another virus. There's other viruses besides influenza that are circulating the community right now. And those can make you feel lousy. So there's plenty of kids at my school that are sick with things like RSV.

LEMON: Right.

VARKEY: Which can make you feel pretty lousy.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you. I told him before, I was like, if you tell me to wash my hands --

VARKEY: You'll harm me.

LEMON: Thank you, doctor. I appreciate you coming on. Good advice. And wash your hands, I guess.

All right. And one more thing on the flu epidemic. This evening, if you're one of the unfortunate infected people, you probably will be dragging yourself into work on Monday instead of taking a sick day. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about a third of people employed in this country do not have sick days to take. They can't afford to stay home. Can you believe that? That is a problem, because fewer people taking sick days means more sick people in the work place interacting with colleagues, customers and the public, and definitely doesn't help efforts to stop the spread of the flu.

And over and over, for years and years, Lance Armstrong denied he ever cheated, denied he ever used performance enhancing drugs on his way to becoming the greatest cyclist in the world. But it looks like we are now just days away from hearing him confess to what he always claim he ever did. Here is CNN's Nick Valencia.


LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: I've said it for seven years. I've said it for longer than seven years. I have never doped. I can say it again. But I've said it for seven years much. It doesn't help.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Help may be something Lance Armstrong will need a lot of to redeem his reputation after the "USA Today" reports Armstrong will, quote, "admit to doping throughout his career." The newspaper does not name their source but says it's a person with knowledge of the situation. "USA Today" says, the former seven-time Tour de France champion's admission, which had been widely rumored for weeks, is expected to come in a Monday interview with Oprah Winfrey, that will be taped for air Thursday. As for why he's doing this now, the journalist who broke the story says Armstrong had no choice.

BRENT SCHROTENBOER, USA TODAY SPORTS: With all the evidence that's come out against him, it's hard to deny it anymore. And he's making a calculated decision. For himself, personally, it's also I think a business decision for him. Because it's affecting his charity, Livestrong, all of his sponsors have fired him.

VALENCIA: Armstrong has kept a low profile at his Austin home since the U.S. anti doping agency released thousands of pages of evidence of what it said was a sophisticated and brazen doping program. But it's Armstrong's repeated denials over the years to protect his name that has angered so many. Including former teammates found guilty of doping themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Did you see Lance Armstrong using other performance-enhancing drugs?

FLOYD LANDIS, FORMER TEAMMATE: At times, yes. At different training camps.

TYLER HAMILTON, FORMER TEAMMATE: He took what we all took. Really no difference between Lance Armstrong and I'd say the majority of the peloton, you know.

VALENCIA: The difference may be that few from his former entourage have fallen from grace as hard. Already without tens of millions of dollars in endorsements, late last year, Armstrong, a cancer survivor, was forced out from Livestrong, the cancer charity he founded. And now if he comes clean, Armstrong could face some legal repercussions. In the interview with Winfrey, Armstrong is not expected to give great detail but the confession could give him a shot at resuming his competitive racing career.

SCHROTENBOER: If he wanted to get his ban reduced, the rule book says no less than eight years. Right now he's 41. So eight years from now, he would be 49. And I don't know how interested he would be in competing at that age.


VALENCIA: CNN's calls to Armstrong's attorneys for response to the "USA Today" report have gone unanswered. Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.

LEMON: All right, Nick, thank you.

Coming up, we're learning more about that shooting at a California High School this week, and the teacher who convinced the gunman to drop his weapon.

Plus, remembering prohibition. Well, instead of liquor, one of today's biggest black market items, cigarettes. We'll tell you why.


LEMON: A North Carolina man who is deaf is recovering from stab wounds after police say his sign language was misinterpreted for gang signs. It happened in Burlington, North Carolina.

Witnesses say, the 45-year-old victim was walking down the street, communicating in sign language when another man saw him and began to stab him. Neighbors were shocked at what they say happened next.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I have no voice now from screaming, "Stop, stop, leave that man alone."

