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Targeting Gun Violence; Biden Preps Gun Recommendations; Chuck Hagel Faces Tough Questions; Oprah Interviews Lance Armstrong Today; Flu Outbreak Hits Businesses Hard; Tarantino Wins Big At Golden Globes; Maryland Governor Targets Gun Violence

Aired January 14, 2013 - 10:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM. Taking aim at the gun industry and a sweetheart deal you may not have heard about after it was passed, but one month to the day of the Sandy Hook massacre. And outrage lawmakers say it's time to erase that law from the books.

At a young age, he made his mark on the Internet. Aaron Schwartz didn't stop until he took his own life. The Internet pioneer apparently found the online world too full of legal pitfalls.

He's known for tackling controversial topics on the big screen, but now a different kind of controversy could be brewing for director, Quinton Tarantino. We'll tell you why.

Plus this --

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Zarrella. Hundreds of hunters have descended on Florida's everglades and they're looking for pythons. That's coming up. CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

COSTELLO: Good morning to you. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello. This morning late news from the White House, President Obama will hold a news conference in just a little more than an hour from now.

The White House is informally calling it the last news conference of his first term and it will cover a whole range of issues. One topic sure to come up is a debate over gun violence and how to prevent the horror of more bloodshed.

Today, Vice President Joe Biden is wrapping up the work of his task force. He presents those recommendations to the president tomorrow. And in the next hour, we'll hear from the local grass roots group, "Sandy Hook Promise." It's unveiling a new initiative and asking the families of shooting victims to attend the news conference in a show of solidarity. That attack one month ago today.

And this morning, California Congressman Adam Schiff unveils legislation that challenges the power of the gun industry. His target, a 2005 law that grants wide legal immunity to gun makers and dealers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The effect has been that when gun sellers or gun manufacturers act negligently, they're immune from any kind of liability so you can have gun dealers turning a blind eye to the sale of hundreds of weapons to purchasers.

And when those guns are resold or they are conveyed to people, criminals that used them to kill people then they can't be held liable and that makes no sense. It's a protection not needed by the good actors and not deserved by the bad actors.


COSTELLO: Deborah Feyerick is here now to continue our national conversation on guns. Good morning, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning there, Carol. Yes, there's so much going on and as we speak, some at John Hopkins University were a number of policy experts who have gotten together and they're really going over all of many issues related to gun violence.

You see Michael -- Mayor Bloomberg speaking there now. He is head of a broad coalition of mayors trying to stem gun violence and he made a very interesting point. He said that perhaps they cannot prevent another Sandy Hook, but perhaps they can. And that's what all of this momentum is all about right now.

The NRA has been instrumental in cutting funding for any sort of scientific research, research that would have ordinarily been done by the CDC and the HHS, the Health and Human Services Department. So right now they're taking a very close look at it as is Joe Biden who is expected to come out with some recommendations in the next 24 hours.


FEYERICK (voice-over): Over 30,000 gun deaths in the U.S. every year, the challenge, gun control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost my husband right before Christmas.

FEYERICK: If anyone knows the pain of losing someone to gun violence, it is New York Congresswoman Carol Mccarthy. Her husband was killed in 1993 by a deranged gunman in a mass shooting on the Long Island railroad. After years of trying to pass tighter gun laws on Capitol Hill, she said it took the tragedy at Sandy Hook to unite public anger and political will.

REP. CAROL MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: You know, the time is different because there is so much anger, why are we allowing this to continue to happen?

FEYERICK: On day one of the new Congress, McCarthy and other lawmakers introduced or reintroduced eight bills to ban or control the sale of guns or ammunition. Several Senate bills are on the way, but all are far from a done deal.

In his first term, President Obama passed limiting gun use then Sandy Hook happened a day Mr. Obama called the worse of his presidency. Even before he's sworn in again, he's expected to review proposals from his new gun task force.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a team that has a very specific task to pull together real reforms right now.

FEYERICK: The White House is focused on a white ranging plan involving more than just firearms and ammunition. On the table, reinstate the expired ban on assault weapons and limit magazines that have more than ten rounds, close the so-called gun show loophole to mandate background checks for all gun buyers. Ensure better access to mental health care, improve school security and review the cultural impact of violent movies and video games.

