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Flu Epidemic in 47 States; Lance Armstrong to Admit to Doping; Prostitution Scandal Won't Go Away; Joe Biden's Task Force on Gun Control

Aired January 12, 2013 - 09:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's 9:00 on the East Coast. 6:00 am out West. Thanks for starting your day with us.

KAYE: We begin this hour with the deadly flu epidemic that has gripped the nation. 47 states to be exact. New information from the CDC shows that just three states, California, Hawaii, and Mississippi, are the only places where the flu is not widespread. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has some tips now on recognizing the bug and how to get through it.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Randi, it's the worst flu season in years. We've been talking about it all week. Emergency rooms in many places overflowing. It's a fast-moving story. Here is what you need to know.


GUPTA (voice-over): The flu strikes fast and symptoms, much more severe than a common cold.

You feel fine one day and then the next, a sudden fever, sore throat, headache and tightness in the chest.

DR. MICHAEL JHUNG, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, CDC INFLUENZA DIVISION: Over 200,000 people every year are hospitalized with influenza and anywhere from three to nearly 50,000 people will die each year.

GUPTA: Flu cases are at epidemic proportions now in some areas of the country. It's the most we've seen this time of year in a decade.

JHUNG: They may get more complications from this particular H3N2 strain, which may make them ill for a longer period of time.

GUPTA: The active strain is H3N2. It typically surfaces earlier in the season, tends to produce stronger symptoms.

(on camera): And it is highly contagious. In fact, when someone coughs or sneezes, these tiny droplets are released into the air. You can't even see them with the human eye so you can breathe them in. But they can also live on surfaces. A lot of people don't realize this they can stay on these surfaces for eight hours. So say your co-worker is sick. You come over, use their keyboard. You got the germs on your hand. And then you touch your nose or mouth, now you're infected.

(voice-over): And the problem escalates if you spend several hours in tight quarters, like on an airplane. At highest risk, passengers two rows in front or behind the infected person.

(on camera): Now Best way to kill those germs is to wash your hands and do it often and use real soap and real water. The problem is that most people don't actually wash their hands long enough. My best advice, actually sing the happy birthday song twice while you're washing your hands. That's going to be long enough, not quick to get rid f these viruses.

(voice-over): Another key to prevention is getting the flu shot. Getting vaccinated reduces your risk of getting the flu by around 60 percent.


GUPTA (on camera): Another benefit to getting your flu shot is if you do get sick, your symptoms won't last as long, it won't be as severe as compared to those who weren't vaccinated. Randi, back to you.

KAYE: Thanks, Sanjay. Very much.

BLACKWELL: Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong may be ready to come clean. "USA Today" is reporting Armstrong plans to fess up to doping in an interview with Oprah next week. This morning I spoke exclusively with the man who broke the story, Brent Schrotenboer.


BRENT SCHROTENBOER, "USA TODAY": Oprah Winfrey is coming to his home in Austin, Texas. They're taping an interview Monday and that is supposed to air next Thursday. Now, as to why he is doing this now, the evidence came out against him, a massive file of evidence came out against him in October. In the three months since then, he has been keeping a pretty low profile. And I think he has been deciding what to do about it. He has kind of cornered himself because for many years now he strenuously denied these doping allegations.

And 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 a business decision for him because it's affecting his charity, Live Strong. All his sponsors have fired him. I think when he goes out in public now, he's getting a little bit different reception than one he used to get. And that everybody knows now that if you believe the evidence that he did dope and lied about it for many years. And so this is really a personal decision for him and also a calculated business decision for him.

BLACKWELL: Now "The New York times" has said that he would admit to doping so that he could, again, race competitively, professionally as a cycler. How likely is that?

SCHROTENBOER: Not very likely any time soon, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency code. Somebody who has a lifetime ban for doping, they could get their lifetime ban reduced to no less than eight years if they meet a heavy burden and that burden is for that person to provide substantial assistance to anti-doping officials about cheating in sports and cheating in cycling and helping anti-doping officials to catch other cheaters. And he would have to do that.

He would have to provide a lot of testimony about that, 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. I would say also though that possibly because it's Lance Armstrong and depending what kind of information he provides them, maybe the governing bodies in international sports make some kind of agreement to go outside the rule book and cut that ban down to less than eight years.