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He was stabbed one, two, three, four, five, his hands, and his face. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's not fair. That man is an innocent man.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The whole neighborhood knows him.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Whoever did it, I hope they suffer for it.


LEMON: Police say, the suspect is charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and assault on a handicapped person.

A wounded student is in critical but stable condition after being shot at a California High School this week. The 16-year-old accused of shooting him will be charged with attempted murder. Los Angeles police say, the suspect believed he had been bullied. A student who witnessed Thursday's shooting talked with our affiliate, KBAK.


MORGAN ALLBREGE, STUDENT WITNESSED SHOOTING: After he asked question like three times, student popped his head up behind where he was hiding and apologized.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He apologized for what?

ALLBREGE: For bullying from freshman year.


LEMON: Meanwhile, people are praising the teacher who persuaded the suspect to drop his gun.


SHERRIFF DONNY YOUNGBLOOD, KERN COUNTY SHERRIFF'S DEPARTMENT: This teacher and this counselor stood there, face-to-face, not knowing whether he was going to turn that shotgun on them, their conversation, whatever they said, compelled him to put their firearm down.


LEMON: The teacher told CNN, he does not like the hero label. He says he just wants to be called "teacher."

New York City boasts about a lot of things. There's Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. Now the big apple has a more dubious distinction as the most expensive city in the country for cigarettes.

CNN's Susan Candiotti has the story.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In New York City, cigarettes are the most expensive in the country. Up to 12 bucks a pack.


CANDIOTTI: Some try to get around it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's like $12 a pack, so I have somebody that I know that lives in Virginia, goes there once in a while, and brings me back a carton and I pay, like, somewhat like $6 a pack, I would say. Like half of what New York is.

CANDIOTTI: But smuggling large quantities of cigarettes across state lines can be lucrative business. The reason smokes are cheaper in some states. Tax. In Virginia, it's just 30 cents a pack. In this New York City, state and local taxes are close to a whopping $6 a pack. The average state tax is about $1.50. Research by the pro business Mackinac Center and analyzed by the tax foundation shows more than six in 10 cigarettes sold in New York State are illegal.

SCOTT DRENKARD, ECONOMIST, TAX FOUNDATION: We have crossed the line where we have de facto prohibition on cigarettes because the prices are blown so out of proportion. And prohibition as history tells us is associated with substantial, lucrative black market activity.


CANDIOTTI: This video shows a convicted smuggler buying cheap cigarettes in Virginia to resell on the black market.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They could come down and spend maybe $20,000 on a load of cigarettes. Lose it to us. Make it up on the next trip. So it's -- it's very profitable.

CANDIOTTI: Profitable for bad guys. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and explosives says, $10 billion a year in tax revenue is going up in smoke. But the New York City Health Department says, higher taxes are the most effective way to decrease tobacco use. Particularly among children. Smokers say, quitting isn't so easy.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It bothers me, but I'm still smoking, because it's a habit that's very hard to quit.

CANDIOTTI: This smoker still plans to get cheaper cigarettes from Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's just too high in New York. That's what I think. That's why I do what I do.


CANDIOTTI: The AFF says, the demand for cheaper cigarettes is so high and the risk for smugglers so low, the black market is booming. And unintended consequence of high cigarette taxes. Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.

LEMON: Thank you, Susan. We know there can be many factors that can contribute to depression. But could one of them be that soda you're drinking? We've got the details on this eye-opening study coming up.


LEMON: Dr. Wendy Walsh is here. We are going to talk about sodas. But let's show Dr. Wendy first, Dr. Wendy, you and I have been talking about this flu going around. And you said it's also -- it's not just about getting a bug or a virus. It's also stress-induced, correct?

DR. WENDY WALSH, HUMAN BEHAVIOR EXPERT: Well, we have to understand, there's a giant connection between the mind and the body, and yes, there are all kinds of ways to deplete immune systems by, you know, look at you, Don. You don't get enough sleep, you're traveling all of the time. Breathing in lots of bad public air in places. But also emotional stress can cause our immune system to be repressed.