Vice President Joe Biden says it's possible the president could also act unilaterally on his own.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president is going to act or executive orders, executive action that can be taken.

FEYERICK: Even the most vocal gun advocates have come to the table. Last week, the NRA met with the gun task force. Wal-Mart the nation's largest firearms seller reversed itself joining other gun retailers in a similar meeting, but tighter gun law also not come without a fight. After Sandy Hook, the NRA said the answer was more guns not less.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NRA: I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.

FEYERICK: Meaningful gun control will take time for those who have been fighting for decades. They feel the time is finally right.

DAN GROSS, BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: What we are heartened by is a genuine exploration of what are the things that we can do respectful of the second amendment and law abiding gun owners to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.


FEYERICK: Carol, you know, it really is all about meaningful legislation and what can and cannot be done. Remember the National Rifle Association, still a very, very powerful source to be reckoned with -- Carol.

COSTELLO: You're absolutely right, Deborah Feyerick. That's why we are going to talk about it right now. Today, as you said, Joe Biden is hosting 12 congressmen and women. They make up the Democratic Task Force on Guns.

They'll be joined by Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sibelius from Health And Human Services. If you think the NRA is worried about sweeping new reforms though, think again.


DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NRA: When a president takes all the power of his office, if he's willing to expend political capital, you don't want to bet your house on the outcome. But I would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through.


COSTELLO: So let's head to Washington and the White House. Dan Lothian is there. So Dan, is the NRA right?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I'm not going to make any predictions either about what Congress may or may not do. As we have learned over the last few years, things can appear to be going one direction and then make a u-turn.

But what I can say is that this assault weapons ban does appear to be facing an uphill effort up on Capitol Hill and I think what's interesting is that the president, right after the mass shooting in Connecticut came out and talked about, you know, putting his support behind efforts to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

And this had been, you know, the position of the White House since then, but what was interesting last week, at the end of the week, when the vice president was rolling out what he said were sort of the top tier recommendations that he had been getting after meeting with several groups he did not mention that at all.

So there were questions about whether the White House itself may have felt that it was losing steam. There was not support for this on Capitol Hill. But shortly thereafter, a spokesman for the White House saying the president and the vice president are still committed to this effort to reinstating the ban on assault weapons.

So if the White House is pushing for this, certainly they will be sort of the momentum for it, but unclear at this point whether or not it will actually get through Congress. I can tell you that, you know, the president will be having a press conference here later this morning. We can expect that these are some of the questions that will be asked of him.

COSTELLO: That's right. And just about an hour and 10 minutes, President Obama will speak. We'll bring his remarks to you live. Thank you, Dan Lothian.

The uphill battle now under way for President Obama's nominee for Defense Secretary, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has not received a warm welcome since the president made the announcement last week. Hagel's comments on Israel, one issue, but a former colleague of Hagel now says he has another problem, his temperament.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think there are a number of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them. I have certainly questions about a lot of things.


COSTELLO: Hagel has been given a vote of approval from Colin Powell though, a former Secretary of State for President George W. Bush and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the first President Bush.

There are reports that disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong is considering confessing when he sits down with Oprah Winfrey today. This is Armstrong's first interview since he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

Winfrey will ask Armstrong to address the USADA report, which said there was overwhelming evidence Armstrong was involved in a sophisticated doping program. Oprah's interview with Lance Armstrong will air Thursday night on the Winfrey Network.

The flu season means big business for pharmacies and doctors' offices, but it can be bad, bad business for your job and boss. Take a look at this map of the nation's current flu outbreak. Some say the flu is so widespread because so many sick people cannot afford to stay home from work.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. I can certainly understand that.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We can all relate, right, Carol? Yes, you know, it works out to almost a third of the nation's workers. They're typically part-time workers who don't get those paid sick days. But you know, full-time workers too, about 20 percent of full-time workers, they don't get paid six days either.

So either way that you slice it means that many people can't afford to stay home when they're sick. So they're going to work probably getting other people sick too. You know, what's kind of interesting. The U.S. doesn't have a law mandating paid sick leave like other countries do.