BLACKWELL: And if he, indeed, admits to doping, we'll have to see if there are legal ramifications, as we discussed with Brent, to that admission.

There's new information on the Secret Service prostitution scandal.

KAYE: This is the one that captured the headlines when President Obama headed down to Colombia for an official visit last April. CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has more.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Randi, Victor, the prostitution scandal that embarrassed the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. government just won't go away. After an investigation, three more U.S. Army soldiers have now been disciplined for their part. All three received letters of reprimand. Two of the three also had to give up their pay for a couple of months and do extra duty.

Again, this involved about a dozen U.S. service members who admitted taking prostitutes back to their hotel rooms last April. This was just prior to a visit by President Barack Obama. Also implicated were three DEA agents and about 13 U.S. Secret Service agents, most of whom resigned or retired.

Now prostitution is legal in Colombia. Ultimately the investigation found that there was no security risk to President Obama himself, but it humiliated the very proud Secret Service and some of the other government workers, obviously, who have been caught up in this scandal. Randi, Victor?

KAYE: Christ Lawrence, thank you very much.

The 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan may be headed home sooner than expected. Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with President Obama in Washington yesterday. He and Mr. Obama agreed to a complete transition of combat operations by the end of 2014. President Obama is considering keeping some troops, possibly between 3,000 to 9,000, in place after 2014 for counter terrorism and training but only if they get immunity from prosecution. Karzai signaled he may be willing to do that. BLACKWELL: Faith leaders talk gun control at the White House. You'll meet one of the men who sat down at the table with Vice president Biden.


KAYE: Welcome back. Ten minutes past the hour now.

The National Rifle Association is gearing up for one of its toughest fights in years. President Obama is pushing for new gun control measures after last month's massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. It's our focus this morning.

This week, Vice president Biden's new task force searched for ways to curb gun violence and tragedies like Newtown, meeting with voices from various sides of the issue, including those for and against stiffer gun controls.

Reverend Michael McBride was one of the 12 national faith leaders invited to the White House. He joins us this morning. Reverend, nice to see you. Take us behind closed doors, if you will, and give us the headlines. I mean, what did you, the vice president and others discuss?

REV. MICHAEL MCBRIDE, ORDAINED CLERGY, UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH: Well, good morning, Randi. Certainly, thank you for having me here. We had a wonderful opportunity to have a constructive conversation with our vice president and his task force about the importance of having a very moral voice and imperative to address the spiraling and out-of- control tragedies of gun violence in our country.

It was an amazing opportunity for a number of us, faith leaders across this country from various different faith traditions and denominations to lift up our voices in concert and talk about the moral imperatives that are before us to address all the many forms of gun violence that continue to shatter and impact so many lives in our country.

KAYE: Did the vice president ask for ideas and also I'm curious if he sent you back with a message to bring to your congregation?

MCBRIDE: Well, certainly, there were a number of ideas that were talked about. I personally carried into the conversation a story of one of my young teenagers that I had to bury. At his funeral there were over 500 teenagers in the church during the funeral and I asked them how many had been to more than one funeral, more than two funerals, I got all the way up to 10 funerals and over half of the young people wept with their hands in the air.

It was an important moment because I believe and all of our bishops and clergy across the country believe that this tragic incident is an opportunity to unite all Americans around common sense solutions to address gun violence. And we were able to lift up a lot of the same strategies of universal background checks, assault weapons bans, mental health interventions, but also comprehensive and proven targeted strategies to address violence in cities all across this country. KAYE: Let me ask you why there does appear to be divide among Christians when it comes to gun control. I mean a Public Religion Research Institute survey which was taken before the Newtown shooting showed that white evangelical Protestants were less likely to favor tighter gun laws than Catholics. White main line protestants are religiously unaffiliated Americans. Why do you think that is?

MCBRIDE: Thank you for that question. I mean I think that's a wonderful question. We should not be surprised that many of our people of faith in this country who are all Americans are very much passionate about the second amendment and gun rights. At the same time, we should not be surprised that there are just as many people of faith, if not more, who are all in favor of common sense gun laws and promoting a culture of peace and healing in our communities.