So you just came back from Newtown. We talked a couple weeks ago about how you were reeling about and almost feeling a kind of post traumatic stress disorder from it. If that's not going to deplete your immune system, I don't know what is. So that's another factor for people to consider. Is that, you know, happy people who have low stress or manage stress well, it also boosts your immune system.

LEMON: Doctor, I have to thank my friend Mark in New York who did a great job, took care of me. And sometimes you just need human kindness and it helps you.

WALSH: Yes, exactly.

LEMON: Very nice. Besides the delivery people who were bringing me soup. He did a nice job. So, let's talk about the soft drink. You might drink a soft drink for a little caffeine, a little kick when you're tired. Or if you're dieting, maybe a diet soda is your thing. But drinking a regular diet soda may have an effect you didn't expect and that is depression.

So, Dr. Wendy, this study sounds comprehensive involving a long time, and a lot of time and a lot of people, right?

WALSH: You know, we talk about lots of studies on this show, Don. And sometimes it's a study population of 1,000 people, and it's sometimes we're taking big leaps to generalize it to the population. But this was a huge study. It was about 300,000 people that they followed for ten years. So pay attention to the results of this study. It shows that people who had four or more soft drinks a day, sugared or diet. In fact, diet tended to be worse. Had a 30 percent higher risk of developing depression. This study paints coffee, though, in a better light. Some reported less depression with coffee.

WALSH: You know, and this is why the researchers suspect that sugar is the problem, not necessarily the caffeine. That many coffee drinkers do not put sugar in their drinks. I suspect it's that cycle, that sugar high followed by the sugar low that's affecting the Neuro transmitters. Interestingly enough, the artificial sweeteners tended to do worse, cause more depression. So we're not exactly clear about how that affects the brain. But that's my suspicion. It's more the sugar is the problem than the caffeine.

LEMON: So is it that people who are depressed are drawn to soft drinks or soft drinks make people depressed?

WALSH: Well, like every study we talk about, Don, we have to ask the chicken or the egg question. This doesn't show complete causality as much as it shows a very clear link. So, it makes me say, well, could people who develop depression, are they more likely to reach for sugary or caffeinated beverages as a way to self medicate in a way. And, of course, that's got to be part of it.

LEMON: OK. I thought it was --

WALSH: But drink your tea.

LEMON: I'm actually doing it right now. No sugar, just honey and lemon.

WALSH: That's right.

LEMON: All right. Thank you. Thank you, Wendy. I appreciate it.

WALSH: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: And if you have a sleepover with the kids, make sure --

WALSH: I'm having six little girls over. Please, I hope they don't bring the flu to my house.

LEMON: Everybody says wash your hands. If I hear that one more time. It is so condescending.

WALSH: But do it. Do it.

LEMON: Yes, whatever. Thank you, Dr. Wendy. I appreciate it.

WALSH: We'll see you a little later.

LEMON: All right. Win or lose. One Miss American contestant is ready to make history tonight. Ms. Montana Alexis Wineman, is believed to be the first contestant in the pageant's 92-year history to be diagnosed with autism. She remembers classmates making fun of her speech impediment and intense shyness. She has come a long way since then.


ALEXIS WINEMAN, MISS MONTANA: I think by spreading the message that everyone's different, whether they're autistic or not, it not only spreads autism acceptance but universal acceptance.


LEMON: For Allyn Rose, tonight's pageant is nothing compared to what she'll face afterwards competing as Miss District of Columbia, Rose will undergo a double mastectomy after the pageant. The beauty queen who was Miss Maryland USA last year lost her mother, her grandmother and her aunt to breast cancer. After a lot of thought, she decided surgery was for the best. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLYN ROSE, MISS DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: I want to be proactive. And it's something that I'm not willing to wait around to see if it happens to me. To have a family history that's so -- something so prevalent in my family. And to know that this took my mom when I was 16 years old. And I want to put my daughter through that someday. I don't want to put my husband through that. I had to watch my dad battle losing the woman he spent the last 25 years of his life with. And it's just not worth it to me.