But regardless flu season has a huge effect on the economy. The CDC says the total cost of flu season to the economy is more than $80 billion. A big chunk of it is direct medical costs. You have to be hospitalized, have tests, medications and also there are those indirect costs, lost productivity for the company, lost earnings for the worker, not to mention feeling lousy when you get the flu -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I'm with you, I'm sorry, I was taking a drink of water, but I was listening intently.

KOSIK: I'm sure you were.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Alison as always. Quinton Tarantino the outspoken director striking back at critics who say the language was in the n-word. Well, you know, people are saying he went too far, he's saying I don't think so.


QUENTIN TARANTINO, DIRECTOR: What they're actually saying is that I should soften it, they're saying I should lie, they're saying I should whitewash, they're saying I should massage. And I never do that when it comes to my characters.


COSTELLO: So there, but now Tarantino is finding himself of a hot seat for his own words. A live report from Los Angeles just ahead.


COSTELLO: Coming up on 15 minutes past the hour. Checking out top stories, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will get a new trial. A judge has agreed to an appeal of the life sentence for Mubarak's role in the killings of peaceful protesters during the Arab spring. Mubarak will stay in jail while awaits his next court date but that's likely to happen in April.

The Treasury Department says it has no plans to mint that $1 trillion platinum coin. The announcement puts to rest speculation. The administration would mint the coin to avert government default. The decision also puts the onus on Congress to act to raise the debt limit.

The Corvette gets a new look with an old name for its 60th birthday, General Motors revamped and revealed the new Stingray as the most fuel efficient base model ever made. The last time the Stingray name was used was in 1976.

Quentin Tarantino, the award winning director, screen writer and producer is no stranger to controversy from reservoir dogs to fiction and now his latest hit "Django Unchained." Here's one of the movie stars, Jamie Foxx, summed up the film and also Tarantino at last night's Golden Globes.


JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: The next nominated film has been talked about for its memorable dialogue, twisty plot, incredible action, can't look away, but can't take your eyes off of the violence. Quintin Tarantino is nominated -- I hear you brother -- rock star, nominated for Best Director and Screenplay.


COSTELLO: OK, so that was on stage, but the real story, that happened backstage. Entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner is in Los Angeles. Guess who was backstage for those controversial comments, none other than Nischelle Turner. NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Always have some scandal for you, Carol. Definitely. Now this happened in the press room after "Django Unchained" writer and director Quinton Tarantino won for Best Screenplay. The "Django" has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for its liberal us of the n-word. Tarantino was very candid in his response to why he uses it so much in that movie.


TARANTINO: If somebody's out there actually saying it when it comes to the word -- that the fact that I was using it in the movie more than it was used back in the antebellum south in Mississippi in 1858. Well, then they feel free to make that case, but no one's actually making that case.


TURNER: Now I'm not sure if you could hear, but there was an audible gas gasp in the press room after he said that, really it was a bit of a jaw dropping moment. Now, it didn't stop there.

Shortly after Quentin Tarantino left backstage, Don Cheadle who had just won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV series came backstage and here's the first thing he said to reporters before he even took questions. Listen to this.


DON CHEADLE, ACTOR: Please -- the questions. Black people questions are already.


TURNER: I still kind of get that, what, look on my face, a really awkward couple moments there. I'm not sure if Don Cheadle was being serious, if he was taking a shot at Quentin Tarantino or if he was just making light of that situation, but so many people in that room were caught off guard and really uncomfortable.

With Quentin Tarantino, he's a smart guy, but you have to believe he knows what exactly what he's doing at every moment. And to think that he wouldn't -- this wouldn't get picked up and that he wouldn't get a lot more. Talk about the movie and the controversy surrounding by doing that. I think he may have known exactly what he was doing.

COSTELLO: I don't know. That's kind of disgusting. I mean, yes, they did say it a lot in civil wartimes. We all know that, we all know our history. In the movie it was said more than 100 times, right? What was the need for Quentin Tarantino to say the n-word so loudly and proudly last night?

TURNER: And that's the question that people are asking today. It's the question that I'm asking today and I know that he was saying as he went on in his remarks was, people want me to whitewash my characters in my films and I just don't do that. We understand that about you, Quentin, we understand that you go all out in your movies and that's one of the things that people love about him, but I just think that it was a little in your face what he did last night.