And I believe that it is our time and our moment to look within ourselves and the principles of our faith to unite our country around a common, moral imperative to address the gun violence that is in our country. Even to those statistics that you just lifted up. Interestingly enough, the National Association of Evangelicals have just put out their most recent report that over 70 percent of their evangelical leaders all support common sense gun law.

So it is an opportunity for us as leaders to go back to our congregations, to our communities across this country with our wonderful diversity and share that we have a moment to unite our country around common sense gun laws that saves lives.

KAYE: And this may be the moment but certainly the NRA is gearing up for a fight. Joe Biden had said that maybe the president might take executive action here, an executive order. Are you confident that something will change, that something will get done?

MCBRIDE: I'm not only confident, I'm filled with hope. I'm filled with optimism. Many of the NRA members agree with these common sense gun laws. It is a very small number of NRA lobbyists, gun industry advocates who are really not representing the will of their own membership. So part of what is important for all of us people of faith, NRA members, all of us, is to make sure that we do not let a small number of profiteering NRA executives hijack this whole conversation and cause us to miss this moment, to make sure that our children can live in neighborhoods, schools free from the fear of gun violence. And I believe that we're up for the challenge.

KAYE: Reverend Michael McBride, pleasure to see you this morning. Thank you.

MCBRIDE: Thank you, Randi. God bless you.

BLACKWELL: So how much can you really tell about a person from his or her handwriting? We'll talk to one document examiner about what to look for the next time you read a letter.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Lew explained his fiscal philosophy, saying, "I describe budgets of tapestry. When it's woven together, it amounts to the hopes and dreams of our nation."


KAYE: President Obama announced the nomination of his White House chief of staff Jack Lew for treasury secretary. But Lew's bizarre signature, as you saw there, is what's really making some headlines. Take a look at this. It's sort of like a telephone cord or a bunch of curly fries. And guess what, if he gets that job, well those squiggles will be on all of our bills.

BLACKWELL: Yes, here's a sample of what a new dollar bill will look like with Lew's signature in the bottom right corner there, which made all of us kind of start to think, what does your handwriting reveal and what is in a signature? Document examiner Curt Bagget joins us now from Dallas. There is a bit of a delay. So I want every one at home to be - just bear with us. Let's start with Jack Lew. Can you take anything away from just that line of squiggles?

CURT BAGGET, DOCUMENT EXAMINER: Oh, sure. You can see a lot.

BLACKWELL: And tell us what you see.

BAGGET: Well, almost nothing. Jack Lew wants you to know nothing about what he's thinking or about what he's doing. You could almost see the j in the first letter. Alternative is that you see nothing else. But it does reveal something. What it reveals, because of the circles, is that he's a methodical and deliberate thinker. So he doesn't want you to know. He doesn't display any of his personality in each letter because there's no letters there.

What it does show you, however, is that he is a takeover king, kind of like you, Victor.


BAGGET: And, of course, Randi. The large beginning strokes indicate that he loves responsibility. As the end stroke is a little caution. But he's the kind of guy that spends a lot of time by himself. He is very happy with himself. He probably eats lunch at his desk every day. The end strokes in many of his signatures goes up, which is a contradiction in what - in what little we see in his signature because it indicates that he wants to be the center of attention but he doesn't want to tell you anything about himself. You see a lot even though he doesn't show it.

KAYE: It doesn't even look like his name, though. I got to say. I think our signatures look a little more like our real name. I want you to take a look at my writing that we sent to you yesterday as an example. And then we'll do Victor's. Take a look here. This is what I sent you, Kurt. Tell me what you can about my sloppy handwriting.

BAGGET: Well, I knew you were pretty but you're even prettier than your handwriting indicates. KAYE: Thank you.

BAGGET: It shows me that you're very, very nice. The average IQ of your staff is about 145. Mensa genius is 139. On top of that, you analyze everything instantly. You can't stand slow thinkers, slow movers, dummies or signalized. Look at your large D in the "Dear Curt." You are takeover queen, too, which is a contradiction because so is Victor. You love responsibility. You're going to be in charge one way or the other. You will take over. You have a little irritation going on when you were writing this and something happened to you when you were about 12 years old, which is trauma.

I do not know what it is.

KAYE: Oh my goodness.