LEMON: Everyone is so accepting of Rose's decision. Some have sent her hate mail, saying she is mutilating her body. Even some doctors have reservations about someone so young undergoing this surgery.

The vice president submits his report on reducing gun violence in America next week. And already, the debate is well under way. What the administration might propose and how the gun lobby might respond.


LEMON: Half past the hour now. Let's take a look at your headlines here on CNN. Get your flu shot. That's from the director of the CDC who says it's not too late and it can still help prevent the flu epidemic from hitting you if it hasn't already. Health officials in 47 states are now reporting what doctors call widespread flu activity, and that is an epidemic, people. Companies who make the vaccine say there is plenty available if you want a shot.

President Barack Obama plans to award the Medal of Honor next month to a former U.S. army staff sergeant.

Clinton Romesha, who now lives in North Dakota, will be recognized for his courage at the combat outpost in Afghanistan. He helped fight off an estimated 300 enemy fighters who had surrounded him and his fellow soldiers.

Vice President Joe Biden will present his report on ways to reduce gun violence this coming Tuesday. But even before he releases a recommendations, the debate is well under way.

Here is our national political correspondent Jim Acosta.


VICE PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We know that it is -- there is no silver bullet.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Vice President Joe Biden's task force closing in on recommendations for new gun control laws, the focus is starting to turn to what, if anything, can get through Congress. But on an Iowa public TV show, the state's republican Senator Charles Grassley sounded open to two of Biden's likely proposals, restricting high-capacity gun magazines and tightening background checks.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I also think, though, that we do have to do things to make sure the database of the FBI has all the information. So people can't buy guns that shouldn't have guns.

ACOSTA: The vice president laid out some of the ideas emerging from his task force Thursday, but he did not mention a new assault weapons ban, stirring speculation the White House is dropping the proposal. But the White House says that's not so. An administration spokesman told CNN, "avoiding this issue just because it's been politically difficult in the past is not an option."

That's despite what will be fierce opposition from the nation's top gun lobby, the National Rifle Association.

DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: I do not think that there's going to be a ban on so-called assault weapons passed by the Congress.

ACOSTA: The NRA can simply point to what happened in 1994 when President Bill Clinton signed the last assault weapons ban into law. Democrats lost control of both houses of Congress to Republicans.


ANNOUNCER: He's become the only Republican candidate in Indiana with an "F"-rating from the NRA.


ACOSTA: Last year, the NRA proved it was willing to go after the GOP, as well, running this TV ad against former Indiana Senator, Dick Lugar, who lost a primary battle to a more conservative challenger.

(on camera): Are Democrats as nervous about the NRA as they used to be?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, (D), MARYLAND: No, they're not.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Maryland Democratic Congressman Chris van Hollen says voters are eager for new gun control laws after Newtown.

VAN HOLLEN: If you look at the most contested national races around the country, they're in the suburbs. And in suburban areas, I think the weight of public opinion is on the side of common-sense gun safety provisions.

ACOSTA: After Biden spent days meeting with different interest groups, the latest being video game makers, the vice president doesn't seem to be in the mood to take on the entertainment industry.

BIDEN: There's no measure that I'm aware of to be able to determine whether or not there is a coursing of a culture in a way that is not healthy.

ACOSTA (on camera): But DPS say it's up to the White House to make that case. That's why they expect the president to put a heavy emphasis on gun control in his upcoming State of the Union speech next month.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, at 10:00 eastern, I should tell you, we're looking at the new gun control measures expected to be put forward by the White House. We're going to talk with members of Congress, a former law enforcement officer, and a survivor of the Columbine shooting. Plus, a gun store owner on how new gun control laws could impact his business.