One of the criticisms also, I just spoke with Lou Gossett, Jr., a couple of days ago about the controversy surrounding "Django Unchained" and one of the criticisms that he said that people in Hollywood feel is that Quentin Tarantino seems to be a little bit too comfortable with these things. Maybe we saw that play out that night, maybe we saw that just a little too much of a kind.

COSTELLO: I actually couldn't help, but think, you know, Jamie Fox from the stage and Quentin Tarantino from the stage, I can imagine them around a table really drunk, spewing that word every ten seconds.

TURNER: Well, I have to tell you Leonardo Dicaprio said when they first started this movie he had a real problem saying the word and they said just get it out. But he did say, listen, I really had a problem with this at first.

COSTELLO: I was taught never to say that word, it was so incredibly offensive. I'm with Leonardo Dicaprio. I don't think I could say it.

TURNER: I hear you, Carol.

COSTELLO: I know. Nischelle Turner, it's fun as always. See you tomorrow. Burmese pythons are threatening Florida's ecosystem. So the state is turning to the public for help. We're going to take you to Florida.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, what's the best way to honor the Newtown victims?

Today, Newtown is trying to decide what to do with what was once a safe place for children. Sandy Hook Elementary has been cleaned of the carnage, but memories cannot be so easily cleansed. They live on.

Just ask the families of the victims in Aurora. The movie theatre reopens on Friday. Its owner invited the relatives of the people killed there to watch a film in the very theatre where their loved ones died. Many were deeply offended.


SANDY PHILLIPS, JESSICA GHAWI'S MOTHER: As a family member of somebody who has been butchered in that theatre. It has been extremely insensitive and the other family members feel exactly the same way.


COSTELLO: Newtown is more complicated. Some suggest the school should be torn down or made into a memorial or even kept open as a way to help everyone move on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My best memories were at Sandy Hook School and I think that children in the future deserve to experience the same beautiful memories that I did. And if we were to knock the school down, we would be preventing future children from experiencing the same.


COSTELLO: Maybe it's not about teddy bears or letters of condolence or college scholarship funds, but maybe it's about something more lasting. Those close to the Sandy Hook tragedy say it's about preventing the need for such memorials.


POLICE CHIEF MICHAEL KEHOE, NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT: Ban assault weapons, restrict those magazines that have so many bullets in them.


COSTELLO: The "Hartford Courant" reports that the family of Noah Pozner, a 6-year-old killed at Sandy Hook wants the White House to support new federal laws that would hold gun owners accountable.

They include requiring anyone aware of a possible attack to notify police within 24 hours and penalizing gun owners whose weapons fall into the hands of a dangerous person. Talk Back question today: what's the best way to honor the Newtown victims? or tweet me @carolcnn. I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello. We're coming up on 30 minutes past the hour. Just a programming note for you, President Obama is expected to speak from the White House east room in just about 45 minutes. When the president begin speaking -- and we expect him to talk about the debt ceiling. We're going to bring his comments to you live.

It's been one month since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A gunman killed 26 people at the school, 20 of them children before committing suicide. Politicians at the state and federal level are scrambling to find ways to end gun violence in America.

One of them Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley who this morning outlined plans for what he says would be the toughest gun laws in the country.


GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: This would be a comprehensive legislative package to prevent gun violence and it addresses not only the guns but mental health and school safety. Briefly, it will ban military assault weapons that have no place on the streets of Baltimore or no other neighborhood in our state and it will limit the size of magazines in order to make it harder for criminals to gun down in succession police officers or school children.


COSTELLO: That might work for a state like Maryland, a very blue state, but maybe not so much at a federal level. David Keene, the president of the National Rifle Association, says, yes, it will be a whole different story in Washington.


KEENE: The likelihood is they're not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress.

COSTELLO: Joining me now our CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and Alex Castellanos, also a CNN contributor, a Republican consultant and former adviser to the Mitt Romney presidential campaign. Welcome to you both.



COSTELLO: Good morning. So Alex, let's start with you, Maryland has a good chance of passing the kinds of laws that Governor O'Malley was illustrating for us a recent poll shows a majority of residents of the state of Maryland, 62 percent favor an assault weapons ban, but not so much at the federal level.

So is that what you see for the future? That individual states will pass gun control laws and the federal government just won't?