BAGGET: You have an eternal quest for knowledge. You love to learn. You have an eternal quest for knowledge which means you probably read a lot if you have time. You probably have a sugar problem because you note that your handwriting even from one word to the other leans to the right which means you're very outgoing, caring, friendly, and then it goes back to the left, which means that you go back into your shell, which probably means you have an emotional sugar problems.

KAYE: Oh my goodness. Wow!

I feel like I need some therapy after that analysis.

BAGGET: No, you're great. I pronounce you in good mental health.

KAYE: Excellent. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: It's my turn. Let's put up my letter to you, Curt, up on the screen. What does - oh, this is bad. What does my handwriting say about me?

BAGGET: Well, you got an injury across the shoulder, or collar bone or neck. Did you play football, Victor?

BLACKWELL: I didn't.

BAGGET: Look at your first -

BLACKWELL: But I did go back after I heard about your findings and starting searching and I did find a scar on my left shoulder, but go ahead.

BAGGET: The big beginning letter in the d indicates that you, too, are a takeover king, you see. And I forgot to tell Randi, she's a control freak, too.

KAYE: He knows that already.


BAGGET: You have a really big ego and you develop some caution but your writing is very large, Victor, which indicates that you are a really fun guy. You would be fun at the party. You're also a loner. You think you can do the job all by yourself and you don't trust anybody. You are super, super smart. You, too, are a control freak. You guys have a little conflict there every now and then. You don't like to be forced to do something, Victor. If somebody tries to force you to do things sometimes you do just the opposite. And I think they call that defiance and occasionally you have a little overdose of that when that jumps up.

KAYE: I am enjoying this. I especially like the ego part. That was my favorite. I wonder if we should have pretaped with this and we could have edited some of the negative things out.


KAYE: But we also have a couple of our staff members that also sent you some examples. One of our producers, Harrison, he says our executive producer, Nora, is probably the meanest on the team. I know you have a sample from her. We don't really believe that. We love Nora. Take a look at Nora's sampling and tell us what you think. She's the boss around here.

BAGGET: I would not want Nora after me if I did not want to get caught. She would make a great detective. She is not mean. She is sarcastic sometimes. Very much so. She needs more physical activity. And Nora, what is your little issue with organized religion? You are so smart, too. And you analyze everything instantly like these other two guys. And your very, very frustrated. You have a desire to acquire things. You're a really good listener, contrast to what Randi says about you. And I won't talk about your sex life, but, honey, it was dynamite, wasn't it?

KAYE: Oh, baby!

BLACKWELL: Kurt Bagget, thank you so much.

KAYE: I'm thrilled he didn't bring that up in our handwriting. Poor Nora. It's a good thing we don't have a camera on you, Nora, in the control room. Curt Bagget, thank you very much. That was quite entertaining.

BAGGET: Thank you.

KAYE: Whoa!

BLACKWELL: Apparently we're both trying to take over. I have a huge ego.

KAYE: But you just keep your ego in check. I'm going to take over now. I'm taking over.

BLACKWELL: Geez. Oh, my gosh.

KAYE: All right. Well, that was interesting, wasn't it?

BLACKWELL: It was. It was fun. Thank you, Curt. KAYE: Coming up, we'll tell you why Tide - yes, that detergent Tide, is one of the hottest items on the black market. That story coming up at 10:00 a.m..

BLACKWELL: I have some things to work through.


BLACKWELL: Checking top stories now, a new report says Lance Armstrong is about to admit to doping during his cycling career. "USA Today " reports he will admit it to Oprah Winfrey in an interview on Monday. Armstrong has vehemently denied using performance-enhancing drugs and has even sued people who said that he did. Armstrong could face legal action as a result of his admission.

KAYE: The flu epidemic continues to spread. The CDC is reporting that 47 states are reporting widespread flu and two more children have died, that brings the total deaths this season up to 20. But there is a bright spot, officials also say that the number of reported U.S. cases has decreased, especially in the south. Too soon to tell, though, if the season has actually peaked.

Well, thanks so much for watching today. I'll see you back here at the top of the hour.

BLACKWELL: We have a lot to talk about. We really do. "Your Bottom Line" starts right now.

KAYE: I'm still recovering from that.