Also, a suburban Atlanta mother, her home being burglarized, shoots the intruder when he discovers her and her twins hiding from him. He survived, and now gun rights advocates are using the case as an example of why Americans should have high-capacity weapons. Why they should have high-capacity weapons. We're going to talk with the sheriff investigating the case. That and more, 10:00 eastern. Make sure you tune in. It's going to be interesting.

A California judge overturns a sentence of a convicted rapist because of a law written just after the Civil War. And lawmakers could have prevented it from happening.


LEMON: This next story got our whole team talking. And I'm pretty sure it will get your blood boiling too. A convicted rapist in California got his sentence overturned because of a law that was written 140 years ago. It basically says that, in some cases, rape is not considered rape if the woman is single. California lawmakers knew about this law. Could have changed it, but never did anything about it.

Kyung Lah explains now.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What happened on the streets sounded like rape to the police. Julio Morales slips into the bedroom of an 18-year-old woman. In a handwritten note to police, Morales writes, "She started to confuse me with her boyfriend." The woman at first consents, but then resists when she realizes he's not her boyfriend." She tells police Morales raped her.

But according to a California law dating back to 1872, what happened is not a crime. An appellate decision overturning Morales' conviction spells out why. "Has a man committed rape, because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape? The answer is no, even though if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes."

SCOTT BERKOWITZ, PRESIDENT, RAPE ABUSE & INCEST NATIONAL NETWORK: My first reaction was you've got to be kidding. We're now prosecuting rape based on 140-year-old laws that long ago stopped making sense.

LAH: The case may shock advocates, but not Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian. He already heard about the law from an upset prosecutor in his district. So in 2011, he introduced a bill in California's assembly that would protect all women, whether married or single, against rape by impersonation.

(on camera): What did you expect would happen to the bill?

KATCHO ACHADJIAN, (R), CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: I thought we'll go through this. As I said, no-brainer. Everybody will support it, wholeheartedly. There was no question about it.

LAH: He was right, sort of. The bill passed without a single no vote in the state assembly. But then it moved on to the Senate side, to the Senate Public Safety Committee.

(voice-over): The seven members never took it to a vote. Why? A policy adopted in 2007 by the Senate's Democratic leadership. It's called ROCCA, or the Receiver Overcrowding Crisis Aggravation Policy. This committee will not vote on bills that could put more prisoners in California's already crowded prisons, even something as seemingly simple as Assemblyman Achadjian's bill.

(on camera): What does it say to you about policies, about Sacramento, about lawmakers, when a no-brainer bill can't get out of committee?

ACHADJIAN: Unfortunately, red tape and bureaucracy exists. And sometimes it overwrites something that makes such sense.

LAH (voice-over): Critics believe the Senate public safety committee misuses ROCCA. Members could have voted on this issue, but chose not to. But according to a spokeswoman, the committee's Republican vice chairman, Senator Joel Anderson, wants to get rid of ROCCA so that all bills get voted on.

JANN TABER, SPOKESWOMAN FOR STATE SEN. JOEL ANDERSON: There might have been in the past -- there might have been a good excuse for the ROCCA file in the past, but it was abused. It's basically now being used as political cover. So that members of the committee don't have to take tough votes.

LAH: We went to the office of the committee chairwoman, Democrat Loni Hancock --

Hi, there --

-- who took time to try to explain that it's not as simple as it looks.

(on camera): It looks like the legislature -- the committee, just chose not to act, to protect women. Is that what's happening here?

STATE SEN. LONI HANCOCK, (D), CALIFORNIA: No. We are walking that tight rope between a federal court order to reduce our prison population by tens of thousands of prisoners and a mandate not to build new prisons either, because we can't afford it.

LAH: Assemblyman Achadjian just this week introduced a new version of his bill hoping now because of public outrage it will actually get voted on this time.

ACHADJIAN: We're not able to protect a woman's right in this 21st century. It's like what's next?

LAH: Kyung Lah, CNN, Sacramento, California.


LEMON: As you can imagine, this law has angered a lot of people. So will anything be done to change it? And could it potentially free more convicted rapists from California prisons? We'll continue this conversation with our legal expert, Holly Hughes.


LEMON: So we have been talking about a convicted rapist whose charges were dropped because of a law written shortly after the Civil War. A California jury found this man, Julio Morales, guilty of rape. He admitted to sneaking into the home of a teenage girl and climbing into her bed with her. At first she thought he was her boyfriend. And when she realized it wasn't him, she told police he raped her. But there is a law written in 1872 that protects rapists who impersonate boyfriends of unmarried women. The teen was single, so Morales' conviction was overturned and he was released from jail.

Holly Hughes is here. She's a criminal defense attorney.

Holly, what's your take on this?

HOLLY HUGHES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, it's not as horrific as it sounds. When you first hear this, you think the floodgates are going to be wide open, there's going to be all these appeals. It is an antiquated law. The lawmakers are now, as we saw from the earlier piece that we showed, they're aware of it. And they're aware they have to do something. They have the opportunity. They failed to do so. People are now outraged.

But bear in mind, this is narrowly tailored. This is not your violent rape on the street. This is a law that says, if you're impersonating the boyfriend, you don't get too many of those rapes.

This was a very dark bedroom. The young lady, the 18-year-old, her boyfriend had just left. And that's when this rapist saw his opportunity to strike, so he sneaks into the bedroom and starts to have sex with her. And she is thinking it's her boyfriend has just come back. The opinion of the appeals court here is very narrowly tailored. The reason they sent this back -- and he will be tried again. Let's let the viewers know that. There is going to be a third trial. He was tried once, hung jury. Second, coming back on appeal. They're going to take another shot, but they're not going to be able to argue -- the court of appeals said the prosecutor argued improperly that this woman wasn't aware of the nature of what was going on because she asleep.

LEMON: Why is this law still on the books? I mean, why is it --

HUGHES: Why is it?


HUGHES: Because of the piece that we just showed. The lawmakers, when given the opportunity -- it passed through the House, they all said, yes, let's get rid of it, let's close the loophole. This little pack of seven used their -- oh, we're not going to touch it, because the prisons are overcrowded. Well, this is exactly the kind of person you do want locked up, people who commit rape.

LEMON: Lawmakers are hoping to change the law. But could some cases that are citing this 1872 law be grandfathered if the bill does pass?

HUGHES: No, because what would have happened, you would have had to have stated or cited that law when you filed your appeal.


HUGHES: So if your appeal is pending and you didn't already cite that, you sort of missed the boat, as it were. So if they quickly close this loophole, it should cut off at the pass. But there might be a few that sneak in under that are aware of it that are still pending.

LEMON: I want to switch gears and talk about another case, Holly, and this is a judge. A judge says a Texas high school can force students to wear a locater chip while on school property, no matter how parents feel about it. I'm guessing there's a lot of angry people in Texas.

HUGHES: There are. But I don't think they're going to get very far. Let's -- the locater chip is in a badge that the students wear. Like an I.D. badge we wear when we come into the building for work. It only operates while they're on school grounds. It has no power or any kind of location device off the school grounds.

And bear in mind, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled again and again, there are reduced rights of privacy in a school setting. That's why they can search your locker, Don. That's why they can do pat-down searches and very near strip searches.

LEMON: Do you know how easy it is to put a locater strip on someone? Basically, your phone is a locater.

HUGHES: Of course, it is. That's exactly right.

LEMON: You can put it on someone's car. They don't even know.

HUGHES: Right. And that's why I think that, even though they're outraged, their argument is going to fail. It's not an invasion of privacy, because --

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: No legal challenges?

HUGHES: There will be challenges. I do not believe they'll be successful, based on what we have seen the Supreme Court say time and time again, reduced expectation of privacy. This is a safety factor.

And the other reason I think they're going to be successful, this is a money factor for the school. What happens, it's a magnet school. And so for every student that has checked in, in attendance, the school receives federal funding, based on the amount of students they have. And the problem they're having is the students aren't in their seat at the homeroom bell. And so they're counted absent for the entire day. And the school district doesn't get the federal funds to educate that student. So they're going to fight really hard for this to prevail. And they're looking to do it. Right now, one school -- this is one of the largest school districts in Texas. They're trying to do it for over 100,000 students.

LEMON: Oh, wow.

HUGHES: So they're going to be fighting about this for a while.

LEMON: It's funny, though, talking about the locater chip -- your phone. If it you have an iPhone or Blackberry --

HUGHES: Turn on your phone.

LEMON: People know where you are.

HUGHES: We hear about it all the time. They ping you, right?


HUGHES: They know where you are.

LEMON: They know where you are. And there's an app for all of that.

HUGHES: OK. Facebook. Right? Check in, I'm at the sushi bar. People just willingly put out where they are. So, yes.

LEMON: But there's an app for that. There are tons of apps out there so you can tell where all your friends are.

HUGHES: Of course, there are. The legal argument is that you willingly do that. You willingly walk around with a cell phone. You willingly check in on Facebook. You are forcing these students to do it.

LEMON: Oh, got it.

HUGHES: That's the legal distinction.

LEMON: That's a different situation, as they say.

HUGHES: It is a -- right, right. Because you wouldn't want somebody to GPS you when you didn't know about it. LEMON: I don't care.

HUGHES: Oh, yes, you say that now. Wait until we catch you somewhere.


LEMON: You're bold enough to do it. You're bold enough to see what's going on. You're big enough to see what's going on.

HUGHES: There you go.

LEMON: Thank you, Holly.

Speaking of situations, "The Situation Room" just moments away.

Wolf Blitzer, what do you have for us?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Don, last weekend, I was in Cairo. I sat down for a lengthy, exclusive interview with the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi. We spent some good quality time together discussing the most important issues affecting Egypt, North Africa, the Middle East and the United States.

Our special report coming up on our special "Sit Room," right at the top of the hour.

LEMON: All right, Wolf, thank you very much.

People are hunting pythons in Florida today. Look at that. We'll hear why the state is holding a month-long contest to kill the reptiles.


LEMON: People are hunting pythons in Florida today and they can win prizes. It is part of a month-long contest -- isn't that creepy -- called the Python Challenge. I can't even look at that. It is designed to tackle the problem of exploding python populations.

John Zarrella joins us now by phone from the Florida Everglades.

I hope you're being very careful, John.

So how many big pythons did you see today, J.Z.?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, I haven't seen any yet. But this is surprising. This is a good time though. We're out here with Justin Matthews, his brother and his brother-in-law. They're over here from Manatee County. They run a wildlife rescue operation there on the west coast of Florida. And of course, that is for native species. They're out here looking for the invading species which, as you mentioned, is taking over, or has really exploded the population. Nobody knows exactly how much, 10,000, 100,000. So they kicked off this month-long challenge today. And there are about 750 people registered to come out here to the Everglades to try and at least cap the problem, if they can, this exploding population.

And we talked with Justin earlier today as well as an officer from the Fish and Wildlife Commission about catching these pythons.


JUSTIN MATTHEWS, HUNTING PYTHONS: You can go out there for days and days and days, and not see one python. I don't care how much experience you have. It is going to take some luck.

JORGE PINO, FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION: If we remove one snake from the ecosystem, we have done a good thing. And imagine if 700 people are out there and they all bring one snake, that is 700 less snakes we have in the ecosystem.


ZARRELLA: And that is the issue. First of all, nobody knows exactly how many there are. Could be 10,000 or 100,000. And the other problem, Don, I've been out on these -- this is not my first rodeo. I've been out here before, and only once --


ZARRELLA: -- have I ever been out here with a guy who has caught a python. And that was out in the area where we are now. Because they're just very, very difficult to spot in the high grass in the Everglades. You know, you could step on one and not know it's out there.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh, John. You are much braver than I am, because I am petrified of snakes. I couldn't do this assignment.

Do contestants have to get trained before they kill the python? What sort of special training do they get, if any?

ZARRELLA: Yes, they do. There was an online course where they could be trained. But the idea is get close enough so at least they can shoot them and kill them. That is the plan. They're not asking these people to bring them back alive and capture them alive. So at least if they humanely dispose of them by shooting them in the head, that's what the plan is. Of course, the hope is with the novice hunters out here, that people are not shooting themselves in the foot to catch the pythons. But, yes, they do have a training course on line, and there was a training at kick-off ceremony, literally, of this event.

But we'll see how many Justin manages to get, if any tonight. And we'll check in with you later this evening, hopefully, with a positive report. My fingers are crossed, but I'm not entirely optimistic.


LEMON: Well, make sure you wear the gloves and boots, and all that stuff. Because I don't know if you can see this video there with you, it is not pretty there, J.Z. It's not pretty. So, J.Z., John Zarrella is going to join us 7:00 p.m. hour. The hunt is about to get started. Make sure you tune in. We'll have another conversation with John Zarrella. I like to call him the original J.Z.

Thank you, sir. Be safe.

The White House has received a lot of crazy petitions. But the latest one has an idea only Darth Vader could love.


LEMON: The White House will try almost anything to create jobs. But it won't build a death star. The White House said "no" for a lot of reasons. First, there is a perfectly good space station in orbit. And secondly, building a death star could cost about 850 quadrillion dollars, which would be bad for the debt. Also, the administration is opposed to blowing up planets. Finally, the White House offered this argument: "Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a death star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship"?

Hollywood is known for imitating life. While it may make for good entertainment, is there much truth behind these Tinsel-Town tales?

Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, has more.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maybe they ran out of super heroes, or aliens were not available.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There are only bad options. It is about finding the best one.


LAWRENCE: Hollywood is turning to government analysts to anchor its hit films.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Mia, this is Joseph Bradley. I was station chief.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Nice to meet you, sir.


LAWRENCE: Former CIA officers admit the agency's Virginia headquarters is not exactly a tourist destination.

BILL HARLOW, FORMER CIA SPOKESMAN: Most of what people think they know about the CIA comes from Hollywood.

LAWRENCE: So what do movie goers take away from "Zero Dark Thirty."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was a great depiction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a pretty accurate portrayal.

LAWRENCE: Ouch say those who worked at the agency.

PHIL MUDO, FORMER CIA ANALYST: This isn't the life I lived.

LAWRENCE: Phil Mudo spent 20 years at the CIA. He says don't sign up to gallivant around the world?

MUDO: If you want to spend 99 percent of your time doing painstaking research, building a case, managing a problem. That 1 percent, at the end of the game, is pretty much like what you might see in the movies. That is exciting.

LAWRENCE: And it is not just spies. America's 16th president has been around for years, but Hollywood's spotlight on Lincoln's political life could mean gold come Oscar time.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You are more reptile than man, George. So low, in fact, that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you.


LAWRENCE: Critics and movie-goers cheered the insults, lies and vote trading that went into passing the 13th Amendment.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER, (D), NEW YORK: I will not yield to the government and the gentleman will observe regular order!

LAWRENCE: But the good will doesn't translate to today's politicians. Can you believe telemarketers now have higher approval ratings than Congress?


LAWRENCE: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, it is true.

(on camera): You know who is not a fan of Hollywood's D.C. focus? Iran. They are making their own version of "Argo," the story of those American diplomats following the Iranian Revolution. They call the story that Ben Affleck told inaccurate.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.


LEMON: Thanks, Chris.

See you back here in an hour. Here's Wolf.